Fireplace Scenes: 6 Reasons Why They Make Us Feel Warm And Fuzzy

Burn baby burn log
An environment of peace, tranquility and seclusion... Fireplace scenes project deep feelings of comfort, warmth, and connection that most people crave. You can find them in all kinds of movies, from Christmas movies to adventure films, and even sci-fi flicks.

In these times of quarantine, it happens to be that mankind is not only using television sets to binge-watch Netflix's latest high school show. Our society has been fascinated by the warmth of a fireplace for a long time. Now with half the world's population locked at home, people without access to the real thing go straight to YouTube and tune in to some fireplace footage. Seriously, Netflix even released in 2013 the official trailer and a behind the scenes promo video of Fireplace For Your Home.

This isn’t new. Television stations have been broadcasting fireplace scenes with Christmas music for decades. But, why are we so fascinated with them? There are deeper reasons we identify with these warm and cozy movie scenes.

The Phantom Menacescene
1. We live vicariously through movie characters

Even though we’re in the audience or sitting on our couch watching a movie, we can feel what the characters feel. Especially when we identify with those characters. For example, when a relatable character comes home after a long, hard day at work and sits in front of the fireplace with a glass of wine, we feel their sense of relief.

Interestingly, many fireplace scenes play into our innate attraction to luxury. For instance, many Hollywood movies depict characters gathering around a modern-style fireplace that invokes feelings of abundance. We may not have the money to live a luxurious lifestyle firsthand, but we’re perfectly happy to live vicariously through the characters on screen. Picture from Star Wars: The Phantom Menace (1999).


2. We want movie heroes to feel good

We’re always rooting for the heroes to come out on top. In most movies, the heroes have to go through intense challenges before they get a moment to rest. After feeling like we’ve personally been through the characters’ struggles right alongside them, we’re ecstatic when they finally get a break.

When our favorite heroes come home to their family, we’re happy that they get to connect with their loved ones even if it’s just for one night. Since fireplaces are a symbol of family and connection, Hollywood screenwriters love to craft these scenes around a fireplace.

Xanadu in Citizen Kane
3. Fireplace scenes remind us of our own treasured memories

Sometimes watching a fireplace scene in a movie evokes childhood memories from holidays and birthdays or other special occasions. Even scenes where people gather around a campfire evoke similar feelings and cause us to reminisce even for a brief moment. Pictured, the fireplace at Xanadu in Citizen Kane (1941).


4. Fire can be used to influence audience perception

You may not realize it, but writers and directors use fire to strategically control their audience. It’s not as sinister as it sounds, but it is powerful.

Fire itself is a mood-changer that can evoke a range of emotions depending on where it’s burning, how bright it’s burning, and how it’s contained. For example, if a director wants the audience to be suspicious of a character, they’ll use the light from a fire to illuminate their face only enough for the audience to catch a glimpse of their eyes.

The effect of casting suspicion won’t be as strong if the character is shown without a flickering fire partially lighting up their face. Fire is routinely used to influence how an audience feels about the characters. Fire is also used to misdirect an audience so they don’t see a plot twist coming.


Harry Potter and The Philosophers Stone scene
5. A fireplace symbolizes mystery and magic

How many mystery TV shows and movies feature an old man smoking a pipe in front of a fireplace? Probably too many to count. Some of those movies, like Dark Shadows (2012) add an extra layer of mystery. For instance, the mansion in Dark Shadows features an ornate fireplace that opens up into a secret passageway leading to an underground treasure trove.

In J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter & The Philosopher’s Stone (2001), the students at Hogwarts transported themselves (and sent secret messages) through a network of connected fireplaces by tossing some magic powder into the fireplace. These are just a couple of examples of many memorable fireplace scenes in movies we all know and love.


6. Fireplace scenes make us feel connected

In a time when depression and loneliness affect 322 million people across the world, many people find comfort in movies that feature cozy fireplace scenes. Although some people watch movies and TV shows as a distraction from real life, those warm and fuzzy scenes – no matter how brief – are enough to keep them from falling too far into depression. On a subtle level, they lift their spirits just enough.

Fire is a fundamental aspect of life that symbolized both connection and survival. Perhaps we instinctually and subconsciously recognize this fact and are drawn to the heat, even if it’s just on a movie screen.

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