Inaffection Series

To preface this, I must bring to light the strange 'schedule' of this series. The first post was written in June of 2016, the second August of 2016 - and the rest fall between the end of July and the middle of August, 2017. Without wanting to make any excuses, all I'll then say is that this is just as much a window into how this blog has changed over a year as it is an opportunity for greater insight into the screenplay. I hope you enjoy...

Cinderella - A Psychological Thriller

A wicked stepmother enslaves her innocent stepdaughter, but when a chance to go a royal ball arises, so does a chance of freedom.

This is, without a doubt, Disney's best film. It's one of my favourite films of all time. Moreover, it's probably one of the greatest stories put to film. And, yes, this is the also the film I postponed so I could write about 50 Shades Of Grey, but, like I said, I was in the mood for something not so healthy, something that wasn't good for me, but in the end probably wouldn't kill me. Anyway, enough of 50 Shades. I've been meaning to do this film for a long time and, if you're familiar with the blog, then you may have heard me talk about it before. But, we'll return to that in the end. Right now, I just want to jump into things, so let's go. Cinderella is about hope. But, more than that, it's about hope as an act, hope as a mind set. The end goal here is for me to dispel the argument that 'And they lived happily ever after' is bullshit. But also, I want to demonstrates the intricate allegory that Cinderella is, explaining a film you probably didn't think needed much explaining. To do this we'll simply run through the film, start to end, defining metaphors and seeing what they mean in respect to Cinderella's journey here. Oh, we'll also be breaking down a lot of plot holes, but also convoluting the narrative as a whole, so, heads up, head down, whatever it is, let's get to work.

With the intro we are given the song that outlines a theme of romanticism in the film, which is a segue toward hope and Cinderella's opening song. But, before that we get a bit of information about the kingdom and Cinderella's past. Her father was a widower, but died when she was young - the point at which her step-mother revealed her true colours, forcing Cinderella to be the family's scullery maid. The most important detail of this back story is this one frame:

This is our way into the depths of this film as a psychological thriller. To get into this, I advise you watch the intro quickly, paying close attention at the 0:40 second mark. LINK HERE. It's at that 43 second mark that we hear of a 'mother's care' and simultaneously see a few birds flit on screen (you can see one in the picture above). What I'm trying to establish here is a link between animals and people - specifically Cinderella's perspective of people. It's in her mind, and as the freeze-frame demonstrates, that Cinderella would attribute the memory of her father to his horse and dog, Major and Bruno. Moreover, she attributes an idea of her mother to the symbol of a bird. Now, as you know, animals play a huge role in this film with almost all direct conflict stemming from interactions between the mice, birds, cat, dog and so on. But, we aren't just watching filler in a 70-odd minute film with these scenes. What we are watching is Cinderella's memory and projections of self conflicting. The majority of this movie is just a presentation of Cinderella's will. It's her losing hope, time and time again, but persevering, rising against the people in her life. So, to explore deeper, we'll take this one animal at a time.

We'll start with Major as we've already touched on him. He is the personification of Cinderella's memory of her father. He represents the composed and devoted aspects of his character. We can also infer with the horse that maybe Cinderella's father was apart of the army, hence, Major. This reinforces the aspects of composure and control. Moreover, these characteristics all act as lessons to Cinderella. These reminders of his character make her days easier, allowing her to wake up and almost find a friend in him as to go on.

Bruno. Also a representation of Cinderella's father. This is both his playful and more emotional side, that at times lacks the composure Major does. We see this in the fact that he's a dog that hates Lucifer - the cat. We'll come to back to this in a while though. The last detail to recognise about both Major and Bruno is their age. Both are a little groggy, a bit lazy - Major even has grey hair. This shows that they have not only grown up with Cinderella, but almost grown up as her father would. If he were alive 10/15 years down the line (from the beginning) he too would be a bit groggy and even have grey hair.

The birds. Ok, I know I implied that these represent Cinderella's mother, but because there are so many of them, they don't adhere to the rule as strictly as singular characters such as Bruno or Lucifer. Fundamentally, birds are a distant idea of a mother with Cinderella. This is best understood via the mornings. The birds wake up and tend to Cinderella, who is still a teenager (19) but also quite the tortured one. Moreover, they sing with her, something that we'll come back to in a while which is very important. Overall however, birds represent both an idea of devotion and an idea of freedom. They are linked to Cinderella's mother because she is dead, but still a guiding force as she is probably the woman Cinderella aspires to be. The birds are then an idea of female maturity.

Ok, this guy. This is Cinderella's projection or idea of her stepmother. It's important to recognise here that this is not a direct representation of her, but Cinderella's way of dealing with the oppressive, golddigging. bitch. When characters such as the mice interact with Lucifer, we are seeing the inner workings of Cinderella's mind. It's the fear, the hatred, the disdain, she has for the stepmother that is being fought with her own personal character. Before moving on though, there's quite a lot we can infer from Lucifer. Also, it's here that religious undertones are implied, as you could recognise with the name Lucifer. Lucifer was of course a fallen angel. His fall from God's side may parallel the change, the undressing of the stepmother's true colours when Cinderella's father died. This then implies that Cinderella's father was God (I know, sounds a little reaching). But, to ground this idea, what's happening here is simple. Cinderella is being compared to Jesus. You can understand this in her ethics of forgiveness, self-control and general humbleness. The religious undertones, however, under my interpretation, don't go much further than this though. In short, Lucifer is a douche, just like the stepmother,

Jaq is Cinderella's primary projection of self. Jaq encapsulates her tenacity, mischievous nature, confidence and personal strength. Jaq is the wise guy, the one willing to fight Lucifer, to lead the pack. We don't see this side of Cinderella much outside of Jaq, but make no mistake, it's Jaq, Cinderella's hidden bravery, that gets her through life, that allows her to hope, dream, wish.

Gus, for all his innocence and naivety is the unfortunate projection of Cinderella's perspective of self. To understand this, we have to recognise the importance of his introduction to the film. It's after waking up that Cinderella finds Gus in a cage, a trap probably set out by the stepmother. This means that this projection of Cinderella's self is dictated primarily by anxiety, by the stepmother putting her down for these numerous years. Gus' two key characteristics are naivety and greed. The naivety feeds into Cinderella's will to fight, to rebel. This is however encapsulated by Jaq already. What this means is that Cinderella is starting to lose hope, she's starting to criticise herself with Gus. This is why it's important she nurtures and looks after him as not to let her defeat herself. The aspects of greed are also linked into Cinderella's hopelessness, her growing self-defeatist attitude. Greed with Gus is wanting too much and getting in trouble. In this respect, this...

... is Cinderella's inner commentary on romance. Is wanting to go to the ball too much? Do I deserve better? Am I being ridiculous? These are all questions in her head. But, they aren't entirely negative as they do get her out of trouble. You could argue that if Cinderella did spend more time in picking up her glass slipper, like Gus did here (he picks up a grain that another mouse abandons - just as Cinderella does the slipper) she'd be stopped by the prince and forced to show her true colours. I agree, this side of her represents her lack of confidence in self. But, it is, however, important that she does face her stepmother, that she does accept herself, in the end of the film. So, this aspect of her isn't all that bad. The last thing to say about Gus is that whilst he's a little ditsy, so is Cinderella. But, that, again, isn't all that bad.

The rest of the mice are also projections of Cinderella's self. However, they aren't too specific. What they represent is Cinderella's capacity to work hard, persevere, but also collect herself. This is incredibly important in the dress making scene, but, we'll come to that later.

Ok, so now we understand who Cinderella is. She is an amalgamation of all these characters discussed. She's not just meek, naive and full of hope. She fights for her revelation in the end. This film is, as you can now see, a psychological battle between Cinderella's me, myselves and Is. Knowing this, let's move onto to the first real scene of the film to establish themes. The two main ideas or themes in this film are Time and Hope. This is perfectly captured by Cinderella's (click the picture to watch) opening song:

I've got to say that this is my favourite Disney song of all time and one of the greatest scenes ever. It has a perfect balance of tone, atmosphere and feeling that perfectly sets up the film, imbuing the audience with hope, not just telling them of it. Now, where the clip ends is where our biggest theme comes in. The clip ends just before the clock strikes, introducing an idea of time and reality. When you juxtapose this with Cinderella's A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Aches, you end up with a debate very similar to one I covered with The Matrix - Is It All Really That Bad?. Cinderella's problem is that her reality is controlled by time, that her world is controlled by her stepmother. This is why hope is so important. Hopes, dreams and wishes are the same thing. They are an idea of imagination - which also makes this being a psychological thriller with a myriad of talking animal projections all the more necessary. Cinderella is incredibly dependant imagination as she cannot change reality, she doesn't see herself as having the power to. Whilst there are great messages in films like Tangled or Frozen about women taking action and physically fighting against adversity, I think Cinderella holds an equal, even better message. The criticism of the old Disney films revolves around damsels in distress. Cinderella is not a damsel in distress. She fights her own personal and mental battle to gain the confidence to seek out love and change her life. This doesn't mean she needs a man to get by. This most definitely isn't the message of the film. The message is dependant on recognising that Cinderella wants love. She wants not needs a relationship and love (as most human beings do). This means that the physical fight here isn't necessary as this is a film about changing on the inside as to cope with externals. Cinderella actually fills gaps of other empowering films such as Frozen and Tangled. Frozen and Tangled are about acting with confidence as a woman. Cinderella is about finding that confidence. This, again, throws back to the Matrix post. Saying Let It Go is a great message, but actually doing that is incredibly hard. You need the message of hope captured by Cinderella to complete the picture painted by the likes of Frozen and Tangled. And it's with the opening song that this seed of philosophy is planted. In short, Cinderella asserts to herself that she must hang on, that she must continue to persevere with each and every morning. And it's after this that she counteracts the point with Gus. She begins to see herself as trapped. But, this is exactly what catalyses the movement of the narrative and her life toward action.

