[SPECTATOR #2] How we digest films

Mar 10, 2021 08:00 · 7306 words · 35 minute read

When I teach the students in our university who are actually engaged in production, but I do if from the reception side, I use these models because it’s easy to understand.

00:26 - When we see a movie, we see in here and we process the movie with our visual cortex and the rest of the brain.

00:36 - The association cortex and for me most importantly the frontal cortex where we make this moral evaluation and sometimes we are also activated in the motor cortex, we jump, clench our fists…

00:52 - But all this together creates emotion.

00:55 - This is a very simplified model of how the vision works.

01:01 - This is more your field of how it works here in the brain.

01:06 - At least we have a certain number of good modelling here.

01:13 - Number 1, a movie, you not only watch it, you hear it, unless it’s a very old movie when it’s just images.

01:26 - What is interesting is to notice that it’s not only step by step.

01:32 - It’s parallel processing which means there are many things going at the same time.

01:38 - It’s not just I see, I feel, I think, I move.

01:43 - It’s all in parallel that’s occurring.

01:48 - Obviously vision takes a third of the cortex so it’s very important.

01:54 - Then you mentioned what you call the associative cortex which is some kind of lobe which takes care of both what I feel what I see and what I do.

02:11 - The frontal lobe is more for control. You mentioned moral decision, not only, it’s decision, it’s planification, it’s planning it’s inhibiting our reflexes and is really the control of the whole brain.

02:36 - The consciousness. There is a big debate about consciousness which probably takes place in the whole brain When there’s a certain threshold of activation then a stimuli becomes conscious and accessible to consciousness.

02:59 - It’s not just one lobe against the other.

03:02 - Something I find interesting is the number 4 which is the motor cortex, premotor cortex. You just mentioned we clench our fists, we move and so on. Not only.

03:14 - Something very interesting discovered a few decades ago which are the mirror neurons.

03:21 - Which means when you watch someone doing something, the same neurons start firing as if you do the thing by yourself You re-live things and it’s exactly the same kind of activation of the brain.

03:40 - So seeing people doing triggers the fact that mind neurons would mirror that action and that I will re-live the action in a certain way.

03:54 - We know now that unfortunately for people who have been brain damaged or who cannot move their limbs, just by thinking can move a cursor because the thinking or the viewing is triggering this activation of the movements.

04:17 - You have the emotions, again, no hierarchy.

04:21 - Emotions are at the heart or at the periphery, they are an information as the other information, verbal information, visual information or acoustic information What makes that sometimes I feel an emotion or I make a judgement ? What if everything is parallel ? What decides the part of it that is conscious and the part that is not conscious ? I’d say emotions you can’t repress them.

05:00 - Judgement, you can rethink your judgement.

05:03 - As we said judgements can be very automatic sometimes. It’s good because to make quick decisions is very important for our daily life and even for our survival.

05:18 - I’d make a difference between judgement and emotion.

05:23 - Emotions are really this part of cognition which is the universal type of emotion that we mentioned.

05:33 - Judgement is making a decision. This is more the frontal lobe which makes a decision.

05:42 - Is emotion linked to a cultural background for example ? You take a viewer from a certain background and another from another background in front of the same film, the emotion is different ? What neurosciences teach us is that emotions are universal.

06:05 - Even very young babies have facial expressions which are universal.

06:12 - Wherever you are born. You mentioned fear, disgust, joy.

06:19 - All of these key emotions are universal and everybody in the world is feeling the same kind of emotions Now they’re probably nuanced by the cultural background.

06:36 - Somethings might feel disgusting in some cultures because they’re not used to it, some others are basic from daily life.

06:49 - So there is probably some kind of second level for emotional processing which depends on what you have been exposed to or what is considered collectively acceptable or on the contrary repugnant.

07:08 - Could I add to that ? The culture context and your cultural background and your ideological horizon actually is a really interesting topic of study.

07:20 - There is a Moroccan scholar who wanted to check how young Moroccan audiences watched American action movies. He found they were aroused and had these emotions of disgust when it was a suicide bomber blowing himself up in a street.

