"Being John Malkovich" is one of the strangest movies that I have ever seen. It is almost impossible to fully explain the plot, structure, and meaning of this movie. I had seen the movie before this viewing; in fact, I watched the movie no more than eight months ago but that does not change the fact that this movie is just as bizarre as my first viewing. Two scenes in particular are extremely odd and hysterical in their own right, the scene where Malkovich enters his own mind and the scene with Elijah in the jungle. I will not even try to explain the two scenes but they are so off the wall that they are absolutely brilliant and uproarious. These two scenes are perfect microcosms for the rest of the movie. They depict how strange yet how funny and brilliant this movie is.
In our Hall book, Literary and Cultural Theory, Hall states that “it is clear that no one is fully self-aware and in control of all of the fears, desires, and conflicting emotions that can propel actions” (pg. 105). This quote speaks volumes about some of the actions in the movie. I will try not to summarize the plot because it would be impossible for me to adequately explain Spike Jonze and Charlie Kaufman’s movie. One of the main conflicting issues in the movie is whether or not it is right for Maxine and Craig to sell ‘trips’ into John Malkovich’s mind. Is this ethical? Even in the case where the tourist does not touch the surroundings but rather just admires them, is this a deplorable act? I tend to believe that this is a very harmful act but as Craig rationalizes it, he did discover the portal. But does that mean he is the owner of the portal or does it belong to Malkovich? Another question this movie raises is: would you like to be someone for 15 minutes? Personally, I do not know. I would not want to be John Malkovich for 15 minutes but I would like to be other people for 15 minute intervals. That is what Craig and Maxine are selling, a way to escape the plainness of everyday life. How does this movie relate to Hall’s section on Psychoanalytic Analysis? The answer is in Craig’s ability to control Malkovich and his other puppets actions and his inability to control his own life and the real people around him.
No one in the movie will doubt that Craig is a fantastic puppeteer, which is why he thrives, more so than anyone else, inside of Malkovich. He is able to propel Malkovich into iconic and legendary status within a span of a few months. As a side note, one of the funniest running jokes in the movie is that everyone knows who John Malkovich is but no one knows what movies he was in. Craig is able to manipulate Malkovich like his puppets because in a sense the portal allows him to become a puppet. Craig has fantastic relationships with things around him that he can control; the downside is that he can only control inanimate objects. His inability to control humans or his emotions eventually leads to his downfall. Craig is terribly poor at connecting with other humans. He is driven by his emotions, which are often very erratic. One almost wonders how he and Lottie remained married for so long. Like every other character in the movie, Craig cannot completely articulate why he loves being Malkovich so much. Everyone in the movie has almost the same response ‘it was fun and it…just felt right.’
Hall states “human activity is not reducible to conscious intent” (pg. 105), which is evident throughout this movie. Hall is stating that not every action that humans make is occurs because of a conscious or coherent thought. Often times actions or activities occur because of outside forces and factors, in the case for John Malkovich, many of his actions and thoughts were dictated by Craig. The thoughts and actions were not actually his but rather that of another person. This raises one more interesting question, are the premises and actions of this movie possible?