Let's Go To The Movies

December 9, 2003

From discussing the cannibalistic practices of Hannibal Lecter in "The Silence of the Lambs" to examining the inadequacy of mental health care in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," Joseph Achor's Psychology and Film course offered summer school students a different perspective.
"We looked at films from a psychological perspective and from our individual perspectives," said Achor, associate professor of psychology and neuroscience. "The course allows students to take a step beyond watching for pure entertainment value. They learn to analyze movies."
The special topics course, which Achor usually teaches during the second summer session, consisted last summer of readings, discussions, quizzes, essays and watching 12 length movies, including "A Beautiful Mind," "The Silence of the Lambs," "Rain Man," "As Good As It Gets" and "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest." 
The students studied symbolism, foreshadowing and the perception of reality and illusion in movies. They also developed a better understanding of the impact of film on society and vice versa. "Film has a lot of influence," Achor said. "One of the key aspects of the course was how much each film influences the individual rather than society in general."
During classroom discussions, some students learned they could relate not only to the characters in the movies but to classmates as well. "Watching the movies made me understand that everyone has pains they have gone through," said Lauren Anderson, a senior psychology major. "I have grown as a person because I realized that you have to be sensitive to other people. I came out of the class being able to view the world a little differently."
And gaining a broader perspective is the goal, Achor said. "Sometimes the movies touch a cord in the students' lives," he said. "Most of all, I want the students to have a better understanding of themselves."