Monday, December 7, 2009

Being John Malkovich - Holy Existential Batman!

So, one of my favorite movies of all time, Being John Malkovich, is probably one of the most existential movies I've ever seen. Below is the trailer in case you haven't had the pleasure of seeing it. Now I will say, if you haven't seen it, you'll want to, so I apologize in advance for ruining it.

Where to begin? This movie deals with language, everydayness, responsibility, death, meaning-making, and ridiculous amounts more. The film can arguably, perhaps unfairly, broken down like this: conflicting freedoms who resent their present lives, and will do anything to live forever. In this case, living forever means sacrificing your own body to live within another (a vessel, as its termed). This vessel happens to be the fiery John Malkovich. Why? I have no idea. Craig Schwartz (John Cusack) discovers a portal within his 5 foot tall office which leads into John Malkovich's head. Once inside, Craig (and anyone else who enters the portal) can live as Malkovich until eventually taking full control of his body. All that enter Malkovich's head also get a sort of sexual satisfaction (often feeling as though John's encounters are their own, alowing many to commit a form of adultery and many others to simply have sex as John Malkovich). Craig's experience becomes an addiction, which he begins to sell to other 'everyday-ers'. They keep coming back to re-experience the Malkovich ride, exemplifying their own dissatisfaction with their current lives. They fear making bold, free decisions that they can make while inside of another body, deflecting any real personal responsibility onto Malkovich.

Back to the vessel idea. Craig soon discovers that he can fully control Malkovich. He then uses Malkovich's socail standing to become what he's always wanted to be, a famous puppeteer. In doing so, he is forced to completely deletes the Craig Schwartz that used to be. In the end, a struggle for the vessel occurs. In order to illustrate my next point, a few things have to be outlined. So, here goes my best attempt at explaining something I still have trouble grasping. The vessel (John Malkovich) has always existed, from generation to generation. It just so happens that Malkovich is the current vessel. Just after the vessel's 44th (I think it's 44) birthday, any who enter the vessel will live on to the next generation, enabling to live forever. However, those still inside the vessel at the time of the 44th birthday, are trapped within the next vessel forever, having to sit and watch others live their lives within, never being able to escape.

So, Craig is inside the vessel at the time of its birthday, therefore sentencing him to watch from within another for the rest of eternity. This is the most unfree situation I can imagine, but even then, I realize that he is able to speak, but cannot do anything else at all. In the end, Craig sacrificed all the freedom he had in order to be someone other than himself, just to be sentenced to the most unfree existence imaginable. You can see how much is here. You could write forever on the stuff in this movie. There's so much more, and I'm doing this film a terrible injustice by not going the full mile, but it's late, and I'm tired.

Seriously though, watch it. You won't be disappointed.

1 comment:

  1. Most existentialist would say that this person was week. I didn't really care for the movie because he has to rely on someone else, and be someone else in order to be successful. It is a guy who is unable to make his own meaning, and has to live with the meaning that John Malkovich makes


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