Is afraid to fight irrationally

Fear in the cinema

Looking for the thrill

The "thrill" is the way to pleasure over fear, says the film critic Georg Seeßlen. Those who go to the cinema do not necessarily want to come out more anxious than they went in, but are looking for a "kick", a gain in pleasure. The gain in pleasure is the exit from everyday life.

Everyday life is all well and good, but many wild feelings that lie dormant in us have no place in it. Only at the side of a screen hero can we scream, flee, fight, steal hot kisses and break all normal rules in public. But the way to let off steam often leads through fear, horror, and pleasant shock.

Fear breaks up everyday life

In Alfred Hitchcock's "The 39 Steps", Richard Hannay (Robert Donat) is asked for help by a woman who tells him about enemy agents. Hannay doesn't believe her and doesn't want anything to do with it. But then the woman is murdered and he is under suspicion.

It takes the drama and fear of the police and agents to turn the honest Hannay into a hero who screams, rages on a breathless hunt, solves the case on his own and occasionally kisses a complete stranger blonde in a train compartment, so as not to be discovered by his pursuers.

The wondrous transformation that is necessary to live out wild feelings leads in many films about the fear of the hero. In the thriller, fear is not the disease, but the therapy, according to film critic Seeßlen.

The viewer's fear: "suspense"

Viewers are afraid even though they are not affected themselves. This shows that people are social beings who cannot completely separate the fate of another from theirs.

But in addition to this compassionate fear, there is also a special fear that does not grasp the screen heroes, but only the audience. Sir Alfred Hitchcock, the "master of suspense", is considered the master of generating this fear.

In his film "Rear window", James Stewart sits in a wheelchair and watches the opposite windows. He thinks he has discovered a murderer. His girlfriend, Grace Kelly, eventually breaks into the suspect's apartment and at that moment the killer comes back home.

James Stewart in the wheelchair sees it, the audience in the cinema seat sees it, but Grace Kelly has no idea and no one can warn her. That is "suspense" - the fear that comes from the impotence of watching.

Phobia, paranoia, panic - all cinema

There is probably no human fear that has not already been used in the cinema for thrillers or horror films. For example, who doesn't think of arachnophobia, the fear of spiders, of the horror classic "Tarantula" (USA 1955), in which a poisonous spider grows to the size of a high-rise building thanks to growth accelerators?

The classic for fear of heights is of course Alfred Hitchcock's "Vertigo". Not only does James Stewart get fear of heights here, he also treats it with some kind of behavioral therapy and is cured in the end. At that moment, however, his lover, Kim Novak, falls into the depths.

Films that take place in stuck elevators, for example, play with claustrophobia, the fear of being tight. In "Panic Room" (USA 2001) by David Fincher, Jodie Foster escapes from burglars with her daughter (Kristen Stewart) in a secret, well-equipped high-security room for particularly anxious people, which becomes a trap.

Paranoia - including paranoia - is the feeling that torments not only the mentally ill, but also screen heroes who are pursued by a spy ring, such as in Hitchcock's "The 39 Steps".

Cinema as confirmation of fears

Almost everyone carries irrational fears with them. Whoever expresses them earns ridicule, pity or, at best, a good tip on how to get rid of them. To be mistaken for crazy is frustrating - and the nice thing about cinema is that the seemingly crazy people end up being right in the end.

Not they, but the environment is wrong. Your fears are justified, because the giant spider or the global spy ring really does exist.

Cinema is the dissolution of everyday life, the reevaluation of crazy and non-crazy - that is frightening and liberating at the same time for the viewer. For example, the horror thriller "The sixth sense" (USA 1999) tells the story of a boy (Haley Joel Osment) who sees the dead.

Nobody but his therapist (Bruce Willis) believes him. No one else? But! Of course, the audience sticks to the boy and goes through his fears with him - maybe because they would like to see their own world a little more "crazy".