31/07/2016

Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind - Repeat Repeat Repeat

Thoughts On: Eternal Sunshine

To erase the memory of a broken relationship, Joel attempts to physically extract them from his mind.


This is a great film, there's so many things I love about it, but, the more and more I watch this film there's a niggling imperfection that becomes of greater apparency. Imperfections aren't the end of the world though. In fact, it's this film's imperfection that has me return to it time and time again, that has me writing this essay. So, the imperfection at hand is something inherent to practically all Kaufman's films that I've seen.

        

All of these films have their quirks, and they have their serious, pretentious and absurd sides but also a deep pessimism. I say pessimism, but what I mean is a quality that can easily come off as nothing but moaning. I mean not to criticise or speak down on Kaufman and his films here - but this should become apparent soon. This 'nothing but moaning' is clearest in Synechdoche New York and Anomalisa. They're about deeply broken individuals who face an allusive inner turmoil - an aspect of character that is irredeemable and inevitably self-destructive. It's hearing Kaufman's lecture at the BAFTAs about time and how it must be spent, about wounds, undefined pain, that you can understand why his films are like this. He says it best by implying that it is undefined pain that wants to live that is the reason and drive behind personal art. It's hearing this that it becomes apparent that Kaufman's films are quite personal, that they are imbued if not with his own character, but with his own thoughts and demeanour. This is self-evident in the clear line through Kaufman's films, the fact that his style and tone on the page may break through the screen even when he's not directing. But, what this all funnels back into is pessimism. Almost all of Kaufman's characters are broken individuals, they all fit into narratives without true happy endings. It's Kaufman's lamenting and then lack of resolution that makes his films feel like 'nothing but moaning'. In truth, this reflects more about me than it does his films. It reflects my need for resolution, to pragmatically filter problems, ambiguity and pain into lessons or solutions (kinda why I write essays explaining movies). So, in my saying 'nothing but moaning' I mean to ask: where is the solution?

As of now, I've touched on the intangible link between Kaufman's films and his overall style - I haven't yet got specific. The best film to do this with is probably what seems like his most optimistic - Eternal Sunshine. To do this we have to start with the end and with spoilers. This is the final and most telling detail of this film that says everything the narrative attempts.




As the film fades out we watch Joel and Clementine run away from us, playing in the snow. This short segment is repeated and seems like a nice nod to their relationship that they lost and found again, to the fact that we watched history repeat itself. It's seeing the film like this that you can recognise that it's about second chances, about trying again, about people being forever bound at the hip, inevitably drawn to one another. However, as you can see, this shot of them running away is repeated 3 times. If the first repetition is a nod to what has happened in the film (Joel and Clementine losing and finding one another) then the third one must imply that this will all happen again. Furthermore, for the film to fade to white over this implies a muted, naive and rather bleak end - that Joel and Clementine will continue to do this all of their lives. What does this imply about the characters? It implies that they are broken inside, that they don't understand their personal pain, that they see their time as something that must be spent - not really something that they want to spend. The overall narrative then becomes a commentary on love, about love as something that peters out, that detensifies. Our broken, rather childish and impulsive characters do not seem to comprehend this - let alone wish to accept it. They want the beginnings of their relationship over and over again as it was the only time in which they worked, the only time in which they could bear one another. That, if you can't feel it, is Kaufman's pessimism.

The film I can't help but compare this to is (500) Days Of Summer. (Link to a very early Quick Thoughts essay).


Both Tom and Joel are romantics, just like Clementine and Summer are impulsive. Together, these couples turn their essential traits into devastating weaknesses. With Tom and Joel their romanticism becomes an incessant need for affection, one that blinds them to sense and the ability to manage a relationship. With Clementine and Summer, their impulsiveness becomes a seemingly selfish inability to commit or sacrifice as to manage a relationship. Both 500 Days and Eternal Sunshine are then quite obviously about romance and a cycle of need and want, of emotional ups and downs. However, Tom and Summer do not end up together. This is because they are a clear mismatch, that they become people they themselves do not like when they are together. Despite being of very similar character to Tom and Summer, Joel and Clementine end up together. The two films' respective commentary on romance and love then come down to their titles. 500 Days has Eternal Sunshine's core idea of broken characters, but has their negative effect on one another be finite - 500 days long. The end implication is that Tom may still be a romantic, ready to move onto Autumn, a relationship that may not last, but he has nonetheless grown as a person. Whilst there is a cycle of romance in 500 Days, it's segmented in bettering spheres of 16(ish) months. The sunshine of new romance between Joel and Clementine however must be Eternal. Yeesh, I know. Sounds like someone is setting themself up to fail, right? This is what the end fade and repetition imply, leaving characters with no growing room at all. Memory and time are their enemy that must be wiped out and ignored. It's here where the root of 'nothing but moaning' and my question of where is the solution? comes in. I ask this because 500 Days is pessimistic in a realistic enough way. It sees Tom as foolishly romantic, but young and hopefully capable of learning. Eternal Sunshine has pessimism, has Joel and Clementine young, stupid and impulsive, but then gives them a means of staying that way. Why?

It's this why? that transforms the film. Why is this film so pessimistic? Is Kaufman just moaning? Well, I think what's wrong with this film and narrative is that it's science fiction. It's the machine that can extract memory that enables Joel and Clementine to stay young, stupid and impulsive. So, in a reality that doesn't yet have these machines, this enabling of a destructive cycle cannot happen, it cannot be capitalised on. Eternal Sunshine then becomes Terminator meets 500 Days Of Summer - it's a cautionary tail without a happy ending. Kaufman seems to be telling us that pain is good and that painkillers only allow you to feel momentarily comfortable in perpetualised, numbed agony.




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29/07/2016

The Birds - Marriage And How To Do It?

Quick Thoughts: The Birds


Melanie Daniels follows romance to a small beach town about to be attacked by huge flocks of birds.


