Borgman – Hide Your Kids From The Philosophical Boogeyman

Thoughts On: Borgman

A vagrant terrorises an upper-class family.

Borgman

Ok, this is a film that poses as a surreal piece with a twisted, complex narrative. It’s not. This is merely an ambiguous film with all exposition sucked out of it. What it wants is for you to interpret it, to give it your own meaning – which we’ll do – but, I don’t think ambiguity and complexity are synonymous, merely attributable, meaning, this film is as profound or complex as you want it to be. This may sound like I don’t like the film, but I think it technically very good, but hasn’t got much about it that’s very special. This is because Borgman is just a more convoluted version of Luis Buñuel’s Viridiana. And of course, Buñuel is a ground-breaking auteur, a pioneer in the surrealist movement with pictures such as:

      

Borgman, in short wants to be among these pictures. In my opinion, it’s not quite there. We can see this in the comparison to Viridiana. This film is about being made the fool, of letting kindness mask judgement. It follows a woman who aspires to be a nun who is sent to her uncle’s home, who she hates, where he tries to seduce because she resembles his deceased wife. In the end, she opens the home to poor people, giving them an inch but only allowing them room enough to steal as many miles as they please. This is Borgman in a more succinct narrative. Make no mistake though, I think Borgman is a great picture, so let’s not pass it off before analysing.

The best way to get into the film is with its opening quote and then multiple posters. We’ll start with the opening quote:

“And they descended upon the Earth to strengthen their ranks”

This sounds like a bible verse, right? It’s not. It’s designed to seem this way, possibly to imply a religious lesson in the film. For it to do this insinuates a critique of religion and the Christian perspective of life and philosophy. We can see this explicitly in the line ‘Christ is a bloody bore… he’s only interested in himself’. We’ll come back to this line later, but for now let’s concentrate on the quote above. As said, this is not from the bible, just a mere imitation, probably meant to mock the audience and religious practice simultaneously. The biggest question concerning the quote is of the ‘they‘. Who is descending? The first interpretation could come with the opening to the film. It starts with a farmer, a priest, and another man hunting down Borgman and his accomplices – who all live in holes under the ground. They are all characterised as being vagrants, people who just wander the Earth. For me the best way to look at these characters are as postmodern archetypes. This means they appeal to an idea of lawlessness, of the complete absence of definites – meaning there is no right way to live life (but there kind of is at the same time). On the other hand, the characters that chase them down are archetypal fundamentalists, they believe in work and they believe in God, meaning, love, compassion, and so on. For them to descend is similar to Angels, messengers of God, coming down from heaven. This fits nicely into the image painted by the imposing bible quote and the critique of religion inherent within it. Angels are demonised to object to the concept of God, of true answers and guidance through life. This gives reason for later elements of sexuality and of the lead woman being lured out of family life and into destruction. ‘They‘ being the farmer, priest and man of another time is my favourite interpretation of the quote as it also feeds into the title: Borgman. Borgman is a name that was given to landlords in the middle ages who worked for the King’s royal aristocracy. To give this name to a vagrant is to be ironic. This name is a facade Camiel puts up to get into the house. He pretends to be respectful, but also of a time passed, introducing a theme of history and ages into the film. We’ll come to all that later though. Before that, the ‘they‘ in the quote above could also be the vagrants themselves. This aligns with the end of the film in that they are building a society or army of vagrants, of postmodern thinkers. This means they are also fallen angels, making the interpretation all the more sensical. The last interpretation of ‘they‘ is that the upper-class family are taking over the world, which again links into ideas of tradition and the change the modern world has endured. Quote analysed, let’s look at the posters of the film. There’s quite a few (8)…

1. This is about control, the control Borgman has over the family. The key image here is the paper cut-outs with the string tying the family members together. This calls to the end of the film with the strange ballet dance with the ribbons. As a side note, there’s a point early on in the film where the family walk past a ballerina in their garden without noticing her. What this means, I’ll leave up to you. Anyway, the cut-outs are all about family ties. The concept her is:

I AM – WE ARE

This is intrinsically linked to Descartes’: I think, therefore I am.  This is a solipsistic look at life. If you believe you exist, you can’t trust the fact that others do also. This means your only justification for them being alive is that you created them, that because you are, so are they, that ‘we are‘. However, the film is about the dangers of this mind-set. If you think everyone should be alike, should believe exactly what you do, then you’re giving yourself ultimate power – which Borgman assumes. You could also link this to the family and modernity, in the lack of individuality we push on each other and children. This leaves the question of who is right, Borgman or the family? That’s up to you.

