The Silence of the Lambs – Review

The critically acclaimed director of The Silence of the Lambs, Beloved, Philadelphia and Stop Making Sense – to name only a handful of the work produced in his lifetime – Jonathan Demme has passed away, as such I felt obliged to write a piece on one his works, and one of my all time favourite films, The Silence of the Lambs, the film that in many ways is seen as his magnum opus and the highlight of both his and Anthony Hopkin’s career. Based on the book my Thomas Harris, which I’m afraid to say I’ve yet to get around to reading, tracks the efforts of Agent Clarice Starling (played by Jodie Foster) to interview famed serial killer and cannibal Hannibal Lecter (played by Anthony Hopkins). Lecter’s insight might prove useful into an active serial killed named ‘Buffalo Bill’, who skins his female victim’s corpses.

The film begins with a feeling that shall remain with the viewer throughout, that of paranoia, of a certain unease and uncertainty, that at all times our very movements and those of our protagonist Agent Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) are being scrutinised. This in a sense is Demme’s portrayal of everyday sexism, utilizing the male gaze as a means to extrapolate on workplace and frustratingly commonplace misogyny. From the absolute beginning Starling is being followed – by the camera – in the woods where she is undergoing FBI training, she’s then told by what seems to be a superior that she is to meet with Jack Crawford (Scott Glenn), after an oppressively masculine gazed elevator ride to Crawford’s office, she is met with a wall of photograph’s of Buffalo Bill’s victims, but her viewing is interrupted by Crawford’s entrance. Crawford insists on informing Starling that she is top of her class and whilst nonchalantly relaxing back into his chair, he remembers Starling from his seminars – “You grilled me pretty hard as I recall on the Bureau of Civil Right’s record in the Hoover years…I gave you an A.”. The first of many times in which Starling’s natural talent for her career is patronized, demeaned and looked down upon due to the fact she is a woman, Demme makes no attempt in making this a subtle gesture throughout the film. Starling is thus informed she is to interview Lecter, though it’s assumed he wont talk.

Oh he’s a monster! A pure psychopath. So rare to capture one alive. From a research point of view Lecter is out most prized asset.” – Frederick Chilton

Chilton’s first sentence encapsulate his entire being throughout the film, a slimy figure, who, in general preys upon others force his own personal gain. For those of nuance and critique such as Lecter and Starling this is apparent almost instantly, as it is to the viewer, he speaks of Lecter’s ‘capture’ as he licks his lips, you can tell he sees fame and fortune in his hopeful attempts at understanding the famed Hannibal Lecter. Chilton makes a pass at Starling, which she of course refuses – whilst seemingly holding back vomit – due to her professionalism for the job at hand. As they make their way to Lecter’s cell past multiple barred doors and guards Chilton speaks of the rules of engagement when it comes to Lecter, he shows Starling a photograph of a woman Lecter ‘got to’ one time after he feigned stomach pains:

When the nurse leaned over him, he did this to her. [pulls out photo] The doctors managed to reset her jaw, more or less. Saved one of her eyes … his pulse never got above 85, even when he ate her tongue.”

I believe the last part of that line perfectly represents the utter depravity of Lecter’s mind, a man who’s gone so far in, he’s come out the other side with the understanding that what he does is ‘fine’, and shouldn’t worry him in the least. The majority of their walk is lit by a bright red light. At this point we meet Barney, one of the guards who works in Lecter’s block, the last friendly face before the madness.

Starling’s first meeting with Lecter is acting on a different place, Hopkin’s mixture of subtle aggression and frustration of the cage, along with his myth-like-perception and charisma make him a peculiar ‘villain’. A villain one knows at their very heart could destroy them in a heartbeat, those villains who brandish weapons, guns and armies are no match, kill me with a bullet and I’ll be alive no more. Allow Hannibal Lecter into your mind and one will be wondering the halls of insanity forever, your temporal existence pulled apart, your personality deconstructed, and at the end you’re cast aside, a mere puppet to the master.

I’m going to post the link to the scene here as my writing cannot do it justice:

Starling returns to her training, awaiting more condescending gazes from her male FBI colleagues, even after her confrontation with an insane famed cannibal. As she was leaving Lecter’s block Miggs, who resides in the cell next to Lecter’s throws his semen at her, which in an absurd way is the tug-on-the-thread which leads to Buffalo Bill’s capture, as one thing Lecter cannot stand is rudeness and bad etiquette, as such he screams for Starling to come back and gives her a subtle hidden clue as to the whereabouts of some information, the clue isn’t actually the clue he directly gave, but one hidden in her understanding of Lecter himself:

Listen carefully. Look deep within yourself, Starling Starling. Go seek out Miss Mofet, an old patient of mine. M-o-f-e-t.

Starling believes “yourself” is too ‘hokey’ for Lecter and as such comes across the Your Self Storage company. The continues to the location of the company and searches a storage garage under the name Mofet, which contains, amongst other seemingly expensive and luxurious items a severed human head in a jar. She returns to Lecter with haste to discuss her discovery. She figures at the name Lecter gave her was an anagram, leading to the fact Lecter himself rented that garage, a test, for a bright mind. He hands her a towel from his cell via a metal shoot, as she begins to dry her Lecter is already at the back of his cell, in an instant. Part of Lecter’s character will always remind me of The Judge from Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, the viewer is never entirely sure how much of what their seeing is a myth, Lecter is pure-psychopath, has almost extra-human animalistic strength, is exceedingly intelligent, charismatic, the ability to smell a tumour inside one’s stomach (from the book), dexterity and heightened perception, the brilliance is in the fact all of things together are extremely unlikely, yet not impossible, what we’re seeing is something we don’t want to be, a killer who’s not a brute, the violence isn’t the point, the domination seems to be mental; becoming a toy as soon as you meet a certain person, a simple “Hello” and you’re in their domain.

