Four Movies about Escape

(watch it from 1:49 minute)

This is the scene from the movie Dogfight (1991) byNancy Savoca. For me this is one of those moments when something so profound is articulated so easily. This scene in particular lays out in a most precise ways how social groups  and communities function.

Main operation of any social formation or society  appears to be getting rid of the truth and honesty from the social exchanges while at the same time rigorously argue for significance of the same truth, honesty and dignity.

The movie shows that Lie has a quality of glue in a social relationships, it sticks people together. It is this glue that bound this soldiers together and make them very close friends in this movie… Through this collective forgetfulness (or forgive-fulness) about each other they are able to bound. Berzin knows about Eddie that he didn’t slept with officers daughter but with lonely, ugly Rose, and even worse fell in love with her, on the contrary Eddie knows that Berzil didn’t win the Dogfight contest fairly and that he was cheating all the way through. And other two guys pretending to be asleep and not hear their conversation at all. Despites that nobody can deny that they are indeed very close friends I would say precisely because of that they have become even better friends.

… Whereas truth separates, destroys, disintegrates…  just take good old fashion example from the Bible. Take one of the first civil war that was recorded and written down on the paper. Moses comes down from mountain of Sinai, where he just received “Ultimate Truth” carved out in stone – The Ten Commandment. What he sees is that Nation that he left just month ago with a strong faith in ONE God now (very united apparently) worships golden cult.  He didn’t waste his time preaching piece and unity… he simply said who ever is on the side of truth take your arms and fight. Here is Moses possessing the words of GOD, the ultimate truth (Ten Commandments) in his hands, and his truth does not unite, but it separates… it provokes the civil war not piece. Fast forward couple of hundred years and same thing happens in New Testament.  We all know the famous words of Jesus:

–  “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword.

“For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; “and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’ Etc… etc…

Remember the story about the End of times, second coming? it is also marked with the same action of “separation”. When the lams will be separated from the goats, rights from wrong, lefts from the right.

Later, church founders wore smart enough to draw the “healthy” conclusions from their masters tragic faith and understood that they won’t be able to establish kingdom of God on Earth without considering this basic principle that is so well articulated in this scene of Dogfight:

–       You hit me with little, I buy it… I hit you with little you buy it… It doesn’t makes us idiots, that’s what makes us buddies. – Meaning, that’s what makes us Christians, that’s what makes us community, thats what makes us friends and  family. That’s what makes us leftists or rightists…

Any time this equilibrium is disturbed everything falls apart.  This is perhaps what Jean Baudrillard would call Transparency of Evil. He describes this crystal clear transparent membrane that surrounds everything and everybody, it is so transparent you can’t see it. It is as though it doesn’t exist, you do not drop the shadow on it, and it wouldn’t reflect you either.

Don’t worry I do not mean to bring an example from movie Matrix… But yes, the next movie is a futuristic genre movie and it is even older than Matrix.  I want to continue with movie that has the greatest title ever – Total Recall (1990) by Paul Verhoeven.

You have all seen it I assume, so I’m not going to make lengthy descriptions. Besides unforgettable imagery of tree-breasted women, which still dwells in my childhood’s erotic memory, there is one aspect in the movie that makes it worthy to watch again. Namely, how is the idea of REALITY sold to a main character in this movie. He should NOT remember who he really is. (Because he was revolutionary in past) so in order for the main character to forget his true identity system inserts him in new reality where he has beautiful wife, good friend, job etc… (in fact his wife is not just another women but Sharon Stone herself. A blond women as opposed to brunet freedom fighter, whom he is really in love but he doesn’t not remember that,… I didn’t saw this funny detail but my friend (woman) pointed it out to me saying: never overlook the blond and brunet dialectics in cinema)

The idea here is that your closest friends, your loved ones are the guards and agents of illusion, selling you the idea that our life is the REAL one, it is really “for real”. They are given to him as signifiers of reality. And in fact the main character is so totally surrounded by this REALITY that, only thing he has is his gut feeling that something is not quit right. There is almost no evidence for him to acknowledge this illusion surrounding him without him being perceived as nut case and crazy. In order for him to see through this absolute transparency of his ordinary life, his wife and friends, very advanced “futuristic” mode of life, shortly everything what he perceives as REALITY – he has to do one simple operation – Total Recall. This is the main plot in the movie; the rest is really just Hollywood freak-show.

