The Cinema Therapy Newsletter #17
February 12, 2005
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Karin Leonard, a member of the GATEM forum of CT professioinals, made us aware of the following in November:

I wanted to share with you that the current issue of What is Enlightenment magazine is entitled Searching for Soul in Hollywood and has some interesting articles on the new trend of "spiritual/psychological" movies like, What the Bleep Do We Know and the making of The Celestine Prophecy and other spiritual books into movies. I find their articles to be an in-depth exploration of today's spirituality and often thought provoking. You can find the magazine in some book stores or on-line. Enjoy!"

For those of you who have checked out the Cinema Therapy Forum but unsubscribed due to a lack of discussion going on, I just thought I'd let you know that the group has been getting much more active of late. Please feel free to resubscribe here.

The new Academy Award's nominated movies that are cinema therapy material are now on the Film Index with links to reviews.


Of interest to all:

Holly Hand started a very successful group SACRED SIGHT - SPIRITUAL CINEMA GROUP on Jan.7, 2005 at the Unity church in Walnut Creek, CA (1871 Geary Road) at 7 p.m. On a drop in basis, she invites participants to watch an inspirational movies on each of eight consecutive Friday evenings. After viewing the film participants reflect their emotional experience first in small groups and then in the big circle. Movie examples are Whale Rider, Amelie, and Waking Life. A long time member of Unity with several decades in recovery, Holly uses meditation and the labyrinth as tools in deepening her spiritual practice. She combines a passion for film with a commitment to exploring, experiencing and sharing ways of viewing film "through the eyes of the heart" - inviting ever increasing freedom and joy into the world. A certified addictions counselor and registered MFT intern, she works with those recovering from addiction and sees clients in a general psychotherapy practice in Lafayette under the supervision of Patricia E. Craven, MFT, License # MFC24859. Holly has a Master of Arts in counseling psychology with a specialization in transpersonal psychology from JFK University School of Holistic Studies.

The Spiritual Cinema Circle offers an interesting telecourse, Feb.16 - April. They also offer a cruise with a Spiritual Cinema Festival at See, May 14-21.

My Web site, Cinema Alchemy, now lists my upcoming workshops and professional trainings. I will present about Cinema Alchemy on The New Living Expo in San Francisco on April 22.

Professional Classes, Workshops:

Cinema Therapy Training is now being taught at a university! This summer I will teach a class in "Cinema Alchemy" at the Graduate School for Holistic Studies John F. Kennedy University in Campbell, CA.

On the 41st Annual CAMFT Conference in San Jose I will present on May 14: "Saturday Night at the Movies - Learn Cinema Therapy While Enjoying a Film". For more information click here.

From our colleague Fuat Ulus:

There's nothing like a chick flick for getting in the mood for love and Casablanca is at the top of the list. Scientists have figured out why romantic movies put us in the mood for love. According to a University of Michigan study, chick flicks boost the female hormone progesterone in both men and women, making them more lovey-dovey. Watching The Bridges of Madison County caused progesterone to jump 10 percent. But guy flicks like The Godfather Part II had the opposite effect, raising the male hormone testosterone 30 percent.

Looking for a romantic movie to turn your lover into a cuddler? Here are the American Film Institute's Top 10:

1. Casablanca
2. Gone with the Wind
3. West Side Story
4. Roman Holiday
5. An Affair to Remember
6. The Way We Were
7. Doctor Zhivago
8. It's a Wonderful Life.
9. Love Story
10. City Lights

starIn the Spotlight:

My new book, E-motion Picture Magic has been well received. A few reviews can be read here and here.

I greatly enjoyed being interviewed about my new book by Debbie Mandel. You can download an MP3 file of the interview here.


The Lord of the Rings Trilogy

Director: Peter Jackson
Producer: Peter Jackson, Barrie Osborne, Tim Sanders
Screenwriter: Frances Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson
Stars: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, Liv Tyler, Cate Blanchett, John   Rhys-Davies, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom, Hugo Weaving, Sean Bean, Ian Holm
MPAA Rating: PG 13
Years of Release: 2001, 2002, and 2003

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy is based on J.R.R. Tolkien's well-known novel.

A little person (hobbit) with hairy feet, named Frodo, is entrusted with a mysterious ring. It is the One Ring, forged by the Dark Lord, Sauron, and capable of corrupting the wearer. Sauron's servants, the Ring Wraiths, are scouring Middle Earth for it, since, when it is returned to their master, nothing would be able to stop him. All of the world would plunged into war. The only way to stop the evil will be to destroy the ring by casting it into the fire where it was forged - in Mordor, on the Dark Lord's doorstep.

