...engaging and discerning culture, as a way of life...

July 12, 2007

Being There - 7

This is one of my favorite films. The metaphor here is powerful. Chance (Peter Sellers) has lived all his life in an estate tending the garden. He eats, sleeps, cares for the gardens, and watches TV. He does nothing else, not even leaving the estate from childhood to adulthood, where we meet him. The owner of the estate dies and his estate is taken over forcing Chance to finally pack a suitcase and explore beyond the walls that he has called home. His first trip out into the world is accompanied by a great rendition of Also sprach Zarathustra (which is a reference to 2001: A Space Odyssey). As luck would have it, Chance, who is a simpleton who only knows what he has seen on TV, gets taken in my a powerful businessman (Melvyn Douglas) and his wife (Shirley MacLaine), and eventually takes Washington by storm as a political pundit and celebrity whose ramblings about gardening are interpreted as great wisdom. The ending, which is one of the strangest allows for great conversations about the meaning of the film. This film is both funny and serious, and the metaphor and questions that it engages continues to linger with me (I first saw this film 5 years ago).
This film is a satire as well as social commentary about the cultural effects of television (note that the book was written in 1971 and the film made in 1979) and the nature of reality.

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