This is not a good film. It most definitely hasn't aged that well, but, that doesn't really matter. It was crap to begin with. My primary argument on this is that it's utter nonsense, moreover, the acting is mediocre, characterisation flat, plot more than disinteresting and the logic... wow... the logic. But, most of all, this film is in no way horrifying - not to me. I don't want to rip into this film though for it does have some redeeming qualities. Its bat-shit-crazy narrative and insane character motivations (to run into flocks of somehow killer birds) is driven by a singular metaphor. The birds are in fact Hitchcock's way of presenting the social atmosphere of the town and relationships between characters. The birds of course start as a humorous euphemism with the love birds, but become violent when the plot moves into Bodega Bay. It's here where sea gulls, crows and sparrows attack - even the chickens are a bit off. This all comes down to the relationship between Melanie and Mitch. Mitch seems to be some kind of player who has mummy and daddy issues. This should be ringing many alarm bells - especially if you've read my post on Psycho. (Links in the end). Hitchcock uses birds in the same way he does with Norman and Marion in that they represent a possible relationship. In Psycho the relationships in question are between Norman and women as well as Marion and Sam. With The Birds it's between Mitch, his family and Melanie. In short, Mitch's family are in a slight upheaval with his father having died, leaving his mother needing a trustworthy son and his sister a role model. The women he then chooses to bring around have a huge effect on his family's dynamic. Moreover, the conflict between Melanie and Mitch's family permeates throughout the whole town - it being small and gossip being capable of devastating the family. This results in the birds attacking - an expression of said hostility. You see this clearly with every scene revealing character, such as Mitch's and Melanie's back stories, proceeding an attack. Moreover, every time their relationship progresses, the birds grow violent. This ultimately plunges the town into chaos and puts many in danger. This somewhat abbreviated explanation of what the birds are then allows you to recognise the question posed to both Mitch and Melanie who are at fault (metaphorically) for the bird attacks. The question posed to them is whether they want to stick around town and make this film a horror/tragedy much like Romeo And Juliet meets Psycho (but with birds replacing knives) or leave for the sake of preserving a healthy family circle. And it's with the end of the film that all the characters learn to trust and respect one another, so they can leave the town with the ex-girlfriends and painful history to start again.

It's by comparing Psycho to The Birds that you get a nice juxtaposition of how to overcome memory and convoluted social ties to move forward in life - not get stuck. So, if you haven't checked out the Psycho post: links here.

And if you want to see why this Quick Thoughts essay is apart of the Receptacle Series make sure you check out:


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28/07/2016

Jason Bourne - Meh

Thoughts On: Jason Bourne

Heather Lee, a decade after he has walked away from the CIA, tries to draw the infamous Jason Bourne back into the agency and into action.


I'll start out simple. This is not a great film, it'a not really a good one either. In short, it's not really worth your time, but, if you must see it... well, it's probably not the end of the world. Overall, Jason Bourne is a mediocre picture. Now, to delve a little deeper, the third act of this movie is not that bad. It hits the top end of the mediocre range - it's almost dumb fun, good entertainment. But, the first act? Jesus... The first act was painfully boring to watch. I was fidgeting constantly in my seat, thinking about almost anything apart from the movie. This lasts pretty deep into second act. However, the film picks up just a little and allows you to sink in after the halfway mark. Without getting into spoilers I can safely tell you that this film doesn't really work on a technical level. As a technical piece of writing, this is a dud - a very dull script. What makes action films really resonate is character. Character is an illusive term in cinema. It doesn't always mean real, fleshed out characters, in other words. I would in fact argue that real people aren't really want we want to see on the big screens. Sure, we want aspects of realism, but in the end, and especially with action movies, we need a bit of extravagance - say for instance an amazing spy, fighter, operative and so on - not really your average person, let alone a realistic one considering the way real fist, gun, and weapons based conflicts function (definitely not like the movies portray). But, to say this film, this script is missing character I'm not really talking about Jason Bourne, acting or dialogue. It's the plot that lacks character. If you look at Bourne Identity the character of the plot, the element of the story that feeds characterisation, is the relationship between Jason and Marie. This fills the second act with emotional conflicts as well as physical ones which allows the film to slow down and focus. However, there are no real relationships in this film. And this, as a result, means there's very little character. I mean, even Chuck had Wilson.


What's relevant about this is that it proves that relationships don't have to be romantic to give character - and this film could have taken that stance. There's an almost relationship, bond or camaraderie between Jason and Heather (the agent chasing him down) in this movie. But, it falls flat. And it's because of this that the second act of the movie is incredibly lacking, and also why the film is no more than a handful of unsuspenseful tactical missions. To hold onto this idea of handfuls of tactical missions, to build a movie off this premise is an achievable feat. Just look at the recent Mission Impossible.


This is nothing more than a conglomeration of escalating action scenes. But, it works. It works firstly because there are good characters here, but also because there is that escalation. The set pieces get bigger and better. This doesn't happen with Bourne. It is very low key, quite uninteresting until the end where it decides to explode with a whole lot of nonsensical physics concerning an armoured police car. But, if I'm honest, it's not really character that brings this film down the most, it's the action. Nothing exciting happens in this movie. The Bourne series holds some of the best fight and chase scenes ever. This is irrefutable. And that's kind of what you want to pick up on going into this film. But, to start off with, the fights scenes are all too quick, or all to meaningless. There's only one fight in this film that kind of had me invested in it. This is because there's nothing different, nothing dangerous, nothing that catches you in the gut and screams: DID YOU SEE THAT SHIT!?!?!? That's what we get in The Bourne Ultimatum. You know it's coming...


... there's NONE of this is Jason Bourne. There's no fight that is on this level technically or imaginatively in this film at all. (I mean, come one, look at the way he pounds a guy with a fucking book). What's worse is there's nothing like this in the film on director's level either. And this is probably the most annoying thing about the film - the style. What you just saw in the clip was handheld, quite hectic, but riveting nonetheless. You pretty much always know what's going on despite many cuts, lots of movement, even mistakes, and overly close shots. This is a great style of shooting when done right. It's attempted in Jason Bourne, but it sucks. It actually kills the movie as a whole, not just in the actions scenes. In the actions scenes there is very little to see first of all because they're either so quick or shot with horrific lighting (the end fight especially), but more than this the direction is off. If you pay attention to the montage of the Bourne vs Desh fight you see a great representation of how to put the audience in the scene whilst having the camera act cinematic. By acting cinematic, I mean we see things from a non-point-of-view state. For example, the inserts of Jason's boots as he runs. These kind of shots are used to ensure emotional direction as well as give you general spacial awareness. Moreover, the action in the above scene is juxtaposed with tension. Jason runs as Nicky searches. This means that the camera movement is slower, more controlled, with her, but a little more energised with Jason. This all gives the editor motion based pacing to work with the cuts. To clarify, you can add speed to a scene with many cuts made in editing. What you can't really edit is the way a camera pans or jerks, or even captures action independent of the cut. In Jason Bourne the camera is simply always doing too much. In action scenes this results in you not seeing what you want to - and the editor can't really fix this. In non-action scenes, however, this style leaves you wondering what the director wants to achieve and also stops you from getting into things. This is what's so wrong with the first act. There's so much action implied with camera movement about the actual narrative action. This is what agitates the mind and in turn the person in their seat. They only feel bored because they're essentially being lied to. With erratic, overly energised camera movement, they're being told you should be excited, but that's not what the screen on plot tells them.