Frodo starts his journey in the company of three other hobbits. Later, as the dangers mount, others join his company: the humans Aragorn and Boromir, the wizard Gandalf, the elf Legolas, and the dwarf Gimli. Together, these nine individuals must face ring wraiths, orcs, and worse; travel through the treacherous landscape of Middle-earth and the dreaded mines of Moria; and face mistrust within their fellowship.

The trilogy chronicles extraordinary adventures and reveals how the power of friendship, love and courage can hold the forces of darkness at bay.

Theoretical Contemplation:

The patterns of many movie plots are born out of the aspect of the collective unconscious that is reflected in our mythology, especially the Hero's Journey. The stages of the Hero's Journey can be traced in all kinds of films, not just those that feature heroic physical action and adventure, but also in romance, comedy, and thrillers. The viewer is hooked into the same pool of consciousness as the screenwriter. Both tap into the following wisdom: The antidote for the ache lies in ceasing the resistance to our calling, finding the courage to face our worst fears, and consequently expanding our possibilities. Especially when we go through life changes, the movies with these kinds of typical screenplays can help us access our courage to release the hurt that is stuck in the past and the fear and angst projected into the future. We follow the characters' process of letting go and learn to move into the present moment where we can take action with clarity.

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy seems especially full of mythological motifs; and almost every character embarks on a Hero's Journey.   Maybe this explains the movie's special attraction for so many viewers.  

Cinema Alchemy

After I had seen Melanie (36) for several months, she understood that many of her problems were rooted in her hesitancy about embracing adulthood.   She remembered that, as a child, she had "promised" herself in a Peter Pan like fashion not to grow up because the adult world seemed boring, cold, and dangerous. " I am afraid of what I might become", she said.  

Consequently, Melanie holds a job that doesn't challenge her. She created some artwork but frequently struggled to meet the deadlines of art shows.   She liked to hang out with her mostly younger friends and party. Often she experienced her life as unfulfilling and meaningless.   Her mood swings had increased.

When Melanie heard about Cinema Alchemy, our work took a dramatic turn. I learned that she loves to watch movies that tell epic and heroic stories.   In fact, she watches them over and over again.   She also enjoys exploring their metaphoric meaning and finding out why certain characters and scenes touch her.   We started using these explorations to elevate her pre-conscious patterns to a more conscious level.   This inspired her so much that she decided to write about her process.

Melanie first wrote about certain events that had forced her to face her fear of "growing up":   "For one, my body developed into that of a woman, all hips and boobs.   The second was the death of my mother.   Somehow it's difficult to continue to view myself as a child when she's dead, even if I've been successful in ignoring what my body had developed into.   The third is the realization that children are in an almost constant state of disempowerment.   It's probably this last realization that's hit me the hardest.   I'm unhappy with my current situation, and feel like I have no power to change it.   I cannot continue to exist feeling I have no power, because the frustration and pain I feel from that far outweighs any consolation I might derive from 'keeping my promise.'"

Melanie also wrote about her movie experience: "One of the themes that attracted my attention in The Lord of the Rings is that of personal evolution.   Each one of the members of The Fellowship is simultaneously a participant in two quests: one which revolves around the destruction of the ring, and another which revolves around the confrontation of demons/fears that obstruct that character's personal growth. Although each member of the Fellowship faces this challenge, the character I'm interested in at the moment is Gandalf the Grey.   When he is first introduced into the story he enjoys eating, smoking and play.   He's somewhat ragged, with unkempt hair/beard and a staff comprised of tangled roots at its end.   He's also a bit unsure of himself. He's lost his edge from spending too much time with the Hobbits. A couple of events forced him to ultimately face the demon Balrog.   They bring Gandalf to a point of no return.   He fell, and what seemed like certain death resulted in Gandalf's evolution from Gandalf the Grey to Gandalf the White. [comment: these are crucial stages in the Hero's Journey]. Gandalf the White seems to have a very solid sense of himself, what "needs" to happen in certain circumstances, and in organizing others to make that happen."

After I read this, I suggested an exercise in which Melanie took on the roles of Gandalf the Grey and Gandalf the White while sitting in different chairs, speaking from the corresponding parts inside her.   Consequently her process deepened significantly.

