When someone I don’t know tells me “I have to see it,” I can be almost positive I don’t. The reasoning behind this is simple: If they don’t know me, how can they know what I have to see, let alone what I’ll actually like?
Yet it happens all the time, and not just with me. People go around telling each other that they’re “Going to love it,” when so often what they really mean is, “I loved it.” The impulse to share enthusiasm is a good one, but when it’s misdirected, when the enthusiast confuses his taste with others, an unfelt frisson begins, one that could potentially discredit the recommender and leave the recipient wondering, “How well does x really know me?”
I’m not exaggerating. To recommend a movie is to know the person you’re recommending it to, to know a person is to understand them, and to understand them is, in a small way, to share a bond. Which is why I’m reluctant to go around telling certain people what they have to see. Only true rapport can convey that kind of emotional knowledge, the good gamble that there may be an equation sign between x person and y movie.
On the occasion – not as rare as you might expect – when a close friend recommends a movie I end up truly loving, I do in fact feel something like kinship. I feel the warm hand of understanding on my back, and I think, “Yes, thank you for seeing a part of me.” A part of me I might not even have seen myself.
What often ends up happening is that you learn something about the person who recommended the film to you. “Yes, I can see why x loves y! I would have never thought that he…or that we…” It’s a good feeling.
This is all to say that I can’t go ahead and recommend Deep End, Jerzy Skolimowski’s turbulent film of 1971, but a friend of mine did, and I sure liked it (I’ve posted a short clip above). But how did he know that this perverse, low-budget bit of kitchen-sink (sur)realism, poorly dubbed, and tonally fractured, would even remotely appeal to me, especially when, truth be told, I don’t have much patience for films in which fantasy (maybe) becomes reality?
Honestly, I don’t know my friend knew. That’s what makes recommending films – or books or music or anything – less a prerogative than a talent. To do it well, you have to see something others can’t. You have to see into people. And films. If you can do both, you can make a whole lot of good happen a whole lot of the time.