Delaying gratification

I’ve been reading Robert McKee’s Story. McKee demonstrates a clarity of thought, and a level of certitude about what makes a good screenplay, that focuses your understanding. It took me a long time to commit, and read this cornerstone of screenwriting theory. I do that a lot, wilfully resist the imperative to do something just because people tell me I should.

I do it with films all the time. There are films I avoid just because people tell me I should see them. I did it with The Lives Of Others. I knew it was good, because everyone I spoke to told me it was good, but delaying its viewing made it all the better. Perhaps because all the hype that surrounded its release has died away, and let me see it with a certain freshness.

It could be that I just wasn’t ready. I have never really seen an Ingmar Bergman film. I know I should, but I have never been able to make that commitment. McKee talks about Bergman a lot. He makes the point that a neophyte audience find Bergman’s films difficult. You need a certain amount of life experience to be able to appreciate them.

The reason I haven’t seen one of his films could be something altogether different. In this world of now, where we get everything in an instant, delaying gratification has become something of an art. It’s the only antidote to the constant demand for our attention. I think it’s good it’s necessary to have something you know will pay dividends when you finally get to it, something that you hold in reserve until it is absolutely the right moment.

So next time you are told about a film you must see, perhaps hold off a while. See how much sweeter it is when you finally get to it.

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