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From Chihiros epic adventure in the world of spirits to the lone crusade of amnesiac spy Jason Bourne, filmmakers have succeeded in capturing the essence of what makes us all human-our identities, and more importantly, our search for them. The theme of identity is often conveyed on the big screen by showcasing characters who are in the process of discovering oneself during a journey, where the notion of identity is usually central to the characters in a film.This article aims to explore the journey of several film characters as they try to find their true self.
David Webb is a man whose only goal is his mission. During his first mission, he brutally assassinated a man despite initially hesitating. The first film in the Bourne Legacy series begins with this man waking up one day, having absolutely no idea who or where he is. With two gunshot wounds in his back and a device with the number of a Swiss safe deposit box implanted in his hip, he assumes the name Jason Bourne after finding a passport under the name in the safe deposit box, along with large amounts of assorted currencies and a gun. Over the course of the Bourne movies, he slowly discovers that he is a secret agent involved in some very confidential, international-level affairs and conspiracies.
The Hours focuses on a single day in life of three women living in different eras. The three main characters in The Hours, Virginia, Laura, and Clarissa share a common interest in suicide as a way of evading the depressive aspects of their lives. Virginia Woolf is an influential author, who is writing her novel "Mrs Dalloway" in the year 1923. She constantly feels under pressure by her husband, Leonard who runs a publishing house and contemplates having her character, Mrs Dalloway, kill herself. The heavily pregnant Laura Brown feels trapped by the constraints of her role as a suburban housewife in the year 1951 and considers suicide as an escape from her miserable, unhappy life with her husband. In 2001, lesbian Clarissa Vaughan is planning a party for her special friend Richard, for winning an award in poetry. Richard, who is fighting a losing battle against AIDS, kills himself instead of accepting the award-which he believes he received out of sympathy.
In the animated film Spirited Away, Chihiro is a simple girl moving to a new home. After a series of unfortunate events, she ends up in a strange world populated with spirits. Chihiro's parents are turned into pigs in the world of spirits and she has to work in a bath house of the witch Yubaba to save them. A sense of urgency is compounded when Yubaba steals her name. If Chihiro forgets her name, she and her parents will be stuck in the world of spirits forever. Working in the bath house forces Chihiro to keep her wits up as she deals with the bath house's many strange and queer customers.
The Journey They Take
Why is our identity so important to us? What happens when we lose our sense of identity? These are the questions that these directors explore. The idea that identity is both convergent and divergent is a major element of these films: our identity is based on who we are, who we've been, and who we think we will become. Each film focuses on a different aspect of identity.
Jason Bourne represents the shackles of our past. Jason Bourne is a man who would shoot another in the head without a moment of hesitation if the mission called for it. However, underneath his cool and highly efficient façade, lies a man who seeks to find peace in life. In the penultimate film Bourne Supremacy, Jason Bourne travels to Moscow to find Irena Neski. Irena's parents were both murdered by Jason Bourne during his first assassination operation. Bourne confesses to the crime and apologises. As Bourne leaves, Irena is left in shock, crying not out of anger at Bourne but of relief, as she finally knows the truth and understands her past. Bourne is a living weapon; a suffering, breathing, feeling weapon who you can empathise with. But, more than ever, you'll find yourself rooting for his alter ego, David Webb who lives for the things and people he loves.
The main characters of The Hours represent the gift of the present. Clarissa ties the loose ends of how the film deals with the theme of identity together by drawing parallels with the title character, Mrs. Dalloway of Woolf's novel. Clarissa is an embodiment of Mrs Dalloway-she distracts herself from life the same way the character did. Both Virginia and Laura struggle to find happiness in their lives while Clarissa reminisces on the time she spent with Richard as the happiest days of her life. However, Richard realises that their happiest days are behind them. This leads to him commit suicide before his party as he believes that he has become a source of pain and regret for Clarissa. Later that night Laura, who is Richard's mother, visits Clarissa's apartment. Laura believes it was a better decision for her to leave her family rather than commit suicide. She has led a happier life as a librarian since then.
On the other hand, Chihiro represents the path we take in this dark and constantly changing world called life. In the world of spirits, the boy spirit Haku is her most trustworthy companion. It is he who must teach her how to survive and restore her parents to human form. Chihiro must give up being an apathetic 10 year old, and in the process she meets many spirits who, despite losing their identities and hopes to Yubaba, all have a great sense of determination which she yearns to emulate.
Over the course of their respective journeys, the choices and decisions these characters make help shape their ideals and beliefs. After successfully rescuing her parents, Chihiro leaves the world of spirits and as she walks out, Haku tells her to never look back. It is a thought-provoking moment because as much as we seek identity, we must also be ready to move on and to move out of the shadows of our mistakes. No matter if one can distort reality or warp time, there is always an eternal quality to identity. Jason Bourne's mind may have been broken but he is still the same person inside; David Webb still lives within him. The people in our lives and the events we live through construct our emotional and psychological selves. We need to know who we are in order to know where we belong in the world. Each of us needs to better understand ourselves and understand how our choices are a function of who we are, while creating who we are.