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Films to romanticise Oxford

Darren Trisno states the case for nurturing our romantic connection to Oxford through films.

Many of us came into the new academic year with bright eyes, excited to once again meet our friends, partake in fun adventures and relish in everything Oxford had to offer us. For freshers especially, we could not stop ourselves from snapping photos of the campus, the Rad Cam (inside and out), the quads, the chapels, and everything in between. But now, we are well into the term. The once beautiful chapel is now an irritating source of incessant bells, that distract us every time we start an essay. “I can’t believe we get to stay in this old-timey quad!” has now been replaced with “I can’t believe we have to stay in this old, broken down building.”

The romance, the twinkle in our eyes, is gone. Corrupted and destroyed by looming deadlines, complicated relationships and that one committee member from your society that will not pull his weight. Maybe it’s time to take a step back, pop on a film, and fall in love with Oxford once again. Here is my list of films to help romanticise it all: 

  1. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Yes, this was an obvious entry. More known for being in the site of these films than our academic achievements, many Oxfordians have resorted to pretending they are going to a Defense Against The Dark Arts class, not another boring lecture. However, let me make a case for The Goblet of Fire as the film that stirs up the most Oxford romanticism. This is the first Harry Potter film with actual romance: Ron and Hermione, Harry and Cho, dancing at the ball. Single or attached, enjoy that first hint of young romance and dream of being ‘Oxloved’ because of your cute outfit. The film also has a character embodying everyone you meet here in Oxford. The BNOCs in Cedric Diggory, the hidden beauties (with scholar’s gowns?) in Hermione, the helplessly romantically inept in Harry and Ron, the kind tutors in Hagrid, the not-so-nice ones in Alastor Moody… or maybe even Voldemort. 

So if you don’t have time for a Harry Potter marathon, watch The Goblet of Fire and pretend that your next problem sheet is a task from the Triwizard tournament.

  1. Dead Poets Society

Dark academia and Oxford are forever intertwined, and no movie celebrates the pursuit of knowledge and the joy of learning more than Dead Poets Society. It captures what learning should be like, the exuberance we should have when tackling our reading lists, allowing us to dream that one day our tutor would be exciting as Mr Keating. More importantly, for those worried about firsts, internships, applications, CVs, and other academic stress, it is a helpful reminder that there is more to life. 

“If you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in. Listen, you hear it? – Carpe – hear it? – Carpe, Carpe Diem, seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary.”

What small thing can you do today to make your life extraordinary?

  1. Before Sunrise

Much of the beauty of Oxford lies in the people you meet here. The conversations on the quad, or the dining hall, spiral into the most exciting conversations; whether it be existential philosophical questions about life or about what happened on the night of the bop. 

Before Sunrise takes you on a journey of two lovers walking and talking about nothing and everything as they walk the streets of Vienna for a night. The next time you are walking back from a kebab van or Atik at 2am with a friend, imagine you are the main character in this film. With the beauty of Oxford as a background, discover the inner beauty of the people around you. 

  1. X-men: First Class

Okay, a slightly unconventional pick and a very “bro-y” one. But let me justify myself. Firstly, Charles Xavier hits on a woman in a pub that is supposedly set below the Bridge of Sighs, while Mystique disapprovingly looks on. Yes, the pub does not exist. But how cool is that?

Besides that little cameo, this film is another way to embrace the differently talented and equally weird people you meet here. You swear some of them are mutants (how does he club till 3 and then hit the library?). Plus, if you read into this superhero movie deeper, the message for accepting oneself and working together to pull on others’ strengths is an important one to combat the crippling imposter syndrome many of us feel. 

  1. Election

You know those people… the ones who run for these ultra-prestigious roles and will do anything to get it? If you don’t, count yourself lucky. For those who do, take comfort in this film about a high school election gone wrong, with backstabbing, hijinks, and scandals. Of course, this comes perfectly paired with Legally Blonde, with Reese Witherspoon starring in both. If you want to laugh at the hacks after feeling empowered by Elle Woods, put on Election!

  1. Oxford Blues

Harvard gets The Social Network, an expertly crafted, David Fincher-directed, Aaron Sorkin-written, Oscar-winning film. We get Rob Lowe in a teenage rom-com about a red-blooded American boy who falls in love with a picture of an Oxford girl and cons his way into Oxford to meet her. There is rowing, ceilidh, formals, and everything else quintessentially Oxford. Is it the perfect film? No, it borders on “So bad it’s good”. But if you want to turn your mind off and watch a stupid film about stereotypically Oxford Oxford-ing from the most American lens possible, then who knows, maybe you will find yourself cheering the blues on the epic rowing finale (yes you read that right).

Films, and art in general, hold a unique ability to capture beauty, allowing us to see the grandest settings or the most every day places with awe and wonder. Oxford is a beautiful, radiant city. When the stress gets too overwhelming and things are not going the way you want them to, remember to take a deep breath, soak in the sights and let the beauty around you push you forward. If you need a little boost to channel that “main character energy”, turn to these films and pretend (just for a while) that you’re an X-man, a Dead Poets Society member, or a Gryffindor.

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