There is a great service for movie buffs on the web called Flickchart. It’s premise is simple. It presents you with two movies, and you click which of the two you prefer. The movies can be similar or wildly disparate, and there are no stated criteria to select–you simply pick whichever you feel is the better of the two, wherever and however that may be. Since their are no stated criteria, the choice is instinctual and emotional rather than calculated and intellectual. Forrest Gump is number one on my chart. Citizen Kane is number ten. Doubtless, should I ever be asked to contribute to the Sight and Sound poll, I will have a hard time explaining my choices, but that’s okay. I love this movie. But just in case, here’s my head start:
1. As an exploration of the theme of unconditional love, there is none better. “You have to stop rescuing me!”, implores Jenny, to which Forrest responds, “I can’t, Jenny. I love you.” Sick, well, degraded, alone, with cads, with child–Forrest loves Jenny. Period. He knows what love is.
2. It’s very, very funny and uses humor to address issues such as segregation and the Vietnam conflict that not only are inherently not funny but that have left deep scars on the American psyche.
3. The special effects are fantastic. Has any movie before or since so effectively integrated news clips the way this one did to give the film its heightened sense of authenticity? Not to mention the alterations to Gary Sinise, which in my book are way more impressive than, say, what was done in Avatar.
4. Maybe this one’s a stretch, but it seems to me not incredulous to say the themes of chance and destiny are reminiscent of classical Greek theater and that the soundtrack is not entirely dissimilar in function to that of a Greek chorus.
5. And finally, “Stupid is as stupid does” works perfectly as a summation of existential philosophy. After all, who is Forrest? Is he an idiot? Or is he a world class athlete, war hero, shrimp boat captain, and millionaire? Well, it depends on how we define him. But if we define him through his actions, which is, after all, how he defines himself, it’s clear he is the latter. Throughout the movie, other characters underestimate Forrest, thereby defining him. The principle thinks he will not make it through public school, yet he makes it through college. Lt Dan worries he will do something stupid and get himself killed, yet he saves not only Lt Dan but several others as well and becomes a medal of honor recipient. Jenny thinks he doesn’t know what love is, and yet he becomes the great love of her life.
Okay, I’m waiting for my call from Sight and Sound now.