WATCHING A GOOD movie is like watching our life compressed into two dramatic hours. There in a darkened theatre or living room - alone with only popcorn and our imagination - we encounter our most powerful fears and fantasies in safety. Terror. Pain. Gratitude. Love.

Doesn't it seem that we leave a powerful movie a little changed, our perceptions somehow altered? We walk away feeling relieved but perhaps also more courageous after Robert De Niro's psychotic character is finally subdued in Cape Fear. We feel emotionally deepened after Anthony Hopkins (as C.S. Lewis) honours the pain of losing the one he loves in Shadowlands.

It seems that the movies that stay with us are significant because we have discovered ourselves in them. But what does this mean? Not all movies have this effect. What can we learn about our own struggle for authenticity and growth from some of the cinema's best portrayals of the human story?

Watershed in 1994 established a "Mythic Movies" course that allows us to view and discuss one movie each month in a group setting. We've used "mythic" in the sense that the best movies are valuable because they touch the deepest stories of being human in which we all somehow participate in. Often our discussions range from comparing our immediate emotional responses to challenging exchanges on all sorts of topics.

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