Sunday, 22 February 2009
The curious case of Benjamin Button
Ever since Tender is the Night, which was the first Fitzerald book I have read, I knew that the guy was a genius and he immediately became one of my favorite authors ever. I shamefully admit that the fact that he had written Benjamin Button escaped me. Only when the end titles fell on screen and his name appeared it hit me. Of course!!! It had to be him that wrote this book which a team of people with extraordinary talent took to heart and produced the masterpiece that Elena and I watched last night. So brilliant that I feel way above my league here. Sometimes people in the presence of great talent feel particularly small. This is how I felt last night. Elated as well. I have to add that both Elena and myself kept crying for at least the last twenty minutes. And not that silent sobbing. I don't think a movie had touched me so much since the 'Dead poets society' which I had watched seven times in one month about eighteen years ago.
The three hours of the movie did not bother me at all. After all, it is hard to fit eighty years, two world wars, the loneliness of seamen, the emotional and intellectual growing of the protagonists, and the modern history from glory to gloom of one of the world's most culturally interesting cities, in three hours. The superb acting of the entire cast, the craftmanship of the photography director, the costumes, and the gentlemanship of the director gave justice to Fitzerald's original story. And what an originality did the story nurtured...A guy is born old and the older he gets the younger he looks. How many times have we wished that this happened to us? How many times have the old told the young 'Oh I wish i had your age with my experience.." Difficult to count, ain't it? Fitzerald's story reminds us once more to be careful what we wish for.
The strange story of Benjamin Button deals with a lot more than the actual strange story. It is a story of absolute love. The love of M. Gateau for his son who creates a clock that makes time go backwards. The love of Benjamin's mother who just before she dies saves his life - it was latent that the father at the moment of birth had every intention to kill the child. Instead he leaves it at the door of another loving woman, Queenie. Queenie gives all her love to Benjamin and she teaches him how to love equally strong. Benjamin's love for Daisy, Daisy's love for Benjamin and her daughter, and so on
Everything that has happened in this movie is out of love or lack of it.
The fingerprints of the modern protagonists are all over the movie. Julia Osmond, the daughter, Caroline, was a young beauty in Legends of the Fall, a movie with Brad Pitt a few years back. She looks much older now and he much younger. Katrina is present along with the imminent catastrophy of New Orleans, the city where Brad Pitt has made home for his family after the hurricane. Kate Blanchett is as Benjamin refers to her in his diary, the most beautiful woman in the world, who then calls Benjamin (Brad) perfect from her hospital bed in Paris after her accident. This was a moment of loud laughter in the theater, since she included the thoughts of the entire female audience world wide.
There is also a lot of hope in the movie. Caroline stayed with her dying mother in the hospital withpout worry, hoping that the hurricane will pass. The sunrises that Benjamin would take his people is also a great symbol of hope. But of all the symbolisms, the colibri was for me the most powerful as in this movie it symbolized infinity due to the orbit of its flying wings. The infinity of power of love and hope. Hope for reaching out a dream. Even if Elizabeth crossed the channel at 63. Her message of hope was clear.
I know that a lot of people loved this movie and there were others who did not like it. People whose' opinion I respect hated Pitt's performance and the length of the film. I think Pitt was loyal to Fitzerald's portraying of male characters - low key, intelligent, private, loyal, but somehow they can end up self destructive or self loathing. It is the women characters that are flamboyant and colorful and in a way direct the fate of the men who love them. In my view, the strongest character was that of Queenie whose love for an outcast was so strong that reversed his fate. And Daisy of course, whose beauty was second to none and her love for Benjamin lasted her entire life - without her knowing it for a great part of it.
It was an absolutely great movie and although I have not seen 'Slumdog Millionaire' I would have it as a winner tonight. For one thing I don't see it easily to have a better story to tell.
I give it top marks and I will definitely watch it over and over and over again.