Scotty, Eben, and an Obsession With Women…no, Wait…the Past… no, Wait…

Ever since the screening on Wednesday night, I have had Vertigo on the brain. After watching it I couldn’t think of anything else, let alone any of the other films we have watched in class; and I’m fairly certain I know the reason for my obsessive behavior. I went into Vertigo with the idea of the MacGuffin in mind. I was determined to look past the plot (i.e. The MacGuffin) and find the real meaning behind the film. After the screening, however, I realized that I had not achieved my goal, and I was more confused than ever about what the film was trying to tell me. After a few days to mull it over, and a second, more critical, viewing I think I have it, or at least, I know what it is that has been intriguing me about the film: obsession. Looking at Vertigo in conjunction with Robert Nathan’s Portrait of Jennie has lead me to the belief that obsession inevitably leads to the destruction of the object being obsessed over. In Vertigo, as well as in Portrait of Jennie, once the main character attains the object of his obsession, it’s destroyed. Add in a few sprinklings from Molly Haskell’s essay From Reverence to Rape about the superfemale, and you’ve got a recipe for some interesting musings in regards to the past, creation, confusion, and obsession in general.


Before the destruction of the object being obsessed over, there needs to be a person with an obsession for the object. This is not like the question of the chicken and the egg, the obsession/destruction pattern is linear. So, first things first: we need to look, with a critical eye at Scotty’s obsession, and what feeds it.


From an early point in the film, Scotty is fixated, but perhaps not obsessed yet, with ridding himself of his acrophobia. Scotty explains to Midge (Barbara Bel Geddes), his ex-girlfriend turned pal, how he will rid himself of his fear of heights a little bit at a time. Midge places a stepping stool right next to the window seat of her apartment, in an attempt to aid him in this endeavor. Scotty slowly and delicately ascends the stepping stool placing his foot gently on the next step as if he were unsure if it could hold his weight (almost as if he were checking a frozen lake for weak points in the ice). Upon reaching the final step of the stool, Scotty repeats his mantra, “I look up, I look down,” as he does, indeed, look up and down with a smile on is face. Suddenly, on the second “I look down” the camera changes to give us Scotty’s POV. Midge’s unfortunate placement of the stepping stool has caused Scotty to look down directly through her San Francisco apartment window (she must be at least five floors up), a similar angle and height as the building Scotty dangled from in the pervious scene. Scotty then all but faints into Midge’s arms. It seems as if his fixation for overcoming his acrophobia will have to take a back seat for a while, especially because in the very next scene we see Mr. Gavin Elster, in all his glory, at the shipping yard with a proposition for Scotty which will inevitably lead to his next, deadlier, obsession: Elster’s wife.


Elster’s office is covered in old paintings and photographs of old time San Francisco and California. Scotty, for the first time in the film, is literally surrounded by history. This is the beginning of a reoccurring motif, and the fuel which feeds Scotty’s growing obsession. Elster and Scotty begin to talk about how San Francisco has changed. Elster explains to Scotty that “the things that spell San Francisco to [him] are disappearing fast.” The camera cuts to Scotty, and then tracks to follow him as he stands up and comments on a picture of San Francisco in the 1800s, complete with old Spanish missions, all the while Elster is nostalgic for the freedom of the past. A few shots, but the same scene, later, Elster tells Scotty his reason for contacting him: his fear that his wife is being possessed by the spirit of a dead woman. He tells Scotty of an instance where she went to Golden Gate park and sat by the lake, just staring at the Portals of the Past (a porch without a house – the house crumbled in the 1906 earthquake, this is actually the only tribute to that earthquake in the entire city).


But Hitchcock doesn’t leave the concept of the past there, he weaves it throughout the rest of the film. Scotty agrees with Elster’s plan, and begins to follow “Madeline.” After purchasing a bouquet of flowers, “Madeline” visits an old Spanish mission where she stares at the grave of Carlotta Valdes. After her visit to the mission, “Madeline” goes to the Palace of the Legion of Honor (the art gallery), where she proceeds to stare at the Portrait of Carlotta, a painting of a woman who died years and years ago. After this Scotty returns to Midge and the two of them go to see a man, an old man, who Midge has dubbed an authority on San Francisco history.