It's then plot, direction, fight choreography and the script, that are all substandard, that have this movie fall flat and, in the end, be quite boring. Having said all of that, there are aspects of this film I quite liked, but were ultimately bogged down mainly by the style of direction. This is a film with a message - the key aspect of interest about it. I won't go into this just yet though because it'll involve spoilers. Instead, it must be said that the message and the slight pick up in action and excitement in the third act has this film end on its highest point. The end fight scene has a slight whiff of the brilliant Bourne v Desh one. You see this in the way sound is sucked away and isolated with singular poignant effects (punches primarily) moreover, there's some ingenuity, there's technical craft in the choreography of the last fight - and it's something more or less believable. It's nothing awe inspiring though. There are no major moments of: OH SHIT!! Neither are there many moments where you're sitting on the edge of your seat. You are, however, made to feel the movement of the scene and are allowed to sink in to it. But, as said, the lighting here sucks. You can see next to nothing - which is really unfortunate. There's also a chase scene proceeding this fight and it's utterly ridiculous, but has a few 'wow-ish' moments where you're made to feel weightless or on the verge of an: OH SHIT! But, because of the nonsense that it is, you can't really invest yourself that much.

It's now that I'll movie into...

**SPOILERS**

... from this point on, if you haven't seen the film and want to, it's probably best you jump to the end.

Staying with what is ridiculous about the chase scene, it's all about the armoured police car driven by Vincent Cassel's character. For some reason, it can storm through dozens, no exaggeration, dozens of stationary cars without even slowing down. Later on Jason drives his car off a ledge of sorts, torpedoing the motherfucker into the side of Cassel's truck. And this is no mini, it's a heavy Mustang. (I could be wrong on the type of car, but it's a big loud one). This car plows into the SWAT truck and somehow get's stuck on the roof. STUCK ON THE ROOF!?!?! This makes no sense! It doesn't flip the car over, it doesn't take it off two wheels, it doesn't cave in the  roof, break the windshield, even phase Cassel's character. Nothing! It sits on the roof and is slammed into a low lying balcony thing of a casino. Now, this kind of nonsense is fine if you're in a good mood and it suits the tone of the movie:

    

But, the whole reason for the directorial style of this film with the handheld cam, mistakes and so on is verisimilitude - it's realism. It helps suck you into the film, convincing you you are seeing it, in part, from a human view - as if you're there. So, the nonsense in the end here is kind of a slap in the face. However, there are many tropes and short cuts of the action genre that seep in throughout the film. Overall, it's not incredibly realistic, but the end... yeah, too far.

Ok, so what has me second guessing this movie, wondering if I maybe need to see it again or not be so harsh, is the end message. There's some serious questioning of public safety and individual rights throughout this film. In fact, the Bourne series is the best vessel for this idea. It's Jason who deals with governmental corruption whilst being faced with the idea of his country, of doing things for a greater purpose than himself, that really got thinking that maybe I should try to pay closer attention. The same thing happened to me with Star Trek Beyond. There were hints of a deeper message within, and because I enjoyed the movie, I decided to delve into them. I don't really care to do this as much with this film as, despite message being pretty solid, it's not capitalised on well enough in respect to this largely disinteresting narrative. So, to give a quick overview of this message, it's all about Jason being a patriot in face of a corrupt government - as represented by Tommy Lee Jones as Dewy. Jones' character here is, in his attitude and facade, almost a reprisal of the sheriff he played in No Country For Old Men. And on paper, this is the only good thing about his character - it's acted fine though, it's just not great on the page. So, against the corrupt government, with hundreds of dangerous files, Jason is given the opportunity to leak them. In fact, there's many mentions of Snowden throughout the film, leaving you to question whether he and the idea of leaking is right or wrong, whether the evidence of corruption is best simply handed to the public with simultaneous risk to the country as a whole being hung in the balance. What's more than this is that we have an Aaron Kallor who acts as a Steve Jobs type at the head of his company that is basically Apple. This company is forced to give out personal information on their billion plus users. This is a reference to stories over the past few years with Google and Apple being asked to put forward personal information by governments. This sets up a clear idea of freedom with Kallor and of public safety at any cost (even corruption and clear wrongs) with Dewey. However, connected to Dewey would of course be Heather, who acts as the mediating force by which Bourne must interact with. He has to decide whether he cares for personal freedoms of all, or public safety with these files.

The end message with this is all about individuality. And that's what interesting about the film. Jason Bourne is an archetypal individualist. He fights for himself, in defiance of an agency. He does this in the film by fighting his antithetical character - Cassel, who works for the agency, but is much like him. Keeping this is mind, it's during the ending where Heather tells Jason that she's on his side, but then goes behind his back to her boss and says she'll take him out if she must, that it becomes clear that she's a bit of a whore. She'll do and say whatever she must just to get ahead in the agency. Jason walks away from her and everything else because of this. He does what he must for himself (killing Cassel's character and reading the files) so he can, for now, stay away. He denies the debate at hand by doing this, he walks away from the files having found out what he alone wanted. The lasting message of the film then seems to be that the individual should both be thankful for their name, the personal sovereignty that they possess, and not be afraid to have the world know of that, but that they should also be able to fight for themselves - to have the know-how or personal strength to keep away from stupidity. There's more to be explored with this idea, but, in the end, I'll leave it to you to ponder on.

**SPOILERS OVER**

Overall, this just isn't that important of a film. I wouldn't really recommend seeing it in the cinema, maybe catch it when it comes on T.V. If and when you do see this film, go in with two ideas: this is not the Bourne movie it wants to be and it's not really Jason Bourne's film either - despite the title. To me, Heather Lee was the lead here. And with the ending given, there's an implementation that there's more to come from both this franchise and her. What we have to then hope doesn't happen is that this becomes a superhero franchise or a Mission Impossible meets Fast and Furious. But, alas, in the end we'll have to see.

If you haven't checked out my look at the other new film out this week, Star Trek Beyond, please do. Spoiler free talk. Spoiler talk.





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26/07/2016

The End Of The Tour - Plagiarised Selves

Quick Thoughts: The End Of Tour

A writer, David Lipsky, interviews the recently successful David Foster Wallace on the last leg of his book tour.


A friend recommended this film to me recently and it really struck a chord. Firstly, it's because this is a film about two passive egos fighting - just really going at each other, but pretending that they're not, like eyes closed, mouths open they step into a ring and begin swinging, refusing to hear the crowd around them as they push for the blindfolded hook to end it all. This means that this film is, if you want to see it as such, quite pretentious. It's falsely modest at the same time, much like it's characters, and by the end pats itself on the back. I loved this aspect of the film. I loved it because it's simply how people work and led up to a rather compelling idea of what a writer, what a person, is. And it's here that the film struck its chords. I see myself in Lipsky for reasons right before your eyes. David is using another person, using his words, his image, his standing, and regurgitating them, well, filtering them through himself - all as a convoluted form of self expression. I do the same thing with these 100 odd posts, I speak for films that have their own messages, that have their own voice. What this made clear to me is that people find a certain degree of purpose in being a cog in a social system. People love to be the mediating factor between something greater than them and someone on their level. And it's recognising this social paradigm of the film that you can transcribe the characters presented onto everyone. We all want to be a cog in other words. We do it in everyday conversation about current topics, we do it with a retweet, with a like or share. It's about binding your personal character to someone else's presented self. And, what makes sense to me is that this, despite seeming pretentious, fake and so on, is simply the only way people grow. We find ourselves, answers, meaning, every single existential fulfilment our minds crave, in the world around us, in other people's lives. This seems to be the best reasoning behind why we all like art, like to read books, like to watch movies, like to consume nonsense on the T.V (like Wallace). It's all about being apart of something, about finding your place in the world - not yourself.

