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.