AS I SEE IT: A little escapism is good for you

I Used to enjoy watching “The X Files” on TV, the at-the-time groundbreaking series which followed the adventures and exploits of two FBI agents, Mulder and Scully, as they investigated a range of bizarre, paranormal and ofter extra-terrestrial phenomenon.

Mulder was the one who approached these things with an open mind, willing to believe they existed, while Scully, a trained doctor, was the cynic, using science and logic to try to disprove what she knew couldn’t possibly be true.

This was pretty much a two-person operation... the FBI tolerated Mulder and allowed him to pursue his whims if it kept him out of their hair. In his ramshackel office tucked away in a basement, Mulder had a large poster on his wall with a grainy black and white photo of a 1950s-style flying saucer and in large black letters the phrase “I want to believe”.

This pretty much summed up Mulder’s character and, in fact, the underlying premise of the whole series. Of course it was bunkum – albeit entertaining bunkum – but to get the most out of watching it you had to believe these things might be possible, or at least, you had to be willing to “suspend disbelief” for the duration of the programme.

I still enjoy a good movie, whether it’s a thriller, an action film, sci-fi, a historical drama, in fact most genres. Work commitments and family life mean it’s rare I get to the cinema, but I like to settle down to a good DVD. Here again, the enjoyment of the thing relies to a large extent on whether you can believe in the characters, the plot, even the sometimes pretty incredible visual images flashed onto your screen. I enjoy the escapism, the fantasy of it all. Just like Mulder, for the period I’m watching the thing, I want to believe.

Which is why I find it difficult to understand this fetish for “DVD extras” – segments added to the disc which, in most cases, seek to deconstruct the elaborate fantasy which the film-makers have gone to such lengths (and expense) to create.

There are “extras” that show in great technical detail how the CGI (computer generated imaging) is created, lengthy interviews with the actors discusssing their roles, the director telling you why he did this or that, and so it goes on. Some discs just have these on the main menu, but some DVD packages have an entire second disc wholly devoted to these extras and special features. Some are even sold as special editions on this basis.

Why? I don’t want to know in minute detail how the dish was cooked. I just want to savour the taste of it. I don’t want to hear from the actor. I just want to believe in the character he portrays. I don’t want to know how the magic trick was done, because once you know, where’s the magic?

Some discs even offer alternate endings, akin to Bullseye host Jim Bowen revealing the star prize speedboat with the words “Here’s what you could have won”.

Of course some people might want the extras, might need to take the thing apart to see how it works, but I never watch them. I want to believe.

Duncan Smith