Reality and Dream

Zhang Sanjian is back 2022-11-22 23:00 Posted on Beijing


Life is like a mirror. Reality and dreams are the two sides of this mirror, seemingly opposing yet interdependent.

In our youth, we boldly declare our dreams, hoping not to waste our years. Yet often, reality shatters these dreams, making them seem unattainable. Gradually, we become numb, our hearts grow cold. We resign ourselves to the depths of despair, sighing that dreams are just self-deception, mere reflections of reality, leading only to self-pity.

Like how I’ve long wanted to write this film review, but kept postponing it for various reasons, even getting interrupted multiple times while rewatching the movie yesterday. Some might think I’m making excuses, and indeed, there might be some truth to that. However, that’s also the reality. I acknowledge it but refuse to give up. Isn’t this shattering the reality and returning to the desk to write this piece?

Today’s film review is a tribute to a film I highly regard, “Forrest Gump.” I aim to analyze it from the perspective of “reality and dreams,” and share my thoughts on why this 1994 release has become a classic in people’s hearts.

Movies represent the first layer of dreams. Actors spend hours or days on set waiting for the perfect light, rain, or sunset to capture a fleeting moment on screen. Audiences escape their daily routines for a cinematic journey, whether into a world of sword fights or Audrey Hepburn’s Roman holiday. Dreaming a dream outside of oneself. Movies seem to have always carried our dreams, bridging the gap between harsh reality and distant aspirations. A great film magically narrows this distance, giving us the strength to face life and tirelessly pursue our dreams.

Forrest Gump represents the second layer of dreams in the film. The opening scene with a feather drifting in the wind gently leads us into Gump’s dreamy world. The feather lands near his worn shoes.  He neither walked away nor discarded the feather, but instead, he bent down to pick it up and carefully placed it in his notebook… From the detail of picking up the feather, opening the box, and carefully placing it into a compartment in his notebook, it’s clear that he enjoys collecting life’s unforgettable moments. His love for life is evident in his care for these small but significant mementos.  Whenever a stranger sits beside him, he shares his chocolates and imparts his mother’s saying, “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get.” Although this phrase has become an iconic line from the movie, for Forrest Gump, it’s simply his mother’s words. From his perspective, he’s just sharing his experiences and love with strangers, a small act of kindness that is in itself quite profound.

If Forrest Gump’s story in the movie carries the theme of ‘dreams’, then the people close to him bear ‘reality’ and protect the dream. His mother, in order for Forrest, who has a lower intelligence, to enroll in school smoothly, had to choose to ‘vacation’. Then, after Forrest is rejected by almost everyone on the school bus, he meets the female protagonist, who is like an angel. Forrest’s ability to run stems from being despised and bullied in his youth, and the female lead’s repeated cries of ‘Run, Forrest, run!’ gave him the courage to run. A person’s talent often sprouts from the branches of his hardship. Forrest Gump is able to live as a beam of light also because of his great mother and the little angel who warmed and accompanied his childhood.

Each character in the movie has their own dreams. The female lead dreams of one day standing on stage and becoming the center of attention, Forrest Gump’s best friend Bubba dreams of owning a shrimp boat, and Lieutenant Dan dreams of dying for his country. However, it is Forrest, who never expressed his dreams, who achieves them all. Not just dreams, the female lead says ‘you don’t even know what love is’, but if this question is asked to everyone, do you understand what love is? Perhaps Forrest, who seems not to understand love, actually knows more about how to love. I think this comes from the abundant security and love his mother provided him. Love is a persistent companionship; it’s not just about gazing at each other, but also looking together towards the same distant horizon.

When the female lead asks Forrest if he remembers what they once prayed for, they had prayed to become birds so they could fly far away. In Forrest Gump, we see dreams embodied. This is why the female lead always feels like she wants to leave Forrest; because he can do what we all cannot — remain kind and simple. It seems easy, but when you can’t do it, you might feel ashamed and want to leave. That’s why Jenny wants to leave Forrest; he is too pure, almost transparent. The relentless pursuit of things, the everlasting commitment to love, the keeping of promises to friends, and the dedication to life are what make for the unique possibilities in a person’s life. He may not understand why he does it; he just treats everyone around him with loyalty and kindness, and focuses on doing well in everything he has promised, nothing more. But to persist in this for a lifetime, ask yourself, who can truly manage it?

Actually, each time I watch this film, my heart churns with sorrow. Although the movie has inspired many, its core is extremely sad. Forrest Gump was labeled as intellectually challenged from the moment of his birth, the humiliation his mother swallowed for his school admission, the dignity of the girl he loved trampled in her pursuit of dreams, his best friend dying in a foreign land, the respected lieutenant who once resented him for a long time… Loved ones leaving him one after another, he could only keep running forward. If this is a love story, then this love is certainly filled with sadness, like a man who doesn’t know how to love a woman, only like a child in his simplicity. The woman’s unfortunate childhood and the scars of her growing years make her unconsciously avoid the man who lives like light. I have a romantic yet sad thought: his repeated efforts and perseverance were just to stand higher so she could notice him in the crowd. If once is not enough, then again and again, perhaps next time she won’t leave.


Reality is the third layer of dreams. I used to prefer the word ‘ideal’, as it seems more rational and objective, but ‘dream’ gives us the right to dream in the face of harsh reality, preserving our instinct to be wild. Maybe at times, we are like Forrest Gump, not knowing why we run, where the destination of our run is, or what the meaning of life truly is. But one must never stop running. Perhaps it’s only by persistently running aimlessly that we can find our direction. And only by living strongly can what fate takes away to be returned to us in another form, like Lieutenant Dan’s ‘legs’.  The quote from Mei Changshu in “Nirvana in fire”: “Since I have survived, I cannot live in vain.”

The film ‘Forrest Gump’ doesn’t have dramatic plot twists or intense, loud arguments. Instead, it flows gently with underlying sadness, immerses in dreams within reality, like Forrest Gump boarding the school bus again. Like the feather that flies up again at the end, drifting with the wind into people’s hearts, it reignites the belief in their hearts.

Reality and dreams are still quantumly entangled with each other, we are still who we were, and by looking up at the stars, we won’t lose our direction.

“If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.”

(Source of Images: Internet)


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