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German monks, animal bites and Bill Murray’s feud: How Groundhog Day became the film we can’t stop re-living

The 1993 time-loop movie is being celebrated this week at the Berlin Film Festival to mark its 30th anniversary. Geoffrey Macnab looks back on the film that appealed in equal measure to kids, Nietzschean philosophers, misanthropes and old-fashioned romcom fans

Friday 17 February 2023 18:44 GMT
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Bill Murray as curmudgeonly weatherman Phil in ‘Groundhog Day’
Bill Murray as curmudgeonly weatherman Phil in ‘Groundhog Day’ (Columbia/Kobal/Shutterstock)

It’s 6am. The radio alarm goes off and yet again the beleaguered, middle-aged weatherman, stranded in a time loop, is woken up by the drone of the Sonny and Cher song, “I Got You Babe”. Its repetitive harmonies are beginning to drive him mad, just as they did the day before, and the day before that. He thinks he is in hell and you can hardly blame him. The water in the shower is still freezing cold. The moment he ventures out onto the sidewalk, he’s accosted by the same creepy insurance salesman whose manic grin seems even more grotesque than it was the day before. And he steps into the same puddle, too.

This is the nightmarish world conjured up in Harold Ramis’s Groundhog Day (1993). In his most celebrated performance, Bill Murray plays the long-suffering meteorologist with a beguiling mix of sourness, petulance and wry bemusement. Audiences delight in his tribulations. He is like a character in an old slapstick silent movie who keeps on slipping on the same banana skin.

There aren’t many other mainstream Hollywood movies that appeal in equal measure to kids, Buddhists, Nietzschean philosophers interested in the idea of eternal recurrence, misanthropes, horror movie aficionados and fans of old-fashioned romantic comedies.

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