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An Interesting Failure
`Solaris' could have been much better had it stayed closer to the intent of Stanislaw Lem's original novel. In Lem's novel, Solaris is a planet totally covered by a gelatinous sea that may or may not exhibit sentience. Humanity puts a station into orbit around the planet to study this colloidal ocean, this strange blob that may or may not be an alien life form. Strange things begin to happen. Geometric shapes appear and disappear in space for no discernable reason, followed by purposeless contraptions, and finally by physical manifestations of people from the scientist's own pasts. The reasons for all this are never determined, and never CAN be determined. Solaris, then, represents the human subconscious, which is not amenable to logic, analysis, or definitive `explanations.' The subconscious generates impulses, dreams, and creative variations for no `purpose' other than to express. To approach the subconscious with mere logic is like asking why circles are round: they just are. Yet man (Western man especially) will not hear of this, for he fancies himself a rational being. He likes to think that his logic dominates his instincts, a delusion that distorts his reason and causes him untold suffering. He insists that he can use the surface of his mind to delve into its own depths, which is like trying to understand a computer program while being controlled by the program itself. Result: one goes in circles that are fraught with obsession, tyranny, and hypocrisy. The surface of the mind can only deal in dualities, in definite things, in hard edges and sharp corners, in actuality. By contrast, the subconscious is the realm of formless, vague, and dynamic potential. It is as amorphous as the strange ocean that covers the planet Solaris.
Such was the intent of Len's novel. The film itself comes closest to this point when a character remarks that, `We don't want other worlds, we just want mirrors.' This concept is pursued further in the film when Chris Kelvin, a psychologist who is sent to the station (George Clooney) grapples with how he related to his dead wife, who suddenly appears to him out of nowhere. Kelvin gradually realizes that he had mostly been in love with a mirror of himself. It dawns on him that he was married not to a person but to his projection, just as the physical manifestation of his wife on the space station is a `projection' from the planet Solaris. Kelvin's failure to understand this about himself while his wife was still alive on earth is made all the more poignant by the fact that he is a psychologist -- someone who supposedly appreciates the vagaries of mind. Indeed, it is his very talent at seeing into the human mind that thwarts his wife's attempts to communicate with him as a conscious being with her own profound feelings. After all, as a psychologist, it's Kelvin's `job' to dissect, analyze, and `figure out,' not to submit to another in the interests of intimacy, even though Kelvin craves intimacy as much as any other human.
Meanwhile, regarding art direction, technical details are de-emphasized, which supports the story's message that human technology can never lead to an understanding of a truly alien thing. This is a refreshing change from tedious attempts by special effects people to show off their computer skills. The space suits, however, are unforgivably hokey. They look like silver overalls worn by oil derrick workers, not something that provides raw life support in the most hostile environment there is: space.
Among the film's more fundamental problems is its apparent attempt to satisfy today's demand that a storyline must revolve around a `love interest.' With just a few more minutes of running time, a few more lines of dialogue, and a few more hints at the overall meaning of the planet Solaris, the movie would have retained what it has, including the `love interest,' while also including themes that are more clearly universal and profound.
The film's biggest flaw, however, is wrapped in its primary strength, which is its over-reliance on mood and ambience. At first glance this may seem a refreshing change. Today, Hollywood rarely budges from hackneyed storytelling formulae because moviegoers turn up their noses when presented with anything too fresh and original, anything that is too much of what they ask for. Nonetheless, a director must balance mood with plot. He must counter-foil ambience with action. He should start with a forceful story, pithy dialogue, and purposeful action, and intersperse these with scenes that have no plot, dialogue, or action at all--just photography accompanied by memorable music that fleshes out the story's `feel' and `spirit.' `Solaris,' however, is nothing BUT `feeling' and `spirit,' a pastiche of glances, gestures, and snapshot scenes that occasionally approach brilliance, but, taken as a whole, demand more than they return. Thus, `Solaris' loses its balance. This is why some people walk out of the theatre before the film ends. They appreciate that there may just be a profound message somewhere in it but, weary of its nebulousness, they resign themselves to asking friends what THAT was all about. Most of their friends will shrug their shoulders, and even when one of those friends offers a useful interpretation, the moviegoer thinks, `Oh. I see. Whatever.'
