What if a film heals you? What if watching a film is a meditation practice? What if a film is a salve, a miracle, a friend? What if a film doesn’t have conventional characters, story, narrative, plot, dialogue, or any of the other things we often think films have?
Sam Firth’s Stay the Same answers these questions for me. In just fourteen minutes, it manages to break the fourth wall and invite the viewer in—way in, deeply in—to the filmmaker, to the concept of film in general, and to the film-viewer self.
When I first saw it, the pretension of the construct made me laugh and I got frustrated. By ten minutes in I was crying until I finally settled down and let the repetition serve as a reminder to return to myself. I grew patient, filled with gratitude and, finally, I celebrated.
I celebrated because Stay the Same breaks from conventional ideas of what films should be and feels vital in the world of film. It has a meditative quality that offers a tangible presence and space for the viewer to be present, not only with the film but with herself. And that is a feat of filmmaking worth celebrating! I often think that films take us away and out of ourselves, the result of which is that, often, we are not present while watching a film—we are someplace else.
I watch Stay the Same the way I listen to a favorite piece of music, look at a favorite piece of art, return again to a guided meditation, or recite a mantra. The film has a way of changing my mood and reminding me of the background of being behind the machinations of thought and ideas about story and filmmaking and being. It helps me settle down into myself as a filmmaker and lover of film, because it is a beautiful meditation of originality, on authenticity, the self, the idea of filmmaker and film viewer, on time, nature, the seasons, courage, vulnerability, and beauty. The viewer cannot stay the same after watching this film, for it is wholly transformative.