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Motifs in Cinema 2012: Aging

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age stairAccording to an article my morning paper you can forget about making a career if you’re over 33. You’re already considered “old” and less attractive for potential employers. To be honest I didn’t finish reading it. A few paragraphs were more than enough to cope with for someone who recently turned 45.

The older I get the more aware do I become of the different sides of aging.age stair old

Sometimes it’s just sad, frustrating and ugly. Like when I’m at the hairdresser and for once have to look straight into the mirror rather than just rushing past it and have to confront the fact that the woman with the grey hair I’m looking at isn’t someone else’s mother or grandmother. It’s actually me. My body is letting me down, day by day, making it very clear to me that this idea that I’m going to die one day is more than just a vague hypothesis. It’s a fact.

Then there are other days when I’m perfectly happy to be where I am: in the middle of life, with the most stressful years with small children at home behind me, and still many years ahead of me which I can spend the way I want. Life isn’t finished when you’re middle-aged. It has barely started.

I’m sure you’re familiar with the old image of life in the form of a stair, which up and up, with a top at 50, when you’re on the top of the world, only to turn and go down, down, down towards the grave. This is clearly out of date. Life goes up and down in periods and you won’t know until it’s over if your peak was at 20 or 80.

Aging in movies
There are good days and bad days, but I would lie if I didn’t admit that I think about aging from time to time – trying to cope, trying to understand, trying to reach acceptance of the fact that my mental age and physical age are two different things.

I’m not the only one to wrestle with those issues. Aging was a popular theme in the movies 2012. If it was more popular than before, I can’t honestly say. Perhaps it was just me taking notice, since the issue preoccupies my mind so much.

There were especially five movies from three different genres that stuck out to me as being about aging.

Skyfall age

The miserable action heroes
Dark Knight RisesFirst we have the case of the action heroes struggling with their aging. In Skyfall James Bond is on the verge of taking his supposed death as an excuse to retire for good. Eventually he’s brought into the match again but he’s not in the shape he used to be and doesn’t even pass the test to work as an agent.

Incidentally (or was it? You may wonder. I can’t help thinking of the year when there were three movies almost exactly at the same time, all about a child and a grown-up switching bodies with each other) The Dark Knight Rises has a similar theme. We get a shock meeting with our former hero. He’s old, tired and physically and mentally a broken man.

Bond and Batman are both suffering from disorientation. The job identity was all they had. Without it, they’re lost. Who are they once the hero suit is off? What are they supposed to do with the rest of their lives?

Best Exotic Marigold age
The positive approach
The people portrayed in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Hope Springs seem to cope with aging a ton better than the former action heroes.hope springs

If you’re to believe those films, retirement is the opposite of getting ill, lonely and bored. It’s the time in life when you finally can fulfil the dreams you’ve put aside for so long. Be wild! Take a one-way ticket to a country on the other side of the world! Bring your sex life to a new level! Anything is possible and if you meet an obstacle, it’s just a smaller bump on the road towards the end that we know from the very start will make us feel good. Such is the contract with the audience.

With the risk of sounding prejudiced I think these films mostly target people who are close to the age of the characters on the screen. Sadly enough there’s a bit of ageism in how we watch movies and it goes in both directions. Older people are reluctant to watch a film about teenagers and you rarely see youngsters queue for a film that could be about their grandparents. I thought they both were a lot better than they got credit for, especially the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel with its exceptional setup of great British actors.

Amour - age
Darkness and hope
The last movie in this theme is Amour, which happens to be one of my absolute favourite movies from 2012.

I have to admit that its take on aging shook me up a little in its brutal honesty. Here we’re far away from middle-aged action heroes pulling themselves together to perform yet another rescuing of the world or newly retired people travelling the world. This is Aging with a capital “a”: an uncensored picture of what exactly it means when your body and mind fails you as you’re taking your final stumbling steps towards death and what it’s like to be near someone who is in the middle of this process. Deep down we know this is going to happen, but we usually don’t acknowledge it.

Some people found it unbearable to watch. I wasn’t one of them. If you could look behind the apparent ugliness of aging, it’s also very sweet. If you get to experience closeness, love and care like this couple did during your final days in life, you can consider yourself lucky.

The conclusion
So first we had the action heroes trying to get on terms with getting older, then we had the newly retired or soon-to-be retried who demonstrate that it’s never too late to begin a new life. And finally the couple that are beyond merry trips to India, now dealing with the inevitable end.

They’re different sorts of movies, but they’re all looking for answers to the same kind of questions that I ask myself when I look myself in the mirror after my latest haircut:

Is there anything more left for me to do in life? Where now? How do I cope with the fact that I’m getting older?

And each one, in their unique way, has a reassuring answer: Look at all those people! They have found their way.

You will too one day.

About Motifs in Cinema
This post is a part in a yearly event called “Motifs in Cinema”, organized by Andrew Kendall at Encore’s World of Film & TV.

Here’s how Andrew describes the idea:

Motifs in Cinema is a discourse across some film blogs, assessing the way in which various thematic elements have been used in the 2012 cinematic landscape. How does a common theme vary in use from a comedy to a drama? Are filmmakers working from a similar canvas when they assess the issue of death or the dynamics of revenge? Like most things, a film begins with an idea – Motifs in Cinema assesses how various themes emanating from a single idea change when utilised by varying artists.”

