Physical Journeys

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“It is good to have an end to journey towards; but it is the journey that matters in the end.” – Ursula K. LeGuin. A journey, in essence, is a travelling from one place to another, or, more broadly, a passage or progress from one stage to another. Whether it is the journey or the arrival that is more difficult is irrelevant. It is how the journeyer reacts to his or her travels; how he or she chooses deal with the journey; and what the traveller achieves from his or her passage or progress that is vital to the study of physical journeys. Peter Skrzynecki’s Immigrant Chronicles, and the films Finding Nemo (2003), directed by Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich and Cast Away (2000), directed by Robert Zemeckis, each explore the concept of journeys using a range of techniques. Transformation and personal discovery are central to each text, and this demonstrates that both the journey and the arrival can be difficult in their own ways.

Skrzynecki’s poem Crossing the Red Sea deals with the themes of courage, change and hope through physical journey. Skrzynecki uses a great deal of religious imagery to compare the immigrants’ voyage over the sea to the Bible story of Moses leading God's people to the Promised Land. The title of the poem itself refers to the Red Sea that Moses parts for the people. The line, “ (And the seas touched the eyes of another Lazarus who was saying a prayer in thanksgiving for miracles) ” refers to Lazarus of Bethany, who was raised to life by a miracle performed by Jesus. This connection suggests that the migrants were also “raised to life” by a miracle, or perhaps, saved from death.

This links to the movie Cast Away in which FedEx deliveryman, Chuck (Tom Hanks), survives a plane crash and, as a result, is forced to live alone on a deserted island for four years. It is amazing that Chuck lives through the crash, but much like the immigrants in Crossing the Red Sea, the hardships are not over: “As they beckoned towards a blood-rimmed horizon”

As time passes in Crossing the Red Sea, the migrants open up to themselves and others: “Voices left their caves and silence fell from its shackles, memories strayed from behind sunken eyes”. The use of the word “shackles” creates intense imagery, alluding to the violence and entrapment of the migrants’ pasts. This powerful imagery is also used when the colour of red poppies is compared to blood: “ ‘Blood leaves similar dark stains – when it runs for a long time on stones or rusted iron.’ ” The contrast between the blood and the poppies is sudden and horrific, and the two juxtapose each other completely. This contrast represents how the migrants’ lives have been corrupted by the war; once beautiful and peaceful, their world is now frightening and bloody.

In the plane crash scene of Cast Away, the camera angles and dramatic noise bring the audience into the action, much like the imagery of Crossing the Red Sea does. The shaking camera gives the audience an idea of what it’s like to be on the plane and the loud plane noises instil fear and suspense into the mind of the viewer. This violent scene begins Chuck’s journey, in the same way that the violence of the war began the journey of the migrants. The rest of the film contrasts the pivotal plane crash scene and is much more quiet. Although these scenes of Chuck struggling for survival involve minimal dialogue or music they are indelible. The silence is the key to understanding his physical journey and the adversity he faces every day.

In Crossing the Red Sea the immigrants grow spiritually and emotionally with the hope of a brighter future. Similarly, in Cast Away, Chuck endures a physical hardship for four years. His physical journey becomes a life changing experience for him emotionally, personally, spiritually and psychologically.

This is also evident in the film Finding Nemo. Both Nemo and Marlin go through change as a result of their physical journeys. Marlin learns that he cannot hold a constant fear...
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