Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Robin Williams - Looking to the Past and the Future

I was three years old when Aladdin came out, which makes seeing it in the theaters one of my very earliest memories. We were visiting my grandparents in Florida at the time, and I remember arriving at the little white island theater... and I remember the Genii. 

I'm guessing for most of my generation, the Genii was our first introduction to Robin Williams, although we wouldn't realize this until later. I never saw Mrs. Doubtfire which was his other popular movie from that era, although Jumanji scarred me for life. 

Ironically, it was probably the movie "Flubber" in which I first saw Robin William's face in a role that didn't scare me. For some reason I think we saw this one in theaters as well, which in hindsight seems odd. I guess it was the only family appropriate film playing at the time?

Then there was "Hook" which I saw as a child but did not appreciate until I reached my teenaged years and realized it may ironically be the most faithful adaptation of Peter Pan on our screens to this day. 

I loved him in "Dead Poet's Society" of course. Saw "The Fisher King" in college and while not sure what to make of it over all, appreciated the zest and enthusiasm Williams brought to the role. On the other end of the spectrum but still in New York was his turn as a sort of modern Fagin in "August Rush." 

But I think in some ways the live-action role in which I truly loved him the most was as Teddy Roosevelt in "Night at the Museum." It's ironic that in such a comedic movie, Williams does not play a joke of a character, but a beautiful tribute to one of America's most adventurous presidents. (And we get to see him one last time in "Night of the Museum: Secret of the Tomb" which is currently in post-production.)

As I read over his IMDB credits, I realize how much of his work I haven't seen. Which is perhaps the only thing that makes dealing with the news of his death bearable - that I can still see him in 'new' roles. Though only 63 at his passing, he left a truly impressive number of memorable parts behind him. 

That, I think, is both the tragedy and glory of film. You bring joy to others through your work not just during your life, but as long as movies are played. And when you die, the whole world mourns. I have never seen a death so prominently grieved on Facebook. 

My hope and prayer is that his death brings a new awareness of the seriousness of depression and that we open new dialogues about dealing with it. It is viewed so much as an illness of shame and weakness, leaving its victims to suffer in silence, and causes many bright lights to choose to leave the world early - how many we cannot know because so few of them are as known as Robin Williams. Not only have I personally struggled with depression, but I could say at least half of the people I have close friends with have, at some point, struggled with serious depression. It is a silent, secret disease, but far too prevalent in our society.

So let us pray for his family, rewatch our favorites of his films, and voice our support to our loved ones who are suffering with depression.

3 comments:

Elora Shore said...

Agh--words cannot express the sadness. He was a star of my childhood movies--he was the type of person that I always wanted to see, was so happy to see when he popped up in something unexpected. Loved what he gave. I wrote my own tribute yesterday evening--I had found out about his death only that morning. I couldn't get it from my mind all day. Not that I wanted to--he was worth mourning. It just made me so sad. I'm still sad, but it's not as acute as it was yesterday. Life goes on--and our gift is that he left many things behind for us to remember him for. My prayers are with his family.

Well written tribute, Elizabeth.

Elora Shore said...

I really loved what you said here:

" As I read over his IMDB credits, I realize how much of his work I haven't seen. Which is perhaps the only thing that makes dealing with the news of his death bearable - that I can still see him in 'new' roles. Though only 63 at his passing, he left a truly impressive number of memorable parts behind him.

That, I think, is both the tragedy and glory of film. You bring joy to others through your work not just during your life, but as long as movies are played. And when you die, the whole world mourns. I have never seen a death so prominently grieved on Facebook."

I think I'll share that later. It's likely I'll end up writing about Robin Williams in a few days again....

Elenatintil said...

Thank you, Elora. I am glad my words spoke to you. Death is always a really difficult thing to process.