by Harsh Vardhan
It’s quite weird that, whenever something bad happens to us, the first thing we do is burst into lamentations about our fate, without looking back at what led us to this one moment in time. There have been so many occasions in this life of mine, so far, when I found myself questioning the partiality fate has for others over me, and contemplating things I couldn’t achieve, completely undermining the very blessed life I have been fortunate to live. To cut the narration short, I don’t think I have appreciated the gift of life enough and watching 127 Hours, for the second time, gave me a quite reminder of it.
To set things to perspective, I first saw 127 Hours back when it released and I thoroughly enjoyed the film for the sparkling storytelling it boasted of. The experience was great and I had thoroughly enjoyed it, but it eventually faded just like any other movie does (including the good ones).
So what made it different this time around?
It’s the same film that I saw 6 years ago with the same storyline and since then I’ve probably seen a lot more number of brilliant films. So why do I feel so strongly about Aron Ralston’s story this time around?
I think it’s because with the passage of time, as I’ve grown up, I actually connected with the film a lot more deeply this time around than what I did the last time. I attained a better understanding of what the film really intended to depict.
With virtually no food and water at his possession, Ralston survived for over 5 days stuck inside the canyon while being tormented by extreme weather conditions, scaling from scorching heat to chilling cold, thunderstorm to heat waves, there was no escaping.
And yet, Aron didn’t lose hope. His will to survive was unshakeable, and despite the severity of his condition, he didn’t give up. He accosted the danger head-on and this is what constituted the heart and soul of the 127 hours long drama.
Movies like these are tough to make, period. The challenges associated with making a film, where all you have is your central character’s mumblings for dialogues and nuances to provide the entertainment, are inherently arduous, and when coupled with the fact that there isn't much artistic liberty available to spice up the story, apart from playing with the screenplay at best, it seems to be quite an unfilmable project.
When at first I saw Aron slip onscreen, it wasn’t really daunting enough. I sort of took it for granted that expeditions like these are bound to go rough once in a while. It took me a little while to realize what had just happened. It was only after the initial few attempts that Aron was made to pull his hand back, that I was actually able to fathom the gravity of the problem he was in. His hand was stuck. The entire length of his right forearm starting from the tip of his fingers to a good five inches from his wrist towards the elbow joint was squeezed between the wall of the canyon and the boulder.
The pain had slowly started to creep in. He tried to nudge his hand back, he tried to pull it with force, he tried to push the boulder away, he tried to break the boulder with whatever equipment he had but nothing worked. Daylight slowly lost its colour to the night and he was still stuck, and whatever limited resources he had carried with him were on the verge of running out. The situation couldn’t have been any more precarious. And to top it all, the canyon was as desolated as a deserted island, so help was much more than a luxury he couldn’t afford.
127 Hours specially thrives in utilizing every single minute of the film in trying to let us experience the harrowing ordeal Aron had gone through. Every little thing is big here, and every big thing, small and personal. It captures the tiniest of everyday moments that go by unnoticed and turns it into something discretely relatable. It specially succeeds on account of levity. Aron by nature was a fun-loving man and his attitude towards life as was depicted was extremely welcoming. So throughout his captivity in the rocks, seldom did he lost his cool or surrender to the situation.
127 Hours is about the choices a man makes during adversity and his will to outlive death. The essence of this film can be attributed to the hard fought tale which lies at its centre. It is important because it radiates optimism towards life and a retrospective in the face of death.
Which is why I found myself rooting for Aron the second time around. His struggle against the helpless situation he was stuck in is inspirational. Scenes where an ant crawls over Aron’s face or when the only bottle of water he had slipped between his legs with the water getting spilled all over are hard not to cringe at.
I need to specially mention a talk show which Aron feigns in his mental space where he himself plays the host, the participant, the caller and the audience. This scene was absolute genius, so much so that I felt guilty when I laughed at it.
It wasn’t the pain that was as much of a hardship for Aron, as was the suffering. No matter what he tried, he failed, and it was hard not to think of the inevitable, and so he did. He not only thought about the impending death but also had flashbacks of the golden moments he had spent with his friends and family. He recalled the trips he used to take with his dad, the chemistry he shared with his friends and he also thought about the life he always wanted to live.
It was because of this fortitude that Aron fought. He knew that there was only one way out of his misery no matter how excruciatingly painful an experience it’d be. He prepared himself for it. And he did it.
He was free now.
He somehow dragged himself out of the canyon and then by a rare chance of luck, met another set of tourists and what followed was just an epilogue to a claustrophobically haunting 127 hours.