Art is powerful. Even so powerful that when it really hits the nerve and heart of a person digesting it, you can almost hear an explosion. When a work of art has dug through all the way. Found its meaning. When artist's intention in creating experiences, bringing up emotions or just pure joy, has been successful.
When I was studying Finnish literature in University of Turku, we had to read massive book packages for quite a few exams: Finnish literature, world literature, special genres...
For one exam with 2-4 credits, we easily had to read 30-40 books: novels, collections of poetry, plays, theory... I remember reading three plays and half of a thick novel overnight. Some of them really hit certain nerves: Jeppe of the Hill by Ludvig Holberg the laughter nerve, To Steal Her Love by Matti Yrjänä Joensuu the heart.
When I was reading Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, I couldn't stop after having read fifty pages. I was totally sucked into that magical psychological narrative Dostoyevsky had created. I could almost see the streets and backyards of Saint Petersburg through the eyes of Raskolnikov.
Therefore it wasn't a surprise to hear a story about some student in the past trying to find all those books to be read. Missing one, Crime and Punishment, and the only question in the exam being from that book. Failing the exam. Given a second chance to read the book, having the re-exam only one day later. Reading it overnight. Being psychologically totally sucked into this nearly disturbing content. Passing the exam this way probably left an unforgettable experience.
Sometimes some pieces of art don't hit you at all. It's like trying to pair with someone. Maybe it just wasn't the right time. Then. Maybe another time is better.
In 1993-1994 there was a big buzz about Polish film director Krzysztof Kieslowski's Three Colours Trilogy: Blue, White, Red. In the first round, the middle part, White, found me the best. I found the first part Blue fine, but nothing spectacular, even though it was visually stunning.
In August 1995 my dad died. Some months later I went to see Blue again in a film matinee in my student city Turku. This time the grief, Juliette Binoche torturing her knuckles by tearing them against a stone wall, really hit me. My own life experiences had brought me to assimilate to the widow character.
When a movie character falls in love, we may or may not understand what he or she is going through. When we find connections to our own emotions and experiences, we have a better possibility to understand what the one creating the piece has meant.
If the personal surface doesn't exist, but the piece has still managed to find you, the creator has succeeded even better. Making someone assimilate to a very different person in a very different world isn't an easy task. But as Dostoyevsky managed with Raskolnikov, we know it is possible.