Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Stop All the Clocks or Two for Tuesday

It's time to talk about alternate realities.

And look at a very cute Scotsman. Here he is!
(Blogging tip: frontload eyecandy to incentivize readers to keep slogging through one's very deep and oh-so-important thoughts.)

I've been trying to come up with ideas for five week Mature Learning courses I can pitch to the local community college. For some reason I thought of sad movies about death. I'd bill it as "Mourning at the Movies!" or "Cinematic Kleenex!"

Don't worry; no one I know has died recently. I just like stories that move me, and believe my students do too.

Naturally, I thought of Truly, Madly, Deeply and Always. Excellent flicks. But there's also a great scene in Four Weddings and a Funeral, when Matthew gives the eulogy for his lover, Gareth, by reciting an Auden poem. It's called Funeral Blues. Watch and listen:

It's a great sorrowful moment. The editing is brilliant. The grief-filled expressions on the dead man's parents' faces go straight to my heart. The actor, John Hannah, is brilliant. I think Auden would have loved his recitation.

John Hannah is also very cute. He reminded me of someone. I checked for other clips of him on youtube. He did a film called Sliding Doors with Gwyneth Paltrow. Watch this. Does he remind you of anyone?

I'm thinking John Cusack. Only with a really cool accent.

You're thinking, "Wait! What about the alternate realities?" That's where Sliding Doors comes in. When Helen (Paltrow) attempts to board a London Underground train, the plot splits into tandem parallel universes. In one, she catches it before the doors slide shut, and she arrives home to catch her boyfriend cheating; in the other, she misses it and her life plays out quite differently.

Who among us hasn't thought "if only this one tiny thing had happened differently, my whole life could have been different?" You, there, in the back, shaking your head "no." You are such a liar. Of course you've had that thought skitter around your mind at some point. Don't lie to me.

I'm not just talking about the conscious decision moments, small or large. The choice of which college to attend, who to marry, this salad dressing or that one, what shall we name the baby, where should we go on holiday, should I have one more drink before driving home, the red blouse or the pink one, the high road or the low road (note clever injection of Scottish lyric)...they all make a difference, to be sure. And some of us agonize endlessly about whether we've made the right decision or if things would be ever so much better if only we'd made a different choice.

This is more about externalities that influence our lives. The things over which we have virtually no control, but which affect our path. We do control how we respond to those things. So we're not totally helpless, merely buffeted by outside forces. But there is still an alteration. That is the fascinating part of alternate reality stories. You ARE fascinated, aren't you? These sorts of speculations can keep me entertained for hours. Surely you feel the same way.

Sliding Doors' logline is "What if one split second sent your life in two completely different directions?"
It's ironic, given that there's a certain convergence of plot events at the end. Which leads me to my next question: Do you think that some things are inevitable, meant to be, and that regardless of what happens, eventually they're going to occur? Do you believe in destiny?

Whoa, this is one heavy post for a Tuesday. Lucky you, Wordless Wednesday is tomorrow. But it's only a brief respite. Thoughtful Thursday is just around the corner.


Lisa Wheeler Milton said...

I don't embrace regret, but I do wonder and really, who doesn't?

(I, for one, am not going to lie to you.)

I guess I can live without knowing because despite the decisions I would do differently, I'm pretty happy to be where I landed.

Fantastic Forrest said...

I know you would never lie to me, sweet Lisa! Your happiness is one of your most special qualities. I'll have more on this Thursday. Your comments and others will feed my cogitating for that.

Mrs. Chili said...

The bit you posted from Four Weddings gets me EVERY TIME.

Sometimes, I feel a little like I DO live in more than one reality; like somewhere, a little bit of my soul split off and took a different course and, if I'm still and quiet, I can hear the lessons it's learned transmitted back to me.

Bee said...

That scene from Four Weddings is SO memorable, isn't it? I knew what you were referring to the second that I read "Stop all the clocks . . ."

As for alternative realities, or roads not taken, I often think about how nearly I avoided meeting my husband -- blind date; had just ended a long-term relationship, and didn't really want a new one. His English-ness decided it! And that brings me to John Hannah -- who has sweet droopy eyes.

phd in yogurtry said...

I loved Hannah's performance in Sliding Doors. and it was a great movie. One of the few movies I've purchased. It plays out that question we all contemplate from time to time.

As for your question, I'd have to say no. I don't believe in destiny. I think of myself as a romantic, but I guess I'm a logic bound romantic. Life is random and so never boring or predictable.

Lisa said...

I'm so glad you told me to come look! This made my night! I love John Hannah. And that scene in Four Weddings and a Funeral brings me to tears every single time.

This is a great post. I waver between thinking that some things happen for a reason and thinking that everything is random. I never get very far with those lines of thought before I'm flat on my face in confusion.

Kathy Amen said...

What was so great about Sliding Doors was that the earth-changing thing was such a minor, overlooked event! Who knows what will change our lives forever?! (And--spoiler alert--that would be a good movie to include in your list of good movie pathos, would it not?)

Swistle said...

I love both those movies, although in Sliding Doors I can't understand why John Hannah loves Gwyneth Paltrow so much. She doesn't, um, project quality traits in that movie, and yet he's DEVOTED.

I think OFTEN of "splitting the future" moments. But I don't think any of it is destined. It's the randomness of it I find so upsetting: that one false move could completely change things for the worse. I understand why people want to believe in destiny.