What Does It All Mean?

A couple of weeks ago I finally bought myself a copy of one of my all time favourite movies Magnolia. You can read my detailed review of the film here.

One of the reasons why I love it has to do with everything that isn’t the story. The film features a slew of interesting characters, all portrayed brilliantly, who all get their own allotted time on screen and each and every one of them you find a reason to sympathize or even empathize with. However, one of the biggest reasons that I love it for is that I know that, even after probably a dozen viewings, there’re still things I don’t understand.

The film starts out with three short anecdotes, told through a narrator, all with the theme of coincidence. Eventually I’ve come to realise that Magnolia’s basic story relies on this same theme. It’s all coincidence that all of these characters have their own parallels and intersections throughout this one day in Los Angeles. Then when we eventually reach the end of the day it all ends with the iconic moment of it raining frogs.

It’s taken me a long to time to get to the point where I had to start scouring the internet for numerous interpretations and analysis of this ending. However after doing all of that I’ve come to my own conclusion about the really deep seated issue of this need that we – and by ‘we’ I mean the film geek population – have of understanding what a filmmaker felt the need to put across.

Now, I’m not saying that it’s wrong for a filmmaker, or a film for that matter, to have a message, but I believe it’s more important first and foremost to figure out what we understand from what’s put in front of us and then we can start to look at what the writer or director intended and see where the pin really lands.

When Avatar was over I agreed with pretty much all of the internet calling it a remake of Pocahontas. However, after doing a lot of reading into how people saw it as an analogy for why America shouldn’t have headed into Iraq I can’t seem to decide which interpretation is more right. While the former is a more simplified answer than the later, it still makes me return to the more important question: who cares? Why does it matter as to what you think it is as long as I have a true and logical interpretation? Why do I need to spend another two weeks of skimming articles by every well known and respected critic across the world to try and understand your interpretation?

This also brings across an even more important question I think. Why do you want to know what I think? Aren’t you smart enough to figure it out on your own? Or do you just want to know whether the movie was good or bad? If so then why don’t you just read my tweets and not these lengthy angst ridden reviews where I spend anywhere from 400 to 1500 words telling you about how a filmmaker thought it was just a bit too clever?

Basically it’s a world of continual need to understand what we’ve already made our minds up about and then followed with a lot of agreeing to disagree. Because the moment I read about how Paul Thomas Anderson was talking about Charles Fort’s work or The Bible I’m just looking for an excuse to get into a pretty much useless debate or pat myself on the back because someone out there in the wide world agrees with me which just makes me more right than the moment before.

I guess the question I want to leave you all with is why do you go looking for meaning through other people’s interpretations of something that you’ve already decided on yourself? Or is it just me?