`Solaris' will flop commercially, but time will be kind to it. It is like a small coral atoll that breaks out on the surface of an ocean. At first, people scorn the atoll, step on it, and dump trash on it. Then, as the water around it sinks-i.e., as today's awful movies continue to become even more awful-the atoll becomes an island, and finally a mountain that towers over the sinking sea. This does not mean that `Solaris' will one day become a `cult classic,' or any kind of `classic' based on its intrinsic qualities. It means that the film will eventually be somewhat more appreciated in the context of its time. Viewed from this angle, I salute the director for at least trying to do something different in a way that's constructive, rather than adolescent, vulgar, or gratuitous.
The Mothman Prophecies (2002)
Sorry, this one's a stinker
In 1980 I read John Keel's book "The Mothman Prophecies," and when I first heard about this movie two years ago, I was excited. My letdown at the film was rather extreme. Confused, muddled, pointless and pretentious, this is not an example of effective storytelling. 99 percent of what was in the book was left out of the movie, yet, incredibly, John Keel himself said he LIKED this thing when he saw it at a premier. Poor Laura Linney's talents are wasted yet again.
The Others (2001)
Well meaning but predictable
The makers of this film sought, in part, to create a mature and intelligent blurring of the line between the "living" and the "dead." Unfortunately this formula has become trite, and this is what inevitably causes "The Others" to be compared with movies like "The Sixth Sense" (which I found equally predictable and disappointing). I had hoped for more originality, a new "Haunting of Hill House," perhaps, or "Turn Of The Screw." Alas, 20 minutes into the story, the ending of "The Others" was obvious. And its ending is depressing. Stories involving supernatural themes edify us most when they are uplifting as well as thought-provoking (e.g., "The Secret Garden"). If they are not uplifting, then they chronicle a descent into madness, and we already see too much of that in everyday life. A voyage through hell is only valuable when it is used to reveal the Light. This is especially true today, for as a society we are not bored and wish to be deliciously scared; instead we are stressed out and wish for some indication that peace and sanity are still possible. No such indication is provided by "The Others."
Regarding the movie's set decoration and camera work, these are passable but not on par with even so much as the recent "Legend of Sleepy Hollow." And the use of relentless white fog to suggest inter-worldly limbo has been around at least since 1944's "Between Two Worlds." No real originality there. Nonetheless, the trashier a summer-cinema season, the more elegant any alternative like "The Others" becomes by sheer comparison.
The main value of "The Others" lies in what it reveals about our culture's growing pessimism about virtually everything, including life after death. "Ghost" had a positive ending, but since its release in 1990, almost all stories involving supernatural topics (other than gratuitous horror flicks that entertain because they are hilariously awful) do not have characters going to Heaven, or even hell. There is no longer any Light, God, or Savior. The afterlife consists only of an endless, dreary, solitary limbo. The basic difference between this world and the next is that in the latter, we are each exposed as neurotic losers after all. Thus, movies with Satanic elements fail today because we have no divine elements to look forward to. Death only brings us eternal drabness and solitude. Even cinematic romances today mostly hinge on doomed love (e.g., "The English Patient," "Bridges Of Madison County," etc.) All we can do any more is hang on and grapple with our mounting anxieties. "The Others" might have used this reality as a springboard to suggest some fresh pathway to salvation. Instead, we have another example of political correctness applied to a supernatural theme, wherein we are asked why we and ghosts "can't just get along" in our mutually mirroring limbos. What a downer.
The Dead (1987)
This is truly a remarkable movie. "The Dead" shows us a turn-of-the-century Irish dinner party attended by a host of lost souls. It is a snapshot of people who either loved and lost, or never got to love at all. Everyone here longs for love -- not just ordinary fondness, but a condition where one almost sees God in the other person. (Those who have not experienced this will deem it maudlin.) For example, in the story, Anjelica Huston's character refers to one "Michael Fury" whose love for her had burned so intensely that he allowed himself to freeze to death in a river because he could not be hers. Such actions strike the idle passerby as pathetic (savage Americans would label Michael Fury a "loser"). But years later, when this kind of passion is deemed the only thing that matters, people privately develop a more respectful take on such things.