Don’t miss out the other posts in this blogathon, which includes twelve different themes. All the posts are collected in a list over at Andrew’s place.

Written by Jessica

February 16, 2013 at 3:10 pm

A few late thoughts about the knight

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Anything you possibly can say about The Dark Knight Rises has already been said. Some of my dearest, most frequent readers have openly declared that they’re done with TDKR reviews.

Admittedly Nick at Cinema Romantico reassured me that he still wanted my take on this since he thought I’d bring a unique perspective on it. But to be completely honest I doubt I’m able to pull that off.  However I liked the film too much to not not mention it at all. So for whatever it’s worth: here are a few late scattered thoughts.

Whining podcasters
It’s been a while since I watched it. I was delayed since I’ve been away for some vacation – in the real world, as well as in a fantasy novel book series. During the time that has lapsed I’ve been listening to the discussion at a few podcasts, which to be honest turned out to be a pretty awful idea.

You see: I was SO enthusiastic about the movie right after watching it. So what I ask myself is why I didn’t let it stay that way. I had been visually, emotionally and intellectually entertained. So why not remain in this happy state of mind? The only thing those shows did to me was to make me discover and start to think about plot holes I hadn’t considered for a second and to question a whole bunch of aspects of the film that I until that point had been perfectly okay with.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t hate film podcasts, on the contrary. Usually I’m a vivid listener, not to say an addict. But it is as if there’s something about the biggest box office hits that triggers the worst sides of the participating film buffs. People who normally are reasonable, with a positive, loving view on most movies, all of a sudden transform into whiners, nitpicking their way through the show. You would think they were running a competition where the one with the longest bullet list of complaints is going to win a big prize. Perhaps it makes them feel clever. “Ha! Look at this inconsistency I found! Mr Nolan isn’t as smart as people say! Gottcha!” But it wears me down after a while and gets tiresome.

The opening night
Anyway – let’s get back to that wonderful night a little more than a week ago when I went to the Swedish premier. The theatre – one of the largest I’ve been in – was sold out. There were candles outside and a few people had put on their best batman t-shirts, which added to the festive mood. Before the screening started, some people from the staff went up to greet the audience and hand out a few give-aways to a few lucky cinema-goers, as they do on big opening nights like this one. The fact that they’d dressed up like Batman and Cat Woman made their appearance even more popular.

For once I wasn’t alone in the party. My entire family was with me, including my teenage daughters and my 68 year old mother, who I frankly was a little bit worried about before the film started. I glanced at her when they told us about the length, which I until that point hadn’t checked up since I tried to know as little as possible about the film before watching it. Almost three hours! Would she last? She would usually go to bed at hour when we would be half way through the movie. The conversation we’d had on our way to the theatre also made me weary. I hadn’t realized that she hadn’t watched part 1 and 2 in the series. She was familiar with the Batman concept, but would that be enough of background information for someone to enjoy it?

I shouldn’t have worried though. Because when the lights went up and we started our walk home from the theatre, it turned out that we were all on the same page. Me, my daughters and my mom – we were all praising the film.

I’m not entirely sure my mother did get every little piece of the plot – I didn’t. So what? The film was big in every sense, not to say spectacular. It had astonishing sceneries, fighting scenes that even I could follow (mostly), chases that never got boring, a few crazy gadgets, well, everything that you can expect from a movie with a budget of this size. But what I liked most was the human side of it. The more the Nolan brothers decided to torture Bruce Wayne, getting him deeper and deeper into trouble, the more interested and invested did I get into the story. Superheroes are at their best when they take off their suits. And in The Dark Knight Rises, the suit was more off than on.

My efforts to stay away from information were also properly rewarded in the end. Twist after twist, reveal after reveal came up and I hadn’t foreseen any of them, which made them so much more enjoyable. I admit that I’m a bit of a moron when it comes to those things, but sometimes it’s good to be a moron. It makes the movies more fun.

The voices
Don’t I have any objections at all? I do. The major one is the voices. Darth Vader had his charm once upon a time, but at this point it’s just old and silly. There must be other ways to make villains and heroes appear scary than to have them talk into tin cans. It’s more laughable than frightening. And I can see that Bane’s voice even causes problems for English speaking people to hear what he says. In Sweden we’re fortunate enough to have subtitles, so I didn’t have any issues.

And now I’m done. That was my nitpicking. One point. If I made an effort I could surely list a lot more. A mystical transportation of Bruce Wayne from one point on the world to another in no time, which I didn’t understand at all (maybe I missed Scotty beaming him over?). Or I could mention the strangeness in his sudden sex adventures that seem more like James Bond than like Batman. But why should I?

I’ll remember the film just as we experienced it that night, before I listened to all those whiny podcasters:  immersive, thrilling, funny, touching and surprising. And I’ll remember the wonderful audience that laughed when it was funny who held their breath when it was exciting and who took up a huge applause as the movie finished. It doesn’t get much better in a theatre.

The Dark Knight Rises (Christopher Nolan, US, 2012) My rating: 4/5

Written by Jessica

August 3, 2012 at 1:13 am