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Returning Themes

Monday 10 May 2010, 13:28

Mark Kermode Mark Kermode

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Coming home to your comments on coming home in the movies was like, well, coming home. It really is a special feeling, and one that is apparently evident in everything from After Hours to District 9 via The Warriors and even, so it is argued, The Exorcist...

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    Comment number 1.

    I recently watch The Mosquito Coast and I've been wondering whether it should be classified as a "coming home" movie. In a sense it's the very opposite of a coming home movie because it's about a family leaving their home in America in order to try and find a new one.

    Is The Mosquito Coast a coming home movie?

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    Comment number 2.

    I'd say Superman is another example. The film begins with Superman leaving Krypton, his home planet and continues with him leaving the home of his foster parents.

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    Comment number 3.

    I saw Four Lions this afternoon (enjoyed it a lot), you'd really have to stretch to find a "coming home" theme there...

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    Comment number 4.

    i instantly thought of star trek and the tag line 'space - the final frontier' and the enterprises mission 'to seek out new life and new civilizations' and i think there are a few characters desperate to leave home! although maybe my argument falls down slightly if you think of the enterprise itself as home....

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    Comment number 5.

    Into the Wild is kind of a reverse coming home film...well, it is up until the last 10 mins or so.

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    Comment number 6.

    It's really difficult to not reduce any film to "coming home". Straight Story appears to be the opposite of coming home. But he is going to see his brother; so there is some element of home in there. Should we not define the parameters/boundary conditions for "home"? Or, should we not come to terms with "home" being a transitory concept? Does a "journey" not infer some kind of "home" and therefore should we not be looking for films that have no "journey" instead?

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    Comment number 7.

    I think I put too many (k)nots in my previous comment...

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    Comment number 8.

    Can I suggest Fight Club as a possible contender? Yes there are vague suggestions that a past time was preferable to the consumerist hell that Tyler Durden perceives around him, and yes the house on Paper street is a 'home' to Project Mayhem, but Edward Norton's character fundamentally rejects this version of family and home without any indication that he intends to revert to the Ikea and pine furnished hell he created for himself in the first place. There is no tidy ending of domestic bliss or reconciliation with the country that so enraged Tyler, just a vision of two people (Norton and Helena Bonham Carter's Marla) cast adrift with only each other, as the world comes crashing down before their eyes.

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    Comment number 9.

    Not one mention of the many Alien movies comments, Doc?

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    Comment number 10.


    Seems to me that many classic horror films are about invasion of a home. They are not about a 'return' as such, because the malevolent force never leaves its territory. Im thinking here of movies such as The Haunting, or The Creature from the Black Lagoon. The human characters come into the monster, or spirits home- but they are defined as rootless, with no real domestic space to return to. They dont have a home- which is why they enter the area of the monster, which never leaves it. (Im not referring to home invasion movies, which for me are about coming home: the house transforms into a dangerous, strange place, and the characters return to their domestic home that they remember if they survive)

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    Comment number 11.

    I say RepoMan has no elements of coming home because the poeple in the film are completely alienated from their home environment, and the only escape is away from earth to an unknown and no doubt even more alien world

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    Comment number 12.

    I think that "coming home", in the way you are using it, it is really just synonymous for characters seeking to triumph over adversity, with everything returning to a state of normality or with the promise of a better new beginning. Most films follow the three act structure of setup, conflict and resolution and because of the conflict and resolution parts there will always be a "coming home" element to films adhering to this framework.

    To find a film that doesn't have a "coming home" element to it you need to think of films that are told in an unconventional way, which leads to my suggestion of "Monty Python's Meaning of Life", which is really not much more than a series of loosely (if that) connected sketches.

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    Comment number 13.

    Pirates of the Caribbean 2 and 3 have no story what so ever, do they count?
    Terminator Salvation doesn't have a coming home story. Even though I wanted to leave and go home within the first 20 minutes.

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    Comment number 14.

    The films with no coming home premises. Leaving Las Vegas where the hero wants to die, he does not want to go home he just wants to die. Raging Bull is about a man in self destruction, he wants to distance himself from his past, he wants to recconect with his brother but his brother wants nothing to do with him. Don't Look Now is bout trying to forgive guilty and seeking forgiveness there is not coming home themes in it.

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    Comment number 15.

    @Matth - maybe we should have discussed the exorcist ;)

    films that don't have a coming home theme:
    Reservoir Dogs, Clerks, Spinal Tap....ummmmmm! it is tricky.

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    Comment number 16.

    The Lives of Others would be my choice of a film that has little or no nostalgia or coming home theme. Yet, oddly enough, for many viewers (people who lived through those times) there was a distinct feeling of coming back home. A friend of mine, who visited family regularly in ex-DDR during her childhood, and who, as a judge, helped set up a new judicial system after the wall went down, said every scene of the film transported her back to those times. As she was watching the film, she said she could taste the apple juice sold in the cafeteria, smell the stale moldy apartment, and even feel the hardness of the creaking seats in the courtroom. Maybe The Lives of Others lacks nostalgia for the reason TheMongooseofDeath states; it lacks "seeking to triumph over adversity, with everything returning to a state of normality or with the promise of a better new beginning".

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    Comment number 17.

    I disagree with martian_pyramid about Four Lions not having a coming home element. I actually thing it has a pretty prominent one, just with a twist to it. The characters are aiming for home, for divine paradise. The difference is they don't realise that they already are home and that the home they've been told to aim for is not the important one (or may not even exist, a different discussion). The scenes of Omar with his family are excellent home scenes and he's just trying to find the perfect place for himself, his wife and his child. I think this is most explicit when he visits her at the hospital and talks about seeing her on the top floor. Home.

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    Comment number 18.

    I suppose James Bond, possibly Momento?

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    Comment number 19.

    I'd say that Saló isn't about coming home. The film primarily the themes of political corruption, abuse of power, sadism, perversion, sexuality, and fascism. I'm not sure that is really a 'coming home' film. You did a documentary on this film so I'm looking forward to you attempting to add a 'coming home' message to it.

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    Comment number 20.

    #15 - It's not as if the Doc isn't a fan; remember the excellent Alien Evolution? An odd omission, regardless of their veering from the topic at hand.

 

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