And again, truth is becoming very destructive (in this case very Hollywood style destructive)…  so he (Mr Arnold himself) will go ahead and kills tones of people to get to this truth…

Total recall and Escape is the topic of another movie (not as old as the previews ones), that develops the idea of movie Total recall even further. The movie is called Eternal Sunshine of Spotless Mind 2004 by Michel Gondry it articulates method of Escape much further.

After the unsuccessful relationship couple breaks up and in willingness to forget the painful memories main-character goes to a doctor to erase all the memories of this relationship. While undergoing this procedure Jim Carrys character figures out that as painful as this memories are, they are essential for his identity as a person. But the procedures have already started and they are very advanced. Folder by folder doctor erases all the memories of his ex-girlfriend from every place they supposed to be stored in his brain. What patient experiences is utter destruction, the whole mental constriction of his REALITY is being destroyed. It is then when he comes up with brilliant idea to hide the memories of her in the places where no doctor would look for. In the places and memories where they not supposed to be. In childhood for example,…(for doctor would never guess that the memories of his ex-girlfriend would be stored as far back as 20 years ago), in the shameful episode of his life  when other kids forced him to kill the wounded pigeon and out of fear being seen as weak he smashes the bird with a hammer…. Many other episodes like this. basically, he is forced to hide the memories in his the innermost private sections of his personality.

And here the movie develops the idea of total recall even further, because Jim Carry’s character not only should recall who he really is like Arnold Schwarzenegger in Total Recall but never stay too long with one particular memory, one particular identity (He should never get too sentimental about it, if you like) because he might get caught. Here, the character should be constantly on run not to be erased completely. He should develop much more dynamic way of dealing with his own identity. One that reinvents, recreates and reinterprets everything again and again.  Only this way is it possible for him to make this Escape.

I think it’ll be nice to finish with the movie with successful escape, where the hero against all the odds reaches his horizon, and breaks through his transparency – this is the movie “The Truman Show” (1998) by Peter Weir. It corresponds reality show culture and in some sense us as a products of it.

It is an escape story and again friends, loved one are the ones who are the agents of so called REALITY for the main character. Truman is preconditioned be delusional, because all his life he lived in reality show, he was born in reality show after all. Once again only thing the main character has is his gut feeling that something is not quit right and some things doesn’t add up. I’m not going to talk about the whole movie, I just want to show you the final moment in the movie which is one of the most beautiful cinematographic scene ever. It is when after so much struggle to escape main character Truman finally reaches the edge of his world, reaches the horizon of his REALITY and at that moment the ship knocks on the wall and breaks it in. and suddenly the sky and a horizon that was so real for him for all his life becomes just a superficial wall painted as a cloudy sky and sun that always shone throughout his life was just very powerful studio projector.

I hope it is clear by now why did I group these movies together and why in this sequence. But anyway let me underline and quickly go through them. In the first movie Dogfight lie is glue for the social structures and possible root to escape, in second movie Total Recall character should recall himself, his “true identity” in order to escape and finally here in the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind not only that he should recall but never stay too long with it but be on the run all the time if he wants to Escape.

Escape here means to be one step ahead in order to succeed. It doesn’t mean to be wiser then everybody else, or stronger then everybody else. Because there is always someone stronger then you are and it is impossible to be wiser and smarter than everybody else. But you should be one step ahead in your own total recollection, in your self awareness and self-consciousness, only this way can you make a great escape from transparency of your REALITY or REALITIES around you. One step ahead means the ability to constantly invent and reinvent places where no system and no ideology can reach and penetrate. Places hidden or unknown not only to a grander systems watching over you and ideologies absorbing you but may be hidden and unknown even from you – and this is where PERSONAL really becomes POLITICAL.

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