After this we meet the other characters (as discussed) with one pivotal interaction with Bruno. I'm talking about the scene where Bruno dreams. Remembering now that this is Cinderella's idea of her father, what we are seeing is her dad being enraged by the idea of the cat, of the woman that betrayed him and tortures his daughter. However, Cinderella tells Bruno off, not only for hating the cat (the stepmother - and rightly so) but also for dreaming. This sounds hypocritical coming from a girl that just sang about dreams being wishes the heart aches. But, it's not. Her justification for this is that Bruno doesn't want to lose a warm bed. This is her comment to anyone claiming she's a damsel in distress. Yes, she in a bad situation, but this is also her home, this is where she belongs - and she has nowhere else to go. This is why it's important for her to stay, to psychologically battle with an idea of her stepmother so she may eventually overcome.

The next key moment after this is the end the segment with Gus, Lucifer and the cups. This not only demonstrates how Cinderella is trapped by the idea of her stepmother, but introduces an idea of probability into the film which becomes all the more important as we progress. It's with the scene between Gus, Lucifer and the doors that an idea of all or nothing, which is prevalent in the film, becomes obvious. In short, Gus is saved by there being three cups. They prevent Lucifer finding him at first. However, the cups are then taken into the rooms, where everything simply turns into a waiting game. And so, Lucifer waits until one of the girls scream and Gus comes running out. He grabs him, but Cinderella puts a stop to it. After Cinderella gets into trouble, we cut to the castle where, just like with Gus and Lucifer, the King decides to wait, to put all his eggs in one basket to have his son fall in love. These given ideas of probability, all or nothing and putting all your eggs in one basket are pivotal in Cinderella. In short, the film argues that there is always opportunity out there. The odds can be stacked against you, but you have to take the opportunity, assert yourself in the situation. Just like Gus inevitably being caught is stopped by Cinderella, the Prince inevitably finding a woman to marry has to be intervened by her too. Cinderella must take hold of opportunity. This is the film's rationale against the idea of Cinderella finding true love being an ex-machina. However, that doesn't mean the film isn't romantic and doesn't take liberties, but, despite elements of luck there is a solid message in Cinderella you can take seriously: grab the bull by the horns essentially.

The next key scene we come to is before the news of the ball is delivered. What we're talking about here is the singing lesson. It's through comparing Cinderella to Drizella and Anastasia that we can recognise the importance of the opening song and also the birds. A nightingale, the bird the song they sing is about, is a symbol in literature that represents sorrow and beauty. For the nightingale to sing is almost a test, it's a question of character. To understand this, just look at Drizella and Anastasia. They can't sing, aren't very attractive and aren't very nice people. They have no song worth hearing in other words. Cinderella on the other hand is not only beautiful, but can sing and is a fair, composed person. The importance of beauty here is all linked to jealousy and the stepmother. It's because Cinderella is beautiful that she primarily dislikes her. This song thus captures the irrational attack on people from a position of powerlessness or ineptitude. In other words, the stepmother drags Cinderella down because she is all that Cinderella is not. Most importantly the stepmother lacks self-control or self-respect. This is what kills her, and is exactly what allows Cinderella to overcome her. This means that the birds being connected to an idea of Cinderella's mother is her accepting that she shouldn't hate herself for the same reasons her stepmother does. It's the birds, that can sing, that teach her to be humble, patient, controlled - all ways in which she may be imitating a memory of her mother. It's by tracking this that you can see Cinderella's growth as a woman throughout the film, and all on a psychological level.

Ok, so after this we get the dress making scene. This seems like an irrational plug to get the film where it needs to be in the end - Cinderella with a dress and at the ball despite the chores she has to do. This, as you could infer by now, isn't a plot hole though. The mice and birds all represent Cinderella's perseverance. What this implies is that she found the time, that she had the tenacity to steal the beads, the sash and not do house work (which she doesn't have to do as it's done already - her stepmother told her to do it all again). The reason why this wasn't shown may be down to preserving the image of Cinderella's character (not showing her steal), but more than this, is this not a much more cinematic and entertaining way of telling a story? There's just miles more depth in having representations of Cinderella's psyche do the work, persevere and so on. You externalise emotions, cinematically conveying feelings and mental growth. But, having made the dress, having cheated her way toward the ball, Cinderella's caught out. The malicious nature of the stepmother overcomes her again, tearing away all senses of hope. It's here where we are introduced to the final projection of Cinderella's imagination:

The fairy godmother is the epitome of hope, is the last reserve Cinderella has. This is where she turns in her darkest moment. I quote the movie here: 'If you lost all your faith, I couldn't be here. And here I am.' These are the words of the fairy godmother that solidify the idea that we are seeing projections of Cinderella's imagination. It's faith that manifests the fairy godmother. Faith is belief - all products of the mind, of hope, dreams, imagination. What's also key to recognise here is an aspect of childish hope. By this I mean the concept of a fairy. Cinderella has to regress into her childhood to find the last inklings of hope and dreams. This is what gives her the means to go on - naivety. What this makes clear is that sometimes you have to blind yourself to go on. You have to ignore probability, reality, reasoning to physically get through the improbable. However, coming back to the idea of childhood, we can now justify the lyrics:

Salagadoola mechicka boola bibbidi-bobbidi-boo
Put 'em together and what have you got

Salagadoola mechicka boola bibbidi-bobbidi-boo
It'll do magic believe it or not

Salagadoola means mechicka booleroo
But the thingmabob that does the job is

Salagadoola menchicka boola bibbidi-bobbidi-boo
Put 'em together and what have you got
bippity-boppity bippity-boppity bippity-boppity-boo

The majority of this is nonsense, just as a kid's chant or song of this nature would be. Take away sense and reasoning and just believe, then life becomes easier. That means that the metaphor of this scene is that Cinderella fixed some kind of dress for herself and went to the ball - she persevered. What you then have to infer is that the dress is also a metaphor. This is all a given if you can accept that the animals are mere projections. The mice, Bruno and Major all transform, indicating a boost in Cinderella's confidence. In short, she's using the idea of her father as guidance - he acts as a chaperone. But, staying with the dress, what we are seeing is hope toward social transcendence. This is also why the glass slipper is the most important symbol in the film. The dress and slippers are a facade that gives Cinderella confidence, but they are also the true manifestation of her hope. The shoes are glass, however, because the hope, the dream of Cinderella overcoming everything is fragile. Nonetheless, she meets the prince, she does dance, and most importantly, she keeps the slippers. This implies that what remains after the night is Cinderella's confidence. She manages to keep her dream alive, she is able to hold onto an idea of love.

It's now that we can jump to the end of the film. Here the figurative entrapment of Cinderella becomes literal. To fight this she needs a bit of help from her projections. It's Gus and Jaq, the two conflicting ideas of her self (the good and bad, or the better and worse) that have to work together to get the key. Opening the door isn't that easy though as the domineering idea of the stepmother steps in. However, lessons, or ideas of Cinderella's parents finally come into effect. First it's her mother, then it's her father, who gets to exact his revenge on the woman that betrayed them. This kind of means that Lucifer dies and Bruno (the father) killed him. I mean...

... but, don't worry. This isn't literal. Cinderella merely relinquishes the idea of her stepmother from her mind. Even if the cat dies, so what? He was an ass. I don't like cats, what can I say? Anyways, meanwhile, downstairs the glass slipper is being tried on by Anastasia and Dizella. The key plot hole here is that the slipper should be able to fit an awful lot of girls in the kingdom. This is why recognising it as a metaphor is so important. It's a metaphor for Cinderella's virtue, Cinderella's strength, hope and resilience. This is what is unique to her. This is what no other woman in the kingdom has. This is what the prince is really looking for. So, in the end, the one slipper can break, all of Cinderella's faith and hope crushed by the stepmother's jealousy yet again, but, it's just not enough.

She has the other shoe. It's then because of this that she can live happily ever after. Why? How? Happiness, just like hope has been thoroughly demonstrated as being a mindset that allows you to act. When you've been through what Cinderella has, when you've been through massive psychological duress and pressure, but made it through by the strength of your own will, you've proved your ability to cope. This is the true message encapsulated by the 'happily ever after'. Cinderella has learnt a life changing lesson. Because she is capable, she will ensure she lives that happily ever after.

