Slaughterhouse-Five is the adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut’s classic novel about a man, Billy Pilgrim, who becomes “unstuck” in time. He exists in the fourth dimension, traveling through his lifetime in a non-linear fashion. One moment he is playing with his dog Spot in his backyard and the next he is in Dresden after the devastating bombings in WWII. The film addresses a plethora of issues surrounding war and its consequences, but perhaps an overlooked theme is our inability to live in the moment and to appreciate each one as its own story rather than just a stepping stone to something ‘greater.’
The film is composed of moments, just as the novel is. Every five to ten minutes or so, Billy “time trips.” Sometimes there is a trigger, like a sound or a phrase or a specific movement, and sometimes there isn’t. His transitions never shake him. He adapts instantly and lives through each moment with a grace and acceptance. He works to make each moment the best that it can be. In certain cases, that means working to make a change, like nominating Edgar Derby to be the voice of the P.O.W.s. In others, it means enjoying the company of a beautiful woman. The only time Billy is under a great amount of stress or discomfort is when he is in the war (for obvious reasons there) or when other people, like his children or his wife, try to keep him from telling others about the way of life he discovered. Billy finds peace in being “unstuck,” and wants to share that peace with those that are still “stuck.”
We as a society are “stuck.” It is difficult for us to live in the moment and to appreciate the seemingly mundane occurrences around us every day because we are so focused on preparing for the next moment. We are forever living in the future, worrying and planning. We treat the present as prep time for the future and we treat the past as something not to be thought on too hard or too long if not forgotten entirely. Slaughterhouse-Five and its fourth dimension seeing aliens and protagonist remind us that every moment in a life span is important simply and honestly because it is a part of a person’s life. We are afforded a limited amount of time in this realm and we must strive to make every second of it beautiful and worthwhile both for ourselves and those around us.