Inspiration from “The Artist”

Inspiration from 'The Artist'/self development - Lindsay Taylor blog
Artist – Provided by Shutterstock

Learning: Be curious. Be open to new learning from any and every situation. Never assume anything.

I believe our lives are a constant learning journey. I believe any and every situation is an opportunity to be inquisitive about what we have learned and how we can put new learning in to practice.

On a recent flight returning from a business trip I watched the film “The Artist” and it inspired me to share this blog and my learning.

I was aware of the film from the hype surrounding Uggie, the performing dog, when it was released in 2011. I was aware that the film was black and white and silent. This novelty appealed to me. I was aware of the synopsis for the film on my preview screen:

“In 1920s Hollywood, silent movie superstar George Valentin wonders if the advent of the talkies will sound the death knell for his career. Meanwhile, for young extra Peppy Miller, movie stardom awaits”

I was not aware however that the film would talk to me on a deeper level.

The symbolism and meanings uncovered by writer & Director Michel Hazanavicius speak of relationships with ourselves and others, how we respond to change, and how we can use pictures, sound and movement to live our lives.

Ironically I found myself adding my own commentary – my own sound – to this silent movie as I watched. I linked the learning with my own knowledge of self development, NLP and the training I provide.

At the end I felt a loud, raucous round of applause was due to Hazanavicius to congratulate him for writing and directing such a brilliant, thought-provoking film that spoke on many levels.

Learning: Communication is Visual, Auditory and Kinaesthetic. Listen with your eyes and ears.

As sensory creatures we take on board information through our 5 senses. We see, we hear, we feel (touch and emotions), we smell and we taste our worlds. The prominent senses we use are the Visuals (what we see), the Auditory (what we hear) and the Kinaesthetic (what we sense in terms of feeling, touch and movement).

With the lack of the auditory spoken word in the film, we are forced to read the sparse (yet impactful and multi-meaning) words on screen. The film heightens our visual awareness. We ‘read’ clues in the actors’ body language, facial expressions and movements to understand the situation.

Minutes in to the film we are “listening with our eyes” as we interpret the utter frustration of George’s wife’s as he takes the limelight on stage and even introduces his dog to the stage before her.

Notice the scenes which feature George’s “3 wise monkeys” ornament – see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.

Learning: Notice the little voices in your head. Are you holding limiting beliefs or enabling beliefs? Don’t believe everything you think.

It’s interesting that we will probably partake in ‘self speak’ and internal dialogue throughout the film. We all have “little voices in our head”.

When George is drinking at the bar he is joined by a mini version of himself – his little voice in his head becomes a visual and that visual character is quickly joined by an ‘army’ of others.

We probably have more than one internal voice giving us feedback, advice and running dialogue – and for George, with the addition of alcohol, it is too much as he falls to the floor in a drunken stupor unwilling to listen to the message the little voice is speaking to him.

Recognise that sometimes the little voices in our head share information with us that is not useful – we hold limiting beliefs. Equally the little voices in our head share useful information – enabling beliefs. We have control of the voices – they are ours.

As George learns to his detriment, by ignoring the little visual representation of his voice, sometimes the voices can speak sense and may come from a deeper, instinctive part of us.

Learning: Rapport is created by mirroring or matching (the Visuals, Auditory and Kinaesthetic elements)

There is a fantastic scene where George notices the dancing legs of Peppy below a screen, He matches her dance movements culminating in him offering her a role in his next film. There is an immediate synchronicity and connection between the characters which develops during their takes of Scene 20 of the film and their close dance together.

This rapport and chemistry and the synchronicity of their lives is mirrored and matched in the end of one scene showing Peppy’s foot to a new scene that starts with George’s foot.

The beautiful ending of the film is a choreographed, perfectly matched dance routine, with step-dance sounds, that ends in George and Peppy reaching out their right hands in front of them. George purposely looks for a fleeting second at his hand and I question whether the little voice in his head is saying “we have a hand in our own destiny”. It is at this point that we hear George speak for the first time.

