Art: It’s a Wonderful Life

Published On December 23, 2014 | By Joe Gordon | Film TV & Theatre

How lovely is this artwork Peter Strain created for the cover of Queens Film Theatre in Belfast for their December programme, taking as its subject one of the most quintessential of all Christmas films, Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life (he’s also selling prints of it):

its a wonderful life poster peter strain

It’s a Wonderful Life is one of those films that so many people think they know – oh, isn’t that the sugary-sweet feel-good family film? Because all they are remembering is Jimmy Stewart clutching his family towards the end as Christmas dawns. But while there is a little schmaltz in there, and an idealised sense of the wonders of the warm, small town, it’s really not a sugary film at all far, far from it, it’s a very dark fantasy. It deals, after all, with a man who constantly sacrifices throughout his life, the one who has to be sensible and stay behind and get on with the everyday things while others get to go off to university, to travel. A man who then loses everything so very suddenly, just as many around the period the film was made had done in the Great Depression, a man who just before Christmas cannot face letting down his family, his friends, and prepares to commit suicide by diving into a dark, frozen river in a snowstorm, thinking the world better off if he is gone, if he never existed in the first place, and how he slowly is pulled back from the brink by learning that everyone is linked, everyone has a part, everyone has an effect on everyone else…

The moment when the trainee angel Clarence shows him the grave of his brother, who died as a young boy in an accident, is both heart-wrenching and at the same time inspiring. He didn’t die in that accident, he went on to grow up, to become a hero, saving other men’s lives in the war, protests Stewart’s George Bailey. But you no longer existed, Clarence tells him, so you weren’t there to save your brother this time; he died in the accident, so he in turn wasn’t there to save his men during the war and they died too. It’s a beautiful scene, especially for any of us who have had to grapple from time to time with the Black Dog which makes us feel we have no worth (and how much worse that Black Dog can be for many around this time of year). Enjoy Peter’s art and, if a cinema near you is re-screening the film this month as many do, then do yourself a favour, go and watch it, properly, in the cinema with an audience and see (and feel) what it really is about. (via Live For Film)

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About The Author

Joe Gordon
Joe Gordon is's chief blogger, which he set up in 2005. Previously, he was professional bookseller for over 12 years as well as a lifelong reader and reviewer, especially of comics and science fiction works.

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