One of my favourite quotes comes from a song by John Lennon, Beautiful Boy. It reads “life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” Life is in trivial things around us, like a butterfly which flew into your open window, smell of grass in the morning, light reflections in Sydney harbour’s water at night and taking a hand of someone you love. Preparing for the wonderful future, we often forget about now.
I happened to see two very different films today, Hobbit 2 and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. While watching the former, I couldn’t shake off the feeling of how irrelevant everything on screen was. We know that the dragon will be slain and the heroes will prevail. Every time Bilbo faces danger, he will jump out of sword’s blow or be saved by an elf’s arrow. Victory is inevitable and nothing is really at stake.
In Walter Mitty, everything is opposite. There’s no grand battle or big spectacle. What matter are the smallest possible things. The film starts out with a mystery: a negative by a famous photographer goes missing. It is his best shot and was intended to go on a cover of Life magazine. This greatly upsets life of the main character, Walter Mitty, who undoubtedly will be blamed for the loss.
In a Peter Jackson movie, that setup would lead to a treacherous plot to destroy the Earth and a climatic battle with Sauron for possession of the negative, which alone could save human race from extinction. At the very last moment, Walter would hit Sauron with his briefcase, insert negative into the Earth-destruction device and its timer would freeze at “00:01”.
But what follows in Ben Stiller’s film is incomparably less grand. The solution to the mystery is so trivial and ordinary, it’s almost disappointing. But by looking closely at those small things, the director finds emotions, humour, joy and life. More than I saw in the whole of Middle Earth.
In addition, here’s a beautiful song by Jose Gonzalez from the film (and the trailer). It was so very hard not to sing along during the credits, soon I dropped the resistance and joined the choir!