Learning: Movement creates change and we experience a range of emotions during times of change

Movement (the kinaesthetic element) is used to powerful effect throughout the film. When Peppy arrives at the studios she makes her way through a room full of people standing still talking to each other – hers is the only forward movement which emphasises her “go get it” attitude as she embraces the opportunities open to her.

In stark contrast, later in the film George is standing still on the staircase as people move around him. Society is moving on as he stands still.

The world is constantly changing and evolving and we have a choice how to respond to those changes – by “moving with the times” and embracing changes we can take advantages of opportunities.

We need to recognise that in times of change we will experience a range of emotions – as George does.

When watching the new talkie sound test with the Director, George responds to this by looking sad, frowning and then laughing. He is “dissing” the very fact that silent movies are on their way out and finds it ludicrous when his Director tells him not to laugh stating “that’s the future”. George responds with “If that’s the future you can have it”. His “disbelief” is just one emotion on the “change curve” as he resists the change.

The scene is echoed in George’s valet, Clifton’s reaction to being fired as he announces “I don’t want another job” in denial. Clifton then laughs in disbelief before leaving with the proffered car. Clifton is stunned in to a realisation and spends some time “frozen” and unsure of what to do before moving on with his life and accepting the situation.

In times of change we will move through the following emotions, on a change curve.

Shock, Denial, Disbelief
Anger, Fear

The time we spend at each stage of the curve will be personal to us. As portrayed in the film, George spends much time resisting change and (according to “this is a stressful and unpleasant stage”.

“It’s easy just to think that people resist change out of sheer awkwardness and lack of vision. However, you need to recognise that change might affect some of them negatively in a very real way that might not have been foreseen. For example, people who’ve developed expertise in (or have earned a position of respect from) the old ways of doing things can see their positions severly undermined by change” (

Learning: Connections are all around us

Hands & Feet: We have already identified the impactful scene that cuts from George’s foot to Peppy’s foot and the synchronised dance moves of their feet.

Hands also predominantly feature in the film. In the dressing room, Peppy puts her own arm through the jacket belonging to George and imagines a scene with him touching her body with his hand.

Upon finding Peppy George beckons her to him with a finger movement on his hand.

When Peppy fears for George and tries to summon Clifton to the car she uses her hand to sound the car horn.

At the end of the film the couple end their dance with their right hands outstretched in a choreographed match. This is the frame where George notices his hand and we can wonder if his internal dialogue is saying ‘we have a hand in our own fate’. George has accepted change and in response to the Director’s request “Perfect! Could you give me just one more?” (take) George responds with “With pleasure” signifying his acceptance and commitment to change.

Numbers: There is an emphasis on the number 5 throughout the film.

The film is set over 5 years (1927 to 1932).

When George decides to go it alone and leaves the Director’s office he steps into a foyer of 5 younger men.

There are 5 takes for scene 20 – 5 opportunities to “get it right”.

We have already identified that we use our 5 senses and the film’s foundation is in sensory awareness as George struggles with the auditory aspect.

Perhaps Hazanavicius purposely uses the number 5 as it symbolises the sum of the number associated with women (2) and men (3), therefore linking to the connection between George and Peppy.

The number 5 relates to the limbs of our body and the mind we use to control them. We have already identified that hands and feet are prominent in the film as are movement. George’s state of mind deteriorates during the film as he spirals into depression (to match the Stockmarket crash and miserable weather during his illness).

When George’s wife tells him she is unhappy, George makes her feel like a number as he announces ‘there are millions’ who also feel the same way and we see her angry and hurt march out of the room.

So, for those who haven’t seen this film I would highly recommend it. For those who have already seen it, please watch it again with a new appreciation of the learning you can gain. For, who would have thought so much learning could come from watching one film?

Learning: Be curious. Be open to new learning from any and every situation. Never assume anything.

Read more Lindsay on her ‘Wise Words Indeed‘ blog here.

About the author

Lindsay Taylor is the owner and Director of Executive Coaching and Training Organisation Your Excellency Limited. She is also the author of the blog ‘Wise Words Indeed’. You can follow Lindsay on Twitter: @your_excellency and @wisdom_pearls.

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