Fight Club - Nihilism, Anarchy And I

An insomniac runs into a soap salesman.

We've all seen it. And so the warning is pointless, but, SPOILERS. Tyler Durden is a projection of The Narrator's screwed up mind. With that said, this is a movie entirely about self-destruction sourced from a simple lack of identity. Fight Club is a movie much like The End Of The Tour, but more extravagant with an exuberant, boisterous and hyperbolised style, movement and characterisation. This is then a movie that is, at its core, pretty petty. However, the truth of this is presented in a manner you can take seriously, in a manner you don't feel you must mock. So, the core of Fight Club is of a man that is simply not happy. To combat his depression he wallows in it, but when he can no longer feed off his own bullshit, he decides to hit self-destruct. His self-destruction through Tyler is actually tantamount to us not being able to take the plights of this movie (or something like The End Of The Tour) seriously. The narrator knows his problems are pretty pathetic, he knows that going to the dozen support groups he has no place in joining is pitiful, pretty scummy and completely self-absorbed. It's with Marla that this narcissistic essence of his self becomes unbearably upfront. This is what triggers Tyler. Tyler is nothing more than a way for The Narrator to punch himself in the face and stuff Marla without having to recognise the fact that he is both pathetic and could maybe push a way out of his depression. The paradigm of this film is then all about a reflection of self. In the very beginning, The Narrator is forced to look in on himself and see nothing. He stays up night at day, simply wanting reprieve. He hates his job. He hates the system he is apart of. He wants out.

To understand The Narrator's position you simply have to see him in an empty room. There is a door and it's unlocked. The Narrator wants out. What does he do? He walks to the door, pulls it open and leaves, right? Ok, but what if The Narrator can't walk? The door is now shut in spite of him, his efforts, his need to translate thought to physical actions are fruitless. It's now that we see his depression, his insomnia, his debilitating lack of perceived self. He sees himself as empty and so is powerless to leave his unlocked room. What happens if, in exchange of locking the door, we give The Narrator a friend with a bomb? He still wants out, but he's not moving. Why not let the friend destroy the room around him as he stands? This is the entire narrative of Fight Club. The Narrator senses a vacuous hole beyond the shell of his skin, and this makes him feel like absolute shit. To escape this, he projects the shit onto the walls around him. He then decides that if he wipes the walls clean, maybe wipes them away completely, the shit inside him will be gone too. What we see here is a cushion of nihilism being popped by a pin of anarchy. The Narrator doesn't believe in himself and so he doesn't believe in the world. He decides he wants to lose control, he wants to play with his internal self-destruct button, and then he decides the world's self-destruction also needs to be hit. This translates to Tyler's plan to destroy all monetary and capitalists aspects of society instead of The Narrator searching within himself for a new beginning. This trait of The Narrator and Tyler is immersed in a plea to the world to stop letting them (him) destroy themselves (himself). In short, it's working a boring job for money and to simply accumulate things, that are so easy to do, just like watching TV, living a safe, quiet life by everyone else's rules. However, we choose to live the easy life, to indulge in shit that's not good for us. Is it right that the world then be labelled corrupt? Is it right that we then think the system needs to change? Does it make any sense that what we feel in side is irrevocable attributed to the world around us along with blame and consequences to come?

This is a question Fight Club begins to ask. However, this is not the last interrogative given by the final image of the film...

What this image caps off is the end of a cautionary tale. The Narrator and Tyler alike, no matter how enjoyable they are, no matter how convincing their case for anarchy feels, are (somewhat inadvertently) liars. Don't get sucked into what they preach. That is not what the film is about. As said, this is a film about finding yourself. It's subsequent commentary then comes with how people tend to approach this perpetually distancing peak that is ultimately insurmountable - knowing just who you are. Again, this is a film about finding yourself, about finding your own individuality, and it starts with The Narrator breaking away from his shirt, tie and suitcase by beating himself and friends up for a laugh, to actually feel, to experience physical truth. It's the beginning of the second act where the nihilistic and anarchistic elements of this film teach lessons that actually help The Narrator. What The Narrator and Tyler start off doing is simply chipping away at the hatred they have for themselves. They feel weak and pitiful and so they ask themselves just how weak and how pitiful they are. They test and find this out with Fight Club. And it's, as Tyler says, Fight Club that is truth, that isn't bullshit and lies. What's bullshit is The Narrator's boss being a better person or having more power than The Narrator just because of a title. This social hierarchy is what we all experience every day. It's having to be polite, having to be passive aggressive, having to not ask someone who believes they are better than you to actually prove it. It's the monetary and capitalist aspects of society as presented by the the first two acts and all of the workplace scenes that demonstrate how we live in a society where we fight with metaphors, with implimence, with intangibility and hidden agendas. And the rules of this world remained undefined as we simply aren't able to talk about them. And it's that there that should be ringing all the bells. We all know it:

"The first rule of Fight Club is: you do not talk about Fight Club. The second rule of Fight Club is: you do not talk about Fight Club."

These rules are a massive fuck you to the way we operate in a civilised society where we have to be passive aggressive, we have to be fake and lie - and never talk about that fact. The first two rules are then a dare to actually say who you are, to actually say what you feel you must not, to talk about Fight Club despite authority. This is a paradigm repeated throughout the film. In fact, it's after Tyler and The Narrator have their beers over The Narrator's apartment blowing up that Tyler demands The Narrator actually ask if he can stay at his place. This is the best example of social conduct being thrown out the window in search of honesty. Tyler knew what The Narrator wanted to ask. The Narrator knew that Tyler knew. Still, he keeps his mouth closed as it's the polite thing to not be upfront, as he didn't want to force a yes, or hear a no. These touch and go rules of society keep us from truth, keep us from being honest with one another and ultimately separate us all. I don't believe this a universal truth, and I don't think we should be unconditionally honest. But, more honesty in our world is something that wouldn't go amiss. This is a concept explored by another film...

... so maybe I'll save that talk for another time. Nonetheless, honesty is all Fight Club represents, is all Tyler and The Narrator are in search for in the first half of this movie. The subsequent rules of Fight Club reinforce this:

"Third rule of Fight Club: if someone yells “stop!”, goes limp, or taps out, the fight is over. Fourth rule: only two guys to a fight."

Think about these rules, not between two people fighting, but talking. If we could be honest enough to say how we truly feel, about our boundaries, about truly pushing to the fringes of what we're capable of, we would be able to see true character in others. We wouldn't be coddled by cushions of social conduct. I remember hearing a Joe Rogan podcast, with Duncan Trussell, that dipped into these ideas with emojis and texting. Trussell spoke about emojis being like hieroglyphics that communicated more human emotions with imagery instead of words, letters and squiggles. But, on another episode of Rogan's podcast, a similar idea came up with texting, but with a different interpretation. It was questioned if auto-correct and suggested responses may one day evolve so that we needn't have to text or message, until we will be simply watching our computers or phones have the chats we would - but are too lazy to type out. It's these two perspectives that outline just what The Narrator and Tyler are trying to escape. They don't want to live in a world of auto-correct and predictive messaging because it leaves them empty as is a mere extension of regressive rules of social conduct. Its predictive messaging that mimics not wanting being so impolite as to just ask a stranger for help, instead, take them for beers and wait for them to offer. The world feels easier with predictive messaging and another person offering instead of us asking, but we are taking ourselves out of the equation at our own expense. We aren't putting our true and nuanced emotions down on the page or screen. We aren't trying to conjure up new sentences, different ways of saying things, we aren't trying to do better, to have things be more personal and more real. To understand why real is important just look at emojis. A smiley face can work on many levels words may not, and with just one click, because they mimic what we are used to. We are used to looking at someone as they talk. When they say something we like we smile, we laugh. An emoji or a lol has to suffice on the phone, but all we're really trying to do is mimic real conversations so we feel the genuine emotions humans have been coded for. All this begs the question of why not just put down the phone and talk to someone? These are the exact questions Fight Club begins to probe. It wants true raw emotions and because the characters in this film are so tightly wound around themselves, the only way to get them out is through extreme actions and extreme emotions - fighting and the ensuing ecstasy of pain and triumph.

