Groundhog Day

Interpretations and analysis

The film is often considered an allegory of self-improvement, emphasizing that happiness comes from placing the needs of others above one's own selfish desires. Because no effort is made to explain why the time loop occurs—or why it ends—leaving the viewer to draw his or her own conclusions, writes Jonah Goldberg of the National Review, "we have what many believe is the best cinematic moral allegory popular culture has produced in decades."[41]

"Groundhog Day", as an expression, has also become shorthand for the concept of spiritual transcendence.[42][43] As such, the film has become a favorite of some Buddhists[44][45] who see its themes of selflessness and rebirth as reflections of their own spiritual messages. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, it has been seen as a representation of purgatory. "Connors goes to his own version of hell, but since he’s not evil it turns out to be purgatory, from which he is released by shedding his selfishness and committing to acts of love," wrote Goldberg. "Meanwhile, Hindus and Buddhists see versions of reincarnation here, and Jews find great significance in the fact that Connors is saved only after he performs mitzvahs [sic] (good deeds) and is returned to earth, not heaven, to perform more." It has even been described by some religious leaders as the "most spiritual film of our time".[46] “The curse is lifted when Bill Murray blesses the day he has just lived," wrote the critic Rick Brookhiser. "And his reward is that the day is taken from him. Loving life includes loving the fact that it goes.”[41]

Theologian Michael P. Pholey, writing for Touchstone Magazine, commented on the difficulty of determining a single religious or philosophical interpretation of the film, given Ramis's "ambiguous religious beliefs" as "an agnostic raised Jewish and married to a Buddhist", and suggested that when not viewed through a "single hermeneutical lens", the film could be seen as "a stunning allegory of moral, intellectual, and even religious excellence in the face of postmodern decay, a sort of Christian-Aristotelian Pilgrim’s Progress for those lost in the contemporary cosmos."[47] Others see an interpretation of Nietzsche’s directive to imagine life—metaphorically or literally—as an endless repetition of events. "How would this shape your actions?" asks Goldberg. "What would you choose to live out for all eternity?"[41]


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