Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Difficulty of Ending: Being There

I have a vague recollection of reading or hearing some place that "Beginnings are dangerous things." I had thought it might have come from Dune but the pertinent quote there is "A beginning is the time for taking the most delicate care that the balances are correct." Which is, to some extent, more explicit in why I think beginnings are dangerous things, especially when it comes to story-telling. Imagine the daunting task of opening a novel or a movie—somehow, you must grab the reader's attention and maintain that interest until the actual momentum of the story itself keeps the reader hooked. In some ways, I imagine it might be easier to start a book because it would seem a writer has more tools with which to hook the reader—evocative description, bold action, an example of writing skill. Movies, on the other hand, either grab you visually from the get-go or test the viewers' patience.

All that said, however, I think endings are far more difficult for storytellers. The story has an inertia of its own, and the storyteller has to somehow bring that energy to a satisfying end without betraying the forces that got the story there in the first place. And the ending is the last memory of the story that the audience will have, so you don't want to send them away unhappy. Off the top of my head, I suspect there are probably more clich├ęs for ending a story than for beginning them.

For years now, Mrs. Speculator has been trying to get me to see 1979's Being There, a sharp satire starring Peter Sellers and directed by Hal Ashby. To be candid, I had tried at least three times to watch Being There, but I fell asleep about 20 minutes in every time. My movie fan friends have long found this situation to be intolerable, as they think Being There brilliant and audacious, and my life would just not be complete if I did not make it through at least one viewing of it. This past weekend, due to the magic of Netflix, I finally did.

Peter Sellers plays Chance (or as he is later known in the film Chauncey Gardener), a middle-aged man who has spent his entire life in a single home and the adjoining walled-in garden. Everything he knows about the outside world comes from television, and while this stirs up the possibilities of over the top satire, the movie doesn't go there. Chance is a simple man, who has apparently been kept in this household to protect himself—it's never really clear if he is retarded or just utterly ignorant, or even how this set of circumstances arose. But when the homeowner (who may or may not be his father) dies, he is forced to make his way in the world on his own, and the world outside his garden is Washington DC.

The real comedy and its closely associated satire of Being There is that all the influential and smart people he meets mistake his calm ignorance for calm assuredness. Asked his opinion about current events, Chance always responds with his observations about maintaining a garden, which in turn are interpreted as philosophical anecdotes and keen insight. Asked about the country's flailing economy, Chance responds that seasons turn, the spring follows winter. And those people who listen—first an influential lobbyist, then the President of the United States, and ultimately the entire country—hear him saying that things will get better.

The movie is, in fact, brilliant in its use of Chance as a focal character through which we observe ourselves. We laugh at the gullibility of those who seek Chance's insight, and we snicker at Chance's utter reliance on television to make it through his life. And then a thoughtful audience will use those moments to evaluate their own actions and beliefs. The screenplay is wicked in its constant use of essentially two conversations at one time—the one Chance's questioners want to have and the one that Chance thinks he is participating in. The comedy is soft and quiet, rarely descending into anything more overt including just one physical bit from Sellers, the master of physical comedy.

The problem, the issue that pushes me to write this and solicit insight, is with the very last scene of the movie. (I should note that from here on out there will be spoilers, so stop reading if you don't want to know how Being There ends.) As a funeral takes place over a hill from where Chance stands beside a pond, he steps out and onto the water, walking across it and even reaching down to dip his umbrella into its depths. And as I watched it, it made me angry because it seemed to be a betrayal of what the rest of the movie, a quite good movie up to this point, was about. I've spent the last few days thinking about this and actually searching the Interwebs for some insight, but I can only come down to two readings of the final scene:

  1. It's just another indication of how pure and innocent Chance is.
  2. Chance is Christ.

These two readings are obviously closely related but they have different effects on how to accept the story being told. In the first case, we've already spent more than two hours seeing example after example of how innocent Chance is. Approached sexually by both men and women who are swayed by his charm and demeanor, he has no idea what they are asking for as they try to seduce him. And outside of the physical innocence, the movie has made it clear repeatedly that he just doesn't understand worldly issues beyond the garden and his complete reliance on the truthfulness and good wishes of those who know him. So, having him walk on water as a final example of that purity is gilding the lily: we just don't need anything that heavy-handed at this late stage and especially as the last scene we take away from the movie.

The other possibility is worse because there is absolutely no foreshadowing that this might be the case. Christ was not a simple man, potentially retarded. Historically, Christ has been depicted as intelligent and well-spoken, while Chance repeats often "I don't read" (which is interpreted by his audience as "I choose not to read" when he is really saying he doesn't know how). Unexpected twists at the end of a movie are often delightful, recasting the entire movie in a new light from the unusual position of its conclusion, but those twists need to be supported by the events that take place in the rest of the movie. It just doesn't happen here.

I'm also mindful of the difficulty that Being There presents to the director and screen writer; if the walking on water bit is not suitable as an ending to Chance's story, what then should replace it? And as I've tried to interpret what was intended by Chance's miracle, I've also considered other ways to bring the movie to a conclusion. Unfortunately, I can't think of anything better, especially when I try to continue the movement and direction the movie seemed to have. The result is that I am frustrated because Being There is such a delightful movie, and it comes to such an unsatisfying and jarring end.

And so I throw out this plea to my readers—if you have seen Being There, do you have a different interpretation of the final scene? Or can you think of a better way to close the movie?

64 comments:

  1. I've heard the Christ theory a bunch of times but I just can't buy it. I think it's a commentary on how everyone perceives him. They've elevated this idiot to mythical, supernatural status and he's clueless.

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  2. Tim, a friend of mine mentioned your commentary theory as I was pondering the movie, but I find that theory not very likely. Let's consider that you've described a point the movie's creators are trying to make--that people are willing to place just about any reading on Chance they like because they are shallow and don't really think about what they are seeing. In that final scene, who is the audience seeing Chance performing his "miracle"? No one from the cast sees him--they're all at the funeral. No, the only people who can see the miracle is the audience watching the movie, you and me. And so the commentary the film might be making is no longer about a generic "they" that might be too stupid to figure out what's going on, but instead specifically calling you and I out as not being particularly bright. And while we may not want to believe Chance capable of miracles, that scene offers no other alternative but to see him doing what he does. The result is that the movie calls out you and me without giving us any recourse to deny what it accuses us of. It's quite a risky move to make on the part of the movie's creators, dancing on the fine line of directly insulting the paying audience, and I'm just not sure that a major movie release would do that. I suppose that Being There could be the exception that proves the rule, but I'd like to think (a la Occam's razor) that there is a simpler explanation I am just missing.

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  3. I myself have my own theory. It starts with the old men who are carrying the casket of Ben. The grave or mausoleum, (Whatever it was) was the shape of a pyramid with an eye. This is a symbol tied in with the Illuminati. The old men are talking about making Chance president because he has a way with people and is loved by all. The Illuminati are supposedly a "world domination" organization who want to rule the world. With Chance, they see that as a possibility. The final scene as Chance walks across the water suggests that he is Jesus, but with all this right beforehand, I believe the opposite, but possibly the Antichrist. It's not Chances fault, but after being sheltered all his life, manipulation by a deviant few could shape him into that. Chance didn't really grow up with a sense of right or wrong, he simply gardened. As some theologians say, the Antichrist will be able to repeat or "copy" all of the miracles that Jesus of Nazareth had done. Thus suggesting he is the Antichrist.

    Just my thought! =P

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    1. Just FYI, the "antichrist" (as any honest, knowledgeable theologian or religious expert will tell you) was Nero Caesar, who persecuted the early Christian movement. He's long gone. Those who believe in attempting to apply the Book of Daniel, Revelation, etc., to our day or to some future time are simply out of touch with reality, and lack a genuine understanding of the Bible. The historical figure upon whom the modern Jesus character is based was a Jewish teacher (probably a rabbi) whose actual name would have been Joshua. Since this was a very common name and there were many "movements" all around Roman-occupied Jerusalem, we don't know how many of the Gospel tales were possibly written about different leaders, how many of the stories were borrowed from earlier spiritual myths, or if these stories have any actual historical merit.

      That said, it is highly unlikely Chance was intended to be either Jesus or the antichrist.

      The best theory I've seen is the one that Chance has been metaphorically elevated to a near divine level by those around him, as well as being a statement on our tendency as humans to judge people and events based solely on appearances and our impressions at that moment. Chance, while for the most part oblivious to the highly unlikely things going on around him and living "in the moment" as they say, is surprised to be treading water, probably more so than anyone else would be. But, upon discovering this, as is his way, he simply moves forward.

      Perhaps his final experience was a mirage. If you want to adopt a spiritual element, perhaps he was indeed an angel, or had achieved some spiritual illumination, possibly unaware, that gave him this new ability.

      In the final analysis, I think it was just a metaphorical twist to make us think, all of us. Our instantaneous perceptions in our fast-paced, self-centred world often blind us to the reality that exists beneath their surface.

      All I know is this is a wonderful film, iconic in it's cast and subtle commentary on life. Peter Sellers was nothing short of brilliant. What a shame we lost him at such a young age.

