Forrest Gump; the Modern Day Fairytale
Forrest Gump is a classic film; this essay will explore all aspects if this favourite. From the beautifully naïve Forrest, to the political underlay throughout the narrative.
The opening sequence of the film stimulates a distant memory, a reminiscence of fairytales from years gone by. Once getting to know the character of Forrest I realize this innocence of fairytales is reflected in his being. The tinkling keys of the piano sets the atmosphere for the rest of the film; magical.
We see a feather floating on a breeze. A signifier is a symbol, it can be verbal (seen) or aural (heard). It is a symbol that the audience can place a significant meaning onto. In Forrest Gump the signifier is this feather. To me the feather has no complex underhand meaning. Like Forrest the feather is simple. I believe that it represents his life; worry free, just meandering along quite happily on a breeze.
"The feather is a metaphor for the randomness of life. It has a destiny, or did it choose to land at Forrests feet?"
This it what the director, Robert Zemekis ponders about the feather. He refers to destiny, are the events in our live due to destiny like a feather on the breeze or do we make our own destiny? A question we will all surely ponder in our life, and a theme that this film subtly addresses.
We follow this feather on its significant journey from a high angle camera shot; this was probably done using a crane. It allows us; the audience, to have a clear view of what's going on beneath us. High angled shots can even make the audience feel powerful and superior and the actors seem small and vulnerable. Whilst following the feather we see the setting is in an urban city as the camera pans across the city.
The opening sequence links with many of the major themes, which are raised throughout the film. We see a woman run across the road, this to me is symbolic of Jenny's character; always running away in her life, never staying to face her problems. The film is so popular because people can relate to the characters, we all want to run away in our lives, jenny lives this nightmare. The woman then dodges a car, this sign of danger represents the danger Jenny inflicted upon herself, pushing her body to the limit, and causing her to contemplate suicide.
In the background behind Forrest there is war memorial, this is significant because Forrest fought in the Vietnam War and all of lieutenant Dans ancestors had died in previous wars.
The feathers symbolic passage finishes when it falls at Forrest's feet. We see his shoes, worn, dirty, ruined. These shoes were a gift from Jenny.
" The best gift a man could ever get"
Despite all his riches Forrest chose to keep the trainers he had, he wasn’t superficial and didn’t spawn in greed. Sentimental value meant more to him, a bond with Jenny when she was not there for him.
Forrest chooses to pick up the feather, why? Did he see the same meaning in it as a metaphor of destiny, a metaphor for his life? He put the feather into his case. This case depicts Forrests entire life, it contains all the significant things which resemble major phases during his eventful life. His ping pong bat, his war medal, his Bubba Gump hat, and the book ' Curious George' which he puts the feather in. The objects of the case again links parts of the film with the opening sequence. The major one being the representation of the feather as destiny.
There are many themes and issued which run throughout the film. To me the most significant one is destiny. In several scenes, and indeed the overall message of the film the motto always comes back to destiny.
" Are the events and occurrences in ones life just an accident, like a feather in the wind, or are they a result of personal destiny? Or does one make his/ her own destiny using what God gave each person?"
One film review comments upon how the film ponders this philosophical question throughout, although a clear answer can never be given. The reference to the opening sequence is clever, comparing life to a feather in the wind as the director intended.
"Life is like a box of chocolates…
you never know what your gonna get "
This famous simile from Forrest's mother was one of the promotional lines of the film. The words refer to destiny, and the essence of life; you never know what life will hold for you, some bits will fill you with rapture. Whilst others taste sour and poisoned, but these bits are not to be lingered on they need top be swallowed quickly so they can be replaced buy another, sweeter memory. Just like a box of chocolates.
"We all have a destiny"
"You cheated me"
Lt. Dan felt Forrest had made him cheat his own destiny, he became obsessed with the fact he should have died on the battlefield like his ancestors. He hates Forrest for it, to me the maiming of his limbs consequently maimed his brain, he feels inadequate and blames his disability on Forrest who saved him from certain death in Vietnam. It is only when he comes to terms with his disability that he recognises Forrest as his equal.
"Don't cal him stupid"
Lt. Dan knows what it is like to be constricted and defined by a one-word boundary, he is called a spastic, he defends Forrest thus releasing him of blame. When Forrest and Lt. Dan join business and become shrimping partners, they are out in a wild storm. During this scene Lt. Dan appears to be possessed, he turns into a maniac and appears to be taunting god, challenging him to make the storm fiercer, as if to match his fiery temperament. The storm is a deliberate echo of captain Ahab's mad pursuit of the whale in 'Moby Dick' Americas most famous and revered novel. Lt. Dan appears to work his anger and torment out of his system and thanks Forrest for it.
"I never thanked you for saving my life"
"He made his peace with God"
Forrest Gump probes its messages into our minds and makes us think about the thought provoking issues that we would normally skip in favour of something more light hearted.
When a film is made it is important that an audience can relate to its issues and storyline, for it to be a success. Forrest Gump was so widely acclaimed because it dealt and deals with many relevant issues, some of these occurred in America during the 60's 70's and 80's (the time period the film is set in). Many of these issues we can still relate to today, this is the ingredient, which made the film so successful.