All Films Must Entertain

Question: Do all films need to entertain?

Mike Leigh: If a film is not entertaining, forget it.  It’s a failure.  I am unashamedly in the entertainment business.  I think I would make that statement on two levels.  On the primary level, I would say if a film or any piece of work doesn’t entertain, it fails—and that is using the word entertain literally, meaning it holds you there and you become absorbed by it so that you don’t walk away and get bored and so on. But over and above that, I mean, sure I make films that are about real life, sure they are realistic and I go to great lengths to achieve that, sure they resonate with people's real experiences, sure they’re emotional, sure they’re properly psychologically motivated, sure the characters are rooted in society.  You absolutely can recognize and know that we’re dealing with a substance of the real world in terms of the texture of the thing, but at the same time my films are funny.  They are heightened.  They are all kinds of…  There are all kinds of juxtapositions, which are not simply life un-distilled as its hewn from the seam... and what at the most basic level are my influences. 

Question: Should entertainment challenge us, or play to our most basic instincts?

Mike Leigh:  Look, the thing is, again, you know I’m reluctant to proclaim about what entertainment should or shouldn’t do.  You talk about reality shows and all of that, which are basically, if you think about it, just simply the modern equivalent to Victorian freak shows, where people with anomalous growths and things and—you know ladies with beards and whatever it was, people with three feet—would be put on exhibition for the public.  There have always been and there always will be the peripheral sideline activities which are a form of entertainment, which is to say you pay a couple of cents and you see something freakish.  Well that is what reality TV is and I don’t think, with all due respect, that really belongs in the conversation that we’re having. Because what we’re actually talking about is art.  We’re talking about work that in some way, however it does it, wants to get to some kind of truth and therefore have something substantial to offer an audience. So entertainment is an essential... that the thing be entertaining is an essential ingredient, as I’ve said. And I think we should dismiss and tolerate and in fact, keep our sense of humor about peripheral crackpot activities because they don’t really come into the job of the proper artist or the job of the committed audience, which is to say the audience that really wants to be stimulated.

Recorded on October 7, 2010
Interviewed by Max Miller

I am unashamedly in the entertainment business," says Leigh. "If a film is not entertaining, forget it, it's a failure.

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Sponsored
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

In a first for humankind, China successfully sprouts a seed on the Moon

China's Chang'e 4 biosphere experiment marks a first for humankind.

Image source: CNSA
Surprising Science
  • China's Chang'e 4 lunar lander touched down on the far side of the moon on January 3.
  • In addition to a lunar rover, the lander carried a biosphere experiment that contains five sets of plants and some insects.
  • The experiment is designed to test how astronauts might someday grow plants in space to sustain long-term settlements.
Keep reading Show less

A world map of Virgin Mary apparitions

She met mere mortals with and without the Vatican's approval.

Strange Maps
  • For centuries, the Virgin Mary has appeared to the faithful, requesting devotion and promising comfort.
  • These maps show the geography of Marian apparitions – the handful approved by the Vatican, and many others.
  • Historically, Europe is where most apparitions have been reported, but the U.S. is pretty fertile ground too.
Keep reading Show less

Love in a time of migrants: on rethinking arranged marriages

Arranged marriages and Western romantic practices have more in common than we might think.

Culture & Religion

In his book In Praise of Love (2009), the French communist philosopher Alain Badiou attacks the notion of 'risk-free love', which he sees written in the commercial language of dating services that promise their customers 'love, without falling in love'.

Keep reading Show less