Posted in Extempore, Movies

August Rush | Ancient Wisdom in a Modern Musical

As an epitome of modern day storytelling, August Rush returns a very important ingredient to the recipe of life – an ingredient long lost since the dawn of enlightenment – Mystery. And the medium it chooses to return this old family member is – Music.

For as is rightly said, Music comes only second to expressing the inexpressible, after silence. The inexpressible, the Mystery, which lingers in all our hearts and binds 7 billion of us, together, as humans, as living beings!

Depite the modern medium of Music, the inherent message of this love story remains as old as the legends it is inspired by. It seems to be almost certainly based on the ancient tale of the Princess and the Frog, where Love conquers everything – Prestige, Royalty, Penury, Beauty – everything.

Let me explain a bit here.

Like in the fairy tale, there are four characters in this love story too. There is a King, his daughter the Princess, a Prince cursed into a Frog and the Witch who curses the Prince.

In order to truly grasp the parallels between the stories separated largely in time and space, we need to understand the symbolism behind each of the characters involved.

The King of the fairy tale is essentially symbolic of the Masculine forces of Nature that organises, structures and identifies with his creations to be his own. He is the King of his creation. In the story, Lyla’s father, the King, is proud of his creation, that is Lyla herself. He is proud of her musical talents and wishes to see her prosper and gather fame as an artist. So much so that when she expresses a desire to love a poor man of a lowly rank, he tries to withold her from returning to him. In the fairy tale, it is the Pride of Beauty in the Princess that separates her from the Prince. Here it is the Pride of Lyla’s father in his Prestige that forces him to turn blind to their shared love for Music.

The Witch of the Grimms’ tale is symbolic of the wild and chaotic powers of Mother Nature, the Feminine, that time and again proves the King wrong. She reminds him that it is she who has the power to take away everything that he builds out of her world in the blink of an eye. All of the King’s kingdoms and structures can be reduced to dust in a single day or even a single moment if she wishes to. And as and when his Pride rises, she will crumble his Pride down to dust. Now in Lyla’s story, the Witch is played by a very interesting character of Robin Williams. He is the nomad and a musician of the wild nights. He lives in a dark shed at night with his little army of kids working for him. He wanders by the night playing out his Mysterious Music. He too abhors the Pride of institutions that pretend to teach music and believes that true Music lies in the wilderness out there. (Just as the Witch abhors the Pride of Kings who refuse to accept the true power out there.)

Now, the Princess is the feminine side of the King. The tiny drop of white in the black half of the Yin-Yang. She is the Wild Nature decorated in Gold and Silver. She is born into the structured and orderly world of her Royal father but in her heart she still feels the call to wilderness. But she is forced to keep it sublime. Out of this tension within her arises one of the most beautiful human virtues – Grace. Music becomes her medium to Gracefully release this tension in the world.

In the fairy tale, the Prince is cursed into becoming a Frog till a Princess takes his hand in marriage. In this story our Prince is turned into a Frog by Poverty instead. He is a poor man, much poorer than what Lyla’s father would approve of. (Robin Williams’ character shares this trait of Penury with the Frog Prince.) He is a rebel hearted rock musician which is the diagonal opposite of Lyla’s classical Cello talents. He is the masculine version of the wild feminine. The drop of black in the white half of the Yin-Yang.

And then there is common aspect of Time between the two stories. By which I mean, with Time, the representations of Yin-Yang tend to decay and the new pairs begin to gain virtue. In the Grimms’ legend, both the Princess’ Pride in her Royalty as well as the arrogance of the Witch who cursed the Proud Prince, are eventually mellowed down. The Princess kisses the Frog, thus accepting him as her Beloved despite his foul looks. The curse of the Witch is broken and the Frog turns into a Prince once again.

Similarly, in this story, the Pride of Lyla’s father is shattered to pieces when his daughter breaks the bounds of morality and bears the child of a man of such lowly ranks. And the Pride of the wild, rebellious character of Robin Williams’ is shattered when that very same child goes on to shock the institutions Williams opposed, as a child prodigy – an anomaly in their system, a rebel who speaks the same language but words very different kind of music. A Mysterious Music. A Music of another world.

Thus, the two opposing forces of Lyla’s father and Robin Williams, the egoistic masculine and arrogant feminine; give way to the love-child of Lyla and her unnamed Frog Prince of Rock, the empathetic forms of masculine and feminine. The family is reunited and it is the Music that unites them. The mysterious Music that spreads Love and somehow harmonizes even the eternally opposed forces in Nature.

And that, I believe, is the gift of this wonderful musical to the modern world and its storytellers. Re-igniting an old fire of wisdom that says Love alone triumphs the differences, the diagonal opposites, the Yin and the Yang and also every other kind of differences that we face in the world today.


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