The Maastricht Diplomat

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  • Paula Nörr

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button – Our lives are defined by opportunities, even the ones we miss.



Did you also come home for Christmas? “It’s a funny thing. Coming home. Everything looks the same. Feels the same, even smells the same. You realize what’s changed is you.” I don’t know about you, but I feel this way every time I come home. After me and my family have traditionally watched the same Christmas movies as every year, I was ready to consume something funnier during my Christmas break. I skimmed through Netflix with high hopes and discovered the preview of ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’, the movie from which I got this amazing quote about coming home. The movie tells the story of a boy who was born in the body of an old man and lives his life in reverse, at least physically. When I read that Brad Pitt is one of the main actors, there was no more persuasion needed to make me watch the movie.


‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” is an American fantasy romantic drama directed by David Fincher in 2008. On the evening of 18 November 1918, Benjamin Button was born with the appearance and maladies of an elderly man. The main character ages in reverse, which means he grows up mentally but becomes physically younger at the same time. During his childhood, he lives together with “other” elderly people in a nursing home, where he seemingly fits in because he looks like an old man too. However, he is still a child, and he sees the world through the eyes of an infant. The movie centers around the life-long love story between Benjamin Button and Daisy Fuller, whom he met as an elderly man when she came to the nursing home to visit her grandmother. When Benjamin has grown up to a teenager, he leaves his cosy home still as a wrinkled man and gets to know the world, the women, and the war.


The fact that Button’s appearance does not correspond with its age and mental maturity can be confusing and challenging at the same time. For me personally, the movie was quite demanding. Benjamin and Daisy start to have an intimate connection when he could have easily been her grandfather, at least from appearance. Therefore, I thought at first sight that this relationship is kind of inappropriate. But you must always keep in mind his real age and stage of maturity. From this point of view, Benjamin fell in love with Daisy when they were both only children. In the same regard, it was also weird to see Daisy as an old lady caring about Benjamin as a child. But again, his real age and mentality do not significantly differ from Daisy’s. That’s also the reason why Button suffers from dementia during his last few years of living and it is only Daisy who knows about the sad truth. Even though there were some awkward scenes in this regard, I loved the dramatic story of Benjamin and the idea behind it.


In my opinion, the movie could have been kept shorter, as it contains some rather unnecessary and unspectacular scenes that do not contribute a lot to the film experience. Although the film’s runtime clocks in at 2.45 hours, Fincher managed to keep the plot unpredictable. I personally was hooked by the story and curious to see what happened next in Benjamin Button’s untypical life. But I must admit that I ended up watching the movie in two parts. In times of TikTok, Instagram and Netflix series, I think that most of us are not used to watching such long films anymore.


Although the original story is not a typical Hollywood one at all, the actors are. Nevertheless, I was a bit disappointed about Brad Pitt’s acting, who plays Benjamin Button in his thirties and forties. I am not sure if it was intended by the filmmakers, but Brad Pitt played Benjamin as a kind of cold and insensitive man. As a result, you could not really feel his thoughts or feelings, nor sympathize with him. Cate Blanchett fulfilled her role as Daisy a lot better and it was stunning to see her firstly transforming from a pretty dancer to a physical and mental wreckage, and secondly from a doting woman to a strong mother and faithful lover.


There are three key messages I got from watching the movie: firstly, a reminder to not judge a person only from looking at his or her appearance; secondly, body and mentality are two separate things and do not necessarily have to be congruent; and thirdly “sometimes the people we remember the least make the greatest impression on us.” The film was nominated for thirteen Academy Awards, the most of the 81st Awards, including Best Actor for Brad Bitt, so obviously not everybody shares my opinion about his performance.


If you do not want to have the usual love story but still a full Hollywood production, I recommend this movie. But if you are not really into Brad Pitt and Hollywood-style movies are not your thing either I would recommend reading the ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’ instead. After I have seen the film, I found out that it is based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short story of the same name of 1922. Both film and short story contain beautiful poetic phrases put forward by Benjamin himself. A little preview: “Some people, were born to sit by a river. Some get struck by lightning. Some have an ear for music. Some artists. Some swim. Some know buttons. Some know Shakespeare. Some are mothers. And some people, dance.” Now if you’ve become curious about the Case of Benjamin Button and want to know who ‘some people’ are, don’t miss the opportunity and dive into the story of Benjamin Button. I promise you, it’s a figure of a kind that you haven’t met before.

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