“You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep Spring from coming.”- Pablo Neruda
The idea of the inevitability of time is reinforced all the movie through the use of many different techniques within the multifaceted masterpiece of a movie that is “The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button”. I will take the use of music, dialogue, montage and symbolism and show how they all relate to the main idea within this the final scenes of the movie when you see Benjamin and Daisy breathe there last, as well an all-encompassing moral.
The music played during this extract is an interpretation by Randy Kerber of Scott Joplin’s “Bethena (a concert waltz)” a beautiful piece inspired by the death of his young wife “Freddie”. Scott Joplin’s composed this at a troubled time of his life, a time of change. There is definitely a mournful tone to the song however it includes hints of hope and of a peaceful afterlife. In a standard Hollywood manner, the string instruments and orchestra greatly increase in volume during Benjamin’s death as a baby. This isn’t only to get a bigger emotional response out of the audience, but also show that no matter how much time seems to speed up or change, time is linear and will continue on no matter the circumstances. This is a fact of life and we would do best to accept it for what it is.
The music does not stop as it shows all the people during the “Benjamin narrated” montage, most of which have lived full lives.
The clock is the most straightforward symbol and the most noticeable technique used to portray the inevitability of time. At around age 5, Benjamin is seen winding back a clock on his bed in a futile attempt to reverse time. The final image shown before rolling the credits is of the clock in the flooding basement that still, defying all odds is continues to tick backwards. The forever ticking clock shows that although Benjamin’s time has come and passed, he still holds a legacy. The hummingbird shows itself twice at times of death, and it is mentioned by Captain Mike that the hummingbird’s wing can only beat so fast because of their unique ability to fly in a figure of eight which can help keep momentum. A figure of eight also makes for an infinity symbol which shows continuity, and the unwavering force that is time.
When Benjamin is reaching his older / younger years, time seems to accelerate, and you begin to see less detail in each year. The use of montage here is used to simulate the apparent speeding of time with age, as well as Benjamin’s descent into dementia. Each year gets less camera time until 4 years pass in a single scene. This, of course, relates to the idea that time seems to fluctuate but is always linear. After this is the benjamin-narrated montage which I think says a lot about the moral and end of the story arc. It shows what all the secondary characters have decided to do with lives, and how although many of his lovers and close friends and family can have a positive impact on other lives yet how meaningless it all is, as eventually returns to nothing. Benjamin writes his story to keep a legacy and opposes time’s pursuit to erase all memory of him like a drawing in the sand of a beach during a rising tide.
When Daisy says the line “Goodnight Benjamin” on her deathbed it symbolizes that daisy is still with Benjamin in death, and her dying thoughts are of Benjamin as his thoughts were of her. Benjamin then says during the final montage, “some people were born to sit by a river.”
This would mean people are born with a rather small purpose in a bigger picture. Time is a limited resource and there never seems to be enough.
The inevitability of time is such an essential idea and it reinforced through the use of music, dialogue, symbolism and montage. All of these make for a sad ending yet a hopeful one and truly makes the audience ponder what they have done or will do with their lives in the future. The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button is a story about life and a good one at that. The one true moral is: There will come a time you will have to be content with what you have achieved and how you have changed the world for the better. Time will not stop for you, so learn to appreciate it.