In my recent interview with Matthieu Ricard in Singapore, I asked him what some of his favourite movies were. He said he likes movies that “give hope in human nature” and gave two examples. One was Groundhog Day – one of my favourite movies too.
So I watched it again, after some years, and appreciated it even more. (This post has spoilers so please come back if you’d prefer to watch the movie first.)
Scrooge-like Phil is made to re-live the same day over and over again. It’s a call for him to transform. And he does, first negatively. Initially he breaks all the rules and takes the hedonistic route, since he only has one day to live. Then he tries to court his producer but more as a conquest. Then an encounter with death starts to transform him. He learns to love more and more people…and breaks through.
As Ricard said, Phil’s way “fails, fails, fails until compassion comes in.”
The links I share below have many enlightening thoughts on the movie. I would just add:
- One of the most precious messages of the film that I take away is that life lessons present themselves to us again and again and trigger pain until we learn them. There’s no point changing jobs or a relationship that isn’t working if you don’t change.
- Phil’s breakthrough comes only when his love becomes much more expansive and includes many others, beyond trying to win the love of one woman.
- People change, even if sometimes the change is initially tiny and imperceptible. If you believe in your own power to change, you’ll find it easier to believe in other’s.
- If you had a day/month/year to live, how would you spend it? Phil learns to love people, a town he hated, himself and his work. He learns new skills that add beauty to the world. Each encounter with someone becomes rich and meaningful.
- He is transformed by the death of the old man. Will you let your own impending death or those of people around you transform you? For most of the past two years I’ve been living as if it’s my last year to live and I would recommend this to most people. More on death.
I recently read “Wheel of Life” by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross who was the world’s eminent expert on death and dying. Some of the key messages she shared in the book were:
” The sole purpose of life is growth.”
“When you learn your lessons, the pain goes away.”
“Every one of the thousand of patients I spoke to about their near-death experiences recalled going into the light and being asked, “How much love have you been able to give and receive? How much service have your rendered?”
This movie captures these very lessons powerfully.
“The first thing that most of us do when we realize we are stuck is to look to make changes in our outer lives. This might mean changing jobs or leaving a relationship or making a grand new year’s resolution to change the way we look. Such changes rarely have the desired effect because we are changing the wrong things.
A new job, a new car or a new look might bring a fleeting send of happiness but it soon disappears. To bring about genuine change we need to change the way we see ourselves and the world, we need to change our inner lives and escape our conditioning….
When you accept you are stuck, and accept that only you can change your life, you start to move on and break out of your rut. Like Phil, you accept that your old self and your old beliefs are no longer working; and you stop blaming others and begin to change yourself instead. This is truly transformative.”
Groundhog Day: A Values and Vision Guide by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
“If your spiritual task was to work on diminishing your egocentricity, where would you begin? What tasks do you believe you’re here to accomplish? What character flaws would you like to work on?”
“What have you learned about the shadow side of your personality in love relationships? What flaws in yourself have you come to accept?”
Groundhog Day – Breakthrough to the true self by Ken Sanes
“Like many of the heroes of fiction, he can only escape his exile from himself by being exiled in a situation not of his choosing.”
Seeing the shadow by Dairyu Michael Wenger Sensei (For Buddhist readers)
Why not screen the movie for friends, at work or other communities you belong to and have a discussion after? Share this post. The above links provide excellent possible discussion points. After your screening, do post any comments you have in this post or on the happiness.sg facebook page.
(Please note that a licence is needed to screen movies outside your home in Singapore. Contact the Motion Picture Licencing Company (Singapore) Pte. Ltd. )
Thank you to Matthieu Ricard for sharing this gem with us. Let us make best use of it.
PS: Punxsutawney was the town that Phil wanted to leave yet finally ended up staying there – not because it had changed but because he had changed himself. It reminds me of my relationship with Singapore….
Related: More Inspiring Movies