A Case for Anti-Analyticism

As filmmakers, and less specifically as artists, we are often trained to dissect and analyze works in order to gain a better understanding of the work or a better understanding of why we do or don’t connect with a particular work.

Even if we haven’t been trained to do so, it is generally our first instinct to analyze; Especially in an increasingly social world where there is constant engaging in conversations about art.

We want to be able to engage in a way that sounds well-thought-out and intelligent. We want to have a voice, something to say on the matter, to belong in the conversation and effect the thoughts of others.

And there isn’t a thing wrong with this sort of thinking and reacting — except when there is.

Like most things, it’s correct in moderation.


I began to question the effectiveness of analysis a couple of years ago when I saw a film very appropriately titled Under the Skin. And the film did get under my skin. It effected me in a way so beyond explanation, beyond definition, that it troubled me and frustrated me for a long while after viewing. I felt I needed words for the experience and emotions I had while viewing the picture.

What I eventually found was, that over time, the more I attempted to pull it apart, define my emotions, analyze the meaning, the less potent and effective the film became.

This wasn’t because the film was falsely effective previously, it was because in trying to apply science to art, I dimmed the light of the emotion it evoked.

I’d experienced this rise and fall of art’s impact in the past, particularly with my favorite film The Tree of Life, but never had I become so acutely aware of the effects of this process.


There is a beautiful line of dialogue in one of my favorite films The Man Who Wasn’t There that goes like this:

“The more you look, the less you know”

I’ve begun to find this is more true with art than we may care to admit.

Often times a filmmaker is trying to show you something, give you something, that goes beyond language; It’s meant to drop into a deeper level. That’s why its cinema and not another medium.

When we attempt to define a work that wasn’t meant to be defined, we diminish the intention of it, the effectiveness of it and we begin to make ourselves lose. We lose out on an otherwise meaningful experience because we are mistaking art for math and science.

I realize the alternative that I am suggesting is too idealistic and romantic, of course, we can’t completely eliminate analysis, that would be impossible and even inappropriate; There are particular works, history mind you, that bare the need for analysis, but perhaps on repeat viewing? Perhaps after a time? Look again later, in a month or so, after you’ve allowed all of that emotion and thought marinate within yourself and you’ve really fully absorbed it. That’s really the purpose of art, I think.

Next time you sit down to watch a meaningful film, try to not think about it so hard, try not to so deeply understand it that you might seem very smart and well versed and critical.

Just see what happens when you let it simply wash over you, let it leave you speechless and full of emotion. That’s cinema.

Persona — Ingmar Bergman (1967)
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