A late response to Shroom's Question of the Week for May 9th:
Three of my favourite films, though outwardly quite different, would be good companion pieces: Groundhog Day
, directed by Harold Ramis; 42 Up
, directed by Michael Apted; and Afterlife
, by Hirokazu Kor-Eda.
Harold Ramis' 1993 comedy stars the wonderful Bill Murray as Phil Connors, a self-centred weatherman who, for some unexplained reason, is fated to repeat the same
February 2nd over, and over, and over again. There's rich comic potential in the premise, but also unexpected pathos. To be sure, Phil can't die (there's a darkly funny sequence in which he demonstrates just how indestructible he is); but how can a man live, bereft of relationships that outlast the single day's loop of time?
documentary series follows a disparate group of British school children through the course of their lives. Every seven years, from 1964 on (Apted himself started directing it in 1970), the Up
crew has taken a snapshot of their lives: caught up on changes in school, work, marriages, divorces, illnesses and personal struggles; but also captured their attitudes, personalities, goals, achievements, and thoughts.
is a quiet drama with a documentary "feel". This may be unexpected, given that its characters are an assortment of people who've recently died, and are awaiting "processing" in what looks like an empty school. But the scripts were partially based on interviews with ordinary people, some of whom took roles in the completed film. Subjects were asked one question: if, in death, there was just one
moment from your life which you could choose to hold and be
in, for eternity, which would it be?
So: an American comedy, a British documentary, and a Japanese drama. What they have in common is that they each demand that their characters reflect on their lives. The details are quotidian, but the underlying questions both simple and profound: Who am I ? How shall I live? What mark will I make on the world; what connections with other people? What gives me joy? What gives my life meaning?
Watching Phil, Neil, Mochizuki et al, we cannot help but ask ourselves those questions too.