In his, old, used, bookshop the man, Paul, explains to Scotty the history of Carlotta Valdes. He, like Elster in the scene in his office at the boating company, begins to reminisce about the past, about how “a man could [throw away a woman] in those days. He had the power, and the freedom.” Scotty reveals these facts about Carlotta to Elster, who already knows about them. Elster claims that his mother-in-law, on her deathbed, confided to Elster his wife’s genealogy. “Madeline” is the great-granddaughter of Carlotta Valdes. Upon hearing this information Scotty replies: “…anyone could become obsessed with the past with a background like that.”


A few days later (I’m only assuming it is a few days later, every day for “Madeline” and Scotty seems to be the same, as if they are caught in time, repeating the same events over again, instead of beginning new ones, sort of like how Eben thinks of the fishermen in Cape Cod catching the same fish every morning), after “Madeline” jumps into San Francisco Bay, she and Scotty take a trip north, to see the sequoia trees. There, among the trees, is a cross-section of one of the older one. The rings have been dated to show significant historical events that the tree had lived through. It is here that “Madeline” (well, now more “Madeline”/Carlotta) gives her eerie little speech to the tree: “Somewhere in here I was born, and here I died. It was only a moment for you. You took no notice.” The past, even the fictional past which “Madeline” is creating, is haunting.


When Scotty fails to save “Madeline” and she falls to her death, he is crushed. Actually, crushed would be putting it lightly, I simply cannot think of a word which could describe the magnitude of the death’s aftereffects on Scotty. In any event, Scotty ends up in a mental institution, where he is being treated for “severe melancholia with a guilt complex.” Scotty neither speaks, nor really takes in information. He is entirely within his own head. I believe that it is this stretch of time in which Scotty’s obsession really begins to take hold. Prior to “Madeline’s” death, she and Scotty were having an affair, but there didn’t seem to be any indication of his obsession with her. It is only when the MacGuffin ends and the true message of Vertigo is revealed to us that Scotty becomes obsessed with “Madeline” because of her connection to his past, which haunts him. After “Madeline’s” death, Scotty begins to haunt the places where they had been together; he looks hopefully at everyone blonde woman in a grey suit he sees, and eventually follows Judy to her apartment, because she reminds him of “Madeline.”


Scotty then begins to reconstruct the past. Slowly, Scotty molds Judy into “Madeline.” He dresses her in the way “Madeline” used to dress and even changes the color of her hair. Scotty, by this point in the film is completely obsessed with trying to get his lost love back again, and getting a second chance. Although Judy cries and resists and pleads, Scotty is unrelenting, and eventually gets what he wants. Or does he? Does Scotty even know what he wants? I would argue that he doesn’t, and that Hitchcock is very aware of this fact. The woman Scotty believed he loved, does not exist (connection to Portrait of Jennie? I think so, but more on that later). “Madeline” is a creation of Elster’s and Judy’s. The “Madeline” he did know and was in love with is, in fact, dead. Judy is no longer reprising her role as Elster’s wife, but rather attempting to make Scotty love her for her – Judy (or is she Judy?). Scotty is trying to recapture a person who never was. The very idea of Scotty knowing what it is he wants is brought up in the film. During the scene where Scotty is trying to find “Madeline’s” grey suit for Judy, the woman working at the department store remarks to Scotty: “you certainly know what you want, sir.” In reality, though, he doesn’t know. Although Scotty may not precisely know whom or what he is trying to capture, he believes in the end of the film, that he has succeeding in capturing it, and has gotten his “second chance.”


I would like to take this time to discuss the idea of women in film. After reading Molly Haskell’s essay From Reverence to Rape I gave some thought to both Vertigo and Portrait of Jennie. I would argue that both Judy/”Madeline”/Carlotta (this is one character) and Jennie are women of the superfemale order. What is a superfemale? Well, according to Haskell, a superfemale is “a woman who, while exceedingly ‘feminine’ and flirtatious, is too ambitious and intelligent for the docile role society has decreed she play” (Haskell 624). Haskell also says that the superfemale is a natural actor, as well as revered by society. The superfemale is “treated by men and her society with something close to veneration” (Haskell 624). I would argue that both Judy and Jennie show at least some of these characteristics. Let’s take a look at Judy. Judy is feminine (if we can take docile to mean feminine) and, as we can plainly see in her ability to fool Scotty, quite the actress. Jennie also seems to fit the bill. As she grows older, Jennie becomes increasingly feminine and flirtatious; she is hardly shy to share her intentions (for Eben to wait for her so that they can be together). Both of these women, without question, are venerated by the men who obsess over them. I’m not entirely sure how the concept of the superfemale fits into either of these works, but I did find it interesting that Judy/”Madeline”/Carlotta and Jennie share that common characteristic.


