My life in movies – 1998 – 2011
As in my previous posts, I’ll talk about one or sometimes two movies for every year I’ve lived. They’re picked for various reasons. Some of them refer to something about my person and my life experiences. Others are there just because they’re examples of the kind of films I love.
Here we go!
1998 The Truman show / The Celebration
I’m usually not particularly fond of Jim Carrey; as a matter of fact I find him quiet unbearable in some movies. He feels too unreal, appearing more like a cartoon than as a human being. But for The Truman Show he was perfect. It’s a wonderful movie which feels just as relevant – if not even more so – today when so many entertainment programs are built on the idea that you’re watching other people living their lives.
The Celebration is on the list because it reminds me of some less pleasant sides of the upper class. My closest family wasn’t anything like that, but I have ancestors in the aristocracy and there are elements of recognition in this movie.
1999 The Matrix /Being John Malkovitch
I don’t think it has escaped anyone who has followed my life in movies so far that I’m a fan of science fiction and movies that play around with time and space and different sorts of reality colliding and interacting. The Matrix and Being John Malkovitch are both examples of this. Two movies I love because they’re immensely entertaining, imaginative and overall well done. It’s because of films like those that I love films overall. You can make anything happen on the screen. Anything. I couldn’t pick one over the other, so I included both.
2000 Together / 28 days
In 1975 when Together takes place I was 8 years old. I didn’t live in a leftist commune, but there’s still a lot to recognize for someone who grew up in Sweden at this time. Everything is spot on; not just the designs of clothes, furniture and hair cuts, but also the way people think and act. While it’s a lot of fun when the movie mercilessly mock some of the bizarre political ideas flourishing at that time, it’s also a dark and engaging drama, taking sides with the kids who are surrounded by grown-ups who, for all their claims about saving the world, mostly care about their own needs. When all things come to a satisfying end and everyone joins in a football game in a snowy garden accompanied by Abba music, I can’t but smile, no matter how many times I watch it. It’s definitely one of my favourite Swedish movies.
28 days is on the list because I have someone in my family (not me, my husband or my kids, in case you wonder), who is an addict. While this person wasn’t at Sandra Bullock’s character’s level of self destructivity, it was bad enough, so together with some other relatives I did an intervention and my relative went to a 12 step treatment centre, just like in the film. As a part of the treatment I too went there for one week to go through group therapy where we dealt with our co-dependency. It was a special experience which changed my perspectives on many things – my self, on addiction and on addicts. And of course we watched this movie during the week, and while it’s obviously a movie that needs a bit of drama, love story and action sequences, there were also bits that we could recognize.
So how did it go? My family member is sober today. One month at a rehab centre wasn’t enough though, and after several relapses we added some medication, which seems to work better. 28 days has a 5,8 rating at imdb and is by no means a great movie. But it shows things that have made me into who I am.
2001 Amélie /Spirited Away
Amélie, what to say about her? I wish I was as cute and interesting and adorable as she is, but I’m afraid I’m not. It’s on the list just because it’s a movie I love so much that it would have felt wrong not to include it.
Spirited Away was the first anime movie I watched and I was absolutely thrilled by it because it felt so distinctly foreign and refreshing after all those years on a Disney and more lately Pixar diet. It didn’t follow the standard formula of how-to-tell-a-story. What made the experience even more enjoyable was that we saw it in company with a manga-reading daughter, who was familiar with this world and storytelling and could serve as our guide.
2002 The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
I picked one movie out of the three in the trilogy to represent them all. I’m not sure it’s the best one, but 2002 was available, so it will do. I’m a huge Tolkien fan and I’ve read the LOTR books approximately ten times (on average I revisit them every third year.) I know exactly what will happen, scene by scene, but it doesn’t matter. I’m not as much reading a book anymore as I’m reconnecting to a familiar world, which always will be there waiting for me. The film adaptations can’t compete with the books, but I still think they were well done. I revisited them recently. They hold up quite well and the extra material about huge machinery behind the making of the movie was as fascinating as ever.
