“The search is what anyone would undertake if he were not sunk in the everydayness of his own life. To become aware of the possibility of the search is to be onto something. Not to be onto something is to be in despair.
― Walker Percy, The Moviegoer
“Also the sea tosses itself and breaks itself, and should any sleeper fancying that he might find on the beach an answer to his doubts…go down by himself to walk on the sand…Almost it would appear that it is useless in such confusion to ask the night those questions as to what, and why, and wherefore, which tempt the sleeper from his bed to seek an answer”
– Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse
Searching for the infinite. Searching for the next step forward for mankind. Both Stanley Kubrick and the characters of 2001 A Space Odyssey are searching. Kubrick is questioning human progress through exploring the vastness of the universe. What is it that guides us? Where will we end up? The characters are in a search to find out the truth about the Monolith, the black slab that appears seemingly only to guide humanity towards progress, perhaps in hope that it will give them the key to unlocking the mysteries of existence.
Sex. Alcohol. Money. Like the Woolf quote above the three main protagonists final destination in Y Tu Mama Tambien is the beach. Curaon, unafraid of life in all its forms and scenarios, searches with his camera all the intimate moments of Tenoch, Julio, and Ana as they in turn search for happiness. Happiness that lasts, that doesn’t disappear as soon as the ecstasy of sex has come and gone; happiness that calms the soul in the quiet moments when all the doubts and fears come. All three are unwilling to stay in despair, unwilling to stay stuck in the rut of everyday life, and so begins their search.
Virginia Woolf is that sleeper who journey’s down to the dark ocean. “Almost it would appear useless”, she says. Almost is the key word for searching is an important aspect to being alive.
An eye for an eye is the way the world often runs. Violence seems like the just response to violence right? Steven Spielberg, a man who is responsible for such summer blockbusters as Jaws or E.T. turns his artistic sensibilities to search for one of the most important questions to haunt human history in Munich. He and Avner (Eric Bana) search for true justice that gives way to long lasting peace. Explosions. Blood. Hate. Senselessness. Paranoia. Vengeance. They search among the darkness hoping that retributive justice is true justice; all the while death begets death.
Scotty, much like countless other Hitchcock protagonists, is sunk into the everydayness of his own life at the beginning of Vertigo. Forced into quitting the police force due to his vertigo he has resigned from happiness. However he soon falls in love. This love is followed by obsession, which is followed by perversion. The search for love, beauty, and community leaves Scotty blind to the realities. Unbeknownst to Scotty his love interest purposefully gives up reality and enters Scotty’s false one in search of human connection. It’s a dizzying fall into madness and tragedy.
Walker Percy continues his quote by complaining that in the movies the search always ends in tragedy. His character in The Moviegoer is searching for life that doesn’t. Some of the movies above end in heartbreaking tragedy while others end in peace. Some, like 2001, leave the viewer unsure of what to feel.
As one continues to live life and create art, let one not forget the search.
It is what moves us.
The Search is something universal.
What films feature a journey or search that move you?