Friday, 13 February 2009


Earlier this week I decided to rewatch Gus Van Sant's Gerry (the first time I saw it was several years ago). I know it’s a film which has its detractors, but I have to say that overall I find it a rather extraordinary and beautiful work. As I always do when I finish watching a film, I hit the net to see if I could find anything to read about it, and was rather surprised by some of what I found. For instance, in his review of the film, the critic Roger Ebert seems to express surprise at the film being described as 'existential', while in their interview with Van Sant SPLICEDwire refer to it as being 'about nothing more than two buddies getting lost -- very lost -- in the desert' (though they do at least see it as an existential work). In my opinion, to describe it as being about 'nothing more' than people being lost in the desert, or to miss its existential overtones, is to somewhat miss the point: the film is an open text, and can clearly be interpreted as an existential metaphor.

[Please note that the following paragraphs contain spoilers].

The two characters begin the film on a wilderness trail, looking for the 'thing'. However, they soon decide to deviate from the trail, and to 'fuck the thing'. No longer interested in reaching their destination, they turn around to retrace their steps, only to get lost in the landscape around them. It is a disaster that starts humorously, continues in despair, and ends in death.

Van Sant has stated in
interviews how he always saw the 'thing' as being 'some kind of cave drawing' at the end of the wilderness trail, but readily admits to the fact that they referred to it only as the 'thing' in order to open it up to wider interpretations. And my interpretation is as follows: we begin our lives by following our goals, our desires, our 'things'. But as we get older and they seem ever-further from our reach, we abandon them, ending up lost in the desert of life. Left confused and without purpose, we wander aimlessly through our lives, only to die a cold and meaningless death. At the end of the film, when Matt Damon's character is 'back on the road', it can perhaps be seen as him once more finding his way in life, free to start looking all over again for the 'thing'.

Of course, this explanation of the film is only my personal interpretation, but hopefully it illustrates the film's existential edge, and proves that it is about far more than just what it presents on its surface.

Bookmark and Share

No comments: