Few American autuers can boast the kind of reputation enjoyed by Woody Allen. While his films rarely clean up at the suburban Cineplex they are a cherished mainstay at the neighborhood art house. Whatever you think of Woody as a person, his oeuvre speaks for itself. And time and again Woody has explored one particular theme: the objective meaningless of life without God. My favorite film for expressing that theme is found in Hannah and Her Sisters where Woody plays Mickey Sachs, a character who lives out his own struggles for meaning. The following link includes a typed monologue from Mickey along with the accompanying scene in the film:
Just this week I watched the documentary Woody Allen on the PBS series American Masters where Woody describes how he first realized around the age of five that he would not live forever. That introduced a melancholy streak which is woven into his personality and of course his films. He recalls
“And that thought over the years took different forms. As I later got older and always used my concentration camp example of people around me having fun, enjoying themselves, and I want to say to them ‘Don’t you realize you’re going to go up in a smokestack you know, in a short while? So why are you so happy? Doesn’t that thought sort of put a damper on things?
“We all know the same truth and our lives consist in how we choose to distort it.”
The million dollar question: is Woody right?