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    2. Lol! A religious woman/man telling other people they are out of touch with reality! Hahaha, I'm sorry bullshit always makes me laugh

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    3. If I recall correctly, the illuminati eye is in the center of the triangle. In the movie, the eye is at the top, which is just like our dollar bill, which represents the eye of God watching over mankind.

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  4. I don't think he's Jesus. I think he's "The Fool" from the Tarot. (See Wikipedia explanation, especially under symbolism.) It's no secret that Peter Sellers was into psychic healers, or at least pretended to be when it came to the heart condition that killed him. He's "The Fool" on a journey...and on that journey, he can do no wrong.

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  5. Melissa, I'm aware of the symbology behind the fool and think it is an interesting idea to explore. However, asserting that the characterization comes from the actor, I think, is a mistake. While the mannerisms and inflectoin belong to the actor, what the character does through the course of the movie, including the troubling final scene, is the responsibility of quite a few people, most especially the screenwriter and the director. How Chance acts as he walks on thewater is all Sellers. How his character got there is the responsibility of other people.

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  6. I have always believed that Chance is indeed Christ. The cleverness is that the audience watches the other characters seemingly interacting with Chance and we are amused how they cannot see how truly unprofound and childlike his perceptions and responses are. The punchline is that the audience through the corrupting rose colored glasses of humanity fail to properly interpret what is presented.

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  7. I think the masonic imagery in the movie has some bearing on interpreting the final scene.

    Television, as a medium, has been instrumental in both reducing and homogenising both peoples intellect and culture.

    Throughout the movie, the television's influence has been shown to pervade every aspect of people's opinions, and Chance is the most extreme example of this, the paragon if you will.

    I interpret the scene of him walking on water as an attempt to comment on this 'paragon' who is the modern-day equivalent of a christ-like figure. We are informed at the funeral that this man has been chosen to be the new head of state of the USA, by the same people who are seeking the coalescing of culture and unifying systems of government and control.

    Its really a difficult interpretation to articulate and I dont feel like I have done it justice but I hope someone got the jist of it.

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  8. I think that Chance is an angel. He simply spends time with individuals that will soon pass on. He walks across the water because he is a spirit and he will soon receive his next assignment.

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  9. From this source: http://www.dareland.com/lastshot.htm

    - - - - - -

    The script for Being There ends as both Peter Sellers and Shirley MacLaine take walks in the wood. They run into each other. She says "I was looking for you, Chance." He says "I was looking for you too." They take hands and walk off together.

    But near the end of production, somebody went up to Hal and said "How's it going?"

    "Great," Hal said. "Sellers has created this character that's so amazing, I could have him walk on water and people would believe it." Hal stopped and thought. "As a matter of fact, I will have him walk on water."

    Hal was out on location, miles from Hollywood. The last thing on earth he needed was to contact the home office to discuss the idea of Chance walking on water. It's an idea that wouldn't pitch or read well. If it had been in the script, there would have been endless arguments over what this Jesus allegory was doing in the picture. Only if you've actually seen the film do you realize that it's not a Jesus allegory at all. Chance can walk on water because nobody ever told him he couldn't, not because he's the resurrection of Christ.

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    1. Thank you, finally a commentary that makes perfect sense!

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    2. Bingo, we have a winner.
      Hal and Sellers show us how strong perceptions are. This is explained when the maid tells the people in the group home she is in that the world is made for white people, something that was even truer in 1978. There is also some graffiti to that affect when he walking the streets of DC. The comments on not being able to read and liking to watch TV may date it a little (not that its not still true) but today it would probably be the internet, twitter, cell phones etc. It really is a brilliant movie.

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  10. Is it possible that Chance actually drowns himself because his world is about to come undone and even in his childlike mentality, he know's he has been found out as "Chance" and he simply does not know where to go from there? Perhaps with Chance knowing that his past is now known (even in his childlike mental state he seems to understand consequences to his being found out) and with the loss of Rand he finds himself emotionally wandering. Thus he walks into the lake drowning himself and the visual representation we see of Chance walking on water is the fairytale "Chauncey" others have chosen to see throughout the movie.

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  11. I have so much to say on this and you all made great points. I'll try and keep this as straight forward and short as possible.

    The end quote heard in the film adaptation of "Being There" is "Life is a state of mind". From that I gathered that the director was just re-enforcing the idea that Chance could walk on water as he never knew that he could not, since he learned the ways of the world through his television.

    Chance comes across as this allegorical character to his "audience", it's like he IS the television and we are all so swayed by EVERYTHING the TV tells us. It could be absolute nonsense but we cannot see passed it. Because of this I can see where the whole "he is Christ" thing comes in but personally I don't buy that either.