We learn the severed head belongs to one of Lecter’s previous patients Benjamin Rasdale, to Lecter a ‘garden variety manic depressive’ “tedious, very tedious”, who became Lecter’s experiment after he missed 3 appointments, though who killed him? “Well, who can say really…”Lecter presses Starling about the fact Crawford ‘likes’ her, making her feel more and more insecure, though it appears to the viewer this is in no way the same way in which those at the FBI gaze at her condescendingly. It becomes clear Lecter knows who Buffalo Bill is, and is more than likely the same person who decapitated his patient, however, he refuses to allow Starling the knowledge as “All good things comes to those who wait.” Lecter is intelligence in a cage, he is existentially bored, he wants a view with a tree, possibly water, he wants to be away from Chilton, in small part to Lecter’s charisma and Hopkin’s skill, one often falls into becoming slightly sympathetic of Lecter’s situation, as he is not crass or rude, not violent (yet).

We cut to Bill abducting a new victim, via pretending he is handicap and getting them to help him move furniture into the back of his van. An oppressively strong man, with a need for women of a certain size. After this short scene Crawford and Starling are travelling to a new victim’s funeral, wherein Starling is belittled throughout, with Crawford wanting to discuss the crime privately, away from Starling, she might be too precious for such a discussion. During the funeral Starling has a memory of her father’s funeral, her father a police officer and inspirational figure in her life. Starling then needs the local law enforcement to leave so the FBI can take care of the case, which means she needs to ask a group of male law enforcement officers who are in their own town to leave, she does, and the camera pans to a group of 15 or so middle aged men staring down at Starling, looking confused, looking to one another as to whether the request is serious. The difficulty and frustration of Starling’s current situation is brought up to the fore, one wants to scream at the room, allow them to acquire our perspective, but alas, a few nods and shuffles, and Starling’s polite demands are met. Once they’ve left Starling begins to examine the body, noticing there’s something in the victime’s throat, something everyone else missed, a bug cocoon. They leave and Crawford mentions that him wanting to speak privately aggravated Starling.


Starling takes the cocoon to two specialists, one of which hits on her, they identify the moth as the Death’s Head moth, which only live in Asia. And within in America they’d have to be specially raised…”Somebody loved him” the specialist says to the dead bug:

The moth on the poster is the death’s head moth, but the usual skull shape on their body is replaced with Salvador Dali’s photographic artwork In Voluptas Mors, which he made in collaboration with Philippe Halsman:

In Voluptas Mors could possibly be translated to say “In pleasure, there is death,” or “Voluptuous Death.” A linkage between sex and death, it’s important here to not just think of ‘sex’ as the sexual act, but one’s sex e.g. male, female etc. which can be linked to Bill’s disorder. Note: I’m not going to go too far into Bill’s disorder, there’s many, many articles and write ups discussing what it disorder it is specifically, and I don’t want to get caught up to correct terminology of a fictional serial killer’s mental disorder; however, I will accept that correct and un-bias portrayals of disorders in film is important (which is why I hate Split (2017) so much). As such, I’m going to add here a poignant quote from this article:

Jame Gumb’s (Buffalo Bill) gender identity is handled in a number of very problematic ways. First, her character is a classic example of the killer transgender trope, also famously present in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. Transgender women are often represented as psychotic killers as a lazy method of responding to mainstream society’s fear of gender nonconforming people. This popular trope in film reinforces the idea that being transgender is unnatural and perverted, and pathologizes gender fluidity. It’s a stowaway on the Hollywood global distribution machine, reaching into countless theaters and homes around the world and embedding transphobia in the minds of a wide array of viewers.”

Meanings of the Moth:

LITERAL: When performing an autopsy on one of Buffalo Bill’s victims, the coroner finds an object lodged in the victim’s mouth. He removes it. It’s a brown pupa. He cuts it open, revealing a moth. We later discover the Buffalo Bill has a pupa breeding room at his home, where thousands of butterflies and moths flutter about.

FIGURATIVE: Buffalo Bill has an obsession with moths because they represent what he wants for himself. Moths begin as caterpillars, but then enter a cocoon and emerge as fully-formed moth. He is a man who wants to become a woman, but was denied a sex-change operation. Now he murders women and collects their skin to create a “woman suit” –  a cocoon for himself – which he can use to become a woman.

Back to synopsis:

Starling offers Lecter a transfer to another prison, with a view of a woods and access to books, Lecter’s eyes light up at the thought of it, Starling continues to explain that alongside this, for 1 week of the year Lecter would get to go to Plum Island, and be free within its limits, walk on the beach and swim in the ocean…under swat team surveillance of course. She hands him the Buffalo Bill case file and the non-negotiable offer, if Catherine Martin (the woman who Bill abducted) dies, the offer expires. Lecter notices Plum Island is a research centre “How nice…” And we begin quid pro quo, something for something:

And Lecter continues to pick and pick and pick.

