Tuesday, May 16, 2006

I'm not gonna stand here and wait

I saw United 93 on Saturday night. I'll start with a confession. Had MI-3 been starting when I showed up at the theater, I'd have seen that. I knew United 93 would be harrowing. It was. My chest is tight even now thinking about it. Still, I'm so glad I watched it. It's easily one of the best things I've seen this year. I won't say that you should see it, or enter into the discussion of whether it's "too soon" or not. I do feel like, through seeing this movie, I have a better understanding of the events that occurred on one of the most important days in history that I've actually lived. And United 93, to my relief, doesn't editorialize. This movie just lays out the timeline and the facts, straight up. In some ways it feels like a documentary. You follow along as people go to the airport, wait at the gate, and board the plane. It seem like every other trip you've made to the airport. And there's an overwhelming feeling of dread, because it does feel so familiar, and because you know what they don't.

United 93 doesn't try to inflate these people into overblown heroes, either. Again, to my great relief. To my mind, that doesn't serve them, or us, well. It only removes them from normal and identifiable existence when they are normal people, just like us, who are thrust into extraordinary circumstances. We see how they react. We think about how we'd react. We see the terrorists, too. We follow their path to the plane as well. They are extremists, they are murderers, but they are also people with families and lives and hopes and fears. Please don't interpret that as apologizing for what they did. I think it helps to see.

There was a particular scene that struck me. It won't spoil anything because we all know from the cockpit recordings and passenger phone calls that there were desperate prayers being said all over the plane. Prayers to different gods. Whose god answered? My lasting impression from this movie is that there is no answer from gods. Gods are the problem.

11 comments:

Jen said...

I don't know that I agree that gods are the problem. The gods, after all, seem to remain respectful of our free will by shutting the hell up and leaving us alone to ponder the universe. But the way people anthropomorphize gods -- whether their own preferred brand or someone else's -- almost always troubles me. They project a wide variety of their own petty obnoxiousness onto their concepts of gods and then argue over their own imaginings.

It all strikes me as being dreadfully silly, and essentially reinforces my belief that there is no such thing as grownups, there is just an age past which, "Yeah well, my dad can beat up your dad!" becomes, "Yeah well, my god can beat up your god!"

freakgirl said...

I can't bear the thought of going to see this movie (or Oliver Stone's "WTC"), but I guess I can understand why it was made. Every time I read about it, though, I think to an interview I saw recently with a woman who lost her father on 9/11, and she says something to the effect of, "Why do I need to watch my father die over and over and over again, for eternity?"

I don't know.

Michael said...

Jen, point taken. The gods themselves aren't the problem. That's not hard for me to concede what with the whole "I don't believe they exist anyway" thing. The people who worship them are the problem. Religion is the problem. You're right. It's all about my god is better than your god. You either ascribe to my beliefs or you are evil. It's so BASIC and child-like and simplistic and that's probably why it's worked so fucking well for so long. The people who designed these religions knew what they were doing.

Freakgirl, I totally understand not wanting to see it. It would be such a different experience for each of us. For me, in addition to all the worries I mentioned in the post, I was worried about this being a voyeuristic experience. Am I slowing to see an auto accident on a horrific scale? I didn't feel that was my motivation, so I went. I don't regret it. I never for a moment enjoyed the experience, but I certainly learned from it. I know I better understand the events of the day, because the chronology is all laid out. I better understand what was right and what was incredibly wrong with the government and military response that day. And to a certain degree, I feel the anguish of it all more acutely since watching. I want that. I don't want four or five years to be long enough to be numbed to it. I know for many people they'll never get relief from the grief of loss on that day, but for me I already felt removed. Anyway. My thoughts.

freakgirl said...

I see what you mean about not wanting to forget the anguish.

See, I still haven't forgotten, so I don't need to be reminded. It's everywhere. But one day, I will need to be reminded, so I guess I'm glad these films exist.

Jen said...

I was being pedantic when I posited that as a disagreement; I shouldn't have. I think we really quite agree, it's just that we express it differently. And I do so love your expression. :)

Michael said...

Jen, just hang on a second while I look up pedantic.

Oh, OK. I did get that we agreed. I guess I wanted to clarify my feelings on god, especially since I talk about my Catholic upbringing and celebrating all the Jewish holidays.

Freakgirl, I totally get not wanting to see a movie like this. And I hadn't thought of the movie as being a kind of lasting record of the event, but I think it serves that purpose, too, because it doesn't sermonize or try to present "characters". We get only bare sketches of these people and they're gone. That makes the "they're just like me" feeling so much stronger. I think that casting relative unknowns in these roles adds to that effect.

On a slightly lighter note, I have to admit I smiled a little when Faye from "Wings" was on the plane. http://tinyurl.com/q8xoc
Was that wrong?

freakgirl said...

Faye from "Wings" was on the plane? Excellent.

Please know that I'm not disagreeing with you, and it may just be our geographic differences speaking here, but I find the idea of "humanizing the victims" disconcerting. Simply because (speaking strictly for myself, of course) they already ARE real. They were on the front page of my local paper for a year and they are still everywhere.

At some point I am going to be interested in the logistics of the whole thing, I imagine. I'm glad to hear through you that the film does not really take a political stance; it just tells what happened, right?

Unless, of course, you're a conspiracy theorist, in which case it never happened. Ack.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/9/11_conspiracy_theories#Flight_93

freakgirl said...

Oopsie - that URL is: http://tinyurl.com/cc7tu

Sorry.

maddie said...

I've been reading this post over and over, trying to think of what to comment.

I don't think I want to see this movie. My friend saw it and loved it, said it was important for everyone to see and so powerful. When I saw the preview, I could barely watch. The images from the weeks and months of coverage just came flooding back. The preview showed the plane going into one of the twin towers, which is an image that I've worked to get out of my head.

I don't think we should forget what happened by any means. Remember the ones who died, who did it, the families left behind. I don't know if it's just the way I am, but I think remembering what happened, and then moving on and looking forward is the best way to get through things like this. That's just the way I deal with life, I know that everyone does it in different ways.

In my opinion, (and maybe that's just because I am close to NY, have family near there that were directly affected, and one of my best friends is from the town that Flight 93 crashed near) these movies (including Oliver Stone's movie) are so unnecessary. We've lived it. The dead will be remembered, life goes on for the living. Does that sound completely heartless and selfish? I hope not, it's just my reaction to all of this.

If that made any sense, I'll be amazed.

Michael said...

It makes complete sense. As does what Freakgirl and Jen have said. The reactions to tragic events like this are as diverse as the people who have them.

freakgirl said...

I'll tell you one thing, I have no interest whatsover in seeing Oliver Stone's "World Trade Center." I think that guy is a douchebag.