I mentioned this week that I just finished reading 127 Hours Between a Rock and a Hard Place and it upset and inspired me more than any of the movies I've seen have. Of course, reading a book lends much more to the imagination and to the heart than watching a movie does as it is a more real time commitment and journey than is watching a movie. But what a journey this was. I felt this book a lot more than I do most. As impossible as this may seem, given my profound attachment to Scarlett O'Hara and Gone With the Wind, I felt almost as attached to Aron Ralston and his powerful (or powerless) situation in the book. It is interesting to reflect back now that I've finished it because I did have several negative thoughts earlier on in the book, which he writes by switching every other chapter between telling about his entrapment in Blue John Canyon and recounting wild adventure stories from earlier in his life. In the flashback stories, Aron is like the definition of a lose canon. He is often reckless, takes unnecessary risks, and seeks the wildest thrills that put him face to face with death a number of times. Along the way, he matures some as he loses two friends (loses as in they stop talking to him, they do not die) because of the risks he encouraged them to take with him. He also grows as he contemplates the reasons for which he lives the life that he lives. A friend and colleague worries that he does what he does for some of the wrong reasons, that he does it for others just as much as for himself. But he discovers that he didn't become a retired engineer at age 25 for anyone but himself. He changes his lifestyle to solo climb fourteeners, to ski in avalanches, and to swim in the Colorado River to make him feel alive. To quench some inner thirst for adventure and to achieve an understanding and connectedness with the earth. Still, I was entertained by these stories and had a hard time not noticing the lack of humility, and possible air of selfishnesses, that Aron Ralston possessed in his endeavors.
Despite my apprehensiveness toward this character, and his life stories, he was captivating and his perseverance and outlook on life grabbed me. The real story, obviously, is in his entrapment in the canyon. The despair he feels is so painful and heartwrenching that I found myself in near tears envisioning his situation. The reflection on his life, his memories with his friends and family, and his acceptance that the people in his life, and his experiences with them, have been the most important thing are true. And his certainty that he is stuck there waiting for death opens his eyes to how stupid and selfish he has been in his recklessness. He ponders how he goes out looking for adventure so that he can feel alive and that it, ultimately, is killing him. But hopefully we all know that his apparent stupidity and selfishness didn't end up killing him. Instead, his fighting determination and his engineer's brain got him out alive as he broke his bones, sawed through his flesh and tendons with a cheap pocket knife, and hiked over four miles with one arm out of the canyon. His will to survive was undying and his tale is powerful. This one is a non-fiction story of true grit.
What I find so interesting and confusing about this movie is how controversial it seems to be. Almost everyone I talk to either doesn't want to see the movie because they are grossed out by the thought of someone cutting off their own arm or they think this is an unworthy plot about a person who did a stupid thing and shouldn't be getting all this media attention and fame for their tale. Even my mom, who has seen the other nine nominees and tends to see them all every year, is not going to see 127 Hours because it grosses her out. This is understandable, I spent an hour on Tuesday night making painful sound effects as I sat on the couch next to Josh reading the gory details of the amputation. Still, I think it is a shame that fewer people will see the movie because of it, when I think that the rattlesnakes in True Grit and the hallucinations in Black Swan were just as disturbing. What really gets me is that this story is discounted by some as stupid and unworthy of being put on the big screen. I had an argument with Eric last night, who thinks that the "premise" of the film is dumb. And the other Erik, the one who is an outdoorsman himself and lived in Aspen probably just blocks from where Aron lived, told Ingrid this guy is stupid because he didn't follow any precautions and didn't notify anyone of his plans. Maybe he made a mistake but don't write off the entire movie and story because of it. Or maybe I'm giving him too much credit. But I want people to read his 350 page memoir and then tell me that they don't sympathize with him, that his story wasn't unbelievable, that he doesn't deserve to be making millions of dollars off of this movie about himself just because his story was based on his own stupid mistakes and mis-judgement. We all misjudge, we have all been in the wrong place at the wrong time, we just aren't all as unlucky as Aron Ralston was on Saturday, April 26, 2003. It's hard for one to know how they would respond in a crisis such as his but, in my opinion, it's easy to admire him for they way he responded. I admire him and now I just hope the movie is as good as the book.