As an artist, I live for moments when I'm caught in aesthetic arrest. While it can come from a breathtaking vista, it usually happens when I'm watching a film or a live performance, listening to music or reading a novel. I feel a surge of emotion that's so strong it's visceral, sometimes even painful. They usually occur far and few between, but if I'm watching a really good movie trailer, where the images are perfectly wedded to the music and the subject matter strikes a personal chord, I'm done for throughout the duration of the trailer. Dark Knight, Inception, LOTR to name a few -- films with high adventure that more than likely have a score composed by Hans Zimmer. I'm very fortunate that my husband is exactly the same way, so we completely understand each other when we're the only ones in the movie theater crying during the previews. The worst was when it happened at Disneyland; we were watching the Lion King parade, and the music coupled with the amazing dancing set us off. No one cries at Disneyland! And no matter how many times I watch certain films, the same scenes get me every time: the clowns coming up out of the floor in Finding Neverland, about 80% of Amelie, the Globe Theatre shots in Shakespeare in Love, the pounding on the fake sky wall in the Truman Show, a garage door opening in the rain in American Beauty, and the imaginary piano being played by Hank Azaria in the Cradle Will Rock are the ones that spring to mind. My poor husband teaches film to college students and has to endure their ever-increasing apathy. He stopped showing his favorite films because it was too painful for him to hide his emotion, and the students were too bored anyway.
Although it's more rare, I do experience aesthetic arrest when I'm reading. When this happens I have to put the book down to savor the sentence I just read; usually it's a stirring metaphor or simply an amazing way of phrasing something mundane. The first time it happened when I was reading -- in this case it was E.M. Forester's Where Angels Fear to Tread -- I finally had my epiphany that there's more to writing than just telling a story, that there is so much to be said for beautiful writing. Anyone can tell a story, but it takes an artist to tell it well.
I would love to say that someday I will write well enough to put a reader into aesthetic arrest. Regardless of my talent, however, my chances are probably pretty slim. The majority of our society has never experienced the phenomenon, as if they're cut off from an essential emotion. I may just have to be content with finding more avenues to fall into aesthetic arrest myself.
Once you feel it, there's no going back.
Ashley J. Barnard
Dark Fantasy with a Contemporary Twist