Wednesday is a day for the movies

The holes we leave behind.

We all have favourite movies. It’s funny how some of them stay with us through life? The movie I often claim to be my ‘favourite’ is the 1979 Peter Yates film ‘Breaking Away‘. It takes the top spot for me for a number of reasons, and I know there have probably been far superior films in terms of cinematography, acting, screenplay etc, but I do love this film.

Why? In the early 1980’s our family got a video recorder. My dad recorded this film, and I’m sure it would have been recorded over like so many others, but this one stayed – in no small part probably due to a son who was mad keen on cycling at the time, so a film where the principal character does a lot of cycling was unusual, and of huge interest to me then, that I probably pestered him to keep it and not wipe over it.

It’s a coming of age film, where a group of town teenagers feel their position threatened by the incomers to their town attending the university. It charts part of their first year out of school, coming to terms with life in the real world, how they relate to peers and family, and what they each learn in different ways taking the big leap into adulthood.

Whether it’s a simple byproduct of watching a film far too many times in my life (although, that said, it’s been a number of years since I’ve watched it now), but I feel I could watch this film with the sound turned down – I’d miss the beauty of the soundtrack (Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 4 in A Major, Rossini’s Barber of Seville Overture, Von Flotow’s Martha, to name but a few), but I could probably fill in all the dialogue myself.

What makes a film strike a chord with us? What makes a film become a favourite? For me, it’s either that the film has been beautifully crafted, or I connect with some aspect of it on an emotional level.

One of the main themes of the film is the relationship between ‘Dave Stoller’ (Dennis Christopher) and his father ‘Ray Stoller’ (Paul Dooley). In one scene, they go for a walk in the campus. Dave’s father Ray was previously a stone cutter, and remarks about the fact that he and his former colleagues cut the stone for the university buildings:

Ray: “And the buildings went up. When they were finished, the damnedest thing happened – it was like the buildings is too good for us. Nobody told us that – it just felt uncomfortable, that’s all. Even now, I’d like to be able to stroll through the campus and look at the limestone, but I just feel out of place.”

Ray: “You guys still go swimming in the quarries?”

Dave: “Sure”

Ray: “So, the only thing you’ve got to show for my 20 years of work are the holes we left behind”

I love this bit of dialogue – a father and son having an awkward discussion about the sons future – whether he will go to college, and achieve everything he is able to. How his father feels about him, and what he hopes for him. At the same time, reflecting on his own achievement, and what that means for his son. Add to this the typical unhealthy unease at either of them sharing their feelings, and it’s a great scene.

Dave’s dad was a stone cutter, so he literally left holes behind in the ground from where the stone was cut out the earth. I wonder, what are the metaphoric holes we leave behind? Last week I quoted Gandhi, in that “everything we do is insignificant, but it’s really important that we do it anyway”.

I think we need to be proud of the holes we leave behind, no matter what size they are.

image credit: SandersQuarryIndiana by Sphinxcat, under a Wikimedia Commons licence.

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