The lasting message of the film is then that whilst we are products of our environments, imitations of what we think is great - and that this is fine - it shouldn't be all we want to be. On top of accepting our core selves as a plagiarised speech, it's also important to shut up once in a while and simply try to get on with our day. Be a cog, but there's not always a need to say or recognise that fact - fight the passive aggressive fight if it feels good.




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American Psycho - The Plight Of Evil

Thoughts On: American Psycho

Patrick Bateman lives two lives, by day a self-absorbed investment banker, by night a deranged serial killer.


In the previous post I covered Hitchcock's Psycho. There was a lot I went into with that post, but I tried to keep it centred on the theme at hand, marriage and romance, as much as I could. But, a huge part of Psycho is craziness, it's psychosis, serial killer, madness that we all enjoy. And it's because I couldn't get into that part of the film that I felt the post was lacking and incomplete. So, whist this isn't apart of the Receptacle Series, feel free to think of this as an extension of the previous post.

The primary philosophical question at hand with any character based horror movie comes straight to the audience. This is because these are films with anti-heroes, films we often enjoy. And make no mistake, I love this film, I find it gleeful, light, fun and utterly nuts in all the right ways. But, is this the intended purpose of the film, and is this ok? With American Psycho I think it depends on whether or not you can identify with Patrick's thought process. He has no core character. He's in a fake world and he has to be whatever he has to be just to get by. To handle the grating effecting, the painful, twisting knife in this side that is a fake world, he vents by stabbing a bitch once in a while. Of course by my saying I understand Patrick it doesn't then mean I'd ever kill someone. But, to think about violence, watch action movies, fucked up horrors like this, even violent sports, listen to violent music - it's simply cathartic to me. People get angry, I get angry, and there's ways of dealing with that. So, to those like me who like Patrick, who find this film a great time, understand the joyous feeling in certain types of destruction, I suppose we identify with the hyperbolisation of ourselves, of a need for catharsis via aggression. Though, everything discussed thus far is all about imagination, usually about second hand aggression (watching a UFC match, never really street brawling) there's a reality to imaginings. Whilst UFC is perfectly fine, what Patrick does isn't. This all comes back to Norman Bates here with a question of: should we sympathise with these characters? Should we care for the plight of the evil?

With American Psycho I find one of the most compelling cases to do this. To make my point of why, let's get into what Bateman lives through. With some of the best voice over ever recorded we start the film with who Patrick thinks he is. He assumes he is an idea, that who he is seen as is some kind of abstraction, that there is no real him, that he simply is not there. This is grade A solipsism. Solipsism is the belief that you are the only self or person you can definitively know exists. Solipsism is thus pragmatic reasoning. In the same way you wouldn't believe in God or a unicorn because there's no rational or scientific reason to, a solipsist wouldn't believe in others. However, later on in the film we find out that Patrick takes solipsism one step further. He assumes that because others do not recognise him as a person, or that he cannot recognise them as something like himself, he is then not human. This is a nihilistic take on the idea of self. If you can't believe in others, what are you without comparison? Why should you believe in yourself? It's this emptiness that Patrick sees in the world that he tries to embody. However, he claims that the only emotions that fill his shell of self are greed and disgust. What soon becomes obvious is that these emotions are his only way of feeling - of feeling human. This is what Patrick is in denial of the whole film. He does in some way feel human. He says he doesn't exist, that he's a shell, that no one can do anything for him, but he is a slave to emotions and when he ends up in a world he thought he existed in, he doesn't like it one bit. That's what happens with the ending and the escalating absurdities he gets away with. People just stop recognising the fucked up shit he does, they accept that he doesn't exist - just like he wanted. This drives him insane though.


What this all implies is that he's always been more than a shell, that saying he doesn't exist is nothing more than a coping mechanism for him. There's evidence of this throughout the film. Not only does he feel fear, does he enjoy killing, but he understands music. It's his monologues on Phil Collins, Genesis, meditations on intangibility, conformity and the joys of society that imply he is repressing everything about him he feels is human. Patrick wants to disconnect from a world that seemingly wants nothing to do with him. The end implication of this film, the question of what actually happened, is then answered two-fold. Firstly, the lawyers, the place he works for and people selling Paul Allen's house are all corrupt - evil like him. This is because they facilitate his murders by covering it up. This is one (incomplete) explanation of how he got away with everything. Whilst this could be true to a certain extent, there is a much greater truth to American Psycho. Patrick imagines everything evil and fucked up he does. None of it actually happened. This is supported by this:


This is the notebook Patrick scribbles on that he keeps in his desk - it's where he vents all his twisted emotions. And the only one capable of picking up on this is the only person who shows the slightest of interest toward him, who he shows a smidgen of humanity toward...


... and that's Jean. This means that the lasting commentary of the film on solipsism, nihilism, pragmatism and so on is that Patrick doesn't know how to take any of these ideas to heart - and, yeah, he's got a heart. Patrick is a slave to his emotions and the vacuous environment he puts himself in. This all means that everything I've said so far about him being a serial killer and fucked up is a bit of a lie. Patrick is supposedly a bit like you and me. He needs catharsis and gets it second hand through imagining he kills people, fucks prostitutes, eats brains, blows up cop cars - yet still gets away with it. In the end, he can't keep the lie up, not to himself, and cracks. But, what he needs is numbness. This is why he doesn't kill Jean, Kimball or Luis. They get into his head, convince him that both himself and them are somewhat the same. They imply to him the horrifying idea that he and they could be human. They do this by talking back to him about music, actually listening, understanding he has a girlfriend, or even finding him attractive. What Patrick wants is none of this. He wishes he were a sociopath and didn't have to deal with emotions - as we all kind of wish sometimes (not to deal with feelings).

This is why I feel Patrick Bateman is a character many can empathise with. In the end, he's a little deranged, but not as fucked up as he wants to be. It's recognising this and watching the people around Patrick that we can recognise them as being quite a bit more sociopathic than himself. They are either entirely self-absorbed, unthinkably arrogant, ego-maniacal or explosively violent. Patrick never shows himself to be any of these things to the same extent we see in them. Maybe this turns the philosophical question of the film into something like: what are you, if you are the only sane person in a world of maniacs? I think the answer is nothing other than a Patrick Bateman - you are, in your own special way, insane. To refer back to the Psycho post, the romantic aspect of Bateman's character here comes with his inability to connect with people, with Jean maybe. It's in abject isolation that Patrick becomes a closeted romantic, by below the surface wanting to connect with someone, but simply being too scared to, he appeals to imagination, idealisation and individuality (romanticism) but ends up repressing it. He is, in the end, a romantic serial killer at heart - if that makes any sense at all.

