Anyone who has accompanied me within the last few years to watch a movie in the theaters has most likely observed one of my (many) quirks. Surprisingly, it doesn’t manifest itself until towards the tail end of the production. Some might even say I’m perfectly normal the entire duration of the film, although this is a debatable proposition for another time. That aside, the climactic scene has come to a close, the plot has been tied up with a bow, and the credits begin to traverse across the screen. While the masses begin filing out under the impression that the show is over, I’m just buckling in for the best part. What ensues is the most eccentric hodgepodge of literally thousands of names, hurdling at a breakneck pace from the bottom to the top of the screen. My sole purpose in life (or so it seems) then becomes finding amidst the jumbled mess of words the most exotic, the strangest, the most hilarious and unique assortment of letters which happen to make up a name. I’m essentially panning for gold in a river of words. A rule of thumb, almost guaranteed to produce the most satisfying results: the more hyphens, the better. Granted, it’s a game I know I shouldn’t derive so much pleasure from, and yet I do. It’s simply pure, goofy, childlike fun. That enjoyment is certainly heightened by the speed which the credits travel with; the pressure is on to search out and identify the goofiest, most ridiculous name before it hurdles off the top of the screen. Doing this with friends is typically the ideal way to experience the entertainment. This competitive variation of the game entails taking turns calling out a name, and the other person finding it before it has disappeared.
While I have described in detail the amusing aspect of this activity, devoting time to watch the credits at the end of a film actually serves as a signpost to an even more important reminder. I stumbled upon this realization recently while watching the end of the new Guardians of the Galaxy movie. I found my mind wandering to the human connection that lay behind each name my eyes were racing over. Each one represented a different person, one who I very possibly may have passed in the street at some point in my life. This movie I had just sat through represented the collective effort of hundreds of people who had poured into it their expertise, creativity and exertion. Their names were a clear reminder of the fact that they had a marked influence on the outcome and final product.
In contrast to this reality, almost without fail a movie (or really any work of art) will take on its own life in the mind of its viewer. At best, the camera and special effects crews, director, and producer recede imperceptibly into the background, if not disappear altogether. It is easy to imagine why. In a sense, the entirety of the film – the characters, cinematic backdrops, plot, emotional elements etc. – stands apart on its own merits, existing in its own distinct world, with the screen serving as a portal into it. This is of course the intent of its creators, and the more skilled they are, the more deftly they can accomplish this. Naturally, this acceptance of a film at face value is the typical mode of interacting with it, exhibited by the immediate exodus from the theater at the first appearance of the credits. Those moviegoers filing out may be thinking deeply about the film, but they are most likely not thinking about the minds behind its creation. There is a drastic difference. Here is where a deliberate focus on those minds is especially helpful: doing so may provide us with the key to unlocking some of the driving themes and elements only available to us through the explicit commentary of the very people who crafted the film. In other words, it changes our perception of it entirely. We may have had an impression of a scene when watching it initially, but the explanation of the director (or the actor in it) during some interview or speech could offer a completely opposite – and more richly informed – perspective.
We might do well to remind ourselves of the usefulness of peering past the surface of things, and interacting with the true nature of them. This is only possible at a deeper level if we somehow become acquainted with the creative minds behind them. Taking that stance might elicit the greatest truths we ever come across, ones which we would have otherwise unknowingly passed over. As silly as it may seem, watching the credits of a movie can serve as a vehicle for this reminder of the necessity of doing so.