A friend of mine has seen the same movie 127 times since he saw it for the first time at the age of eight. The movie in question is The Third Man. He claims this is the best movie ever made, and that it’s absolutely flawless.
The idea of it is intriguing. How can a movie where you know every line by heart still be enjoyable? Perhaps it’s a different kind of enjoyment? It’s not about storytelling anymore; it’s more like a ritual or a session of meditation Instead of brooding on your breathing or the “ooohhmmmm” sound, you let your mind rest in the images of The Third Man. Maybe it’s not such a bad idea.
I can’t tell for sure which movie I’ve seen most times. I reckon it’s one of my children’s old favorites, probably a Disney movie or one of the screen adaptions of the the books by the children author Astrid LIndgren.
If we restrict ourselves to movies intended for adults, I guess Ivanhoe from 1982 starring Anthony Andrews would be a good candidate. They show it on the Swedish television every year around New Year and I’ve ended up watching it quite a few times by now (still getting annoyed since he always picks the wrong girl, even after all those years, ditching Olivia Hussey for a blond bimbo princess).
However the reason why I’ve seen it repeatedly has very little to do with quality. It isn’t a particularly good movie; it just happens to be around at the right time, when people are a little bored, recovering from the excesses of drinking, eating and socializing with the family. But I would rather have seen It’s a Wonderful Life every year, as they do in other places. A way better choice.
Another movie I’ve seen several times is Groundhog Day, which is kind of ironic considering its plot about a man who is reliving the same day over and over and over again. Unlike the case of The Third Man I can’t claim it’s the Best Movie Ever Made. However it’s one of those movies that feel “OK” to watch one more time if you’re mindlessly swapping between the TV-channels and it happens to be on or when you’re on an airplane and the film supply is limited.
My conclusion is that not all movies which are suitable for several views are masterpieces. But it goes the other way round: Not all masterpieces are the kind of movies you want to see over and over again.
For instance I recently found Naked by Mike Leigh quite remarkable, not like anything I’d seen before, but at the same time I had a horrible watching it and I definitely don’t want to go through that again, ever.
The same goes with Pan’s Labyrinth. It’s a fantastic movie in many ways – imaginative and engaging, – but it’s also something of the worst, the most brutal and scary I’ve seen on a screen. I closed my eyes from time to time, covering my face with my hands because it was so unbearable (not to speak of how awful I felt after the movie, since my 15 year daughter was even more devastated than I was, crying all the way home, making me feel like a BAD mother. How could I know? I thought it was more or less an ordinary fantasy movie!). If you ask me to rate it, it’s brilliant, but I wouldn’t give it a second time. And most certainly not a 128th.
Rather than rewatching good but unpleasant movies I think I should try find some time to see The Third Man.
I’ve never had the heart to tell my friend who is obsessing over it, but the sad truth is that I’ve never seen it. Not even once.