Imitation of Life

Imitation of Life

From one of America’s foremost directors, Douglas Sirk, Imitation of Life, at first seems like a just another melodrama from the 1950s centered on issues of domesticity. Looking more deeply into the film (and this is a wonderful characteristic of most of Sirk’s films) we see a story of complex relationships and identity. Set in 1947 Coney Island, the film begins as two single mothers, one in need of help in the home and the other in need of food and shelter, discover that by helping each other both of their needs can be met. However, the relationship becomes complicated when one of the daughters, Sarah, who is African-American, begins to look for acceptance in Susy’s (the white daughter of the other mother) community. Beyond the fact the fact that the film withstands critical scrutiny, like dharma itself, the particular situations of the characters is a powerful teaching in discerning which things in life will tie you to the world and which will set you free. Although these things may be easy to differentiate in theory, sometimes in life the distinction is not so easily made.