My father died in cancer when he was 57. His mother was in her thirties when she died from MS. And my grandmother and my aunt were both 56 at the point of their deaths. I don’t walk around thinking that I’ll die any day or that I’ll develop a deadly disease within ten years. But perhaps the idea of that my life is going to end is a little bit more present in my mind than it is for people in average.
The main character in My life without me is only in her twenties when she’s diagnosed with cancer, which will kill her in about two months. She doesn’t let this break her down, but makes up a list of ten things she wants to do before she’ll die, big and small. For being about such a sad topic, it contains a lot of humour and is more inspiring than devastating. Everyone won’t get a life as long as we’d like to. But we can all make better use of the time we have at our disposal. Why do I keep forgetting this, wasting so much time and energy on futilities?
Steve Jobs said it better than I ever can:
“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”
2004 Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
This is one of the most beautiful films about love I’ve seen. I like it very much. That’s all.
2005 Pride & Prejudice
OK, to be honest I prefer the TV series from 1995 starring Colin Firth to Joe Wright’s movie. But this is a list of movies so it will have to do. In any case, like any other middle-aged woman I know, I find Jane Austen’s novels as well as the British adaptations of them, irresistible. Earlier this year I went so far as to sew my own dress to participate in a regency themed ball in costumes, where we danced the same dances as in the movies. Escapism at its best. I’ve never regarded myself as a traditionally “female” woman, but I guess this is the exception.
2006 Pan’s Labyrinth / United 93
My oldest daughter must have been 14 or 15 when we convinced her to join us to watch Pan’s Labyrinth in a theatre. I don’t know what we were thinking. I figured it would be more or less an ordinary fantasy movie, only that it targeted a slightly older audience than fantasy movies usually do. I wasn’t prepared for the mixture between nightmare visions and realistic violence and gore from the Spanish civilian war, topped by a scene where you watch someone slicing up the cheek of someone else with a broken bottle. It was the worst horror movie I’ve ever watched and I had to close my eyes several times during the movie or just peak a little between my fingers, and my daughter did the same. As we walked home from the cinema she was so upset that she cried all the way, no matter how we tried to comfort her, and I felt like a Horrible, Irresponsible Mother who had exposed her to this.
United 93 is on the list because it’s the best movie I’ve seen about a day that changed the world as I knew it forever.
2007 Into the Wild
Chris McCandless was a bit foolish and clueless. Who isn’t that when you’re young? But he was also a man of action, and in the end this lead to his sad, unnecessary death in a cabin wagon in Alaska. Some people hate Into the Wild for this reason, claiming it glorifies foolishness. But, as you probably realize, I’m not one of those. I love this movie for the idealism, for the wonderful casting (Emile Hirsh was just perfect), for the beautiful score by Eddie Vedder and for the breathtaking cinematography.
And of course I think back at my own clumsy, pathetic efforts in the area of “survival in the nature”. In the end of the 80s my husband and I were a bit into this. At least on a theoretical level. Like McCandless, we read about it. A lot. We ended up with a huge library about this topic and we studied the pictures of different plants, trying to memorize how to use them. On one occasion we decided to try it for real, so together with a friend we went into a nearby forest and started to look for something to eat. This turned out not to be quite as easy as the book had implied. If I remember it correctly all we could get hold of was the tiny root of a burdock, which we painstakingly dug up from a wayside. We also got some needles from a pine which we boiled for tea and maybe a few lichens, which were turned into an unpalatable stew. Someone may have “found” a bar of chocolate in a pocket for emergency, which we shared. Or perhaps it was just something I dreamed of. Anyway – we slept under an open sky instead of in a tent and that would have been pretty awesome, although not very comfortable. The following morning we all got sick. Maybe it wasn’t the right sorts of lichens we had eaten. Maybe the “burdock root” had been something different. Whatever reason there was, the expedition was finished earlier than we had planned, and we returned safely to our apartment about a kilometre away. McCandless didn’t have that choice. But he still has my sympathies.