To come back to question of the audience that is posed by these kinds of films (fucked up horrors) it's best to turn to Patrick. What's fundamentally wrong with Pat is that he's a slave to himself and to emotions. Are we like him by watching his story so we can experience second hand (third hand) violence? Are we slaves to emotions, to chemical rushes? Is this right? What makes sense to me is that, no, it's wrong to adhere to emotions to a certain extent. As long as we don't get too immersed in emotions and end up realising negative, maybe even fucked up and violent, thoughts or feelings, we're good. I say this because emotions are good and bad, they hurt us and they make us feel great. However, whilst living in a society presented by another great Christian Bale film...


... would allow us to be numb, to get on with life, the highs of emotions make the lows bearable. This is what Patrick realises by the end of the film. He laughs at the notion that some people are just cool, that they can be completely empty beyond their surface. He figures out that 'he's just a happy guy' having stumbled upon the truth of his soft-mania. But, whilst Patrick figures out that he is not a murderer, that he does want to feel, he is still stagnated. It's best to let him say it:

There are no more barriers to cross. All I have in common with the uncontrollable and the insane, the vicious and the evil, all the mayhem I have cause and my utter indifference toward it, I have now surpassed. My pain is constant and sharp, and I do not hope for a better world for anyone. In fact, I want my pain to be inflicted on others. I want no one to escape. And even after admitting this, there is no catharsis, my punishment continues to allude me, and I gain no deeper knowledge of myself. No new knowledge can be extracted from my telling, this confession has meant nothing.

The first two lines are the recognition that he's not like other sociopaths, he's not like other viscous and evil people. He knows he's imagined all he's done and now has surpassed that stage of his life. His pain being sharp and constant is the acceptance that he cannot be numb anymore. Him wishing this on you is then not the end of the world. Now, the catharsis he cannot achieve by telling this story, by confessing to himself and us alike, is some kind of alleviation from his body, from his emotions. Patrick doesn't know why he feels, he never will - that's life. His confession then meaning nothing becomes a question to you. Does this give him free range to now become an actual serial killer, to realise his imaginings? Is that what he surpassed? Or, does him recognising he's a bit fucked up allow him to get on with life? This is probably the most important question you can ever ask yourself in life. The most important questions are not why are we here, what's the purpose, is there a God and so on. The most important question is: what are you going to do about it? What are you going to about there possibly not being a God, about there possibly being a God? What are you going to do about your inability to find yourself? Will you give up, break down, or carry on?

Remember, these questions aren't just to Patrick, but to us watching him, wondering why on Earth we support imaginary murder and mutilation, why it feels good to us. So, in the end, if there is some seed, some smidgen of evil in us all, are we supposed to sympathise with it, or cut it out? Is the plight of evil worth paying attention to?




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Psycho - Marriage And How Not To Do It: Him And Her In Two Parts

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25/07/2016

Psycho - Marriage And How Not To Do It: Him And Her In Two Parts

Thoughs On: Psycho (1960)


After stealing $40,000 Marion Crane runs out of town where rain drives her into the Bates Motel.


There's many ways to watch Psycho. Firstly, you can try the perspective of an audience member looking for 1 hour and 45 mins of entertainment - of suspense, horror and mystery. Secondly, you can look at this film from a technical perspective, analysing Hitchcock's developed style and philosophy of cinema in action. Thirdly, you can again look at the technicalities of this film, but from the writer's perspective. This is my favourite way to look at a film as, for me, it's the most rewarding perspective to take. You get the experience of entertainment, a hidden kind, as well as a lesson or interesting debate simply by choosing to see implied greater depth. This is what I want to do with Psycho today - to look at this great lesson in direction, this intriguing thrill ride and pick apart the allegory. Now, the underlying story of Psycho is of marriage - a pretty bad one. This is a film about two dysfunctional interpretations of a to-be married life. In short, Marion looks for security in all the wrong places and Norman... well, he can't find a woman better than his mother. The climax of these two conflicting ideas is rather sudden...


... which leaves us with a film of two parts. The first section that sticks to Marion's perspective is all about putting yourself in danger, leaving the latter half with Norman to be about a contorted view of women and social exchange.

The opening with Sam and Marion in the motel room is what plants the seed for everything to come. After having 'spent lunch together' the two dance around an idea of commitment. This all comes about through the buzz word respectability. Marion, in short, wants a normal relationship, an engagement and then marriage with Sam. He is, however, reluctant because, firstly, he's been married before and secondly, has very little money. This establishes two important facts. The first is that Sam is still paying his father's debt. For anyone who's seen the film recently or knows it very well, you'd be able to make the first link to Norman here. Norman's father died when he was 5 leaving him and his mother alone. The metaphorical debt Norman was laboured with was of affection, the fact that a son is no substitute for a lover. This is what caused Norman to snap and is used to imply that the two (Sam and Norman) share common traits. These traits are to do with the perception of affection and commitment. To go a step further on these themes we simply have to look at the fact that Sam still pays alimony for a wife he clearly doesn't like. His fear of commitment may be grounded in his childhood (like Norman) but accentuated by this recent past. This leaves Marion making the compromise that 'she'll lick the stamps'. She chooses to take on Sam's personal luggage. This luggage is primarily monetary. Sam doesn't have the money to marry, get a better home for themselves and so on. Marion takes that onto her shoulders - something that'll carry through to a fast approaching moment. The lead up to Marion stealing the $40,000 is plagued with talk of being married and getting married, both by her co-worker and the rich customer, Tom Cassidy. The importance of Tom is found in the idea that you can buy unhappiness off. He suggests to her that with money, life is easier. We've touched on this subject before with The Matrix, but what this concept boils down to is context of self and situation. Can we make the things around us better? But, more importantly, the way we interpret them more productively? Apply this question to Marion and we see that the way she wants to buy off unhappiness is to secure a home for herself and Sam so he'll hopefully commit to her. But, it's when she starts to question what exactly she's doing that things start to go awry.


The way in which Marion's anxiety and situation is best revealed and then poked at is with the scene where she exchanges her car. Her own car and the one she trades it in for are both displaced euphemisms. They represent Sam and his choice of women (as well as a more general idea of choice). Sam seems to have jumped from a wife to a girlfriend without recovering, without being able to commit to someone again. This is evident in the way he only wants to be around her for a certain ease of access. The response to Marion's high pressuring, both in the car lot and with Sam, is crucial to her growing anxiety. This is because rash choices are always indicative of a mistake to be made. Just like Marion renting a new car is something you might want to slow down a little for, maybe take a test ride, so should be Sam moving into a relationship with Marion and Marion with him (no intended euphemism, well, maybe - but, the test should also be of each other characters). The overall purpose of this scene is to build suspense, to have Marion question herself and the way in which she makes choices in life.

