Friday, February 27, 2009

Slumdog Button

Continued from earlier post; spoiler alert also continues.

Of course the big differences between the BUTTON and SLUMDOG are thematic.

Here’s how I see it:

The theme of BENJAMIN BUTTON: Life is a random series of meaningless, unconnected events.

Ben lives a long time and meets a lot of people – but no one is changed for having known him.

He is such a milquetoast presence that even the alleged one true love of his life is so unaffected by him that his daughter doesn’t know he existed – even though both Ben and daughter overlapped in mom’s life for nearly a decade.

The true metaphor for this theme is the clock that runs backward.

I saw the movie with a friend, who asked afterward (confessing that she felt stupid for missing it): What did the clock have to do with the movie?

The answer, of course, is absolutely nothing.

The story of the clock never crosses paths with the story of Button.

The timing of the clock does not coincide with the birth, life or death of Button.

Even the purpose of the clock (so that the mistakes or mishaps of the past may be corrected) does not come into play.

GB Shaw said “Youth is wasted on the young.” Not so with Button – after making his youthful mistakes, he has his health and vigor to exploit.

Which he doesn’t do.

The clock is a random object, that while seemingly similar to the story in its mechanics, is actually a random, meaningless side story.

(And, ironically, easily replaced with better technology…)

The theme of SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE: Life is a series of meaningful events that connect with significance

Each life event builds one on another, echoing throughout. There are no “throw-away” scenes, as the scars of each tragedy (literally) as well as the joys of each triumph clash together to create character and action.

The metaphor for this theme is the game show.

Every incident in the movie is critical, as they form the basis for Jamal’s success in answering (life’s) questions. If he did not go on this specific journey, he could not be the man in the contestant chair.

SLUMDOG goes beyond showing significance of life, to the deeper question: is life about predestination or choice?

Certainly the fates seem to be colluding – why else would his life be the answer to every single question in the quiz? (Save three – each being helped along by a lifeline. Sort of.)

Yet it is Jamal’s work and ethics that help him claim his prize (and separates him from Salim, who experienced the same events) – his relentless search, his refusal to give up on Latika, his willingness to serve (just a chai carrier), his generosity to those around him.

If he did not make the choices he did, he could not have found Latika.

If the gods (or G-d?) did not align history, he could not have found Latika.

So the director of MILLIONS gives us another showcase of faith plus works.

One more note on SLUMDOG: Some folks were put off by the Bollywood tribute at the end – I really like the visual metaphor.

Jamal and Latika dancing with the community – the connectedness of it all.

Jamal and Latika dancing alone – the personal nature of it all.

Jamal and Latika dancing as children (note only as the pre-orphanage age, not the post-orphanage age) – the innocence retained despite it all.

May we all meet joyously on the platform.

Just my thoughts,

Sean

1 comment:

roller coaster teacher said...

SEAN! I loved Slumdog - love your thoughts... Haven't seen Button, probably won't.

HEY! Miss you!!! Want to catch up. Where are you on Facebook?!

Yours truly,
Mimi Meng Wright :)