I remember Robin Williams as though it were only yesterday.
People blogged, tweeted and wrote solidly about one of my favourite actors. I generally avoid joining social media gossip trains. But since he gave me – an ardent fan – much joy, I decided to share my thoughts.
He was a comic genius. Though no comedian myself, it appears that we had some things in common. There were moments, and crucial lines, from his films which influenced and affected me. Two introductory lines stood out for me.
Unconventional radio deejay, Sergeant Adrian Cronauer, greeted his unsuspecting listeners cheerfully with this:
The kind, gentle robot, Andrew Martin, wanted to lend a hand and announced that “One is pleased to be of service.”
I recently came across Moscow on the Hudson which told the story of a quiet, kind, decent, intelligent Muscovite jazz musician’s great leap of faith when he made the crucial decision to defect from the cold, cruel innards of the Soviet Union. Vladimir Ivanov was embraced by multicultural New Yorkers. And fell in love.
Similar feelings of gladness and nostalgia also come to me through the films’ enigmatic musical scores. Louis Armstrong’s timeless crooning contributed heavily towards lightening the burden of the tragedy of the Vietnam War. It still serves as a delightful anthem in today’s world, still bringing tears to my eyes.
Robin Williams’ characterisation of Adrian Cronauer was touching. He flaunted himself verbally and physically in this role before friend and foe and left me with a glow which took a while to dim.
I struggled as a student. John Keating was the sort of English literature master who could inspire you to move mountains. With loose alliterations, gentle connotations, he confided only to his bewildered students. Robin Williams’ Keating moved his young men to re-ignite the mysteries of the Dead Poet’s Society.
They went on to do great things for themselves. I enrolled for a degree which has run its course and exceeded my own expectations.
Robin Williams’ Dr Malcolm Sayer gave a sympathetic re-interpretation of renowned neurologist Oliver Sacks who revolutionised medical science. The scientist exploited the benefits of the drug L-Dopa which was used to awaken patients suffering from encephalitis lethargica.
Terry Gilliam’s The Fisher King was possibly Robin Williams’ most significant film. Williams played the deluded and homeless Henry Sagan who was on a quest to find the Holy Grail. That he never found it did not matter.
At the time I saw this film, I became preoccupied with one of the most misunderstood and feared illnesses that could ultimately lead to homelessness if all else fails. I was in awe with Williams’ raw and high levels of energy in combining the elements of comedy and drama through his unique acting abilities.
Robin Williams could never match Dustin Hoffman’s Tootsie in his gender-bending rendition of Mrs Doubtfire. Similar themes of love unite the struggling actor, Daniel Hillard with his wife and children. Who better, though, to bring such warmth to the silver screen.
It was not my favourite gay movie, but the collaboration of Robin Williams and Nathan Lane as Armand Goldman and Albert in the challenging remake of the classic La Cage aux Folles brought me plenty of affectionate and thoughtful laughs.
As a gay man, Williams kept his wits about him, struggling to maintain his independence and identity against the strain of conservatism, prejudice and hypocrisy. The performances of the actors in this show left me in stitches.
Robin Williams’ subtle acting methods in The Birdcage brought home a message of solidarity for gay men and lesbian women living in fear of the consequences of prejudice. This film’s musical train brought forth another string of memories:
Good Will Hunting brought Robin Williams his only Academy Award. t was an engrossing and inspirational film. I appreciated the complex nuances of Gus van Sant’s direction of Williams who is cast in a supporting, but no less important role.
Robin Williams reprised the role of yet another innovative and heroic doctor. Patch Adams taught cancer-stricken patients that laughter is truly the best medicine.
I could not keep my eyes open during the artistic and painterly What Dreams May Come in which Williams played the grieving Christopher Nielsen whose wife is condemned owing to her committing suicide. I was tired. It is a thought-provoking film, remembered more for its visual impact, rather than Williams’ acting, that I will endeavour to watch again.
At the turn of the millenium, Williams had two memorable roles in which the certainty of death is explored as a sub-theme.
Isaac Asimov’s Bicentennial Man is one of those films which should be collected by science fiction aficionado’s. Williams’ portrayal of Andrew Martin, is touching, pleasing, warm-hearted, funny, sympathetic and very good.
Through tragic fate and accidental circumstances Robin Williams’ Jakob the Liar is forced to, well lie. The thrust of Jakob’s opportunistic and optimistic lies are the inevitability of victory and freedom from hate. This film came to me at a fortunate time. I was studying the Holocaust. Robin Williams brought me a renewed sense of hope and joy.