  

2. This is a simple one. It’s a reference to the thinker (the statue above). This again links to postmodernism and Borgman being a superior mind. He thinks whereas the family do not.

3. This is the catalysing image explaining why Borgman kills. We’ll come to this with the story he tells to the children about the pond and the white child. But, in short, this means that because you let Borgman into your home, you are essentially killing yourself. Borgman is metaphorically killing you with an idea of philosophy that’s symbolised by the monster that apparently looms at the bottom of deep waters.

4. One of the final images of Borgman dancing. This makes clear that he has no interest in women, merely luring Marina into a trap. This is a key image of neglect, of self destruction, putting the blame of the tragedy of the film onto Marina herself. This is her story, she essentially dictates everything that happens here.

5. This is simple. This is how Borgman manipulates the family, it’s his strange ritual that follows all the major changes in how characters perceive each other. Note here that Borman is made to look God-like. This reference to religion explains why the ritual works. He appeals to every anti-conservative idea in Marina. Again, he’s luring her into a trap through sexuality. He looms over her dreams, literally naked, changing her internal thought processes through psychological conditioning.

6. This is a little abstract, but quite simple. We can see Borgman’s face falling of his head. This is a visual metaphor for his transformation, of his capacity to cheat others. On top of his head in the forest. Here there’s the link into what is natural and makes clear the commentary on religion in the film. Borgan lives in the forest in the beginning because he believes in naturalism within humans, in postmodern reprieve. We are supposed to be wanderers, vagrants in other words. This is why he goes out into the world collecting others to join him. He doesn’t trust religious teaching. Moreover, not so many people are religious any more, but (in his opinion) still need guidance. Also there’s another reference to the thinker with Borgman crouched down. Moreover, this is an animalistic image, linking into ideas of fundamental naturalism in postmodernity again.

7. Another simple image. Again, sexuality, but the image is upside down to show the convolution, the trap Borgman sets. Also, we have natural imagery again.

8. The final image of Borgman’s victims. This explains the ritual we see throughout the film. Putting the bucket on the victims heads to ensure they plunge to great depths as never to be found implies the victims sink because of their brains – their minds, their mind-sets. For the weight to be put upon their head could be the weight of Borgman’s philosophy that they ultimately couldn’t comprehend.

Now you should have a pretty good idea of the film, let’s explore the story Borgman sneaks into the children’s bedroom to tell. I’m paraphrasing here to shorten the story, but it’s accurate nonetheless.

A white child stood on the edge of a lake in the forest. She was very wary as she knew that whilst the lake was not very large, it was very deep, as deep as a block of flats is tall. Something was alive in these waters, a beast with scales, a beak, 500 sharp teeth. It guarded a golden key to happiness. The white child cried. It could not dive deep enough to fetch this key.

When the white child went missing a search party was organised. People prayed in the church to Jesus, but we all know that Jesus is a bloody bore and is only interested in himself. Heavily armed divers went to the bottom of the lake. 15 minutes later they came up trembling with fear, unable to speak. The villagers asked what they saw, and after a while, they replied that ‘it’s no use, the beast is too big. The child has been swallowed anyway’. The mother falls to the ground and weeps, crying, ‘I want my baby back’. The villagers reply ‘you can’t mean that. The child would be half digested by now.’ In response the mother asked if there was ‘no one brave enough to get my baby?’ Antonius, a cripple stepped forward, saying he would fetch her. The mother kissed his hands.

