It’s Groundhog Day


Groundhog Day has long been one of my very favorite movies. On one level it is a very funny movie; on another, it is a particular take on Nietzsche’s doctrine of eternal recurrence. It is definitely a film that rewards rewatching. In fact, the legendary film critic Roger Ebert reviewed it twice and included it in his list of great movies. In his 2005 review he says:

“Groundhog Day” is a film that finds its note and purpose so precisely that its genius may not be immediately noticeable. It unfolds so inevitably, is so entertaining, so apparently effortless, that you have to stand back and slap yourself before you see how good it really is.

The film is about a jerk who slowly becomes a good man. Listen to Ebert again:

His journey has become a parable for our materialistic age; it embodies a view of human growth that, at its heart, reflects the same spiritual view of existence Murray explored in his very personal project “The Razor’s Edge.” [Another of my favorite movies.] He is bound to the wheel of time, and destined to revolve until he earns his promotion to the next level. A long article in the British newspaper the Independent says “Groundhog Day” is “hailed by religious leaders as the most spiritual film of all time.”

The movie is about a guy named Phil, played by Bill Murray, who is living the same day over and over again. He is essentially immortal. In the scene below, Phil’s co-worker Rita, played by Andie McDowell, recites a few lines of poetry. Here are the lines that precede the ones she recites:

High though his titles, proud his name,
Boundless his wealth as wish can claim
Despite those titles, power, and pelf,

And here is the scene in which she recites the poem’s next lines:

The wretch, concentred all in self,
Living, shall forfeit fair renown,
And, doubly dying, shall go down
To the vile dust from whence he sprung,
Unwept, unhonored , and unsung.

(from “Breathes There The Man,” an excerpt from “The Lay of the Last Minstrel,”
~ Sir Walter Scott.)

No matter how famous or wealthy, narcissists are among the worst of humankind.

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3 thoughts on “It’s Groundhog Day

  1. Loved this movie. I kept thinking that this Phil is stuck on the wheel of Samsara and not getting off. No Nirvana for him, I thought, but he surprised me with his eventual enlightenment– I’m a sucker for happy endings, realizing of course that the movie had to resolve his dilemma within a limited time-frame. It may take many rebirths to correct some of our present sufferers from this affliction, IMHO.

  2. Astronomically, you could say we are living the same day over. We in the ‘West’ call this year 2022—but it’s in our minds. The Earth does revolve every 24 hours and we travel around the sun every 365 days: yet the days do not pile up into a larger number. The ‘same’ day is recurring, as the Earth revolves over ‘n again.
    The ‘forward’ motion that we call ‘advancing time’ is constructed, thus we’re all Bill Murrays.

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