    In my opinion I think today TV has more faithful servants than any deity shall have, and always has, and that is why I think Chance is shown this way( Not only to have learned everything from TV but metaphorically IS the TV/media). No one questions him, they just keep taking it all in, hook, line and sinker.


    And who better to lead a nation than one who will never be questioned? Or even exist?

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  12. The only thing that makes Being There a chef d'oeuvre is its end scene. It is otherwise simply amusing. The last scene powerfully suggests in a minute that the world we see might just be a convincing temporary illusion, collectively reinforced, that subdued us to the point that we forgot we made it all up in the first place, like a TV show. Now anyone trying to break this hypnotizing collective agreement by reminding us that what we see might merely be a projection of our own thoughts, and demonstrating it by breaking physical laws we really thought we were subject to, is certainly a party killer. You can even get crucified if you do this too often, to too many people not ready to be reminded this.

    Indeed, "life is a state of mind"... and the mind is a channel changer. Remember ? The channel you choose is what you get. Yet the most impressive button is the "power" one. To shut the TV off seems like ending the show for a few seconds, but it is the resuming of the real one. DO NOT TRY IT UNTIL YOU ARE READY. TV channels are fun and ok for now. Just press "pause" once in a while, in order to experience "being there" for a moment, between two shows.

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  13. Have you considered that this movie might be a comment on Christ?

    Christ was a humble carpenter, Chance was a humble gardener.

    Christ spoke in parables, Chance speaks about his garden.

    Christ was innocent of fornication, Chance was innocent about sex altogether.

    If Christ were in fact a simple man, perhaps people built him into a savior in the same way they were trying to build Chance into an economic savior.

    So the movie might be a backhanded swipe at Christianity. With the walking on water scene at the end to spark the comparison.

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  14. I guess if you have a religious perspective that is what you see but, it is pretty obvious that it has nothing to do with Chance being Cristlike. At the same time, the Jack Warden's speech includes the words, "Life is a State of Mind," and Chance does not know he can't walk on water so he doesn't fall in. Really pretty simple and completely aligned with the character and the entire premise of the film. If you want to reach and attach some religious connection, feel free.

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  15. The final scene is simply a metaphor. Every person that meets Chance simply reflects on him their own life´s references ("I have been there, being there I know, so I understand what you mean"...my reference of life)...In the final scene, you have never walk on water because you apply physical laws to your thoughts, you are a rational person...but Chance was empty in his brain, he did not know any laws whatsoever, no human laws, no physical laws, but his own reference about gardening. When he walks over water, you cannot relate to him, and immediately become aware that he is a different person, it’s not you, and you have not "being there", so you might start disliking him, because it breaks your own private references of life. Besides that, the metaphor tries to tell you that being ignorant of your surroundings, not having references of nothing, gives you the power of bold, "fortune favors the bold"...you can go very far in life just by being a simple man, with no complexes, no envy, no expectations, no ambitions...you even can go as high as to walk on water...not knowing about your impossibilities gives you infinite power...if you don’t think that you can´t do something, you might possibly do it...that’s the whole meaning of that final scene with the words "life is a state of mind"... think nothing about you, have no ego...and you might conquer the world...it is absolutely brilliant...the final scene is pure genius...

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    1. I think your points a dead on. you focus too much and you loose focus in a way. Here we have Rands masonic brothers that seek wisdom power etc... deciding the next king...Chance out of all people. Also, i don't think it's chance that his name is Chance

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  16. Very nice write-up about Being There. I just watched the movie and enjoyed it tremendously. I think the final scene is nothing more than that fact that Chance can do what he wants to do, such as walk across water, because nobody ever told him he can't. He's gaining that sort of naive confidence.

    I really don't think it was the best way to end the movie. It was frustrating, as you've expressed in your reflection about it. On one hand, it's a provocative and intriguing ending, but on the other, the rest of the movie does not support such a move, so it comes unexpectedly, and there isn't even a subtle lead-in to that.

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  17. Chance is just a simple man, focusing on nature and the positive aspects of nature. He doesn't realize he cannot walk on water, so he does. We are limited by what we believe we can't do, rather than focusing on what is possible. If you don't know any better, anything is possible.

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  18. What about the book? How does the book end?