This explains the film in its entirety. Firstly, there is the white child. This is  double-entendre. White means both pure and Caucasian. The child is both naive and western. This is important as it links into the guilt the mother expresses for being western. This is seen best through the teddy bear incident. The girl fills her toy with mud, with the Earth, ruining the it. The mother is outraged, saying that nothing should be intentionally broken in her house because a child in a third world country probably slaved over it. This guilt is essentially her hamartia, it’s what kills her. Doubting yourself allows Borgman to infiltrate your home and apply his own nihilistic ideas, killing you and taking your family. In this sense Borgman really is a boogey man for the modern age and for adults alike. Marina is the only person at fault here. She is the exact same character Viridiana is. She accepts this idea that she is a nurse (which Borgman convinces her she is – and so how to act). In doing so, she gives him an inch and he takes a mile. But, going back to the little girl. She is both naive and white so Borgman can change her, raise her as his own little nihilist. This film is then largely about parenting, about confidence in your own outlook on life, in your own philosophies so that you can teach your children, guide them through life before someone else snatches their hand away from you. This is what the huge creature represents – truth, one’s own view of the world – the guard of the golden key to happiness. Marina allows her children to slip into a mindless cycle as she doesn’t teach them any thing about life. This is why the school runs, but more importantly the Nanny is so important. She is a young woman incapable of caring for the children. It should be the mother’s job, but she pays it off. Irresponsibility is a huge theme here. Also, this is why Borgman is a gardener. He tends their garden. He controls how the children blossom. In this we can see the monster as ambiguity in itself, the question of life, of purpose. The children dive into these deep waters as they grow, go to school, ask questions – they are devoured by the monster. The mum refuses to jump in after them, instead asks someone else to (the school, Nanny, father). Who comes forward? A crippled man: Borgman. This is the film in a nutshell, he seduces the mother and takes her kids from her. He does this by conditioning the her and sedating the family (with his weird drinks). Over the course of the film Borgman works his way into the family by turning the mother against sense and against family. This also occurs with the father, but not so centrally. The father is primarily used to critique the way in which we conduct ourselves in a capitalist society. But this is all clear in the film.

That’s everything. I missed a few details such as the animalistic imagery on the T.V, with the domesticated dogs and the wolves alike – but they should be pretty self-explanatory when you re-watch the film now. There’s also the image of the eggs that bookend the film. Borgman has his cracked in the beginning, but in the end his accomplices are frying some. In the beginning he has no followers, no young people, fresh eggs. In the end he’s got some and is ready to start the conditioning. So, to summarise, this is a film about responsibility in parents. It’s about not being made the fool of, of not doubting yourself because of your place in history and in the world. What this film implores is that we think, develop our own philosophies, not rely on religion, and pass our life lessons onto our children.

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Pinocchio – An Imperfect Wish

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Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs – Purity, Innocence, Insanity

Thoughts On: Snow White

This is the start of a new series…

The Disney Series

Running away from her evil stepmother that wants to kill her a young girl stumbles upon the home of seven dwarfs.

snow white

First of all, shouldn’t it be dwarves? I think dwarfs is the common and preferred spelling, but I’m with Tolkien. Dwarves makes more sense. I mean: wolves not wolfs, scarves not scarfs, right? On the other hand you could argue barfs not barves. I don’t know why you’d want to though. Nonetheless, dwarfs is what I’ll use here I suppose. Sorry for the boring semantics, let’s get on with it. Ok, so most people will be familiar with the concept that the seven dwarfs represent the seven stages of cocaine addiction, playing into the euphemism of ‘snow white’. This is quite an interesting take away from the film, with solid enough evidence, but I don’t like it much. This is because it doesn’t tie into the film’s narrative too well, apart from saying that the woman was a nutty addict who was paranoid, but more so delusional. I see no intentional message in this theory apart from: don’t do drugs. But then, umm… Dumbo? Alice In Wonderland? They aren’t great anti-drug campaigns are they? So, instead, Snow White is better interpreted as meaning purity. But before we start the analysis from this assumption, let’s make clear that this is a somewhat conservative film, but it’s not sexist. People love to throw this at all the old films. You see this in the massive objection to princesses and I guess this follows the way in which all art has changed over the last century or so. It has been put into the hands of the everyday person, taken out of the selfish grips of the rich. This means that art doesn’t portray kings, queens and higher class as much today, instead: us average Joes. And when kings and queens are depicted, well, it’s not in a flattering light. Game Of Thrones anyone? Anyway, I’m getting off point. What I’m trying to say is that princesses have been shunned a little in animation. This is most obvious with Pixar. They’re tied to Disney and they’ve only ever made 1 film featuring a princess and that was Brave. Whilst I don’t think this is a bad thing, I also don’t see any harm in the older ‘princess’ films. In this I mean I don’t think they portray harmful messages to little girls at all. They’re almost always about personal strength and perseverance. Whilst some characters do want men, they don’t need them. Which one of these princesses is a weak damsel in distress?

