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I love discussing films with friends, and appreciating what different messages, metaphors and meanings people get from the watching the ‘same’ film. I’m sharing a few films that come to mind.

My first horror film experience was as child, watching ‘An American Werewolf in London’. I remember saying to my family ‘How do we know that neighbours, family and friends aren’t werewolves?’. They laughed at the time, and yet years later, when I watched it as an adult, I thought how wise my words were back then – the horror lies in not knowing who lives amongst us, who may look like us, but they aren’t like us at all. As soon as you turn your back, the ‘other’ emerges. Isn’t that a modern day metaphor?

‘The Matrix’ is a film that challenges what reality is. Morpheus says ‘Have you ever looked at it?’ and at that point Neo realises his whole understanding of reality is masking the real – the disintegration and chaos of the matrix. “There is only one truth; that there is no truth” – did someone of note say that, or did I make it up?

The first time I watched ‘Bladerunner’, the memorable scene was when Rachel realises she isn’t a human being; she is, in fact, a replicant. She challenges Deckard (the bladerunner) with evidence of her humanity, giving him a photo of a wonderful moment in ‘her’ life. In the photo, Rachel is sitting on the porch with her Mum, watching spiders being born – as she is telling ‘her’ story, Deckard interrupts her, and cruelly finishes ‘her’ story. He knows each detail. She is stunned. “It’s not your memory” he tells her, with no regard to effect of his words “they’re probably implants from Tyrells niece”. I was studying cognitive psychology at the time, and I remember thinking about false memories we all have, and what effect the peeling away of false memories may have on us. For Rachel, her identity was lost, and she was thrown into the void.

Another scene of identity and loss was in ‘Educating Rita’. Rita is a working class hairdresser, keen to ‘better herself’ (in her reality) by getting a degree. She is allocated a tutor to help her with her Open University degree – Frank, a drunkard academic, who doesn’t even want to work with her at the start of the film. Their friendship changes as Rita develops a passion for English Literature. When Rita goes to Franks house having critically assessed his poetry, Frank asks her to call him Shelley from now on. “What?” Rita laughs, puzzled. “Don’t you see?” He mocks, “I have created a monster. You. You said you wanted a better song to sing. On your lips it sounds harsh and shrill.”. He has challenged her newly found sense of identity, her place and worth in the world, and he sends her into a state of confusion.

In ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’, George Bailey wishes he had never been born, and his wish is granted. With his Guardian Angel by his side, he watches his life as if he had never existed. He realises just what a difference his life has made. Is there such a thing as an ordinary life, when one person has such an extra-ordinary impact on others? George realises that his brother would be dead, as George wasn’t there to save him, the town physician would be a drunken homeless bum because George wasn’t there to challenge him, and his mother would be living as an angry old lady without having had George’s love. The message is so powerful in our disconnected world of speed, isolation and opinions. If each of us lived our life mindfully, with awareness of the difference we make, how our lives impact on others, what a wonderful life we may lead.

The messages for bravery in mentoring in ‘The Kings Speech’ is powerful for me.  Mentoring often involves a tightrope of dealing with the here and now, the past, and the emerging future goals. When first asked to help Prince Albert (who at that time no-one realised would become King) with this public speaking, the therapist, Lionel Logue, is told that he mustn’t discuss the past, or any emotional issues. Logue states that speech disorders rarely happens without some sort of emotional story, and through humility, friendship, careful questioning, empathy and technique, his friend George VI finds his voice. “I have a VOICE” shouts the King, the night before his coronation. To which Logue replies gently, “Yes, you do, Bertie. Yes you do.”. I invite every mentor to watch the film.

I was inspired to write this following listening to Brian Wrigley at a Northampton Business Network meeting. What films have given meaning to you?

Writing this blog is similar to my role as a learner centred facilitator –an activity will draw up different meanings, metaphors and messages to each individual in the room. Contact me if you are interested in me developing your leaders, managers and people using learner centred methods.

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