Groundhog Day, which is also fellow blogger Ann Koplow’s birthday, is behind us, but there’ll be another one next year. Hopefully, at least. Anyway Adam Daniel, a lecturer in film and media studies at Western Sydney University, decided to watch Groundhog Day every day for a year. He didn’t start on Groundhog Day, which would have been fitting, but in September 2021 instead, while in a period of lockdown.
As interesting as his take on the experience is I don’t think it’s that surprising that he experienced shifting perspectives and changing theories about the story, or that he started delving deeper into the details. He says,
Watching Groundhog Day every day for a year provided me with a deeper appreciation for how a film may contain multitudes – particularly those we choose to willingly re-experience…And, like every piece of worthwhile art, it can also sustain its own deep interrogation and reveal to the curious rewatcher its multifaceted layers and dimensions.
Adam Daniel’s self-imposed watching of Groundhog Day may have been arbitrary, and I have questions–did he convince his family to watch it with him on, say, Christmas?–but it also sounds like it’s a film he picked because it was already meaningful to him, one he already knew and that he wanted to really study. That reminded me of Bruno Bettelheim’s The Uses Of Enchantment, and specifically what he says about the value to a child of hearing the same story over and over:
Only on repeated hearing of a fairy tale, and when given ample time and opportunity to linger over it, is a child able to profit fully from what the story has to offer him in regard to understanding himself and his experience in the world.
Admittedly Bettelheim’s view is a bit utilitarian, even simplistic. A story doesn’t have to provide a “profit” in the form of better understanding for it to be good or even meaningful to us. Good stories can take us outside ourselves, make us uncomfortable. Repetition can reveal or strengthen the darker elements of a story. If you’ve watched Groundhog Day even just once or a few times one part that can stick with you is the old man who, no matter what Phil does, keeps dying.
That’s one reason the need for repetition doesn’t go away as we get older. Another is that even familiar things change. There are a few books I go back and reread, movies I rewatch, songs I listen to again and again. I find something different in Virginia Woolf’s Orlando every time I read it even though I’ve read it so many times I’ve practically got it memorized because I’m a different person every time I read it.
I still like to try new things, read new books, watch new movies, listen to new music–I don’t want to be stuck going back just to what I already know–and, funny enough, the one thing that hasn’t changed my entire life is that I always know I like something when I want to read, watch, or listen to it again.
And, yes, the title of this post comes from The Kinks’ song Do It Again, which is one of my favorites. I had it on repeat the whole time while writing this.