When asked what I thought The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was trying to say, I couldn’t find an apt one-phrase/one-word answer. All I could reply with was: “where do I begin?” The movie’s length gave me enough time (3 hours) to digest how each scene played out Benjamin’s strange and interesting life. I was paying so much attention to the details; I had a difficult time grasping the bigger picture towards the end.
Some people would say the movie was too long—others said it was necessary for it to convey its message. I decided to leave all these opinions and form my own when entering the theatre, only taking the advice of my friend Eli: Watch it and see for yourself. The movie paints its story on canvas of three hours, giving at the most, five scenes for every stage of Benjamin’s growth into “adulthood.” His life is a curious case indeed, as he lives in reverse on the outside but is just like any other new born baby/toddler in the inside as he begins living. Only his mother knows of his true age, while the rest of the world perceives him to be an aging old man waiting for his death. He grows up watching the people he knows come and go, living only with a memory of them. However, only one person is the most consistent, his “childhood” friend Daisy. They keep in touch through letters as they lead quite separate lives, but are always drawn powerfully to each other when they meet. Like the play Love Letters, certain circumstances do not allow them to be together, but their love for one another is what lasts throughout Benjamin’s lifetime.
I particularly liked how it showed the fleeting nature of human life. I found myself recalling the book Maya by Jostein Gaarder when Benjamin would talk about human mortality. In the book, there is a character completely terrified of death, unable to face what determines our humanity. Benjamin, on the other hand, regards death as a part of life much earlier than most people would. Instead of dwelling on how to immortalize ourselves, he stresses that the very nature of our lives is what should keep us going—regardless of the unexpectedness of death.
I was also drawn to Daisy and Benjamin’s love story, which is contrasted the mortality of humans that the other characters had shown. “Some things do last,” he told Daisy—managing to show how love can last a lifetime without being cheesy. The two showed how natural it was to make something as wonderful and unpredictable as love last a lifetime. The film also stresses, that despite the odds, anything can be truly made possible.
But more than just a series of thought provoking themes, the movie proves itself to be culmnation of what modern cinema has become. Movies have become longer–some pulling off this length, the other boring their audience. The Curious Case pushes such a long length but pulls it off nonetheless. There is so much that can be said about humanity, but this film does so without trying to squeeze it all in. The only other film that had managed to send out equally detailed messages was The Dark Knight.
Besides the length, it uses technology through CGI to aptly show Brad Pitt’s reversed aging. His actions complement the age he represents, pulling off a parternship between human acting and technological enhancement.
The movie wraps up everything it has to say in the end, allowing viewers to organize the various themes brought out in the last few hours. And just like death, it takes you to the end, giving you a rest from watching an entire lifetime.