Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Movie Characters You Fear You'll Become

Ever see a film and identify with one of the characters for all the "wrong" reasons?  As the late Gerald aka Gordon Pasha often said "My frame of reference is film", so I have no difficulty in identifying with a fictional character, even if it's one that's less-than-ideal. One of the first times this happened was the jarring realization that if I continue on my present "track", I'll end up like Frederick (Max Von Sydow), ranting about society in Hannah and Her Sisters:

 "You missed a very dull TV show on Auschwitz. More gruesome film clips, and more puzzled intellectuals declaring their mystification over the systematic murder of millions. The reason they can never answer the question "How could it possibly happen?" is that it's the wrong question. Given what people are, the question is "Why doesn't it happen more often?"  You see the whole culture. Nazis, deodorant salesmen, wrestlers, beauty contests, a talk show. Can you imagine the level of a mind that watches wrestling? But the worst are the fundamentalist preachers. Third rate con men telling the poor suckers that watch them that they speak with Jesus, and to please send in money. Money, money, money! If Jesus came back and saw what's going on in his name, he'd never stop throwing up."

Terrifying stuff to contemplate.

I never have to worry about becoming a Golden Age character whose traits are less than perfect.  Maybe a dozen or so of Robert Ryan's portrayals, but on the whole, my association with that earlier era of cinema is mostly positive.  Perhaps those characters are too broadly drawn for me to connect with, except in an idealized way (take another look at my blogger profile name for that bit of wishful thinking).

Another character that lifted me out of my usual stupor was Sean Penn in The Thin Red Line. His Sgt. Welsh, was like that even before he got to Guadalcanal.  Nearly every line of dialogue Sgt. Welsh spoke resonated with me in a most disturbing way.    Especially the opening line of the film's (Criterion) trailer:

In this world, a man, himself, is nothing.  And there ain't no world but this one."

  On the positive side of this, someone who I do not fear becoming--and another character in The Thin Red Line-- is Ben Chaplin's Pvt. Bell, the letter-writing romantic who was well out of his element in the military, and I'd like to think there's at least some semblance of me there.

"Who lit this flame in us?  Because I have you, nothing can touch me; no hurt, no grief. Not even death..."
So how about you?  Is there a character that you identify with for all the wrong reasons?  It can be from any time in film history.  Be as specific or as vague for your reasons as you like.


  1. I really have doctrines that I really follow. Negative influences are always harmful. Once I was friends with an elder man who was volunteering in psychiatry and he told me that psychiatrists can get mentally ill if they meet too many ill people. As feminist I consider I can become exactly a victim like Marilyn Monroe if her films influenced me every day. Yes, I very much avoid negative media.

  2. I still miss Gerald! I've been thinking about him lately, since the anniversary of his passing is near. Off topic I know.

  3. "I very much avoid negative media.

    That's why I don't watch the news. ;)

  4. Well, I’m too unique to completely identify with any character ;), but I often “identify” with words, for example I subscribe to every word of Frederick’s (Max Von Sydow) rant in Hannah and Her Sisters you cited above or to Harry Lime’s rant from The Third Man:
    You know what the fellow said – in Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, they had five hundred years of democracy and peace – and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock (I’d also add bank secrecy).

  5. KC: Gerald was a class act. I miss his comments here.

    Stella: Your courage (and uniquity) is appreciated. I'm finding not many can admit seeing less-than-ideal traits in themselves. In others, though? No problem! ;)


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