(I wrote this three weeks ago with the intention of splitting it in two, instead I leave it untouched so I can move on)
Before leaving Westworld behind I probably have a couple of things still in the system to get out. Then I embark for more EPICS.
One is a rant I wrote in the forums that I should copy and expand over here, but I’m not sure I should since it’s just polemics on the imposition of the character-driven story canon. It’s one of those things where I’m playing devil’s advocate.
The other instead is to point out that it took the finale and a few days to digest it, but finally also my other view is getting confirmation: that Westworld isn’t about consciousness, but about oppression and slavery. It’s about “awareness”, but meant in a literal and non-philosophical way. This “toning down” of the theme is what managed to make Westworld successful in my opinion. It lowered the ambition, but this let it avoid the pitfalls. So that it could tell a more tangible and relatable story.
This is what I originally wrote:
Westworld, consciousness, slavery and entitlement
And this is an excellent article on The New Yorker that confirms and expands the theme:
“Westworld,” Race, and the Western
In staging its robot uprising against the backdrop of a Western-themed amusement park, “Westworld” might appear to follow DuBois’s lead: the park’s oppressed come to consciousness of their condition and become empowered to change it.
The robot rebellion is, inevitably, an imperfect metaphor for the quest for human equality; robots are, after all, the creations of humans, and destined to remain that way. But if racial subjugation is also an invention—the most powerful and pernicious American tool for turning human beings into things—the fantasy is race itself: people of color are simply people, and, however feverishly racist minds might work to give their fantasy an objective basis, there is no basis in genetic code.
Thought I’m surprised, because while all this is quite perceptive, I strongly disagree on what I consider a wildly wrong interpretation when the article arrives to its conclusion. For example it says “Even when Westworld’s hosts rebel they continue to obey.” Which is not what the show tried to communicate. Ford created the conditions for the rebellion, he didn’t “own” its results. And then the end of the article seems to me extremely incongruous as it seems to focus on the fact that Ford is a white man. But Ford’s color of skin has not played a role in the show, trying to ascribe to it some meaning seems to me completely preposterous. The show’s function would have been identical if you replaced Ford’s actor with Arnold’s. The theme of race is about human beings versus hosts. Color of skin has not been a theme I could perceive.
It seems as if the article’s writer had a thesis, and then was upset when the show didn’t completely conform to his vision. And so he tries to point out some flaw. He imposed allegory on the show, then was disappointed in the message. But that allegory was his own, it wasn’t part of the show, and you can’t accuse the show of an allegory you decided to write all over it. It’s your own doing.
This is especially wrong because even when you take inspiration from history you aren’t simply mirroring it, or it would be pointless. Characters inspired to real ones have their own life, and acquire meaning for the dimension they live in. They don’t respond to their external roots. When you create fiction, the fiction is the stage. It needs to be autonomous and be judged autonomously. If you took inspiration then you’d have put some care to represent the important moving parts of the context you want to reproduce. If you don’t reproduce some of those elements, then those elements HAVE TO stay out of the interpretation, even if those elements were a natural part of the original context that inspired the fictional story. What you show is all there is. The parallel works as long both pictures hold the same relevant elements. But you cannot force elements of the first picture in the second fictional one if they aren’t represented.
So having Westworld behind, and having already examined it for what’s worthwhile, I now embark for more epics, as I said.
There are book epics and movie epics. The movie epics can be as insane and delirious as the book epics. I’m listing here the stuff I found and lined up because maybe someone else shares my love for the absurd too. Here’s the plan:
– The Human Condition by Masaki Kobayashi, Japanese, B/W, 9 hours 30 minutes total. (rated 8.5/8.8 on IMDB)
– Come and See by Elem Klimov, Russian, 2 hours 30 minutes. (rated 8.3 on IMDB)
– Heimat by Edgar Reitz, German, three long parts for a total of 52 hours. (rated 8.9/8.9/8 on IMDB)
– La Commune by Peter Watkins, English/French, almost 6 hours. (rated 8 on IMDB)
– Melancholia by Lav Diaz, Filipino, 7 hours 30 minutes. (rated 7.5 on IMDB)
Here some bits and pieces:
a brilliantly told and filmed epic that tells of a man trying to cling to his humanity in inhuman circumstances.
Kobayashi has given us a POW drama, a character study about duty VS dignity, a war film that crushed Full Metal Jacket, a roaming war-set nightmare that rivals Apocalypse Now, all wrapped up in an uncompromisingly humanist masterpiece. You will feel exhausted by the end of this, physically – 10 hours of straight cinema-scope horrors takes a toll on the eyes – and mentally. But it is undoubtedly one of the mind-expanding works of film, and one of the greatest tragedies ever put to the screen.
anyone who is seriously interested in understanding what’s wrong with the “human” should watch this excellent piece of art.
Part II is one of the best and rawest of the original boot-camp films, planting seeds for, in particular, “Full Metal Jacket”. In fact, Kaji’s training with the Imperial Army makes US Boot Camp look like daycare, uninclined as director Kobayashi is to pull punches when it comes to the ritual sadism of the Japanese military, which he personally endured in real life.
It is worth mentioning that the title “The Human Condition” is perhaps misleading. The Japanese word “jouken” corresponding to “condition” is not normally used in a descriptive sense, but rather, as a condition to be fulfilled or satisfied. Thus the title might be better rendered “The Conditions for Being Human”–the implication being that in wartime, the conditions for remaining fully human are elusive at best.
“Come and See is widely regarded as the finest war film ever made”
a propaganda for the “aesthetics of dirtiness”
“Making the infamous opening 15 minutes of Spielberg’s ‘Saving Private Ryan’ look about as brutal as a Sunday afternoon’s stroll down Chesil Beach, Elem Klimov’s hallucinatory ‘Come and See’”
Hallucinatory, heartrending, traumatic and uncompromising
[Klimov] taps into that hallucinatory nether world of blood and mud and escalating madness that Francis Ford Coppola found in Apocalypse Now.
“makes Apocalypse Now look lightweight”
Several characters are killed, but it is the fate of the cow with which the film is most preoccupied.
It is the work of a visionary, a cry of despair from the depths of hell, and an important reminder of humanity’s capacity for inhumanity
“a startling mixture of lyrical poeticism and expressionist nightmare.
possibly the worst date movie ever.
There’s more that links these movies all together beside length. All of them are considered masterpieces, all of them are almost unknown to the large public. I already started watching Heimat a year ago, so I’m trying to continue where I left since I only saw the first three/four episodes (but that’s already a few *hours* of stuff).
As usual, colossal human endeavors awe me and get my interest. I do this for myself, so I don’t plan to write about them here, unless there’s something specific.