What makes a feel-good movie really feel good?

What makes a feel-good film feel good?

For the first time, researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics have scientifically investigated how a feel-good film feels good. Photo credit: MPI for Empirical Aesthetics

"Well-being films" are usually dismissed by film critics as sentimental and of no intellectual value. But her popularity with the audience, which she is looking for precisely because of her "feel good" properties, tells a more favorable story. Now this popular film genre is being scientifically studied for the first time. A new study by the Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics examines which feel-good films are viewed as prototypical by the viewer and which factors determine their feel-good effect.

Around 450 participants from Germany, Austria and the German-speaking regions of Belgium and Switzerland took part in the study. Your answers suggest that romantic comedies have a particularly high potential for emotional uplift. The feel-good films that they identified as typical include "Love, Actually", "Pretty Woman", "Amélie" and "The Intouchables". The results of the study provide indications as to which content-related and formal characteristics films must have in order for the audience to feel particularly comfortable while watching them.

"In addition to a humorous element and the classic happy ending, feel-good films can be identified on the basis of certain recurring behavioral patterns and characters," explains study director and lead author Keyvan Sarkhosh. "Often these are outsiders in search of true love, who have to prove themselves and fight against adverse circumstances and finally find their role in the community."

Well-being films are not only characterized by romance and humor, but also by dramatic moments that usually have a strong emotional effect on the audience. At the same time, these features are often embedded in a fairytale-like setting, which is another typical aspect of the genre and adds significantly to its perceived lightness. Last but not least, the mixture of all these elements can be seen as constitutive for the feel-good film.

The results of this study have just been published in Projections magazine. The article emphasizes the fact that many people watch feel-good films specifically to relax and lift their spirits. Many of the study participants agreed that feel-good films may be sentimental, but not kitschy and, above all, technically well made. In this regard, the positive use of the genre label by viewers differs significantly from the mostly negative perspective that professional film critics take.

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More information:
Keyvan Sarkhosh et al., The Wellbeing Film, Projections (2021). DOI: 10.3167 / proj.2021.150104

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Max Planck Society

Light like in a fairy tale: What makes a feel-good film good? (2021, May 3)
accessed on May 3, 2021
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