In Vertigo in particular, I found the contrast between the feminine Judy/“Madeline”/Carlotta character and the slightly more androgynous Midge character interesting. Midge is definitely playing the role of the superwoman. The superwoman, according to Haskell “has a high degree of intelligence or imagination, but instead of exploiting her femininity, adopts male characteristics in order to enjoy male prerogatives, or merely to survive” (Haskell 624). Midge fits this bill perfectly. At first she comes in as a possibly love interest, telling Scotty that he is the only man for her. However, Scotty shows no interest at all in her, and even states that she is the one who broke things off between them (although the look on Midge’s face tells us that it might be otherwise). Midge seems as if she has taken on a dual role as “man of the house” and mother, all in one. She jokingly calls herself his mother, and is the one who catches Scotty when he all but faints from the height of the stepping stool in her apartment. Midge is also the bread winner. Scotty is unemployed, while we see Midge hunched over a desk, working on her ads for the latest technology in braziers. Instead of pining for the semi-masculine mother figure, Scotty goes for the superfemale.


There is one particular scene that I would like to look at more in depth. It is the scene in which “Madeline” returns, and Scotty’s obsession reaches its climax. Judy has agreed to have her looks changed, yet again, so that Scotty can have what he wants (even though he has no idea what or who it is that he wants). She returns from the beauty parlor, but her hair is only half up – this is her last stitch effort to hold onto some of herself (does she even know who she is anymore? I think not). Scotty objects to her hair. Judy goes into the bathroom and closes the door. Scotty sits, staring out the window, where the neon green light is glowing through the sheer curtains. The bathroom door opens and Scotty turns to look at Judy emerging from the bathroom. The camera pans to the left and tilts upwards, mirroring Scotty’s motion as he stands up. The camera cuts to a reverse shot of Judy, Scotty’s eye-line match, and remains still, we are now in Scotty’s POV, and he is fixated on Judy turned “Madeline.” We see Judy, bathed in the glowing neon green light and surrounded by fog. She looks very much like an apparition, just like “Madeline” has returned from the dead, and in a way, she has. Judy begins to walk forward, and the camera remains still. The camera cuts back to the shot of Scotty then quickly back to the reverse shot of Judy, still walking toward the camera, which tilts upwards to keep her in the frame. The camera cuts back and fourth between Scotty and Judy, until Judy has a medium close up. Finally the camera cuts to the last shot of Scotty alone. He walks out of the frame and the camera cuts to Scotty and Judy embracing. The camera begins to track around them in a circle, the hotel room is replaced with the stable at Mission San Juan Batista, Scotty stops kissing her, she continues, he looks around himself; he sees the stable and has his moment of realization that Judy/”Madeline”/Carlotta is the same person. The camera continues to spin until it reaches its starting point. The room returns to the hotel room as Scotty begins to kiss Judy again.


In this scene we are put into Scotty’s POV, and we see Judy/”Madeline” for what she really is: an apparition, a fake, a creation. As Scotty attains what he as wanted for so long, he has been given a second chance – the ability to relive the past (I’m reminded of The Great Gatsby: “Can’t relive the past? Why of course you can!”). The camera mirrors Scotty’s feeling of vertigo by spinning around him. As he kisses Judy in the hotel room, he realizes that he has felt this way before… in the stable at Mission San Juan Batista. We see this realization as if we are in Scotty’s head, as the room around the couple turns into the stable. It is at this moment that Scotty realizes the truth about Judy and “Madeline.” Once he realizes this truth, he instantly forgets about the stable and is brought back to the present with Judy, not “Madeline.”