After this session she wrote: "Looking at Gandalf's experience has helped me realize that I won't be a totally different person, just an evolved version of myself.   I will be able to help myself as unfortunate circumstances present themselves, hence better able to help those around me.   In fact, I would venture a guess, that forging on through these fears would help empower one's sense of self-love, which is of inestimable assistance in facing fears.   It would seem to be the creation of an upward spiral that continually reinforces itself.   What a wonderful tool in coping with LIFE!"

Guidelines for clients who focus on their personal transformation:

Keep the following questions and suggestions in mind while you watch:

•  Focus on the metaphorical meaning of this movie for you.
•  What parts of the movie touch you most?
•  What character do you most identify with and when?
•  Notice how this hero goes through phases of hesitation, fear, meeting mentors, becoming aware that she cannot go back, facing tests, obstacles, and crises, confronting fear, gaining new perspective, and undergoing inner change.

Questions after the movie :

•  How does this character's journey compare with yours?
•  Did this character develop certain capacities that you may have already developed or would like to develop as well?

starReader Feedback:

About a month ago I rented the movies Before Sunrise and Before Sunset.   I watched them as a pair -- or double feature --with a short intermission between.   When I finished them I called and sent e-mails to friends letting them know that these were the most romantic movies I ever saw.  

It had been a long time since I was so taken with a movie.   I watched them three times before I returned them. I then purchased them and am still watching them and inquiring into why they affected me as they did.    The only other movie I saw so many times in a short period isn't even out in video or on DVD.   That movie is Enchanted April , which I saw ten times in theatres or on TV.

As I inquired into the affect they had on me I reflected also on Enchanted April and why, after over ten years, it remains my favorite movie and how the song "A Peaceful, Easy Feeling" still touches me to my depths.   With Enchanted April I came to see that it speaks to me of the magic of life -- the things that are there, but what we often don't "see."  I began exploring how much I "see" things -- intuitive senses or just a sense of knowing -- but how I often don't take it seriously or how when it is very personal I don't trust it.   After many years of noticing this phenomenon I am now beginning to trust what I "see" more and more.   In fact it's this "seeing" that is my creative process.   This is similar to how the main character (whose name I've forgotten) creates the magical month in Italy because she "saw" it.   Plus, in trusting her intuition she was finally seen by others, most notably her husband.  

What comes up for me as I write this is how I am touched by the quality of really being seen and how that comes through trusting the situation (instincts) and valuing myself.

As for the song "A Peaceful, Easy Feeling" it's been my favorite since I was in college.   Now, some thirty years later, I still play it over and over again.   Each time I hear it's as if I'm hearing it for the first time.   It still speaks both to me and for me, especially the lines "she can't take you anyway you don't already know how to go" and "I know you won't let me down, 'cause I'm all ready standing on the ground."  This song really says how I feel about love -- that it should be simple and easy and fully grounded.

This sense of love now brings me back to Before Sunrise and Before Sunset -- " the most romantic movies I've ever seen."  While watching Before Sunrise I was enjoying how they got to know one another as they wandered the streets of Vienna talking of life, philosophy, and love.   This is my ideal -- just getting to know someone by walking, talking and observing him interact with others.   In this movie Jesse was cynical, while Celine was sweet and open.  

Although the whole movie affected me, the line I remember most was then they were playing pinball and Celine asked "why is it that we obsess about people we don't even like?"  This really hit me hard as I realized that this is something that I do.

The feel of Before Sunset was quite different.   Nine years had passed and they had changed since their first meeting.   In this movie Celine is the cynic.   This movie bothered me at first.   The more I watch it the more I appreciate it.   I was bothered by how closed Celine was.   When I first watched it I really disliked the scene in the car. Now I see this scene as the most important in the movie.   This is where Celine opens up to her vulnerability and, as Rumi says "renders her veils".   As she talks about the loneliness of being in the wrong relationship (something which I have known for years) and of how the men she's dated all marry the women they date immediately after her (the story of my life) she opens and relaxes.   To me, this is a movie about vulnerability.

These are movies about being open and trusting the situation so that the trust is there to accept love.   It is this that I've wanted and have waited all these years for.   For this I'd rather be alone than in the loneliness of being with the wrong person.

As I write this what strikes me is the common thread of Enchanted April, A Peaceful, Easy Feeling, and Before Sunrise/Sunset.   All of them are about trusting the truth of who we are and it's this truth that is love.   My sense here is that just being true to myself is the love that I've always sought.

Point Richmond, CA

starThanks for reading. I encourage and welcome feedback.

-Birgit Wolz, Ph.D., MFT.,
Canyon, CA, USA


-Franklin Seal
freelance writer
editor & webmaster
Moab, UT, USA