So, as a result, with Marion back on the road her anxious thoughts concerning being caught with the money swell. But, because the money and subsequent anxieties are all connected to Sam and her future with him, it's fair to infer that she's having doubts concerning their relationship also. These doubts are made clear with the pathetic fallacy - the rain. Marion's view of her future, of the road ahead of her, is obscured. The only light ahead of her now reads: Bates Motel. Vacancy. The neon sign is, for Marion, enlightenment. Whether it's of paranoia, or sudden realisation, the Bates Motel makes clear to her the dangers of the road she wants to travel down.


It's at this point where we see the exchanging of the baton from Marion's perspective to Norman's. This exchange though is very ambiguous and has had me stumped for quite a while. As has been implied already Norman's situation and perspective are similar to Sam's. Both seem to have problems with women, but Sam's is in no way as serious as Norman's. I have tried to find more strong links between their characters to maybe suggest that they are the same person, but can't agree to this with any confidence. What I think may be possible though is that this narrative might just be under the complete control of Marion. By this I mean that we see everything from her perspective. So, whilst Norman and Sam aren't the same person, Marion may be hyperbolising his character to express her anxiety captured in this part of the film. In other words, to her, Norman represents Sam. This all suggests that Marion doesn't die, and her body isn't discovered in the end of the film, but that she decided the relationship between herself and Sam is going anywhere and that it dead in the water - or would it be swamp? Either way, this would transform the whole narrative of Psycho into a pure extended metaphor. But, the fault with seeing the film in this way is the task of having to assign so much meaning to so many extraneous characters. I've tried watching the film a few times over with this in mind, but haven't yet got a clear image of what everyone could be representing, which leaves me questioning the validity of the idea. However, what I think is valid and self-evident is the theme of marriage throughout this film. When you apply this to the two main characters you get our narrative of how not to approach marriage in two parts. And what this is all centred on is an idea of freedom. This is symbolised with Marion's last name, Crane, and Norman's stuffed birds - all symbols of freedom.

This all turns the most poignant and immersive scene in the film, that is simply Norman and Marion talking, into the all important no man's land. This is a no man's land of conflicting metaphors. For Marion the birds and the freedom they represent are a positive idea - it's what ultimately has her decide to return the money. For Norman, freedom is an unattainable goal, moreover, in other people this scares him. We'll start with Marion. It's sitting with Norman, a clear mummy's boy, that she realises that for her to be with Sam will simply mean she becomes his mother figure. She'll pay his alimony, work the harder job, and probably still have to be the classical 50s housewife at the same time. And, whilst that sounds like a pretty shitty deal, there's a small detail she's skipped over. The money she wants to use to give herself and her possibly non-committal boyfriend is stolen. The freedom the money gives her is actually her own personal trap. And that's why she leaves early in the morning - to get out of a personal trap back home. However, before she gets the chance to leave, she is of course murdered.


The irony and implication of this shot is that Marion's means of freedom (the money) remains. It's her initial trap, her relationship with Sam, that metaphorically...


,,, destroys her. It's that which she thought she wanted and could handle that was the true conflict all along. This is why this image:


The zoom out from the eye is incredibly important. It implies that she maybe saw this coming, or that it was the last thing that she'd expect - Norman, a hyperbolised representation of Sam, killing her. To side with the former, that the image of her eye implies she saw this coming, is to suggest that Norman is a strict and purposeful representation of Sam and that we see the rest of the film from a dead woman's perspective. To side with the latter, that Norman killing her was the last thing she'd expect, it's implied that the trap she got herself into with Sam/Norman was too strong. This marks a futile maybe even pessimistic perspective of marriage or future relationships in Marion. Through allegory it's suggested that Marion's anxiety or her own personal flaws (choice in boyfriends) is what consumes her. She destroys herself in a certain sense.

Now, jumping back to conversational scene we can shift into the second part of the film as seen through Norman's eyes. It's Norman's perspective of birds and freedom that set up the negative male perspective of marriage in this film. And it's from this point that it's probably best to see the first section of this film as a negative female perspective - the second, male. This will simply help to widen the allegory and clarify the narrative message. So, if birds are a symbol of freedom, for Norman to stuff them implies he wants to control and ground others. We're not talking exclusively about others here, but Norman himself. Like Marion, he has his own personal traps. And it's the reduction of marriage to a trap that is the main fault of both ends here. Marion can't be tied down to the wrong person, and Norman (like Sam) can't find the right person to be trapped with. For Norman, his mother is the only female he can bind himself to. And it's in the end of the film that we figure out that he does this out of guilt. His mother only comes through his personality as a repression of the memory of him killing her and her lover. Love to Norman is then nothing more than a plug over a deep hole in his persona. It's implied that he, the mother side of him, kills women because of this. He destroys what he can't control in other words - this is why he doesn't like women and strays from relationships. Norman can't replace the hole in his persona taken up by his mother without exposing himself as a monster. It's here that you can see the fundamentals of a recurrent character in modern cinema:



Both Scorsese and Nolan have taken Hitchcock's theme of marriage in hand with the psychological crime thriller and used it to explore this idea of traps, of refusing to see yourself as a monster. In fact, there's a plethora of male characters that the Bates archetype has been built from and revised by:








I could give a million more examples, but all of these characters, like Norman, are driven by a conflicted idea of love (or lack thereof) that they allow to consume themselves. This is an interesting idea to me as the reverse to this kind of characters is:





It's these men that fight, that risk everything they have, for the memory of a loved one, for the safety of someone they hold dear, or to simply stand triumphant and shout: 'Adrian, I did it'. What this all says is that under the theme of marriage there's two key male archetypes. There's the Bates archetype and the Rocky archetype. When you juxtapose these two types of character you can recognise a huge swath of films as romances. When you usually think of romance, you think of Pretty Woman, The Before Trilogy, Titanic, Breakfast At Tiffany's, Casablanca. The likes of Man On Fire, Rocky, Die Hard, Taxi Driver or even Psycho don't come into this picture. Granted, some of these films are tragic, but, what's the most famous romance of all time? Romeo And Juliet anyone? The point I'm trying to make here is that there's two reactions to the idea of romance. There's the male-centred idea of tangible romance, of actions and reactions. On the other hand there's an intangible idea of female-centred romance based on non-verbal cues and emotions. The best way to clearly convey this idea is to look at where the final or solidified 'I love you' comes in the film. With tangible, action/reaction romances the 'I love you' comes early on. These are, almost paradoxically, manly romances. Look at the examples given. It's romance that comes before the fight in Unforgiven and Rocky. With Man Of Fire, the relationship between Creasy and Pita has to be developed before the action can take place. Even in Die Hard John is going to New York to visit an ex-wife and family. The relationship is present beforehand. The stereotypical romances, however, end on the solidified 'I love you'. Just look at examples given: Pretty Woman, Breakfast At Tiffany's, Titanic, Casablanca. The first two end with a kiss. The second two don't end too well for the main male protagonist, but the female lead learns her lesson in romance with the final act. Now, bring into the equation the Bates archetype and we can see them as characters unwillingly forced into the latter stereotypical romances much like Pretty Woman, Breakfast At Tiffany's, Titanic and Casablanca. Bruce Wayne, Travis Bickle, Norman Bates, Guido Anselmi and so on are tasked with finding romance in their narratives. This is only ever used to reveal incapacity though. It's used to reveal a monster within them.