At dinner, tenor Frank Patterson sings for the guests, his lovely voice stealing through the walls like the scent of a garden into a tomb. Beauty like this makes us want to find someone, open our jugular vein, and urgently bleed into them. We feel that somewhere burns an unseen, silent, and impossibly distant Light. If only we could share that Light with someone, or at least share a quest for it. But how? Alas, we can only stand at the bedroom window alone, watching the snowfall like Anjelica Huston's husband (Donal McCann) does at the movie's end. Many characters in the movie spend their whole lives at that bedroom window. Others are like Michael Fury, dying in a freezing river as he stares at the house where his Beloved conducts her affairs, unresponsive to him. At one point, after a guest recites a moving poem, one of the female guests laments, "Imagine being loved like that." She means a devotion so intense as to rearrange our psyches. But her chance for love is gone, crushed beneath layers of dashed hopes now piled high like the snows of Ireland in the movie. No rose sprouts in these drifts; only long-buried yearnings that waft like a vapor around headstones.
This movie hints at secrets that are akin to something one experiences as a child who, lying awake and alone one night, spies a star outside the window and for an instant glimpses the Unspeakable. The child makes no mention of this to anyone - who would understand? ("That's nice, dear.") But the longing to share that glimpse with someone, or to share someone else's glimpse, burns until death. At the end of "The Dead," Anjelica Huston's husband realizes that he has shared no such glimpse with his wife, no such love. His wife has sobbed herself to sleep on the bed and remains silent as he looks out the bedroom window in the wee hours. Great stories have great dialogue, but the greatest have characters whose silence points to the realm of boundless could-be's. We hear the husband's lamenting thoughts as exterior night scenes melt into one another. Fields, starlit graveyards, wizened trees -- all hushed as "snow is gently falling all over Ireland, and falling gently."
No routine tale of collision between desire and proscription this; no melodramatic costume-struggle between attraction and social propriety. "The Dead" speaks to each person's Star of Bethlehem, glimpsed once and then repressed until something like this dinner party shakes it loose. On the morrow the guests will tell themselves that they simply had too much wine at the party, and will thereby seal Heaven into their mental cellar once more. Their pain will continue as always.
Sensitive and understated, I give this one top marks across the board. Bravo to John Huston. A fitting last effort by a great director.
THX 1138 (1971)
Horror so pure it becomes beautiful
Some films are too lousy to sit through. Others we enjoy to the end but immediately forget. Still others we will discuss for an hour afterward, or in rare cases a day or even a week afterward. But for all cinemaphiles there are one or two movies that stay with them for decades. THX 1138 is one of those for me. After 30 years, its mood and significance still pops up when I glimpse things in real life like the gentle brutality of a metropolitan cancer ward, with its sickly green walls and ghastly fluorescent lighting. The film haunts me as I walk through large technological facilities filled with deserted corridors, spooky chambers behind locked doors, and endless pipes and wiring. "THX 1138" resonates in the bizarre nature of real-life cloning, sperm banks, in-vitro human fertilization, global communications, Prozac for the masses, technology developed far beyond our ability to understand it. This is cinematic horror whose power is based on plausibility. It is not "The Matrix" or "1984" -- there is no malevolent enemy with supernatural powers, no deliberate campaign of enslavement or exploitation, no Big Brother to violently tyrannize the citizenry, no clear evil. It is not "The Andromeda Strain" - there is no opportunistic germ that must be prevented from destroying humanity. It is not even "Metropolis" - no one is asked to work unreasonably hard. You are not cog. You are not even an ant. You are a corpuscle inside a comatose organism whose body has no end.
The film depicts a "future" in which all humans live underground in a city of boundless expanse. How did they get there? We are not told. There are no narrative explanations, no judgments, and no heavy handed moral to mediate the film's impact. THX 1138 simply shows us a world. Take from it whatever moral you deem fit. This is a dimension with no unemployment and no pollution, but also no sun, no sky, no grass, no hope, no love. Industrial accidents that shred human bodies flash by in sound-bite form. The carnage is unfortunate, but if it does not affect us directly, who cares? Policemen are courteous robots with the personality of ATM machines. Every individual is pharmaceutically lobotomized by government-mandated drugs from the instant he or she is conceived in a clinical tube. All this in the name of efficiency: "We are only here to help," say the robotic police.
This world is a cross between a computer chipmaker's clean room and a museum for shriveled things in glass jars. Through it all, the story's chief protagonist (Robert Duval) is not a hero out to free the oppressed, but is simply a fugitive. Who does he run from? Why is he being chased? Where is he headed? He has no idea.