However, this devolves with the rise of Project Mayhem. But, we'll get into that later. First, it's important to understand the roots of the nihilism, the complete disbelief in belief, and anarchy, the singular belief in disorder, in this film. These two terms have their problems. You cannot be a true nihilist for reasons explored in the previous Thoughts On: essay. (link here).  You cannot be a true nihilist because belief fuels perception and reality. You cannot be a true anarchist for the same reason. People perceive, and perception is simply noticing patterns. You cannot live a life without perceiving, nor experiencing patterns and a certain set of rules and structurings. However, there are healthy doses of nihilism and anarchy that we can all take. By suspending our belief in everything once in a while, we can gain perspective over the absurdity of the society we've created. We are born wanting to sleep, eat and fuck - and feel good, safe and comfortable in the moments between activity. Why, if this is what we all want, must we then work? Why, if this is what we all want, do we get married, struggle after sex, affection, love? These are great questions that allow us to assess the world we live in objectively. It's through a certain degree of nihilism that we can ponder, find out who we are and live by the rules we think make sense. For instance, why must we work? Well, yes, we all just want to be comfortable, but laptops, WIFI, heat and electricity don't just happen. You need to create and maintain these things, just like we need to create charts, move money around, market, produce art and so on. We must produce these things for others so we may also consume what we are not able to produce - and that's society. That's why we work. It might not be fun, but it makes sense. As for the second question of sex and love? Well, it's clear not everyone deserves our love, not everyone wants to be fucked, or have sex with another or every single person. We feel this way for evolutionary reasons, so we don't end up with mates who have bad genetics, or are horrible people. It's nihilism that makes society absurd, but we must not forget that nihilism is just a tool that raises us up for the purpose of perspective, so we can actually see the sense in a crazy system. The same may be said for anarchy. We live in a world that exist without any apparent reason or rhyme. Embracing this once in a while allows you to step back, look at the rules and decide if they make complete sense, if we want to be sending reams of emojis, if we want our computers to talk for us whilst we just watch, if we actually want to test the glass we feel we're made of with a good scrap. Again, this is what the first half of Fight Club sets up so perfectly, but in comes Project Mayhem...

Project Mayhem is perpetually enforced nihilism, it is systematised anarchy. This is what happens when you take the given concepts too seriously and act as if they are philosophies possible for people to live by. What we see with Project Mayhem is a group of guys from the Fight Clubs being taught to let go of rules to feel truth once in a while growing into men that do not believe in anything but Tyler. Project Mayhem becomes a cult. This cult believes in a dogmatic hierarchy, it believes solely in Tyler and what he believes. That's not nihilism - you're not supposed to believe in anything. However, professing you're a true nihilist leads to this. The same can be said for anarchy. The men working under Tyler aren't true anarchists because they have a leader, they are doing what they are told, they have rules, they support control. This is what leads to the final irrational bombing. But, the contradictive failure of Project Mayhem is best exemplified with the death of Robert Paulson.

He dies on an operation, getting shot in the head. The men's first reaction here is that the cops are pigs, that it is there fault alone. But, The Narrator is forced to ask: what did you think would happen!? It's at this moment that we realise the sheer mindlessness of these supposed anarchists and nihilists. Anarchy and nihilism affords the opportunity for perspective and enlightenment - only if you utilise it well. They came into the project to find out who they are, to find their independent and true self. But, it's chanting 'his name is Robert Paulson', a name given in death, that it's made painfully clear that the purpose these lost postmodernists are so desperately searching for, has disappeared within themselves - and that they buried it. They are fighting for purpose, a purpose only felt when dead. What the fuck is the point of that!? There simply isn't one.

What's also poignant is Marla. We mustn't forget that Marla is ultimately the crux of this film. She is what triggers Tyler and she is what The Narrator hides from. She is a person on his level that can help him through his own bullshit. A very important scene that comes midway through the film is one that mirrors the first fight The Narrator and Tyler have. As said, before the fight and after the beers, The Narrator is forced to actually ask Tyler if he can stay over. What this achieves is truth, it solidifies the relationship between The Narrator and Tyler - and is also the driving mechanism of Project Mayhem that brings all the men that it does together. But, during one of their many morning meetings Marla and The Narrator talk, but, as always, The Narrator cannot be honest with the only person he probably needs to be honest to - Marla and ultimately himself. When she tries to push him to talk about himself (Tyler) and her, he backs away from conversation, saying he's mot afraid, but in the end simply mirrors Tyler's words with: this conversation... this conversation... is over... BANG (shuts door)... is over. What this cites is The Narrators inability to be truthful when it truly matters. And just like the Project Mayhem goons blaming the cops for Paulson's death, The Narrator blames the world for his problems. What's horrifying is, like his goons, he has blinded himself to truth. He attributes everything shitty and contradictory that he does to Tyler - as if he's a different person. This brings us toward revelation pretty quick. The significance of The Narrator realising he is in fact Tyler comes with his sudden humanity and surge of morality. He sees that putting men in danger, feeding them lies of anarchy and nihilism isn't helping himself or them. And so he has to turn back to the beginning where he started to find truth in beating himself up. He fights Tyler, he fights with open eyes and wins, gaining his own personal independence and a hand to grab his...

... because, in the end, Fight Club is a romance. It's a search for love and personage in oneself and hopefully with someone standing by your side. Sounds pretty soppy for a film called Fight Club, huh? But, that's the truth. The truth is that The Narrator, much like us all, is an emotive creature. He feels happy, sad, lonely, lost. This changes his perception of self, and to deal with that, he figures he needs to change the world. But, with notions of nihilism and anarchy, The Narrator loses all sense of responsibility. That's why Fight Club is a cautionary tale. It's great to rebel, to question, to want change, but only if you hold in the back of your mind a constant reminder of your own personal responsibility. You should stay true to the idea that our actions are often towards personal growth - especially the pre-planned and questioned ones. But, you should also remember you ultimately want to eat, sleep and fuck - all whilst being happy, safe and comfortable in the moments between - and that's all. The 'moments in between' are the existential focus of one's life, they are only managed with open eyes, with a concept of responsibility - and it's what will hopefully stop you from having turn the gun on yourself whilst blowing up the world to get a fresh start. With perception meeting the reality through the senses our bodies hold, we must remember that we are a tool, but a tool that gets to exploit the system of reality. It's thus then ultimately true that control is the epitomal fantasy in a reality without free will or actual answers, where we are not omnipotent, all knowing, all powerful. This leaves us the only response of trying to control the fantasy we live in, not the world or reality as that is simply impossible. I've said it before, I'll say it again...

Control, the fantasy; control the fantasy.

Before Sunrise - Talking Heads

A couple walk through the streets of Vienna, talking through the night util morning.

Simple and perfect, though maybe a little pretentious, Before Sunrise is a tremendous film that I love to revisit every now and then - just as much as Sunset and Midnight. And this is certainly one of those films, alongside a lot of Linklater's early pictures, that has such a powerful capacity to inspire anyone interested in film. You find the same thing with Kevin Smith's Clerks, but, just before Smith was Linklater, one of the first and brightest filmmakers to come out of the independent cinema movement of the 90s. And so it's Linklater's Slackers, Dazed And Confused and then Before Sunrise, which all of course followed each other, that we see tremendous films that serve as definitions of 90s independent cinema and that say to anyone interested in films: if you're dedicated, young and a bit of a delusional fool, you could (hopefully, maybe, possibly) make a good film.

However, the simplicity of Before Sunrise not only implies to aspiring filmmakers that cinema can be a tangible, real thing if they pursue it, but this simplicity is also at the heart of all that works with this movie. In such, the best way to define Linklater's approach in films such as Slackers and those apart of the Before Trilogy is 'character realism'. Realism, depending on who you ask, can mean various things. However, the most basic definition would imply that realism is an appeal to the reality of the world through every element of an art form, in our case, cinema. Some of the most iconic expressions of realism then came out of post-war Italy in the 40s and early 50s. However, looking at films such as La Strada, Bicycle Thieves and Rome, Open City, there doesn't seem to be a clear relationship with Before Sunrise. A lot of this has to do with context, of course. But, the heavy genre elements, the romance and focus on chance and coincidence, in Before Sunrise play against its natural acting style and use of real locations. So, whilst you could certainly argue that Before Sunrise is a realist film, I think it is best to look at it as one that attempts to conform to the reality of its characters, hence, 'character realism'.

So, it is then thanks to to Linklater, his co-writer Kim Krizan, as well as Delpy and Hawke, who not only play the characters, but where a significant part of their development, that there is such an immense sense of verisimilitude conjured as we watch Celine and Jesse walk the streets of Vienna. And it is because there seems to be no overwhelmingly obvious cinematic illusion dictating these characters' actions and thoughts that, as we are trapped with them, as they are simultaneously trapped with one another, that our narrative cage becomes a very comfortable one. One of the most profound implications of this film then reveals itself to be cinema's ability to slot an audience into a conversation; just like a great conversation can have us lost in time until we realise that it's 4 in the morning, so, seemingly so, can cinema. However, with that said, I don't think that this statement, nor the experiment that this film seems to be, is a pure one. In such, there is of course editing in this movie - it isn't a 6 hour long shot. What's more, the various locations that Celine and Jesse travel through do add hints of spectacle and attraction as an aside to the bond between the two characters. So, again, I wouldn't say that this is a purely realist film - nor would I suggest that such a thing would likely work, after all Warhol's experiments with realism represent an anti-film not worth more than 5-10 minutes of attention.

