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The Terminal

September 1, 2015

The TViktor Navorski, a man from an Eastern European country arrives in New York. However after he left his country war broke out. Suddenly Navorski is a man without a country – or one that the U.S. cannot recognize, thus he is denied entrance to the U.S. However, he also can’t be deported so he is told by the Security Manager that he has to remain in the airport until his status can be fixed. And also Navorski doesn’t speak English very well, so he cannot talk to or understand anyone. But he somehow adapts and sets up residence in the airport, which makes the man who placed him there unhappy, as it seems he is in line for a promotion but Navroski’s presence might complicate that. So he tries to get Navorski to leave but Navorski remains where he is. Navorski makes friends with some of the people who work in the airport and is attracted to a flight attendant he runs into whenever she comes in.

Themes: temptation and the power of goodness.

Inspired by the story of Merhan Nasseri, an Iranian refugee. Dreamworks reportedly paid him $250,000 for the use of his biography. In 1988, he landed at Charles de Gaulle Airport near Paris after being denied entry into England because his passport and United Nations refugee certificate had been stolen. French authorities would not let him leave the airport. He remained in Terminal One, a stateless person with nowhere else to go. He has since been granted permission to either enter France or return to his own country. He instead chooses to continue to live in the terminal and tell his story to those who will listen. Reportedly, his mental health has deteriorated over the years. When given the opportunity to live in France, he refused because the documents did not name him as “Sir, Alfred”, and he claims to have forgotten his native Persian language. Reportedly, he left the terminal in August 2006 to be hospitalized for an unspecified illness.

Steven Spielberg cut a line from the film where Hanks’s character is getting help using a phone card and says, “Home phone, home phone!” Spielberg cut this because he didn’t want comparisons to E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and the famous lines “Phone home.”

In the bookstore, Viktor is reading “Oh, the Places You’ll Go” by Dr. Seuss.

The note on the photocopy of the hand attached to the sign “All Gates” says “FREE THE GOAT”.

Although Viktor comes from the fictional country of Krakozhia, the language he speaks in the movie is Bulgarian. The written material shown (the Fodor’s guide and the magazine page with the jazz greats) is in bad Russian. The label on the Planters peanuts can is neither in Bulgarian nor in Russian. Viktor’s driving license is issued in Homel, Republic of Belarus, and has a woman’s name on it (written in Cyrillic) – Gulnara Gulina. It was a real license provided by a real Gulnara Gulina, a woman from Belarus who was working in American movie industry, although the license, issued in 1995, was already invalid at the time of filming. The filmmakers just added Viktor Navorski’s name in English and his photo.

When Viktor is about to be forced onto the plane back home, Dixon watches the security camera screens and whistles the melody to “For All We Know (We May Never Meet Again)”.

“But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.” This is the scripture that comes to mind after seeing The Terminal. Viktor was an example of how to “wait” while suffering an injustice that was not his in the making. I laughed and cried when I thought of what he went through to keep a promise to his father

The Terminal has two main themes—reaching out to those who are not accepted, and patience as a virtue

It reminds us of poor Truman Burbank’s life being monitored from a god’s-eye view in The Truman Show, and it should—The Terminal grew from a story by The Truman Show’s Andrew Niccol.

Just as the warden in Shawshank was a comic-bookish caricature oppressing a prison full of human beings, so Frank Dixon oppresses Navorski. Sure, it’s reasonable to believe that Navorski would cause Dixon some stress. But every time we see this government goon, he’s agonizing over his Krakhozian prisoner as if it’s his full-time job. One wonders why he never bothers to find a translator, but merely lets Navorski dog paddle his way around the airport for months. (It’s also mind-boggling that Navorski himself never bumps into someone who can console him in his own language. It’s a New York airport!)

the “triumphant good-man-against-the-system element is the best part of this touching, poignant, often funny film. Intriguing people. Unusual circumstances. Inspirational moments. Not a bad place to spend a couple of hours. As always, Hanks is terrific.”

In an essay in The Global Soul about some time he spent in the Los Angeles International Airport, Pico Iyer writes about the place as having all the amenities of a modern metropolis, a mysterious space filled with individuals from all cultures tingling with hopes and dreams, where people have out-of-the-body experiences brought on by jet lag and where strangers reach out to each other with the camaraderie of exhausted travelers with jangled nerves. It’s an environment that often strikes us as a mirror of modern ills including bureaucracy, fast-food, consumerism, and free-floating rage that frequently explodes out of impatience.

By the end of the story — which takes place over a span of nine months — Viktor has made the terminal into a home, and his new airport family has come to know and respect him. He has modeled a way of living that we would do well to emulate, proving that, as the African proverb says, a patient man has all the wealth in the world.

