While not every movie buff has one, the film collection is often one of the distinguishing features that separates those who are more serious about movies and those who are not. This is not to say that people who aren’t film savvy won’t have a film collection, but they probably don’t go to the length of developing a collection as the serious movie buff. For a movie buff, it’s not about having more films than a casual movie watcher; it’s about the concept of having an accumulation of films that become a sort of physical cannon for the individual, a curated set of films that represent the films the individual believes are favorites and important.
And I do see some value in the personal collection, I’ve done that over the years, accumulating a substantial library of titles that I believe is a strong representation of my tastes. My movie collection is perhaps the closest I’ve come to comprising anything close that represents who I am as a person. And yet, knowing myself, I can’t help but find the entire collection a bit contrary to who I am and what I believe as a person.
As time goes on, I’ve grown to hate the physical accumulation of stuff. Just the other day I threw out this entire stack of papers, homework projects, tests and quizzes that constitute my undergraduate work. It’s been sitting on one of my shelves for a couple of years now and I’ve no reason to keep any of it now that I have a diploma in hand.
My primary distain for the stack isn’t the wastefulness of paper, although that does bug me, it’s that I never got any use from having it around. I never poured over notes from last class and practically every paper I have stored digitally. This stack of paper served no real function other than insurance in case some record of classwork was lost before I graduated. After a while I forgot about it, it was just there.
I’ve come to face the same problem with my book collection. Before film, I was much more of a reader and collected a number of books, most in hardback. But after six years in higher education, I realized that I forgot about most of these books. They’ve been collecting dust. I’ve re-read maybe fifteen of them in the past six years. I’ve spent far more time reading new books, both for school and for personal pleasure.
All of this is a roundabout way of coming back to my film collection, which is I think it’s come to represent the same thing. A lot of it has become dusty insurance, an investment that I might want to watch one of these films on a whim. While I understand a lot of film buffs often get those desires to revisit old favorites, I’ve slowly come to realize when it comes to films and literature, I’m not that kind of person.
I much prefer the excitement of discovering a new favorite or digging into something new and fresh than the safety of an old favorite. I’ll still go back, but in the past six years, I’ve become a lot picker about what books and films I feel are worth revisiting, meaning that most of my collection is gathering dust. This would probably not bug most people, I get that a lot of people like collecting things and looking what they’ve gathered together, but I’ve always been a bit of a pragmatic person, and I find a lot of my collection has become worthless to me. Why do I bother to own something I probably won’t use for years, if at all?
Therefore, I’ve decided two things. The first is that I’m slowly beginning to purge a lot of my film collection, both selling and giving away a substantial portion of the films. I’ve determined what to get rid of through a second decision: I’m going to start only owning films that I feel I will want to revisit in the next five years. I’m still tentatively holding onto some titles that are in a bit of a limbo, I’m also purging the titles in waves, I’ve had one group I’ve been selling over several months and another group I decided to simply give away to those interested and I’ll probably look at donating the rest.
Going forward, I’m working down my collection to 100 titles. On average, I rewatch about 20 films a year from my personal collection and, by those numbers, 100 titles are about all I can justify having. Once again, I’m thinking about this much more pragmatically, because that’s the kind of person I am.
Yes, it’s nice to have that impressive library where you own every film by your favorite director or have the complete trilogy of your favorite franchises. I get that draw, I will even keep a hold of my Matrix box-set even though I will probably only ever rewatch the first two. With the growing access to films both in libraries and through Netflix, and a growing interest in films I haven’t seen before, I’m finding less and less of a reason to have sprawling collection.
© 2013 James Blake Ewing