Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The world will never be the same once you've seen it through the eyes of...

...Forrest Gump.

Watched it a couple of days ago (thanks to an insistent friend). A Tom Hanks-starrer from the middle 90s. At first glance, the 6 Oscars that the movie clinched would seem a wash over. Put in one line, the movie is the most non-happening one you'd have ever caught. It was only while looking up the Vietnam War did I learn that it was one of the stormiest and most meaningful phases in American history. But not for Gump. The filmmaker enthrallingly manipulates historical footage to accidentally present Gump at many significant events of the time, and many because of his own actions. Even though he doesn't realize their significance. He gets to meet the President three times, he's the man who exposes the Watergate scandal, he's at the school doors when Governor George Wallace tries to get some Negroes into a white school, and so on and so forth.

The movie is about one simple man's journey through life. Surprised? The people around him dictate his life, but not so. He's stupid, but not so, naive, still, not so. The only times he ever loses control is when he thinks Jenny's being misbehaved with. His ability to run like the wind gets him inducted into the college football team, where he excels; post-college graduation sees him in the army, where he displays unnerving valour, rushing into the for(r)est countless times to rescue his fellow men, he excels again; war-wounded, he unexpectedly has a tryst with ping-pong, follows the first and last line he's ever known about ping-pong 'Never, ever, take your eye off the ball', and excels again. The only things he ever knows about shrimps are the never-ending delicacies that can be prepared from them, from his best friend Bubba in the army, but he becomes shrimp boat captain when his friend dies and, well, excels again.

So what's special about Forrest? Regardless of his intelligence, he has learnt to discover simple truth in life, that all the others around him miss. A struggling Lt. Dan stares on helplessly as Forrest, with superhuman strength, tows him away from death. He loses his mind when he sees his legs being amputated and blames Forrest for this miserable fate of his. He feels every one has a destiny, and his was to die a hero, not to lead a crippled dependent life. But years after, when he's Forrest's first mate on his shrimp boat, he realizes (just as we ourselves do) what Forrest taught him. To keep living life, at all costs. Forrest doesn't suffer humiliation, because he doesn't know the meaning of it. He's not afraid of death, so he can snatch himself (and his loved ones) out of it. He listens to others, but chooses his own. What makes it misleading is that most of the times, he doesn't want to have any particular choice of his own.
Forrest's specialty lies in his simplicity itself.

He lives in a world that derides him as stupid but, as Mrs Gump says, "stupid is as stupid does", and in this movie it's the other characters who seem to engage in acts of relentless and tragic idiocy. All through this Forrest is the constant: intent on doing the right thing. In this movie it's not Forrest that's retarded; it's the rest of the world.

The acting is strong, the narrative is compelling enough and its semi-documentary style direction is consistent and provides clarity and pace. The movie leaves one intensely aware that many of our problems are because of our higher intellect, which, ironically, makes us know what we're missing, and in turn, compels us to crave for it. Imagining a world where the best-intentioned half-wit could pop up at opportune moments in history, winning hearts, amassing a fortune, becoming famous, is tempting. Sadly, the world today belongs to those who have screwed over someone else to get there - and that isn't Forrest, he's too nice a guy.

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