I’ve just watched The Fish Child in order to provide a review for smellofnapalm.com and I found it epitomised something I’ve encountered before in films of this type. They are atmospheric, artistic, very well directed and produced, and yet I struggle with their overarching aim. You see, when you trip to the cinema to see the latest Hollywood blockbuster, you can be sure to some degree of what you’re going to get. It may be shallow, it may be violent, it may be shocking or thrilling, or it may be none of these things, but you will know that it has one goal: to entertain.
The problem I have with films like The Fish Child, and there are many of them, is why am I watching them? What do they want from me?
It is hard to say they aim to entertain; a comedian entertains, a car chase entertains, even a feisty scene between celebs entertains, but frankly, a film in which the protagonist is a teenage lesbian in love with her maid whose father impregnated her as a child, who then gave birth as a very young teen, drowned the baby and left it in a lake, and after all that ends up in a female penitentiary, is not entertaining – it’s fucked up. And I’ve slimmed it down.
So if they’re not entertaining, and they’re not educational (other than from a film making perspective), what is it about them that makes them worth watching? I find it comparable to art. Think of looking at a warped, unpleasant painting. Something disturbing that you definitely wouldn’t want in your living room. It exists as a statement from it’s creator. ‘This is what I was thinking about, this is how I feel, this is what I want you to know I’m conflicted by…’ Art makes some sort of proclamation. You’re looking at it and you can’t find anything to like, and yet you are moved in some way. You feel affected, as if you’ve emotionally developed since experiencing it. The thing is, a painting or a poem can do that to you in a matter of seconds. Is it worth spending two hours watching a film to achieve the same sensation? I don’t know.
Perhaps you haven’t a clue what I’m talking about and you love this kind of film, or maybe you think you know the answer…either way, I’d love to hear opinions in the comments below.