We cut to Bill’s famous “Put the lotion in the basket!” scene. Where Bill continues to torture his victim. Cut back to Crawford teasing Hannibal about the fact there never was a deal, he’s glimpsing at a pen, Crawford pushes for Bill’s real name, Lecter lets them know his first name is Lewis, but he’ll only tell the rest in Tennessee to the Senator herself. And so Hannibal Lecter dons his classic horror getup, the barred mask, the man who bites, the animal evolved, pure bound animalistic terror. Crawford searches for his pen as to sign a contract, it becomes clear Lecter has stolen it. Lecter tells the Senator (Bill’s victims mother) all she wants to know; quid pro quo…of course.

Lecter gets his demands and is moved to the top of a courthouse. Starling meets him, he’s reading, it’s peaceful. He knows it’s her without turning. She returns his drawings. At all times, whilst talking to Lecter, he is in charge. Lecter discusses the fact all Starling needs to know about Bill is within their case file, they have all they need, just not the means to work it out, they haven’t the time…but Lecter has all the time in the world, in a cage. The quid pro quo continues, prodding deeper into Starling’s psyche, her memory of the lambs. Lambs of course act as innocence, with Starling attempting to intervene, to help save those who cannot save themselves, Starling is making it her duty to stop the screaming of the lambs. Killing Bill, it seems, will stop the lamb’s screams. Lecter hands Starling her case files, alluringly stroking her finger as he does, the romantic side of their relationship is extrapolated further in Hannibal.

Cut back to Hannibal enjoying some classical music in his new cell, as he’s being brought his second dinner…lamb chops, extra rare. They begin the cuffing routine, not before we see Lecter remove a bobby pin from his mouth, more than likely a piece of the pen he stole earlier. Lecter is about to escape his cage, the scene is set for what is, in Lecter’s mind, a moment of beautiful brutality. The cops place down his dinner, being asked by Lecter tactfully to mind the drawings. A cuff to a cop’s arm, a bite to the face, mace to the eyes, a baton repeatedly over the other’s corpse. Lecter in a moment of sublime over his victims, a vicious animal freed, he finds a switch blade:

Ready when you are…”

Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs, is a master-work, between social commentary, ecstatic moments of gothic horror and charismatic drama, one finds themselves sucked into multiple visions of a world. Morality, immorality and pure chaos combine into a theatrical experience of a grinning horror. Demme’s use of eye-to-camera contact suffocates the viewer, one feels as if they’re confronted with Lecter, they are to answer to him, to give him something, something is owed to merely be in his presence. With the villain in the background one only feels unease at their lack, where are they? What are they up to? You want Lecter in sight. Starling and Lecter both alienated from the world’s they inhabit, Lecter from his deluded interior, he cannot connect to people, and Starling alienated from the male world of police enforcement. With a prior tension before meeting Lecter that makes one jump upon seeing him for the first time, with claustrophobic close-ups of conversations making one feel at once at home and a stranger in the story, a symbolism that doesn’t descend into pretentiousness, a straightforward narrative that’s simple yet haunting, incredible performances and a sense of lingering pressure, a pressure one is unsure as to whether or not its going to be relieved even if the case is solved.

Ta ta.

Bojack Horseman – Sincerity

Bojack Horseman, the Netflix funded series following a talking horse called Bojack: a star of the 90’s sitcom Horsin’ Around, (a stereotypical 90’s sitcom about a character who is out of his depth, usually involving sassy children and an upbeat/catchy theme-tune) who’s now a semi-washed-up has-been reliant on alcohol and a post-millennial-cynicism to get him through the day. If someone was to pitch this idea to you, you would probably begin to ask a whole-host of questions in terms of audience and profitability (not that that is what should matter). The characters of Bojack Horseman are mostly animals, who can talk and do all the things humans do except with their stereotypical animalistic traits left intact. Which is a reasonably entertaining juxtaposition on its own. However the comedic nature, which is very gallows-esque and dark isn’t what I want to concentrate on.

This show is somehow, and I don’t mean to sound patronizing it’s just the kind of show one wouldn’t think to be, well, an utterly sincere and crushingly realistic look into what it is to be human (quite ironically) and have dreams and aspirations, and ultimately have them not necessarily crushed, but realised, the realisation that after ‘all-that’ you’re still kind of missing something and that you are perhaps lonely despite your best efforts to convince yourself otherwise via popularity, material or success. And there’s certain overriding themes of the everyday morality we all worry about (Am I a good person? Am I just pretending to be? What is a good person?) Existentialism and the-search-for-meaning.

I believe this articulation of genuine reality (Note: not hyper-realistic 90’s mainstream realism, nor kitchen-sink realism, nor bourgeois analytical realism) is only made possible via the shows context, as an absurd cartoon that markets itself as wacky and hip and clearly on the lighter side of things, yet throughout its episodes one begins to see a seeping of reality as it is in everyday life. That like all programs we’re given the tools, as the viewer to assess the characters from above and beyond, we’re not in their first-person view of things and we can assess them separately, analysing all aspects of their reality. Something to do with the fact Bojack Horseman is a cartoon lulls the viewer into a false sense of security into what it is they’re putting themselves forward for.