The awfulness of THX 1138 is so realistic, and so spared of temporal ideologies, that the movie is beautiful, even inspiring in the sheer purity of its horror. Lest you think THX is risibly obscure, consider that the password THX 1138 is used by millions today for their log-in names. An advanced calculator's brand name is based on it, along with, of course, Lucas' own "THX" sound system in countless movie theatres. One of Lucas' own cars even had a personalized THX 1138 license plate. Francis Ford Coppola, genius behind the "Godfather" and "Apocalypse Now," thought so much of this movie that he staked his entire Zeotrope Studio's fortune on it.
I do recommend it to you. You will admire it or hate it. With true art forms, there is no in-between
True Confessions (1981)
A mature and intelligent tear jerker for men
It is interesting that many people around the world enjoyed this gem despite not having been raised in Los Angeles, California. Like "Chinatown," "Mulholland Falls," "L.A. Confidential," and others, this film is in small part a celebration of the sleazy underside of pre-1960 L.A. Its story contains references to numerous geographic and historical icons from that era, and weaves in oblique references to everything from the infamous "Black Dahlia" murder to the legacy of the first wave of Irish immigrants to L.A. to the genesis of the pornographic movie industry which eventually made its headquarters in nearby Northridge, California. Extreme attention to historical detail is obvious in every scene. Robert DeNiro, at his understated best, plays a priest who manifests the power politics that the Catholic Chuch has often engaged in out of political and economic necessity. Robert Duvall, as DeNiro's brother, plays a lonely burned out LAPD homicide detective with a perpetually wistful expression that suggests horrors and heartbreak stolidly borne. Ultimately this is a story about the love between two brothers who could never connect but never lost touch with one another. Despite its glossy photography, this is not a blockbuster but a chamber piece. The ending is, for once, a tear jerker for men. Extremely erudite scriptwriting with top notch production values. This is as close to flawless as "Chinatown" was. I recommend it most highly!
Pascali's Island (1988)
Twilight Of A World
As schoolchildren we hear the terms World War "I" and "II" -- and then spend the rest of our lives learning why it was called WORLD war. The story is set in the Aegean on the eve of World War I when so many nations lusted to flash their sabers and sound their canons. Ben Kingsley brilliantly plays "Pascali," a bottom-ranking spy for the Ottoman Empire that, after reigning for 900 years, is about to be annihilated by the war. The name "Pascali" is a reference to Judeo-Christian symbols of the paschal lamb, passover, and so forth, and the story incorporates the encounter between Muslim Turkey and the Greek Orthodox Church. Pascali longs for the attention of expatriate Lydia (Helen Mirren) who, being an Austrian, represents the impending war's crushing of the Austro-Hungarian Empire as well. Into the lazy sun drenched intrigue of Pacali's Greek island steps one Antony Bowles (a most poished Charles Dance). A failed archeologist turned world-traveling swindler-sophisticate, Bowles, in classic Anglic fashion, plays the Turks and Germans against one another. (The only thing missing, in terms of dynasties the "Great War" destroyed, is a reference to the Romanovs! But then, actress Helen Mirren is of Russian descent...hmmm.) Even the Americans are involved as distantly glimpsed (for they would not enter the war until 1917) arms merchants. Lest this all seem like a pretentious amount of historical intricacy, "Pacali's Island" is a modest set piece about a handful of people whose gods have deserted them or never heard their plaintive worshipping in the first place. The blinding glare of the Greek Islands is artistically wrapped like bleached gauze around a mood of sweat-and-ouzo-soaked melancholy. Mature, intelligent, and sensitive, this one requires the viewer to be wide awake. View it perhaps on a Sunday morning while the coffee is fresh. Take from it the line (that means nothing out of the movie's context)"The error of their ways." Quality film making!
Focus on the Poetics - Not the Prose
Spoilers - spoilers - spoilers
This movie is riddled with flaws, but just as it is easy to decry the black monolith in Kubrick's "2001" as a stupid contrivance - and thereby nullify its symbolism - so it is easy to ridicule the design of this movie's robot, to take one example. Do people praise this movie simply because they are commanded to by social convention? Do its merits lie only in its "cult status"? Or does this movie indeed have intrinsic value? It does. But its greatness lies not in its story, which is easily assailed, but in its art. Or, if one prefers, not in its prose but its poetics.
It is the poetics of this movie (like those of "2001") that make it difficult for most people to explain their enthusiasm for it.
