DO YOU EVER HAVE WEIRD THOUGHTS? I was driving home from work today, and for some reason was thinking, "What if what we know to be life is really just a dream and that at death we finally awaken into the real world." Why this thought hit me while driving home is beyond me -- although the kids were listening to a particularly repetitive and mind-numbing collection of songs (Now! That's What I Call Music!), so perhaps that drove me to contemplate the great beyond.
It made me think of this movie that I really love. It's from the 90s and it is also in French, so if you don't like reading subtitles -- this one is out for you. It's also based on a true story. It tells the life story of Marcel Pagnol, a famous French film director. There are actually two films, My Father's Glory and My Mother's Castle. They were shot all at once, and the film became so long that it became necessary to divide the story into two films. The films are a very beautiful, sweet love letter to Pagnol's parents. We see things through the eyes of him as a young boy. In My Mother's Castle, we see the family leaving for Marsielles for their summer holiday. This is their yearly pilgrimage and it takes hours and hours because they must travel by public trasportation. The father, who is ever resourceful, discovers that if they travel along the river, they can arrive in less than 1/2 the time -- the only danger being that they are basically cutting through the backyards of some very wealthy homes.
Listen, if you are into French films, you should probably stop here and go watch both of the films. If not, read ahead.
Young Marcel is terrified of getting caught by the wealthy home owners, mostly because he can see how much it frightens his mother. She is paralyzed with fear of being caught. She is especially fearful of one house in particular. It is the house pictured above and of course one summer they are caught by the owner of the house. He humiliates Marcel's father, and his mother faints in terror. He is ruthless and unforgiving and all his mother's fears are justified. They never take the shortcut again.
I know you are thinking, "Jeez, great film, Jen! Thanks for sharing! And by the way, what does this have to do with your crazy thoughts while driving home today?"
I'm glad you asked.
The movie fast forwards about 15 years, and Marcel is now a very successful director. His company is thriving and he is very wealthy. He has been living out of suitcases, travelling constantly and so his manager is left in charge of buying a house for their new, expanded film studio. Marcel does not travel to the property until the grand opening party. He is enjoying the party when he glances out the large windows that face the back of the property. We see him running outside across the beautiful lawn, down a series of steps until he reaches the very edge of the property which is backed up against a river. As the camera pans, we see him looking back at the house,and realize he is standing in the exact same spot as pictured above. He is standing in the very spot where his father was once humiliated, and his mother fainted in fright. The narrator says whistfully, "If only my mother had known that all those summers, the house she feared most, belonged to her loving son."
I mean that is some seriously good writing. Keep in mind, I haven't seen that movie in years -- maybe even a decade and that scene and those lines have stayed with me. All the while that his mother was sneaking across the backlot of that house, she never knew it would one day be owned by her son. The family never knew that property they feared was really their own. It was something I would tell myself when things seemed unbearable; this isn't the end, we don't know the whole picture just yet.
I love those kinds of stories. I mean, don't get me started on Great Expectations. I won't spoil that one for you, but man talk about a switcheroo. The whole LONG book you are thinking one thing, and then when you find out the truth, you kind of sit there with your mouth hanging open. The Sixth Sense was that way too. I loved the interview with M. Night Shyamalan where he talked about how nervous they were that things were too obvious. "We actually have this scene where the kid is basically telling the audience our biggest secret and we didn't know if people would figure it out." Of course, unless someone has spoiled it for you, that scene flies past our heads, and it is only later, when we've got the missing information that we see that exact scene differently.
That's how it is for tons of things in life, too. That date that didn't see like a big deal at first turns into forever. Being laidoff from one job seems like a horrible, devestating shock, until you find yourself somewhere on the other side looking back and realizing that it might have been the worst/best thing that ever happened to you. You can't tell, yet, how things are going to turn out.
Which, of course, causes you to wonder if maybe the very thing that seems to be the end, is really just the beginning.