What this all suggests is that in popular cinema the man in the woman's position of a romance turns the film into a horror or a take on a psychological crime or mystery. Added to this, the woman put in the position of a male romance (Die Hard, Rocky, Man On Fire) also turns the film into a horror or a take on a psychological crime or mystery. Norman is tasked with getting along with a woman, and as representative of Sam, he's tasked with living under her wing almost. Rose in Titanic could handle this, so could Vivian in Pretty Woman. Not Norman though. Moreover, Marion steals money and keeps from danger to ensure a chance of romance. Rocky could do this, so could John McClane. What's going on here? Well, the wider answer could be that role reversals aren't that acceptable by the standards of society. This is probably true to a certain extent. Is that good or bad? A talk for another time. In terms of cinematics, however, what this seems to be about is fear and traps - that which Psycho is inherently about. Personal traps are the product of fear that is allowed to consume. For Norman it's fear of memory, Marion, fear of being wrong, Travis Bickle, fear that the world will never be a better place, Bruce Wayne, fear that evil will consume all, Henry Spencer, fear of fatherhood, Patrick Bateman, fear of being ignored. And it's this element of fear that these characters are either subjected to or try to fight against. It's for those reasons that their films are often crimes, horrors of have elements of action. When we come back to the key archetype of this class of film, Norman, we can understand the overarching philosophy of these broken romances - and it's all connected to Hitchcock's idea of marriage. Marriage seems to be about knowing yourself well enough so you don't screw up someone else's life. It's not letting bias and memory dictate how your present perception functions. Unfortunately, with films like Shutter Island, Memento and Psycho where the Bates archetype is strongest, the best characters can manage is to convince themselves that they are not the monster...




And it's in this that an anti-romance almost becomes a romance. In the end, Psycho, like many other films is simply about self-awareness for the purpose of social-awareness - those around you. For both Marion and Norman it'd be knowing the traps they put themselves in and have to get out of that'd allow them to better cope in life and with relationships.

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24/07/2016

Alice In Wonderland - The Wonderland Paradox

Thoughts On: Alice In Wonderland (1951)


An imaginative, rather restless, young girl falls down a rabbit hole into a twisted, nonsensical world.


As crazy, psychedelic, surreal, fucked up and confusing as this film seems to be, it's a pretty simple one. In short, the moral of this story is: don't be an asshole. The purpose of the narrative is then an argument towards, or a breakdown of, how people end up being just that - a major asshole. To get into this we need to know what Wonderland is and what its rules are. So, firstly, Wonderland is not a land of wonder, not a land that's amazing, awe inspiring, fascinating all those other synonyms. The Wonder in Wonderland is in simple reference to thought. It's Imaginationland. But, that doesn't have much of a ring to it, whereas Wonderland does. So, the next question to ask is whose imagination is this a projection of? Simple - Alice's. And it's Alice that give us the rules of her own fantastical world. They are:

Everything is nonsense
Nothing is what it is because everything would be what it isn't
And contrariwise, what it is, it wouldn't be
And what it wouldn't be, it would

Ok, these are lines picked straight form the film (some tenses changed) and seem like nonsense themselves, leaving you to assume that because the rules are nonsense, the world is too. Well, you'd be kind of right in assuming this. But, Alice actually gives the nonsense rules. It's a defined lack of sense in other words, which means, if you put in a little effort, the code of nonsense is hackable. This is very important to understand because you have to accept that Alice is making up the rules of Wonderland. A person can't make up nonsense in the same way they can't punch themselves in the face and knock themselves out. To knock anyone out, you need an element of surprise. When you know you're trying to knock yourself out, you know what's coming and what you're trying to do. As a result, you just end up in pain and looking pretty stupid. The counter argument to this is that people can knock themselves out by holding their breath. This is true and it does imply that you can overcome your subconsciousness to do yourself harm. But, the equivalent to holding your breath for a minute or two to then pass out in terms of physical blows would be repeatedly slamming your head against a wall. Eventually you'd knock yourself out. But, with all my YouTubing I've found that no one can knock themself out with one blow from their own fist. You get idiots running and jumping into door frames, but this doesn't count. You have no conscious feeling or awareness of the door. The same goes for smashing yourself over the head with a bat. But, even with those videos, you never get someone do it first time because of fear. This means that the only knock outs are accidents with inanimate objects, such as someone spinning a stick and catching themself on the side of the head. Now, there's one more argument here. Boxers sometimes knock themselves out with an uppercut. Again, yes this is true. But, it is an unintentional blow - they manage to surprise themselves. They swing for their opponent, missing and KABLAM. They wake up like, 'shit, what did I do?'. But, what on Earth has this got do with Alice In Wonderland? Well, it's simple. My point here is that Alice cannot metaphorically punch herself in the face and knock herself out with one blow. She cannot produce a nonsense world intentionally in other words. She creates the rules by breaking those she already knows of. This means she has the codes to The Matrix. What are those codes? Well, before we get into that, I know there's got to be someone out there who wants to find a video of a guy punching themself in the face and knocking himself out in one blow. Please prove me wrong:


I had no luck in finding anything. But, please, don't hurt yourselves. I don't need to get sued. (Probably never happen anyways). Ok, huge tangent over, let's look at the rules again:

Everything is nonsense
Nothing is what it is because everything would be what it isn't
And contrariwise, what it is, it wouldn't be
And what it wouldn't be, it would

The first one is easy, we won't waste out time on that one. The second line simply means she wants to live in opposite land. In short, the Kardashians are Nobel prize winners, Einstein invented the whoopee cushion, your Dad breastfeeds you and Adam Sandler's hilarious--you get the point. Alice simply wants truth to be represented by an opposite symbol. The third point convolutes things however. The manifestations just discussed couldn't be because they're all to obvious. What appears in Wonderland can't be a polar opposite. So, your Dad would still be breastfeeding you, but you'd call him Mum, all whilst he still has a dong (no intentional transphobia). Now, pile on the last rule. This one is all about ensuring that the non-polar-opposite just created by the third rule isn't too obvious. There's two ways you can interpret this. You could employ a little reverse psychology and say Dad's still called mum, he still breastfeeds me and, yeah, dong in tact. Or you could further mess things up and say your Dad is still breastfeeding you, but, calling him Mum would be too easy. You'd have to call him Gran, but he'd still have a dong (seriously, no intentional transphobia). All of this means that step one is now the rule of the world - nonsense. To clarify, to create nonsense you firstly say heads equals tails:


You can't have polar opposites though, so you then say that tails in fact equals the side of the coin:


This is all still too easy, we've flipped the tables systematically. We've said heads equals tails - obvious. Tails then equals the edge - the only move left over. This could be fine though as 'what it isn't, it still can be', meaning as long as heads isn't heads, you're cool. But, you could then say heads equals tails and tails equals the side, however, we're going to call the side 'heads'. In the end, this means you get this:


So, to give an actual example from Wonderland, let's run through things.

