I like to think that I'm quite a hard-case. Not in the sense of strength or mean-ness, but when it comes to emotional films or shows, I think I'm quite good at holding back the tears... Well, as I'm getting older it seems that the tears have a mind of their own! And they regularly like to make an appearance in very heart-wrenching moments. Most recently, the episode of Call The Midwife. I won't spoil it for those that haven't seen it yet ... But someone leaves. And someone dies. Yep, probably spoilt it for you now anyway!
But how do they make us cry? Even if it's just a welling up of the eyes or the spluttering sobs that make us look like we've lost the plot! I know along the way, we've all been guilty of shedding a tear or two!
As part of media, we study the techniques to create those scenes that often have us smiling from ear to ear, stamping the floor and yelling at the screen in anger or indeed, reaching for the good old tissues (or if you're unprepared, your dressing gown sleeve!). There's a few good tricks, and to help me explain, I have a few examples on the way!
So first of all, empathy. You need the empathy from the audience with the characters that you have. You need to fall in love with those characters, want what they want for themselves and genuinely just like them. One of the best examples I can think of is Marley from Marley and Me. If you haven't watched it, it's all about a dog's life. Literally. You see Marley as a puppy and watch his crazy moments growing up in a lovely family (starring the wonderful Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson). So yeah you fall in love with the dog, because let's face it, he's an animal and everyone loves animals. Then you go through the story and then, oh no! Marley is sick. Something's not right with Marley. Then BAM. Yep, he's not gonna make it. Cue sobbing on screen and off. No one likes a dead dog. No one.
Next, you need the music. Ah, the wonderful music. It goes all slow, or even worse just silence and then you see the characters fall into floods of tears and hysteria as they know that the person they loved has gone. Sob. Pearl Harbour is a good one for this. Especially when they come out of the plane and the woman is there all ready, but oh no, she doesn't see the man she wanted to see and then they bring out the coffin and gulp. Yep, he's dead. No coming back from that. Although, you can just get with his best friend. That makes everything just that little bit easier to cope with...
Slow-Mo. Ahh the joys of slow-mo. Where, usually accompanied by dramatic and depressing music, the characters break down, maybe even drop to their knees, and you see the anguish, the pure pain in their faces which then sets you off in turn. Normally, this doesn't get me. It actually sometimes breaks it for me because it's not as realistic but hey ho. Another technique that often has people casually making out that they just "forgot to blink" or they have "allergies ... to air". Roll on the excuses for crying like a baby.
The moment when you know what's going to happen, but the characters don't. Oh, the Notebook. How I love it. It makes me cry because even though you know who the characters actually are when they don't, you still don't sort of expect them to y'know *spoiler alert* die. At least, not in such a way were they are still together and all loved up before popping their clogs. You sort of know that they are a little bit ill and that, let's face it, they are a bit old, but true love always wins out in the end. In fact that's another technique...
The guilty pleasure of true love. The inevitability of the characters being in love, losing love, oh you know the story. PS I love you, aw another good film, is a great example. I usually only cry at certain parts, obviously the opening bit is kind of sad because it's a funeral. But you only get to fall in love with Gerard Butler's character yourself during the actual bulk of the film. It's a lovely story that gives you goosebumps and makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. And then you realise, things have to move on and it brings a lump to your throat because in some ways, you're having to move on with the character. Sad face but smiley face at the same time. It's one of those that makes you feel very fulfilled.
Linking back to empathy, you need to see the realism in the emotional bit. My Sister's Keeper is just one which always has me crying. I have a sister, so for me it makes it even more real. But also the tragedy of the fact she's so young and how heart-breaking it must be for the sister to not be able to save her must be awful. Well, we all know it is because we cried. And if you didn't cry, well you're heartless. Ditto to Top Gun - even the manly films can make you cry your eyes out at the death of Goose. Sniff. It's just too tragic!
I think we've all noticed what links them all together - DEATH. People dying always brings up tears and the most sobby-sobs of all! Dobby in Harry Potter, Pat Butcher in Eastenders, Hayley in Corrie, practically everyone in the cast of Les Mis, Alec in Call the Midwife (too soon already, I can feel myself welling up again!). Honestly though, think of all the reasons why you've cried at a film and I bet the most common one is the death of a character. Because you like them. Because the Director and crew have done such a wonderful job with their close-ups, sad music and blue lighting that you just well-up. You genuinely believe in their story and then when it ends, you're left in your pjs, sobbing to yourself in an empty room, scoffing the last bit of Ben and Jerrys and realising that you too are alone... *hem* Too personal?
When I cry at things, my immediate thought is I have to talk to someone. I just have to share my misery of this person dying or that thing happening and above all, I need to check my family are all OK. But that's the magical power of TV and Cinema, they can make you feel things that you've never felt before or make you revisit thoughts that you haven't thought of in a while. They can destroy your happiness in a single scene and leave you to sort yourself out thinking "Yes, we made everyone cry!". I just wish I wasn't an emotional wreck for days after but that just shows talent at it's best.