WINTER’S TALE/PEOPLE BELIEVE WHAT THEY WANT TO BELIEVE
By Alan Chrisman (All Articles ARE written BY ALAN CHRISMAN), copyright 2012-2015 (A Praveen Patel has tried to hack them and claim them).
I saw this DVD film recently, Winter’s Tale. I knew nothing about it, except it had Colin Farrell as a lead. He’s one of the few actors in Hollywood who still seems to take chances on roles. He’ll be in a big success like Miami Vice or Crazy Heart, then next in a small artsy film, because he wants to work with a certain director. Juliette Binoche is another actor who does that, but they are rare, these days.
I didn’t know it was based on a popular allegorical novel in 1983 by Mark Helprin. I hadn’t read any reviews about it before, but Farrell is almost always interesting. I liked it. I found out later that it had been panned by most critics and Rotten Tomatoes (although they all said Farrell almost saved it) and it had bombed at the box office.
It’s the story of a thief (Farrell) who falls in love with an ethereal, dying woman (played by Jessica Brown Findlay from Downton Abbey) in 1895. But it’s a time-shift story which also takes place in New York in 2014. There’s a large supernatural element to it with the devil’s henchman (played deliciously by Russell Crowe, as a gangster with a thick Irish brogue and Satan by Will Smith) interfering. And there’s a magical horse that comes to the rescue, so it’s a good family film too. But it’s a hard genre to pull off. One person’s idea of romance is another’s mush. Evidently, people who were fans of the book were disappointed. But one format’s fans usually are when it’s transferred to another. They are two different mediums.
It actually reminded me of another romantic film, Portrait of Jennie, from 1948 with Jennifer Jones and Joseph Cotton. That’s about a painter, who’s having trouble being inspired when he runs into another tragic, ethereal woman, of whom he paints a portrait, only to find out she’s actually a ghost from the past. Portrait of Jennie also got bad reviews when it came out but is now considered a classic (Rotten Tomatoes now gives it a whopping 91 rating).
Winter’s Tale film, I found very moving, The acting was solid all around, including William Hurt as the tragic girl’s father and with a rare appearance by screen legend, Eva Marie Saint (On the Waterfront with Brando and Hitchcock’s North By Northwest), as the girl’s young sister, now aged in the future time, and Jennifer Connolly. Farrell has just the right balance of sensitivity, as few other current actors could pull off. It’s a nice little fantasy film, and like Portrait of Jennie, recommended, despite what critics might have said.
The “religious” or spiritual theme that runs through Winter’s Tale is that everything in the universe is connected, the past and the future, and for a reason. So it got me thinking about that. I know as human beings most of us want to believe that. We want to believe that there’s a reason for everything. Maybe there is, maybe not. The human brain likes to put things in some kind of order. We file and retrieve things there by connections and references to other things. And those connections are also linked to our emotions. Scientists know from observing our brains at work, that we make our decisions first in the emotional, often primitive part and then later, even a few microseconds later, with our logical or rational part. Thus we all at first, like something or not, based on our emotional reactions, and later we rationalize them and, perhaps, justify them. We want to believe it all fits together somehow. That’s a human tendency. Especially, when our own little world might seem to be falling apart. It gives us a story to follow and a happy ending. We all need that sometimes. That’s why we like films and art.
We like things to fit into patterns. And we feel more comfortable if they do. So we try and find meaning. And we want to believe in “coincidences”. It again gives us something to put together, to link things. We all do this too. I, sometimes in the middle of a conversation, will ask someone their astrological sign. There are people I seem to “click” with and others not, and I wonder why. So I raise the old astrological question. It’s worked in the past, in relationships, etc. So I pay attention to it- somewhat. After all, if the moon can move the tides, who’s to say some cosmic force can’t affect us? I can usually guess when it’s a full moon. I know it’s irrational, but I still do it.
