Sunday, June 14, 2009

A Roman Holiday

One of my favorite movies of all time is Roman Holiday, it also stars two of my favorite movie actors; Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn.

If you have seen this movie you know that it is about a princess visiting Italy, who escapes her boring, tiresome duties by sneaking out of her country's embassy into the city of Rome to find freedom for a night, though it turns into several days and nights.

Gregory Peck, playing a newspaper reporter finds her asleep on a park bench and ends up taking her home with him to sleep off what he thinks is a drunk. Later on he realizes she is the princess whom her embassy has said was sick. He thinks he is onto the story of his life and all the usual love story, poor boy, princess stuff follows.

Except it wasn't the usual story to me, mostly because of the performances by Hepburn and Peck. It wasn't the usual story because I so identified with the part Hepburn was playing and how she played it. I saw the embassy as society, and the princess as embodying the emotions, dreams and desires of us who do not fit societies norms.

You could feel her angst at being thrust into a position that was not one of her choosing. She is required to attend state dinners with bearded old men and their wives, she is constantly told how she should act and what to wear, even her pajamas are chosen for her. Her whole life is laid out for her, and her own thoughts and feelings are not taken into consideration and are even discounted.

The real personality of the princess is revealed on her "Roman Holiday." She is playful, funny and a free thinking young woman. But in the end she returns to the embassy and accepts what is expected of her. In the 50's there couldn't really have been a different ending for a movie.

How very much that is a reflection of my life growing up. How many of our lives were laid out for us and we didn't even know it. And we weren't even princesses. We were told either directly or indirectly that we could go to college if we wanted to, and maybe even have a career, but that we would eventually find a boy to marry and have children. Settle down and have a life. That was just the way it was going to be. There was no other way. Some of us might have snuck out the window like Hepburn's princess, and then returned to the embassy, wiser, sadder but grateful for a moment of freedom, but I wasn't brave enough to do even that.

I was thinking about this movie the other day because I ran across a quote by Audrey Hepburn - "I came out of the war [WWII] thankful to be alive, aware that human relationships are the most important thing of all - far more than wealth, food, luxury, careers or anything you can mention"

Ms. Hepburn had been in the Netherlands when the Nazis occupied it. Her mother and father had divorced in 1935. Both parents were members of the British Union of Fascists at that time.
During the war she suffered malnutrition and developed a life long case of anemia. She saw many of the atrocities of the Nazis first hand, including the trains taking the Jews to the camps, and yet she never became bitter towards life, instead using her money and influence to help people and especially children, all over the world worse off than she.
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