07:45 - They felt the supposed feelings of disgust and they disliked this character.

07:54 - That was the first level of emotions in their experience.

07:59 - Then they had some kind of meta perspective because they disliked the American point of view on their own culture.

08:12 - They didn’t like the Islamaphobic, the anti-Muslim sentiment the American film had put into the narrative.

08:24 - It was an extreme complex emotionally in reaction to the film.

08:29 - At the same time ? At the same time. That’s a question for you.

08:34 - Was it at the same time. When they were interviewed they could – first ?. .

08:39 - After ! After. When they were interviewed after the film, they could tell they felt this suicide bomber was an awful guy, a really disastrous person, an antagonist.

08:51 - That was the first level. Which was in the script of course.

08:56 - So you were supposed to dislike this nasty character.

09:00 - So you can both enjoy the movie and despise it Exactly.

09:04 - They enjoyed the movie and disliked it. On the next level, because it was stereotypical.

09:09 - At least the emotion was universal someone blindly killing innocent people someone like that is not a likeable character.

09:24 - This is universal. I agree. Probably this emotion would’ve been felt by anyone watching this movie.

09:34 - But then, on second thoughts, people understand what the message is behind, and this kind of improper connection between this terrorist and the whole Islamic culture which cannot be reduced one to the other.

09:58 - These viewers had two layers of interpretation.

10:02 - The immediate interpetation which they cannot repress, they find this character not likeable and awful.

10:10 - Then they understand what the message could be of this movie and reinterpret the emotion after the facts.

10:22 - That’s interesting because that is is high cognition in my view.

10:25 - When you’re judging the situation with the help of your world view and and your political knowledge of what is going on, so it’s very deeply contextual this next. .

10:37 - But can you do it during the watching of the film or do you need verbal…

10:43 - a time for analysis. My answer would be that different viewers would be doing it in different situations. Some quick, clever people… sorry, not clever…

10:59 - but they make this distinction immediately. They think “Oh this is too stereotypical. ” Some people do it afterwards.

11:08 - The typical coffee you take after the film with your friends and you discuss.

11:13 - It makes you change your mind sometimes about what you felt while watching the film.

11:23 - Can I ask you a question about the fact you’re interviewing people and you ask them what movie they come back to so… In fact the question is not can you do it while you’re watching the movie but why are you watching this movie over and over ? What about that experience ? That was the big surprise in my latest project, that people were actually returning to movies because I asked “Can you mention 5 favourite movies and and then can you mention how many times you’ve watched these movies ? ” The big surprise was that people had watched their favourite movie twenty, thirty, fifty times which was a complete surprise for me because I’ve never watched a movie more than 8 or 9 times.

12:14 - So there’s a new level of repetitive viewing going on in younger generations.

12:20 - These people were 20 to 35. That’s interesting.

12:28 - It’s a research question. Why do you see these movies again and again ? This repetition.

12:36 - Some of them, for example, Amélie, one young woman 30 years old, involved in the television had watched Amélie 50 times.

12:50 - By herself mostly. She told me this film is important for her feelings about life so she returned to this film once in a while and every time to regain her deeper feeling of joy and feeling of how the world could be if we were more creative and the colourful world.

13:19 - So it was a dreaming place. She called the film her own heaven, her own hiding place.

13:30 - So she went back to that film. That was her answer, getting back to the film. In other examples people were going back because of other reasons but that was one of the reasons.

13:43 - She wanted to feel this euphoric vision that Amélie contains.

13:49 - It’s a way to restore a state you want to live in.

13:52 - Exactly, that’s a good way to put it It’s like recharging.

13:57 - Exactly. Recharging is a very good expression Could we say there’s a link between this and a kind of addiction or being addicted to something ? Wanting to feel the same of feeling you had the first time Or is it kind of…

14:13 - Is Amélie a drug ? If it was a drug the effect would be going down.

14:19 - Because when you are exposed repeatedly to the same thing…

14:23 - The brain hates what is repetitive. That means the brain needs novelty, this is from birth.

14:34 - The fact is you have to get new things to get interested.

14:41 - Probably the role of this movie is not like getting a renewed shot otherwise she would need more and more.

14:52 - Maybe it compensates a lack of something. It works like a drug which compensates for something which isn’t there It works every time.

15:04 - It works every time. It pushes the right buttons.

15:09 - Is it what you’re saying that the brain needs newness…

15:20 - Why that ? Is it a need to complete a wider life experience ? Is it just a search for new parameters ? It’s a basic property of the brain.

15:39 - Obviously it has a use in terms of survival because everything you know already is of little interest because this you control already.

15:52 - What is novel might bring you additional information and and would complete your understanding of the world This is true from a very young age.

16:04 - When we do research with babies we work on this novelty property.

16:12 - We show a certain amount of stimuli and we know if the kid sees something new he will pay more attention to this new thing.

16:23 - Because a baby won’t give you a verbal answer but just with eyesight and how long the baby is staring at something shows the interest so the novelty of the thing.

16:39 - Even your eyes, when when you look you feel your eyes are fixed, almost fixed but if it was the case the image would just vanish.

16:50 - Your brain would consider it was something already processed.

16:55 - So constantly you do small saccades to move the image on the retina in order to create novelty for your brains.

17:08 - Would you say surprise is a way of stimulating for the brain ? The feeling of surprise.

17:14 - That’s absolutely right. We were speaking about engagement or immersion so we understand that immersion is a deep state of engagement but engagement is more a category.

17:28 - I would say that engagement is triggered by at least two things : attention and motivation.

17:37 - There are two brain networks in charge of attention and motivation.

17:44 - Probably they overlap but they are distinct and we can see that in education, how you motivate your students.

17:54 - That means how to engage them. That means you have to attract their attention.

18:00 - They have to have at least their motivation network activated in order for them to be there, to be involved in the learning process.

18:14 - Probably this is the same for a movie, a screenwriter has to attract the attention and to keep motivation there in order to go to the end of the movie.

18:27 - Because now there are so many sources of distraction.

18:32 - If you are not appealed you move on.

18:37 - At the same time, what about the experience of this girl who watches Amélie Poulain twenty times, she’s not looking for new things, she’s not looking for novelty.

18:49 - She lacks something. There’s something she’s missing which pushes and triggers the proper process that brings her pleasure.

19:03 - If it was already there she wouldn’t need it any more.

19:06 - She wouldn’t need to get this stimulation.

19:10 - I think there is something behind it and maybe you can put your finger on it.

19:15 - Aristotle talks about the pleasure of recognition.

19:19 - This is a basic pleasure of the viewer which is supposed to keep him comfortable enough to provide him later with novelty. First you have to reassure him, then you can feed him novelty.

19:37 - I heard something, I don’t know if you heard about it.

19:40 - You know the American show Sesame Street, la Rue Seasame in France, it started a long time ago but is still working well in the US.

19:50 - They made studies on the kids watching and they found that for the very young ones if you fed them with novelty they were losing attention and they wanted to find again and again the same story or the same character or the same song. For example my new born baby recognises this song, obviously it’s not just the voice it’s also the song and the song makes him peaceful.

20:23 - So how do you find a balance between novelty and the same again and again.

20:32 - That’s the big question for scriptwriters and creative peopl How do you create familiar recognition that you tap into people’s cognitive maps, which is actually familiar to them.

20:46 - And to make it a novelty as well. To balance these. If it’s 100% familiar then it’s dull, it’s not interesting.

20:54 - If the novelty is too much then you don’t know how to deal with this.

21:00 - Because it’s not relevant, you don’t recognise it.

21:04 - And you can also see in failure of films, or things, it’s too open in imagery, it’s too vague. So people are disengaged.

21:18 - It’s not familiar enough. They don’t recognise what is going on.

21:22 - That’s an interesting challenge actually.

21:25 - This is something we should probably touch base on which is patterns.