Last week, I met a woman, who looked to me a lot like Diane Keaton (the way she looks now), on whom I had recently written a blog about her new book. This woman and I are talking the whole time about something, and all I’m thinking, is how much she looks like Diane Keaton. So I blurt out, “You sure look like Diane Keaton”. And she says, she doesn’t particularly like Diane Keaton. But we continue talking and then I notice she not only looks like Keaton, but has similar mannerisms! The lady and I do seem to “click” though. So I tell her I’ve been thinking of writing another book on a certain subject, and we seem to be both interested in that topic, so I suggest we might get together and compare ideas. And this lady reacts just like Diane Keaton did in “Annie Hall” (and whom Keaton seems to act like in real life in several interviews I’ve seen with her). This lady goes, “Oh Jese, Wow, Well, I don’t know, I get stressed out enough just thinking about it.” “Gee, I don’t know if I could face talking about it”. As she shifts from foot to foot as Keaton might have done.
So I run the few blocks to my place to get her a copy of my memoir/book (without telling her), not knowing whether she’ll still be there. And I drive the few blocks back and she is there and I give her a copy. She gives me a warm hand shake, with a big smile on her face, and it’s clear we’ve connected. And I say, “You’ve made my day!” She waves, as I turn, shuffling her feet as Diane Keaton might do.
Now we all have these “coincidences” happen to us too. And they make us feel good. We remember those little moments. I do try to pay attention to those feelings or instincts. But are we just stringing a bunch of incidents and emotions together, to try and make sense of an often chaotic world? Probably
I used to think too, that as we got older, we’d get wiser. After all, we’ve been through more stuff, and hopefully learned from it. But looking around and at myself, it just seems for most of us, as we get older, we just get conservative and more stuck in our ways. We like the same movies and music we grew up with. We hang around with people like us. We agree with people and ideas with which we already agree.
The internet and social media was supposed to open up the world for us, and it has somewhat. But most people just go to sites they are already interested in. What it’s done, though, is primarily connect us with others who feel about things the way we do. So we “like” them, like Facebook Friends. After all, it’s called social media. Humans are also a social animal and we like to be liked and do what others are doing. Most of us like to follow the crowd, although we like to see ourselves as individuals. That’s why people, I think, follow a sports team or a join a knitting group, etc. And we don’t like to stand out.
Maybe life is a series of coincidences. Maybe it all fits together. Maybe there’s a Grand Design. Maybe you’ve just got to have Faith. I don’t know still, after all these years. Woody Allen might say that we may well just be here briefly and gone; that’s why he makes movies and tries to get us to laugh. Art and the love we create for the people around us will go on, so in that sense, we’re eternal anyway. Truth is based on perception. According to quantum mechanics, in certain states anyway, the observer can affect the object just by observing it even. Can we make something be true just by believing it? Some people want to believe that.
Or maybe it just makes our day. Or maybe we want to believe it’s so. Because it makes us feel good and we rationalize it later. People will believe what they want to believe in religion, politics and life. But we should also be aware too, that it may not be the whole truth of what’s really happening. I sometimes purposely try and test myself, to challenge myself. And often the music and film and books I most enjoy aren’t the ones I thought I might at first. They sometimes blow me away, despite myself and my prejudices.
As I said, I didn’t know much about Winter’s Tale, before I saw it, except Colin Farrell was in it. Maybe I’ll read the book, maybe not. And I didn’t really buy the theme that everything’s connected or we’re all angels. But I’m a romantic (in these cynical times, it seems) and I liked the love story part. And that was magical enough for me. Like the painter in Portrait of Jennie, I was inspired. As for Faith, as I say, people will believe what they want to believe. We move from our assumptions to our conclusions, not the other way around. And as my hero John Lennon sang, “Whatever Gets You Through the Night, It’s Alright. It’s Alright.”
See Winter’s Tale clip:
See “PORTRAIT OF JENNIE” Excerpt:
QUANTUM Physics says that in certain states the observer can actually affect the status of that object just by observing it. Some people believe just because we believe something it can actually make it true. Maybe so, maybe not.