Philosophy In Film
Over the last couple of weeks we have been talking about Aristophanes’ “Clouds”, and Plato’s the Republic. We have discussed Justice within the ideal city and the soul, as well as the form of the good, and the allegory of the cave. I have recently watched two movies that I think can relate to some of the many ideas that we have talked about over these last few weeks. I recently watched “Groundhog Day” starring Bill Murray, and “The Village” directed by M. Night Shymalan. I have seen both of these movies multiple times, however when I related the philosophical ideas of the just soul, and the allegory of the cave to these movies, I felt as though I had a better understanding of them and I actually enjoyed the films more. I will discuss how the character phil in “Groundhog Day” relates to Socrates’ idea of what a Just soul is. Lastly I will talk about how the members of the village relate to the allegory of the cave.
Bill Murray stars as Phil, a weatherman who is assigned to the same story of viewing the groundhog every year for four years in a row. This is to Phil as incredibly frustrating and he makes it obvious when doing the news report how annoyed he is about it. When caught in a snow storm Phil stays the night with his crew and for some reason starts living Groundhog day over and over again. In my opinion, just like many interpretations of the film, Phil is being tested. He is obviously doing something wrong with his life that is causing him to re live this day over and over. If you think about what Phil is like in the movie it shows him as someone who is cheap, arrogant, sarcastic and inconsiderate of other people especially his news crew. He is at times irrational and does whatever will benefit him. When you relate this to Socrates interpretation of the Just soul, Phil is obviously letting his appetites take over how he lives his life. This is made obvious by what Phil does with the day that keeps repeating itself. He shows a lot of carelessness because he will get a second chance the next day. Phil ends up Robbing from a bank truck, tries to hook up with an old high school friend, and eats and cheats paying for things and avoids people as much as he wants. After depression starts to kick in he finally starts to accept that maybe he has to start doing some good in order to get rid of this problem. This is when Phil starts to think with the Rational and Spiritual side of his soul. He starts giving cash to a homeless person and takes him out to eat, he saves a boy from falling out of a tree and he treats his crew with respect and is nice to everyone. Obviously the fact that something as supernatural as re living the same day over and over means that he has to be connected spiritually. He was acting selfless causing the days to start progressing again.
Socrates claimed that a healthy soul was a balanced soul. One in which there was no selfishness and there were times for appetites to be acceptable, but the rational and spiritual side of the soul took priority. In the beginning of the film, Phil symbolizes what Socrates would have interpreted as an unjust person. One who literally lets the appetites that he craves take over how people view him. In addition through the examples shown above, Phil changes to what Socrates interprets as the just person who balances all aspects of there soul but has the rational side taking dominance.
M. Night Shymalan’s “The Village” is definitely a unique film. I didn’t particularly like it because I thought it was dragged out and kind of weird. However when the class discussed the allegory of the cave this movie was the first thing that popped into my mind and I decided to watch it again relating the idea to the film. The village is a town that exists in old Pennsylvania, the members of the village never leave due to creatures that live in the surrounding woods. If the villagers don’t enter the woods, then in return the creatures don’t enter the village. However, people in the village start to get sick and they are in need of medical supplies from outside of the woods and the agreement between them is now being questioned. After watching this movie, it is very easy to see that the village is indeed the cave. All of the members of the village live there thinking that they have a grasp on life and that they have everything that they need in the small town. They are unaware that they actually live in present day America and are secluded in a national park. They believe that they are technologically up to date and that there way of life is preferable. They are the prisoners of the cave. The ones who dwell in this village without any knowledge besides what they think they know of. They are imitations of people in the outside world, who are imitations of the form of THE person.
There are people however who live in the village who know of the outside world. They believe that the way of life in the village is safer than the outside towns. They are the ones who pretend to be the creatures in the woods that do not actually exist. By doing this, both the creatures and the villagers are the puppets/ and the ones who know of the outside world (The elders) are the puppeteers. They are the teachers and the philosophers of the village and make everyone else feel like where they live and how they live is the only way. They put on the act by doing sacrifices to the creatures and pretend invasions so that no one else challenges or questions the way of life (the shadows of the cave). In the movie, the elders decide that one of the members of the village needs to obtain medical supplies for Lucius Hunt who was stabbed because of jealousy by Noah. They pick the blind daughter of one of the elders Edward Walker. He shows her that the creatures are fake and how to get through the woods. This is how Ivy ascends out of the tunnel to the outside of the cave. She is being educated and is obtaining knowledge that will eventually make her one of the philosophers or elders of the village. This also makes it difficult for her to go back to the village in the sense that she has now seen part of what the real world is like. How could she go back to the village without wanting to see more of the forms or questioning more? She is on her way to becoming the philosopher. The cave and the village are indeed very similar.
As one can see, “Groundhog day”, and “The Village” are two films that can greatly relate to Socratic philosophy. There are obviously many more characters in the films as well as other films that can relate to Socratic and many other forms of philosophy. It makes me wonder though, Do you think that Directors and screen writers think about things like the allegory of the cave or Socratic ideas when creating a movie? I do, and I truly believe that when trying to understand some philosophical ideas that maybe some movies can help you understand. Even if the film might be an imitation of an imitation of an imitation. 🙂