My uncle, Miles (who is my husband’s uncle, but he’s family and a brilliant doctor of sociology), wanted to talk about themes with me yesterday. He started with talking about Nicholas Sparks’ ability to identify themes and ideals that large audiences attach to easily (and with mass appeal usually comes a PG rating). “Message in a Bottle” and “Shadowlands” are his favorite movies, which speak to who is as a person (as he identifies with C.S. Lewis and his need for redemption).
My favorite movie is kind of a complicated thing because I love and identify with it on so many levels. I have since I was 10. It’s “A River Runs Through It” (and it’s also one of the best books that I have ever had the pleasure of reading).
I learned to fly fish on the Big Blackfoot river in Montana when I was 6. I caught rainbow trout on its banks. I splashed in its frigid waters. Being from Colorado, I took myself there in my imagination.
When I first saw the film on Christmas Day in 1992, I was thinking, “that’s me. I’m Norman Maclean. I’m the dark, serious one and my sister is Paul (Brad Pitt): fun, blonde, athletic, everyone’s best friend. As I grew up, I saw that these characteristics also applied to my father…they might actually be better suited to him as he was a selfish, popular, but thoughtless alcoholic who died early and alone – a slave to his own addictions. That grief was mine, even though I was young.
At his funeral, I was asked to write something (people expected it of me since I am a writer), but I had no words. It took me almost four years to write again. As such, I asked my sister to read the section of Wordsworth’s “Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood” that Norman and his father recite together in the film:
What though the radiance which was once so bright
Be now for ever taken from my sight,
Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind;
In the primal sympathy
Which having been must ever be;
In the soothing thoughts that spring
Out of human suffering;
In the faith that looks through death […]
Thanks to the human heart by which we live,
Thanks to its tenderness, its joys, and fears,
To me the meanest flower that blows can give
Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.
At the end of the movie, Maclean is old, fragile, but still doing what he loves. And while he has the privilege of growing old, he has lost all the people that were close to him in his life. But there is transcendence: he sees the happy ending in his success and his loneliness.
So here’s my question for you: what’s your favorite move? why? what does it say about you? what (if any) characters or themes do you identify with or appreciate within the film?
Also, today is the last day to get my WWII historical fiction novel Why Aren’t You Sweet Like Me?? (published by the Sunbury Press) for free on Kindle. It’s had 30,000 downloads this week (Top 10 in America for fiction).
image credit: everythingsright.com