“Awakening is not a thing. It is not a goal, not a concept. It is not something to be attained. It is a metamorphosis. If the caterpillar thinks about the butterfly it is to become, saying ‘And then I shall have wings and antennae,’ there will never be a butterfly. The caterpillar must accept its own disappearance in its transformation. When the marvelous butterfly takes wing, nothing of the caterpillar remains.”- Alejandro Jodorowsky
Just watched Awakenings, based on a book by Oliver Sacks. Brain has always been a little known and hence the most fascinating part of human body; and hence this journey into an unexplored territory becomes a captivating experience thanks to the efficient direction by Penny Marshall and the brilliant performances by Robert De Niro and Robin Williams.
This film reminded me of Big by same director. A 12 year boy who wakes up to realize that he is a 30 year old man. The sudden change in the age surely stuns him; but at least the world around him hasn't changed. As a result somehow, he manages to survive and in fact becomes successful due to his innocence and curiosity which make him stand out from the maddening competitive crowd.
However, on the canvas of life, the picture is not always rosy. We are shocked by the helplessness of the human race, even though we have progressed a lot. Robin Williams succeeds in transmitting the anxiety and urge of Dr. Sayer (specially when he says, "I don't know what the drug will do, I can't think of what it will do, but I just hope that it will work as a cure") to the audience. We sympathize with the patients and Dr. Sayer's efforts at awakening them. We rejoice to see them getting back from wherever they have been, to today's world. But at the same time the loss of so many years in life is too much to deal with. The person saying, "I know it is not 1926, but I just want it to be, because I don't have an experience of being older than 22" touches our hearts. The effect of all these on the relatives of the patients is equally noticeable. Their lives are interlaced with feeding and serving these catatonic patients. For some of them, this is the sole purpose of the life. So, they fail to come to terms with this sudden awakening. And then comes the climax... Leonard (Robert De Niro), who is at first happy to be back starts a new journey. He has a fighting spirit and develops a good companionship with Dr. Sayer. He wants Dr. Sayer to experiment on him, so that he can be of some use even through his sufferings.
In the end, it is not just the Awakening for patients. It is for the entire community. We realize the importance of simple things in life such as music, human touch and most of all, the relationships. To the staff at hospital, these catatonic patients are no longer like plants, simply to be fed and watered. All the staff (lead by Eleanor Costello (Julie Kavner)) start sharing the enthusiasm of Dr. Sayer and come up with ingenious tricks. Same effect trickles down to the audience. We start realizing the importance of small things in life and feel like stopping our complaints, especially when told by the endearing Leonard through his painful experience. And then, one starts believing that even a small experience can lead to an awakening which is an important part of life, because, as Gail Sheehy rightly said,
If every day is an awakening, you will never grow old. You will just keep growing.