Have you ever gone back and watched a movie that you loved as a teenager…10 to 15 years later only to wonder, "That was terrible. What was I thinking?" It's only natural that our tastes would change as we mature and learn more about ourselves and the world around us. Then there are the movies that are truly timeless, but your perspective has changed. You relate to the characters and themes on a completely different level each time you see the movie.
I ran across one of those movies this past weekend…The Big Chill. This is the third time I've seen this movie. Once in my 20's, then 30's and now at the age of 43. If you have somehow managed to go through life without seeing this film, the plot is as follows. A group of close college friends who have drifted apart reunite after 15 years due to the suicide of one of them. Virtually the entire movie takes place in the home of one couple where everyone is staying. The characters themselves are in their mid to late 30s.
Various conversations take place over the course of several days. Discussions of how idealistic they were and how they were going to change the world versus what they've actually become. Marriages, affairs, one woman desperate to have a child with no prospects on the horizon and of course the suicide…the topic they dance around and finally all confront as a group.
The first time I saw this movie, I did appreciate and like it, but really couldn't relate to the experiences of the characters. They were so much older. I was in my 20s. Very much still in the idealistic phase. My life an open book before me waiting for the pages to be filled. Living on dreams of what the future would hold. I thought, "how could people get so far off track and compromise their ideals?" "How could things get so bad that one would even contemplate suicide?" I was naive and didn't know it.
The second time I saw this movie, I had already compromised myself. Allowing another person to tell me what to think, how to act and who I should be rather than who I actually was. All of this in the guise of love. Feeling I wasn't good enough for anyone else and lucky that I at least found this person willing to be with me, though I didn't deserve him. I had given up my art and almost everything else that brought me pleasure in life. Why? I don't have a great answer. Low self-esteem, a belief I was weak and couldn't make decisions on my own. Constantly criticizing myself with that infernal internal voice. I wasn't that naive anymore. I knew intellectually what was going on. That it was wrong. That what he was doing was not love, yet it was still difficult to leave to reach out for help; admit I needed the help.
Now not only do I have the same perspective as the characters, but also of one other I hadn't yet mentioned…the widow. She was not part of the college group, was quite a bit younger and compared to the rest, unsophisticated. She sits quiet for most of the movie listening to what is being said around her about her late husband. Learning things she never knew. This was the one way I related to her. Listening to people talk about their past with Tom. The past that took place before me. I could easily see myself in her eyes. I felt like I had been dropped into the movie. She didn't find the stories sad. Neither did I. I could now understand the regrets of the others. Time passed that can't be retrieved or altered. Paths seemingly so deeply rutted that one could never climb out to change direction. I could understand them, but do not share them. I believe you must learn from the past, but not dwell in it. I choose to move forward.
I find myself coming full circle. My life an open book before me once again. All directions open, but this time I have the wisdom that comes with age, an understanding of the mistakes of the past, the knowledge that I am not weak as I had believed for so long and finally that I am deserving of a love that doesn't compromise my true self but instead embraces it.
"Can't See the River for the Trees"
-Brazos River, Texas
Water-Soluble Oils on Canvas Board
24" x 18"