21:32 - You don’t make sense of things if you don’t have a script you can recognise.

21:39 - In every culture you have scripts for storytelling We all know in our culture if we start hearing “Once upon a time” we know that this will be a fairy tale, a magic tale, there will be a certain amount of ingredients.

22:02 - So we have the pattern, we have the basic script of what a fairy tale is.

22:10 - Then you have to fill it with a certain number of characters, actions and so on.

22:18 - And some novelty so it’s not an endless repetition of the same story.

22:26 - But now we’ve said that there is probably for young children some kind of a balance.

22:33 - That means he or she needs to recognise what is going on otherwise it doesn’t make any sense Because you don’t have this block of knowledge on how a story works.

22:48 - Number two, kids love reliving some emotions, like something odd, something scary happens to the character and reliving this emotion is motivating.

23:04 - Obviously at some point kids are like everyone else, they stop paying attention if it’s always the same thing Do we know at what age we make a difference between reality and fiction? Do little kids make difference when we tell them a story ? That’s a very good question and I don’t have the proper answer.

23:26 - I can look into the literature but I think it’s pretty late.

23:31 - Some kids can be very worried because they can be swallowed by what’s going on on the screen and they get very scared.

23:44 - Because I know some parents who stopped telling stories because they saw that the child didn’t make any difference and it started to have consequences on him.

23:58 - It’s a learning process to make the difference between reality and fiction you’re saying ? It’s not like something that’s already there in the beginning No, I think we build upon that and at some point it’s difficult to make a difference between what is real and what is fiction for young kids and it can trigger anxiety.

24:30 - Did this character really kill the other one ? Did this really happen ? The kids keep asking because they’re not sure.

24:39 - It’s interesting for script writers because we have the strict equivalent of patterns and it’s called genres.

24:48 - According to the genre you are choosing you give the viewer something he can recognise.

24:57 - It’s going to be a thriller, a detective story or maybe you can combine a romantic comedy with a detective story to make a new genre.

25:07 - So you expect some beats to be respected then you can play with the beats to make something new.

25:13 - You find a balance. You give a genre, you mix the genres and you have to make it in a new way.

25:21 - Would you say the more you want to surprise or play with new associations of genres, the more you have to establish the pattern ? Would you say that ? Is there a link between the amount of surprises you can put on the table and the amount of pattern or level of recognition that you need. People are clever. If you put If you put a hybrid of two recognised patterns they would easily make the connection.

25:56 - I don’t think you have to hold the viewer’s hand whenever you’re using a recognisable pattern that you can connect.

26:13 - Because we were talking about explanations and you were saying we don’t need explanation to put the pattern in the head or the mind of the viewer.

26:30 - It’s the same as in education. We always think about the student’s brain.

26:38 - We should also think about the teacher’s brain.

26:41 - This is the same for the scriptwriter. The scriptwriter has a brain and the brain has a structure and she or he has some patterns.

26:53 - It’s very difficult to forego some of your automatic processing This is the part of the brain, the frontal lobe, which helps us not do something.

27:12 - Otherwise we’d be very repetitive, we’d do constantly the same thing, we’d give the same answers to different questions. We need to stop some automatic processing in order to have the slow processing of re-building things.

27:29 - Probably a screenwriter should sometimes try to avoid using the same pattern consciously and see that he or she is stuck in a very normative type of attitude or writing habits.

27:50 - At least recognise his own patterns.

27:53 - The patterns he’s or she’s using all the time.

27:57 - I learned that research on genre… I mean we are extremely sensitive.

28:02 - “Right this is this kind of film. ” Immediately we understand what kind of genre it is. Also research on the combination and the new combination of different genres are actually the themes that take the film history further on.

28:17 - There is a new drastic combination of genres which creates these huge innovation films which affect many people. Because it’s joyful, it’s something new and relies on recognised patterns that we’re familiar with.

