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By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
Directed by Peter Weir
Warner Home Video 10/93 DVD/VHS Feature Film
R - language, airplane crash realism
In Fearless, Jeff Bridges plays Max, a San Francisco architect who miraculously survives a jumbo jet crash. After returning to the world from the brink of death, he is a completely different person. Back home, Max feels alienated from his wife and his young son. They don't know what he's been through and words can't do it justice.
The airline psychiatrist, who is concerned about Max's unconventional behavior, puts him in touch with Carla, a Hispanic working-class mother whose two-year-old son died in the disaster. She blames herself for letting go of him just before the crash. Max creates a ritual of healing for her and when the moment is right, he concocts a crazy scheme to release her from her guilt. These are acts of redemptive love.
One of the reasons Fearless is such an astonishing film is that director Peter Weir has returned to the kind of spiritual subject that inspired his early masterpieces Picnic at Hanging Rock and The Last Wave. These films circle around the deep mystery which must be acknowledged whenever we experience primal moments of fear and love in the presence of death. In these moments, reason and explanation fall short.
Grace moves in strange ways to touch us and take us back to everyday life with a transformed perspective. That is what eventually happens to Max. And we are left to sort out the different images in this extraordinary film. Is Max a ghost, as he tells Carla, who lives for a while in another dimension of time? Or is he a Christ figure? (Note the gash in his side as the only mark on his body from the crash.) Has he truly been touched by God or is he just a dangerously deluded victim of post-traumatic stress disorder?
Whether Max is one or all of these is ultimately irrelevant. We must put aside labels and open ourselves to the film's soul-stretching consideration of near-death experiences and the spiritual transformations they can engender. When all is said and done, the mystery remains, as it should.
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by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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