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  • Identity and Anxiety in the Film, “Up In the Air”

    Make no mistake, moving is living.  -Ryan Bingham


    “Up in the Air”, directed by Jason Reitman, stars George Clooney, Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick.UpInTheAir for Vibrant Jung Thing  Clooney’s character Ryan Bingham is a full-time corporate down-sizer whose life consists of an endless stream of business travel (“322 days last year”).  He moves from place to place, letting people go from corporate roles when their employers cannot stomach doing it.  He has no permanent attachments to people, a desolate and hollow single bedroom apartment he never sleeps in, and he has accumulated 10,000,000 airmiles…

    Up In the Air Official Website

    Ryan Bingham’s life is in airports and hotel rooms and is filled with constant movement.  The stability and security in his life, his secure base, is found precisely in those things that others find impermanent and impersonal.  His finely orchestrated and choreographed travel routine, his mechanized method of moving constantly from place to place gives him re-assurance, and in an odd way a sense of belonging.  Which is good, because Ryan has no permanent connections to anyone in his life.

    Ryan also has a budding career as an motivational speaker.  His message: “Make no mistake: your relationships are the heaviest components in your life….  The slower we move, the faster we die.”

    Ryan is completely identified with his corporate role.   His aircraft-bound life is an appropriate symbol of his existence on a deeper level.  In the terms of Jungian psychology, Ryan, like Christopher McCandless, the subject of Into the Wild is a true puer aeternus (“eternal boy”).  He floats above life in his social self, and never puts down roots into the deep soil of his genuine self.  And he is danger of discovering that his life is tragic because there he has no remaining way to turn back.

    In its own way, this is a very disturbing and provocative film, but it’s a very good one.  It raises the question for each of us about how connected we’re willing to be to the real substance of our lives.

    I’d welcome comments below from readers on anxiety, identity and work.

    My very best wishes to you on your individual journey to wholeness,

    Brian Collinson


    PHOTO CREDITS: © DW Studios LL.C. and Cold Spring Pictures

    © 2010 Brian Collinson



    1. Michael Cumming
      January 23, 2010 at 11:21 am -

      I would love to see this movie. I expect it would raise some very interesting re. mobility, bonding with others and identity.

      I too have found that relationships are the ‘heaviest’ part of life, in that they restrain you — but of course in a good way (for me at least). If you move around a lot you may find it increasingly difficult for people to accompany you in your journey.

      A similar situation occurs in architectural design. You might think that lack of constraints in a design problem gives you freedom, but actually constraints give your work meaning (if you able to deal with the constraints creatively). Therefore, the constraints are actually your friends, not your enemies.

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