Just Keep Swimming: How can cinema help us with the university journey?


Whether you realise it or not, many of you are about to embark on the journey of a lifetime. University is a head-first dive into the abyss, a blindly taken step into darkness, an alcohol fuelled walk down a staircase toward a grotty basement club. It is in equal parts terrifying, life-affirming and wonderful, and, by the time you reach the other side, you will never be the same again.

That may seem daunting, but, as cinema has proven time and time again, journeys can provide the greatest moments of our lives and shape who we are; allowing us to be a part of something special or discover things about ourselves impossible to find between the cracks of a sofa. Ranging from the desperate search for hidden paradise, a realm-spanning quest to destroy a ring, or a cosmic trip through the fabric of space and time, film is obsessed with journeys big and small, with the best of them taking the audience with them to the furthest corners of their imagination. Here are a few of the best that the big screen has to offer which may reflect in some way the dizzying adventure that is university life.

If growing up and moving out is making the world seem like it is spinning a little too fast, look no further than the existential trips of 2001: A Space Odyssey and Russian arthouse gem Stalker. Arguably Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece, 2001: A Space Odyssey presents the entire evolutionary journey of humanity from the dawn of man through beyond the infinite. It isn’t light viewing, but (an admittedly long) double bill with Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker, a film which depicts the mystical journey to find a room which grants wishes, will provide a mind-blowing exploration of humanity and the meaning of existence guaranteed to make uni feel a little bit less of a big deal.

After that though, you’ll need something lighter. Danny Boyle’s The Beach, starring a fresh faced and often shirtless Leonardo DiCaprio, is a hugely underrated cult gem following a search for a hidden paradise off the coast of Thailand. Much like uni, it comes with its moments of drama, but hosts a thumping soundtrack, a sense of community and belonging, and an effective criticism of the ignorant pleasures of youth. It may not be a perfect film, but it brilliantly captures a sense of freedom which makes for one of the best escapist experiences a film can offer.

Lighter still, Pixar has provided too many mesmerizing cinematic journeys to discuss them all in detail. With a heavy heart, having to push aside the equally brilliant likes of Coco, The Good Dinosaur, Inside Out and Up, it is Finding Nemo and Toy Story 2 which arguably provide the best viewing for the Mike Wazowski’s among us who are excited and scared about our leap into further education. Woody and Buzz’s second outing explores both the feelings of finding out what makes us special and how we are just like everybody else, as well as the importance of finding your place and accepting it. Meanwhile, Finding Nemo forces us to become the small fish in a very big ocean, proving that, although intimidating, the biggest journeys are the best. It also comes complete with the standout theme about allowing ourselves to grow up but not too quickly, and the perfect mantra for the journey ahead – if things start getting you down, just keep swimming.





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Second year Film student. Twentieth year Film lover.

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