Farewell To Robin Williams

19 08 2014

Robin Williams died on August 11, 2014. Why have I waited so long to put down some thoughts on Robin? Because I wanted to take time to see how events unfolded, and to understand my own feelings about this tragic event. It is sad, even though I never met the man or knew him personally.

It is tempting to publish some kind of response, good or bad, immediately after some tragic event. But doing this comes with risks. The emotions are still raw, our feelings still very strong. It can lead some to say things they later regret, and in the age of the Internet, nothing ever disappears. Poorly phrased or insensitive feelings and emotions are still there to be found and read years, even decades later.

But it also means we are reacting in absence of any real information. We don’t really know what happened, or why it happened, in the hours after some tragedy. We have initial impressions, guesses which pass for facts and a dearth of actual, factual, complete information. There is always pressure in the 24×7 “gotta publish now” Internet to react instantly, and try to appear sympathetic, cogent or at least aware.

I wanted to wait. I wanted to give it time, because I wanted to give a gifted artist their due. Robin Williams was an incredibly funny man who apparently battled depression most (if not all) of his life. How can someone so funny and seemingly overflowing with humour and good nature be depressed? I don’t know. I can’t answer that question. I wish I could, but I can’t.

All I know is that we lost someone who was an amazing talent on stage and on the screen. He wasn’t just funny. He was also a talented dramatic actor. He could play farce and slapstick, but he could also do serious, introspective or philosophical. Some of his best work has him injecting just enough humour into a serious role to humanize the character he plays.

By adding a touch of humour, he made his characters real. Real people, even the most serious, have funny moments. Sometimes it’s by accident. Sometimes it’s on purpose. Either way, just because a character is supposed to be serious or dramatic doesn’t mean that shouldn’t be funny, even if only once in the entire movie. It makes the character human, and gives the character a depth that is sometimes missing.

Last week, I watched Bicentennial Man, a movie that didn’t do well critically or commercially. I find most of the criticisms to off the mark, but that’s just my opinion. While I watched, I tried not to let any sense of sadness of the loss of Robin to detract from the story. It is tempting to lament the loss of a great artist, and to vow to not watch their work because of the emotions they may give rise to. That does a disservice to them and their work. Certainly, feel sad, but watch and enjoy. They made these movies and shows to entertain us, and that means they will live on.

We have lost the person, but we don’t have to lose their memory. All we need to do is to start a movie, and watch them live again, even if only for a couple of hours at a time. It may not be life, but it is living, and it is the best tribute we can give to any artist.

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