TIME PIECE: Nominated for an Oscar for Best Live Action Short Film on February 16, 1965
Originally published February 16, 2015.
It’s Monday, and I’m already completely overwhelmed at work. This is far from an uncommon state, although things had been going smoother for some time now. But this week, I’m behind on critical things and have tons of rapidly-approaching deadlines and numerous meetings and random requests filling my day. I tend to work with either music or a movie playing in the background - just enough white noise to keep me from getting exhausted, and just enough escapism to keep me from getting depressed or stressed. When I’m really overwhelmed, though, I will occasionally stop what I’m doing and watch something short: a music video on YouTube, a cartoon, something. Today, I watched Jim Henson’s Oscar-nominated, non-Muppet short film Time Piece. It’s a film that fascinates me in its simplicity. In the film, the main character (played by Henson) runs frantically through his life, constantly dealing with time in one way or another. He’s either oppressed by time or reveling in it. His existence is constrained by time and often kicking as its boundaries. In the PBS Great Performances tribute to Jim Henson, longtime Henson collaborator and writer Jerry Juhl talked about the film, and more specifically, about Jim Henson’s relationship with time. In the interview, Juhl said, “There was never enough time for Jim. There never would have been enough time.” If you’ve read many of the previous posts in this project, you probably recognize why this quote – and this aspect of Jim Henson - resonates with me. Because at the end of most days, I fall asleep – usually accidentally, while doing something – feeling like there wasn’t enough time. That there were far too many tasks left incomplete, too many desires left unfulfilled, too many thoughts left unstarted, too many words unspoken. And far too few times where I felt “in the moment”, unfettered by the stress and the worry about all of the other things left hanging over my head. And in my darkest, scariest moments, I begin to think that there never will be enough time, and that someday I’m going to die after spending my life worrying about how many things needed to be done yet never actually doing any of those things.
“But there never seems to be enough to do the things you want to do once you find them I’ve looked around enough to know that you’re the one I want to go through time with.” What a gorgeous chorus: time is passing, and the singer realizes it. In the sketch, the scientist is creating a potion – literally, time in a bottle – and he drinks it over and over to become younger and younger. But he’s not seeking youth so that he can search for new adventures. He realizes how many things he should have valued along the way that he missed, and now he’s desperate to go back in time and re-capture them. And to truly value them and cherish them. Because now, at the end of his life, he’s looked around enough to know what he wants. Time, for this old scientist, has been about focusing on everything else, and by doing that, he’s learned what he wants. And now he’s desperate. He wants time back. “I know that I want to go through time with you,” he realizes, and it saddens him. This is not a love song; it’s a lament. He’s wasted his life looking around, and all of the things he’s experienced and all of the things he’s seen are meaningless to him. And he knows who he wants to go through time with, but time is gone.
- Buy Time Piece from iTunes for $1.99