Saturday, August 30, 2014

Being Human

Being Human; drama, UK/ Japan, 1994; D: Bill Forsyth, S: Robin Williams, Helen Miller, Charles Miller, Bill Nighy, Hector Elizondo, John Turturro, Lorraine Bracco, Robert Carlyle, Ewan McGregor, Vincent D'Onofrio, William H. Macy

An ancient Celt hesitates and thus loses his children and wife who are taken away by Vikings at the shore... Ancient Rome. Hector is a slave of a foolish master, Lucinnius, who wastes a fortune for petty clairvoyance tellers. Lucinnius commits suicide, but Hector does not join him, instead running away with a slave girl and forgetting about his old family... In the Middle ages, Hector, a Crusader, returns home to Scotland and falls in love with an Italian woman, even though they cannot speak each other's language. He arrives at her home, with two children, but abandons her to return to his own wife and family... Hector is among many Portuguese missionaries trying to spread Christianity in Africa. Even though they are shipwrecked, he decides to return home by foot... In the present, Hector abandons his duty in a job for a vacation with his two kids, after the divorce. They spend a pleasant evening at the beach.

Robin Williams moved outside his "comfort zone", risked and sometimes picked independent and (very) experimental films, refusing to stay only a well paid mainstream comedian. One of those bizarre risks was Bill Forsyth's unusual "Being Human", an anthology of five episodes in which Williams plays a man in several time periods, from ancient Rome up to the modern times - almost as some sort of forerunner to future films about alternative universes, "Sliding Doors" and "Mr. Nobody" - yet the movie did not pay off as much as it could have. "Being Human" is too overstretched, with an unnecessary narration (allegedly imposed by the studio, even though the first sentence of it is actually poignant: "This is the story of a story. Once upon a time there was this story, and the said to itself - how should I begin?"), whereas the first two episodes are bland thus making the narrative only "take off" by the third story, the charming tale of Hector falling in love with an Italian woman, even though they cannot speak a word of each others language. It is unknown what the original ending was before the studio intervention, but the one present here lacks a point. Still, the main theme of a man constantly messing it up by placing his duty above his family, only to get it right in the final episode when he neglects his duty and places his family first, has some bitter-sweets points about learning from your mistakes on one hand, but also accepting fatality and inevitability at the same time. There is a very pleasant moment when in the modern story Hector has a cozy evening with his two kids at the beach. The sun is setting. Hector is not quite satisfied, but his daughter just says: "This is it, dad. Maybe it doesn't get any better than this. This just might be your greatest moment in life. Just enjoy it." Indeed, maybe there will never be such a thing as a perfect life, but at least people can get accustomed to enjoying and appreciating little things in life.


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