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  19. I think the ending scene where Chance walks on water makes clear that he is safe from harm. Helpless and seemingly clueless, with each challenging event he finds safe haven. His safe haven comes from others,who impose their own reflections on his garden analogies. His enigmatic references to a garden require one to interpret what he means and they do so in a way that validates how they see things. There is a double message here. Kosinski is making a point that we interpret things through our own filter of how we see things. And, in a more Buddhist-like way, Chance's way of existing in the real world is one of living in the present, accepting things as they occur and interpreting them in the only way he can, which is experientially and without the folly of using the mind to impose thought as a filter for interpretation about the meaning of events and circumstance. Or perhaps, I am just using Chance to validate how I see things.

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    1. "Or perhaps, I am just using Chance to validate how I see things."

      Yes you are but that is the point of the movie. The last words in the movie are, "Life is a state of mind." How you perceive things is how they are in your world. Everything Chance says is pertinent because you interpret it and give it meaning.

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  20. In my opinion, the meaning is not meant to be specific in terms of Chauncey's walking on water. Instead, I think this is an artistic gesture meant to convey something to the audience about the nature of ending a thought experiment.

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  21. The Christ story needs to be looked at just a little more closely. There was one other person who walked on the water with Christ-- as long as he had faith and he did not doubt. Ironically that man's name was Peter. Chance had a simple faith and was very faithful with the few talents that he was given. "For everything there is a season". The Biblical parallel view of the movie needs to be reexamined in my opinion.

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    1. Very true, he has faith as Peter, also there we need to see he is Adam from the garden of eden. born into innocence and once expelled finds Eve. With Eve Rand he off to inherit the earth.

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  22. It is of my opinion that 'Being There' is the first glimpse into The Matrix.

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  23. from my point of view the ending scene depicts as the US president quote rand "life is state of mind" it simply describe the whole scene. Chance don't know about drowning if he walks in water like we normal people usually do if we don't know how to swim and chance is never know how to swim. its all about the state of mind if we know about life then we know about death and in the movie chance do not know about both.

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  24. Is it a statement on how oblivious we all really are, we just reside on different sides of the spectrum. A simple minded gardener is no less complex than the president, just different. The end , is it stating that Christ might have fooled every one by walking on water in the shallows while the deep was inches away? A facade to some is another's reality, awareness of self is being there? I think it is a swipe at everything from power to religion, and you were there to experience it. We saw what happens to those who over think Chances relevance, they are falsely aroused, or impotent. LOL. Just a great movie, that played on preconceived ideas. Eve, Garden of Eden, Anti Christian, who gives a rat's ass. More than 30 years after the fact this story is still provoking thought, we have all Been There.

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  25. Is it a statement on how oblivious we all really are, we just reside on different sides of the spectrum. A simple minded gardener is no less complex than the president, just different. The end , is it stating that Christ might have fooled every one by walking on water in the shallows while the deep was inches away? A facade to some is another's reality, awareness of self is being there? I think it is a swipe at everything from power to religion, and you were there to experience it. We saw what happens to those who over think Chances relevance, they are falsely aroused, or impotent. LOL. Just a great movie, that played on preconceived ideas. Eve, Garden of Eden, Anti Christian, who gives a rat's ass. More than 30 years after the fact this story is still provoking thought, we have all Been There.

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  26. By the way Forest Gump plays the same way if you look at it. Two people protected from the world by powerful caretakers only to stumble upon greatness in spite of it all. Innocence you know, the meek shall inherit and so on and so on and scoobie doobie doo!

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  27. By the way Forest Gump plays the same way if you look at it. Two people protected from the world by powerful caretakers only to stumble upon greatness in spite of it all. Innocence you know, the meek shall inherit and so on and so on and scoobie doobie doo!

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  28. I thought that (in the end) he would wander off and others would try to search him but he would be lost forever... just as he came from nowhere, he would vanish into obscurity... he anyway was not 'greedy' of worldly needs... but the ending threw me off... I was thinking that the director meant 'being there' as: he was so close to 'being there' (becoming the POTUS) and all but he was 'different' and couldn't care less... This ending would be matching what was shown up till the end... but the storytellers wanted us to rethink/re-interpret everything I guess...

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  30. I guess I just kinda figured he was an angel of death, but in a sense in which death itself is an innocent transition of seasons we all go through. And Chauncey acted as an observer and companion of the growth and decay patterns in lives of the old man and Ben, and his garden was a continual metaphor for this. But this is my own assumption without delving too deep into it.

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  31. Hal Ashby said that the ending was intended to illustrate how much Chance gave to the world. He gave people so much, at the end the only thing left for him to do was to walk on water. So it's really just an ending to a movie, like all the others we watch.

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  32. TV dialog is a very important sub-text. Being There must be viewed more than once to SEE and HEAR it all. One favorite scene is when Chance encounter(s) the gang of utes and he tries to change the channel with his remote.

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  33. I feel the final scene is a commentary on innocence. The reference to Jesus walking on water is to state the Chance's character was pure innocence, something none of us can claim. Only one in biblical history. This comedy is brilliant in its' two-sided view of life. Sellers sells every inch of Chance. My favorite movie.

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  34. He only needed to disappear. Then we could all:
    1. Wonder if he really existed – and that in tune with the rest of the characters who assumed he was actually ‘there’ and with them as they wanted him to be. Of course he wasn’t. At least he wasn’t ever having the same interaction with them as they were having with him. Or….
    2. If all it really takes in life is that one only needs to be white – the most hilarious line in the entire movie. If so – he’ll be fine wherever he winds up.
    He is not Jesus Christ.

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  35. There is a very taoist tone to Chance character, in the sense that he is empty, still, calm... he lives accordingly to what Zhuangzi wrote millenia ago:

    "To a mind that is still, the entire universe surrenders."

    He has the taoist kind of ingenuity-wisdom. He does not judge any human behaviour, but acts like a mirror, reflecting people's own minds back to themselves, never reacting emotionaly. No attachment whatsoever:

    "Flow with whatever may happen, and let your mind be free: Stay centered by accepting whatever you are doing. This is the ultimate."

    Only he stays centered by default. That is how he exists in the world. And I think "Being There" is alluded to that. Being present, always in the moment. To me is very clear that Chance is a man of Tao.

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  36. p.s. of course, there are some masonic and occult symbolism throughout the movie, but I didn't find it quite profound.

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  37. He is the uncarved block, like a child who was never indoctrinated. Even walking on water doesn't seem to disturb his mind.

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    1. I agree 100%.

      He thinks without symbols, without words and numbers.

      He has true GRACE :) !!!

      Alan Watts would have loved this movie. So would Charlie Chaplin I think :)

      Cheers
      Edgar
      edgarpereirasilva@icloud.com


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  38. Wonderful commentary about a gem of a movie! I think it says a great deal about "Being There" that it (and the ending) continue to be debated over 36 years after it was released!!

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  39. I think the ending is pretty clear...

    and shows how "an entire universe surrenders to a still mind".

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  40. I don't know if anyone has considered the last scene of the movie as being the ultimate illustration of what Jesus was trying to teach Peter and his other disciples when he walked upon the waters. It was all about faith. If you recall, when Jesus invited Peter to join him and walk upon the water, Peter started successfully walking out to Jesus,buoyed (the pun is a happy coincidence ) by his faith in what Jesus was saying. It was only when his doubts (born of his experience and intelligence) crept in, that he foundered and sank.

    Chance had the innocence and faith of a child who has no experience with the cruel realities of life. He had lived his entire life inside the house that I believe he was born in. His father (I believe the "old man" was his father) saw to it that all of his needs were met and that he was well cared for. Therefore Chance (or Chauncy, if you prefer) went out into the world with none of the doubts and misgivings that all of us have from experiencing the real world. Earlier in the movie, I had thought that Chance was somewhat retarded mentally. However, as the movie progressed I came to realize that he was exhibiting the pure innocence of a child seeing and experiencing the world for the first time. When he walked out onto the waters of the lake, he had no expectation that he would sink and all the faith that he would continue to walk as he did everywhere else.......so he did!

    Did Jesus not say this is so?

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  41. I don't know if anyone has considered the last scene of the movie as being the ultimate illustration of what Jesus was trying to teach Peter and his other disciples when he walked upon the waters. It was all about faith. If you recall, when Jesus invited Peter to join him and walk upon the water, Peter started successfully walking out to Jesus,buoyed (the pun is a happy coincidence ) by his faith in what Jesus was saying. It was only when his doubts (born of his experience and intelligence) crept in, that he foundered and sank.

    Chance had the innocence and faith of a child who has no experience with the cruel realities of life. He had lived his entire life inside the house that I believe he was born in. His father (I believe the "old man" was his father) saw to it that all of his needs were met and that he was well cared for. Therefore Chance (or Chauncy, if you prefer) went out into the world with none of the doubts and misgivings that all of us have from experiencing the real world. Earlier in the movie, I had thought that Chance was somewhat retarded mentally. However, as the movie progressed I came to realize that he was exhibiting the pure innocence of a child seeing and experiencing the world for the first time. When he walked out onto the waters of the lake, he had no expectation that he would sink and all the faith that he would continue to walk as he did everywhere else.......so he did!

    Did Jesus not say this is so?

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  42. Mr. Rand "Oh, yes - Chauncey - you know, Robert - there's something about him that I trust - he makes me feel good. Since he's been around, the thought of dying has been much easier for me"

    Simple Is Beautiful .

