Cinematic nostalgia: Immersing ourselves in yesterday’s embrace

Graphic by Carleen Loney @shloneys

Modern media is focusing its resources on historical fiction and rebooting old franchises, which raises a question about society’s current state. 

It seems like everything is either a period piece or a remake nowadays, doesn’t it? With the constant development of biopics such as Oppenheimer, Air, or the soon-to-be-released Napoleon, and works of historical fiction such as Bridgerton, Stranger Things, and Peaky Blinders, rare are the projects that highlight the joys and quirks of our current era. 

I recently watched A Haunting in Venice with my parents, the new Hercule Poirot murder mystery flick. I thoroughly enjoyed the picture’s intrigue and was left satisfied yet hungry for more. 

However, a question rests in the back of my mind: why is yet another movie set in the past? The Hercule Poirot series has always revolved around the 1940s, so I was not surprised to see the film set in 1947 Venice. Still, it made me reflect on the content I consume and why it’s set in my grandparent’s epoch.

Our modern lives aren’t interesting: that’s the answer I’ve come up with. Why are cell phones rarely referenced or brought up in films set in the present? Why don’t today’s romantic comedies hold a candle to those of the past? Why has our infatuation with the ‘80s spread to music and fashion? 

As technology develops, we are growing less social, less creative, and less in touch with reality. Fewer kids are out playing street hockey, malls and movie theaters are not the beacons of youthful discovery like they used to be, and parents are scrolling mindlessly on Facebook for hours on end. It is apparent that people are not living life to the fullest. 

We hear it all the time: “I was born in the wrong generation.” The phrase has become a joke at this point, but everyone seems to feel a particular affection for an era they never lived in yet experienced vicariously through a movie or television show. 

History is fascinating, as it defines our present as much as it does our past, yet it feels as though the more society develops technologically, the more we yearn for the simplicity of old times. It’s always easier to bask in old memories rather than create new ones. The core of the issue here is escapism. 

We spend so much of our modern lives avoiding any inklings of boredom and loneliness through social media, podcasts, and any other medium that will allow us to escape reality, that we fill every second of our free time with as much technological stimuli as possible. We yearn for the past because the past seems simple. Boring at times, but simple and purposeful, so of course we watch old movies and shows because they feel important. 

This is not to say that watching an old movie is a sign of emotional distress or an identity crisis. The past is comforting, but when it is weaponized as a countermeasure to the pressures of the present, introspection is needed. 

Perhaps we should address the issues of now instead of immersing ourselves in yesterday’s embrace by recognizing simplicity. Going for a walk without the phone, living an eventful moment without recording, speaking to a stranger, going to a restaurant by yourself, journaling about the little things—these all tie the soul to the present moment.

The little moments are what define us, and if they’re not nurtured and preserved, the same past that we so desperately cling to for comfort will engulf us all as our future passes us by. 


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