The Legend of Bagger Vance is a sports drama film from actor and director, Robert Redford. The movie stars Will Smith, Matt Damon, Charlize Theron, Bruce McGill, and Joel Gretsch.
It is about a war veteran, Captain Rannulph Junuh, played by Matt Damon, who reluctantly agrees to play a game of golf. While he isn’t into it, his caddie changes his mind.
The caddie, Bagger Vance, played by Will Smith, teaches him all about golf and the authenticity behind the game, which ends up being a huge lesson about life and finding meaning with his existence.
But did Bagger Vance ever exist?
According to Rolling Stone‘s writer Peter Travers, The Legend of Bagger Vance is loosely based on the Hindu text Bhagavad-Gita. Bagger Vance isn’t just a caddie, but a godly personification. The same goes for Matt Damon’s role. He isn’t just a war hero with a poor golf swing.
Travers explains that Rannulph Junuh is actually Arjuna, an Indian warrior who is in desperate need of some spiritual guidance — hence meeting Vance.
The Bhagavad Gita is a powerful story in eastern philosophy. While Bhagavad means God, Gita means song or word. The title itself literally means the Song of God. The story is about Arjuna, who tries to answer the major questions of life itself and people’s existence in the world. Bhagavan, who is Bagger Vance, in the story comes to Arjuna’s aid.
The story also talks about hell’s three gates, which are lust, anger, and greed. There’s an idea that the desire for material things and power are irrelevant because we are the soul, not the body. These are also themes in The Legend of Bagger Vance, as Vance teaches Junuh about the important things in life and authenticity, trying to steer away from material things.
Some argue that the Bhagavad Gita is the formula to the ultimate level of freedom and personal bliss.
With that said, Bagger Vance was not a real person and neither was Captain Rannulph Junuh. But the characters are representations of Gods and disciples from the spiritual story, meant to bring an ancient Hindu text to life.
The Legend of Bagger Vance was released on November 3, 2000.