The Legend of 1900

Not Very Recommended. This is a movie that is not a great story and has some boring moments and some clever moments, but it did make me think about it’s worldview and theme. It’s quite literally a legend, made up story, about a child born on a ship in 1900, and raised by the people of that ship. He learns to play piano and never ever leaves the ship in his entire life. Tim Roth is the main character and he does a great job as 1900, which is the character’s name, given in a joke of irony, but obviously, also a commentary on the changing of a century from Victorian to Modernity. The one time he is tempted to leave the ship is to pursue a woman he fell in love with. She lived in New York, and he got half way down the gangplank and looked at the big city with all its infinite pathways and possibilities and got back on the ship, never to try again. In fact, he ultimately stays with the ship and hides in it so that a wrecking crew never finds him, and in the end, they blow up the ship cause its scrap metal and he dies with it. So, I think because it is a very sad negative downer ending, this is one reason why it no one saw the movie. And I think the downer nature goes further. This guy becomes the best piano player in the world and nobody knows it. He even plays circles around famed Jazz great Jelly Roll Morton. So, the point of the whole film, I think, is about an irony of life. That irony is that strict boundaries in our lives can focus intense energy and create great beauty, but will ultimately also be stultifying for connecting with the world outside of us. This piano player, 1900, tells his friend that he doesn’t go into New York City to pursue his love interest because there are “too many choices. An infinite amount of choices” are too much for him to handle. He is so used to the extreme limitations of his little old ship in comparison, that he cannot live in a world of infinite choices. He needs limitations, boundaries. So, yes, the boundaries brought forth great creativity, but kept him from experiencing all life had to offer in being a member of the human race. That is, the cruise ship was a false microcosm of reality. It was not reality, only temporary relationships and unreal expectations. 1900 was able to play for the rich and the poor on the ship. He was a man without status or class, transcendent of it all. If this is a theme about how great art is created from suffering or a life less ordinary, how creativity is born from limitation, I can agree to a certain extent. But it tends toward the Romantic notion of the artist as prophet, a man without a country, whose greatness or genius is not appreciated because he is “ahead of his time.” But if it is a statement about life in general, namely that a life lived within the “boundaries” of rules and norms may create great harmonious beauty, but it is not fully human and leads to self destruction, then I can’t agree. But I think, the interest of the film lies in it not being obviously evident what it is saying and you are left to explore for yourself the implications. But either way, it remains for me a tragedy without redemption because beauty is ultimately linked with destruction. Maybe it is a metaphor for the death of beauty in modernity? Beauty is created through strict limitations but the modern world has no place for such limitations, and kills beauty. Maybe the whole fuzzy confusion is why the movie did not do well, because it is not clear, and a clear story is more satisfying than an unclear one.

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