Monday, October 09, 2006

Groundhog Night

Groundhog Day, Harold Ramis' 1993 film, is one of the most popular contemporary morality plays. An arrogant, sarcastic and slightly misanthropic weather man, played by Bill Murray, is sent to a tiny American town to report on a piece of local folklore: the appearance of a groundhog that would predict the onset of spring. Waking up the next day, he discovers he's actually awoken again on the very same day as yesterday. The movies tagline is: "He's having the worst day of his life... over, and over...". At first, Murray's character sets out to cynically exploit his fore-knowledge of the events that will happen in this eternal today. Later, boredom sets in, depression follows in it's footsteps and the weather man tries to kill himself repeatedly, but to no avail ... he keeps waking up again the next morning on the same day. Then, the weather man rises above himself, and starts using his fore-knowledge for altruistic purposes. When he has become thorougly good in a moral sense, he gets the girl of his dreams and wakes up on a new day - a truly new day.

Even though it has a very saccharine ending, Groundhog Day is a wellmade comedy which has appealing aspects of fantastic realism and raises some interesting philosophical questions.


In 'The Pleasure of Text', Roland Barthes wrote: "The more decent, well-spoken, innocent and saccharine a story is told, the easier it is to invert it, the easier it is to blacken it, the easier it is to read it against the grain".

This certainly goes for Groundhog Day. See, for example, this YouTube 'remix' of Groundhog Day, in which the film is re-imagined as a Halloween-style psycho slasher.

For me, it is certainly pleasurable to imagine the same story retold, Groundhog Day remade, by David Lynch - with the very same story, the very same ending, which has however become very unnerving through some barely perceptible changes - a little bit like the very unheimische end of Blue Velvet. A remake by Abel Ferrara would also be an interesting experiment - what weird religious subtext he would give Groundhog Day, is anybody's guess.

No comments: