Monday, July 07, 2003

About Schmidt

About Schimidt- is about a man who has what I would call a late existential crisis or late life crisis. But like all existential crisises taken positively, they are better late than never. Jack Nicholson plays with great effect a man who loses his life direction after his retirement and the death of his wife. The opening scene sees him avidly watching the second hand of his office's wall clock, as it inches towards 5pm. It was the last day of his work. He takes a prolonged glance at his emptied office before he closes the door. We wonder what is it he would have missed, and it seems not much. He was counting down to oblivion- in the sense that he had absolutely no idea what to do with the rest of his life.

We see him bumbling about, trying to make up for lost time between his daughter and himself- sadly, with not much avail- as his daughter finds him a sudden nuisance more than helpful, as he offers help for her wedding planning. We see him questioning himself as to who his wife truly was, what he truly loved about her, as he suddenly lives in the moment and realises he had gotten so mindlessly used to her that upon careful observation, he never really understood her. Much of the movie was about his failure to connect to any fellow human being. For instance, we see him losing his best friend over love letters sent to his late wife. His friend sincerely apologises but he hankers on the past instead. And when he somewhat connected to a stranger, he got too intimate and was shooed away instead.

Just when things seem pretty much hopeless, the last scene shows him reading a letter wriiten to him by a destitute African child he had earlier adopted via monthly cheque donations of $26. Throughout the show, he had comically written his many poignant adult lamentations to him, for there was no one to listen to him, of which of course the child would not understand... He unfolds a simple crayon picture drawn by the child personally for him- showing a man holding hands with a happy child. He looks at it, stunned, and bursts into tears, weeping unrestrained, incredibly touched, glad. (This scene made me cry too.) He had found his salvation in connecting to one human being. There was nothing the child could give him in return. And there was no mention of his letters of desperation- but the picture was good enough. The seemingly anonymous and random act of kindness, of helping a child, was the only thing that brought meaning into his life. Yes, like I said about the resolving of existential crisises, better late than never. Compassion will save the world. Let's have the wisdom to connect to all beings, to bring meaning, no matter how little, into each other's lives.

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