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Thursday, November 23, 2006

A Christian Reviews Groundhog Day

Here is an extract of a Christian review of that wonder-filled movie, Groundhog Day.

From Touchstone Magazine:

Michael P. Foley on the Lessons of Groundhog Day

Typical Modern

Groundhog Day is the story of Phil Connors, an obnoxious weatherman at a Pittsburgh TV station who must cover the celebration of Groundhog Day in rural Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Phil (masterfully played by Bill Murray) is egotistical, career-driven, and contemptuous of his fellow man. “People are morons,” he tells his producer Rita, played by an adorable Andie MacDowell. “People like blood sausage.” Phil, in other words, is the typical product of modernity, the bourgeois man who lives for himself in the midst of others. Rita describes him—and us—well by quoting Sir Walter Scott’s “There Breathes the Man”:

The wretch, concentred all in self,
Living, shall forfeit fair renown,
And, doubly dying, shall go down
To the vile dust, from whence he sprung,
Unwept, unhonoured, and unsung.

By refusing to die to himself, Phil and those like him are doomed to die doubly, triply, innumerably.

The Punxsutawney celebration of Groundhog Day culminates with the town elders consulting a real woodchuck, also named Phil, about the next six weeks. The groundhog sees his shadow, an omen that more winter is to come.

Connors cannot wait to return to Pittsburgh, but trapped by a blizzard (which he failed to predict), he and the crew must stay another night in Punxsutawney. When he awakes the next morning, Phil discovers to his dismay that it is February 2nd—again. The same thing happens the next day, and the next. For reasons that are never made clear, Phil is condemned to live Groundhog Day over and over.

Phil’s situation is unique, yet the movie hints that it is not unrelated to our own quotidian lives. Commiserating with two locals over beers, Phil asks, “What would you do if every day was the same, and nothing you did ever mattered?” The men’s faces grow solemn, and one of them finally belches, “That about sums it up for me.” Phil’s preternatural plight bears a twin resemblance to ours: first, as a symbol for the Fall, with its “doubly dying” estrangement from God and return to the vile dust from whence we sprang; and second, as a symbol for life in the wake of postmodern philosophy.

For the great father of this philosophy is Nietzsche, and the idea that frightened him most was the “the eternal recurrence of the same,” i.e., that even the superior human being must bear the same dreary existence an infinite number of times. Like us, Phil is the modern man who must now confront the hardship of postlapsarian life on the one hand and the metaphysical meaninglessness of postmodern thought on the other.

Read the whole thing here.

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