28:35 - Recognising pattern is key because again it’s fast and and if it’s not fast it becomes complex and and if it’s complex you have to think and if you have to think you disengage and you lose track. You need at least some familiarity with things and probably when you see new or very innovative film makers, Jean-Luc Godard for instance, he destroys the pattern of the storytelling and at some point you say, “What’s going on, what is he trying to tell me, what should I understand in his movie ? ” Desplechin does that also.

29:28 - In very long movies with many many characters and you don’t understand the connection between the people.

29:36 - At some point you disengage because your brain has to take over the situation to try to make sense of what’s going on.

29:45 - His last movie is a detective story, a police story genre.

29:50 - He’s going back to genre. Desplechin.

29:53 - It helps us a lot. About fiction and fiction learning, the difference between reality and fiction how can we explain that when we are children, sometimes we don’t make differences then we learn to make differences.

30:10 - Then we use fiction as adults in a certain way to learn, if I understand you, some possibilities, to be confronted with some life possibilities that we don’t live.

30:23 - How can we be attracted to this world, how can we stay in our seats for two hours, not moving much and being immerged immerged and engaged so much in a unreal world like that ? Is there an explanation to this ? What we can mention is that we’re not passive viewers.

30:49 - We mentioned the mirror neurons in number four of your model which is the premotor cortex, it fires when you watch something even if you don’t do it.

31:02 - That means you build the situation as you see it.

31:06 - It’s an active process. Maybe this is something we should say talking about the viewer.

31:14 - The viewer is supposed to be just looking and passively fed with a flow of information.

31:23 - But I guess an engaged viewer is an active viewer who is rebuilding the story for his own sake.

31:36 - This has to be checked. This is what we know about memories for instance.

31:42 - We don’t get the memories back we re-build memories every time we recall them.

31:50 - It’s not just taking something that’s there, that we take out of the library of memories, but it’s constantly in a re-build. This is why every time you recall a memory you change the memory because you rebuild it.

32:07 - You rebuild it slightly differently. To keep a memory pure you should try never to recall it.

32:16 - There’s a good quotation of David Bordwell, this ground-breaking film scholar.

32:22 - He has a quote : “What a hammer is for the hand, a tool, movies are the tool for the mind to think about life. ” So movies are a perfect tool for the mind to reflect and ponder on what life is about.

32:46 - I think that is a good question. We spend a lot of time watching movies, sitting for two hours and we are meaning making animals.

32:57 - That’s my understanding of man, human beings. We are meaning making creatures. And for some reason movies are perfect for engagement in dealing with meaning.

33:13 - A cop told me when he’s following someone at some point he forgets about everything else.

33:20 - This is the moment when it’s dangerous because someone can see him following the person.

33:26 - It’s called the tunnel effect. Maybe there’s some connection what we are trying to provide on the screen like this tunnel effect, it’s not immersion as if you lose control of everything, you are just very engaged and active in following one target and then you forget about the rest.

33:46 - Would you say it’s a certain kind of focus in a way, or attention ? We have to be motivated but not consciously motivated or the film brings us motivation to be engaged in this state of attention.

34:06 - Is it natural ? Is this the kind of attention we have in front of a movie, is it something we can have in life, is it the same in life and in movies, this being focussed like this ? Yes I think this is universal.

34:23 - That means some things we are attracted to which we dedicate lots of attentional ressources and some others are considered to be not useful or interesting that we won’t attend to. Now we all know in action video games, attention is attracted by the action.

34:54 - It means the viewer or the player doesn’t have to be actively seeking inner attentional reserves but he is attracted he is glued to what’s going on on the screen.

35:12 - This is the difference between inner attention, the one we are able to dedicate willingly to something and outer attention.

35:29 - That means what the world is doing is attracting your attention.

35:35 - There is probably a mixture between the two. In an action movie you are constantly attracted, or the screenwriter constantly tries to motivate you to follow what’s going on on the screen.

35:53 - On other films you have to go deep to find your own ressources to pay attention to what’s going on.

36:01 - That’s interesting because sometimes in my research I’ve seen that people are using the films in commercial cinemas, action films, adventure films and comedies.

36:15 - When these action films also have parts which are slower which get you to think and feel.

