After watching GROUNDHOG DAY last week, I said to Meg, “Everybody talks about the religious implications of this film, but I wonder if anybody has written about the fact that this storyline could only happen inside the world of a small town?” I dug around, and sure enough, I found an essay by a film critic named Mario Sesti that beat me to the punch:
…the suspicion that behind the calm facade of small-town life hides an invisible presence or god…that may sooner or later make the place degenerate into horror has become a recurrent idea in American cinema….[Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania] is a carillon world, a universe in miniature, perfect and crazy, happy and diabolical-as if infinite repetition were the only form of eternity that our imagination knew how to represent….
Sesti goes on to describe how the character Phil Connors somehow becomes the author of his own story, as he maps the terrain of the place, gets to know his cast of characters.
A small stage, a set, a contained world in which all the characters are known, the geography is mapped, strangers come to town, and small changes are impossible not to notice: this is what the small town has to offer as a setting.
To me, the most interesting interpretation of this is that Phil Connors is essentially stuck in a video game. He gets to try things out, learn about various problems in the world he’s stuck in, then by the end, has “beaten” the game and is able to take everything he’s learned from various other play-throughs and apply it toward the final run.
That makes me wonder: are there any video games out there that when you “die” the level continues and you can keep playing, but the play isn’t geared towards the forward-moving plot, and in fact, the play might be more fun than the actual game? In other words, the player would have to make a choice as to whether to continue with the “hell” of the “real” game by starting over, or stay in the “heaven” gained by fucking up in the “real” game?
Wow, that was convoluted.
Well, I’d think there could be a bunch of these games but most game players would just hit reset and start over unless the mistakes they made were of value later. So, like in Groundhog Day, Murray could screw up but learn something that he’d take back to try the next time. I think of something as simple as Super Mario — it would take me a number of tries to figure out the best path through a level, and even if I screwed up in the middle of it, I’d continue to see if I could get more info that would help me through the next time.
Maybe Phil killing himself repeatedly in Groundhog Day is him repeatedly hitting “Reset.” Ok, maybe I’m pushing this too far.