If any of the elements in Vertigo feel familiar, that is because they are. Vertigo and Portrait of Jennie embody a lot of the same characteristics. In fact, it was Portrait of Jennie that unlocked the secrets behind Vertigo for me, and allowed me to come to all the conclusions that I have. I didn’t want to spread Portrait of Jennie around too much in this post, because I wanted to spend some quality time explaining myself, and the connections I see, and I don’t think I could have done that with simply a sentence here or there in the larger body of this text. What is it that finally let these two works of art collide in my mind? Actually, it was an article written by none other than Roger Ebert. In this article, Ebert says something that just made everything work. He said that in Vertigo Scotty was chasing after a fictitious woman. Click. Suddenly I had it. Scotty and Eben are the same person. Both of them are searching for or trying to capture a person whose very existence is ambiguous. In Portrait of Jennie, this point is very obvious. The entirety of the novel I kept arguing with myself about just what the heck Jennie was. Is she a ghost? But, no, other people can see her. Is she the physical manifestation of her former self? Is she living in the same time and space as Eben, but in some type of different dimension? Is she even really real? These are all questions I don’t, and may not ever, have answers to. Suffice it to say, Jennie’s presence is ambiguous. It wasn’t until I read Ebert’s article that I realized that Scotty in Vertigo had a Jennie of his very own: “Madeline.” I have put her name in quotations throughout this entire post because I am disputing her existence. I think that she exists like Jennie exists, real enough to the man who seeks her, but not entirely real in and of herself. “Madeline” was created by Judy and Elster to give us, and Scotty, the illusion of the real Madeline. “Madeline” existed. She held conversations with Scotty, she drove different places. She jumped into the bay, although she had no recollection of it. However, she wasn’t real. As soon as the real Madeline was killed, Judy ceased to be “Madeline” and returned to being herself, thus “Madeline” ceased to exist, but she was there, if only for a moment, for Scotty.


Although the ambiguous state of the obsessed over objects (i.e. “Madeline” and Jennie) was the biggest connection for me, there is also the undeniable theme of time and the past which both works deal with greatly. As I have expressed before Scotty is obsessed with, and often times quite literally surrounded by, the past. Elster also convinces Scotty that “Madeline” is obsessed with the past. There are also numerous references to the past: the old Spanish missions, Portals of the Past, nostalgia expressed by Elster and Paul (the bookshop owner who Midge knows as an authority on San Francisco history), even old relations drudging themselves back up again (Scotty and Elster, Scotty and Midge). Much like Scotty, Eben too is haunted and hounded by the past, although for different reasons. Eben isn’t trying to recreate the past as Scotty does with Judy, but is rather trying to understand and unearth it. Eben wants to know about Jennie and her family. He tries to understand Jennie and her relationship to the past. Even Mr. Mathews’ is concerned with the past and how there “ought to be something timeless about a woman” (Nathan 30).


Naturally one of the other connections that Eben and Scotty share is the fact that in achieving the object of their obsession, it is destroyed. Scotty, after obsessing and molding, has created Judy in the image of “Madeline.” Instantly upon seeing her he realizes that he has her back again. Judy too realizes this fact saying quite frankly “I do have you now, don’t I?” Then what does Scotty go and do? Does he run off with her and get married? Do they go out on the town, happy and in love? No! Scotty instantly drudges back up his past (oh, there’s the past again, always sneaking back up on us) and rushes to Mission San Juan Batista where Judy, but also now perhaps “Madeline,” dies. He is given a second chance: he cures his acrophobia, and kills the person/embodiment/thing he had been obsessing over for over a year. Eben faces an eerily similar situation. Jennie has been working hard on “hurrying” for Eben so that they may be together always. Over a span of years, for her, and months, for him, Eben waits patiently for her (there’s really not much else for him to do). He waits, and sometimes paints, but mostly waits. Then, eventually, the portrait is finished, and Jennie is almost ready to be with him forever, but there is just one last hurdle for them to jump, one last separation. Eben waits, yet again, until his final reunion with Jennie. They meet in the middle of a hurricane, cling to one another, can be together always, and then Jennie is taken away and dies, and Eben doesn’t even have the portrait (his creation of Jennie) to console him. Both of these men have tried to capture the object of their obsession, through both paint and real life human sculpture, and have succeeded. The price for their success? They cannot have what it is that they have finally captured. The past is an elusive and slippery demon, and neither of them are allowed to hang onto it for too long.


For me, Vertigo and Portrait of Jennie are almost one in the same. In both of the works the same central themes are touched upon: time, past, and obsession (which all turn out to be pretty much the same thing). There are too many constants in both works for me to merely discount it as a coincidence. I strongly believe that to better understand Vertigo you ought to look at it in conjunction with Portrait of Jennie, after all, it helped me to make all these connections. Who knows, if you dug a little deeper, you might be able to find more levels of joint meaning that I never even thought about, but I think that my analysis could be a fairly decent jumping off point.



