And I was right. I loved it.
My weird thought today is: is there an element of truth behind the philosophy of this film or is it all just made up?
Reading up on this film on the Internet after returning home, I find out that the writer and director, Pete Docter, first approached psychologists five years ago to talk about his idea for this film. The premise of the film is the story of how an 11-year old girl deals with moving house from Minnesota to San Fransisco. Most of the film happens inside her head and the main characters are five emotions: anger, disgust, joy, sadness and anger. While she is coming to terms with the move, the emotions in her head have quite an adventure.
There are in fact more than five emotions in our heads, as science sees it, but Pete Docter decided that the film would only tackle five of them. (Others include surprise, courage, anticipation, pride, trust, guilt, love and envy.)
What I found interesting about the film is that sadness turns out to be the hero of the film. This is the emotion that shows the girl how she can get through the stress and sadness she feels about moving across the country. All through the film the viewer expects joy to be the hero as logic dictates this to be so, and in fact for the majority of the film joy indeed leads the way. We expect the message of the film to be that if we embrace the positive of life we will find happiness (as that is what we are often told in the real world). However, the real point of the film is to illustrate that we need to embrace sadness in order to move on to a place where joy can be found. In my experience, I have found this to be true. I love a good cry and until you go down, you cannot get back up.
I also like the association of colour to emotion in the film. It might seem obvious but it is important. Joy is yellow, sadness is blue, fear is purple (interestingly), anger is red (obviously) and disgust is green (the colour we turn when we are about to vomit). The film also seems to associate personality with emotion. Joy is, well, annoyingly happy all the time. Sadness mopes and lives by sloth. Fear is a skinny, creepy guy with too much energy. Anger a small stocky well-built square-headed man with fire coming out of his head. As for disgust, she batters her eyelids in horror at the mere mention of broccoli, and she does it with such disdain.
The film is colourful and clever. On one level it is a fun, heart-warming family film about love and family. On another, it is about emotion and memory, the colours and personalities that we give emotions, and how they shape our responses to events to create memories in our lives.
I feel though that it is my duty to point out one inconsistency with this film that niggled me a little bit. Riley’s emotional personalities did not resemble her at all and they were of different genders, shapes, sizes and apparent ages. Her mother and father’s emotions, as those of the dog, cat, pizza girl, school friend, all resembled their host and matched the gender. Why? I suspect it was for the sake of exaggeration. The personalities of the five main emotions were made more extreme, and noticeable, by their gender and stereotypes. The film might not have worked so well if they had all been 11-year old girls.
I suspect this film will have me thinking weird thoughts for a while.
Keltner D. and Ekman P. ‘The Science of Inside Out’ July 3 The New York Times 2015.