After recently re-watching his favourite movie, and not enjoying it, Steven Barnes discovers that nostalgia isn’t what it used to be.
What to watch tonight? I pondered. As I lazily browsed the assorted pile of DVD’s, nothing gripped me. I didn’t really feel like Alien vs Predator; there was quite a bit of dumb fun and violence on offer, but I wasn’t in the mood. Inception almost made the cut, but it was disqualified too, needing too much thinking for the hour it was. Then it hit me – I’ll watch my favourite movie of all time, Shaun of the Dead.
The idea of going back excited me. My mind zapped to all the classic characters, the well-carved action, the chemistry of the stellar cast, all under the control of a director who was also a fan. It made sense. Nostalgia kicked me through the first 30 minutes and I laughed as I did last time I watched it, warm in the assumption that I made the right call.
But by the time the undead rocked up, the laughs were as empty as their heads. I wanted to do the film justice; it was trying for me, so I thought I’d try for it. But I couldn’t force it, and the best I could muster was a smile. The conclusion came and went, leaving me sat there with the blank screen, wondering what went wrong? Was it me? It must have been me. I assumed I was having an off-night, and I went to asleep still content in the knowledge that I still loved the movie that loved me.
Over the coming weeks, my mind wandered back the subject. I began to doubt myself. Did I do something wrong? Is it a case of “It’s not you, Shaun, it’s me”? Had I changed that much? These questions circled my head like a vortex, consuming me. I had to look into this further. That’s when I stumbled across an article, which lead me to this report.
It discussed why we watch movies over and over, and how we get enjoyment from watching things we love. It went onto say it’s easier for our brains to process, and how nostalgia paints the movie in a positive light. I agree with the nostalgic aspect, but I just didn’t enjoy re-watching it.
There was one last thing, one last test to do. To be sure.
Flash forward to last Saturday night and popped the disc into my laptop. I had decided on fish and chips, to wingman me into the British comedy spirit. I passed the fifteen-minute mark. Nothing. The initial laughs weren’t even there. I smiled a few times, because I felt I had to. But I was sure; the thrill had gone.
I discovered that nostalgia, for me, is something best left untouched.
I suppose losing my film-love has taught me a harsh lesson. And I’m not keen letting it happen again, so I won’t be re-watching Pokémon or listening to the soundtrack to the original Spiderman movie. Shaun of the Dead is still my favourite movie and my nostalgia will forever preserve its place as such.
But it will stay there, because I won’t be going back to it.