The Lost Weekend (1945)
The Lost Weekend is a film about addiction. Alcohol addiction specifically, but a modern audience is easily able to read alcohol as a stand-in for any form of drug, substance or perceived dependance. Our protagonist (perhaps an early anti-hero?) has got it pretty bad for the booze. His girlfriend and brother are trying to help him through it, but all he does is reject their attempts again and again and fall back to the bottle. I take the message here as being that, ultimately, one is responsible for their own decisions, and no matter how much you are loved it is meaningless if you are not prepared to face up to your actions.
It’s not always that easy of course, and where Don’s actions take on a truth for me are in the way that he desperately wants to be driven and motivated. I’ve seen too many people talk about the things they want to do, but just end up taking drink and drugs. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of both, but not at the expense of failing at the things I want to do with my life. This is where Don strikes a chord. Rather than writing and exploring what he is good at, he allows himself to become a slacker and a drunk. He needs to take more responsibility for himself rather than letting those close to him deal with his issues.
Not only is this film a thematic success, it’s also a huge artistic acheivement. Crossing over into art-film territory, some characters appear but are not entirely explored, offering a greater semblence of reality. Also, the plot is structured a little differently to your typical Best Picture winner – for example, lacking a concrete conclusion – making this film all the more real and interesting.
I’ve said I’m surprised at how much human truth is in these films – but should I be? As Shakespeare taught us, art holds a mirror up to nature, reflecting true human existence, and Shakespeare’s plays are as current today as they have ever been (more on this later, I’m sure…). So why shouldn’t a 40’s film stand up against the films of today? Good art never loses it’s potency, and to me, The Lost Weekend definantly qualifies as good art.