A secret life, daydreaming vs. experience, and a way of seeing.
“To see things thousands of miles away, things hidden behind walls and within rooms, things dangerous to come to, to draw closer, to see and be amazed and to feel: that is the purpose of life.” – Life Magazine’s motto, in the 2013 remake of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
***Possible spoilers ahead, so please do not read if you intend to see this film!***
On Monday afternoon, my kid and I went to see Ben Stiller’s remake of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.
I have always loved James Thurber’s short story of the same name.
Honestly, I did not expect Stiller’s remake to stick to Thurber’s short story very much, as I’d felt that the 1947 version with Danny Kaye had not been very close, either.
But nonetheless, I found this film slightly amusing, poignant, and very inspiring.
Personally, I wasn’t disappointed.
There were a few wonderful moments of connection for me in this film, that – just as it is with the act of daydreaming – have more to do with my inner landscape than anything outward to do with the film itself
….And that is exactly what I enjoyed about this film.
For example, the most wondrous, unexpected moments for me were connected to seeing the footage of Greenland, and Iceland, for several personal reasons.
You know, I very nearly cried with delight, seeing Walter as he skateboards down an almost impossible winding road into the town of Seyðisfjörður just before the volcano erupts.
He glides down this road as it snakes past these lovely rocky cliffs that rise up on either side.
Those mountains, those cliffs….aw, man. Just beautiful.
Walter has tied chunks of black ashen rock to his hands with pieces of his dress tie, so he can lean and weave, touching the road, guiding himself around the exhilarating curves:
It was exhilarating just watching that, for personal reasons, as well.
Suddenly, I was overcome with a hopeful rushing thought crowding in my head:
(…kommen Sie hier…kommen Sie hier …)
Beautiful things don’t ask for attention.
The other moment that struck me so much, concerned vision, experience, and the photographer’s eye.
When Walter finally catches up to the photographer that he’s been pursuing, the photographer is ‘waiting for the shot’ of a snow leopard in the Himalayas.
He and Walter sit quietly waiting, talking softly, until the snow leopard comes into view.
They are hushed and still, and we, as viewers, see their view through the camera lens for a good minute or two, before the leopard moves out of range.
And when asked why he didn’t take the shot, the photographer answers:
Sometimes I don’t. I just look. I just see it.
I have known several photographers who have also voiced that same sentiment: You cannot truly see if you are distracted by the attempts to capture the image, create the result. The photographer sees, prepares and frames the shot, but at the moment of actually clicking the shutter, ze has moved from ‘seeing’ to ‘capturing’ that moment. Ze has, in a sense, lost the moment of seeing, of experiencing the beauty of the moment, in attempting to capture the ‘beautiful moment.’
That moment is a red cardinal sitting on my backyard fence.
Stop trying to capture the moment, fearing the loss of the memory of the moment.
Just let the moment unfold.
You don’t have to hold it in place.
Just see it.
Just experience it.
And I loved that.
And I loved that Walter Mitty, in this film, became what he was – not by daydreaming – but by doing, by allowing himself to see, to experience life itself.
Life with a capital L.
In my opinion, that’s good advice.