Yesterday I wanted to see a movie: a not too depressing one. When I looked through the collection, I came across Finding Neverland. I wasn’t sure whether I had seen that movie before or not, though I remembered seeing Finding Nemo: I had seen it just a few months ago. Since there weren’t many options, I decided to check out this movie.
It turned out that I hadn’t seen it. So I saw it. A movie about a writer? That was enough incentive, but there were also Dustin Hoffman and Kate Winslet. Not necessarily in that order.
To be frank, I didn’t dislike the movie as it went on. However, I started getting uneasy as the words to the effect ‘Believe! Just believe!’ were uttered frequently. And these words were more of a summation of the theme of the movie than a minor highlight. The viewer was not being asked to believe in religion or God (at least not explicitly). So the cause of my unease was not related to believing in religion or the God. The author was asking other characters and the viewer (or the reader) to believe in fairies. In a place called Neverland. Yes, I know the name of the place was meant to be ironical, but the exhortation of believing, just believing, was quite genuine.
I also know that everyone needs the enjoyment offered by some escapist fare at least once in a while. It can even be a positive thing when your spirits are so low that you have to take a break and forget about the depressing reality for a while. Even the most ‘cynical’ or nihilist or ultra pessimists have their own kind of escapist fare. And so do those who believe in directly facing the reality and trying to change it for the better, even if very slowly.
The sincerity of the writer and the other characters of the movie was making me like the movie, but the mantra of ‘Believe! Just believe!’ was putting me off.
I should confess here that by the end of the movie the escapist philosophy was getting a slight edge over my usual outlook. That set me wondering whether escapism may not be a valid way to improve the quality of life. I am what I am because I am constantly susceptible to these self-doubts. Even about the most fundamental issues. Earlier it used to bother me, but now I know that it is not such a bad thing. I mean I know this from my personal knowledge, experience and reasoning, not from what others have said. Learning from personal experience is different from just being told about something. Anyway, I was wondering whether I was wrong in dismissing many escapist works of art (whether high brow or down to earth).
It just happens to be that J. M. Barrie is one of those rare ‘great’ (English language) authors whose books I have not read so far. So I started reading about him (and the movie and the play on which the movie was based) to resolve my transient doubts about my stand against escapist works of art.
And what do I find? On the Wikipedia page itself there was this bit of information:
The lives of the Davies family were rife with tragedy following the film’s optimistic ending: George died fighting in World War I in 1915, Michael drowned with a friend at Oxford in 1921, and Peter grew to hate his identification as “Peter Pan”, eventually committing suicide in 1960.
So, the reality before the play (Peter Pan) was written was not as bad as shown in the movie, but the reality after the play was written was as tragic as it can get for a family of the class to which the Llewelyn Davies boys belonged.
Evidently the ‘Believe! Just Believe!’ philosophy didn’t prove very helpful. Even to the family for which (or based on the members of which) the play was written.
The world may be as bad as I thought it was, but at least I am free from this new unease. Now I can again enjoy escapist fare once in a while.
Without Just Believing.