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I've always wondered what caused the Time Loop experienced by Phil Connors in Groundhog Day, as well as what ended it, but I don't recall it being discussed in the movie.

What was the cause for the time loop featured in Groundhog Day, and why did it end?

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6 Answers 6

up vote 71 down vote accepted

According to this review answering such questions in the movie itself would have "ruined" it. The original script contained an explanation of the start of the time loop - a voodoo spell - but that was considered a poor idea.

So, I wonder if there is a conclusive answer to your question. It was deliberately left out by Harold Ramis. We are left speculating about it (maybe even encouraged to do so) and I think that is one of the reasons why this movie has had so much impact.

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+1 Agree on all points you make. Excellent answer. –  NGLN Jan 8 '12 at 23:10
To me the loop symbolizes that for some people - like Phil - due to their closed-mindedness life is anyway pretty much a loop of making the same decisions and mistakes again and again - just that it usually isn't as obvious as in the movie. And the moment he truly changed something about his attitude to life and the people around him - he left the loop. –  Raffael Apr 27 '13 at 18:52

I don't believe a formal answer was ever provided in the movie, but it seemed to require Phil to finally diverge from a path of pure selfishness and embrace the ideals of love and respect for other human beings. He started the movie disrespecting the cameraman Larry (Chris Elliott) and the producer Rita (Andi MacDowell) by blowing off the ceremony by being late, providing poor commentary, and acting generally boorish to everybody including town officials, the landlady, and former acquaintances like Ned. He needed to see his disrespect of them through many incarnations of the day and change his attitude. Only when his attitude was proved to be changed by his love of Rita, was he able to escape the time loop.

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+1 To me, this is the (kind of obvious) explanation. –  NGLN Jan 8 '12 at 23:11
I felt there was an added element to it. Phil started to help/think of other people before the loop ended (e.g. the old man he'd initially ignored, but then tried continually to save). The crucial element was that he had to become such a good person that Rita could 'fall in love' with him in a single day I put 'fall in love' in inverted commas since she might just have been fond of him, but it seemed she was the crucial 'loop breaking' element. +1 for the answer. –  Andrew Thompson Jan 10 '12 at 15:10
I can understand that opinion, that it was necessary for the rest of the people to value Phil, rather than just his changing, that helped break the cycle. Sort of a 'Pay it Forward' view. –  wbogacz Jan 10 '12 at 17:38
@Andrew Rita falling in love with him itself is not the crucial element; it is evidence and metaphor of the crucial element: Phil becoming completely a 'good person'. –  NGLN Jan 10 '12 at 19:46

It's a very very hidden big irony.

He started the movie as a jerk and egotist, with everything in his mind being about him and not caring about others. At least, on a minor, 1-person scale. We are led to believe that this perception of things being about him are wrong.

Then, as we find out after the movie ends (see wbogacz's excellent answer), the whole universe was frozen in thousands of days of a loop, all for the express purpose of providing a lesson to Phil that his initial worldview is wrong.

Except, in the end, it is all about Phil. The only mistake in the beginning that he made was the scale - the whole UNIVERSE is about him, not just an individual personal bubble of things around him.

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I guess he was right when he said, "I'm a god!" –  Theodore R. Smith Jul 18 '12 at 0:38
Furthermore, if Phil had wanted to learn a new skill, make a pile of money by playing the day trading market, or allow himself more time to enjoy his vacation, he merely has to act selfishly for a day and the Universe permits the day to be repeated. His friends & loved ones won't remember what a jerk he was for that one day. :) –  RobertF Aug 19 '14 at 19:04

While I like wbogacz's and DVK's answers very much, I humbly suggest they are incomplete. It's about more than overcoming selfishness or solipsism (all about me) or even insufficient solipsism, as keen an insight as that is. For me the answer to the original question comes when the movie is taken as allegorical, an analogy for one of life's deepest lessons.

When today is invested in tomorrow, only that breaks the monotonous cycle of days.

Yes selflessness is a part of that. So is empathy as an antidote to solipsism. But neither explain the piano lessons. Those represent pure and simple investment today into a better tomorrow, and so form a part of the escape from each new day being no better -- being indistinguishable -- from the last.

I know little of Buddhism (and half of that from just now reading Wikipedia) but the lesson reminds me of the Buddhist concept of liberating oneself from the endless cycle of suffering and rebirth. I wonder if reincarnation was originally an analogy for the same concept: to invest in today for a better tomorrow is to attain greatness.

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It was a miracle of God intervening in his life.

For whatever reason, he was permitted to experience reality over and over and over again, while fully cognizant and fully remembering everything prior.

It's like conscious reincarnation, each day being a new life, only with him starting out as a 45 yro instead of an infant.

After thousands of days, he had successfully traversed from

  • infant - not knowing what the heck is going on,
  • child - innocent child trying to figure things out,
  • teenager - hedonistically having fun, robbing banks, dying, etc.,
  • adult - trying to make things right, seeking Enlightenment (piano playing, learning foreign languages, etc.),
  • wise sage - a state near enlightenment where only Today mattered and all his desires were overlooked for the benefit of others and the betterment of the world. Rita was a perk, not his sole mission.

In this sense, the movie is a clear indication of the cycle of Reincarnation, albeit one where this individual did not have to be reset continuously inorder to progress.

The ending is him literally breaking out of Maya (illusion), as the Hindus say, and leading a wholly Activated, Enlightened existence, without the need of further reincarnations.

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I remember seeing an interview, somewhere that I can't for the life of me find now, where it was said that what broke the spell was Bill Murray's kissing the hotel owner. Apparently "the music shimmers" right then, or something.

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He kisses the hotel owner very early in the movie, long, long before the loop breaks. –  David Robinson Jan 9 '12 at 2:35
What does "music shimmers" even mean? Can music Shimmer? –  AidanO May 30 '12 at 9:21

protected by Mistu4u Jul 28 '13 at 9:28

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