Now, let’s take a look at some other ideas about Vertigo, Portrait of Jennie, and (most importantly) confusion and obsession:


In his blog, Tyler makes an excellent point, and one that I’ve touched on here: is Judy actually real? I think this confusion is exactly what Hitchcock was going for in the film. Tyler goes back and fourth between believing that Judy is a figment of Scotty’s imagination and her as a real-life, flesh and blood person. I think that this is the exact same confusion that Scotty feels, especially in the scene where Judy finally reprises her role as “Madeline.” Suddenly we are all caught up in the middle of Scotty’s vertigo, and are being spun around, being shown many different forms of the same woman, leaving us wondering just who or what it is Scotty is obsessed with anyway. Beth also comments on certain “realities” simply being inside of Scotty’s mind, only this time in regards to the two scenes where Scotty sees “Madeline” and Judy from their perspective hotel windows. I have thought about it over and over, and have continued to draw a blank as to how to explain the scene where Scotty follows “Madeline” into her hotel, and she is not there. Maybe Beth is right on track with her idea of it all being in Scotty’s head…


I think that those two posts go hand in hand with what Robyn had to say about Jennie. Robyn boldly states that Jennie’s “existence as a painting is more important to Eben then her existence as a person.” This leads us to ask the question, which consequently is also the title of the blog post, who/what does Eben love exactly? Although I have extensively discussed this, I don’t feel anywhere near ready to pass judgment definitively for either Scotty or Eben. I’m not sure exactly what or who it is they love. Perhaps they do love the person they obsess over, but then again it could be an aspect of that person, or something that person embodies, or what they have created from that person, or the past… the list goes on and on.


Perhaps the blog that I most closely agree with, and a blog which helped to inspire some of the thoughts in this post, is Stephanie’s post about the theme of obsession. I felt as though that was the most important and prevalent theme in the film, and I’m glad I’m not the only one who thought so. I think Stephanie does a good job of succinctly putting into one sentence one of the most essential parts of Hitchcock’s film: “There is a fine line between reality and an obsessed person’s made up world.” There is also an interesting thread of comments in regards to Midge that I found very insightful, I would not have thought to talk about her in this post had I not read this blog.


Just as a point of interest, I’ve made a running tally throughout this whole paper. I have used the word obsessed (and other derivatives of it) at least 35 times. How’s that for trying to get your message across?

I Think I Just Might Be Starting to Get This Flick…

Okay, so now that I’ve had time to let Vertigo sink in, I think I’m starting to understand it a little bit better. This could also be because I’ve decided to do my paper on Vertigo and needed to start focusing and making connections. Actually, I was originally going to do my paper on Fast, Cheap & Out of Control but I changed my mind today, after realizing that I just couldn’t get Vertigo out of my head.

What startling conclusions have I made? Well, I’ll tell you. All day today I kept my mind chewing on Vertigo, and not its plot. I was trying so hard to focus on everything except for the plot that I think I missed everything about the film entirely. That is, until I read a review of the film by Mr. Roger Ebert. He made it click for me. After reading this review, I began to focus on Vertigo as a part of the larger unit we are studying, and not just as an individual film. All of this led me to one, solid, conclusion: Eben and Scotty are the same person. Both are trying to create a woman who, arguably, does not exist. Hitchcock himself is doing that in the film (as Craig says in his post, all his leading ladies fit certain parameters). Boom. That blew my mind. That is now also the topic of my paper. Now to find an essay in the FTC book that’ll help me out with all of this…

Wow… So, uh, Vertigo


That’s the sound of Vertigo going right over my head. I tried so hard to use all the things Dr. C told us about in class, and every bit of knowledge about film theory and composition that I have at my disposal — and I still feel completely lost.

This was the first Hitchcock film I had ever seen, and it definitely delivered what I thought it would: confusion, frightening parts (I love Jimmy Stewart like nobody’s business, and am now rather freaked out by him), and things that make you just go “huh?” So basically, I can’t wait for class for Dr. C and some of you to help me through this maze of a movie and out onto the other side safely.

