After reading Buckyball (Fabien Roy) I somehow got round to watching Groundhog Day. Again.
Groundhog Day is the classic 1993 movie where grumpy chops weather man Phil Connors repeatedly wakes up at 06:00 on February 2nd (“Groundhog Day”). No matter what he does, everything excepting his memory resets. “He’s having the day of his life…over and over again”.
Of course Groundhog Day is all Hollywooded up, but it’s still a great movie which asks the question: how would you spend your day if you lived it again and again with no consequences?
In the movie the main character Phil Connors assumes that no consequences means that you can do whatever you like. We see him driving recklessly, stealing money, being violent and eating ‘badly’ (a big no-no for Hollywood types I guess!) – all because he knows that February 3rd won’t come around and that any actions he takes (or causes other people to take) will be wiped away. No consequences.
Of particular note is that memories of other people are also wiped away, and Phil utilises this to manipulate people by memorising what he thinks are the right or correct answers to elicit certain actions from them the next time February 2nd comes around.
In other words, Phil operates with the certainty that tomorrow won’t come. After all, “It didn’t yesterday.”
And for me this is the sticky point. How does Phil know that he’ll get to relive February 2nd all over again with a clean slate? What is going on, why and what the boundaries are, are not fully known. It’s certainly not fully understood.
So it seems to me like a big risk to take. Phil steals money, but if the phenomenon vanishes as mysteriously as it came in the first place, then Phil will be (rightfully) facing a term in jail instead of reliving the day to steal that money again. The deadly outcome of his suicide attempts is morbidly clear.
I touched on the morals of changing the past last week. But is the past actually being revisited here in Groundhog Day, or are the events simply happening again?
There aren’t two versions of Phil so it’s probably not a revisit.
Whereas Phil retains his knowledge every time February 2 comes around, other characters don’t. It seems that for them this is the first time that they’re experiencing this day.
Surely this can’t be true? My wife noticed it as well – if February 2 is having multiple versions, then the other characters in the novel must be experiencing this day for multiple times too…even if they don’t realise it. The question is: why is it that only Phil realises that this phenomena is happening?
On a time travel front, the Groundhog Day producers don’t attempt to provide any explanation or answer any questions at all. At best, once Phil gets the girl they live happily ever after.
Yet again, I can’t help but realise the importance of now. I used to think it lasts only for a fleeting moment – affected by the past and affecting the future. But now I wonder if it’s an infinitely short moment in time stretched out to last eternity.
Live now wisely – we don’t know how many times we’ll get to live it!