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Film students have unique view

Brian Doxtader | Tuesday, May 1, 2007

I didn’t arrive at Notre Dame as a film student, but I leave as one.

People have said that I’m obsessed with cinema, and they’re right – but why not? What other medium speaks to us with such force and power? It evokes emotion with such clarity and vigor that we are moved. No other medium is capable, on such a consistent basis, of making us laugh or cry – or to make us react in fear or anger or disgust.

I’m often asked if studying film as a discipline has inured me to it; if rigorous and detailed examinations of movies I love have made it impossible for me to simply enjoy them.

If anything, it’s been the opposite – I’ve spent much of my time here watching films, reading about films and writing about films, all of which has only deepened my appreciation. As with most things, understanding how something works only adds to the intrigue and sense of wonder – seeing a particularly well-made film can be a breathtaking experience.

There are few things more magical than being swept away by a great movie. I can remember sitting in theaters watching films like “Children of Men,” “The Departed,” “300” and “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” with a sense of awe, while I thought to myself, “There are men and women out there who made this.” Men and women who dreamed of a great picture, and found a way to make it reality.

When I interviewed legendary cinematographer Haskell Wexler earlier this semester, he told me that it’s amazing that so many great films are made every year – and he’s right. We are fortunate because the golden age of cinema is not behind us in some distant mystical world, it’s here and now.

It’s not unfathomable to me that in a hundred years people will watch the films being made today, turn to each other and say, “Wow … they sure don’t make ’em like that anymore.”

I didn’t arrive at Notre Dame as a film student, but I leave as one – I don’t just mean the kind of student that sits in a classroom or takes tests. I mean the kind of student who learns from the cinema, who understands and respects its power, who believes in its endless capabilities and (most importantly) its ability to inspire us to dream.

Godard once said that the cinema is life. I believe this to be true, even more now than I did when I arrived at Notre Dame four years ago. I believe in the power of cinema, and I know that there are men and women out there who believe as I do – men and women with names like Coppola, Fincher, Aronofsky, Nolan and Cuaron.

Men and women who believe and dream that there’s still some magic dust left in that old silver screen, and if there is, that they’re determined to catch it and mold it and bring it to life.

Believe it.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

Contact Brian Doxtader at