“Cinema is not a reproduction of reality, it is a forgetting of reality. But if we record this oblivion, we can then remember and perhaps reach the real” (Jean-Luc Godard).

Moment of relaxation and socialization

Nowadays, cinema is very accessible and offers the opportunity to keep an active lifestyle, by getting out of the house and meeting people who share the same interests. It strengthens social ties and improves social and communication skills. Indeed, watching a movie, and thus observing and identifying with fictional characters who interact with each other, can help us develop empathy, become aware of our own feelings and emotions and those of others, and lead us to better understand them. It is ultimately a way to look outward, but also to improve our personal relationships.

Watching a movie, even at home, is also an opportunity to spend a pleasant moment, which can be calm and soothing, or on the contrary stimulating and captivating. It is a good way to entertain yourself and can have a strong physical and emotional impact, clearing your head and refreshing you. It is also a relaxing activity, since paying attention to what is happening on the screen allows us to put aside our anxiety or worries for a while.

A moment of intimacy and sensitivity

If movies allow us to spend a pleasant moment far from our daily life, they are also generators of unavoidable emotions, which can be strong enough to upset us, make us hope, and even direct our choices and decisions. Indeed, through fiction, we can be led to consider our problems differently, to take a step back on difficult events, and thus discover new perspectives, and perhaps also find solutions.

For example, watching a dramatic movie allows us to put our real situation into perspective, and thus to make us temporarily happier. Indeed, a negative experience provokes a positive emotion because we tend to focus our attention on the pleasant aspects of our own life. In addition, research has shown that tragic fiction can cause a release of endorphins, which would mean that there would be a physical attenuation of pain!

Time for reflection and cognitive development

To be entertained and to think, to develop one’s curiosity and to acquire human and social values, to learn and to debate are all benefits, both social and cultural, that cinema can bring. Indeed, post-screening debates are relatively common and often lead to discussion of essential themes, while being a comprehensive and multidimensional learning space.

Cinema is also stimulating for the cognitive functions, and in particular the memory, but also to develop one’s creativity (modification of mental patterns) and reflection (existential, vital, spiritual, real questions). Finally, it is a practical application of the theory of mind, which refers to the ability to decode our emotional processes, as well as to reflect on the feelings and thoughts of others.

Effects at the psychological level and film therapy

Finally, cinema provokes a whole bunch of emotions and behaviors in us, which can be channeled and used to optimize our mental health. We can also note that a film resembles a therapy session in its duration and intensity. Moreover, it is a learning tool, with effects at the cognitive level, but also of identification with the characters, of attention and of socialization (integrative tool).

Consequently, the cinema reveals many benefits:

  • Becoming aware of possible problems: appropriating some of the feelings and emotions of a fictional character who resembles us, through identification and empathy.
  • Working on consciousness: facing our fears and anxieties through dramas or horror movies, and learning to put them into perspective, or even to silence them.
  • Rethinking our negative attitudes: and thus finding new perspectives that can lead us to a change in behavior.
  • Receive values: often transmitted or revealed through fiction, which moves, instructs, inspires, strengthens, amazes…
  • To shed a healing tear: to allow our most intimate emotions to be released in the discretion of a darkened room.
  • Helping to mourn: whether cinema makes us forget or on the contrary revives memories, it can soften dislove or loss.
  • Cathartic function: passion, fear, anger, sadness, are all strong emotions that are thus experienced without suffering the real effects.

This is how the notion of film therapy was born, a therapy based on series and films, aiming to develop new perspectives on ourselves and the world around us but also, more intimately, to tame our own history and realize that our life has a precise meaning despite the trials it imposes on us. Through the identification with the different protagonists and the work on the ideas and notions delivered through the big screen, it becomes a personal development tool that helps us to become the subject of our own story, thanks to an exercise of conscious analysis of a film that is as close as possible to our own situation. Finally, an explanation and interpretation of the connections and similarities with one’s own situation transforms the cinema into a real mediation, which allows psychologists and coaches to work in a very concrete way.

Finally, the 7th art allows to treat any subject in any tone, and thus to convey many emotions, but also reflections, which push us to think about general as well as personal issues. It is therefore a tool that can be quite complementary to therapy, by unblocking both speech and thought.