I saw The Dark Knight Rises a week ago, and I can't get it out of my mind and heart. It impacted me, in several specific ways, and I may as well get them out in the open and let them have their say. I gave it a four star review for the newspaper I write for, but I wanted to go deeper than what I could say there.
The word "rises" has a specific meaning in the movie. It's about moving from a state of brokenness and despair into hope and possibility. The scene I am referring to brought me to tears and gave me a tennis ball-sized lump in my throat. A screenplay was the first thing I attempted to write because I am a visual person, and watching such a beautiful concept unfold on an IMAX screen was nothing short of stunning.
Every one of us has a need to rise from something. Our own prejudice, our inability to face truth, the fear that holds us back from taking risks, or our secret addictions. What damages us looks different from person to person, but what we all have in common is a need to rise above it; to overcome and know that we do possess what we need inside of us to do it.
Bruce Wayne is a character exquisitely rendered in the hands of Christopher Nolan. He is a man derailed emotionally by the senseless murder of his parents when he was a child. He is mired in white-hot anger which he does not feel safe to express. He is crippled by the terror of being alone in the world, and all of his riches can't reach him or help him. He is utterly lost, and this unacknowledged vulnerability is what makes him such an appealing (and unlikely) superhero.
He creates Batman as a symbol; an outlet for all of his simmering rage, and over time, his quest for justice becomes obsessive. It is all-consuming and almost ruins him. Alfred, his devoted butler, sees this and warns Bruce repeatedly to give up Batman, but he cannot do it as his addiction has taken control of his life.
He needs to hit rock bottom before he can come to terms with himself and rise to freedom. This is a step every person alive must take, often many times, in order to break our unhealthy cycles and find better coping skills. Watching Bruce Wayne battle his demons rang a bell of recognition somewhere deep in my soul.
I didn't take on a supervillain or don a batsuit, but my addiction to people-pleasing was every bit as destructive as alcoholism or dependence on drugs. My addiction controlled my life, which meant that I was a slave to it, and it was only when I turned to face my brokenness head-on that I glimpsed how I could break free from it.
I could rise. It would involve risk, and great pain, but I could do it if I could find the motivation to try. Watching Bruce Wayne do this against the backdrop of saving a city from annihilation was exhilarating. It somehow legitimized the journey I've been on. In this incredible story, I recognized the kind of emotional truth which has taken me from darkness to light. It's there, it's real, and it inspired me.
You know the storytelling is profound when the ending is so hauntingly beautiful that you feel it to be right deep in the marrow of your bones. And just when you are convinced it is ending exactly as it should, there is a glimpse of something even better, and you recognize the real ending as infinitely superior to the one you were satisfied with mere moments before.
Few movie conclusions have this kind of power. They stay with you forever, and the genius of the writer is revealed, like Oz behind the curtain. Field of Dreams, The Sixth Sense, and Dead Poets Society all had incredible endings, and now I happily add The Dark Knight Rises to that list.
I will never stop dreaming of writing this kind of movie. I will aspire to it for as long as I am alive, but as I walked out of the cinema while the credits were rolling on The Dark Knight Rises, I felt the unshakeable conviction that each day I am inching closer.
With every word I write, and each new thought I allow myself to think, I am making my way toward this particular dream. I have achieved so much health where there was once only emptiness and loss, and I will continue to rise into my own dramatic conclusion. It's not over until it's over, and I'm so thankful that it's not over yet, and I still have time to get there.