Consider the particulars. When the alien's ship first moves in to land on earth, people on the ground hear a strange sound from everywhere, a hum or a singing, a song celestial from the clouds. The alien's ship, moving over Washington DC, is not huge, black and ominous like that seen in the recent movie "Independence Day." It is radiant with white light, for its bears a visitor from Beyond. It lands in the sunlit glare of a lazy afternoon and then sits silent for hours, giving earthmen the first hint of its power, which lies not in destructiveness or technological prowess but in mystery. The silence of the ship, like that of the robot that stands motionless through most of the story, does not inspire terror, for terrible things can be measured, mathematically encompassed, and opposed. Instead, the ship's silence, its very motionlessness, inspires dread and awe. It is never what the robot does that unnerves earth people but what it might do. What it does remains in the realm of actuality. What it might do hails from the realm of boundless potential.
The robot's smooth minimalist surfaces accentuate its mystery. It sits silent and featureless throughout most of the movie. Human technology cannot penetrate its surface. Its power remains inscrutable, its might emanating from the realm of the formless. Like the Egyptian pyramids, the robot is impressive not for its size but its sheer being-there, its is-ness. To stand before a pyramid is to ask searching questions about who built it and why -- questions about life, death, and so on. Who can resist the pyramid's silence? Who can resist the robot's Silence? How to oppose or delimit it? How to grasp the motives behind that expressionless face? And just as the robot's mysteries are inscrutable, so do they defy containment. At one point earthmen try to encase the robot in a hi-tech laminate, but the robot vaporizes its imprisoning block.
If more techno-babble and special effects were infused into "The Day The Earth Stood Still," the film would lose its poetic value. Because tedious explanation is minimized, the alien is a visitor not from some other planet, but from the stars, from a celestial other-universe. All of this is lost on those who insist on comparing the sheer production values of this film to subsequent movie technology.
Many have blasted the plot of this movie as improbable. How, for example, does a hulking robot walk the streets of Washington DC undetected? And so on. Every great film and book has flaws. "Moby Dick," for example, is a wonderful story, but the book cries out for editing. Yet "Moby Dick" remains a great novel, partly because of the Ahab character. The "Klattu" character in DESS is similarly interesting. From his first appearance he radiates respect and authority without the overbearingness that usually accompanies it. He befriends the boy "Bobby" as an ideal father . . . patient, respectful, delighted to be in the boy's company. He epitomizes the air of the tall distinguished visitor: modest, polished, obliging, but with an edge of mystery about him. Contrived? Yes. But great art inspires its audience to pursue greatness themselves. We would all like to have the general calm that "Klaatu" does. What woman wouldn't want something of the alien's personality in her child's father? "Toughness" in him is not necessary, for this being, in the story, has every human being at his mercy.
The movie's poetics extend to the robot that brings back the alien from the dead as a master surgeon whose skill stems not from adroitness with a scalpel, but from sheer presence. When the alien becomes alive again, the robot stands back and awaits further orders. This is taking the archetype of the "strong silent type" to a mythic degree. We feel that the robot, as a mobile obelisk, could stand motionless for eons if need be, unconcerned with human developments. The robot therefore hints at the eternal in a manner akin to that of the black monolith in "2001."
Some detractors base their comments on the fact that the plot is a product of its bygone day. Then, manifesting the prejudices of their own day, those same detractors berate the film because the alien is not female and not non-white. We see in a film what we want to see, and what we want to see is a product of the prejudices and ideologies we bring to the theatre or VCR.
This was sci-fi before it lapsed into self-parody. One reviewer wrote, "Imagine that you're in a dimly lit room listening to the radio about an alien on the loose. All of the sudden, the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end as you quickly turn to see the dark and sullen figure of a strange man named Mr. Carpenter." These and other scenes are what we celebrate as "cinematic moments." Those who get nothing from them have our sympathy.
