Anthony Minghella on Morality in Cinema

When I heard Anthony Minghella had passed away I shed a tear. Quite literally! For I knew the world, and in particular the world of cinema, was poorer for it!

As evidence of this I present to you a lecture given by Minghella only days after winning the academy award for The English Patient.

I believe in what he says. Indeed I think you should too. As he remarks at minute 33:00 it is through cinema that we come extend our experience of life. To understand what it is to love form a frame of reference outside of our own.

I’ve said similar in the past but never so beautifully!

So go ahead and listen from 33_00 for a minute or so then continue to read.

Now you may wonder why we need to experience these things. For instance, Minghella claims that through our shift of perspective afforded by the lens we are able to experience what it is like to love and to be loved. Ok. Get that. But he claims claims that we can experienced what it is like to kill and to be killed! And this is a good thing?!? Really!!

Is Minghella suggesting that screen violence has moral utility? Yes he is. As long as it does not generalise and or diminish what it means to be human. This is an important distinction.

Look at it this way, all racism, agism, sexism, all fascism, indeed all hatred, is born of a mind that cannot understand another’s lived experienced.

This is why cinema is important. It is important because it gives someone a chance to do so. A chance to live as if of another sex, another age, another color, and to experience life from that perspective.

In short cinema is an empathy-machine and for this reason he is correct but it is a fine edge between this, stupid filmmaking.

Unfortunately, I suspect, audiences that are in most need of this shift of perspective are the very same ones who will miss the point altogether.

Now if you can go back and listen to the Minghella lecture form the beginning.