Last night I watched the movie, “The Artist”. I had read no reviews and had no idea what to expect. All I knew is that it had won best picture.

It started out as a silent movie, with exaggerated expressions, and the less than descriptive caption boards. Once the movie ended, I thought I would be able to hear the conversations of the actors. I was wrong. It slowly dawned on me that I was watching a silent movie about a silent movie. It was frustrating. I was reduced to lip reading and waiting for the caption boards, that came too far apart to be truly helpful.

I wanted to hear what was going on. My wife bailed out halfway through the movie. I got up to get a snack. While I wasn’t willing to quit the movie, I felt the last half was going to be more endurance than enjoyment, I settled in to finish the movie and my chips.

That is when the magic hit. Once I understood that the movie was not going to become a talkie, I settled into acceptance. As the story continued, I came to see the genius of the film. My change of perspective revealed amazing creativity. The creators moved the film from a cerebral study of a man who wouldn’t change, to a visceral understanding of what was at stake,

The story is about a man, George Valentin, who stars in silent movies. When talkies are introduced, he wants nothing to do with them. He sees no reason to change. People have been filling the theaters to watch his silent movies for years now. Given the opportunity to embrace something new, he refuses.

At the same time a young woman, Peppy Miller, starts as a dancer in silent films and when given the opportunity, agrees to star in a talkie. George, believing he is right, bankrolls another silent film, which debuted the same day as the movie Peppy Miller stars in. The audiences overwhelmingly choose the talkie. George’s intransigence plunges him into financial ruin.

This is where the brilliance of the movie lay for me. The filmmakers didn’t just tell me a story of a man who wouldn’t change. The movie let me feel the consequence of that choice. As the movie continued, I felt how limiting the silent movie medium actually was. I wanted to be in on the conversations and the caption boards were too few to be effective. The music gave me cues, but I wanted more.

The movie forces me to connect with George’s decision, in a visceral way. When George refuses to change, his world diminishes. It does not enlarge or even stay the same. And watching the movie I could feel it. My word was diminished. I felt my movie going experience could have been so much richer than what I got. I wanted to hear the actors talk!

So, to put it bluntly, if you don’t change, your life will be reduced. The creators of this film not only want you to know it. They want you to feel it as well.

Change is but one of many themes explored in the movie. “The Artist” was cleverly done, with its truths expounded slowly seeping into my consciousness. A truly clever movie.

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