The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Forrest Gump (1995)

As I prepare the new Lifewriting course (almost ready now!) I'm creating essays on 50 films.  This will enable the student to simply watch movies and absorb the core of the system while they enjoy themselves. 
Here's the first draft on one:
Forrest Gump is a tale of innocence, tested during thirty-five of the most turbulent years of American history.  Gump, a man of low normal intelligence (85) varies widely in his abilities depending on the needs of the writers, but this is a fable, not a documentary, a fact clearly established with the metaphor of a drifting feather, floating on the wind, finding the exact right place--the hands of a Forrest Gump, who will treasure it without question, and with a spirit of childlike wonder.  Make no mistake--the man is an idiot, and so described constantly in the script itself.  But he is also one of the best and purest spirits ever to grace a major motion picture screen.

HERO CONFRONTED WITH CHALLENGE:  What is Forrest's challenge?  In some ways he never changes, not a bit, even as the world changes around him fantastically.  He may not have intelligence, but he has phenomenal luck.  I would say his challenge is to survive a turbulent life with few gifts, and maintain his innocence.
REJECTS CHALLENGE:  No.  Forrest embraces every task placed before him.
ACCEPTS CHALLENGE: Armed with his mother's love and a perfect body-mind link (note the fantasy running abilities, as well as the perfect ping-pong coordination) he sallies forth unto life.
ROAD OF TRIALS:  Endless.  School, college, Vietnam, the Civil Rights era, the world of business.  On and on it goes.
ALLIES AND POWERS:  Lt. Dan, Bubba, Jenny (the love of his life, and perhaps even the metaphorical feather), his mother.  He has intuition, vast physicality, absolute courage, loyalty, a heart as wide as the horizon. 
CONFRONT EVIL-DEFEATED:  Forrest's only flaw is that he cannot win the love of Jenny, his childhood sweetheart.  Sexually abused by her father, she seeks out men who hurt her, and is incapable of seeing her worth.  Over and over again, Forrest tries to rescue her, but she won't take the lifeline.  The saddest moment, darkest moment is probably the morning after they finally make love, and she leaves him yet again.  The expression on his face is heartbreaking.
DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL:  Forrest is is most contemplative at this moment, and probably comes the closest he ever does in his life to giving up.
LEAP OF FAITH:  Forrest is what he is: a force of nature.  He cannot give up.  He is pure heart, and must be who he is, as he has been, without changing. 
CONFRONT EVIL--VICTORIOUS:  He finally marries Jenny.  Although it is too late for them to have a life together, there is a major victory for him...perhaps the most important of all.
STUDENT BECOMES THE TEACHER:  He and Jenny created a child together on that one night.  And the boy is smart.  Still, Forrest teaches him what he knows.  He may not be intelligent, but he knows exactly how to be a good human being.  And more importantly, he knows himself.

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