At most you could argue Snow White or Sleeping Beauty. I disagree though. We’ll come to Sleeping Beauty another time, but hopefully we’ll debunk the Snow White claim today. The biggest criticism you could give any of these characters is that they’re a bit naive, or dumb (Ariel). Firstly, we’re dealing with teenagers most of the time, so… what do you expect? But, we’re also playing into childish fantasy. Characters can be naive because their worlds aren’t very dangerous – they’re places where true love exists, come on. If anything people should be concerned with the princes. But, you know what? Who cares? Not men. We’re just not the kind to care about our portrayal in movies. Why? We’re lazy I suppose – or just comfortable in ourselves. Uh-oh. Let’s not go down that path. On we go…

Ok, as touched on already, Snow White is about an idea of purity, of celibacy in a certain sense. Boring, I know, but the mechanics of how this is told is quite interesting. Before we can get into metaphors and symbols though, we have to look at the set-up. First, there’s the evil stepmother. This is a very interesting image, but more so, a cultural phenomena. Stepmothers just are evil. Why? Well, you could argue in this day and age it has something to do with parents divorcing and finding ‘better’ partners, which evokes a lot of spite from many perspectives in the family – especially from a kid stuck in the middle. But, the evil stepmother is an image dating way back to the 1600s with the Brothers Grimm, who of course wrote both Snow White and Cinderella. By the way, divorce was first legalised (in England) in 1857 and was quite rare until nearly 100 years later. So, that idea of torn kids kind of goes out the window here. However, stepmothers were somewhat common back in the 1600s as they’d replace a mother who had passed away. So, these women are trying to fill a huge void in a child’s life – which must be a colossal challenge, possibly insurmountable. This means that the attribution of ‘evil stepmother’ could possibly be linked into some form of parental complex. I’m no psychologist, so let’s not make a blanket statement, but infer that maybe Snow White may have some mummy and daddy issues. First of all, where are they? We get no back story at all. The only allusion to what could have been Snow White’s dad is the skeleton left in the cage in the evil stepmother’s dungeon. Maybe killing him is what makes her evil, I mean, she was willing to kill a 14 year old girl for no reason other than jealousy, why wouldn’t she kill a king for complete control over a kingdom? Oh, and 14 years old!? Yeah, that changes your perspective of everything. But hold on, don’t let your imagination run. We’ve established that Snow White may have some psychological issues at least concerning the missing father and mother. This means her image of men and women alike are distorted. This girl probably has no clear image of love. Moreover, she’s nothing more than a slave, made to work as a scullery maid, knowing she is a princess. That has to mess you up. This turns the film into a psychological drama in my opinion and we can see just why with the introduction of prince charming.

Snow White dreams and wishes of being found by her true love, and when a prince just turns up at her door, she falls in love. Now, pause. This is a moment easily mocked, but we’re paused, so just give me a moment to explain it. In fact, here’s a lesson. Any time you see a ridiculous moment like this in a film, book, play, whatever, and it’s near the beginning, never assume bad writing. This is my lesson to you and it might just change the way you look at a lot of things. The set up to films are always key moments that speak to every other part. Anyone who’s ever written anything knows this. The introduction is called an introduction for a reason. You are introducing the tone and ideas of your story. You are setting down the rules. When a girl sings, ‘I’m looking for my true love’, and then he turns up, you know the writer is making a statement. This has got to be obvious. So, what does this mean? Well, my favourite take on this is to assume what we are seeing is a projection of a character’s imagination. For Snow White this means we are getting to see what her idea of true love is: a good looking prince with a horse and a good ear. But, she pulls away in fear, hiding in her tower, all coy and such. But, what else happens? The evil step mother sees it all. Now, assuming Snow White is also projecting her own perspective onto her, we can infer that she has a strange idea of competition with this woman. Maybe the queen’s jealousy does exist, but I don’t think the magic mirror is being looked into by her alone. Snow White embellished the hatred – and all because of her distorted view of family and love. This all culminates in the attempted murder, but Snow White’s beauty saves her. You could argue that this is sexist, however, if my looks could save me from being stabbed to death, my heart literally torn out, then shit, call me a superhero. Seriously though, ideas of beauty will become more clear near the end. What the wood scene reveals though is Snow White’s capacity to view the world as she feels. When she’s horrified, logs turn into crocodiles, branches want to grab her, animals and trees want to devour her. This secures the idea of her projected imagination and is our segue into the depths of Snow White’s mind.

