Once asked about how he learned to be a filmmaker, Quentin Tarantino famously said, “I didn’t go to film school, I went to films.”

Almost three years into coursework as an Screen Arts and Cultures major here at the University, the quote comes to me now, not so much as it used to — the arrogant words of an underperforming talent — but rather as the insight of a person who truly loves the craft he’s chosen to pursue.

I’d like to think this love is organic, and something unique to the beholder. As hundreds of other students study film with me at the University, it’s comforting to find so many coming into college with the same attachment to the screen that I have. But my constant fear — the one that drives my gravitation away from those very students and the studies we engage in — is the concretizing of that attachment and the deconstruction of the love that we, as more innocent consumers of film, once thought divine.

That is what an education in film, if abused, seems to result in. When you infuse academics into something that was once purely entertainment, it can lose the luster that captured you in the first place. It becomes less of an indulgence and more of a chore.

I’ve never fallen asleep in a movie theater. But I’ve fallen asleep in many a University auditorium when movies are presented as coursework. The looming discourse about the film’s merits and its relation to a class can suck the excitement out of the experience.

Studying something you love becomes a challenge and a delicate balance between necessity and enjoyment, in which we try to cultivate our interest through first destroying it. Jumping into a study of film required faith that I would eventually regain the delight that I had in ignorance — a light at the end of the tunnel that I have yet to see.

When I watch a film now, it doesn’t wash over me like it used to — I am constantly engaged in the tricks, the structure and the details within. While that helps me in my classwork (not to mention film journalism), it also takes away from the very reason I study film in the first place.

I’ve always loved the film “Jerry Maguire,” but not for any highbrow deep reason — it is pure entertainment with a cleanly delivered message that’s easy to consume. When I study “Jerry Maguire” for my screenwriting class, though, it’s something different — it is the gold standard of screenplays, one in which not a word is misplaced or included without reason. When Jerry (Tom Cruise) and Dorothy (Renée Zellweger) witness a hearing-impaired man sign, “You complete me” to his girlfriend, my innocent film-going self would see it as simply a cute moment. Now, with a moment like that, the moment is only a seed, from which I expect something further — like the payoff of Jerry telling Dorothy the same thing at the end of the film.

I used to cherish the sublime musical moments in film — like the end battle scenes in “Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers,” which I recently watched for an SAC class. The way Howard Shore’s score combines with the slow-motion descent of Gandalf and the Rohirrim upon the swarm of Uruk-hai at Helm’s Deep — moments like that used to be what film meant to me. My heart would jump and never fully return.

Now, I look at the film’s third act and I think of the structural flaws a screenwriter would probably point out. Suddenly I feel over-educated.

Knowing the tricks filmmakers use may help me one day become a filmmaker, but it doesn’t help me enjoy my place as a filmgoer. It is possible to know film too well, to the point where it takes away from the illusion.

But there’s a reason I’ve learned these things — perhaps it is the artist who must lose his or her enjoyment of the art, only to journey and find it again. To become filmmakers, maybe we have to detach myself from the experience film was once to us. Even Quentin Tarantino, in avoiding film school, must have had to let go of his previous notions of film and seek out through semi-academic studies his place on the other side of the screen. Until we fully engross ourselves in one perspective on the art of film, perhaps both of our perspectives will suffer. Lost in reluctance, we are neither viewer nor artist, but a lessened form of both.

Perhaps it’s time for me to let go of that reluctance and embrace my identity as a film major with the hope of returning to the pure joy film once was for me. While I can never again carry the innocence or ignorance I used to, I can relate to my teenage self, watching “Lord of the Rings” or “The Matrix” for the first time. I know that there are certain things we understand without ever learning a thing, and to a point, that for me is the movies.

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