Reel talk: cinema is good for you

Yvonne Teh, Film Editor

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 31 July, 2013, 10:20pm

Watching movies can make you feel better: that's the verdict of health care professionals, specifically those advocates of cinema therapy. A number of these practitioners have assigned particular films for their patients to watch.

In a 2000 Psychology Today article, American psychologist John W. Hesley wrote that, "Although people might be surprised when a therapist recommends a movie, using fiction as a clinical tool is not actually new. Since the 1930s, when William C. Menninger first assigned fiction to his psychiatric patients, therapists have introduced literature - novels, short stories and poetry - into the therapeutic process. Movies are simply the latest, most accessible and time-saving addition to what has become known as bibliotherapy."

Hesley co-authored a book with Jan G. Hesley, called Rent Two Films and Let's Talk in the Morning: Using Popular Movies in Psychotherapy. The work recommends such films as the inspirational baseball-themed Field of Dreams and the Oscar-winning cycling-themed Break ing Away. Hesley believes that, "Movies connect a [patient's] world to the characters and plots - furnishing role models, providing inspiration and hope, and offering new solutions to old problems. They assure [them] that they are not alone, that others have experienced hardship and triumphed". They thereby help people to feel and become mentally stronger and healthier.

In Britain, MediCinema, a registered British charity established in 1996, has installed cinemas in places like the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Glasgow. With "Feel better with film" as its motto, the organisation uses films to relieve boredom and stress. By setting up cinemas - complete with 35mm film projectors operated by professional film projectionists, but with nurses, instead of usherettes, in attendance - in hospital buildings, MediCinema offers up movie magic to people who otherwise might not be able to make it to a screening. What's more, it's in an environment where they can feel secure in the knowledge that they still have medical help on hand.

MediCinema screens current films, and comedies and romantic comedies are the most popular. So it's no wonder that the organisation has proclaimed on its website that "Laughter is still the best medicine of all and we aim to administer large doses of it."