2008 Let the Right One In
This is another movie taking place in Sweden about the time when I grew up. Presented as a vampire movie, it’s equally much a story about bullying and loneliness. The movie is excellent, even if I still prefer the audio version of the book, read by the author. Anyway: I feel proud whenever I see it mentioned. There are more great directors in Sweden than just the ghost of Ingmar Bergman.
I’ll make it easy and quote myself from another post: “Creepy and fascinating about a family living in complete isolation from the world. The film opens for different interpretations. Some say it’s about the politics of Greece. I watched it more from a personal, psychological level. If the parents put up arbitrary, artificial limits, don’t we do the same to ourselves? We believe whatever false idea of fear and defeat that comes into our minds rather than challenging them. Our barriers are just as imaginary as the walls surrounding the garden in Dogtooth. But again: I suppose you could also watch it just like a sort of horror movie. In any case, it resembled to nothing I’ve seen before.”
2010 127 hours /The Social Network,
127 hours because I’ve always been strangely attracted to, if not to say obsessed with, true stories about people who end up in situations where they have to fight for survival in desperate situations. Together with Touching the void, which I’ve written about previously, 127 hours is one of my favourite books as well as movies in this genre. The image of the guy stuck with his arm under the rock haunts me. I’ve thought about it so many times when I’ve felt stuck in my life, such when I had a job I didn’t like, but feared the consequences of quitting. He cut off his own arm because he had to. There are moments in life when we need pull ourselves together to do the same, although not physically. Even if the knife is blunt, even if it hurts. Because if we’ll stay stuck, we’ll die.
The Social Network because I’ve got to confess I’m not in it. I don’t have an active Facebook page even if I definitely should as a part of my profession. I’m years behind when it comes to making social media into a part of my life, with the exception of blogging, which as far as I understand it is out of fashion. Twitter and Facebook gives me rashes. I don’t want to tell the world about every step I take, every poor thought that runs through my head and I don’t want to hear about every moment of your day unless you digest it for me, packaging it into an enjoyable form such as a blog post or a letter. I don’t want to mix all my different circles of friends, colleagues and relatives into one happy family. While you theoretically can keep them apart, I’m not prepared to do all the work to give different groups access to various pieces of information. I know this makes me look horribly, hopelessly old, but I suppose that at some point you have to accept that this is what you are. I grew up with a different view on personal integrity and while I look at myself as reasonably flexible, I’m not quite ready to embrace everything in the new media landscape.
The first one is Beginners. It made me cry and I suppose that must have meant something. There was something in it I connected to.
The second one is The Tree of Life, because even if I’m still not a dedicated Malick fan after watching two of his movies, it captured the sense of wonder I experience every time I look up at a starry night sky, thinking about my spot in the sea of time and space. A life is so insignificant and yet magnificent at the same time.
In the end I guess it balances out. One day at a time. Maybe I just think too much. Maybe I should just make a full circle and join Baloo at the same point as we started this journey in 1967 – with a song:
“And don’t spend your time lookin’ around/For something you want that can’t be found/When you find out you can live without it/And go along not thinkin’ about it/I’ll tell you something true/The bare necessities of life will come to you”
So, we’ve reached the end of the story. Or the beginning of the one that is yet untold. I’m not sure if you’ve gotten to know me any better. But if nothing else I hope you’ve enjoyed to share a bit of nostalgia.
If you’d like to see the lives of some more people told this way, I recommend you to check out Fandango Groovers, which started this meme and has a big collection of links to similar posts (although I think most of them aren’t quite as personal as my take is. The original idea was to list your favourite movies. I twisted it a little.)
The weekend is incoming and I hope you’ll get a good one, whatever your plans are.
Previous posts in this series: