by Perry Piper
Our perceptions in life advance and diversify over time as we learn through new experiences and gain knowledge. Until we become adults, we might not be able to comprehend the depth of meaning after an initial exposure to something. No matter what fraction of the whole picture we have, we can expand on our thinking through discussion with others. After multiple encounters, we may have revelations on the subject matter. I recently reflected upon some of the movies that really stuck in my mind as examples of this “dynamic exposure” idea.
I remember this movie being really popular after its release when I was in 10th grade. Like many people my age, I had adverse feelings to even see it because I had heard it was about gay cowboys. Pre-conceived notions about an unfamiliar topic that cause instant disapproval can be a great barrier to trying new things. About a year ago, I finally watched the movie and was amazed how good it was. There are many movies that have the predictable heterosexual romances that always seem to turn out the same way. “Brokeback Mountain” is about two men that have a secret romance because the majority view of people they know is that such a thing is essentially an evil or wrongful act.
Both men go on to have wives and kids, but they are only ever truly happy with one another. One mentions the idea of living on a ranch together, but the other dismisses it because of a brutal murder of a similar man his father had shown him as a child. Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger are fantastic and make the characters very believable. Tragedy is a large theme in the movie as the characters have to put up masks and pretend to be “normal guys” since they can only get away together a few times every year. One amazing thing about the movie is that the filmmakers thought it would make only around $20 million in the United States. Everyone was shocked at a much wider acceptance and good critical reviews. The film made about $180 million and was known by everyone, even if they never saw it. On a final note, this movie doesn’t try to get in your face with controversy, it is a truly great story that I find myself watching again every so often.
Faith is important in the lives of everyone. We never know what will happen to us for sure on a daily basis, but we push forward with the hope that everything will be alright. The scientist in this film has unwavering beliefs about the existence of other life in the universe, yet doesn’t concern herself with religion. Her love interest heavily contrasts her, but they find that they both want to pursue truth and human connection. Kids can grow up being afraid or obsessed with aliens, without ever really thinking about the idea of Earth containing the only life in our world. College classes can only give you so much information on the likelihood of alien life, so you still have to rely on faith for your own answer. Jodie Foster’s character’s father died when she was very young, so she grows to think God doesn’t exist or answer prayers. She embarks on a journey that has her receiving an allegedly alien message to help the government build a complex other-worldly machine. After an amazing experience, her opinions dramatically change when she realizes she has no proof and almost the entire world’s view is the opposite of her own. We all have a yearning for fairytales being real, because oftentimes the “truth” is either depressing or just plain boring.
Guillermo del Toro directs this multi-layered film overflowing with underlying meanings and purpose for every tiny detail. I was excited for the movie after seeing the trailers, but was disappointed in 2006 at the theaters. I was only looking at the surface and was frustrated that the movie turned out so differently than I imagined. A few months later, we watched the movie on our cruise to Alaska, including the behind-the-scenes commentary by the director. I was amazed at the deep discussion of, for example, why certain colors were used in scenes or how childhood innocence is a precious thing in our world that gets lost very easily. Once you are made aware of the background or history of something, it can be much more enriching when trying to enjoy it. The movie employs extremely violent realism based around the mid-20th century Spanish Civil War and the magic in children’s fairytales to create a unique world that lures viewers in. The main character, Ofelia, disobeys her elders throughout the movie. Many audience members were yelling at her for making what seemed like mistakes, but Pan’s Labyrinth also stresses how important being your own person really is.
This movie’s ultimate ending is determinant upon your own life beliefs at the time of viewing. The most compelling thing about this is that Kevin Spacey’s character is given equal evidence for being human and an alien. Prot, as he calls himself, claims to be an alien and gets taken to a mental hospital in New York. Jeff Bridges’ character’s job is to convince Prot otherwise, but oftentimes doubts his own prognosis in favor of more fantastic conclusions. The complexity of the human mind and the horrors people sometimes experience in life is the highlight in this movie. I think I was convinced that Prot was an alien upon my first viewing sometime after 2001, but now I have more of a hybrid theory, but I hope you come up with your own to tell me about.
Have you ever had a paradigm shift in your feelings about a movie? Tell us about it by commenting below.
Perry Piper filled in this month for Dr. Bob Blackwood, whose movie review column will return next month. Perry is CRR’s production manager, cover designer and photographer. He also writes “Lower Columbia Informer."