Many readers by this point may realise that the juxtaposition between this realism, this irony and this absurdity will inevitably gravitate towards angst, cynicism and grad-schoolish-self-awareness. Yet Bojack manages to avoid all this and stay on a path of sincerity, which leads the viewer only to really assess their own life and end up relating to these characters more. I’m not saying Bojack Horseman is some meta-modern masterpiece or that it doesn’t tackle these issues with a certain irksome-coolness which is most likely needed for marketability’s sake, what I am saying however is that Bojack sticks to its principles of not really giving you conclusions in their modernist theatrical sense, in fact the idea of conclusions and ‘endings’ in a recurrent theme throughout. A Meta look at what it is within modern entertainment that can cause damage to us and isn’t particularly healthy, especially in terms of emotional conclusions, in that Bojack never offers you much solace, you just learn a little bit about yourself and how you interpreted certain aspects of the narrative just as the characters did.

Perhaps there’s something even, dare I say it, offensive about Bojack’s style of storytelling (And no, I do not mean offensive in the whiney-SJW “I am offended!” way), what I mean is there’s something so sincere and human about the way in which Bojack is written that you feel a little duped by the fact it’s a cartoon about a talking horse and his feline girlfriend. And that you feel a little aggravated that for the first time in a long time the entertainment you’ve come to love as a sort of anaesthetic for reality has finally become self-aware and turned on you in a rather unsuspecting way, but you can’t stop watching, because it’s kind of revealing and quite lovely, and you eventually give into its absurdity and in a way its absurd relevance in terms of entertainment vs sincerity vs pleasing the viewer.

Perhaps it’s poignant that these extremely well-written and emotionally/realistically articulate characters are two-dimensional, perhaps what’s sad is that it’s easier for me to accept a cartoon talking horse’s emotions over a multitude of real-life actors, perhaps that’s what makes it easier, the reality is there plain to see and is not masked by a certain superficial makeup like the one that is addressed by Bojack Horseman.

The Big Short – Bureaucratic Horror

“I mean for instance, one of the hallmarks of mania is the rapid rise in complexity and the rates of fraud…” – Michael Burry

What’s the initial setup for your most basic horror film? An ordinary world, the world as a given, everything fine, normal and we as a viewer still have our nerves. Everything is as it should be. There may of course be a hero, a protagonist with which we will side, usually we shall take the side of those who we feel are more morally just. Then something goes wrong, a disturbing force, something mystical, strange, violent and absurd shall overthrow the narrative, we are given a clear warning of this, some eerie tone or a sense of unease and foreboding is given. The problem is usually solved, or fixed, the villain or sense of unease is killed/ended and those who’ve survived go on with their lives.

In this case The Big Short begins entirely in the ordinary world, we are told of Lewis Ranieri the father of mortgage-backed securities in the 70’s, we don’t know who he is, but he changed our lives, which already pushes a sense of unease, someone changed all our lives and we never knew, this is nothing unique of course, except it comes apparent later on as to why it’s a malicious global economic change. The ordinary world is short lived, we are given images from the 2008 housing crisis, people being evicted from their homes, poverty, strife, anger, worry and fear all crammed into roughly 2 minutes of news real footage. There isn’t necessarily a singular hero in this case, prior to beginning the film the audience understands that it’s about the 08’s housing crisis, so, who does one support? Who are we backing here? Who’s out hero? Potentially you could argue our ‘hero’ of sorts is the likes of Michael Burry who foresees the crisis, however, much like the rest of the films ensemble he merely uses his knowledge to profit from the crisis. Not that he, or any of the other protagonists could have done anything about it of course, to step in the way of big business is to commit career suicide, so you take what you can and leave, I guess. Perhaps the future economy is our hero? What we want to survive in an underlying sense of security in those who hold our money and safety, though the film’s general premise doesn’t bode well for this idea i.e. This has happened twice now, within a 70 year time frame. So, what kind of horror is this? A bureacratical one, constantly fluctuating with a sense of kafkaesque frustration.

Wall Street loves to use confusing terms to make you think only they can do what they do.”

Of course, this is nothing new. Look at any system in which there’s something at stake which those who know don’t want spoiled, or to have the wealth spread out amongst even more people: Bitcoin, stock markets, morgages, taxes, forex, etc. these systems are made implicitly to push people away. So already the viewer is given a new world in which the narrative is to make transparent was has for so long seemed like complete gibberish, techo-jargon explained to the layman, so we can see it for what it is, simple exploitation. We are given a world in which we’re the fish, yet the problem being, the time has passed, 2008 has passed, so we are just relieving the intricacies and underlying structure of a collective nightmare.

“You have no idea the crap people are pulling and the average person just walks around like they’re in a goddamn Enya video. They’re all getting screwed…Credit cards, pay day lenders, car financing, fees, fees, and more fees. And what do they care about? The ball game or which actress went into rehab?” – Mark Baum


As witty and humourous as Baum’s statement is, it’s true, it’s always been true and will forever be true, as long as we stay within the capitalist realist state we are currently within. The interesting feeling the film emanates here is that of nausea, an uncanny situation in which the horror is unfolding from both sides inwards, there’s no hero to save us, any possibility of salvation has been buried in time under stacks and stacks of paper work, maybe not, that could just be conjecture. However, the viewer now understands they are in there’s no out as this has happened, so they are just to sit and watch the horror unfold, slowly watch as the scaffolding is poked and prodded until collapse.


