Wednesday, February 26, 2014
MOTIFS IN CINEMA 2013: Appreciation of Life
Motifs in Cinema is a discourse across film blogs, assessing the way in which various thematic elements have been used in the 2013 cinematic landscape. How does a common theme vary in use from a comedy to a drama? Are filmmakers working from a similar canvas when they assess the issue of death or the dynamics of revenge? Like most things, a film begins with an idea – Motifs in Cinema assesses how various themes emanating from a single idea change when utilised by varying artists.
"Appreciation of Life" is a theme that is fairly common throughout film history. When we go to the cinema we often seek a certain level of escapism that lends itself to positive life-affirming stories. In that regard, one can approach the theme from two different perspectives. For example, a film can convey appreciation of life through its characters' own attitudes. On the other hand, the construct of a film may convey the theme by allowing you to appreciate the life of a character (biopics and documentaries are especially good for this). With that in mind, I will be highlighting 6 different films that relate to the theme of Appreciation of Life. Though they vary in scale and genre, they are all linked by this common theme.
One can definitely see a kindred spirit between Walter Mitty and the main characters in "The Kings of Summer". This film is an endearing ode to boyhood that won me over with its pleasant simplicity. It involves a trio of boys who run away from home, building their own abode in the woods to roam freely during their summer holiday. What struck me most about this film is how it captured that carefree feeling of youth. Even as it triggered personal feelings of nostalgia, it also reminded me that it was a portrayal of a time gone by. As an adult, you have responsibilities and worries that would prevent you from making this decision. For example, I immediately wondered about things like sanitation, food and safety in the woods. There are also the concerns about job commitments, bills, mortgage etc. For these boys however, none of these factors come into play. They are able to simply enjoy themselves without any baggage. It therefore suggests that this period of our lives is when we have the purest appreciation of life, when the company of friends is all we need.
In my intro, I referred to the ability to elicit the audience's "Appreciation of Life" through the concept of a film. Specifically, films have the power to allow persons to appreciate the life of someone they don't know. One of the best examples of this then, is "Fruitvale Station". Of course, the ominous nature of this true life story isn't life-affirming in the typical sense, but the way that writer-director Ryan Coogler chose to tell his protagonist's story certainly expresses an appreciation for his life. The film follows a day in the life of a young man named Oscar Grant, an ordinary day that ends up being his last. One of the most noteworthy aspects of the film is the banality of Grant's life. He wakes up and goes throughout his day preparing for New Year's Eve celebrations. There's truly nothing dramatically extraordinary about it, but it's due to this that the fateful ending becomes so poignant. Grant may not come from the same background (socioeconomic, cultural etc.) as you but the film instills a great sense of humanity in our understanding of this person. Anyone can relate to his compassion, joy, anger and his desire to improve his life. Coogler aims to present a man who had a passion for life, but more importantly he wants you to appreciate this life that was tragically lost. Well, I'd say his mission has been accomplished.