Here, we’re jumping to the seven dwarfs. But, to recap, what the film has set up is, daddy issues, first (possibly true) love and now is giving us more men. Why? In short, the seven dwarfs are Snow White’s process of coming to terms with men in her own mind, so she may mature–a bit young for a 14 year old kid, I know, but what can you say? Kids nowadays, huh? Anyways, Snow White imagines 7 child-like men to make them less formidable. There are so many so she can literally break down her perspective on them. This is pretty simple actually:

Doc: He’s Snow Whites projection of the man that cares or looks after a woman. She makes him the leader, but bumble and stumble, to dilute this idea of power – make him kinder.

Happy: Simple projection of a happy man.

Sleepy: Again, simple projection of a tired man. This also plays into the idea that he works. will come home from the diamond mine (kind of high maintenance, huh?) and be tired.

Dopey: Another simple projection of a man that primarily serves the idea of making him harmless and loveable.

Grumpy: Here anxiety comes into play a little. Snow White bundles all her negative perceptions of a man into a guy she feels she can ultimately change (which she does).

Bashful: Here’s where things get interesting. Snow White wants a man that isn’t so outgoing, easily put under thumb in a certain sense. Cute in other words.

Sneezy: This one makes little sense until you take into account he has hay fever and Snow White loves flowers. Flowers could be a euphemism, and for Sneezy not to be able to come near, let alone sniff them starts to bring in themes of celibacy. He is able to carry flowers later on in the film though which I’ll leave to your own personal interpretation.

So, this is Snow White’s idea of a man split into seven harmless, doll-sized bodies. It’s perfect if you think about it. It’s not only her way of looking at men as harmless, friendly people, but the little girls who are watching and then having their parents buy the literal doll-sized men. So, Snow White, over the course of the film, spends a day with these ideas of men, allowing her to walk into the arms of Prince Charming instead of running away. That’s more or less everything you need to know about the film to see it in a different way, but let’s dig a little deeper and look at the conflict with the stepmother.

I think I can convey everything I want to say here with three images:

Get it? If you didn’t, let me assist with a quote:

“Apple pies…make the mensfolk’s mouth water”

 

The apple is a symbol for one’s virginity. Of course a cherry is a more obvious image, but we’re dealing with a kids film that can’t show people dying on screen. They can’t be that explicit–it’s pretty obvious nonetheless. This all means that Snow White recognises the attention she may attract from men and, as a 14 year old girl (yeah, I think a bit of conservatism is acceptable here) probably shouldn’t indulge herself. Sexuality is made taboo here for the sake of purity, for the sake of maintaining the idea of Snow White in a child. In this sense the evil queen isn’t literally killing her, but figuratively doing so, ruining her image. But, the woman isn’t leading her into prostitution here. This all comes back to Snow White. She sees the stepmother as demonic figure of sexuality who took her father from her. I mean, this is the real reason step-parents are made out to be evil. It hurts to imagine our own biological parents doing the grown up time. But, thinking of a stranger and a biological parent? Yeah… not cool. But, what would be is stealing that naughty step-mommy away and teaching her a lesson. Hence, the plethora of porn videos. I’m sorry we got to that, but there you go. The stepmother teases Snow White with the apple to dare her to become like her – an apparent sexual demon. A little extreme, so you could just say that she dares her to develop sooner than she should. There’s one more detail to explore before we can jump to the end of the film: the animals. I like to think of the deer, rabbits and birds as Snow Whites friends, possibly representative of the other maids in the castle (if there were any). They are simply her friends looking out for her best interest, but they are also constructs of her own imagination. They are her sense. That means the apple scene isn’t a dumb girl doing a stupid thing, but a conflicted girl trusting a pretty good disguise despite the alarms going off in her head. She then has the dwarfs come to the rescue, or at least chase away the evil step mother because they are Snow White’s confirmed projection of non-sexual men. It’s simply her saying, ‘no, I’m not that kind of girl’. And that is why she’s not a damsel in distress.

