Tuesday, 30 June 2009

GHOST WORLD (dir: Terry Zwigoff)

GHOST WORLD (dir: Terry Zwigoff)
In many ways this felt like the most important film of my generation, the end of adolescence and the scary conclusion of where we were and where we were headed.

I was strangely lucky enough to be savvy to Ghost World ahead of time, religiously reading the stories in Eightball comic at a time when I was patrolling around deciding my future much in the same manner of Enid and Rebecca.

As I say the two girls on the cover of the movie are Enid and Rebecca, best friends with matching personalities but differing drive that are slowly drifting apart as the reality of growing up begins to catch up with them.

Ghost World is a movie I have agonised over the years when trying to explain and convey its great appeal for me. I came to the movie from the comic book background having been an avid reader of Eightball from early on and in the story, even though these perspectives were female, it touched a definite nerve with me as the ordinary and boring lives and lack of ambition/direction was still able to hold some degree of glamour and coolness.

I remember first watching the movie at a time when I was just accepting my career and finally settling into living on my own, becoming an adult without necessarily feeling like an adult. Like the principles in the movie I was in a transitional stage, trying to acknowledge whether my decisions were right while at the same time people around me did not appear to be suffering from such anxiety and existential angst, instead they were happy to indulge in anything and everybody around them (easily amused). At the time I was still being invited to the parties but I never felt that I fitted in and I sensed neither did those around me. Indeed when I saw this movie in Ipswich with my best friend and his girlfriend at the time I came away from the film feeling insulted that I they didn’t appear to “get it”, that what they were going through was not what me or the people on screen were (and had been) experiencing.

The movie looks like a comic. The streets are wickedly defined and the town is just about recognisable as a real place but not an actual place recognizable from any map. As a result this place was able to leave all the boring places behind much in the manner that the mind’s eye and memory happily dismisses the bland and colourless in order to daydream.

One key difference from the book to the movie is the introduction of the character Seymour. I think this character more than any represents the viewer’s fear of and for the future, of what they are realistically likely to become. The olive branch that Enid extends after he has long given up on the game is a very pained and often excruciating dimension to proceedings. At the same time however Seymour is a great guy, he is just a victim of circumstances and to some degree a casualty of the modern world. With this in mind regresses into indulging in non-human entities and becomes a collector (which most single men are at one point or other in their lives).

While all this carries on Enid floats through her summer, avoiding decisions as much as cliché and slowly drifting apart from Rebecca as a result. As she hesitates one time too many slowly it begins to cost her and the realities of her circumstances begin to catch up on her also.

Towards the end of the movie it becomes apparent that Enid cannot continue being flaky. By now she burned bridges and severed ties with Rebecca but is now also finding herself along as out of the blue Seymour begins unexpectedly moving on with his life too. More so than ever loneliness becomes an issue for the person least likely in the piece.

The movie manages to avoid cliché and eventually arrives at a very dark and difficult conclusion that does not necessarily serve anybody well. In a way the movie almost serves as some kind of dark fairie tale for teenagers providing a snapshot of Enid as being “this is who you are” and of Seymour as being “this is who you might end up being.”

It is episodic and open ended. Perhaps I fawn too much sometimes as I thrust the movie onto people who react confused by it but there is a true beauty and elegance in the way in which it moves, how it painfully reflects and represents what it is like to be of such mind at such a time and place in a person’s development.

Around the same time a girl broke my heart. In the early days of Amazon I bought the Ghost World graphic novel for her as a gift and then at the end of our day out together and she headed back to her house I found the book left on the floor of my car physically and psychologically trampled. I should have known at that point she would never be good (deep) enough for me.

Every copy of this movie is a special edition.

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