The Shout (1978)
Superb Psychological Thriller
Spoilers - Spoilers - Spoilers
Films like this one act as fairy tales, in that their audiences are asked to participate in the creation of wonder, and not be passive recipients of entertainment. Here the onlooker must balance the two extremes of suggestibility and critical analysis. One must be both a child and an adult -- -submissive to what is happening while maintaining one's analytical faculties at maximum intensity. When one assumes such a posture with patience, "The Shout" yields profound symbols and meanings. It is an example of what I shall call the "apotheosis of the everyday," in which ordinariness itself becomes the principal matrix of magic and mystery. It does not hinge on impressions of dread, terror, or revulsion. It is more properly described as "weird" in the sense of a quiet eeriness, as though the surface of life were intact but underlying structures of meaning are vaguely warped. In "weirdness" we feel that something we cannot point our finger on is askew, but we cannot explain what we mean. Orderly networks of logic feel undermined. Criteria for distinguishing between the "important" and the "trivial" become an existential hall of mirrors in which escape and "sanity" are only two of an infinite number of reflections. Everything in this movie refers to everything else
In "The Shout," one man in a mental asylum, the mysterious "Charles Crossley" (Alan Bates) relates a strange tale to "Robert," (Tim Curry) a visitor to the asylum. This narrative technique of a story-within-a-story invests the film with a reflexivity, such that movie watchers become co-dreamers in this cinematic dream-within-a-dream. Just as the character Robert cannot decide whether the described events actually happened or are merely the ravings of a lunatic, so we the viewers must ponder whether this is just a movie or some kind of sardonic documentary.
The strange works of English painter Francis Bacon appear throughout the house in which the story is set, and with them the outrageous incongruities and silent howls that punctuated Bacon's oeuvre. Spatial proportions are alternately affirmed and subverted, as doors slam, camera angles vary, and a shots of ordinary things alternate with ominous scenes of understated shock.
The film's story swirls Judeo-Christianity, animism, and contemporary psychological theory into a kaleidoscope of mysterious "could-be's." Enigma prevails at all times, such that the film defies attempts at summations that would tie it off into neat little knots and bows. Like any fairy tale, the film does not simply afford us an "escape"; it rearranges everything from social stratification to value judgments, and thereby suggests that freedom and renewal remain possible at all times. This is a fairy tale for highly educated adults who are sufficiently mature in their estimations of religion and self to be able to concede that, "We just don't know."
All the archetypes of the occult are here. For example, Crossley as the embodiment of crass evil (or is he?) cannot enter into Antony's and Rachel's life and house until he is invited in for lunch. He relishes Rachel's offering of a simple glass of water, symbolically infused with her energy that he gulps down. Inside the house a toy figure of a bee hangs from the ceiling, and camera angles frequently have that bee chance to hover over Crossley's head, signifying his possible ability to change into a bird, insect or other animal, in alignment with the folklore of Australian aborigines and other peoples. The Beelzebub buzzing of a bee figures into Antony's own work as an experimental musician, as he plays with microphones and sounds. Indeed, sound - buzzing, music, thunder, bells, shouting -- is the principal medium that weaves the story's elements together. (Other occult stories pivot on senses such as smell: sulfur, feces, rose perfume, musty paper etc. -- or sight: ghosts, apparitions, UFOs, elves, dark strangers, etc.) When a skeptical Antony is exposed to Crossley's awful "shout," Antony tumbles down a sand dune hearing millions of bells like those described by meditative adepts in certain states, or by those who claim to have "near death experiences." Antony and Rachel themselves live near a craggy beach, an interface between land and sea, between "normalcy" and bizarre potential, a threshold where the sound of waves crashes all the time. Indeed, waves, bells, roaring, buzzing, and thunder are part of the mystic and occult traditions of India and other lands. On the other hand, let us remember that Crossley's account is naught but a "tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing"; as quoted by one character at movie's end. Or is it?
What is significant in the story and what is inconsequential? We just do not know. Or is it all just so much rot? In critiquing cinema, as in our regular lives, it seems that we make our choices by subjective impulse and live by those choices as though we grasped absolute truth. But mystery remains at the heart of everything. Fans of mystery enjoy watching the unknown be progressively "solved," but there is value in a mystery remaining a mystery. To "solve" a mystery is to be rendered ravenous for a new mystery, a continually bigger or more unique mystery. An encounter with the unsolvable, however, leaves one deliciously humble.
There are so many symbolic references and counter-references throughout this movie that one cannot help but be impressed with the intricacy of its crafting. Granted, the film is so dense that it will polarize audiences into staunch advocates and bitter foes. One reviewer described it as a "murky DUD." But aren't all our personal lives in a sense a "murky DUD"? Or are they filled with a wondrous madness that we dare not acknowledge? Are we dreaming gods, or just termites in a global mound? Who knows?