I would never voluntarily choose to watch a monster movie. I don’t like watching destruction, I don’t like watching people get hurt, and I preference plot to action. The saturation of the film industry with action and horror films that encompass superficial stories and cheap scares has left me narrow minded in my view of the genre, with no incentive to explore it deeply.
While being culturally Australian, and in my early twenties, I have had a relatively wide variety of media consumption in my life. From black and white films, to foreign films and tv, to translated novels and comics, I do try to engage in a number of different texts, but none of that prepared me for my first viewing of Gojira.
The unique context that surrounds the original Godzilla film creates a specific atmosphere around its key themes, hugely impacting on my experience of the movie.
While I spent roughly the first half of the film unsure of what made this film so iconic, the moment the monster rose from the water and was greeted by electric fences and gunshots, something had changed. During the entire climactic city-stomping scene I was in a state of conflict. I didn’t want them to hurt Godzilla (was I easily buying into the “don’t hurt the monster, we just don’t understand it yet” narrative that is so popular now?) but I was heartbroken for the city and its citizens and wanted the destruction to stop immediately (the reality of a mother crying and protecting her children on the streets felt less like fiction that I could distance myself from).
When I stopped viewing the film with the contradiction of the special effects and cinematography of a movie from the past, but in the present context, the movie was no longer amusing but intensely serious and suspenseful. A film is an artefact of the specific context in which it was made, and instead of distancing myself in viewing it, I began to consciously try to imagine this movie as it was intended to be – what is actually is – not as something that exists in isolation.
I was unused to such long periods of silence; of such explicit uses of historical events as a reflection and comment, not hiding behind ambiguity; and of such visceral imagery relating to the consequences of destruction. All these elements hugely added to the real drama and terror of the film to me about the consequences of our actions – what things are created when we seek to destroy and dominate each other.