Who bets against housing?”


That’s the problem, complete in 4 words. Who, as in, it will never fail because everyone knows it wont. Bets, it’s a dumb gamble. Against, it’s secure. Housing, it’s housing, it’s always fine, I mean it’s housing for christ’s sake: we live in them. Everyone does it so no one questions it, The Big Short tells the story of when the mad man on the street is finally vindicated, those shouting “The End (of the economy) is Nigh!” of course no one listens, and no one will care afterwards becuase they’re too busy trying to find a new home or work out what the hell happened. Most horror movies at this point either have a clear villain win or loss: the villain either kills the victims or vice versa, that doesn’t happen here, everyone is left to deal with the remains, as if a big economic villain came in ravaged 99% of the parties involved and left without any damage to itself because it never existed in the first place. The viewer, left empty, just continues on, I don’t know how to finish this because the movie itself can only leave you with a distinct sense of dread that the walls that surround you aren’t financially secure, nothing is, it could all crumble…well, we already knew this though didn’t we.

Virtual Reality – Thoughts

“So look as the internet grows in the next, 10, 25 years and virtual reality pornography becomes a reality…we’re going to have to develop some real technology inside our guts to turn off pure, unalloyed pleasure” – David Foster Wallace, Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself, 2009, (talking in 1996)

Foster Wallace talking to David Lipsky in 1996 at the end of the tour for his magnum opus Infinite Jest; which itself had a lot to say about the dangers of entertainment and ‘unalloyed’ addiction. I find it quite ironic however that he mentions it is we who are going to have to develop the technology, that’s if the current rate of technological advancement continues, which it most likely will. And I do truly hope that when technology does reach the point of pure unadulterated escapism we don’t all fall into some hidden evolutionary state of hedonism.

I am commenting on virtual reality, on the Oculus Rift, on the possibility of Ernest Cline’s OASIS from Ready Player One becoming a literal reality. One might add that Cline’s naming of RPO’s virtual reality system (OASIS) is rather poignant. I’ve picked two reasonably contemporary examples of virtual reality there, however the idea of virtual reality has been around since the 1930’s and has become a common topic of speculative and science fiction, perhaps because of the noticeable possibility that it may, or has perhaps, already become a reality, it is yet to become a reality as far expanding as that of popular sci-fi novels, though we’re not far off.

I’m not trying to tackle this issue from a romanticist perspective, I played plenty of video games in my youth and still do, they’re a new art form and an extremely unique/expressive form of media, as is literature, film etc. In fact, video games in terms of virtual reality is not my particular area of interest, as virtual reality in terms of video games only works to heighten something and not become something on its own, as in, it’s only to be used as a tool to make a game more interactive and interesting, and not to replace a notion or idea.

This is where the troubles begin, as Foster Wallace mentions the idea of virtual reality pornography, the idea that one could return from their mundane tax official, eight hour a day job and plug themselves into their ultimate fantasy, every day. Virtual reality pornography replaces an arguably vital part of human life, which is to emotionally connect with other human beings, have meaningful physical and emotional contact. You could argue that within a virtual reality system that is literally life-like and 3000FPS and perfect in every way could replicate this, however I have faith in uncanny valley to prove this wrong (Uncanny valley is a hypothesis in the field of aesthetics which holds that when features look and move almost, but not exactly, like natural beings, it causes a response of revulsion among some observers.) I would argue that however advanced we get in terms of virtual realities, there will always be something within us that will be able to tell a simulation apart from a ‘real’ human; we’re not going to get into what is and isn’t real here as it’s not particularly apparent within this essay. Virtual reality pornography possibilities could include making love/fucking as many women/men as you like, whomever you like (celebrities etc.) all kinds of gadgets and gizmos to reflect said person’s ‘junk’ are all within the realms of possibility. Let’s not forget that it’s often porn companies that pioneer new technology (See: Internet).

This is all very well and easy to address, the fact that humans currently have a pre-occupation with escaping the reality before them, as the fact is, we have more information in our hands than ever before (of course) and it’s all readily available and easy and kind-of ‘done’ in a lot of people’s minds, so what’s more is another reality altogether, these aren’t always unhealthy, and someone who is literally stuck within a mundane 9-to-5 job because, well, that has to happen to the majority of westerners living within a capitalist society, that’s just the way it is. One thing such a society hasn’t removed however is human’s ability to think and feel and love, and perhaps the danger of contemporary virtual realities, which could easily become as accessible as the internet, is that they would destroy the remaining remnants of anything sincere and homely and emotional. Everything would become static and materialistic, beyond what is already apparent.

There is of course the potential for these developments to awaken us into a new state of emotion, in which due to the sudden accessibility of our wildest sexual and emotional desires we become mentally saturated too quickly, as if we were to win the lottery…every day. Not only would one become bored extremely quickly, they would (hopefully) come to the conclusion that there is more to life than money, or explicit perpetual sexual desire and perhaps what’s missing is a touch of emotion and good ol’ human awkward interaction. This may become a surprising afterthought of virtual reality, as for a long time people will become engrossed and addicted, in the way that within contemporary society children now have access to technology from a much younger age, something I would argue is pretty unhealthy in terms of development, due to the un-strenuousness of it all, everything is there for them immediately, a certain materialistic and cultural solipsism. I’m no technophobe, who’s saying that children shouldn’t learn to use technology that will definitely be present in their later life, however they shouldn’t become dependent on it as a form of actually being alive. It should be a secondary to real life.

