Director Harold Ramis himself analyzed the popular success of his feature film: “I was flabbergasted to see the Ecumenical response that this film generated…”
“Stand up campers, and raise your hearts…” an endless day celebrates 30 years of its French release today. But it’s really February 2, 1993, the date of the famous “Groundhog Day”that Bill Murray landed for the first time in Punxsutawney on American cinema screens…
Three things to know about… Groundhog Day
At the time, the comedy was not quite a hit at the box office, making do with a hundred million dollars in revenue. But over time, through viewing and re-watching, an endless day has established itself in popular culture as a work full of meaning. Even more than knowing how long, exactly, meteorologist Phil Connors was stuck in his time loop, the film today reads on multiple levels. Like an autopsy of human life, which the late director Harold Ramis (who co-wrote the screenplay with Danny Rubin) understood perfectly from the start.
Because Phil is going through an inner upheaval that immediately found a particular resonance in everyone. Really everyone: “I was flabbergasted at the Ecumenical response this film generated upon release.“, recalled the director a few years later, during a small filmed conference. Buddhists, Jews or Christians, everyone saw in it the message of hope transmitted by their religions for centuries. “And then the community of psychologists also got involved, seeing the film as a metaphor for psychoanalysis! In their job, they revisit the same stories again and again, the same patterns again and again, to better deconstruct them and change behaviors…“smiled Ramis, who also explained that the original script, signed Danny Rubin, pushed the cursor even further. “Everything was already there, but I rewrote it in part, to make it more entertaining and more accessible”.
So why can this film that no one expected be seen and seen again, 30 years later, gaining in meaning each time? Harold Ramis explained the thing with this analogy: all the Jews of the world reread the same passages of the Torah, each year, in a loop: “This what is written does not change, but we, as individuals, change and perceive the texts differently. It’s the same thing with this film: we see him again at different ages, at different times in life, for example after having children. And that changes the way we understand it. The movie does not change. It is we who change. And every time people see it, they question where they are in life and naturally question their own behaviors...”
Because what appears clearly, on first reading, ofAn endless day, it’s the evolution of Phil Connors. Finished and egocentric bastard patented when he arrived in Punxsutawney, the meteorologist who thinks “make it rain or shine” leaves transformed, altruistic and benevolent. But the transition did not happen overnight. Literally. The film meticulously describes each stage of this questioning, which passes through a catarthic abuse of power, before continuing with a depressive and suicidal phase. It is only after having completely collapsed that Phil switches to a form of humility that allows him to rebuild himself mentally and emotionally. He learns to love the other. To take advantage of his stay on Earth, in a spiritual epiphany which clearly has something religious about it.
“It’s not about making him the hero of the city”explained very well Stephen Tobolowsky (alias Ned Ryerson). No, the film just explains that we can do things every day to make the world better, instead of making things worse. If other people interpret that as him becoming the God of this town, then so much the better. But that’s not his goal.” And Harold Ramis to confirm that this is when Phil “stop worrying about himself all the time, but begin to live a life for others, that his own life becomes truly whole and rich”.
A way of saying that you have to take advantage of the present moment to really appreciate the other. What human beings struggle to do, constantly projecting themselves on what their life should or could be. This is also the very essence of “Groundhog Day”, which seeks to predict the future by announcing the end of winter. A perfectly detailed concept in this little video from Northern Diaries: