Groundhog Day is a 1993 movie by Harold Ramis, starring Bill Murray. It also is the most meaningful movie I’ve ever seen. At different times in my life, since I first saw it in 2009, I’ve been moved by what I saw and understood from it. Back when I saw it the first time, I was amused by the idea of the movie. A day that repeats over and over for a hapless Bill Murray and he can do nothing about it. What a fascinating concept! Coupled with Murray’s acting par brilliance, especially his comedic timing, I laughed out aloud and had a good time.
But, just a few days and much IMDB/Wikipedia research later, I was drawn back to watch it again. And again. A few more times in a week’s time. I laughed louder. I cried a bit too. It was truly an emotional coaster-ride. No movie has made me feel that way in just over 100 minutes of screen-time. It was all still a big, great cinematic treat though. I did read about the various interpretations critics and wikipedia editors have had about it (connections with Eastern philosophy, rebirth and the like).
A year later I took a sabbatical from work to figure out what I wanted to do next. These were interesting times when I was often thinking about what is it that I wanted to do with my life. It also meant I had a lot of time on hand. Soon enough, I re-watched Groundhog again. Since a despondent Murray cannot find an escape out, he resorts to learning new skills. He picks up piano lessons and soon masters it. Well, “soon” for us viewers and everyone else in the movie but a few years for him. Someone somewhere on the Internet has determined that to be about 5 years of piano lessons. That struck a chord. Around the same time, I was reading Po Bronson and Malcolm Gladwell who were advocating a similar theme – persistent, relentless practice is what makes people great at what they do. Chess-players, artists, footballers and mathematicians. I got a job soon after doing something I knew I loved. When I took it up, I made a mental note to be at it for at least two years, inspired by this philosophy.
Time passed. Almost three years later, I felt an urge to revisit the movie. And, yet another revelation. As I sat watching it on a rainy Independence day, it altered my perspective yet again. If, like me, you spend any time on the Internet looking at life-hacks, you’re bound to have been exposed to thoughts around how important it is to make the most of our life, make it meaningful, cut the faff, rush things, travel, meditate, exercise, diet, things to do before you’re 30 lists, get married before 35, have kids before 40 and on and on. There’s extreme pressure to do something “different”, to stand out. Why? Because, hey, life’s too short.
In Groundhog Day though, life is not short. It is anything but. It is an endless tunnel with no end in sight. No mortality. Well, at least till the end. But, for the longest while (77 minutes of a 100 minute movie), Murray’s character, Phil, has difficulty adjusting to this new life. Before Groundhog Day, Phil is a restless, what-do-I-do-next?, unhappy hustler. He’s eager to move ahead in his career. There’s a promising prospect. Suddenly, he’s thrust with the prospect of a life, not just his career, that won’t move. What can he do? What would YOU do?
It actually does have strong connections with the philosophy of rebirth. Even if you were to find rebirth an esoteric concept, Groundhog Day asks you to consider the idea that life isn’t that short really. It is not. There are billions and billions of moments. What is important is to make sure they count and not that you are seeking out some special moment while losing sight of this moment. Right now. There’s no need to be anxious. Consider that thought. I did and it helped me in many ways. I will now get back to finish watching it for the second time in as many days.