Everything is nonsense


Nothing is what it is because everything would be what it isn't


And contrariwise, what it is, it wouldn't be


And what it wouldn't be, it would



Hectic, I know. But, you should get it by now. Why do you need to get it? Well, these are the rules of the game - of Wonderland. And when you get these rules you can understand exactly what Alice wants in life. She wants her own kind of anarchy. She wants this because sat on the tree branch she has to listen to her sister drone on about history, she has to learn the rules of life, living under someone else's dictatorship. That 'someone else' can be family, teachers, even nature or reality itself. Everyone goes through this in life, it's call puberty or the period of rebellion. It's in this state that the world isn't good enough and so we try to change it. Now, Alice as a 7 year old hasn't hit that phase just yet. But, what the film is trying to make clear to us is that this phase doesn't come out of nowhere. Teenage rebellion comes from childish imagination. When you're a kid, you're free because you see yourself as just that, because you don't have the capacity to care or worry about money, taxes, food, shelter, bills or anything else. This allows you to really absorb yourself, to care only about you, never share your toys, break down when you don't get what you want and so on. What's so important about recognising that the teenage phase of rebellion doesn't come out of nowhere, that it comes from childishness, is that it also doesn't just disappear. If you hold onto this seed of childishness, you're going to end up a miserable man/womanchild who no one likes, is impulsive, self-absorbed, a complete asshole...


... oh, so the film really opens up now. And, in a nutshell, Alice's journey through Wonderland is simply an effort in not becoming this bitch. But, whilst we now know the end moral, it's still important that we pay attention to the journey as the most important factor of this film.

Why does this all start? Why does the film essentially happen? Initially it's because Alice has an idea of a better world, one that abides by her rules of nonsense. It appears obvious that she only wants this because she is bored - she is restless. And so in comes the White Rabbit.


The White Rabbit is a great symbol that takes a poke at the go-getter, the avid businessman or woman, by comparing them to a child. A rabbit in literature is often fast, tunnel visioned and obsessed with fucking...


8 Mile reference (just in case). Also, is this essay too profane to be analysing a Disney film? Who knows? Anyway, a rabbit is tunnel visioned. Layer over this 'white' and you have an innocent or naive thoughtless character. White Rabbit in his suite with his umbrella and oversized watch obviously represents a businessman, but is actually a representation of Alice and her restlessness. But, because of the rules of Wonderland, Rabbit is as far removed from Alice herself as possible. So, what this implies is that by Alice chasing someone who is living their life blindly she has no real purpose to go into Wonderland. She follows on a whim, simply growing curiouser and curiouser without an end goal. This is the film's commentary on capitalism and obsessive materialism by the way. This also kind of begs the question why The Matrix was so intent on using the image of the White Rabbit...


... but, I'm not sure Neo and the gang knew what they were trying to achieve anyway. (Click here for more on that). Nonetheless, Alice is down the rabbit hole and as she runs toward an unknown goal there's two types of things that happen to her. Classifying them as such will help us get through this mess quickly and leave room for your personal interpretation. So, the first class of things that happen to Alice are those that make her cry (or sad). The second type are the things that frustrate or dismiss her. A key example of the first type would be getting through the first locked door. She gets trapped after eating and growing too big. She then cries, shrinks and is almost drowned by those tears. What this implies is that over-emoting isn't productive. Combine this with the fact that it's her world that traps her, that makes her cry and we can begin to see an element of self-destruction. But, let's not dive too deep into that before pulling apart the second class of event Alice experiences along her journey. These are the things that frustrate her and leave her with no answers - things like the Mad Hatter's tea party, the path through the garden with the rude flowers and the encounter with the Caterpillar. Again, it's her own rules that negate her own pragmatic exploration of herself. This is all because Wonderland is of her own imagination. It's because she wants everything to be nonsense that she suffers. What this all comes back to is childish impulsiveness. A kid (like Alice) cannot sit still to wait for answers, cannot wait to grow up, cannot answer difficult questions like whoooo rrr uuuuu or where do you belong. This deception of self is all symbolised through her having short cuts and an absence of rules (like food that makes you grow). But, in the end she's always left in a place no better than where she started - still chasing the White Rabbit.

It's after a few rounds of self-abuse that Alice is lost in the forest telling herself that she gives herself good advice, but just doesn't listen to it. This is the staple of any fuck up. We all know someone like this. They know what they are doing is stupid, that there are alternatives, that with a bit of momentary pain comes reward tenfold a little later down the line. But, these people are still fuck ups. They don't listen to sense, take your advice, let alone there own. This is Alice, and is all still all about not being grown up enough - being a child and not growing past the period of rebellion. But, having been broken down many times over, Alice seems to have an epiphany that marks a subtle change in her character. As she steps into the doorway, toward the Queen's castle she seems to become more pragmatic, less emotional, more sensical. But, she's still chasing the White Rabbit - and this is her major conflict. Now, chasing blind naivety brings her to the Queen of Hearts - someone who is very childish and very emotional. You can then imagine the Queen as representative of Alice's impulsiveness. Whereas we see Alice's impulsiveness (following the White Rabbit) have her left unheard and usually crying, the Queen does neither of these things. The Queen of Hearts (hearts being a metaphor for an emotional core if you've not picked up on that yet) is a reaction to how Wonderland makes Alice feel. Instead of being ignored by the likes of a Mad Hatter the Queen screams and shouts, demanding attention. Instead of crying in face of an issue she bellow OFF WITH ITS HEAD!! This is the commentary of the film. It says that children like Alice become adults like the Queen of Hearts. Over time their emotions, or lack of consciousness or control over them, become poisonous. You become an asshole by not seeing yourself as part of a reality, as someone whose actions have consequences. This is why the Queen of Hearts has an army of cards at her disposal. Life is just a game to her, and all that makes it up is nothing much more than a 1, 2, 3, 4 and so on. There's no real people of equal standing to herself. Furthermore, this is why the Queen likes to play games and cheats. She's nothing more than a child with a lot of power.

In the end, to escape the hell Alice thought she wanted to be apart of, that she thought would be wondrous, she simply has to wake up. She has to accept that life isn't a game, that she needs to live in a reality where you have to do things like listen to people older than you, sit through boring lessons, wait to grow up, wait to earn your intellect. Now, whilst this is a simple message, its not an easy one to live by. And that's the paradox of Wonderland. There's always a what if that has you think of your own world, of your own rules, your own way of living (one that you'll never attain) that leaves you at the least a failure, at worst an utter cunt. Don't let Imaginationland become your Wonderland. Life's hard enough as it is.

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