Instructor Kendall Shearman
2014 Nov. 19
Genre: Theory of Groundhog Day
As difficult as it has become, placing a film into a certain characterization based upon the story, actors, director, audience expectations, et cetera, and genre theory helps us to do so. Genre theory is the study of films in order to facilitate the cauterization of films (Richard, n.d.). Conventions of mainstream genres, when identified in films, helps the audience to classify what type of film they are watching, and may let them know what to expect. It also outlines a formula used by directors and writers when plotting stories to put to film. A mainstream genre with classic films near and dear to me is fantasy, a favorite amongst many in that it allows us as viewers to escape our present world for the duration of the film.
Fantasy films take care to adhere to the conventions of classical cinematic story telling while constructing coherent space, time, and narrative causality. They take the audience into a netherworld where events take place that are unlikely to occur in real life (AMC, n.d.). A feature length film that fits this genre is Groundhog Day (1993), starring Andie MaDowell, Chris Elliott, and Bill Murray as a popular and arrogant TV weatherman, Phil Conner, is a film directed by Harold Ramis. Sent to the small Pennsylvania town Punxsutawney to report on their annual Groundhog Day celebration, TV meteorologist Phil Connors is unhappy with the assignment.
He awakes at six on February 2, to the classic “I’ve Got You Babe” by Sonny and Cher, avoids the townspeople for most of his day, reports on the groundhog coming out, and plans to depart. After failing to predict inclement weather, a snowstorm traps Phil (Murray) and his TV crew in the small town, much to Phil’s annoyance. He checks back into the inn for the night, planning to leave the small town the next day. Only, this story holds a plot twists one would typically find only in a great fantasy film. Phil finds himself and his production crew trapped in a magic cycle, which causes him to repeats the horrible day he had yesterday in Punxsutawney with the groundhog, over, and over again. Phil becomes stuck in a time loop that only he is aware of, remembering each repeated day and responding with different emotions and behaviors.
It is common to classify fantasy films by the theme and motif, which uncanny characteristic is the time loop in this selected film, and by the feelings of awe inspired in the audience. Groundhog Day stages its fantasy world in the real world of Pennsylvania, making this a fantasy of the imagination, also common within this genre. It raises questions about real, wonder, and possibilities, reveals repressed dreams or desires, and makes explicit what society refuses to acknowledge (Filmreference.com, n.d.). This fantasy films keeps us engaged with the motif, archetype, and its character. It lightens the message conveyed in the theme with it humor and irony, always reminding us that we may imagine as we may.
In Groundhog Day, Phil undergoes a mystical experience when he is unable to awake in the next day, but repeats the same day over again. This experience may appear to audiences who are adults or children as the idea of time manipulation is a coveted concept. Fantasy films exhibit this concept in depth, as there are no limits to imagination. This convention makes fantasy films such as Groundhog Day so great. Once Phil realizes he can do whatever he wants because he will not have the consequences o deal with tomorrow, he begins to live each day as if they were his last, seeing the glass as “half full.’ In some instances, Groundhog Day was his last day as Phil begins to feel deep despair and boredom, which leads to his repeated suicide. He explains to another character that he feels he that he has already died, and that the small town he is stuck in is actually hell.
Fantasy films allow the