Some say that progress does not exist, that nothing ever changes, we all live in a continuous loop of consensual repetitions and in different routines, that Parmenides’ river is always the same river. Not really, of course. Actually, we are constantly changing, mutating and transforming. Every experience we accumulate shapes us and changes us every minute, as a new note in a musical score, a separate brick in a building or an unfamiliar taste in a beer. Even if we don’t like it, we are continually reborn from the cells of our skin to the brain plasticizing and molding itself to the changing reality. Because the atoms of hydrogen and oxygen modify the Heraclitus’ river at every moment.
Sometimes the rebirth is as spectacular as the Oscar ceremony directed by Cecil DeMille. Just think about the divine ray that toppled Saul of Tarsus from his horse transfiguring him into an Apostle; or Ben Affleck, who has the same round face as the bread he is buying than dressed as Batman, but one day he got behind the camera and changed us all with Argo. Other times, the revival is more fluid and easier. As the decision that Gloria Swanson took when, in her interpretative impasse of twenty years founded the patent company Multipress, which the main objective was to rescue Jewish scientist and inventors of Europe hit by the World War II.
That’s the way movies and books inspire and change us, they hit us as St. Paul’s lightning and instantly transport us to places where we are others, even if it is only for a few hours. Even if it is from that time bubble that opens from the fanfare and ends with the credits, from the first page of a new adventure to the ending. The good thing is that once we travel there, we often become forever changed. The experience makes us remember, and never forget. It’s enough to get us in front of the screen, or between the pages of a book and open a beer or wine.
Remember the famous saga of The Lord of the Rings? Of course, we all do, it’s one of the greatest books and cinemas in history. Well, in Pembroke shire, Wales, a family, inspired by this Tolkien story, has built a home almost entirely from natural materials. The exterior walls are made of rock and mud and water enters the house by gravity from a nearby waterfall. Any unnatural things that the family needs, such as windows and plumbing, they took from the waste from some neighbors. And as you can imagine, the respect for nature goes so far and so seriously that they even did anything that was possible to protect the visual impact on the area to an absolute minimum, resulting in a wonderful hobbit house. I think all would like to live in a house like this, at least for a while. In particular, we should all love to live in a house of our fantasy, with a fear that an evil elf can appear before us in the night looking for pots with money or with the fear of seeing a dragon flying in the garden. Although, in my opinion, it would be more lovely and interesting to live like the elves in the redwoods. The impact that the books had on people it goes beyond that. The movies they filmed were directed and staged in New Zeeland. Nowadays people go for a tour on the Hobbit movie set, the Hobbit village that is recreated in an incredible way in a rural area of Matamata in New Zeeland. Same as in the book, the location chosen by Peter Jackson to film this place is a mountainous area. Next to a stream, lake and even a meadow that seems unreal. On the movie set there is a sightseeing tour, the limits of the reality are blurred, and people might even believe that until moments ago the hobbits were walking in the place. People pay a lot of money to stay there and live like the hobbits lived for a while. They want to feel the magic of the place, and for a short period believe that the hobbits are among them. That kind of influence coming from a book and a movie changes people forever. None of them want to live the peaceful place and come back to reality. When they come back home, they want to build a hobbit house for themselves and live in a community. Similar things happen when building mansions in the style of Star Trek, Batman caves or going on an expedition to follow the steps of Indiana Jones, of fallowing the path that Don Quixote took and enjoy in all its adventures. People identify with some character in a book or a movie and they like to experience the life that they led. Some for a while, a weekend, a vacation, others even for life.
A good example of the second type is the Heroes like Thor, Frodo, and Hulk, characters from Star Wars, like princess Leia and Chewbacca, or Goku that nowadays are walking on the streets of Dubai so they can meet for the fifth edition of the fair Middle East Film & Comic Con. Some of them wait the whole year for the event, picking very carefully a costume they could wear, reading everything there is to read and watching each movie a thousand times so they can capture the character to perfection. Thousands of fans of manga, superheroes, video games and movies and series around the world have used this fair, and fairs alike, to dress up as their favorite characters, get in touch with other fans of these fictional worlds and, why not, have the opportunity to meet some of the actors who play their fantasy idols. The may say: I am Cruella de Vil, I don’t have other definition. And they believe that for the period of three days they are the person they admire. During the conference, they are allowed to fly from one end to another of the exhibit hall thanks to a zip line. They wait in lines for an autograph of fictional characters like Jaime Lannister, from the Game of Thrones TV show. But, in this fictional world things come at a certain price. And people are more than willing to pay for the fantasy. To this event are present more than 50000 people and every one of them would tell you that the book, the strip, or the movie shaped their life. For better or worse that’s left to your opinion.
Let’s not forget the romantics and a certain period in history that nowadays is recreated again and again in literature and on the big screen. I am talking here about the legendary Jane Austen and the 19th century. The big castles where the movies were filmed, like Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Emma and so many more, can now be rented, or you can pay a fixed price and for an entire week live in the 19th century. They provide you with clothes, costumes, they do your hair, serve you the food they ate, you can go for a hunting or horse riding and recreate your favorite book. People even receive scripts and they act a certain role. They love to be someone else for a week. Emerge in a world they admire and become one with the character they venerate.
Today there is a reading revolution going on. Children are reading books from a small age and watching animation movies. Adults are creating book clubs so they can bond over a favorite character and share a similar experience in order to avoid the reality, even for a little while. The influence of the imaginary world is so present. Even the vague one as Fifty Shades of Grey, after which people started joining clubs and classes in order to learn the "art” of it. Maybe the quality of the writings is not the same anymore, as would have been in the time of Tolkien, Austen or Dostoevsky, but the need to explore the fantasy world is the same. So the things they start to watch and read begins to feel like an everyday occurrence. They yearn to feel the link, the connection with another person on a different level. They want to be understood, to find similarity with what they like and how they are. This kind of influence is powerful, more powerful than any religion and maybe even more honest. It’s not something you must do or you have a habit of doing since you were even older to remember. It’s something people choose to do, and that kind of thing is priceless. So the little money that have to give to build a house from a book, join a club they can belong to, or participate in a Comic Con every year so they can act as "themselves”, even for a few days, it’s a small price to pay. Because these domains, these fantasy worlds have shaped their lives from the moment they first saw them or read about them. Would you mind belonging to one of these worlds?