36:26 - A good action movie has these passages when the tempo is going down and you can actually engage.

36:32 - Because just tempo doesn’t engage you very much.

36:36 - So you have to have these moments of contemplation.

36:39 - And people are actually using the films that are at the commercial cinemas to reflect about their own lives.

36:49 - But the films have to have some qualities also to invite that.

36:56 - It’s an interesting difference between research on computer games when you are actually doing things a lot and you can compare when a famous series has become a computer game. They have to change some ingredients from the movie. For example one scene in the Harry Potter movie is when he’s standing in front of the mirror and reflecting about himself and his relation to his dead parents.

37:24 - in the book. In the film it is there and you can give space for that.

37:31 - The character is thinking about things. But when that creates into a computer game game you have to get rid of that moment when he’s just standing there.

37:41 - Instead he’s running around in the library.

37:44 - The games follow another logic of doing things instead of reflecting things.

37:56 - That has a deep consequence for what storytelling is and what a game is.

38:01 - Of course games have stories as well. We are meaning making animals, we create symbols and we have this transitional space between our deep inner reality and and our real concrete reality.

38:22 - It is the symbolic realm where we have the symbols where religion created years back, centuries…

38:29 - And now we have the cultural sector, the films, the theatre and everything.

38:33 - We can move into this transition space and play with our inner reality related to the outer reality through this in-between, where the films are taking place for us.

38:49 - And that’s why we can sit for 2 hours, we move into that, it’s a threshold we move into it and then we go back.

38:59 - I think Thomas has an example with Pulp Fiction.

39:02 - Exactly. It’s very fascinating. The woman I interviewed about her favourite movie was Pulp Fiction and this key scene she picked was a focus on the main character, Bruce Willis, when he was standing on the doorstep and he’s hestitating because he can take a step out to his own freedom in the shop.

39:30 - It’s a scene where he and Marcellus Wallace, the mafia guy, is beaten up in the cellar and is tortured by two white police, his enemy actually.

39:43 - So he’s standing there wanting to leave but he hears the screams of Marcellus Wallace and and instead of climbing out to freedom he goes back and saves his enemy.

39:59 - And he kills these police. When the camera is actually focussing on his face my interviewee tells me, “now you can see how he thinks, it’s his consciousness thinking. ” Then she described what the Bruce Willis character thinks. It’s just a silent…

40:24 - it’s not a silent clip but it’s his face and some music, and she projects on the screen what he thinks and she actually states it.

40:38 - He’s thinking, now what should I do.

40:42 - Should I get out ? No, hell no I will go down and get those bastards, I’ll show them hell.

40:51 - So she articulates in her view when she’s sitting watching the film exactly what Bruce Willis is thinking.

41:02 - It’s also an interesting misperception because she believes the camera is zooming in on his face but it’s actually not a zoom.

41:12 - As if you could watch what is happening within the brain No not really that but she perceives you can see how the camera zooms.

41:22 - She’s so engaged in this moment she’s zooming but the camera is not zooming and I played back the scene : no the camera is at the same distance all the time. Very interesting for directors because what you say is that when someone is very engaged in the moral dilemma or the character’s question you don’t need to zoom in The viewer is already doing it.

41:44 - You shouldn’t push it too much sometimes, you just need to leave space for the viewer to do the work.

41:55 - It’s interesting because she really loves that character, talking about empathy, he has killed people before but now he shows he has the moral sentiment that he cannot leave the tortured guy in the basement.

42:15 - He must go back because he has a moral code.

42:20 - And she talks about moral code. When she realises the Bruce Willis character has this moral code she really loves him.

42:29 - It enhances her engagement in the character that he actually goes back and helps this guy instead of taking the egotistic way out to freedom. She’s doing the projection.

42:44 - It’s an interesting way when someone is projecting the film but but the viewer is also engaged in the projection of thoughts into the film so it’s a double projection going on, from the camera, projecter and from the viewer to the same screen.

43:03 - Would you say it’s moral recognition that she went through ? Absolutely. Moral recognition. And love.

