Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Groundhog Day at 221B Baker Street.

A matinee of the latest Tom Cruise movie Edge of Tomorrow put me in mind of the world of Sherlock Holmes today.

The plot would seem to be totally unrelated to Holmes, being a science fiction reworking of the Bill Murray classic Groundhog Day in some respects. The same day and its events are lived over and over again until some goal is achieved -- my main movie compadre likened it to playing a video game, where one butts heads with a given scenario time and again until finally figuring out how to beat it.

But to me, the repetition of a single day, memorizing all of its minor details, getting to know all the people within it, reminded me of nothing so much as a Sherlockian's relationship with the sixty stories of Sherlock Holmes. As the years pass, and one revisits the stories time and again, noting this detail here, looking into the historical context of this bit there, one gets to the point . . . like the lead characters in those repeated day movies . . . where one could finish Holmes and Watson's sentences, if you were suddenly dropped into the action.

Because we have been there before, after all.

That's the difference between great fiction and recorded history -- a Civil War scholar might be able to tell you in great detail how a particular battle was won or lost, and know all sorts of trivia from studying every known fact or witness testimony, but they were never actually there. Great fiction transports us to the time and place where it occurs, and we come away with a certain amount of experience of the events within.

And when we revisit a place like 221B Baker Street time and again to savor those bits that happen within, it eventually becomes like Punxatawney, Pennsylvania was to Murray's character in Groundhog Day: a place that feels a lot like home, where we can relax and settle in. It's no wonder so many Sherlockians over the years have chosen to re-create a 221B room in their homes.

Of course, the science fiction battlefields of Edge of Tomorrow aren't exactly as comfortable as all that . . . but they put me in mind of good ol' 221B, just the same.

And I would much rather relive the Sherlockian Canon by reading a tale than be Tom Cruise, in any of his movies.

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