    Chance brings people peace of mind, he is a divine entity, awkward for the mundane, naive on the surface, but full of deep wisdom .

    We are just fools in a simple world, our small minds can´t see the stunning simplicity of life so elaborate complex innacurate theories.
    Chance came to us just to show how ridiculous we are.

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  43. I just watched the end of the film, because I wanted to see the end again. I like a film with a twist ending and especially a thought provoking one. Certainly the director created such an ending, but did he do it as a last minute tweak of his audience, or to reveal a deeper truth in a surprise ending?

    I would have voted for a deeper truth, except for the anecdotes that the director came up with this idea toward the end of filming. That leads me to believe the director did not intend the ending to be a profound revelation to which the movie was heading all along.

    The film is a satire on modern life, wealth, perceptions. As many have observed above, the revelation that Chance really is God doesn't seem to fit there.

    But as a viewer of the film, that is the only conclusion.He literally walks on water.normal people can't do that. Either he walks on water because his utter simplicity as a man enables it, or he was not a simple man, he was in fact a deity or spiritual being of the highest order.

    Of course he can be both, is God a creation of man, or is man evolving into the image of God, or is God an independent all knowing all powerful being?

    Whether Chance has become God like, or he was always God, at the end of the film we see him as God. He is only interested in nature, the natural order of this world. He doesn't just walk on the water, he is visiting a tree branch in the water, and he seems to care about it in the same gentle way he approaches people.

    Dysart's comment at the end that "you really are a Gardener" and repeating twice "I understand" could be the revelation that Chance is just an ordinary gardener, it also could be the revelation that Chance is a "gardener" in this world in the same sense Christ was a "shepherd".

    Also Chance states that he loves the woman very much. We know that is not sexual love. But it is a strong statement to say he loves her, perhaps as God loves her.

    I have to conclude that the audience is being given an insight that Chance in his simplicity really is an extraordinary being. It is a God like simplicity.

    The statement that "life is a state of mind" is no coincidence. But oddly it follows many banal statements which precede it at the funeral. Is that phrase the key to the story, or was it also a banal attempt to define the world as being what we see in it, whereas really the world is extraordinary in itself if we have the God like simplicity to simply enjoy it as Chance does?

    Developmentally disabled gardeners who live sheltered lives can't really do the things Chance does. Even his name refers to the seeming randomness with which the universe moves along. I think in the end the twist of the movie is unmistakable, he is God tending to creation, I don't think he is specifically Jesus, but he is God himself or a man who has achieved a God like existence.

    In a sense he left the simple paradise of his earlier residence with the father, and wandered the earth taking in his creation. What better way to observe the state of the modern human world than through television?

    In the end, he is God.

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  44. when you revisit the film, it is clear that chance is of a divine nature

    CHANCE
    ...All that's left for me now is the room upstairs.

    RAND
    Now, wait a minute, Chauncey - you
    have your health... for
    God's sake don't give up on your-
    self! You have to fight!
    You can't let those bastards
    keep you down! I don't want
    to hear any more from you about
    the 'Room Upstairs.' That's
    where I'm going soon.

    There is a long pause. Chance looks up, then smiles at Rand.

    CHANCE
    It's a very pleasant room, Ben.

    RAND
    (laughs)
    Yes, I'm sure it is. That's
    what they say, anyway.

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  45. Not really divine nature, as that suggests infinite knowledge and peace with that knowledge. Change has the peace, but not the knowledge. Instead, all of his dialogue is purely literal. Go back through the film and check. He says nothing original or innovative. It is all derivative. The "room upstairs" is not a reference to heaven since he knows absolutely nothing about heaven. It is simply an awareness of and acknowledgement of the fact that, from his current position (literally, standing by the bedside of a dying old man), all he has to hang onto is the bedroom upstairs provided by the old man. How about this for a concluding statement: Ignorance is bliss. He walks on water but he has no reason or experience to suggest that he cannot. I have seen many a movie that has less to offer as a conclusion.

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    Replies
    1. the abstract concept of divine nature is infinite wisdom, not knowledge of unnecesary things.
      Chauncey wisdom is about considering pleasant every situation he faces, being at peace. That is why life is a state of mind .

      Delete
  46. Ooops! 2 corrections: Chance, not Change. And "He walks on water BECAUSE (not 'but') he has no reason or experience ..."

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  47. I think it's worth mentioning that Chance is "Adam" in the garden of eden, he lived in a state of innocence and he literally got expelled from it. He's told to go find a woman and he does "Eve".
    He's off to inherent the earth by the end of the show, he is now empowered by Rands masonic brotherhood "kingmakers" which is funny since knowledge is their main objective but find themselves raising up "Chance"....not really the epitome of knowledge and wisdom. There is a lot to this movie I still need to digest and interpret. but I'm realizing this movie doesn't leave much to chance (pun intended) every thing is very calculated.

