Trust and Robert Redford

 

I have long been a fan of Robert Redford---actor, director, producer and activist.

 

Born Charles Robert Redford, Jr. on August 18, 1937, in Santa Monica, California, he attended the University of Colorado on a baseball scholarship but dropped out in 1957 and traveled through Europe in pursuit of his desire to become a painter.  Upon his return he went to New York and studied art and acting.  From 1959 to 1963 he acted in ever-larger parts on and Off-Broadway and on television until he gained the lead in "Barefoot in the Park" in 1963.  He then began appearing in movies but did not become a star until he played the Sundance Kid opposite Paul Newman's Butch Cassidy in the 1969 movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

 

He was again paired with Newman in The Sting in 1973 for which he received an Academy Award nomination.  Other films of his that I am especially fond of include The Candidate---where he plays an idealistic activist who is talked into running for office so he can make a difference only to learn that the process is destroying his ideals, and Jeremiah Johnson---a mountain man who has left civilization behind, then when he reluctantly tries to help government troops who are desperately in need of help, it disastrously backfires on him (both in 1972), Three Days of the Condor---where the government is trying to kill him (1975), All the President's Men---where he played Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward investigating the Watergate/Nixon mess (1976), Brubaker---where he plays a prison warden who tries to do the right thing only to be fired (1980), The Horse Whisperer (1998) and Spy Games (2002).  Several of the above films are based on real life persons and he also was involved in the production of several of them along with the direction and production of a number of other films that he did not act in.  His first directing job was Ordinary People which won him an Academy Award.

 

A very interesting theme runs through most of the work of Redford, the theme is one of Trust.  Who do you trust?  Do you  trust the government?  Definitely NOT!  The government is the enemy more often than not in a Redford film.  Do you trust an employer?  Definitely NOT!  Employers are dangerous!   You trust yourself!  You develop your own skills so that you can survive in a harsh world and be worthy of that self-trust.  Do you trust your parents?  Yes and no---it depends on whether your parents deserve that trust.  You trust those who are worthy of trust, who have proven that they can be trusted.  You take it cautiously, a step at a time, you watch and see how they respond.  This is not some paranoid type of love and trust, not at all.  It is based on two fundamental premises---that humans want to be good, that they have the potential, but not all of them are able to exercise the mature, responsible, temptation proof behavior that will make them worthy of trust.  You will find this theme in much of Redford's work, not just in the movies listed above but in many of his other films as well.  But you will also see it in his greatest life achievement, the Sundance Institute, a workshop and training ground for young filmmakers, and the site of the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, which is a way of proclaiming that you cannot trust the Hollywood studio system.

 

So, who can you trust?

 

Can you trust God?  If you say, yes, then what is the basis of your trust?  Sure, faith is great, but faith alone is a weak foundation on which to build trust.  Every child has faith in their parents until those parents let them down---mind you, some parents are worthy of that faith and trust, others are not.  We have a huge divorce rate---everyone hopefully starts out the marriage with faith and trust.  Exercising faith and trust in God is a good start---but it is a dangerously unstable foundation if that is all you have to go with.