Tuesday, August 09, 2005

March of the Chaplin

Sunday afternoons are made for watching wildlife films.

Like a gazelle nervously grazing even as it knows it is being stalked by a hungry leopard, I await Monday's nasty grip on the soft, delicate neck. Watching the endless cycles of life and death on screen is a distraction from our own endless cycles of work and leisure. And so we landed up at the multiplex last Sunday to watch March of the Penguins. In case you didn't know, the film is well on its way to becoming one of the highest-grossing documentaries in the US.

Long story short, these adorable, black-on-white Linux logos are not quite the cute, funny creatures we make them out to be. Take your worst Sunday evening blues and multiply it by 10 Quadramegagigillion and that still wouldn't describe an hour in the lives of these penguins.

At one point in the film (and I can tell you when that moment comes on the screen), you will find yourself asking this question: Do the penguins think it's worth it?

You may also find yourself pondering over another question: what about the pointless, repetitive cycles in one's own life? Is all this worth it? What does it all mean?

I soon found myself in a deep existential funk that was only exacerbated by a lack of popcorn and the harsh conditions captured on film.

So when I reached home, I needed to shake off my Big Question Blues with something funny. Chaplin's "Modern Times" was popped into the DVD player and I was once again regaled by the automatic feeding machine, the conveyor belt etc etc.

Then something incredibly sad and beautiful happened towards the end of the film.

The Tramp and his girl are down on their luck again. She has the blues. So Charlie looks at her face and tells the girl, "buck up, we are in this together". The girl hesitates for a split-second, smiles, springs to her feet and takes his arm. The Tramp walks hand in hand with the girl (the beautiful Paulette Goddard, thanks, Wiki) on an empty highway, in search of a better tomorrow.

And that right there was the March of the Tramp. He walks, not 70 miles, but forever. He knows it's worth it. No philosophical argument there. He must survive, and to do so, he must walk. Just like the penguins.

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