Sunday, February 10, 2008

John Malkovich and Elijah

In agreeing with Thomas I would also say that "Being John Malkovich" is one of the strangest movies that I have ever seen, and to attempt to explain why Spike Jonze and Charlie Kaufman directed and wrote this movie would be an impossible task. It is perhaps more beneficial to instead examine the characters in the movie through a psychoanalytical lens. One of the themes in the movie that interested me was the idea of repressed childhood memories. From the beginning of the movie we are told that Elijah, the chimp, is seeing a psyciatrist to work out his issues and that both the shrink and Lotte Schwartz believe that Elijah has some repressed childhood memory that is troubling him and effecting the life he leads. At first it seems as though this is just Lotte's crazy imagination and she is just being suckered into paying a psychologist to help her pet chimp. In the end of the movie however we see that Elijah really did have a violent repressed childhood memory that could be causing him some troubles. This memory is largely based on Elijah's dealings with his parents and those around him and is marked by trauma. Hall discusses this notion that traumatic experiences have long lasting effects on personality, which would explain why Elijah is having some issues. What is really interesting about this idea of the affects of trauma during development is looking at the character of John Malkovich. When Lotte and Maxine enter Malkovich's subconscious and travel through his memories they are all memories of very traumatic experiences: watching his parents have sex, walking naked through the boys locker room while being called "Malko-bitch," peeing his pants on the school bus, sniffing women's underwear, and having an awkward moment on the couch with a women are all experiences that would have long lasting effects on one's personality. Is this perhaps a commentary on why John Malkovich, of all people, has a passage to his brain or why Craig is able to manipulate John for a prolonged period of time? It might very well be impossible to answer these questions, but the idea of the traumatic events have long-lasting effects on the human psyche is an interesting way to look at this movie.

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