The true beauty of Linklater's character realism then lies in its non-realist attributes. In such, what really makes Before Sunrise work is the fact that it is 'a film by Richard Linklater'. And whilst there is a debate to be had on the idea of an auteur as the singular voice of a film, there is a recognisable tone and measure to Before Sunrise that can be found in the rest of the Before Trilogy, Slackers, Dazed and Confused, Waking Life as well as elements of Boyhood, Everybody Wants Some and School Of Rock. And what binds these films is, of course, Linklater. So, when we return to the voice of Before Sunrise, we find this to be the fourth-wall-breaking, non-realist glue that makes this film so tremendous. In such, much like with the films of Tarantino, there is a sense that Linklater is unambiguously talking to us through a veneer of cinema. What then defines the character realism in Before Sunrise is the fact that, though these characters seem individual and real, they also seem to be talking through the same mouth; what we may consider to be Linklater's. Again, I certainly think this can be disputed because of the highly collaborative nature of this film, but, it certainly feels like a writer (whether that be an individual or a collective term) is talking to us as opposed to two constructed people.

Returning to the idea that Linklater's early films are especially inspirational to aspiring filmmakers, I think the writer's voice that oversees these films has a lot to do with it. In such, art is often a selfish means of self-expression, or, as is suggested in this narrative, attracting love. To see and experience what seems like one man's voice and vision is what implies that anyone can make a film. (After all, all they need is themselves - and they're often available and at hand). However, there is more to this ominous and pervading writer's voice that seemingly appeals to audiences without aspirations in film. It is the presence of a familiar and welcome voice, one that unites characters, debates with itself, argues with itself and falls in love with itself, that lies as the heart of Before Sunrise, and, arguably, the indie film in general.

This is an idea that is, indirectly or not, commented upon in this narrative with the scene in which Celine and Jesse discuss people being 'sick with themselves'. People need escapism and entertainment not only to free themselves from their mundane reality, but their conscious shadow that they cannot seem to shake loose. And so it is film, T.V, books, theatre, music and other various forms of entertainment that distract our shadow, our unconsciousness and sense of self, and allow us, or at least what is left of us, to exist in another realm of consciousness. And in such, unlike what Jesse suggests, it then seems that we all often visit places that we've never travelled to, greet people we've never met and experience what we've never felt. After all, Before Sunrise is a perfect projection of this idea; we experience an implication of love, human bonds and attraction, all without getting on a train to Vienna.

The relation of this unconscious travel to a clear presence of a writer throughout a film like Before Sunrise concerns the manner in which cinema has us socialise. Just like there is a communal experience at the heart of going to a cinema and sitting in a pitch room to stare at a screen with a few dozen, maybe hundred, other people, so is there a communal experience in ingesting a film. In such, the experience of a story can be defined by an audience member and the storyteller; the content of the story can be considered latent and abstract. This is why hearing a writer's voice and feeling their presence through what are supposed to be individual characters lies at the heart of films such as Before Sunrise; the connection is not so much to an abstract idea of a character or characters, but to the storyteller. It's this idea that begins to express the ingenious, even profound, nature of Before Sunrise. This film isn't so much about realism and simplicity, but cinema acting as a voice for a filmmaker and a window of communication for an audience - all through the facade of character realism.

So, Before Sunrise is a very interesting film, one that has layers of realism and verisimilitude blending with fantasy, contrivance and disillusionment. I think this is what it manages so well, and so is the reason why it is such a tremendous film. 

Lost In Translation - Existential Drama

Two lonesome married individuals meet and befriend each other in Tokyo.

Lost In Translation is an exquisite film, one that not only looks gorgeous, but is paced near-perfectly (one or two sequences drag a little) with such subtle, yet rich, characterisation. An in such, Lost In Translation falls into a class of film that often proves difficult to pull off. This is what we may refer to as an existential drama, a story that is entirely focus on the inner conflicts of our protagonists. However, instead of focusing on huge existential questions that snowball into intense drama, tears, hatred, destruction and decimation, Lost In Translation explores subtle, gnawing attributes of life that are difficult to talk about without being pretentious. This narrative is then about a lost sense of purpose as attached to relationships.

A crucial element of this topic that Lost In Translation does so well in handling is the hurdle of unattractive mundanity. In such, the existential problems of meaninglessness that can pervade the lives of the well-off, which are depicted in this narrative, not only seem trivial when we consider the more dire circumstances that millions of people face every day, but they also have the potential to be common in all people. This leaves this topic of meaninglessness as one that is unattractive, relative to more pressing conflicts in the world, and one that is pretty banal or mundane. However, because of the universal nature of this problem, shouldn't it be one that we all relate to despite the fact that there are greater problems in the world? I suppose the answer is maybe, and this film proves that there is a manner in which these issues can be articulated without seeming petty. But, that pettiness is difficult to manage - which is what leaves this film such an impressive one. This is because, regardless of the universal nature of meaninglessness as an existential problem, there is very little to be said about it. We see this throughout Lost In Translation through the sheer fact that the deep-rooted problems that Charlotte and Bob face are never really discussed or explored in much depth, only ever displayed. In turn, we never see Bob argue with his wife about the fact that he feels isolated and would somehow like to work with her to find a better place and sense of purpose in their family circle. Moreover, we never see Charlotte discuss the fact that she would like to be of greater significance in her husband's life with him.

A significant part of Lost In Translation is then this articulatory and existential constipation, one that leaves our characters wordless and, for lack of a better word, lost in the face of their problems. And I believe this perfectly outlines why this film is called 'Lost In Translation'; not only are these inner conflicts lost on the channels of communication somewhere between husbands and wives, but purpose itself has not revealed itself in the lives of all concerned. What Lost In Translation is then indirectly about is the lack of an articulate and meaningful structure at the foundations of our character's lives. Without much of a religious, philosophical, ideological or spiritual crutch, all of our characters then have no idea what to do with their marriages, nor do they know how to begin managing their lives. And this is certainly one of the most daunting issues that people seem to be facing in the modern age - and in a different capacity to eras beforehand. Whilst we have a diverse world-wide network of communications, we often use these innumerable channels for meaningless folly. Consider, for example, the role that T.V has played in society over the past 60+ years. Never has it been widely considered a box of learning and development, rather, entertainment (despite interesting pieces of culture, the news and documentaries that find their way onto television). We find a similar thing with the internet. However, whilst the internet is primarily used for banal things, it is an incredible tool that we all often use for greater purposes - whether it be to simply Google something you didn't know or to commit to developing yourself and life somehow over the internet. So, whilst there is meaning and higher purpose to be found in our new world of communications, media entities found on T.V and the internet are rarely heralded for their existential guidance.

It's this predicament that underlies Lost In Translation; meaninglessness is so ripe and ready to consume people and we often don't have the tools to combat this. There is, however, meaning to be found in one another and in the intermittence of the new. This is an idea encapsulated by Bob and Charlotte's friendship, one that has undertones of a romance that never fully flourishes. Much like entertainment, love and relationships can lift us from the currents of time that lead us towards an implication of a pre-determined fate or destiny. However, there is a clear difference in the quality of entertainment and love, and that seems to be predicated on and rooted in our biological make-up; we find greater purpose in one another rather than in distractions or entertainment. This is why there is such a precious sentiment imbued throughout Bob and Charlotte's relationship; despite perceived meaningless, despite inarticulable inner conflicts, when they are together, there is an understanding connection that lifts them away from their worldly problems. This then leaves Lost In Translation to be one of the most intricate and touching assessments of the relationship between time and romance, one that has us find solace in love as a shield from insurmountable existential drama.

On a lasting note, Lost In Translation, at its core, seems to be a story about being trapped and wanting to escape. The trap that our characters, that all people, are in is what we may refer to as life; it is the reality of being a conscious human on Earth. With our cage comes conflicts such as meaninglessness, hopelessness and isolation. These conflicts cannot be quashed as they seem to define the rules of our reality; we are not born biologically tethered to the love of our lives and instilled with ultimate knowledge, purpose and meaning. This leaves people searching for an escape, which translates to the construction of our own meaning and the development and nourishing of loving, purposeful relationships. But, whilst being told this is one thing, pursuing it is another, and so there is no end to this movie, there is only a 100 minute cinematic window through which two characters, maybe ourselves, are lifted away from reality with some hopefully meaningful entertainment.

Coraline - Careful What You Wish For

A young girl is lead to an Other World with Other parents when she follows a mouse through a door in a wall.

I use this word an awful lot, but I believe that there are a lot out there: masterpiece. Coraline is a masterpiece. Not only is this a truly affecting movie with genuine horror imbued into its 3D stop-motion thanks to brilliant artistry at every level of production, but Coraline has a script that is frighteningly dense. Within only 95 minutes, Henry Selick, through adapting Neil Gaiman's book, works an impossible amount of profundity into this seemingly unfathomable fairy tale - one with many dark undertones and, for some, much unnerving subtext. Whilst we've seen complexity in the subtext of Selik's films with The Nightmare Before Christmas, it seems that Coraline goes far beyond this with an abstract collision of so many ideas - too many. So, before we jump right into things, I'll preface by emphasising that I believe this to be unfathomable film, one that cannot be exhausted. And so, despite my efforts here to render as diligently as I can an analysis of this film, there will still be much more for you to explore yourself. Before we begin, I'll warn that this is a very long and circuitous post, so strap yourselves in and get comfortable. With that said, let us start...