And John arrives home from work, 5PM, his visor with him at all times (work permits him to access HAVEN on his lunch break, John is one of the few humans who still commutes). He puts on his visor and enters into his premade virtual reality, he’s set it so his house looks like the house from Animal House, except not as dirty, this is achieved by a very easy to use ‘dirty-ness’ slider. In reality John is walking into a 10’ by 10’ box room is an apartment complex with a floor that is made from multiple treadmill like conveyors so he can run and move as far as he wishes in any direction; his bed comes down from the roof electronically when needed. So he enters into some battlezones, and fantasy worlds, and space battles, and becomes president, and wins his loves. This happens nightly, or weekly dependant on the way he sets up the contraction, this is all up to him, and if he fails it is only because he set that as a possibility. And so the bed comes down the ceiling, John selects the NSFW option from the menu and a flesh-like vacuum comes out from the end of the bed, this is John’s stimulation device and so he selects whomever he likes and gets on with his night. He wakes up, visor on until he arrives at work, the visor is then set to work settings as he enters the building.

Ivan’s Childhood

“War is no place for children.”


Ivan’s Childhood sits as a blueprint for Tarkovsky’s career, with an idea towards accessible spirituality and metaphysics, towards the il y a and dread of existence. One strikes one foremost, as with any Tarkosky film is the imagery, a sublime mixture of intensly humane images, contrasted with striking, quasi-abstract death-imagery.

Ivan, a 12 year old Russian boy, whose family, we learn, has been killed. He had joined a partisan group and had attempted to cross the front line into Soviet territory. He is captured by the Soviets and installed into the war effort, his small physique and swiftness his beneficial attributes. A stoic and contrarian boy, a boy pushed temporally into the realm of man prematurely, allowed access into a chaotic masculine space before one should be. His attitude allows him to fit in.

Ivan’s dreams are interspersed througout the film, the viewers gut directed towards near overdrive as one forgets Ivan’s childhood, accepting the film’s plot as truth-of-the-matter, normality forgotten, for peace cannot exist in wartime as such neither can the innocence of childhood. For a directorial debut one quickly realises Tarkosky is working from a different plane, one where the hidden, the shadowed and the mist no longer exist as a limitrophe, but are brought to the fore and Ivan’s present emotions are laid bare; amongst the half-lit swamp, the suffocation underground and the rumble of flares overhead. Which each glowing terror a moment in Ivan’s future is destroyed, physically, metaphorically and metaphysically, which each act of violent-self a piece of childhood cannot happen.

Ivan attempts to cross the river, back from where he came, an attempt at the impossible, attempt to become what one was, to erase the past. As such Ivan becomes lost in the swamp, in the mist, in the gases and gunfire. We are to find out about his fate in the final scenes of the film. As the Third Reich is overthrown, papers on the floor of an ex-Nazi government building show that Ivan was hanged. We are shown the room of execution. And then cut to a dream, Ivan playing a child’s game on a tranquil beach, all the while a dead tree sits waiting, amongst the frollics and fun there lies the metaphysicl truth of the matter, the childhood lost, tainted and never returned.

Tarkovsky seems me a director one should begin at the beginning with, one shouldn’t start with his magnum opus’ as I feel the emotion and imagery may in fact be too much, it may seem kitsch almost, when in reality it is the utmost calculated spirit and mystery. All Ivan knows is war, without hope of a childhood, born into war and his life is of war. Violence, horror and survival is all he knows and in certain respects all he will (now) ever know, a life scolded by the war. A tension between a sweet yet dangerous nostalgia – that of what is childhood is meant to be – and the reality he is within. Nostalgic dreams become nightmares; the impossibility of normality is true horror. Ivan’s loss is pure, dead loss, a side may have won, but no -ism, -opia or -ology can redeem the death of a child. A vacuum of meaning where there should be enjoyment exists in the total now, it has happened and as such the celebrations at the end of the film fall flat; Somebody won, it has ended, he is dead, hate is no-more…but what of our Ivan? What of a child? This can seem to be empty sentiment, the typical “Think of the children!”, but Tarkosky’s presentation of such a statement retrieves it from its mutation as something used. No longer are we to think of the children as a thought to get us to act, we are presented with the children, the innocence, but we are presented with a narrative complete, as such we are simply to witness what has been and attempt to learn. Ivan was gone as soon as he heard the first bomb fall.

Ivan is mad, that is a monster; that is a little hero; in reality, he is the most innocent and touching victim of the war: this boy, whom one cannot stop loving, has been forged by the violence he has internalised.” – Jean Paul Sartre (

Tarkovsky – On Solitude

This video is often a go-to Tarksovsky clip, an accessible piece of ephemera for a man who’s films spanned metaphysical canyons and existential voids. The video subtitles are unsatisfactory, a better translation:

Interviewer: “What would you like to tell people?”

