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BEGINNERS

History Without End
The finished film of Beginners is, as Mike Mills sees it, an intimate tale wrapped up in a larger statement of how we perceive history. Thus the motivation for the film's graffiti motif, in which Oliver tags concrete walls in black Krylon with phrases documenting seemingly banal events.

"Everything that flashes across the screen in the historical montage sequences is relating our intimate emotional lives to larger waves of history, our shared culture,” explains Mills. "When Oliver spray-paints ‘Britney Spears Most Googled 2003,' that is a real cultural indicator, and not just a humorous aside; it's a statement about a particular time.”

Complementing the film's exploration of autobiography and fiction, the bridge between history and memory is a choice avenue for the filmmaker. As Mills clarifies, "The ‘present' storyline in the film of Oliver with Anna is in fact a period piece – taking place in 2003 – which makes it susceptible to revision in memory.

"So the film is hopefully asking, what is real, anyway? Are these memories real, or did I get them wrong? Do these historical facts help tell us what was real? Or is it more just, what is or what was possible at a certain time.”

Of his father, Mills reflects, "I lived with a man whose biography was somewhat fictionalized – a performance of sorts. He had to hide deep, personal, intimate things. He had to learn ‘a role,' study it and then re-enact it almost all his life.

"I sought to explore constructions – social constructions, historical constructions – that were part of my family history. Why, in 1955, my parents chose to get married even though they knew my Dad was gay. In my head, I had so many conversations with him about the choices he made. I had these conversations not as a son, but as the author of the story – and that caused a lot of my perspectives to shift. It made me become more of his ally and peer than his son.”

Despite these seemingly weighty themes, Beginners brims with humor – another quality that Mills always saw as being essential to the story. It's one he's long cherished overall. He offers, "To me, humor is one of the more positive, subversive, progressive tools we have with which to face life. It's my internal anti-depressant. I certainly can't imagine making a movie without it…

"My father valued it, too. He approached his illness with such surprising humor. I do think he would have loved coming out to the world through Beginners; he would have seen it as keeping the party going – but with a larger invite list.”

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