Ok, to conclude, let’s look at the end. Snow White falls victim to the step mother, but manages to fight her off with her newly developed principals. The coma, or sleep she endures is a transitory period possibly of depression and internal conflict. However, in this she grows past the idea of failure, of immaturity, of the dwarfs and allows the idea of love come back into her life as she feels she’s responsible enough to deal with it. In this sense her old self literally died. This is a metaphor for maturity. This is upheld by the time she remained asleep. We can infer from the seasons changing that she was asleep for a year, which means she was 15 when she awakened – which is an acceptable age of consent in some places nowadays, but more widely accepted further back in time. Moreover, Snow White waits for spring, a metaphor again. This one’s obvious. It’s until she’s ready to blossom that she waits – the spring metaphor is even used in her songs sowing this was her intent from the beginning. So, with her maturity, Snow White can come out of her deathly state to travel to the kingdom in the sky, an implied heaven. This means, it’s either going to be a great wedding night, or Snow White’s still a little damaged and delusional inside, but a nice ending nonetheless. But, really she’s not walking away with an actual prince. He’s a representation of a man and maturity. And that’s the story unraveled. In the end it’s about waiting until you’re ready to love. Simple.

 

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8 Mile – Find Yourself

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Borgman – Hide Your Kids From The Philosophical Boogeyman

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8 Mile – Find Yourself

Thoughts On: 8 Mile

The story of a critical week in an aspiring rapper’s life.

8 mile

First things first, this is an immensely underrated film in my opinion. In terms of direction, acting, writing, pacing, sound design, cinematography, message, meaning, this film is almost flawless. There’s only two moments in the film I could critique and that would be the small rap battle before the first conflict with Papa Doc’s gang. In this there’s a lot of underlying sound missing – as in we don’t here the environment around the battle. But all other aspects of sound design are phenomenal, you’re made to hear almost everything as you would if you were in these clubs, bars, homes, or streets. The second moment is literally a fraction of  second. It comes near the end with Paul (the gay guy). Jimmy goes to talk to him, a moment that should have been (and probably was) a longer segment, a quiet moment in which they talk. Instead this was edited down and out – and was kind of noticeable. Other than that, this film is flawless. I say this with a bit of bias because I’m a huge fan of Eminem. I don’t love rap or R&B that much, but Eminem transcends genre and was the first artist I ever really liked. Either way, that’s besides the point. This film is great as it stands on its own with poignant idea of success and work that we’ll be unpacking here.

It’s easy to see this film as somewhat biographical, telling the story of Eminem’s rise to fame. The fact that it isn’t is what makes this film great. It knows what it is and how it wants to do things. Moreover, it more or less practices what it preaches. This is a film about doing it yourself. For it then to spend millions on showing the more successful parts of the rapper’s career with constant parties, huge houses and so on would negate its purpose. That’s why it ends with Jimmy walking back to work, to his crappy, minimum wage job. But, let’s jump back to the beginning. The film opens with Jimmy choking at a rap battle after it being made clear that he doesn’t belong. With this opening alone you infer that this is a film about following dreams – which it is, but only subtextually. The obvious thing for a writer to do after this opener would be to explain why Jimmy has to be a rapper, saying that it’s all that he can be, it’s what he’s best at. The film doesn’t feel it needs to explain this however. It’s imbued with a sense of self, of security, and again, it knows just what it is, and so needn’t explain itself. The real conflicts of this film come with having everyone else see you the way they want. This is why its so important that there’s no character based exposition with Jimmy sitting down and telling his mum or friends ‘rapping is all I can do. It’s what I do best. I don’t care what people expect from me’. Jimmy is forced in and by the film to show, don’t tell. It’s with his actions that he must prove who he is, not who he’s going to be. This is a very interesting idea of reflection and diffraction, an interesting idea of self. Who are you? This is the primary question of the film just like it is in Black Swan. The truth of this is that we are all of course many people. In fact we are as many people as the people we see. To clarify, everyone has their own idea of you. You can try to influence or change that, but no two perspectives of yourself will ever align. We see this throughout the film as captured perfectly with the double-entendre of a charactnym, ‘Rabbit’. To Jimmy’s friends this means that he’s quick and he fucks a lot. To Jimmy’s mum it means he’s still the little boy with big teeth, a wittle wabbit. The embarrassment Jimmy has when his friends hear this is the crux of the film. No, it’s not about having to be two people, but being afraid of having those two sides of you meet. This is what the ending perfectly captures, the last battle isn’t Jimmy shooting another rapper down, but shooting himself in the foot repeatedly, emptying the clip so there’s no more ammo left capable of killing him.