43:13 - Since he had this moral code, she loves him more.

43:18 - There is a theoretical interest in that, when you evaluate the character and you recognise this is a moral person then your engagement is enhanced Focussed. I think that’s very important because sceenwriters are always told, Do we have enough empathy for this character ? Do we not love him, at least understand him enough, understand his inner battle, his inner emotions and so on.

43:48 - It seemed you were saying the morality of the capacity to make moral choices is key in that empathy process.

43:57 - For her. Is it possible to generalize this ? For many I would say, for many, but not for all. I would say for many.

44:09 - If you’re interested in the mainstream audience I’d say this is a required recipe, that you have to have an engagement which taps into a moral recognition by the masses.

44:25 - I think it’s not just about just a moral code, it’s about moral conflict.

44:31 - This is a conflictual character she’s talking about. He has a conflict, he has to survive, to go away but there is something, there’s a hesitation then there’s a moment of thought then there’s decision making.

44:46 - If you don’t have this moral conflict you’ve got nothing to watch.

44:50 - That’s true. You’ve got nothing to follow, nothing to engage with so I think it’s more about moral conflict.

44:58 - Often people from TV, producers, say to the screenwriters your character is not likeable so people aren’t going to feel any empathy.

45:11 - But the example you just took is amazing because you have a nurse and I think she’s the target of the TV people and she’s enjoying the moral conflict not just the resolution.

45:24 - This is a way to show that empathy is not just about the choice but about the conflict itself.

45:32 - If you look at The Godfather, the guy is nice in the beginning and he becomes worse and worse and you like him even more at the end.

45:39 - At the end he’s become a godfather and he’s made only bad moral choices.

45:44 - Self destructive, destructive for his family and you like him all the more because he’s an example of failure but you can connect with him because most of us make bad decisions.

45:59 - What neurosciences today can say about empathy or this thing we have, the capacity to understand each other and projecting ideas and feelings in someone else.

46:13 - This is a very basic human capacity which means we are social players and cannot exist without other beings and we are born with a very strong sense of empathy and being able to understand what’s going on in the mind of the others which we call theory of mind.

46:44 - Because we don’t have any direct connection.

46:46 - I don’t have any direct connection with your thought process, what is in your mind and so on.

46:52 - I can even think you have false beliefs, meaning you believe true things that I know are not true, so there is I know that I know that you know…

47:05 - The fact is that empathy is our basic tool for survival because we attract co-operation by other human beings around us and so this chemistry between people is fundamental.

47:31 - It seems a key point. It seems that in our field of screenwriting and storytelling, it seems we feel that empathy has to be built all the time.

47:41 - You’re saying empathy is already there. It’s probably because the character is fake.

47:50 - We recognise automatically that it has been built up and in the end he or she doesn’t have a characteristic of of a human being that I can relate to.

48:12 - As you said, it’s probably very true we don’t have to build empathy.

48:16 - We have to not loose it. We acknowledge empathy but it’s not necessary…

48:30 - at least it has to be built in a way because a movie is made so obviously you have to create it but it emerges or it doesn’t if the character is true.

48:46 - Would you say for a viewer, at the very beginning of the film, is ready to have empathy, has this capacity ? Sometimes, if I follow you, empathy doesn’t work or is lost because of the fakery of a character or…

49:05 - but at the beginning it is there. Absolutely.

49:09 - We feel for others. That means we step into the shoes of others because we need to know what’s going on in other people’s minds in order to react in the appropriate way.

49:29 - This is a key condition for social survival.

49:35 - Does it also mean that humans are craving empathy, looking for signs around them if the film maker doesn’t provide a possible access to to these humans embodied in the film It frustrates the viewer if you’re denied…

50:02 - If you deny the viewer the possiblity to empathise or to access the other, you’re frustrated.

50:11 - Yeah, but frustration can be an engine for motivation and engagement because, as we mentioned, the basic rules of the human brain and mind and the patterns we need, the recognition we crave for and that we need to create meaning, but probably violating the rules is a key ingredient in any interesting story.

