The Korea Herald


[Kim Seong-kon] Movies for healing and personal growth

By 류근하

Published : May 10, 2011 - 18:31

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It may sound farfetched to say that movies can offer healing and personal growth. It is true nonetheless. Movies, just like novels and music, can offer insight into issues we are struggling with, provoke realizations, and provide us with extraordinary healing power. Perhaps that is why some psychiatrists in New York City reportedly prescribe titles of movies instead of pills these days. While watching prescribed movies, patients suffering from various maladies such as childhood trauma, regrettable choices in life, or dysfunctional relationships experience healing by identifying themselves with the films’ protagonists. 

Indeed, movies, which delineate virtually all aspects of life, can be an excellent medium through which we can learn how to cope with various problems. For those who suffered the recent loss of a love one, for example, “Sleepless in Seattle” is a superb movie that can comfort their wounded souls and heal their psychological trauma. The movie is an account of a man named Sam Baldwin who leads a lonely life with his young son after the abrupt death of his wife. While driving from Baltimore to Washington, D.C., a woman named Annie Reed turns on her car radio and happens to tune in to hear Sam’s sad story. She flies all the way to Seattle to meet Sam. Falling in love with Annie, Sam finally recovers from his psychological wounds and starts a new life with the charming woman.

“A Man and A Woman” is another excellent movie that encourages people who have lost their spouses to overcome grief and start a new life with a new companion. In this beautiful French movie, Anne and Jean-Louis, both widowed, happen to meet and fall in love. Initially, they suffer with loss and memories of their deceased spouses. Gradually, however, they release themselves from their pasts and decide to move on.

As modern couples spend more time at work, and easily part ways, children are often alienated and live in broken homes. As a result, there are many children “home alone” in both Korean and American society today. The movie “Home Alone” strongly appeals to such children and their working parents. Watching the movie, parents realize that they have neglected, if not failed, to communicate with their children, and “home alone” children can learn to be truly independent and self-reliant.

With increasing divorce rates, there are many lonely and depressed children throughout homes worldwide. The movie, “Twilight,” is based on a much exploited and almost exhausted motif: a vampire story. To film critics’ surprise, however, “Twilight” became a box office hit. Perhaps its unexpected success owes partially to the enthusiastic welcome from many lonely teenagers in America who can relate to Bella Swan, the protagonist. Bella Swan is an extremely lonely girl who is sent to live with her father after her mother remarries. She finds it difficult to fit into her new environment and her new school. It is precisely at this lonely moment when a mysterious, handsome boy named Edward Cullen approaches her. Although Edward turns out to be a vampire, Bella is strongly attracted to him and his vampire family nonetheless.

“Kramer vs. Kramer” is another good movie that a psychiatrist may prescribe to patients who are contemplating divorce or come from a broken home. Returning home from work after being promoted, Ted Kramer is informed by his wife Joanna that she is leaving him. After she is gone, Ted takes care of his young son Justin. As Ted and Justin become closer than ever, Joanna returns to take away Justin from Ted. Caught in the crossfire between his mom and dad, young Justin agonizes and weeps. Watching this heartbreaking movie, viewers come to realize that there is a crucial factor one must consider before separating or getting a divorce: their innocent children will have to suffer the consequences.

If one struggles with racial or cultural prejudice, he or she should watch two superb movies: “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Mississippi Burning.” “Crash” is another movie from which we can learn about the absurdity of racial prejudice. These movies make us ashamed of ourselves and ultimately allow us to experience personal growth.

Watching movies such as “Rocky” or “My Way,” we can acquire courage and become confident of ourselves. The two movies encourage us to challenge what seems to be impossible. If you are an old man who laments your age, you should watch movies like “Remains of the Day,” “Space Cowboys,” and “Gran Torino.” Then you will realize you can make even the dusk of your life beautiful and meaningful. If you are a war veteran who is haunted by the nightmarish landscapes of war, perhaps you should see movies like “Saving Private Ryan,” which will surely remind you of the values you fought for on the battlefield.

Indeed, movies can teach us how to deal with the many problems we encounter in life. Good movies are especially capable of healing our wounded selves by touching our hearts, enlightening our minds, and comforting our souls.

By Kim Seong-kon

Kim Seong-kon, a professor of English at Seoul National University, is editor of the literary quarterly “21st Century Literature.” ― Ed.