A Manic 500 Days

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[Written by Mhari Dunn]

[Image Credits: Kilian Peschel (accessed from Unsplash)]

I believe a film’s sentimentality can be drawn more strongly from where and who you were at the time of falling in love with it than the characters portrayed or plot line itself. When reflecting on my own life experience, I can think of two films that came into my life at both the exact and the right time, “500 days of Summer” and “Manic”. Both star Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel as romantic interests. Both are brilliantly different, the only similarity they may possess (besides the co-stars) could be the coincidental timing they fell into my life. “500 days of Summer” is a romance story that doesn’t piss me off — a rarity. “Manic”, a largely under-appreciated film in my opinion, follows Lyle (Levitt) as he is admitted into a mental ward and his experiences with his fellow patients. It’s a Dogme 95-style film which brings to the screen one of the best depictions of mental health, largely due to the fabric of how the film is shot. It feels raw, authentic and almost tactile, both highly emotional and informative. This contrast is very different from that of “500 Days of Summer” in which we see the director Marc Webb taking all artistic liberty to elevate a very realistic and grounded portrayal of love into something that feels highly memorable and almost fantastical. 

Both films landed in my life at precisely the right time and are forever linked with my 16- year-old self. I hadn’t seen either film in several years until very recently, and upon questioning the reason why, I realised something both curious and existential: the films had changed for me. I understand that nothing can replicate a first viewing experience, but it made me question what exactly had changed. I had forgotten much of “500 Days of Summer” after a 4-year abstinence and, upon re-viewing it, it didn’t resonate with me as it did before. It wasn’t that the film wasn’t enjoyable or that I was bored by the fact I knew what was forthcoming, it remains a great film. I simply had changed, and the film had not. I had become more experienced but not any smarter in matters of love than my young self. Its sense of fantasy didn’t feel so sentimental anymore but simply less believable than I once remembered. Alternatively, “Manic” seemed to impact me more as I aged. I had changed and the film had not, but more specifically I had grown, now able to understand the context of the film and the story on a more sympathetic level. 

We usually talk about films breaking the mould. But what if we are in fact the mould – what if films, along with all forms of art, shape us? I believe we outgrow films, not breaking our moulds but simply morphing and restructuring into something new, allowing us to find solace in the world of film. This isn’t a sad consideration. I’m not necessarily sad about the fact that a film that once felt so indefinitely made for me doesn’t anymore. I actually think this experience solidifies the idea of the inevitability of change both in ourselves and on film. Films that once meant so much to me will surely resonate with others very different than myself and I too will find new films that will fit to the experiences of my life at the time. And that’s quite the comforting side of it. 


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