50:41 - For instance, the comedy, a joke. A joke is always a violation of the rules of language.

50:50 - The statement is always a violation of the basic rules of langage.

50:59 - A screenwriter has a very difficult job because on one hand he has to use the key elements of story telling so the viewer can follow but but he has to create, to break away from the rules to create interest and engagement.

51:27 - Engagement, we know that for teaching, if it’s too easy, too transparent, if things are obvious, the learner will loose track and will loose interest.

51:38 - So you have to strike the proper balance between, on one hand, access so the jump is not too high, otherwise you say there’s no way I can understand or I have good command of what’s going on.

51:57 - If it’s too simple or too obvious or repetitive…

52:06 - I have a counter question for you guys who are actually into scriptwriting, the doctors.

52:14 - The old truth would be that empathy is necessary to build empathy towards the protagonist otherwise the film will. .

52:23 - Or repulsion. Or repulsion. It works also Yes. But maybe you know that today we have moved on so you can also create anti-heros and antagonists that are equally engaging for the audience.

52:47 - Because the old truth may not be the truth today.

52:51 - Recently we watched the American TV series, Succession which is a bunch of super rich, super narcisstic arseholes. Everyone. So it was a frustration for me to watch because I was jumping from one character to the other to cling on to someone decent.

53:14 - But nobody was decent, everyone was corrupt.

53:18 - It was very interesting to watch this and finally I found myself watching with curious distance all these strange characters.

53:31 - But still interest. Still interest.

53:35 - There are many series and movies putting up non-sympathetic characters at the centre as you mentioned before, The Wire.

53:46 - The connection is, I think, the important word.

53:49 - I’d make a distinction between emptathy and sympathy. I read something in Spinoza a long time ago.

53:57 - He gives a very simple definition of empathy, he says you just need to imagine that some thing, he doesn’t say human being, that some thing is feeling something to feel exactly the same thing.

54:14 - It means that if you watch a robot feeling something, you can feel the same thing as the robot because you we so social we can build a social link, with a fiction character… This is what happens when we watch Nemo an animated movie, Wall-E. You make a very strong connection, there’s not a word for 30 minutes and you build a connection with a garbage robot.

54:42 - We are so social, I think this is very important to say to screenwriters, you don’t need a human being on the screen to build empathy.

54:50 - Empathy is not connected to sympathy. You don’t need to see someone who’s nice you just need to see something that you can imagine, feel something, to feel the same thing.

55:02 - This is you doing the work, you’re doing the heavy lifting.

55:05 - If you look at E. T. E. T. is fascinating.

55:08 - This is the film that moves everybody in the world everybody’s crying at the end. It’s just a robot that looks like a frog with two big eyes like cats’ eyes.

55:20 - It’s something with eyes and a mouth and he’s got to learn the language.

55:26 - It looks like a disgusting frog. And you build empathy with it.

55:30 - The sequel of E. T. which is the series, Stranger Things, they built empathy with a worm, like a creature which is very dangerous but if you tell it the right way you can build empathy with anything, with a rock, with a computer.

55:49 - You were talking about Jean-Luc Godard. Jean-Luc Godard says we have to be nice with machines because they can’t defend themselves.

55:56 - This is an idea. If you think the machine is unable to resist, if you want to break it then suddenly you can build empathy with your computer If you’re Jean-Luc Godard I guess.

56:09 - But for the common viewer, immediately if something is on screen and it’s moving, maybe you can imagine it’s feeling something and you can feel empathy so it opens a lot of perspectives for screenwriting.

56:25 - What you say is very true. Some experiements were made with very young children and it’s just with shapes, a square pushing a round or a square trying to… not give access to another geometric shape to some places and so on.

56:51 - Immediately the child is projecting feelings and attitudes to these material types of things.

57:03 - There is something very much engrained in the human being. It’s not that easy with computers or things but as soon as we think the shape or the thing some kind of will power meaning he decides to do something by itself or we recognise it as a “living” thing, then we project feelings and sentiments. .