Monday, 8 November 2010
I know the world's a broken bone. But melt your headaches, call it home.
So I just saw Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life. It is first in AFI's list of 100 Greatest Cheers...which means that it is a complete feel-good film. It stars probably my favourite old Hollywood hunk, James Stewart.
It's the story of a man called George Bailey who dreams of escaping his small-town life but due to various circumstances remains there and his many responsibilities start weighing him down. One Christmas Eve, he suddenly faces huge financial peoblems due to which he breaks down and decides to jump of a bridge and commit suicide. It is then that a "second-class angel" named Clarence saves him. Well actually it's Clarence who jumps (from the heavens??) and George saves him...but whatever. Clarence has been sent on this mission to save discouraged George, and if he succeeds, he will finally receive his wings and become a "first class angel". When he tries to make George understand, George impulsively wishes that he had never been born and the "higher powers" grant him that. Clarence then shows George what the world would be like if he had never existed. "You've been given a great gift, George: A chance to see what the world would be like without you. "
When this happens, George realises what a debauched and miserable place his town would have been, how his loved ones would have suffered and how he has touched so many people's lives unknowingly and then he prays to God to return back his life. When this happens he goes running throughout the town, screaming "Merry Christmas" at the top of his lungs to his family, where all the town comes to save him and he is left "the richest man in the town".
Now I'm at odds with this film. While I do like the message about how important we are in everyone's lives, even if we don't directly know them, it goes against my idea of freedom. I love Jimmy Stewart, but becoming George Bailey might just be my greatest nightmare. I loved how honest and kind George was, his whole wooing of his wife Mary..."What is it you want, Mary? What do you want? You want the moon? Just say the word and I’ll throw a lasso around it and pull it down.” But he was such a wide-eyed youth who wanted to travel the world and study and build things. He had his dreams and ambitions, which he had to keep down in order to do what is right. How is that right?
Maybe it was the time period...this film released in 1946, right at the wake of the worst war in human history, where people needed to believe that they were all important. That hope is alive. But you can't say that now. The 60s happened, the world happened... I mean it's great to be loved by other people, but isn't it equally, if not more to love yourself. Also, what George's town became without him, you can't hate it completely. If you did, you would never want to go to Vegas...
I would personally love it if I was allowed to lose my current identity and choose a new one. Palahniuk said, "If I could wake up in a different place, at a different time, could I wake up as a different person?"
Now review-wise, this film is a complete classic. I did think that there was too much introduction for the actual incident, and too little of the actual not-existing thing, but what it did was chance to develop the character of George. I do wish there was more of the lovable Clarence though. It's well-made, I especially loved the touch of St. Joseph and Clarence talking from the stars. Also the dialogue is funny and memeorable. Jimmy Stewart is fantastic and completely believable in all the facets of George- the ambitious youth, the angry idealist, the charasmatic businessman, the dramatic lover, the depressed workaholic, the shocked spectator and the happy happy man. Donna Reed as Mary was very beautiful. The other characters were also pretty good. It does make you feel good, albeit the afore mentioned fear. And yes, the end did make me cry.
Watch this when you're depressed, or it's Christmas, or in the mood for some gorgeous Jimmy Stewart.
"Strange, isn't it? Each man's life touches so many other lives. When he isn't around he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?" - Clarence Odbody