Today one of the most influential comedians of our generation past away at the age of 63. With classic hits like Patch Adams, Mrs Doubtfire, Good Morning Vietnam, Hook and so many others, he filled my childhood with laughter, absurdity, and an intense desire to remain young forever. But as well as starring in childhood favourites, Robin Williams starred in two of my favourite films of all time: Good Will Hunting and Dead Poets Society.
And please don’t remind me that hipsters have ruined Dead Poets Society for everyone, we just have to wait until it’s no longer cool again.
Both Good Will Hunting and Dead Poets Society both embody beliefs about life which I now carry as fundamentals, the appreciation of love and education, truly attempting to understand others, and knowing that listening and advising to peoples problems is not the same as appreciating them and their lives and reassuring them that they are not their failings.
‘It’s not your fault…’– Good Will Hunting.
This caring, sensitive side Robin Williams decided to portray in these films always had the feeling of lose, as though he was desperate not to let others make the same decisions as he did, to be honest about who they are and what they want and to appreciate the beauty of life.
‘That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse… What will your verse be’ – Dead Poets Society.
To seize the day, carpe diem, make the most of your own talents, your own gifts, whilst forever trying to enhance your mind, what you know of the world, and the different ways life can be interpretted.
‘One day, I’m gonna wake up and I’m gonna be 50. And I’ll still be doing this shit.’– Good Will Hunting.
Simultaneously, the darker sides of both of these movies, the abuse, greed for money, fame and recognition can be seen with hindsight as a parallel to Robin Williams own life. Reportedly committing suicide via affixation so many years after his most noted film success, and yet you can argue that even then he was already suffering from those in the industry who profit from others talents and torments, the pressure to remain either jovial or a saviour are almost as poignant as the laughter he brought others all over the world.
‘From the moment we enter crying to the moment we leave dying it will just cover your face as you wail and cry and scream’– Dead Poets Society.
On of the most fundamental beliefs that comes through in these films is how everyone has their own lives, which can only fit them, and no one else. Robin Williams character in Good Will Hunting, the seeming failing councillor vs. his old college roommate and their angst and resentment buried under judgemental attitudes over the way each lives their lives.
It drove home the argument for individual lifestyles, how people can be so different and require so much, whilst happily co-existing with another with a different view point. Another example is Will and his local friends in Good Will Hunting.
This idea was further highlighted by studying Psychology and Sociological Anthropology. Everyone is allowed to express how they live their lives, and how their personal society is constructed. Personally, I believe that as long as no one is being either emotionally or physically abused and are equally consenting to the cultural norms, then they can carry on with their own lives.
‘Liberty is a soul’s right to breathe’– Good Will Hunting.
However, more so than anything else, both these films convinced be that there is nothing more important than experiences and the emotions you feel during those experiences. Objects and mindless stuff, only reading about others lives, how they dreamed, how they loved is not the same as living, dreaming and loving with every cell in your soul. This is something that we all forget as some point in our lives, and rightly so occasionally. Investments usually pay off and how do you know which experiences are more important to you without reading about others dreams. Nonetheless, it is not the same. One can never replace the other.
‘So if I asked you about art, you’d probably give me the skinny on every art book ever written. Michelangelo, you know a lot about him. Life’s work, political aspirations, him and the pope, sexual orientations, the whole works, right? But I’ll bet you can’t tell me what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel. You’ve never actually stood there and looked up at that beautiful ceiling; seen that. If I ask you about women, you’d probably give me a syllabus about your personal favorites. You may have even been laid a few times. But you can’t tell me what it feels like to wake up next to a woman and feel truly happy. You’re a tough kid. And I’d ask you about war, you’d probably throw Shakespeare at me, right, “once more unto the breach dear friends.” But you’ve never been near one. You’ve never held your best friend’s head in your lap, watch him gasp his last breath looking to you for help. I’d ask you about love, you’d probably quote me a sonnet. But you’ve never looked at a woman and been totally vulnerable. Known someone that could level you with her eyes, feeling like God put an angel on earth just for you. Who could rescue you from the depths of hell. And you wouldn’t know what it’s like to be her angel, to have that love for her, be there forever, through anything, through cancer. And you wouldn’t know about sleeping sitting up in the hospital room for two months, holding her hand, because the doctors could see in your eyes, that the terms “visiting hours” don’t apply to you. You don’t know about real loss, ’cause it only occurs when you’ve loved something more than you love yourself. And I doubt you’ve ever dared to love anybody that much. And look at you… I don’t see an intelligent, confident man… I see a cocky, scared shitless kid. But you’re a genius Will. No one denies that. No one could possibly understand the depths of you. But you presume to know everything about me because you saw a painting of mine, and you ripped my fucking life apart. You think I know the first thing about how hard your life has been,how you feel, who you are, because I read Oliver Twist? Does that encapsulate you? Personally… I don’t give a shit about all that, because you know what, I can’t learn anything from you, I can’t read in some fuckin’ book.’ – Good Will Hunting.
Finally, the love experienced in Good Will Hunting and Dead Poets Society, the love for those who opened your eyes to so many wondrous ideas and thoughts, those who you are willing to love more than yourself and are vulnerable to their mercy. And how honest they are about those interactions. Gone are the days of mindless, perfect beauty, with the right thing said at the right time by the right person. Rather, the enduring imperfections, annoying habits which you can not live without experiencing every day, your mind returning to the times you spent together and what you both learnt from one another. To this day that is how I see love.
‘You’re not perfect, sport, and let me save you the suspense: this girlyou’ve met, she’s not perfect either. But the question is whether or not you’re perfect for each other.’– Good Will Hunting
Whether it is because of these films, or rather these films along side other books and movies, songs and stand ups, debates, policies and experiences had merely awakened the knowledge of these beliefs, I can not say. But with Robin Williams death, so many people around the world will stop and remember the laughter they shared with him, the joy he brought to us and, at least for me, the knowledge that somewhere in the middle of the movie magic, Robin Williams brought a fundamental truth about life. It is not forever. He represented, in these films loved by so many, the sort of person I would like to be.