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  48. I thought the point of the final scene was rather obvious.

    For the whole film Chance's actions and words have been misinterpreted as being profound when we know that they are simple. Louise's dialogue makes it quite clear that there is nothing supernatural or special about Chance, he is just simple.

    In the final scene the audience is presented with a similar situation to all the people who have been mistakenly beguiled by Chance. There are two explanations for what we see. The amazing and impossible, namely that chance can walk on water or the obvious explanation - that there is a pier going across the lake submerged by a few millimetres of water. When presented with a scenario where you can either choose the obvious explanation or the remarkable, which one do you choose?

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  49. This is a funny situation. I think the whole point of the movie was exactly the opposite of all these discussions. We humans have a big problem or tendency to remain stuck in our minds and feel we need to mentally analyze, categorize and judge everything around us all the time. The brilliance of this movie in my opinion is exposing the fact that humans constructed a complicated, virtual reality that keeps alienating us from the simplicity of just 'being there', which is very clear from the moment he talks with Louise, then to the attorneys, then to the gang on the street, then with Eve, Ben and all the others. Chance was naturally funny, but what was funnier was the different reactions of all the people who interacted with Chance; he was a mirror to their distorted perceptions which was very clear in the dialogue. When Chance simply answers any questions (where he never actually lied or made up stories...) people around him never took him literally, they either suspected or twisted his replies consciously or unconsciously according to their own experiences and thought patterns, starting from the very moment when he met Eve and she decided to call him 'Chauncy Gardiner', as maybe she couldn't believe that his name was Chance and that he was simply a gardener or that she simply was not listening enoug. It shows that our complicated lives where our minds are our masters can't even accept the idea of just 'being there' and simply asking questions and then, simply believing the answers. It was very funny at some point when everyone was trying to find out who Chance was, & the FBI & CIA got involved! why all that suspicion? because he was a simple guy with a simple state of mind, of being very anchored in the 'NOW'.
    I didn't find Chance stupid, and Ben didn't find him either...approaching death he told his doctor that he feels more safe to die with Chance around...maybe it was Chance's simple being and surrender to 'what is' presence that made Ben feel liberated towards death, he didn't get offended when Chance asked him in the end "you are going to die now?" as he was simply asking him; had no vicious intentions to steal his money or whatever...
    So, even at the end of the movie, the same happened. The limited way of thinking, worrying, planning, securing, protecting, controlling this illusionary reality etc...carried on especially while carrying dead Ben's body! Then Chance simply walked away, to the trees, nature and walked over the water and clearly it was the first time for him to encounter this situation, so he checked or explored with his umbrella what was underneath the water...and it was quite clear that the water was shallow for him to walk on! I mean trapping ourselves in that scene compared to the general essence and extremely smart ironic dialogue/script is useless!
    Why is there an incessant need to complicate Chance to make him more familiar to 'common' behavior or make up religious/cultural theories and expectations about this movie, we just need to 'be there' while watching :-)

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  50. Odd that the original post and the majority of these resposes fail to recognize that the ending is perfectly appropriate. Any lengthy discussion attempting to interpret the film's ending is a continuation of the film's satire, which was all about our self-absorbed society overthinking, "reading between the lines," and utterly misinterpreting even the simplest image or utterance. The meaning of the final shot in Being There is that Chance the Gardener is so utterly shallow that he is two-dimensional, a screen image, not even subject to the physical laws of a three-dimensional universe. The fact that you, the audience, immediately attempts to read deeper meaning into the scene is the director's gentle reminder that you should be laughing at yourself.

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  51. Odd that the original post and the majority of these resposes fail to recognize that the ending is perfectly appropriate. Any lengthy discussion attempting to interpret the film's ending is a continuation of the film's satire, which was all about our self-absorbed society overthinking, "reading between the lines," and utterly misinterpreting even the simplest image or utterance. The meaning of the final shot in Being There is that Chance the Gardener is so utterly shallow that he is two-dimensional, a screen image, not even subject to the physical laws of a three-dimensional universe. The fact that you, the audience, immediately attempts to read deeper meaning into the scene is the director's gentle reminder that you should be laughing at yourself.

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  52. He is not walking on water. If we were there with him, we were at his side on that dock we can not see standing on the water.
    It is the film: Chance is what he is. The others put things on Chance that he is not.

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  53. He can walk on water, because he doesn't no he can't.

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