Of course, the ending isn’t only part of the film where someone shoots them self. No, I’m not just talking about Cheddar here, but almost every single character. This links into two key ideas in the film. First there’s facade, which we’ve touched on already, and secondly, there’s hope, the future and making it. Let’s finish up on facade first. A large aspect of the film is about stupidity and ego. I’d like to reference a line in Pulp Fiction here said by Winston, The Wolf. He says in passing, ‘of course you are a character, but that doesn’t mean you have character’. Now, whilst this may merely sound cool and aphoristic, it has weight – 8 Mile proves this. All characters are playing characters in this film, pretending to be gangsters, hard, successful, promising. But, what the worst lack is the ability to reveal true character. They aren’t real in other words. Whilst you can fake it ’til you make it, where do you think you’ll end up? This is the huge question posed by the film. If you want to be a rapper, but don’t feel you’re quite there (maybe you don’t quite look the part), you could pretend to be one and make it. But you’ve gotten yourself into a precarious situation. Maybe you are considered a rapper now, but the past may not be through with you. Again, look at the end of the film. Papa Doc is exposed to be Clarence. He faked it until he made it and then fell flat on his face when the truth was exposed, when his past decided to pop back up again. This is why doing it on your own, but more importantly doing it true to who you are is what matters most. By living life this way you aren’t just saving other people trouble, time and effort in finding out that you aren’t exactly what you said you were, but you’re also saving yourself the shame of having to admit just who you are – after the fact and a little too late. This segues nicely into the next key idea of the future.

The film explores this idea with two core elements: the neighbourhood and Alex (the girlfriend). Where you are largely defines who you are in this film, reinforcing the idea of facade and being seen by context, but, it also defines what may happen to you. This is why the derelict house being burnt down is so significant. This isn’t just about destroying a place where horrific things can happen (like the little girl being raped) but is a metaphor. Jimmy is caught at the top of the house, holding a picture in his hands as the fire starts up. Later we find out that he ‘always wanted to live in a place like that’. This, using the idea of context, is the film’s commentary on dreams. The house being burnt down with Jimmy in it means that he shouldn’t try to imagine himself in other people’s lives. Why? Because the family that once lived there are… where? Maybe there in a worse situation, maybe they lost the house. This foreshadows the path Jimmy’s mum may go down, with the fire symbolising universal destruction of dreams and of hope. For Jimmy to be trapped in a place he idolises is for him to wait for trouble, wait for destruction, dereliction. This is why he’s forced to jump out the window. His girlfriend then saying the image of this destruction is beautiful is then ambiguous. It could mean that she likes to see destruction, implying that she’s self-destructive in herself (which she seems to be). But, this could also means that she likes to see actual dreams (of Jimmy’s) be destroyed. Reasons behind this could be that she wants him to be a go-getter, and so successful so she can simply leach off him–which seems to be her game in end. Now, on the subject of Alex, it’s important to see what she represents to Jimmy. She is an idea of reward, she’s a peep into a future with women who love a successful man, the kind that hang out in the big houses and at pool parties – those who Jimmy’s friends are looking forward to meeting. Her infatuation to Jimmy, however, is conditional. If he can be who she needs him to be, who she sees him as (the promising rapper) she’ll stick with him. But, Jimmy clearly isn’t the man for Alex and this is because they are, in part, opposites. She’s literally willing to do whatever she must to get where she wants. On the other hand, Jimmy is willing to what he must to get where he wants to be. The difference between them is the ‘what’ and ‘whatever’. This is why they are incompatible. But, at the same time, they are very similar characters. Both are shameless. This is why they respectfully flip each other off in the end. Oxymoronic, I know – but it is what it is. Whilst both have nothing to hide, Jimmy is still a person that will be who he wants, and Alex who you need her to be. Here opens up an idea of using people. Alex is more than willing, but Jimmy draws the line.

Here’s the lasting point: don’t try and beat the world at its own game. It’s just too good at it. Moreover, it knows all the rules and so how to break and bend them against you and then over your head. Beat the world at your own game. If you know who you are, you in turn know the rules of your world. You know your capabilities, your weakness, how to defeat you. When you know these things, in theory, no one should be able to beat you. This is what the film is about. Find yourself and then be that person. There’s no better tool in life than you. Why is that? Because you’re the only thing you can claim to have control over. Everything else might as well be a hammer made out of jelly (jello). Every other person you’re seen to be is a shadow of yourself. Yes, they may look like you, walk like you, move just like you, but in the end its just a lack of light, it’s the outline you leave by being seen, by having light shone on you.

 

 

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