SPOILER WARNING: Spoilers ahead! Close immediately if you haven’t seen the movie or read the book.
I’ve never read the book before seeing Wes Anderson’s film adaptation. I want to go back and read it now, though. I feel a connection to the material that makes it feel as though I understand what Roald Dahl was trying to express. It feels as though he was desperately trying to express a wisdom he had learned in life that he thought was very important and worth sharing. After watching the movie, I have to say that I agree.
Henry Sugar was born into wealth, robbing him of learning from necessity. All he could require would easily be obtained for all of his life, it was preordained. From the outset, Henry is not described as a man of scruples. On the contrary, he was more than happy to cheat to win. It wasn’t the game that gave him purpose, but the reward for winning.
I won’t spoil the details but I will summarize; Henry discovered a means of seeing without using his eyes. This ability consumed him, the ability to win every game, as he was a pretty avid gambler. But in achieving this goal of being able to see without his eyes, he finds he’s been robbed of the thrill of gambling. He would win and find it incredibly unsatisfying. The entirety of satisfaction he would derive from life came from his pursuit of this singular goal. Once achieving it, he was essentially robbed of purpose in life. So, in a fashion not expected by anyone, Henry makes his own purpose in life.
In so many weird ways, it’s not surreal or unnatural while definitely being both. No one can see without his eyes, clearly, but everything happening in the story that might happen to someone who did would absolutely be a series of events that naturally should follow such an unnatural phenomenon, and I think this is where Dahl borrows from an unnatural font of inspiration and forms something we wouldn’t be surprised to see. It’s such a bizarre feeling. I love Wes Anderson’s contribution; wrapping the whole story world in sepia and the English 19th century as only he can divine it.
I love it but I also hate it. It mocks me that I haven’t found any purpose in life. I am a set extra in my own film. Uncredited, a hundred dollars in my pocket, and three days of filming at most. My entire role a footnote in the footnotes of history. My existence is tallied by the things my loved ones will have to throw away and little else. I will be mourned by the incredibly limited handful of people I’ve allowed to be close. I will die without either of my parents ever really knowing me as a person. What’s more, I’m contented by it. Doing great things, things that people can’t help but see or record for history; they can be scrutinized and categorized and judged by anyone and everyone. I guess it’s better to exist incognito, leaving nearly no footprint on the world, as the natives of nearly any indigenous tribe of virtually anywhere. I love the parable of the story because it’s a fundamental truth that happiness is not a thing. It’s a state of being induced by god only knows what. If it were a thing, that thing would be the most prized thing on the planet and there’s no way it could be kept secret. People would be using it nonstop, it would’ve been extinct or entirely consumed by now for sure. I’m tired, I guess. The kind of tired you get that sticks with you from bed time until the moment you wake up, reminding you that it’s only going to grow more prevalent as you age. The kind of tired that doesn’t go away just because you have a good day. Not even several good days put a dent in it. It’s the kind of tired you feel when you don’t feel like you belong here. I really don’t belong here. I don’t really want to belong, either. I don’t feel compelled to belong.
It’s a great short movie, though. Definitely recommend checking it out, hopefully I didn’t ruin it for you.