Decent movies are few and far between nowadays, or perhaps my taste has just developed past the place where any sleaze rocks my boat. And when a slightly more meaningful movie does come along it is many times drenched in sex or dripping with violence. I recently had the privilege however to sit through, what I consider, a film which isn’t a waste of time in the bigger scheme of things. Considering the fact that Woody Allen, who tends to be pretty border line at best, wrote and directed it I was quite surprised by You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger.
It presented a theme which I have been thinking over constantly in the past month or so – maybe that is why it stood out so much for me? It is the whole grass being greener on the other side of the fence deal which pretty much goes hand in hand with what I was thinking about, namely contentment. My quick definition for contentment would be: whatever I have at my disposal at any given moment is more than enough to satisfy any of my needs. I’ve been thinking that our inability to remain or exist in a state of contentment ultimately leads to so many, if not most, of our problems.
In the movie we meet various characters who have either been in, are currently in, or are aspiring to be in a certain place or type of romantic relationship or stage of their career. No matter which one of the characters you look at and consider their relationship status, their partner or their level of success in their career, neither one seems to be quite at ease with their current position. Eyes start to wonder, alternative opportunities and possibilities are considered, the grass on the other side gets ever greener – you all know the story. The theme was in a way similar to the previous movie by Allen I watched. In Vicky Cristina Barcelona the narrator mentions at the beginning of the movie that the character Cristina ‘knows what she didn’t want’, implying she didn’t have a clue what she wanted in life but were quite certin of what she was trying to avoid. Her character then goes on to try and define what she wants by getting involved in lustful relationships only to have the narrator mention at the end ‘Cristina continued searching, certain only of what she didn’t want’. Once again the same pattern of the search, the promising prospect and finally the disappointment which sets of the next cycle.
Still we chase harder, still we give it our all to get to that grass which constantly seems greener. Ever chasing that proverbial carrot which just wouldn’t satisfy. It is all so magnificently summed up in a scene towards the end of the movie where a character who succeeded to indulge in the grass on the other side and who did indeed find it very green and tasty, looks back to the side of the fence he originally came from and saw that it was good too, maybe still better after all.
Another thing which struck me in the movie was the brilliant, yet subtle hidden message which was communicated through the script – although I’m pretty sure Allen and his crew did not intend to convey this message at all. Amidst the growing discontentment and chaos a character would utter the words ‘Christ’ or ‘Jesus’ out of frustration. That name which brought hope and peace to so many through times of sadness and hardship, that one who made the ridiculously bold offer of a drink which will make one thirst no more – permanent contentment in other words – that name is just mentioned in passing as the search for something which would possibly satisfy continues.
Many of us grew up knowing the idiom about the grass being greener of by heart but that doesn’t stop us from having a taste from that which grows on the other side of the fence anyway. Discontentment springs from within, from the desire to be satisfied by something else rather than being someone who desire to satisfy others. Not that the desire to be satisfied is evil at all, it is just that if you were created to eat cake no grass on any side of any fence will ever satisfy you.
PS – a friend, returning from a month long overseas holiday, told me something very applicable today. As he passed through the Canadian boarding gates on his way back home the control officer told him how much she envies him for the fact that he is going to where it is all nice and sunny and jokingly mentioned that she’ll quickly grab her stuff and get on the plane with him but that her husband would not approve of it however. As he entered South Africa he greeted the control officer on this side and asked how she was doing: “No, everything is going well, except for this intense heat”.