The Dark Knight Needs Paris

August 11, 2011

"Svaardvaard" Bill Bornschein

The trailer for the latest Batman movie, The Dark Knight Rises, begins with the following intonation: “If you make yourself more than just a man, if you devote yourself to an ideal,  then you  become something else completely: a legend.” Holy causa sui, Batman! I didn’t know it was that simple. Of course it isn’t that simple, but the line from the trailer struck me as an example par excellence of the human desire to transcend our mortality. Failing that, some of us help ourselves along by sharing vicariously in heroics of another. I suspect Bruce Wayne will be thwarted in his bid for legendary immortality. Even legends die out eventually. But perhaps the movie patrons will leave with their anxiety temporarily assuaged.

I have another suggestion. Their time might be better spent on Woody Allen’s latest film, Midnight In Paris.  Set in modern-day Paris, the plot centers on protagonist Owen Wilson’s love for the Paris of the 1920s, the Paris of Hemmingway, Fitzgerald, and Stein. Director Allen employs magical realism to allow Wilson to travel through a time portal back to this golden age, meeting many of his heroes. Without giving away too much of the plot, he comes to realize that every age is golden, every age has its luminaries, and there is no time like the present. He returns to modern-day Paris with his love of the city intact and a commitment to live in the here and now.  He forgoes magic for everyday reality. This acceptance and willingness to engage the present reflects the existential “courage to be” that theologian Paul Tillich described. As I left the theater and walked into the sultry Louisville, evening I felt a certain satisfaction, a calm if you will. The time is now. Thank you, Mr. Allen. Good luck, Bruce.


  1. E.A. Robinson wrote an excellent poem on how insidious it can be for one to live in the past.

    Miniver Cheevy
    Miniver Cheevy
    By Edwin Arlington Robinson 1869–1935 Edwin Arlington Robinson
    Miniver Cheevy, child of scorn,
    Grew lean while he assailed the seasons;
    He wept that he was ever born,
    And he had reasons.

    Miniver loved the days of old
    When swords were bright and steeds were prancing;
    The vision of a warrior bold
    Would set him dancing.

    Miniver sighed for what was not,
    And dreamed, and rested from his labors;
    He dreamed of Thebes and Camelot,
    And Priam’s neighbors.

    Miniver mourned the ripe renown
    That made so many a name so fragrant;
    He mourned Romance, now on the town,
    And Art, a vagrant.

    Miniver loved the Medici,
    Albeit he had never seen one;
    He would have sinned incessantly
    Could he have been one.

    Miniver cursed the commonplace
    And eyed a khaki suit with loathing;
    He missed the mediæval grace
    Of iron clothing.

    Miniver scorned the gold he sought,
    But sore annoyed was he without it;
    Miniver thought, and thought, and thought,
    And thought about it.

    Miniver Cheevy, born too late,
    Scratched his head and kept on thinking;
    Miniver coughed, and called it fate,
    And kept on drinking.

  2. The presence of the themes you mention in “Midnight in Paris” are not surprising considering that Woody Allen often shows an Ernest Becker influence, even going so far as to show the book “Denial of Death” in one film. Good point about “The Dark Knight Rises” too!

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