The next X in my copy of Benesh (2011) is on page 25. But, it's not that exciting; she's just repeating her previous error, attributing the "revelation that there will be 'no consequences' to Phil again, when it came from Gus. Then, she cites Thompson (1999) again--Thompson is a source I haven't even looked for as of yet. Kristin Thompson's book is Storytelling in the New Hollywood: Understanding Classical Narrative Technique. Another--
I must interrupt this blog to mention what has just happened. The blu-ray just froze on the alarm clock, Day Two. "It's six a.m. forever," my daughter says behind me on the couch...
Something I've not probably mentioned before: I often write this blog while sitting on the floor. I've got my iPad and my wireless keyboard on the coffee table--and currently, I've got Groundhog Day Project Binder #2 open on the table as well.
Turned off the blu-ray player, then back on and skipped ahead to where I was. Disaster averted.
Anyway, as I was saying, Another book that makes use of Groundhog Day is Linda Cowgill's (1999) Secrets of Screenplay Structure. Benesh (2011) tells us how Cowgill "uses the film... as an exemplar of the structural technique of planting and payoffs, also known as foreshadowing. She claims that this technique strengthens dramatic unity, providing a resonant and validating experience for viewers" (p. 23).
On page 28, there are two colored tabs, a purple one labeled "give up to win" and a yellow one labeled "'education' film." Regarding the first, Benesh (2011) cites Spence (2005) comparing "Phil Connor's plight to the myth of Sisyphus in the context of providing a Nietzschean interpretation. According to Spence, Nietzsche's idea of the 'eternal return' emphasizes..." (p. 27) Blah blah blah. If you want to read about Nietzsche's "eternal recurrence," look no further than the following series of entries here at The Groundhog Day Project:
Spence (2005) "iterates Nietzsche's point that secular views have contaminated Christianity and vice-versa, such that a mutually reinforcing over-emphasis on the future pervades our social mores, as reflected in Phil's agentic goal-orientedness, which, paradoxically, he must give up in order to achieve his goal" (Benesh, 2011, p. 27-8).
(Before I move along, I would note that the third book I've added to my Amazon wishlist since starting today's entry is Movies and the Meaning of Life edited by Kimberley Blessing and including Spence's piece, "What Nietzsche Could Teach You: Eternal Return in Groundhog Day.")
Is it weird that I miss Nietzsche? I miss writing about philosophy? ...and I think I probably referenced something philosophical in the past week or so. Hell, this whole blog is philosophy.
Before I get sidetracked, I should note, the yellow tab points to Benesh's reference to Robert McKee:
In mild contrast to these heavier moral viewpoints, popular screenwriting guru, McKee (1997) places Groundhog Day in the category of "education" plot wherein a "cynical, self-serving man" becomes a "selfless" lover (p. 116). For McKee, this is distinct from a "redemption" plot which he describes as "[arcing] on a moral change in the protagonist from good to bad" (p. 116). (Benesh, 2011, p. 28)
Now, let's backtrack. Spence is wrong, and Benesh probably shouldn't cite him without critique. Phil Connors does not give him his agency in the film. He may redirect it, but he never gives it up. He even remains "goal-oriented" throughout, though his goal may change from living it up, to seducing Nancy Taylor, to seducing Rita Hanson, to escaping the time loop, to serving the people of Punxsutawney and improving his self.
And, McKee, similarly, is wrong... well, maybe not in terms of his own definitions of terms--however he fully describes the "education" plot and the "redemption" plot. Personally, I don't see how the two things cannot be one and the same. A man with faults is educated and improves himself, thus achieving redemption. Hell, I've even taken Groundhog Day past redemption into the realm of atonement.
The highest good is like that of water. The goodness of water is that it benefits the ten thousand creatures; yet itself does not scramble, but is content with the places that all men disdain. It is this that makes the water so near to the Way.
--Tao Te Ching (Waley translation), Chapter 8
Just two days ago, Phil Connors was a dog, just a couple scenes ago (on my television now) Phil Connors was a god. Regardless, he remains like Lao Tzu's water... at least late in the loop, the sequence that begins in just a moment. And, already, he's a good man here. Sure he jokes about touching Rita if she falls asleep, but instead he pulls the quilt over her and tells her how he feels. She can't hear him but he tells her anyway. At this point it doesn't matter that Rita cannot hear, it doesn't matter that Rita doesn't know what Phil feels. What matters is that he feels it, he feels it completely, and he owns it...
He should at least at some point screamed it from the rooftops though. It's unfortunate that when he expressed himself to Rita he was being dishonest and now that he has feelings, he doesn't share them. But, again, that's not really the point.
He who knows the male, yet cleaves to what is female
Becomes like a ravine, receiving all things under heaven
-- Tao Te Ching, Chapter 28
Phil has the benefit of time, of course. I've had plenty of time but I don't know as well as he does what to do in many circumstances--the occasionally alluded to interest in a girl I know and the inability to express it, for example. I eventually happened into a conversation in which I could express something but it was too late. Maybe next time I won't delay. I'll have learned my lesson... or maybe not. I am still who I am.
And, I want things I cannot have, still want them when they prove unavailable, and it doesn't matter anyway because I am not the expressive one. I am not Phil Connors in pursuit of Rita Hanson. I am no fictional construct with great timing and boldness. I won't, then, receive all things under heaven.
I'm reminded of a passage from Siddhartha:
She drew him to her with her eyes. He put his face against hers, placed his lips against hers, which were like a freshly cut fig. Kamala kissed him deeply, and to Siddhartha's great astonishment he felt how much she taught him, lured him, and how after this long kiss, a long series of other kisses, all different, awaited him. He stood still breathing deeply. At that moment he was like a child astonished at the fullness of knowledge and learning which unfolded itself before his eyes.
Every little action provides new knowledge, new experience, new perspective. Even a kiss.
The blu-ray stopped earlier and it was 6:00 AM forever. The romantic in me wants to say (but the cynic in me wants to put some distance between me and the following), in that moment when his lips met Kamala's, Siddhartha's heart stopped and it was that moment forever. In a few minutes, Phil Connors will kiss Rita Hanson and that moment will last forever as well. Every moment is as eternal as our minds allow, remaining inside us and reshaping who we are. When Kamala dies, Siddhartha sees "the indestructibleness of every life, the eternity of every moment."
I like the sound of that. No cynic, no romantic. Just me.
Today's reason to repeat a day forever: to savor each moment, to kiss any who will let me, to exist forever in each kiss, each hug, each handshake, each conversation, each smile, each glance.