By the way, I think the greatest shot in the whole film is right after Madeline has “killed” herself, and we see the nuns and priests climbing up the ladder to get to her. The camera is set high and is focusing on the mission (by the way, I’ve been there; it’s a pretty neat place). On the left side of the steeple we see Madeline’s body, and on the right, staggering out of the door of the mission, Jimmy Stewart. Pretty neat shot, I thought.

Thoughts on Obsession and the Like

Talking about Hitchcock in class today got me thinking about obsessive people and the things which they obsess over. Most artists, I would argue, have something that they obsess about. Actually, I would argue (and I think so would a lot of other people) that it is from this obsession that the artist creates. I mean, look at Eben in Portrait of Jennie (I know, I know, why beat a dead horse, but stick with me for just a second), his “masterpiece” comes from his obsession with Jennie. She is, after all, the object of his painting. And then there is Hitchcock himself. Obviously, if he had had a different set of obsessions, Vertigo would probably by a very different film.

This actually reminds me of a conversation I had with a friend the other day. I was joking with her that “naturally all great artists are substance abusers – I haven’t written anything great because I haven’t found a substance to abuse yet!” Then, seriously she replied to me: all great artists are mentally ill, you know. I’m not sure I buy into that. But after today’s class it got me thinking: are obsessive people mentally ill? I would say no. I would argue that everyone has an obsession, whether or not they are cognizant of it is a different story. Does that mean everyone is mentally ill? Well if everyone suffered from the same mental illness, wouldn’t that make it a normal state of being?

So, are artists crazy? Is obsessiveness crazy? I don’t know. I don’t think so.

Thoughts on Science Fiction and Love

I agree with this blog post. I was, and still am, confused by Jennie’s existence. I know that she is not a ghost, because Nathan was upset by that part of the film, but is she really? This is where I feel like Portrait of Jennie goes Sci-Fi on us. Now, not Gene Roddenberry (Star Trek) Sci-Fi, but Octavia Butler (Kindred) Sci-Fi. Is Jennie time traveling? Is she aware of the fact that she is in the future when she is talk to Eben? That also brings us to different theories in regards to time travel. Is this time type of time model where the past and present and happening simultaneously, or is it the sort of past and present that are separated linearly, and are there two Jennies when she time travels, or is there just the one?

Frankly, I’m not sure if all of those things even matter. Our unit is all about “Love and its Discontents.” So where does love play into all of this? So Eben and Jennie are in love, presumably. However, they cannot be together. Why can’t they be together? I thought that the idea of love was supposed to surpass time and space and all that jazz. Apparently not in this unit. Maybe what Nathan is saying is that it can exist, because it did before Jennie died, but that it is fleeting, and no one person can understand it. Maybe. I really don’t know. What are your guys’ thoughts on love?

Beginning Thoughts on Portait of Jennie

Portrait of Jennie is easily one of the most interesting books I’ve ever read. It really had me hooked. I never got to care much for Jennie, but I really liked Eben. Out of the two characters Jennie is the most interesting, and Eben the more simplistic. Right?

Wrong! While Jennie may seem more complicated due to the whole is-she-a-ghost/apparition/floating in time and space-thing, Eben is actually the more complex of the two. While his life may not be all that glamorous (not like Jennie jet-setting around through time and space), underneath it all, it is Eben who is dealing with the most in the book. Eben is figuring out what it means to be an artist, what art means, what life means, what death is, what time is, what love is, etc. While Jennie, the seemingly complicated person, does not deal with any of these thoughts, or, if she does, we are not privy to them.

Talk About Consciousness and Questions that Make My Head Hurt

I agree with Robyn. I think that, in Fast Cheap & Out of Control, Morris is saying that we can discover our own consciousness through others. Or at least try to discover our own consciousness/self/whatever you want to call it. Morris tries with his Interrotron, and the other men try to make sense of their own lives through each of their own individual pursuits and interests.

Now, I’m not sure if the film, and Morris, is saying that these men are succeeding in this search, or if it is ultimately unknowable. Or if the film is not saying one way or the other, but rather showing the human nature/need to figure ourselves out. Actually, now that I re-read that last bit, my money is on the latter idea.

Additionally, because each man is using a different medium to define and understand his life, does that mean that they all have different conceptions of consciousness? I know that seems like a rather obvious question with a rather obvious answer, but I’m going to ask it anyway, because what if we all have the same consciousness? What if we are all basely the same but differ in only the way we can define ourselves individually is through a different understanding of consciousness? In other words: what if all those four men are the exact same, but differ (to themselves and to us) only by the way they can define their own consciousnesses?

