Do you know how old you will be when you grow up? Do you know who you are now? If presented to you, would you take the opportunity to be someone else?
These are just a few of the questions explored in Michelangelo Antonioni’s beautiful and beguiling filmThe Passenger, released in 1975.
I like to think of this film like a caterpillar metamorphosing into a butterfly, with Jack Nicholson in the lead role. It is Jack before he was “Jack.” Smooth, all the mannerisms and quirks we’ve come to expect from him are only shimmers on the horizon, scarcely perceptible to this viewer’s eye. He is handsome, too, shirtless and wiry, very easy on the eyes.
As our caterpillar, he’s David Locke, an award winning journalist, devouring life, but never really appreciating all that he has and sees. He’s trudging around the Sahara, hungry for a story, looking for the right person, looking for himself. Despite his critical success and his marriage, he is impatient, edgy – immature.
Then, when a man bearing a certain resemblance to David dies, he assumes his identity, faking his own death, entering the chrysalis and the shady world of arms dealing. Still somewhat unsure of himself, he proceeds slowly, traveling around Europe, dodging people who know him from his past life, and those who believe he is the new man.
When the butterfly finally emerges, it is with beauty, conviction, and self assurance. This is ME. This is what I do. Such a glorious journey.