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Thinking About Not Thinking: Buddhism, Meditation, and Film

Monday, March 30, 2009
3:00 p.m. Fearless
Peter Weir (U.S., 1993)

Lecture by Robert Sharf

Some see the heart of Buddhist meditation as the practice of mindfulness or “bare attention”—a stepping “forward” into the present moment. But there is also a sense in which Buddhist practice is a step “back”—one withdraws from the world so as to let go of everything, including the fear of one’s own death. Can one be utterly fearless and still care deeply about the things of this world? Peter Weir’s Fearless is a powerful vehicle for exploring the conundrums involved in bringing traditional Buddhist practices—practices originally intended for celibate renunciates who had left their families—into the modern world.—Robert Sharf

“In the words of director Peter Weir, ‘flying is one of the few moments in modern life when we can be confronted with our own mortality.’ This proximity to death, this fear of flying that passengers throughout the world have to suppress each day, inspired the story of architect Max Klein (Jeff Bridges), who survives an air crash and is then incapable of coping with life. He shares this fate with another survivor, Carla (Rosie Perez), whose baby died in the crash. Together, they gradually come to terms with their new reality. ‘A plane flight is a metaphor for the journey through life,’ explains Weir. ‘Max has to find his way back. When the aircraft crashes he discovers a wonderful treasure: an almost ecstatic acceptance of death, a glimmer of eternity.’”—Berlin Film Festival

• Written by Rafael Yglesias, based on his novel. Photographed by Allen Daviau. With Jeff Bridges, Isabella Rossellini, Rosie Perez, Tom Hulce. (121 mins, Color, 35mm, From Warner Bros.)