Sunday, February 12, 2012

old thoughts, re-packaged with gore

I just finished watching The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo* for the second time; and despite the fact that the actors looked different, somehow, and the talking seemed less Swedishy this time around, they still had that one key scene where the evilbad torturer-guy has the sincere protagonist in his wicked clutches and says to him those immortal words, "you know... we're not all that different, you and I," so I wondered to myself, why is it that this line shows up in film after film after film?

My first instinct was to assume the worst - that writers are lazy and in a pinch will always revert to something that's worked before. This movie isn't a lazy movie, though - it's a taut, well-crafted thriller. Besides, there is usually a reason why something has worked in the past, and while a good writer will always look for a fresh way to express timeless truths about the human condition, one truth always remains glaringly obvious: that there is, in fact, nothing new under the sun.

All decent movies are morality plays - they say something about the discrepancy between the way people are and the way people ought to be. So... what moral truth does this particular phrase turn on? To discover this, I think we have to listen to our knee-jerk emotional response when the Bad Guy says those words, a response that tells us that we have heard his twisted logic and rejected it - that we know, deep down, that there is good and that it must not be confused with evil.

Yet another reminder, to me, that stories offer a powerful way to investigate what's really going on behind the rhetorical scum-skin of the universe. Nothing particularly earth-shattering there, I suppose. But then, what do you expect?

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*Note to childrens on the internets: this is a seriously troubling movie with some crazy, graphic schtuff in it. Please don't watch it with your faces, as you will get nightmares and wet the bed.

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