Tarkovsky: “I don’t know… I think I’d like to say only that they should learn to be alone and try to spend as much time as possible by themselves. I think one of the faults of young people today is that they try to come together around events that are noisy, almost aggressive at times. This desire to be together in order to not feel alone is an unfortunate symptom, in my opinion. Every person needs to learn from childhood how to be spend time with oneself. That doesn’t mean he should be lonely, but that he shouldn’t grow bored with himself because people who grow bored in their own company seem to me in danger, from a self-esteem point of view.”

“How beautiful. The sound of horses which happen to ride by”.



Wetherspoons as a Simulacrum

The popular pub franchise Wetherspoons doesn’t sit right with most people, it never has, there is at its core, various vague elements that feel unreal. This is due to the fact that it is a simulacrum, perhaps a cultural simulacrum.

A simulacrum, is a representation or imitation of a person or thing.

The pub, it opens, The Deserted Crown it its name. Sitting amongst terraced houses in a small town within the south of the UK. The houses identical in architecture to the Crown. Benches out the front and back, a sign swinging from chains, bureacratical signs littering its walls, subtle hints at its interior.

Time is difficult to fake, make-up can work, yet the stories behind the wrinkles will be, and were, never there, and thus the illusion falls flat, it becomes strange, noticable, uncanny, like the person, or thing, is existing in an alternate oxygen from you. And you’ll never fit in unless you breath said atmosphere.

Weeks prior the installation began, a company specializing in ‘aged goods’ oversaw the entire project. Pre-worn carpets, a pool table with a spill applied via a brush, a working door’s hinges replaced with ones that creak, workers employed to slam doors and windows, to chip the paint work, score the walls, scuff the bar, cigarettes cut and lit only to be used as litter of aesthetic purpose.

A pub comes with hostilities, and not those that enter subconciously as the deceptions of monopolistic entities often do, primitive, unspoken hostility, tribes and tales, rumours and to-be-left-alones. This cannot be re-created, it has to be born and grow, however ugly and potentially rotten it can/could be, it still has to have had a life to be truly authentic.

And the actors are hired, one to stand by the bar every night…a regular, one to get too drunk, one to start a fight, rehearsals, a barman with a literal book of stories. The pub, it opens, and the punters enter and begin to drink. They begin to merge, disintegrate into this reality, and thus it becomes its own.

The End of the Tour

The End of the Tour, a film based off David Lipsky’s Although of Course You End up Becoming Yourself, a book following David Foster Wallace on the book tour of his post-modern epic Infinite Jest. There was a certain amount of niche controversy following the films announcement, mostly in terms of ‘What DFW would have wanted’. Well, what would DFW want? Firstly, very few of us know for sure what DFW would want, so perhaps we should leave it there. Ok, you can take the fact his family and estate didn’t agree with the making of the film and didn’t really want any part of it. Ok, that’s a fair assumption to make that the people closest to Wallace would know what he would want, either way what will be will be and the film went ahead. I’m not as ignorant to say however that Wallace would have wanted the film, anyone who has read his work or his very select amount of interviews will realise it is most likely something who would shy away from at a rapid speed. I imagine Wallace would think that the popularity/ego connotations that would come with allowing such a semi-biopic to be too vast and interconnected to discuss without overt use of aggravating amounts of irony and self-awareness, which could all quickly, at least as I see it, head towards the definition of a fraud, something Wallace worried about excessively.

There’s a strange occurrence in Foster Wallace fans it seems, as due to the personal aspects of Wallace’s work, and the fact that in part we’re clearly entering into what often seems to be Wallace’s entirely lucid, or as he put it, “Joyceian-tumble” of thought. And that, in this the reader really feels by the end of Wallace’s books that they’ve grown to know him (something mentioned by Lipsky in the film), at least a little bit, and I believe it’s this fact that spawns such die-hard fans, wherever a fan-base in concerned, for whomever it may be. This personal connection to the author had casual and diehard alike worried. I would imagine the casual fans of Wallace, those who’ve read Infinite Jest and a couple of his essay or short story collections, would see the film as gratuitous, a latching onto a hip-obscurity. Diehard fans, such as myself, I imagine and have found various problems, mainly I believed that such a film would lead to a Cobain-ification of Wallace, in that he would become a martyr or Gen X in a Holden Caufield-esque way, all angst ridden and lonely in a way that’s simply frustrating, vacant and untrue. In fact after a viewing I can say the film does have some positives and a fair few negatives in its telling of a snippet of a life.

The films opens with Lipsky (played by Jesse Eisenberg, so basically Jesse Eisenberg), sitting in his bohemian lounge surrounded by books and throws getting a call from his Editor telling him that Dave Wallace has died, Lipsky learns of DFW’s suicide and decides to find his old tape recording of his interview with DFW, as the tape begins to play we’re taken back in time. 12 Years prior to be precise to 1996, the year of the interview and Infinite Jest’s publication, Lipsky is at some party or artists and writers, some of which are talking, rather obviously and forcibly about the fact DFW is the new hotshot of the literary world, they literally take the words from a review and tell them to Lipsky, a rather unimaginative and lazy way to tell the viewer that, yes, DFW is big in the literary world at this time, if that wasn’t already obvious…or even needed to be said, I mean, who’s going to be watching this film.

