Double feature: “Groundhog Day” and “Ikiru” are linked by their shared recognition of the weight of time. To most people, for most of life, time is an elastic, cyclical backdrop to daily events. To the protagonists of these two films, it is a head-on challenge.
“Groundhog Day” explores the burden of too much time, while “Ikiru” tries to come to terms with the pain of too little of it. Although the two films present directly contrasting temporal challenges, they share the same existential one: whether infinite or limited, in both films time takes the form of a transparent container demanding, louder and more insistently than anything else, to be filled with meaning.
Isolated in temporo-existential crisis, the protagonist of each film takes comfort in interactions with a sweet-natured female for whom the veil of time has not yet been lifted. In “Groundhog Day,” this is a woman who, unlike the protagonist, does look forward to the future; in “Ikiru,” it is a girl who, unlike the protagonist, can do so.
Both films follow an arc of inspiration from its source to its farther-reaching effects within a somewhat insular, but not necessarily tight-knit, community. Both films portray the beauty of perseverance, and suggest that time, when it feels like it, can bend itself to allow for the achievement of admirable goals.
For a marathon: “Groundhog Day” plays in a key very similar to that of “Better Off Dead.” (And both films incidentally explore the persistence of petty commerce, incarnated in the former’s Ned Ryerson and the latter’s paperboy.)
The second half of “Ikiru” is intensely preoccupied with interpretation – of intention and behavior, cause and effect, influence and coincidence. “Howl” provides an interesting variant on this thematic concern, exploring exegesis of multiple simultaneous subjects through multiple simultaneous mediums of interpretation.
(Creative Commons licensed original images courtesy of “kanuck” and “305 Seahill” at Flickr)