One of my favorite movies is the film, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Why? The script is superb, thin but powerful, and realistic. The film takes you and throws you into a confusing, fantastic, yet very real world of the life of Benjamin Button and his legacy. For all of you who haven't seen the film it is probably best that you don't read past this point. Hopefully this brief description has motivated you to watch it though. Then if you still feel like it you could come back to this and read what I have to say in my critique.
I've decided I'm going to write this critique in a particular form, the exploration of select quotes from the film.
Benjamin: "It's a funny thing about comin' home. Looks the same, smells the same, feels the same. You'll realize what's changed is you. "
I'm starting with this quote because it's one that really hit home with me this time around watching the movie. It's Winter Break and I'm home for Christmas and the New Year. But things were different, my room was pretty much as I had left it even though someone had been living in it for the majority of the time I was gone away at school, the bathroom too, no new furniture, same food smells, same water quality, etc. My family was generally the same... but I had changed. I changed a lot this semester and perhaps that's why I noticed my changes more than those of my parents and sister. This quote makes a very interesting and very true observation on three levels: 1. Everyone's constantly changing 2. Especially those who are younger in age and still maturing 3. It tends to be delayed but it's easier to realize the changes within ones self rather than those in others. Which brings me to the next quote.
Daisy: "What's it like growing younger?"
Benjamin: "Can't really say, I'm always looking out of my own eyes."
It's very hard to look at your life from an objective outside perspective. You're stuck in your own shoes most of your life and on very rare occasions somehow find yourself in someone else's. We as limited beings can only go so far outside ourselves and this film also explores this idea with the relationship between Benjamin and Daisy.
Benjamin: "You know, you might've got a few more years out, but you chose to do something so special and unique... that's... there was only a short window of time you could do it... So even if nothing ever happened, you'd still be right here where you are now..."
Daisy: "I just don't like getting old... They put too much chlorine in here."
In this scene, Benjamin walks into the pool area where Daisy is swimming laps. He sees her catching her breath, and watching younger women swim laps with little effort, she starts to cry. Benjamin knows exactly what is going through her mind even though she doesn't want to admit it. Age is a big focus area in the lives of Daisy and Benjamin because even though they want to be together, the difference in aging process poses a big problem.
Daisy: "I'm so glad we didn't find each other when I was 26."
Benjamin: "Why would you say that?"
Daisy: "I was so young!... and you were so old! It happened when it was supposed to happen."
Benjamin: "Hey, I will enjoy each and every moment I have with you"
Daisy: "Will you still love me when my skin grows old and saggy?"
Benjamin: "Will you still love me when I have acne? When I wet the bed? When I'm afraid of what's under the stairs?"
Benjamin: "I was thinking how nothing lasts... and what a shame that is."
Daisy: "Some things last."
There are points in their interactions where Benjamin is just quiet and takes pause. He understands the importance of single moment in time. He realizes how necessary it is to sometimes just take a moment to drink life in... He recognizes the fluidity of life and how fleeting a day let alone an hour of time can be.
Benjamin: "And mortality was a common visitor to our house. People came and went. Death was so frequent, I was never afraid of it. You could hear when someone left us, there was a silence in the house."
Benjamin Button: "What if I told you that I wasn't gettin' older, I was gettin' younger than everybody else?"
Mrs. Maple: "Well, I'd feel very sorry for you...to have to see everybody you love, die before you do. That's an an awful responsibility."
Benjamin Button: [narrating] "I had never thought about life or death that way before."
Mrs. Maple: "Benjamin... We're meant to lose the people we love. How else would we know how important they are to us."
He not only grew up in a house where "death was a frequent visitor" but went to war and saw the tragedies that had befallen many men he didn't know and some he knew rather well. The lesson he learns from Mrs. Maple is a lesson on great wisdom, wisdom that only comes from the experience of death. It's the same as the idiom, you don't know what you've got till it's gone, but hits home harder with anyone who has experienced the death of a loved one. Through interactions like this, through experiencing deaths of many people important to him, Benjamin develops a very different philosophy on death than what most people ever do. He grew up thinking he would die at any moment, grew up watching his earliest friends growing old and dying, saw death in inconceivable numbers at war, and by the time he finally got to his prime lost his mother.
Benjamin: "You can be as mad as a mad dog at the way things went. You could swear, curse the fates, but when it comes to the end, you have to let go."
He realized that fighting death, avoiding it, being scared of it in the end had no meaning because everyone is faced with the task of accepting death and it's finality. I found this very interesting because at first I thought it only had applicability for atheists, because most religions have some sort of view on death, some sort of comforting perspective of death or at least a noble idea attached to it. But even for Christians who have the promise of heaven, a paradise beyond all imagination (with no hurt, no pain, no suffering, no tears, no strife, no conflict, just joy, love, peace, happiness, etc) have trouble with death; most of us are still unreasonably scared of death despite what we believe to be true and promised to us. And again it brings us back to the inability to extend ourselves very far out of ourselves. It is hard, because of the way we are naturally made, to trust others, we already barely trust ourselves. It takes some real effort to trust yourself, to then trust someone else, and then trust an invisible being. As Christians, when it's over for us, instead of letting go of our need to trust in something completely, we let go of everything we trust in except for God. Perhaps if you're blessed, you'll find a way to trust in Him only at a single point in your life, but I would think it'd be very rare. One of the main things we strive for as Christians is the ability to let go of everything else and just trust in God alone; so obviously this would be a task meant for the end of our lives. This is against our incomplete and flawed nature! We work on it to the end, once we get there God tells us that we're ready; till then it is something for us to strive for, a reason for living, along with the goal to be used in God's will and plan, along with the finding and fulfilling of a need and desire to bring God glory as we were intended to.
There are many truthful observations in the film's script... but I found there is a necessary step to be taken before looking at it and taking it in, as a Christian. Christians are called to discern, to be in the world but not of it, so that crucial step is one back... a step away from it to look at it through the lens of scripture. Calvin College would probably approve of this blog post haha. Anyway, the point is that there is much to be learned from looking critically at this film. I think in a way this is not only a public call to discernment of films but a self-call to be more active in looking at films in terms of script, production, direction, acting, and more.
I hope you enjoyed this or learned something from it and that you feel free to comment and/or reply to this with any critique of your own of the film or of my critique. :]
Have a good day!