Using his own terminology, Billy Pilgrim is "unstuck in time", which means he is moving between different points in his life uncontrollably, although he is aware of it at certain of those points as witnessed by the letter to the editor he writes to the Ilium Daily News about his situation. Primarily, he is moving between three general time periods and locations. The first is his stint as a GI during WWII, when, as a pacifist, he was acting as a Chaplain's assistant for his unit. This time is largely as a POW, where he was in Dresden the day of the bombing, spending it with among others an older compassionate GI named Edgar Derby, and a brash loudmouth GI named Paul Lazzaro. The second is his life as an optometrist in Ilium in upstate New York, eventually married to the wealthy and overbearing Valencia Merble, and having two offspring, Robert, who would spend his teen-aged years as a semi-delinquent, and Barbara, who would end up much like her mother. And the third is as an abductee on...Written by
The aircraft used in the movie was owned by the 3M Company. See more »
When the English soldiers are welcoming the American POWs to the mess hall, Paul Lazzaro is seen sitting down to eat, but in the next shot, he's standing up putting a safety razor in his jacket pocket. See more »
You see in Tralfamador, where I presently dwell, life has no beginning, no middle, and no end. For example, many years ago a certain man promised to have me killed. He's an old man now, living not far from here. He's read all of the publicity associated with my appearance. He's insane. And tonight he'll keep his promise.
[murmurs throughout the crowd]
If you protest, if you think that death is a terrible thing, then you've not understood what I have said.
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It makes an eloquent statement about how traumatic moments in our life stay with us as if it just happened yesterday'. What makes this film so appealing is how it depicts what would happen if you could jump around your entire life. When the future influences the past, it takes on a great significance. Billy Pilgrim is a humdrum Optometrist who nevertheless has an exciting life, surviving the bombing of Dresden in WW2, living through a plane crash, and being transported to another planet. Yet he maintains to be humble. As we follow Billy's life, the portrait of mediocre America is a touching contrast to the other moments that are frightening. He knows how he will die, and in the process becomes unafraid to live life to it's fullest. The inhabitants of the planet Tralfamador (??) say it is best to concentrate on the good moments in your life, and not so much on the bad. But they are still there, and you cannot erase that moment of your life. In essence, the true moral of this film is to accept all that has happened in your life. For if you don't, you deny the validity of your existence. When Billy finally writes about his adventures, others have a chance to learn about the world and themselves that would've otherwise been denied.
Technically, the film uses the moments where Billy jumps in time as meaningful transitions. It interweaves lessons learned from one part of his life and applies it to the present moment (whenever that is). The film's real treasures are the supporting characters that surround Billy. It also vividly transports you to WW2, a semi-autobiographical account of Kurt Vonnegut's real life experiences in Dresden. The film is filled with anecdotes that present the film's other main theme, that life is indeed ironic.
I was deeply touched by this film, with it's ability to whisk you from scenes of horror to amusing Kodak moments'. The music poignantly represents these transitions, and helps to carry the film. In the end, you can accept his death, by having lived his life.
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