Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Why Watch Seconds (1966)?

Title: Seconds
Director: John Frankenheimer
Language: English
Rating: R

With the help of a mysterious company, a middle-aged man fakes his own death and restarts his life elsewhere under a new identity. The company has provided him with a new home, a new profession, and even a younger-looking body (a result of plastic surgery and a regimen of exercise). They seem to be offering him everything he's ever wanted. But when he still can't find the happiness he thought he'd enjoy, he wants to start all over again. Poor fool.

Seconds poster.jpg
"Seconds poster". Via Wikipedia.

Why watch it?

  • The movie explores the meaning of a second chance. The main character never really gets one. The company he works with helps him alter some of the details of his life, without giving him an opportunity to grow - not that he understands, when he makes a deal with them, what growth really means. Even when he's in his younger, fitter body (and played by the handsome Rock Hudson), his eyes and expression stay tired, and he doesn't know how to adjust; altered looks don't lead to a change in character. He has a job he wants, he lives by a beach, and he meets attractive people, but he senses there's still so much for him to figure out.

  • The mephistophelean company doesn't give him the freedom to explore this new life on his own. They've packaged his dreams and handed them to him with many strings attached; he can partake of them as long as he remains docile. And of course, he can't really go back to the people who once knew him, because as far as they know, he's dead. (Though there is one poignant scene where he meets his former wife in his new guise and learns a few things about himself and their old relationship.) The movie does a good job showing how the company sees this man as a project and a commodity.

  • There's a sense of dread throughout the movie - phone calls in the night from people who supposedly died, buildings that don't seem to have an exit, a gut-churning tension even in moments of apparent lightness and revelry. One of the reasons I enjoyed the movie is that there's something of a Twilight Zone feel to it. The horror isn't about gore or sudden loud noises in the dark; it's a pervasive eeriness, and the terror of feeling trapped and realizing certain things too late.

  • I haven't watched many of Rock Hudson's movies, but I'm guessing it will be hard to find a movie where his acting is better than in this one.

  • The ending is a horrific portrayal of agony and futility. It's a close-up of a man who's unknowingly damned himself, and now he knows it, and he wants to live. He wants another chance, so badly.