A dream of beauty and happiness and the hopeless effort of making it last forever is the subject of the movie “The Beach” based on the 1996 novel of the same name by Alex Garland, which was adapted for the film by John Hodge. Making a moment of happiness last forever is everybody’s dream, yet we can understand the value of happiness only if you have intensely suffered as Seneca said and somehow, I agree.
The dream beach is Koh Phi Phi,Thailand, where a group of people coming from every part world have built a community, a new sort of heaven, which they wish to make it resistant to time and sorrow. They want to enjoy the incredible beauty nature that surrounds them, dope, grasp the pure heart of life, leaving the ugliness of the materialistic, competitive society outside. Far away, isolated, happy. Forever.
This idyllic state will be broken by the villain of the story: Richard (Leo Di Caprio) an American college student. Shrewd, smart, liar, extremely good-looking, just like a modern Satan, Richard breaks in that community upsetting their hard gained balance and contaminating that “innocent” state. Being attractive, he easily seduces Françoise a French mate and becomes at the same time the prey of Sal (Tilda Swinton) the leader of the community. He will lie to both. He won’t tell Sal that he had copied the map of the island and given it to some surfers, thus breaking the vow of secrecy of the place and exposing the community to the risk of a tourist invasion and he won’t confess Françoise that he had sex with Sal. Hence the seeds of jealousy, suspicion, envy begin to sprout. However, Richard manages to become a sort of hero, when he escapes a shark attack mysteriously succeeding in killing it.
The perfect heaven cracks when sorrow and death intrude, thus upsetting the perception of time of the inhabitants of the island. What before seemed to be beautifully static turns into a natural, painful flow. The “eternal beauty” of their world will be thus gradually “wasted” leading to the final collapse of the community. The occasion is given by another shark, which attacks three Swedish mates, mortally wounding two of them. It is particularly meaningful how the perfect community reacts.They don’t want their dream to be disturbed, therefore they try to remove any interference, even if it is a man’s life at stake.
It may seem cruel, but the death of one of the two men is not an obstacle to their dream. After the burial and when all the prayers are said, life can go on. Sorrow, sooner or later, will fade away and you can gradually go back to your routine.But if the other man doesn’t die, and he is there, wounded, screaming with pain, you cannot move on. You have to face daily the fragility of human life, you cannot turn the page and you are stuck there, always reading the same tragic lines. At this point, it is necessary to act, removing the problem. The Swedish guy will be carried away so that all the other members of the community are not disturbed by his sight and cries. This is the action that will make their heaven similar to the world the wanted to escape, a world that prefers to throw a sheet on its defects and aberrations to gaze its artificial beauty, like Dorian Gray.
Along with this process of dissolution from the inside, the world outside knocks on their door and it is brutal, violent, unbearable. The surfers Richard had met, manage to reach the island, but they are murdered by the same farmers, who had allowed Sal and her mates to stay there. The lead farmer understands that only with a good dose of realism he could get rid of those intruders, therefore he hands Sal a gun with a single bullet, a bullet destined to Richard; this is the price to stay there. Sal can’t see the trap. Sal can’t see that her friends are horrified . Sal would do everything to defend her dream and can see no way out. The very moment she pulls that trigger, even if the misses Richard, she disintegrates everything she had built. Her mates are overwhelmed by terror and flee en mass in hysterics to get away from the island as soon as possible, leaving her alone.
Once back to normal life, after some time Richard finds in his e-mail a message from Françoise entitled “beach life” which contains a photograph of the beach community and an animated handwritten inscription over the image: ‘Parallel Universe”. They were all together, smiling, happy on that amazing beach. The photograph had stopped that moment of incredible bliss and perfection, the moment that they had hoped to make it last forever in an unnatural effort that had brought them to ruin.