The crux of Coraline is, loosely, a psychoanalytical idea of an Oedipal, or an Electra, complex. However, I don't believe that Selik shows a comprehensive adherence to a Freudian or Jungian interpretation of what is supposed to be a detailing of the conflicts that can arise between a mother and daughter as the daughter develops. This is because Freud and Jung emphasised the idea that both mother and daughter were competing for possession of the father. We see no direct implication of this throughout Coraline; whilst the mother, Mel, is possessive over the father, Charlie, to varying degrees across her different representations in the film, Coraline shows no real need to control her father. So, instead of depicting the Electra complex as a conflict seated primarily within Coraline, Selik appeals most explicitly to the over-protective mother archetype - the Oedipal mother - which is bound to psychoanalytical thinking and, self-evidently, ideas such as the Oedipal and Electra complex. In abandoning Freudian and Jungian definitions, Selik abstracts the child out these complexes and focuses on the parents - and such a decision seems to be a sensible one in the modern age (one that has seen a decline in the popularity of psychoanalysis since the former half of the 20th century). This is because, whilst Freud's ideas of the Electra complex and "penis envy" make sense when you envelop yourself into the psychoanalytical axiom or thought structuring, when you take ideas outside of such a context, they become quite sour. This is why a term such as "penis envy" - which suggests that, when a daughter realises that she does not have a penis with which to dominate her mother sexually (as the id would desire), she grows envious - would seem either morally corrupt or misogynist to most people who aren't familiar with psychoanalytical thinking, or simply do not accept it. In taking this element of "penis envy", in turn, a motivation within Coraline to possess her father as a means of embracing heterosexual femininity, Selik then not only makes this film more palatable and less abstract, but manages to add his own nuances onto the character of Coraline that suite her persona rather than reduce her to a mere psychoanalytical archetype. With that briefly outlined, we can then interpret the opening image of the film:

As we will later find out in the story, this doll is a representative of a child which the Other Mother, or Beldam, will use to spy on the represented figure and eventually ensare. The Other Mother, considering her as this alone, an "other mother", is a character that is then quite simple; she is the Oedipal mother. This means that she is over-protective to a degree that will damage her child; she wants them to perpetually be an infant from which she can suck love out of - which is why it is said that mothers want to eat their children in this narrative. This isn't an implication of malevolence. As is well-known by all parents or even anyone that has come into a contact with a cute baby, there is an urge within you to squeeze or bite young infants. Again, this isn't malevolent; you don't want to hurt your baby, rather, you do not know how to deal with such frailty and cuteness that you just have to smush the thing. This type of emotion or feeling leads to what is called a "dimorphous expression", and this idea defines the phenomena of acting with aggression and care towards cuteness. It is then thought that mothers want to bite or squeeze their babies as a way of regulating their reaction to perceived stimuli; the baby is so weak and so you understand that it can be destroyed all too easily - all you'd have to do is squeeze its soft head and it'd die - but at the same time you have an overwhelming urge to protect the baby because it is so vulnerable.

As the psychoanalysts outlined, caring for your baby too much is almost as bad as squeezing it to death. This is because, if your 5-year-old still acts like a baby due to it being treated like it were only 6-months-old, it will be rejected by its social groups. And psychologists find that, 1) 2-year-olds are the most aggressive type of human being, and, 2) the primary carers for a child, those that control and guide their maturation, by the time they hit around 4 is no longer their parents, but their friends - and this remains as such for the rest of their lives. So, if a 5-year-old still acts like a baby, a terrible 2-year-old, they will be overwhelmingly impulsive; whilst they experience the most genuine and intense joy, they also experience rage of equal measure - a tantrum. If they cannot control this and become more mature they will not be able to make friends and they will be rejected by their peers. If they then hit social walls when they are 5, they will be left behind whilst other children develop - and the longer a child stays infantalised, the further behind they will fall if, worst case scenario, they never develop the ability to socialise and forever remain 2-year-olds (maybe you know one or two adults somewhat like this). This will leave 'Peter Pan' to develop into an 'adult' that, if they aren't already in ruin, will be incredibly impulsive with only one person looking after them: their mother. And the mother will not have matured along with her child; she has forever remained the protective new parent and has been conditioned to act as if she is taking care of a dribbling 3-month-old. This means that she will never develop an individual life of her own and will only find meaning in her children's love; she will want to eat them to consume their affection. This is the Oedipal mother, and she entirely rationalises dimorphous expression. Mothers, much like anyone confronted with overwhelming cuteness, have to both refrain from violent destruction and compassionate destruction, and hence they experience that overwhelming desire to lovingly bite or squeeze their precious baby. As you could gather, this begins to explain the Other Mother:

However, and this is where this movie becomes abstract, the Other Mother is also referred to as Beldam. "Beldam" means "hag" or "witch", and such a description would align the Other Mother with the archetypal 'evil step mother'.

In not only being an Oedipal, other, mother that Coraline mistakenly wishes for, but also an old hag, it becomes very clear that the connection between Mel, Coraline's actual mother, and Bedlam isn't singularly layered. We can understand this by considering the fact that Mel isn't very old, and never does Coraline really express such an idea (she may call her 'my old mother', but she always means 'past mother', never 'elderly mother'). What's more, and this is the more pressing issue, Beldam has trapped three children - one of whom is Wybie's great aunt.

This unequivocally suggest that Beldam isn't just Coraline's mother, but an archetype that transcends the confines of this family unit. As a result, when we come back to this opening image...

... it makes sense that Beldam strips the other girl, turns her inside out, re-fills her and constructs from her Coraline:

This suggests that the Other Mother is the spirit, or essence, of the Oedipal mother, which in turn implies that the manner in which children are raised propagates down their lineage. So, the fact that Beldam moves on from one 'daughter' to another suggests that the two girls are linked. What we would then assume is that this girl...

... is Mel, Coraline's mother:

However, she is not. That girl is quite clearly (*in my opinion, probably) Wybie's grandmother, Mrs. Lovat:

This is obvious as they not only look similar (notice how these figures are the only women of colour in this story), but also because one of the three trapped children are the grandmother's sister. Before moving on, I must clarify that I do not know who the two other children are. Coraline refers to one girl as an old pioneer girl and the boy Huck Finn Jr. before realising that the third is Wybie's grandmother's lost sister. These possible references to the first waves of American emigrants and then a character from a Mark Twain book do not add up to me, so this is something I have to leave blank. However, coming back to the idea that the doll in the opening shot is Wybie's grandmother, we actually have a debate on our hands.

Is the doll Wybie's grandmother, or is she her sister? Whilst we could argue that the doll is the sister because the Other mother has her trapped, I think the opposite is true. I have to say that this is debatable as, in the screenplay, the doll is described as such:

"The doll - which resembles a YOUNG BLACK GIRL in oldfashioned clothes, hair fixed with ribbons and braids - is placed on a sewing table."

With no name attached to the doll, we are stuck with ambiguity. But, to decipher our way out of the darkness, I think we should return to the idea that Beldam is an Oedipal mother and that Wybie's grandmother lost her sister. We could first rationalise that Beldam would keep the dolls of the children she has ensnared, but would have no use of those that she has lost. Thus, if we imagine that these two sisters...

... had the same Oedipal mother, but only one managed to break free from her (as Coraline does in the film), then the doll that the mother had of her would go to another use: Coraline.

We could then infer that the grandmother's representative was turned inside out to draw Coraline in to the Oedipal mother. This is a detail that I could be convinced functions with the sister, not the grandmother as the doll, but, either way, what this implies is that there is a tangible connection between Coraline and Wybie's grandmother. And we can confirm this with the end of the film; one of the final lines are...

CORALINE: (to Wybie's grandmother) My name is Coraline Jones. I have so much to tell you.

The whole movie seemingly builds up to this meeting. Why? Well, let us turn back to what we initially established. This is an Oedipal tale, one that does not necessarily concern itself with "penis envy". This implies that Coraline is not only about maturation, but a sexual awakening of sorts - and we can understand this through Coraline's age; it seems that she is transitioning into puberty. Because Coraline has no fixation with her father, it seems that Wybie, a potential first love or crush, has been inserted into this narrative. Thus, her conflict with her mother, in turn, ideas of childhood, are all centred on moving into puberty and being sexually awakened. However, one of the biggest conflicts teenagers may have to face when they first get a boyfriend or girlfriend is their parent's reaction - and not just their own parent's reaction; their boyfriend's or girlfriend's parents' reaction too. Thus, a reconciliation with the parents of both parties is pretty essential as they are relinquishing the care of their child onto their chosen partner - especially if the partnership is a serious one (after all, why are brides 'given away' when they are married). Understanding this makes obvious the idea that Coraline has to not only reconcile with her childhood and her mother, but also Wybie's grandmother - and this is exactly why they are connected in this movie.

This is the first major detail that we have to grasp to begin to understand this narrative, and the next concerns the idea of a 'sexual awakening'. After the opening, we see Coraline venture out of the house and run into the Cat...

