Nostalgia is a funny thing. It can devour you, if you're not careful. One can lose oneself in it. Nostalgia can be a useful tool for remembrance, but it can also be deceptive. We can learn to love a past that perhaps doesn't always deserve the affection. This is especially true if it's a past we didn't experience. But even our own past can play tricks on us. Best, then, to take only small dips in the nostalgia pool, eh?
The aforementioned thoughts regarding nostalgia are what developed from a simple airing of the 1985 classic movie Back to the Future on TV over the weekend. For the uninitiated, the film features teenager Marty McFly going back in time thirty years, to 1955, and trying to make sure his parents get together so that the family he knows and loves will be there when gets back to 1985. It's a great bit of cinema, and I clearly remember seeing it at the old Thunderbird Theater with my mom back when it came out.
As has been noted by many others, there is as much distance between now and when Back to the Future was released, as there was between then-present day 1985 and 1955. The big question is: Does 1985 feel as far removed from today as 1955 did from it? That is perhaps a very subjective question. Upon first viewing of the film, I clearly remember being astounded at the first few scenes set in 1955. 'Wow,' I thought, 'that seems like so long ago!' I hadn't been born yet in 1955, therefore there was no experienced memory of it to latch onto. Not so with 1985.
When watching Back to the Future a few days ago, what struck me was that the 1955 scenes didn't give me the jolt that they had three decades ago, but the scenes set in 1985 did! The everyday life scenes set at the McFly residence were simply so nostalgic for me, having grown up during the '80s. The set designer should be commended. Indeed, it is often the case that home-life settings are what stirs the nostalgia in me most when it comes to films.
Consider the recent movie Hot Tub Machine. Some buddies travel back in time a quarter of a century to 1986. The 1986 depicted was funny, but it didn't evoke much nostalgia in me. It was a stereotype -- almost a caricature -- of what the '80s were like. I lived through the decade, and knew better. The film Super 8, on the other hand, was a different matter altogether. It nailed the look and feel of its time. I even wrote about its authenticity immediately after seeing the movie..
Whenever I feel a personal nostalgia for, let's say, the house I lived in until I was ten, that's when the sensation is most profound. A few years ago, I was able to tour that house, and stand in the bedroom that had been mine for a decade, though of course it felt tiny as an adult. But it wasn't the same room, or house. That fondly-remembered home on south Draper exists now only in memory, even though the structure still stands. It was populated with a young boy, his parents and their dog, with friends and family who would stop by and visit, with the walls decorated as we wanted.
In truth, the 1985 of my nostalgia is forever gone.