Saturday, September 29, 2012

They Might Be Giants

The difference between insanity and imagination is that insanity believes and imagination only considers.  At least, that's what I learned by watching the film They Might Be Giants.  This 1971 British film stars George C. Scott as a man, Playfair, who thinks he is Sherlock Holmes. He wanders the streets of London solving mysteries with his psychologist in tow, Dr. Watson (portrayed by Joann Woodward). It is not a great film, but amusing.  Like many films it makes mental illness into something to laugh at. The option in bad film seems that the mentally ill are either laughable or terrifying.

This film is a little better than that.  It at least attempts to make a distinction between the insane and the imaginative. In the film, Playfair references Don Quixote saying that the famous character from fiction was insane for thinking that the windmills were giants. He explains that insane people take things too far, while the imaginative mind only considers the possibility of the windmills being giants, doesn't believe it. Without the imaginative mind, we would probably still think the world was flat and would never have considered the possibility that the mold on bread could be used as medicine. The two characters in the film are a lot like Don Quixote and his travelling companion, Sancho Panza.  One delusions charismatic character on a quest with one grounded character that looks to the delusion with awe or in the case of the film, with love.  It is a case for charisma over logic, imagination over reality ... not different from how a groupie looks to their idol.

The alternative rock band, They Might Be Giants, got their name from this film. This doesn't surprise me much.. With songs like I Palindrome I and Particle Man, they do seem to straddle the line between creativity and insanity. It is probably this line straddling that allows them to make such good children's music.  Their CD Here Come the ABCs contains some of the best children's music I have heard. Because the songs are entertaining for both adults and children, they are the perfect music a young family to listen to.  The songs are fun, entertaining and quite ... imaginative.

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