Monday, 26 July 2010

Christopher Nolan, Chronicler of the Broken-Hearted

So, I got around to watching Inception yesterday, and while thinking about the plot and reading a few of the reviews of the movie, it struck me that a lot of Christopher Nolan's movies Memento onwards seem to deal with the same sort of male protagonist - white, heterosexual, broody, bit of a loner, doing some kid of work that's illegal or at least unconventional - and said protagonist is usually trying to deal with the end of a relationship (mainly romantic, though Insomnia, which I never got around to seeing but which I looked up on IMDB for this post, deals with the end of a different sort of relationship). In fact, if you put the movies in chronological order, you get something like 'The 6 Stages of Dealing with Break-ups' as visualized by Christopher Nolan. Consider:
  1. Memento: Having just seen the end of the relationship, the male protagonist (henceforth MP) is filled with anger at the world at large, generally withdraws into himself and his memories of the relationship he had, and is so caught up in the past that he is hardly aware of the present.
  2. Insomnia: Haven't seen the movie, but the title fits.
  3. Batman Begins: The MP decides that he must try to get back together with the woman by attempting to become a better person. He picks up a few new hobbies, spends time with a few male friends (mainly Michael Caine), tries to feel better by working out, eating right, and asserting his alpha-male-ness
  4. The Prestige: MP is still troubled by the end of the relationship, although it's been a while since it ended. He is desperate to find a clear reason, and someone other than himself to blame for the collapse. He throws himself into his work (mainly with Michael Caine), has a dalliance on the side, but deep down is still really pissed-off
  5. The Dark Knight: Much time has passed, and although the MP still has a thing for the woman and is hoping his new hobbies will prove that he's the guy for her, he sees that she's moved on. He decides to be the better man, supporting her and the new beau (of course by the end of the movie, the new beau is at the Memento stage) (And yes, the mentoring from Michael Caine continues)
  6. Inception: Although the woman is no longer part of his life, MP still has memories of their relationship, and realizes that deep down he blames himself for the fact that it ended. The only way to move on is to forgive himself, which he eventually does, and thus finds peace. And, need I say it, there's more Michael Caine here, although fittingly, since the MP realizes that he needs to look within for peace, he needs less of Caine's mentoring at this point.
Going by this evidence, I expect the next Batman movie to involve Bruce Wayne deciding that he's had enough of getting into relationships that end messily and cause a lot of pain to all involved, plus he's really busy with work, and so he's going to just get hitched to a nice, homely girl. Chosen for him by (you guessed it!) Michael Caine.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Ain't No Dancer

He felt like he'd been woken from a deep sleep, his mind still groggy and his body stiff, unmoving. He tried to recall what he had done the last night, the last few days, to end up in this sutation, but he couldn't remember. His thoughts were caught up as if in a fog, moving around his brain slowly, feeling their way around. He tried to open his eyes, but hey refused to respond to his thoughts. It struck him that he might be in a dream, that his body was stil lasleep but his mind was somehow conscious. And as that thought seemed to gain a foothold in his mind, the fog again seemed to get thicker, darker, until what little consciousness he had drifted away, leaving behind a dull numbness.

The numbness slowly gave way to a dull pain, then a sharp, prickly sort of sensation as he perceived what seemed to be a bright light, though he realized that his eyes were still shut. It was as if the light bypassed his eyes entirely and projected directly onto some point in his head. He tried to move, to make some noise, shout for help, but he couldn't hear anything. And then the light went out.

He sensed a throbbing somewhere in his head, and slowly he discerned that it was as if he was hearing a sound, or a series of sounds. And as he became more conscious of it, he realized that there was a pattern, a tune to it. He could almost recognize the song. And as the recollection of the song slowly started coming back to him, it also brought with it memories. The music stopped, then started off again, a different tune this time, loud, raucous, building up to a frenzy. He recognized the song, could even piece together some of the lyrics, and found himself anticipating the shout at the end of it with a sense of buried anger. And as it came, it brought with it memories of who he was, of what he'd done.

Watching the scans, the RA immediately sensed he was onto something out of the ordinary. He'd been doing cryonic reanimation research, or thawing-out psychos as they called it in the cafeteria as a wry nod to the typical test subjects, for a year now, and this was beginning to look like the real deal.
"Well?", his supervisor asked.
"The scans show some activity around the amygdala and the insula, it's a bit like when we did those scans for the god project. It's like our test subject here's experienced some kind of epiphany, but it seems to have made him angry. Like, real mad. Though I'll need to analyze the scans in more detail to see what exactly happened."
"OK. I guess I'd be cheesed off too if I woke up 10 years later and found that my brain had been cut out and frozen. What set it off?"
"So I was running through the standard sensory stimulation tests, only this time I thought I'd try more appropriate cultural references to see if they rang a bell, so to speak. The profile they gave us said he was born in the first half of the 20th century, so I figured I'd try playing him video and music from around the time he'd have grown up."
"Interesting", and then, looking at the heads-up display, "so the subject seems to dislike the, umm, Beatles, huh?"
"Well the real jump in activity seems to have been kicked off with just one track, actually."
"Yeah? Which one?"
"Something called 'Helter Skelter'".


I'm strangely embarrassed to have written this, but also quite tickled by the idea.
Thought it up while sitting through yet another power cut (thanks, BESCOM). It was inspired in part by this NYT article. Incidentally, I remember a Roald Dahl story that was somewhat similar, of a prof whose brain gets preserved along with one eye, and his wife takes him home. Anyone remember the name of that story?