... which scares her, leaving her to run towards the well:

These are two interesting events that aren't really built up to. Instead, we are left to backtrack once we find out a few things about this narrative. So, concerning the Cat, we have one of many pets in this story. Not only are there Mr. Bobinski's jumping mice, but there are also the dogs that Miss Spink and Miss Forcible keep. Added to this, we later get insects that surround the spider-like Beldam. All creatures in this narrative reflect something about the people they're attached to, and the Cat being attached to Wybie is particularly intriguing. As we later find out, the Cat can move between the real and the Other World as he pleases; it is a game that he and Beldam play. As we have established, one of the biggest conflicts that young sweethearts can face is one another's parents - and having to face an Oedipal mother must be a significant challenge. In fact, the love interest is what the Oedipal mother would fear the most for they are the person that is going to take away their source of love. Your daughter or son falling in love seems to be an inevitability, however. And this seems to be why the Cat (a representative for a love interest) is always at odds with Beldam. However, before we move on from this, there is a very important question that we must ask. Is Coraline's mother, Mel, Beldam; is she an Oedipal mother? The answer: no.

If anything, Mel is the opposite of an Oedipal mother; she is a little distant and neglectful. What we then have to keep in mind as we explore Coraline's sexual awakening is then idea that all the conflict that she faces is, in a certain way, manifested by herself. There could be plenty of reasons for Coraline to project her mother to be Beldam, but there are only two worth considering and one worth keeping. The first idea is that Coraline assumes that her mother would reject her choice of boyfriend. However, this is never really explored in the narrative. Instead, what is concerns Coraline infantalising herself. By wanting constant attention and for her parents to bend to her will, Coraline envisions a world in which she becomes the complete focus; a world that is ruled by the Oedipal mother...

Coraline soon discovers that this Other mother is a tyrant and a poison that will destroy her life and decimate her concept of her parents and of herself. What we must then hold onto as we move forward is the idea that Coraline was then searching for the well - she didn't only stumble upon it after being scared by the Cat (rather, what Wybie represents to her).

The well is in turn another symbol in this narrative that doesn't make any sense until the end. In essence, the well is naivety - which indicates that Coraline looking for the well in the beginning is possibly her trying to escape naivety (though, in a childish manner - a contradiction that seems to lie at the heart of her character as she shifts into puberty). This is poetically outlined with the following line:

Wybie: [The well is] supposed to be so deep that, if you fell into the bottom and looked up, you'd see a sky full of stars in the middle of the day.

This is a very old idea that dates as far back to Aristotle who assumed that, if you had a narrow enough field of vision, the brightness of the sky would be diminished to the point that you could see the heavens twinkling beyond. As a scientific fact, this is just wrong. And I think this is where an element of the naivety surrounding this well is implied. However, I'm struck by this line as the same thing is said in Tarkovsky's film, Ivan's Childhood.

Within his narrative, Tarkovsky seems to use this line bittersweetly. These are in fact words from Ivan's mother than imply that there is always hope no matter how deeply you have fallen into despair; even if you are trapped at the bottom of a dark hole, you still have the chance to see the heavens. But, after seeing his family killed and being thrust into war, such an idea is proved to be conceptually false. Ivan, arguably, then finds no stars to look up to - even if he does, there is an overwhelming bitterness to the sight of them.

To take this idea of hope and map it onto Coraline, we can see a parallel between hope and naivety; Coraline wishes that her parents gave her all the attention she wants, but soon learns that an Oedipal mother is just as good as hell. And this seems to be why she has to throw the key to childish imaginations (which is represented by the Other World) into the well at the end; she has to separate herself from naivety and childishness.

Interestingly enough, Coraline makes this pivotal step of maturation with Wybie at her side, which should indicate that we are ready to jump back into the exploration of her romantic awakening.

With Wybie as the Cat (in a certain sense), who are Mr. Bobinsky and Miss Spinks and Forcible in respect to their mice and dogs? This is something that is quite difficult to figure out as these animals don't reveal their symbolic subtext by themselves. Instead, we can only understand these animals, and in turn their owners, through the hierarchy they form; cat eats mouse, dog chases cat. Whilst things aren't as simple as such, it seems that the conflict that the animals come into speaks volumes. Firstly, the cat stays away from the house of dogs just like Wybie stays away from Miss Spinks and Miss Forcible because his grandmother warns him against them. What's more everyone warns Coraline against Mr. Bobinksy (her mother calls him a drunk). And so the conflict present between the mice and the Cat (Wybie), who comes to be Coraline's protector, implies quite a lot about Bobinsky being perceived as a threat. So, considering all of this conflict, it now makes sense that we recognise the pretty overt sexuality expressed by Mr. Bobinsky, Miss Spinks and Forcible...

This is something, especially the scene with the near-naked Miss Spinks and Miss Forcible, that has always stuck out as quite weird to everyone I have watched this movie with - and I suppose this is because these are the most absurd elements in which the subtext of the film is revealed. What both of these moments point to, however, are the aspects of life that the parents of this narrative try to keep their children naive to. We can understand this through the manner in which Coraline and Wybie are warned against the neighbours, but also with Mel's conservatism...

... conservatism that is made obvious with a juxtaposition to the Other Mother who lets a joke about how good her "golden chicken breasts" are slip by in only the scene before.

It's this refusal to be apart of the loss of Coraline's naivety that is Mel's biggest flaw and the basis of her character arc. However, let's not get ahead of ourselves. This shelter for naivety, which is connected to the symbol of the well, provided by both Wybie's grandmother and Coraline's parents is what primarily fuels the exploration of Mr. Bobinsky's, Miss Spinks' and Miss Forcible's homes. The mice are then something akin to exploration as they lead Coraline into the Other World:

Some questions we must ask here, however, are: are the mice bad? And, metaphorically, what have they got to do with Mr. Bobinski? To answer the latter first, the mice seem to encapsulate the idea of imagination; they lead Coraline to envisage Mr. Bobinski as a man that can communicate with mice and organise them into a performing troop (which he also believes himself to be able to do). Is this imagination a good thing? Is Mr. Bobinski just a delusional drunkard? The answer to this is complex and is actually the same as asking, is the Other World good? After all, whilst Coraline finds a lot of trouble in this place, just like Alice does as she falls down the rabbit role, she emerges the better for it. This implies that the mice are bad - that, if they are thought to be the performing mice that they seemingly are not, they become rats in disguise. Their job then seems to be to lure Coraline into a world in which she confronts childhood, maturity and sexuality - and Wybie is a significant aspect of this. The subtle sexuality...

... which could be interpreted to be symbolised by the mouse dance, and that Bobinski comes to represent with the show that he puts on for Coraline and the Other Wybie whilst they're on a 'date' is then cautionary. Bobinski may be a little crazy and he may have a bad past with women, which is why he may be single, but he doesn't seem malevolent. The same can be said for Miss Spinks and Miss Forcible.

This Shakespearean poem that they recite concerning Sirens and Sea Goddesses implies that these two figures are also alone because of their pasts with men - which is constantly hinted at between the two as they quarrel. However, if they are not romanticised to be great performers in their younger forms (much like Bobinski is), Miss Spinks and Miss Forcible become very helpful figures. Whilst Bobinski essentially sends Coraline into the Other World through his mice, Miss Spinks and Miss Forcible allow her to step out of it with perspective:

Thus, Coraline, after she has stepped into the world of her dreams in which she is pampered, only to realise that reality, however mundane or annoying, is what she prefers, then must reconcile with the sexual elements of Mr. Bobinski, Miss Spinks and Miss Forcible as well as understand their downfalls. As a result, not only is Mr. Bobinski seen as the slightly nutty old man who parades around in vests and too short shorts...

... and not only are Spinks and Forcible seen as a little too comfortable in their own skin...

... but everyone is recognised to be performers. This means that they hold deceptive facades that, if understood as such can be harmless entertainment, but, if took too seriously can be misleading. Thus, learning to see Bobinski, and so men, as potentially an empty sack of rats...

... implies to Coraline that men can put on performances on something like first dates. And an interesting caveat to this is certainly Wybie's clothes hanging outside Bobinski's house.

The Other Mother seems to drain him and put him on display to warn Coraline against him - and after bringing to two together on their date (but, on disingenuous terms; Wybie is made silent - and this is not true of reality; Wybie talks a lot and Coraline will have to reconcile with this if they are to be friends). But, whilst Coraline learns and comes to terms with the manner in which men may be deceitful through Bobinski, she learns of the same thing in respect to women through Spinks and Forcible.

Not only does Coraline not want to own dozens of dogs as sources for affection, dog's that, because they are not humans, seemingly suck away the opportunity for genuine human interaction...

... but, Coraline doesn't want to be an entanglement of a sweet past that turned stale and hard over time:

In turn, through these three figures and their pets, Coraline seems to learn a lot - which contributes to the idea that she has to mature knowing how other's can help her. And it's knowing that, the idea of acknowledging the help of others, that seems to be the solution to battling the Oedipal mother; instead of clinging to this one figure, Coraline must utilise her social group. Coraline figures this out when she is presented with the buttons.

