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On with the Wind: Ancient gods meet modern myth
It's nearing the climax of the movie and our hero—who's been living in a haunted house and trying to get justice for the ghost of a murdered child—starts to head up the stairs. The ghost, however, is unhappy and throwing a tantrum. And what happens? A gale-force blast of wind comes shooting down the staircase, trying to blow our hero back, and eventually sending him crashing through the railing to the floor below.
Our hero has just been pulled from the freezing water after having jumped in to rescue what he thought was a depressed man, but turns out to be his own guardian angel. Our hero's life has been very hard of late and he's begun to believe that maybe it would have been better for everyone if he'd never been born. His guardian angel decides to grant his wish and what happens? The door is immediately blown open by a roaring wind.
A young girl has wished to be older and her wish was granted. After learning that the life she wanted to lead wasn't nearly as happy as she would have liked, she sits down and begins to cry, wishing she could go back to 13 years old and try again. And what happens? A light breeze picks up a few flecks of wishing dust—seen earlier in the movie—and gently engulfs her. She opens her eyes to find her wish has come true.
A woman has had a heart transplant and now feels that men treat her as overly fragile or already broken. One night, she sits in front of her mirror, wistfully examining the scar on her chest. Then what happens? A light breeze blows through the window and a wind chime can be heard. She is prompted to go downstairs to cover the plants in her garden. As she does, she meets up with the perfect man. The man, in fact, who had previously been married to the original owner of her own new heart.
And finally, Scenario 5:
A young girl in Kansas longs of going somewhere not only next to or under a rainbow, but completely over it. Then what happens? A tornado appears, picks up her house like a younger brother does his sister's doll house. After a violent end, she steps out to find that black and white aren't the only possible colors and, more importantly, Randy Newman—having written the lyric "Don't want no Short People 'Round here"—would find his persona is definitely non grata in this new land.
And the point is?
Have you ever noticed how wind is frequently used in movies? I hadn't. Not until a professor in one of my college literature classes pointed it out. (Yes, I ended the sentence in a preposition. You got a problem with that in?)
As I've mentioned before, I majored in English with a particular interest in story-telling and how those same techniques are used in film and TV, whether through adaptation or original work. One of my professors was talking about the evolution of story-telling from the days when stories had to be memorized and passed on orally, clear through to today. It was a general overview, not an in-depth discussion.
But there was one thing in particular that caught my interest.
In the ancient days of story-telling, when much of the point was to explain the world as the work of the gods, wind was frequently used to illustrate an invisible hand of deity, influencing changes in the world. These days, we know about invisible air and how different relative pressures will push it around. Most of us accept science. Most of us know the sun isn't a golden chariot, pulled across the sky by a team of fire-horses.
But the mysterious nature of wind prevails. At least in our stories.
When you see wind being used in any kind of notable way on a movie, pay attention. Most of the times you see it, it's more than likely that something important or mystical is either happening or about to happen.
It sounds ridiculous, I know. But my professor has a standing bet with his wife. Any time they would notice wind being used, if nothing important happened, he owed his wife a night of doing the dishes or something (I don't remember exactly) but if something incredible, mystical or important happened, she owed him brownies.
The tally at the time was definitely skewed in favor of mystical wind.
And ever since hearing about it I'd have to say that that's typical in my own experience.
Now, there will be movies that test that theory. If you watch Twister, it's a bit of a stretch to believe that every moment of the movie is fraught with importance. You may, in fact, be hard pressed to find any kind of importance in the movie at all, but that's another discussion.
So while we, as a culture, may no longer view wind as the invisible hand of God, in our story telling, there continues to be real meat behind that concept. Whether the film makers are aware they're doing it or not, it's there.
The five scenarios I listed above were just the first ones to come to my mind as I looked over my personal movie collection. If you look, you could also spot instances in such movies as Marry Poppins, three of the four Alien movies (especially Aliens), Mission Impossible, The Neverending Story, and even The Empire Strikes Back.
It doesn't take very long before you may start to see that this concept is more than hot air.
But what do you think? Can you think of any movies that either support or disprove?