“Patience is not only a virtue, but an attitude to life which can be achieved solely through attention to the inner journey,” notes Mike Riddell in Sacred Journey. He continues: “I have to confess that I am not one to whom patience comes naturally. Rather than waiting quietly for doors to open, my instinct is to race forward and tear them off their hinges to see what lies behind them. . . . I have been slowly and incrementally learning that all my desperation to lay hold of the future does little except devalue the present. . . . Patience is something that is chosen; it is an active and intentional waiting which grows from an attitude of trust towards the essential goodness of life. It is a craft that must be learned through practice. It seems to me that every time I learn to extend my patience a little further, some new event will come along which stretches me just that bit more than I am prepared to go. I suspect that is the only way to develop patience — similar to athletes who incrementally increase their performances.”

In The Cosmic Dance, Christian writer Joyce Rupp writes: “Resiliency is rooted in the human heart. It is an essential catalyst for moving through painful and devastating experiences. Resiliency is about being down and out and springing back, being persistent in the face of defeat. It is solidarity with others that strengthens the soul. It is the hope that holds on in spite of overwhelming loss.”

In A Sideways Look at Time, Jay Griffiths writes, “The attraction to speed is only partly the exhilaration of acceleration; it has much to do with competition, with overtaking. One California management consultant, an expert on time-based competition, says ‘Be Fast or Be Last.’ The thrill is not in going fast, but in going faster than the test. This excitement is not recognized in all societies: to the Kabyle people in Algeria, and many others, speed is considered both indecorous and demonically over-competitive.”

Although Viktor takes his time with things, even he tries to speed up, and he winds up sliding on the newly waxed floor. Gupta, the Indian janitor, derives much humour from watching people ignore the caution cones which he puts up around the area he has just finished. What other scenes in the film demonstrate the drawbacks to speed as a way of living? Discuss Amelia’s character and how speed has inhibited her relationships with others.

In Who Cares? Marcy Heidish observes: “Listening is the gift you give to someone in difficulty or distress, in the midst of a crisis or a problem. Unfortunately, it seems to be a half-forgotten gift. Sometime, someplace, every one of us has heard these words: ‘All I wanted was someone to listen.’ If the language of listening has grown foreign to many, I believe we can re-learn it. As humans, we have a good ear for it, still.”

Viktor is a good listener, someone who is present in the fullest sense of the word. Which of the many members of his extended airport workers family is lucky enough to receive his gift of listening? Which characters in the film are not good listeners? What difference does their lack of this skill make?

In Thank You for Being Such a Pain: Spiritual Guidance for Dealing With Difficult People, Mark Rosen uses the following teaching tale: “There is a story about the mystical teacher Gurdjieff and one of his disciples. The disciple, who lived in the ashram, was strongly disliked by the other disciples for a variety of reasons. When he left, Gurdjieff actually tracked him down and paid him to return, telling the rest of the disciples that the ostracized man was one of their most important teachers.” Rosen then derives a spiritual practice from this story: “The next time a difficult person comes into your life, it might be helpful to tell yourself something along the lines of ‘(Sigh) Here comes another one. God, I ask you to guide me. You sent this person to me for a reason. Help me to know what it is, and help me to cope successfully.’ ”

“Being made to wait has another benefit. It helps us figure out what we truly want and what really matters to us. Remembering that some things are worth waiting for helps us to decide what it is that is worth the wait, and to prize it truly when we do receive it,” M. J. Ryan writes in The Power of Patience.

Viktor is a person who has every reason in the world to be raging about his plight as a man without a country. Yet somehow he has learned how to wait. It is a special attribute of saints and other extraordinary souls who are not consumed by expectations and grasping for the next best thing.

Dixon is a modern Pharisee who shows just how tyrannical man can be when he allows rules, instead of compassion, to dominate. Evil, this film seems to say, can be very subtle indeed.

Another important message that the film alludes to is the problem of homelessness. We are given a glimpse into their lives, and we are asked to sympathize. Like Viktor, many homeless people have stumbled upon unfortunate circumstances that have left them at the mercy of administrators and bureaucrats, and without food or clothing.

Officer Dolores Torres: Let me ask you something, Mr. Navorski. Why do you wait here two hours every day when I’ve told you there’s nothing I can do for you – that your new visa will not arrive until your country is recognized by the United States?

Viktor Navorski: You… you have two stamp. One red, one green.

Officer Dolores Torres: So?

Viktor Navorski: So, I have chance go New York, 50-50.

Officer Dolores Torres: [laughs] Yes, that’s a beautiful way to look at it. But America doesn’t work that way.

Frank Dixon: I’m talking about bombs. I’m talking about human dignity. I’m talking about human rights. Viktor, please don’t be afraid to tell me that you’re afraid of Krakhozia.

Viktor Navorski: Is home. I am not afraid from my home.

Gupta Rajan: As long as I keep my floor clean, keep my head down, they have no reason to deport me, they have no reason to notice a man like me.

Businessman/passenger in bathroom: [Viktor is shaving in the bathroom] Ever feel like you’re living in an airport?

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