Sunday, May 31, 2015

Mad Max and social ontology.

I saw the new Mad Max last night. I can't say I was as impressed as the many people who had told me to see it. It was an interesting stylistic experiment, but I prefer less allegory and more formal insight. Regardless, it seems like something that literary critics will love to apply eco-lenses, feminist-lenses, Marxist-lenses, etc. to.

Of course there is much psychoanalytic content. Here is my first round of thoughts about it:

The film, at its base, is about the auto-erotic ontology. The titular character is confronted with both a hostile world (desert, no water, nuclear fallout, etc.) and everyone in it seems hostile. He also has to deal with hallucinations, which shows the competition between external world and the inner world in him, in a way that's self-attacking. (The act of the writer making his own world that doesn't exist, shows the rivalry with the father Space, as well).

There is also a lot of blending into the world that takes place. Sometime it's for camouflage, sometimes its because they are run down and beaten by the environment, and sometimes it feels like a lack of separation between the world and all the people in it, as Freud's idea of oceanic oneness suggests. I've pointed out before that directors such as Tim Burton have a fully global aesthetic in which both the environment and people are creepy, gloomy, monstrous, etc.

Joe, the villain who is hoarding all the water to himself. He actually seems to just drink human milk and not even drink the water, but I think it's best to keep these two things on different levels. For example, later in the movie, Max uses the milk to wash the blood off of his face like its water and doesn't accord it special value.

The real contrast is water vs. blood. Joe has the water and everyone else is forced to wait until he sprinkles some of it down or to use a "blood bag". This means kidnapping a human from outside the group and pumping his blood into your body (which is what happens to Max).

So water, the thing that allows you to survive in the desert world, is the possession of the father and people have to survive off of "bad" water, which is blood. This reminds me of Michael being unable to drink milk or eat food in The Lost Boys. These basic items of survival are cut off and he hungers for blood.

At this level too, beyond the world, there is a preoccupation of the Joe's warriors with Valhalla (heaven). They believe that if they sacrifice themselves heroically in battles that they will go there. Compare this with The Matrix in which no such representation of heaven exists. There is a back and forth between the "real world' and the "matrix" and this feels like it implies a trito stage form of mastery, in contrast between the bad "real world" and heaven which is completely idealized. There's a point in The Matrix in which a character says that it was built as a paradise, but humans rejected it, so they had to make it flawed.

While Joe controls the water at the auto-erotic level, and symbolically is an auto-erotic father, he isn't represented as a God ruling from heaven. However, he is depicted as volar father substitute in the full social sense of being attributed as immortal, and semi-divine enough to take his warriors to the gates of Valhalla. I think that this might be the level of the mother's milk vs. regular food. There is Joe and his "royal" family that live above all the others because they are more than human, Mother's milk is like their ambrosia.

This also reminds me of the importance of food in the volar stage of Polyphemus. The men find quite a big feast in the cave.

At the next anal level, Joe is also at the top place of power in the hierarchies of power. There are classes of people represented, not just semi-divine vs. human, but also the weak rabble, basic soldier or "war boys," other generals who have their own soldiers, and Joe above them all. At this level, there is also the representation of the father of the primal horde who has access to all the women.

There is also the sense, when Joe's group encounters other rival groups, not under his control, that he is the "superpower" and they can't oppose him.

Lastly, at the phallic level, there is the dynamic of family and loyalty. The main female lead is Furiosa. She takes away Joe's harem to rescue them and bring them back to her home, from which she was kidnapped when she was a child. She rose in ranks in Joe's army and she was treated as special and not like other outsiders who become "blood bags". So, there is a sense of rebelling against a personal relationship with Joe as a mentor/father that is referenced by others.

However, instead of an egoistic rebellion, it's an altruistic one. Furiosa isn't stealing the women for herself, she is rebelling against Joe as someone who can make them happy. When the father can't make the mother happy, than the altruist defuses and has to do it herself. She's no longer allowed to live for her own happiness and has to rescue mother or protect mother.      

Lastly, there is a great storm that Furiosa enters to 'lose' Joe and the others who are in pursuit. In this storm there is a tornado and it feels like it's a whole new level, of not just survival against environment and people, but that a void can open up... and that there is something more primal than the earth....

I can't put my finger on it, but maybe this is an earlier level... maybe the potential for annihilation is there, at the earlier level and not at the level of Space.... It appears like Max is normally alone in the world without anyone at all. This suggest its own level, as opposed to the later representation of the material world which includes an environment and other bodies...

I have to think about this more...

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