Some popular perceptions about old age in the movie ‘Cocoon’

Man And Old Age Cocoon is a comedy-drama/sci-fi fantasy movie

Fri, 8 Sep 2017 Source: Francis Kwarteng

My movie choice was Cocoon. In this spellbinding comedy-drama/sci-fi fantasy movie aliens from Antarea, an extraterrestrial planet, established an outlying settlement on Atlantis on planet earth some hundred centuries ago, which later sank.

Those aliens who returned to Antarea after the catastrophic sinking (first upheaval), kept those of their colleagues who lost their life/vital force in pseudo-rock encasements, called cocoon—hence the name of the movie—on Atlantis.

Later some of these aliens, otherwise called Antareans, led by their leader Walter, returned to earth disguised as humans to retrieve their colleagues. They rented a residence with a pool, hired the captain of a boat, Jack, to help them retrieve their cocooned colleagues from the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, and then kept their devitalized cocooned colleagues in the said pool.

Walter consequently supplied the pool with vital/life force to keep their devitalized colleagues sufficiently energized for their long journey back to their extraterrestrial abode—Antarea.

With time the voyeur Jack fell in love with Kitty, a gorgeous Antarean, the former onetime spying on her undressing only to discover to his utmost surprise that, after all, she and her colleagues were inhuman. And then they revealed their little secret to him. Jack agreed to go along.

The movie, however, takes an interesting turn when three close friends—Arthur, Ben, and Joe—residents of a retirement home adjacent to the Antareans’ rented residence, sporadically encroached upon the premises of the rented residence and swam in the pool, thinking the quiet residence untenanted.

The three friends chanced upon the pool as “a fountain of youth,” eventually sharing the life/vital force with the cocooned aliens.

The pool miraculously sent Joe’s cancer into remission, while rejuvenating and energizing all three, in the process bringing great joy to their hearts.

With time the healing powers of the pool reached the retirement home, although Bernie consistently and poignantly refused to take his possible dementia-suffering wife, Rose, to the proverbial pool for healing, only rescinding his stilted personal convictions and beliefs only after his beloved wife had passed on. Bernie once said to Joe: “‘Old’ is right. I don’t want to be young again.”

The movie conveys some nuanced stereotypes about the elderly, though. That the elderly are physically weak and lonely, that the elderly cannot dance with the vigor and boisterousness of youthfulness, that they have absent or markedly diminished sexual prowess and therefore cannot approach, enjoy—or are somehow incapable of—philandering or romance/love the way young people supposedly see it, that people view the elderly as “old,” “frail,” vulgar—that the elderly, in short, are in some way incapable of having too much fun, of outdoor recreation, of mentation, of affection, of health, of love and affection, of self-protection, of personal/collective responsibilities, and of youthful exuberance, a world quite different from sanity and the familiar.

But the unbridled generosity of the peaceful aliens and the pool’s life/vital force changed all that! They proved that the elderly, contrary to popular perceptions, are also human—with natural and acquired endowments of rational intellect, lust for the opposite sex, self-esteem, affectional proclivities, instinctual cravings for survival, greed and jealousy, the will to live despite the odds of aging (longevity), accountability, etc.

Indeed, the movie raises difficult existential questions about life, mortality and immortality, health, longevity, illness—generally, as well as about some indispensable aspects of Maslow’s physiological needs. The cast exemplified these traits so well.

Finally, I encountered some myths/stereotypes about the elderly which includes, but not limited to, the fact that they are lazy and sedentary, sick with incurable disorders, poor, sleep all day, preoccupied with dying/death, depressed and lonely, uninterested in the opposite gender.

My chance encounter with a friend’s uncle challenged the myths. His uncle re-married a 30-year-old damsel at 70, worked full time, farmed/attended parties on weekends, played soccer/jogged, cooked his own healthy meals, read extensively, slept 6-8 hours a day, never developed any incurable disorder(s).

He was wealthy, healthy, and active well into his death at the age of 102.

Columnist: Francis Kwarteng