As we have touched on, perspective is everything in this movie. Coraline is gaining this through her experiences in the Other World and by figuring out how she is wrong in the manner in which she perceives people and her own desires. When she is presented with the buttons, she realises that Beldam is the suffocating Oedipal mother that wants to eat her - and so she tries to escape.

However, she wakes up in the Other World. It's here where she realises that grave mistakes don't just evaporate; the elements of her persona that yearn infantalisation and the Oedipal mother must be confronted. And so, from here, Coraline stands up to her Other mother...

... who assures that "even the proudest spirit can be broken... with love" - perfect words to surmise what the Oedipal mother wants. However, in standing up to her, her parasitic and insect-like nature is revealed:

This leads to Coraline being thrown behind a mirror...

... and into a purgatory of sorts with the three other ghost children until she learns to be a 'loving daughter'. Behind the mirror, Coraline has to then reflect upon the idea of hope and naivity, of seeing a sky full of stars in the middle of the day from the bottom of a deep well:

In such, Coraline is confronted with the trap that the Oedipal mother can present, but also the notion of perspective that we have already covered. This occurs through her meeting with the three children who offer her a way out of this purgatory in the form of responsibility; she has to recover their ghost eyes.

Because we have indirectly discussed two of these ghost eyes already, we won't delve too deeply into this. In short, the perpetual damnation of the three ghosts is what ensures Coraline must return (on top of the loss of her parents). But, having come back to the great aunt...

... we must again ask a question. What does this narrative conflict have to do with Wybie's grandmother and her sister?

Remembering that it was Wybie who pulled Coraline out of the mirror, it seems that he is willing to save her from her problems as long as she refuses to recognise them. After all, back in the real world in the next scene, Wybie runs out on Coraline, calling her crazy, when she tries to explain to him what went on in the Other World (compare this to the end when he realises she was right).

This suggests that part of Coraline's journey is staying in contact with Wybie who, along with Mr. Bobinskie, started her on this path of assessing her childish yearnings for attention. As a result, we can see the maturity and reconciliation with the Oedipal mother as catalysed by the grandson of Mrs. Lovat to be a quest made for, as suggested previously, not just Coraline, but her parents and the carer of her possible love interests too. So, the link between Coraline, Mrs. Lovat and her sister may be based on the fact that Mrs. Lovat's sister fell prey to an Oedipal mother. To confront these demons laced throughout the small community around the Pink Palace seems to be Coraline and Wybie's joint task.

This seems to be why, like Pinnochio has to venture into the belly of the whale, Coraline has to return to the Other World after escaping to not only save her parents, but recover the ghost eyes. Furthermore, the reconciliation with many of the demons and conflicts that Coraline comes into contact with can only be sealed when she turns her back on the key to, and the guiding hand of, the Oedipal mother - which are in this bag:

To bring things towards a conclusion, we must then touch on the only ghost eye, or conflict, that we haven't yet mentioned:

As we have alluded to many times now, this story is centred on Coraline's maturation and an awakening; but she cannot do this alone, she in fact needs help from every character in this narrative - all of whom have issues that she must come to terms with. But, whilst Coraline must learn to put up with Wybie and maybe confront the fact that she likes him; whilst she must come to terms with the eccentric performers about her (Mr. Bobinski, Miss Spinks and Miss Forcible), she must also reconcile with her parents. As has been mentioned, Coraline doesn't have an Oedipal, over-protective mother or father, instead, they are sometimes cold, sometimes distant and do not often engage her as she is growing up. What she then wants them to do is help her tend her garden; she wants them to help her bloom.

This is the egocentric element of her character and is a large part of what gets her into trouble with the Oedipal mother who constructs a sinister fantasy for her. However, in seeing both of her parents most extreme caricatures - just as she sees the most extreme caricatures of her childish fantasies with Wybie, Mr. Bobinski, Miss Spinks and Miss Forcible - Coraline has a chance to enter reality with fresh eyes. This is why her father becomes a puppet at the piano and her mother a spider; they become her ultimate ideal and then worst nightmare, which allows her to return home and see them for who they really are. And because Coraline takes that initial step, she manages to free her parents from her memory of childhood...

... which is what this snow globe represents, and in turn the whole community around her seems to come together to help her grow and flourish.

Having hopefully covered most of the major elements of this narrative, I think it is now a little more clear that this is an inexhaustible story; there are so many details that I haven't been able to mention. Beyond that, however, I hope it has also become apparent that Coraline is about a few key things: perspective, maturation, awakening and change. Taking these tools, I hope you can re-watch this film and find more than I have.

Primer - Complex Small-Scale Sci-Fi

A pair of garage scientists stumble upon the discovery of time travel.

Made for $7,000, with a crew of 5 and with Shane Carruth serving as producer, writer, director, cinematographer, actor, composer and editor, Primer is about as independent and low-budget as movies can get. With or without this taken into consideration, Primer is an overwhelmingly impressive film. By embracing its sometimes grimy, sometimes homely, always simple locations, Carruth then captures a pretty professional aesthetic that is backed up by solid acting and a brilliant script.

On the note of the script, I have to raise my hands in submission; I won't pretend that I fully understand this movie - and this is certainly one that not everyone will appreciate, but quite a few will after a few re-watches. However, Primer isn't impossible to follow along as you don't need to understand all the scientific allusions and every detail of this hugely convoluted plot. Carruth has been quite clear with intentions with this movie. Not only did he want to realistically portray what it is like to make a scientific discovery, but chose to focus on the implications of said discovery on a relationship. In such, not understanding the science of this movie is apart of our characters' journey as well as an inevitability of being an outsider looking in. And this only allows us to concentrate on the conflict that develops between Aaron and Abe, leaving this to be a humanising story of two men confronting unfathomable ideas of the future and chance.

Beyond much of this, Primer was a hugely inspiring movie to me when I first came across it. This is because science fiction has almost always been a complex and high-budget form of filmmaking. One of the first grand and hugely popular sci-fi fantasy films was A Trip To The Moon from 1902, and it had an unusually (for that time) large budget. Another great piece of sci-fi cinema that bookended the silent era was then Fritz Lang's 1927 film Metropolis, which, when it first came out, was the most expensive film ever made in Germany. Throughout the 40s, 50s and 60s, American sci-fi films were sometimes high-budgeted, but usually had more humble budgets - often as B pictures or monster movies. But, as we moved into the modern age with ever bettering technology, sci-fi epics rose to domination through films such as 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Planet Of The Apes movies. It was then, of course, Star Wars that was one of the first major, and most significant, New Hollywood era epic sci-fi films. Proceeding this, the 80s were rife with films such as Blade Runner, Back To The Future, Aliens, Terminator, Tron and E.T. Transitioning into the 90s we had Jurassic Park, more from the Terminator series, Independence Day and The Matrix. And now in the contemporary period, sci-fi fantasy completely rules in the form of the superhero movies alongside films such as Inception, Arrival, Interstellar, The Martian, Avatar, The Planet of The Ape series, Mad Max and Star Trek.

You will always find examples of low-budget sci-fi films - especially from the 60s onwards - but, there are few I know of that have an impact like Primer, or that will be discussed in the same conversation as all of the mentioned films. What this movie then inspired within me was not so much the idea that anyone could make movies, rather, that sci-fi could exist in alternate forms to what we classically perceive it to be. What Carruth then does with Primer is show science fiction realistically and with a focus on the complex implications that scientific endeavours present individuals and societies. Primer can then be perceived as the 1954 Godzilla of modern science fiction. Though it was produced and made in Japan, if we compare Godzilla to other popular films produced in 1954, we can recognise just how modest its budget was. On The Water Front: $910,000. Rear Window: $2 million. Sabrina: $58 million. Godzilla: $175,000 (USD). Despite this relatively small budget, Godzilla transcends its genre and the box office with the complexity and layers of its story - and Primer has done the same thing in a far more intense manner. Consider the best films of 2004 and their budgets. The Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind: $20 million. Kill Bill vol. 2: $30 million. The Incredibles: $92 million. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: $130 million. Spider-Man 2: $200 million. Primer: $7,000.

Primer, in my view, is undoubtedly the most impressive film to come out in its year, and with the micro-budget that it used to create such an immense and intricate story, the film seems to be a miracle of sorts. The most interesting point of comparison would of course be The Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind. Its budget is relatively modest, and it is a complex film, but the statement that Eternal Sunshine represents in comparison to Primer is almost unsubstantial. Primer seems to say that the heart of sci-fi, that being the projection of philosophy through the lens of the natural and technological world, can be so much more than epic in scale; it can be reservedly staggering in its most dormant and realist of states. And this is why Primer has remained such an inspiring film to me.

I think I could go to the moon, single-handedly colonise Mars, win 17 Oscars and release 47 bestselling books - none of these things I plan to, or want to, achieve - but, nonetheless, I don't think I could imagine, even after doing all of that, that someone would read to the end of this. If you've just scrolled down here without reading... for shame... for shame... but I think I write these words at the bottom of a deep, lonely well. If you reading this are proof of something otherwise... well, I think we should both keep our eyes closed and mouths shut. Either way, thanks for reading.

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