Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Pixar's Up: Married Life

Despite so many incredible animated films that have come out, especially over the last decade or so, Pixar's Up remains to be my favorite. I think this is because it paints such a vivid picture of life and how it is not always easy and happy. It has themes of loss and grief and of dreams that are not quite achieved the way we had planned. Probably the most memorable part of this film, and also one of my all-time favorite movie scenes, is shown within the first few minutes. Check it out here (set against the musical piece entitled "Married Life"):

video uploaded in youtube by MrGuessCool

This 4 1/2 minute montage is written and developed so well that even without any dialogue, it allows the viewer to connect deeply with the characters in a short period of time and as such. What makes this montage so successful is that you think it will be all about fun and romance and happiness so when that first bomb is thrown - Ellie and Carl are unable to have children - it almost shocks us to our very core. When Carl finally loses Ellie in the end, just as they were about to go on their dream adventure, the film throws another sucker punch to the gut that you feel a cloud of grief hanging over you that somehow stays with you for the entire duration of the film (and even after).

This isn't the first time an emotional death is showcased in an animated film (think Bambi, Lion King) but it is one of only a few that highlight loss and grief so early in the story. The only other ones I can think of are Finding Nemo (Nemo's mom and siblings are killed by a Barracuda), Tarzan (Sabor kills Tarzan's parents and Kala's baby), and the Hunchback of Notre Dame (Quasimodo's mother is killed by Frollo). While those other films featured a violent death in the opening sequence, the difference with Up is that when Ellie passes away, we already have an emotional connection to her so her death is felt more strikingly felt. (There has since been one other film that has a painful, early death: Big Hero 6. I guess that's why I also love that movie a whole lot.)

Up does feel heavy right after that opening montage and right after Carl is forced out of his house. It starts to get lighter when we finally go on that adventure to Paradise Falls and when we start to worry more about the lives and safety of Carl, Russell, and Kevin. However, when Carl finally brings the house to the the right spot, just as he promised Ellie, he has a quiet moment to remember and reflect and suddenly, we are back where we started and the sadness feels just as real as when Ellie had just passed away. This is such an powerful and true reflection of real life. We know from people who have lost someone they love dearly that while we eventually learn to deal with a painful loss, there will still be those moments when we are overcome with grief and we are never truly the same after. Oh and here's an amazing thing I didn't notice until I read the comments section of the video: when Carl finally reads that message from Ellie about how their marriage together was her great adventure, the world suddenly became brighter. If you go to this video, at 0:36, the colors are dull and bleak but at 3:06 they are vibrant and hopeful.

Finally, in the film's closing scene, as Carl pins the Ellie Badge on Russell, we are reminded that we need to treasure the memories of our loved ones to help us move on and live our lives more fully even after they are gone. That final image before the credits roll of Carl and Ellie's house being on top of Paradise Falls - a promise that is sort of finally fulfilled - is very bittersweet and leaves a lump in the throat.

Up has definitely left an indelible mark on me and while I loved it a lot already when I first watched it, it has become even more meaningful to me as I have gotten older and as I start to lose more and people that I love. Not only is Up my favorite animated film, it is also one of my favorite films of all time.

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