2004-02-04 22:25:24 UTC
dr. frankenstein. also, that doctor in eyes without a face. and, dr.
but, my fav is william hurt as the scientist/businessman in AI. on the
one hand, he seems rational and sensitive, yet he nurses a deep
unhealing wound within his innermost self, all the more disturbing
since this darkness isn't detectable to others inhabiting his dry
how else would you explain the modeling of david on his dead son? it's
as though, unable to overcome the sadness and loss, he decided to give
his son immortality by becoming robots that never grow old, can never
die, can survive humanity itself. yet, there's also a perverse rage,
a profane commercial desecration of what was sacred and intimate--a
personal family relationship. in giving his son eternal life and
indestructibility(or at least limitless replaceability), he has turned
david(or davids) into a commodity that can be replaced like a washing
machine, bought and sold, destroyed but ever supplanted by new models.
but, cruelest of all, he has programmed the child to be obsessively,
religiously loyal--chained to--the parental figure. though the
scientist is surely rational enough to know his son's blameless for
having died, there smolders a subconscious rage that his son left him.
and, so he programs the robotic davids to always remain with the
parent regardless of who the parent is or what she does. when, david,
lost and abandoned by his 'mother', finds his way to the research lab,
it's as though a prodigal son has returned. except, of course, there
can be no genuine emotinal resolution; one may even argue that by
turning his dead son into a mass commodity, he's steeling himself from
ever being hurt again--as emotional pain exists within the concept and
experience of attachment, of dependence on a specific object unique
and irreplaceable in the world. so, what the scientist sets into
motion is constant creation of and everlasting devotion on the part of
david, liberating man from slavish attachment--but also precluding
genuine deeprooted love. 'no pain, no gain' but also 'no loss no
the resulting situations are ambiguous, to say the least. david can,
at once, matter more and matter less to a new family than to the
scientist because that family would feel no apriori attachment to
david, yet lacking such, a more pure relationship can form whereas to
the scientist the robot david will always remind him of, rather than
replace, the loss. and, david, even after realizing that he was
modeled on the scientist's son, still loves his 'mother', not the
scientist, his true father in both biological and techological terms;
perhaps, making david suffer so is also the scientist's way of
re-uniting with his son by sharing that same unconsolable pain--he can
never has son back, and david will never return to his 'mother'.
there is another element to the madness. it's as though the scientist
is projecting his love and tragedy onto the larger world, as though
everyone should feel his love, his pain, just as kings of the past
have built great momuments to their loved ones(taj mahal as the most
famous example), to glorify the personal. it's an act both
limitlessly generous--giving machine the ability to feel love and
providing childless families with kids--and insanely selfish--to in
effect make everyone love and take care of his son, and most insane of
all, to punish his son who left him by putting him at the mercy of
strangers who may range from warm and caring to cold and cruel. the
fate of dogs everyhwere.
the damp grey colors--of glorious skyscrapers of the past
halfsubmerged in water--well convey the deadness of the scientist's
heart, kept energized only thru artifice and gadgetry.
even though spielberg didn't write most of the scripts, a common theme
running thru his movies is that of the official(statist or corporate)
vs. the personal agenda.
also, the notion of recovering something irretrievably lost, an
impossible endeavor, therefore compensated with manufacturable quanity
over irretrievable quality. or, simple reliance on fantasy or revenge.
considering the official vs the personal, think of jaws where the
concerns of the law enforcement community clash with that of a
maverick shark hunter. or, close encounters where the state and a few
chosen individuals vie to contact aliens first. and, raiders has an
individualist adventurer in the figure of indiana jones searching for
treasure also sought by others under official nazi sponsorship. e.t.
boils down a conflict of interests between elliot's emotional
attachment to e.t. and the state's rational interest. empire of the
sun sees WWII thru the actions of adults and thru the more poetic eyes
of a child uninterested in nationalistic or political identities.
jurassic park is about dinosaurs as personal hobby vs dinosaurs as
commercial enterprise. schindler's list pits a private nazi with
nascent moral consciousness vs the strictly ideological nazi state.
saving private ryan gives us war as a personal mission within the
context of the larger, more ruthless, and blindly murderous war. AI
has a scientist whose personal agenda perversely co-mingles with his
commercial agenda. and, minority report is about morality as
existential search for truth vs corporate promise of certainty.
and, then there's the theme of recovering what has been lost, a sense
of frustration on the part of man to recover the irrecoverable. no
amount of fancy technology can bring back a dead flower or a dead
mouse back to life. but, we can clone it and multiply it 1000 fold.
compensate the irretrievable singularity of all things by multiplying
it a gazillion fold. so, in jurassic park, a tycoon tries to revive
the dinosaurs like cattle. and in AI, the scientist cyberclones his
or, recovery of eternal loss may be fantasized. ai is reunited with
his mother thru a dream factory. the lost ark is rediscovered and zaps
the nazis. the space-abducted and thought-missing-for-good people are
restored at the end of close encounters. or, loss is partially
recovered, or at least alleviated, with the promise of a more
promising future. dead jews in schindler's list can't be revived but
survivors can reestablish a jewish community. ryan's brothers have
fallen dead but saving at least one ryan restores one son to the ryan
family, sort of like reviving a dead--very likely, anway--from a
dangerous future. the most obvious resolution to loss--a cliche in a
gazillion movies--is of course revenge, and in jaws we get the
satisfaction of seeing the women-and-children eating shark get blown
up real good; a recovery of spirits, at least. and the tom cruise
character seeks the same kind of release when he comes upon the
apparent killer of his kid.
perhaps, minority report has the most interesting theme of loss
because the story is predicated on prevention of loss. it's a society
where a corporation and state promise people that in the future no one
need lose a loved one to violence and crime. a tempting idea since
just imagine if hitler could thus have been apprehended. but,
technology being what it is and people being what they are, the very
notion of state/corporate ensured safety is, perhaps, most dangeous
of all. after all, if nazis had such technology, they would only have
prevented the deaths of aryans while overlooking deaths of subhumans
foreseen by precogs, thus only fortifying their own ideological
mission. at any rate, spielberg seems to saying loss is something that
can't be avoided and the more you try, like the scientist in AI, to
pretend otherwise, you go plum crazy. what's lost is lost for good,
you can't go home again, and the future may be informed by the past
but never restored and there's no umbrella that can keep us dry from
all the tragic downpour in the future.
crazy or not, spielberg probably saw part of himself in the scientist
in AI. after all, spielberg, like the scientist, has taken things dear
to heart--all the fairytales that sustained him in his lonely
youth--and turned them into commodity for kids and families around the
world. in doing so, he has partly perverted his dreams to make them
consumer friendly. and, all of us are, in one way or another, living
in a spielbergian theme park of the mind and spirit. yet, despite all
this, like the scientist in AI, spielberg seems to be energized by
something deeply personal--much of it pain--that can never be
comletely assuaged by or communicated thru his chosen medium.
and, watching something like AI, and going beyond the sci-fi
blockbuster trappings, i find myself connecting with spielberg on some
intimate level. somewhere hidden with all those conventions, cliches,
and formula is something like that blue box in mulholland drive that
connects his dreamworld with ours.