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AskAlex #41

I wouldn’t say that I’m not a fan of films but my tastes do tend to be quite narrow. There are many genres of films that I’m simply not interested in, which may make me sound small-minded but it’s true. Films are normally between 90 and 140 minutes long, which in my opinion isn’t long enough to fully develop characters and stimulate enough action to make the film interesting. So, most films sacrifice one for the other. Books have the freedom to do both and I think this might be one reason why I prefer reading to watching films. However, this question is about films and due to my limited film knowledge, I can only reference films from the genres that I do enjoy. Naturally, you’ll probably have a whole different opinion!

What movie has the best opening scene?

I can think of a few that I know I’ll always remember. The narration behind the opening of Matilda is a lovely simple passage that reminds us all that we are all different and special. “Everyone is born, but not everyone is born the same. Some will grow to be butchers, or bakers, or candlestick makers. Some will only be really good at making Jell-O salad. One way or another, though, every human being is unique, for better or for worse.” It just tells us that everyone is good at something no matter how little or apparently meaningless that talent is to the outside world. Matilda was one of my favourite films when I was growing up and there was a point in my childhood where I’d watched it so often that I knew pretty much the whole script by heart.

Obviously there is always the opening scene of Up too. The characters of both Karl and Ellie as children are so likeable and you fall in love with them right away. This, of course, makes the subsequent scene even more upsetting. However, throughout the film we’re left with the reminder that theirs was true love in its purest form. They remained loyal to each other in life and Karl continues to love and cherish Ellie’s wishes after her death. While that is unbearably heartbreaking, it’s also somewhat uplifting. Yes, it’s a cartoon but it gives us hope that true love and romance never dies.

I also find the opening scene of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 incredibly powerful. When you’ve followed the saga through seven films already and just emerged from the dramatic cliffhanger ending of Part 1, the haunting choral tones, the Dementors flying over Hogwarts and the figure of Snape standing in an alcove of the castle is one of the most heart-moving moments in the series. It’s so simple but it holds so much weight when you’ve invested so much time and love into the series already. It’s almost as if the whole series is sighing during the calm before the storm, which makes up the entirety of the last film. So powerful and moving!

As always, let me know what your favourite movie openings are in the comments and leave any questions you might have for future AskAlex posts!

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