March 2, 2009
Last night in a 15-seat “Digital DVD Kino,” I finally got to see The Wrestler, and thankfully in English. With all of the wrestling jargon, I couldn’t allow myself to watch the film in any other language. Beforehand, I wondered how much of the backstage talk would fly over the heads of the mainstream, non-wrestling audience. While watching, I wondered who in the audience had never heard of CZW, Ring of Honor, and Necro Butcher. But not only that, I wondered who in the comfort of their plush chair, munching popcorn, with their eyes fixed on the broken glass and barbed-wire was experiencing such a sight for the first time. And I wondered who in the audience thought that it was only for the movie, that those black and red ring aprons were manufactured for the production, who in reference to some elements of the movie said “this can’t be real.”
Wrestling is wrestling, even if there are different products for different people and different age groups. The reality is that children grow up to realize their heroes are not the people they thought when they were watching their heroes on Saturday mornings. They are real people, with very real problems. Randy “The Ram” Robinson and the movie The Wrestler do not encapsulate everything there is to know about wrestling. Perhaps a few eyes were opened. Perhaps due to the praise received for the acting of Mickey Rourke and company, wrestling was exposed in a new light to some of the audience, for better or for worse. What we have is the story of one man, told through his experiences of a brief period at the end of his long career. Yet, it was just a taste of the true lifestyles of those who perform in the ring.
The acting was steller. Mickey Rourke really was this character, “The Ram.” Watching the movie, you don’t even know that this man really wasn’t a wrestler in real life. He has the weathered face, and the body of a man who did wrestle for years and years, who experienced the exhaustion of traveling, the drugs, the sex, and the abuse of his own body in the ring.
Overall, I can see why the movie itself was not nominated for the academy award for Best Picture. If a person asked me what I thought of the movie, I would say it was indeed a great movie. However, I would not “put it over,” as wrestlers say, so much to the average person as I would to a wrestling fan. To a wrestling fan, I would say you MUST see this movie. But then again, a wrestling fan would already be in line at the box office.
When watching dramatic scenes in movies, I need them to be as real as possible. In our lives, we have experienced real trauma and we cannot settle for anything less than the truth on the screen. Anyone who has ever truly fought someone they love knows the hurt, the desperation, and the sadness. The scene with Randy and his daughter near the end of the film captures the feeling one has when he or she feels the world could and should end because the pain is too much to bear. As a film viewer, if you want depth, emotion, and reality, this movie will fulfill all of those desires.
We are given so much, yet so little information, but that is also what makes the story and execution so perfect. Much of the editing was superb. The movie was strong, but not melodramatic. The editors always seemed to cut in the right place, not letting a scene linger too long to play with our emotions. One of the most amazing scenes in the movie is when Randy begins his first day at his new job. Watch and listen.
Here we have a man, who doesn’t want to be called by his real name, who wants to be Randy “The Ram” every day of his life. A man wounded, who seems out of touch as he is getting older, who suffers from his estrangement from his daughter. He feels what is arguably love for a woman who works as a stripper. This woman is somewhat the opposite as she just wants to be Pam, and not the person she portrays on the stage. Their relationship is a battle of its own as they wrestle with their feelings, though again we are left wondering as our eyes only see what they are allowed to see. We must make up our own minds as to who these people are, where they have come from, and where they will go.
Overall, I would like to congratulate everyone involved with this movie on a job well done. My wife is an extremely schooled person when it comes to understanding professional wrestling, the history, the people in the ring and behind the curtain, so it was very enjoyable watching it with her as we both “marked out” seeing guys like Claudio Castagnoli, Bobby Dempsey, and Chuck Taylor (or a blur that looked like Chuck Taylor as the moment lasted 1.5 seconds). I myself loved seeing the Skullcrushers Wrestling School advertisement and other familiar images from Pro-Wrestling Illustrated magazines that I had when I was around ten years old.
Although I didn’t weep at the end of the movie, I believe the movie was very strong and deserved the praise it received. Perhaps I was too desensitized to feel what I suppose many people felt during the scenes with Necro Butcher, though the quick editing gave the scene more of an impact and still gave me a slight chill up my spine. Wrestling is so real to me. It is an art, a theater play that goes further than any theater play to add realism. Where else do actors cut their foreheads to add the element of blood, real blood, to their scene?
One day in my life, I stepped into a ring, when I was nineteen years old. I ran the ropes and it hurt. A man much larger than me football tackled me across the ring, nearly knocked my shoulder out of place and actually did knock me senseless. My brain bounced around inside me skull after taking several bumps on the mat. I made the mistake of not wearing elbow pads and couldn’t sleep that night due to the open sores at the bottoms of my forearms (not to mention the back pain). That was one night of my life. One can’t imagine how Randy “The Ram” and real pro-wrestlers feel when they go to bed and wake up after doing it for several years of their lives. Those of us watching from the comfort of our chairs can only try to understand. The people who made this film brought us as close to the ring as possible.