The George Mendonça Story

So I’ve been thinking a lot about Fast Cheap and Out of Control. At first I was so excited about making the connections between them and their subject matter that I never realized the huge, gaping difference between the stories they were telling. Now that I’ve had time to think about it, I can see the differences. The main difference I saw that I thought was very interesting was the difference between the George (the topiary gardener) and the other three men. The other three men seem to be making these sweeping statements about their particular professions and human nature, and the human condition, and God, and life, and all that good stuff that the film is about. But George… well, correct me if I’m wrong (after all, I have only seen the film once) but George never really talked like that. All the speeches I can recall from George (easily my favorite of the four men) are him talking about his former boss, the old women he used to work for.

I don’t know exactly what influence this has on the film (again, I’ve only seen it once) but I just can’t help but feeling a little sad for George. Here he is, this older gentleman, who worked for years and years for a woman who is now dead. He still spends his time in her garden, and is basically just biding his time until he dies. He had no successor, and when he dies all the history and funny stories about that garden die with him. Morris should make a film just about George and his former employer, and this garden that has taken shape over thirty years at the hand of George. Again, I’ve no idea as to the significance of all this. If someone thinks they know, please tell me.

Errol Morris is My Own Personal God

Seriously, I think I might make a shrine to him in my dorm room.

I agree 110% with (oh I wish I knew which blogs belonged to whom) the post on the blog All I Could Say Was about Fast, Cheap & Out of Control. I just can’t wrap my brain around it… yet. Let me watch it about nine times or so before I really get to know what I’m talking about, but until then, we’ll all just have to deal with my incoherent ramblings about one of the best films I’ve ever seen.

Morris uses a number of interesting movie effects in this film: canted camera angles (nearly every other shot is canted), black and white juxtaposed with color, extreme close ups, slow motion, fast motion, and… oh-my-god, the score. To what effect? I don’t know. Did it affect me? Why yes it did, a whole lot. I felt that out of all the Morris films we’ve seen so far, this was the most cinematic, I guess you could say. This felt to me like more a “movie” than a “non-fiction feature film.” And I think I know why. Morris is making this film about all these people talking about life. We have the wild animal trainer, the topiary master, the naked mole rat expert, and the robot scientist. All of these men are creating, discussing, observing, philosophizing, and living life. But the lives that they talk about are all drastically different, and at some point in the film (due to the heavy overlaying of one theme on another, great sound bridges, some graphic matches, and even a few sight gags) the lines between these drastically different lives seem to merge into one. That line between those separate realities begin to blur. Just as our perception of reality is being blurred and manipulated by Morris. Suddenly, these men aren’t talking about naked mole rats, robots, lions, or topiaries… they are all talking about humans, and human existence. ::please allow for a slight pause while my brain explodes from the absolute brilliance that is Errol Morris::

There’s so much more to say about this film, but first I need to watch it about a million more times. Oh, I can’t wait for class tomorrow… Until then, go to Tyler’s blog for some ideas that will help to convert you to the new religion I’m starting which will revolve entirely around Errol Morris.

That Presentation in Class Today Really Did Blow My Mind

Cinema hasn’t been invented yet? What?! Of course! It makes so much sense to me now! The goal of filmmakers (even the ones that make crazy fantastical films such as The Lord of the Rings) is to make a realistic world for us, the viewer. Whether that world is actually a mirror of real life (Saving Private Ryan – esque) or if it’s a fantasy world (thank you Peter Jackson), the filmmaker wants you to believe that you have been transported to that place, that time, that situation. But what if cinema hasn’t been invented yet? What if we haven’t reached that pivotal point where the line between real life and film blurs so much that they are indistinguishable from one another? That blows my mind.

You know what blows my mind even more? This thought I had a few minutes after class: what if we have reached that point and have surpassed it? What if, in our attempt to make things more and more life-like we have gone above and beyond life-like; we have created our own fantasy. Like someone was saying today in class (I’m sorry I have no idea as to your name!), films today give us a skewed perception of reality. What if we have gone so far past the reality that we know to exist that we have now created a NEW reality?

I don’t know about you, but my head is about to explode.