Friday, July 6, 2007

The Lost Weekend

Billy Wilder’s The Lost Weekend was a powerful film that depicts the life of a diseased alcoholic through the character of Don Birnam. A failed writer, Birnam becomes engrossed with booze; although his dearly loved ones struggle to help him battle this addiction. There are many ways to define an alcoholic, but this film portrays to society the definition of a true alcoholic. According to Webster Dictionary alcoholism is described as a chronic disorder marked by excessive and usually compulsive drinking of alcohol leading to psychological and physical dependence or addiction. People everywhere define alcoholism differently from having a drink anytime during the weekday, one drink a day; two drinks a day, etc. further showing more severe forms of drinking. In Birnam’s situation he literally can not function without alcohol flowing through his bloodstream. He also suffers from withdrawals when he cannot obtain liquor into his body. As a result, Wilder conveys the epitome of a chronic alcoholic. The story of Birnams’ dependence is one of serious importance that is not usually revealed on the big screen. Many films and television shows have portrayed drunks as being humorous and are not taken seriously. For example, The Simpsons’ character Barney Gumble is a character that the audience is enthralled by. The writers play with the concept of drunkards being hilarious. However, in Wilder’s film this is not the case, and he demonstrates how this evil spirit takes full control over the body and mind. Birnam says, “I can't be cut off completely. That's the devil. That's what drives you crazy.” Another example is the director uses the imagery of circles to illustrate the eternal struggle that Birnam attempts to defeat. While at the bar multiple circles from the shot glass symbolize this ongoing struggle. Birnam explains to Nat, “Don’t wipe it away, Nat. Let be have my little vicious circle. You know, the circle is the perfect geometric figure. No end, no beginning.” This can be related to Dante’s inferno of the circles of hell. Dante’s inferno is shaped in concentric circles with different levels of sinners. The inferno is shaped similarly to a cone with the first circle being the largest and progressively getting smaller. People have committed sins and are forever trapped in the circles of the fiery ashes and gates of hell. Sinners are therefore placed here for all eternity. Birnam battles this in his real life and it appears that he will struggle with this illness even until he reaches his afterlife because of this constant vicious cycle that he has succumbed to.

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