What's Up With the End of "Being There?"

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Andrew_Sch, Jul 28, 2002.

  1. Andrew_Sch

    Andrew_Sch Cinematographer

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    What is it supposed to mean when Chance walks on water at the end?
    Or are we not really supposed to know?[​IMG]
     
  2. Thi Them

    Thi Them Producer

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    I think it's saying that one is capable of doing anything. Since Chance had been secluded all of his life, he had never learned that it is impossible to walk on water.

    It could also be a reference to Jesus walking on water, though I don't know much about that.

    ~T
     
  3. Stephanie T.

    Stephanie T. Stunt Coordinator

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    I'd always taken it to be a more-generalized grace note, indicating how charmed Chance is by fortune (except for his being mentally challenged, of course) -- and, incidentally, leaving the audience with a final impression of director Hal Ashby (and/or his Dir. of Photography) as a master stylist. I'd bet that there was a Magritte revival around then as well, or at least that Ashby had been exposed to the work of the famously surreal Belgian painter at some point.
    It's not just the visuals that work in that shot, though; the backing music is that of the famously quirky (and surreal, if you will) Eric Satie, whose scant body of recorded work consists largely of some very well-known pieces inspired by, among other fanciful ideas, the animation of the human figures from ancient Greek pottery, and honoring the modern European bureaucrat. In short, the Magritte-like image and the Satie theme (from "Gymnopedes," I think) go together like olives and sardines, if you will.
    Chance is certainly no messiah, although that's what some of those Mason-types are willing to believe, or at least promote for political purposes.
    It's about as likely as Bud Cort falling in love with Ruth Gordon, ain't it? [​IMG]
    BUT, now that you've got me thinking about it, there could be room for a more subversive interpretation -- namely, that the original Messiah was himself a benign, kindly "holy fool" who was similarly surrounded by handlers and followers, who puffed him up into something altogether different and greater than what he was. [NB: am NOT trying to offend any religious nutjobs reading this, so don't flame me, n'kay?] Personally, I'd guess it was more Magritte than anything.
    Anyone have the skinny on Ashby's religious/philosophical beliefs? I'm sure he was an absolute hoot to hang around with...
     
  4. Brian W.

    Brian W. Screenwriter

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    I've always thought it could mean that he's so dumb he doesn't know can't walk on water, so he does, or that he's somehow "blessed" because he's retarded -- the old belief that people who are retarded are somehow blessed. That's why some people still refer to the mentally retarded as "God's children."
     
  5. Stephanie T.

    Stephanie T. Stunt Coordinator

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    That would work too. Not that these ideas are mutally exclusive, though -- they aren't.
     
  6. Chauncey_G

    Chauncey_G Second Unit

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    One of my most favorite films.

    I've always thought that the ending was deliberately vague so that you could interpret it on whatever level you want. He walks on water because he doesn't know he can't; he's a Messiah; he's blessed, etc.

    Has anyone read the book? I haven't had a chance to try to hunt down a copy yet. How does it compare to the film?
     
  7. Darren Davis

    Darren Davis Stunt Coordinator

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  8. Stephanie T.

    Stephanie T. Stunt Coordinator

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    Kosinski's novella ends with a similar tone, albeit somewhat different circumstances (a ball, not a Masonic/whatever funeral, and Chance leaves the throng not to walk on the pond but to observe his own image reflected on the surface of one, in the garden). The last line tells you that there is not a thought in his head and that he is at peace.

    I think Ashby was struck with the inspiration to go for the surreal visual by Chance's accoutrements -- the classic suit, bowler hat, briefcase, and umbrella. Anyone see the TNT showings of the remake of "The Thomas Crown Affair" this past weekend, with that film's tip 'o the hat to that artist? Bingo! It was either walking on water or an umbrella-extended ascension through the sky, you know...
     

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