Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Robin Williams Dies

Robin Williams
July 21st 1951- August 11th 2014

The famous actor and comedian Robin Williams has died at the age of sixty-three. Yesterday the emergency services were called to his house in Tiburon, California USA and found him unconscious. He could not be resuscitated and was pronounced dead at the scene, probably from suicide. He was known to have been battling depression and had a drink and drug problem. He became famous on TV as an egg-cracking and wise-cracking alien in Mork and Mindy and in the movies he played Popeye in the 1980 film of that name. However it wasn't until the late 1980's that he became role-cast into the form I most admired him for, that of the archetypal trickster rebel. Beginning with Good Morning Vietnam he played a whole series of eccentric and funny free-spirited characters who find themselves in a setting in which conformity, discipline and sombreness prevail; this results in friction between these characters and the authorities which fuels the story. Other examples are Dead Poets Society and Patch Adams. These films are very emotive as well as comical; tragedy was something else Williams excelled at, such as in Bicentennial Man. Not that he lacked versatility; in Insomnia he played a very credible and detestable villain. He was also equally talented as a stand-up comic, but less famous for it, see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AdIRME3EpFY.

What made Robin Williams one of my heroes was the way he championed nonconformism. He made me feel that being an oddball was fine and that I didn't have to change; even though everybody around me was telling me I had to, and was even putting pressure on me to do so, up to and including the use of violent force. He was a role model for me my entire life, especially when I was a child and felt I didn't fit in with my peers. His absolute masterpiece was The Fisher King in which its incitement to breach conformity is breathtaking; here's my favourite scene from it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lASPrnWf6cA. Those who knew him say that he often found it hard to switch off when he was acting and he sometimes remained in character during his free time, causing riotous scenes in public places and social gatherings. He found it hard to be serious; many of his best comedy moments are ad-libbed by him and were not originally scripted into his films. But life as a nonconformist is never easy. Many great funny men hide deep anguish behind their jokes and like Kenneth Williams and Tony Hancock, Williams fought a long hard battle against depression. He also fell into the trap of addiction, like many in Hollywood, including his co-star in Patch Adams, the late Philip Seymour Hoffman. When his best friend and fellow actor Christopher Reeve died, it dealt him a devastating blow from which he never completely recovered. One of his best films was What Dreams May Come, based on the Richard Matherson novel about the prospect of life after death. I've always found it deeply poignant, but never more so than today; however it gives me hope, see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RmZ-FuBThuQ. I'll miss you badly, Robin. RIP.

4 comments:

Xylomet said...

Dear Ben. Thank you for the personal tribute to Robin Williams it was genuine and that permeated through the post. When I heard of his death today I was deeply moved, not only because of his non-conformist and celebration-personification of the oddball but more strongly as it appears he had committed suicide. On contemplation I actually have come to despise the word 'committed' as it denotes a terrible crime 'committed' by an equally terrible person, indeed, this harks back to a institutional terminology and the so called religio-stigma of mental health and it's grounds in the separated sinner entity it crystalizes and then smashes. I had suffered from severe depression for many years until my Awakening a few years ago wherein wisdom and clarity cut through the darkness of the inverted mind. I truly believe that his as well as many others legacies are more than just temporal, the legacy that has benefited our existance as perceived and judged outsiders also will be a spiritual legacy of virtue, truth and genuinness that moved me to cry today as a 34 year old man. We can celebrate this and hope that his next conscious manifestation will be a road that will bring him closer to the psychological freedom he could not find on this manifestation who happened to be called Robin Williams and who will be sorely missed by many..........

Rebecca Whitehurst said...

Dear Ben and Xylomet, I too got all weepy this morning about it. Something I hadn't done for many years for a celebrity death. Robin Williams well of emotions ran really deep, I could see it in every role he played, and he truly embodied those roles perfectly.He knew there was no real death for our souls. Being human in this meat-suit comes with faults one can't laugh away. I too will miss his goofy face and sweet gentle heart.

Ben Emlyn-Jones said...

Thanks, X. I know exactly what you mean. I also had to drag myself back from the brink at one point and few realize what a tough mission that is. I keep thinking of What Dream May Come, where his character dies and gets another chance at life at the end. This is one movie I really hope does come true for him.

Ben Emlyn-Jones said...

Hi Rebecca. Thanks for commenting. Of all the celebrity deaths we hear about, I think losing Robin Williams has effected me the most. A lot of people see the glamour of Hollywood with its red carpets and limousines and think it must be a constant joyful life from start to finish, but it's not. I'm so sorry nobody was there to save him at his final moments and he ended up taking the only way out he could see.