Actually, the viewer’s prior knowledge of DFW striving to be a regular guy is actually helpful, as at this point in the film, roughly 10 minutes in, DFW is yet to appear other than in the abstract of speaking or in knowledge of his work, and thus the viewer sort of feels that of course DFW is going to appear (they know what the film is about and have seen the trailer) and get a feeling that all this time he is simply living without knowledge of Lipsky, or this other little thing, it’s quite inventive on the part of the screenwriter Donald Marguiles, as it emphasises the fact that DFW is simply living and is not working or acting at some saintly level.

When they do finally meet, DFW is seen from afar via a shot through Lipsky’s car window, a rather poignant shot, once again emphasising Foster Wallace’s fear, yet at the same time enjoyment at being a regular guy who can disintegrate into his surroundings. Lipsky becomes a distraction. Instantly DFW comes across as an awkward, sweaty borderline gross man, something a fan of DFW will love, there was a part of me that worried the directors and writers would turn DFW away from his inherent messy-humanity, there was a worry he would become refined, like someone who may really feel as if they were just in a costume, and the sweat was to be applied momentarily, a simulacrum of Foster Wallace was a major concern, and potentially still is. The part was clearly well rehearsed by Jason Segel, who plays Wallace, as the mannerisms, tonality of voice and small ticks are all on-point, alongside this another worry was that due to the knowledge of DFW’s friendliness and humanity, that the other more awkward aspects of his personality may be left aside in favour of a relatable/loveable Bill Murray-esque shell.

DFW quickly comes to realise, though I imagine already knew, that the interview of course has the Rolling Stone’s agenda of coolness, drugs, alcohol, the suffering writer, the lonely artist…something that Lispky really attempts to wretch from Wallace, and it’s something that just isn’t there, at least in the dramatic Hollywood style that Rolling Stone would like. The few moments throughout the film where there seems to be less tension and academic hostility between Lipsky and Wallace is when they are eating, I would go as far to say engorging on unnecessary amounts of fast food, the times when they really bond are the times spent sharing good old fashioned commercial entertainment. There is a few instances where Wallace’s eyes light up at the fact Lipsky is divulging into his personal life and you feel that DFW is excavating for titbits of human life. I won’ comment too much on the discussions they have as I would literally be directly quoting DFW, thus read the book.

There is a direction for Wallace throughout the film, which is to normality, something which he discusses with Lipsky and has discussed generally in depth, “Am I a good person?” It becomes apparent to the viewer that DFW’s hopes for normality are unrealised currently by the presence of Lipsky, and that this physical manifestation of something he quite clearly dislikes, a tactile reporter looking for something more, is potentially what’s in the way of his normality, yet will come with his work/success. Lipsky takes a fair few hostilities from DFW because of this, which get a masculine resolve. DFW dislikes the idea of Lipsky attempts at emulating him, not for the reasons however that Lipsky thinks, it’s because DFW understand his life isn’t all that exciting, that fame isn’t all that, or success, or talent, or money, or knowledge, that these things aside he is still lonely and lost, in thought and in the world, an overriding theme of many of his works. He even mentions to Lipsky that this, as in, the interview “Is not real”. A comment that brings out in the viewer an insight into Wallace’s life like no other, striving for the normal and the real within his life was a task in itself, as everything felt ‘not real’ and like playing the writer, the worry of being a fraud once again.

Eventually Lipsky and Dave have a sort of falling out, over some girl Wallace used to know, something that as a I remember doesn’t happen in the text…and if it does it does not come across that way, and thus is gratuitous campus-romance scrawling, the likes of which Wallace mentions at the start of the film in his class are dull. Lipsky proceeds to ask Dave about the heroin rumour and at various points throughout the film pries Dave for bits about the more Rolling Stone-esque side of his life, which is simply non-existent, at least in the way Lipsky wants it to be. Yes, DFW did have a drug/drink problem, however it was not along the lines of say S Thompson, or Bukowski, it wasn’t cool of productive, or a healthy extension of a persona, no, it was a simply every day, unproductive, escapist addictive hell, the likes of which DFW wants to escape and not drag up, due to the fact he knows he won’t be able to give Lipsky anything of Rolling Stone-worth.

The film ends with DFW going to a dance at his local Baptist Church, once again in search of his regular guy-ness and thus leaves the un-normality of the Lipsky interview behind. In this the writing of the film and the writing of Infinite Jest mirror each other, the entire narrative of quirks, tribulations, dramas, awkwardness, hostilities, truths, untruths, prying etc. comes to at end at a calm, collected moment in which the characters, in a certain way, are released from a momentary burden…most likely to only go on to address the next.

Originally I set out with the intention of disliking the film, as a diehard Wallace fan I thought of it as simply cashing in, creating a DFW-like persona to sell tickets, however, I believe the film is worth a watch, it has merit to it, Eisenberg is your typical Eisenberg, yet Jason Segel does a brilliant job of playing Wallace and at no moment does his style of acting feel disrespectful or out of his depth, and thus a film about a simple snippet of the life of a fantastic author is made. For some it’s a hello to DFW and his work, I imagine for some it may almost be a goodbye due to its mainstream connotations. However, if the film does anything it will introduce more people to the work of David Foster Wallace, via a small framework of understanding that is poignant and correct.

“It’s just much easier having dogs. You don’t get laid, but you also don’t get the feeling you’re hurting their feelings all the time.” – David Foster Wallace – 1962-2008