Next year a film called The Awakening starring Rebecca Hall will arrive in our cinemas.
From the title, you'd guess that it's some kind of spooky chiller, and indeed you'd be right. If you look on IMDb, you'll discover that it's a story, set in 1921, of a professional hoax exposer who attempts to debunk rumours of a ghost child haunting a remote boarding school, only to discover that the ghost is real.
But you'll also discover something else. There are a staggering 34 films or TV shows called The Awakening, stretching back to 1909. It's not a word much used in everyday speech, yet film-makers across the decades have found it exceptionally useful and vivid in expressing their intentions. Emerging from slumber, or coming alive, is clearly an essential cinematic trope. (Ironically, The Awakening was originally titled The Buried, but was changed to avoid confusion with the Ryan Reynolds-in-a-box movie.)
In fact, 34 exact matches on IMDb (even allowing for the fact many of those are translations from other languages) puts it firmly in the running for the commonest title of all time. Don't believe me? Try and beat it.
It's a whole new parlour game for movie nerds. Remember Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, another game based on IMDb? Most of the world's thespians are just two or three steps away from our Kevin. I eventually found a non-pro Iranian actor at seven removes, but I lost a week doing so.
Searching for the commonest film title sounds simpler, but it's surprisingly hard to find a conclusive answer. You'd have thought this was the kind of irritating and pointless inquiry that the web was made for. But typing "the commonest film (or movie) title" into Google doesn't come up with anything, except the ludicrous suggestion on Wiki.answers that it's either Top Gun or Gone With The Wind.
So you are reduced to putting guesses into the IMDb search box. For all I know, there's some easy shortcut where IMDb will just come up with the solution. But where's the fun in that?
I tried The Hole, because I vaguely remembered a couple of films called that, and came up with a solid 16 titles. Or you can go for obvious legendary or historical names, like Robin Hood (22 matches, not bad) and Napoleon (14). Or oft-adapted literary works, like Shakespeare plays, though that seems a bit of cheat. The Tempest gives you 19, and The Merchant of Venice a surprisingly common 17. On the principle of searching for the most generic film concepts possible, I found 28 entries for Hero, 21 for Crash, 13 for Star and just 8 for Gun. A note of caution: IMDb doesn't always give exactly the same answer twice.
Still, we're still getting nowhere near The Awakening, which isn't even that regular a word. It's a title with a fine pedigree. That first ever entry from 1909 is a short directed by DW Griffith and starring Mary Pickford. Of course, contrary to my earlier suggestion about the obvious resonance, it wasn't any kind of horror movie, but a story about a man gradually realising he loves the wife he married for convenience.
Romance. Now there's a thought that finally hits the jackpot. The Kiss comes up with 39 matches. And Love itself with a massive 67. As Richard Curtis would have it, love actually is all around, at least in the movies. Surely that's our champion. Or can you do better?
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010
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