Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Hostel analysis - part 3: Paxton gets closer to becoming a torturer


Eli Roth, director of Hostel. [Image from the Wikipedia 'Eli Roth' page; EliRothIBAug09 by Bev Moser, licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.]

In part 2 of the analysis, we left off with Paxton getting the upper hand with a man who had started to torture him, and then escaping from the room in which he was being held. Paxton proceeds to try and find his way out of the building he's in. While working his way through the corridors, he happens to enter the 'changing room' where newly-arrived clients (again, people who have paid to torture others) don the apparel they will need while torturing, such as aprons to keep their clothing from being splattered with blood. While Paxton is in this changing room, he begins to look around for something with which to disguise himself (by this point he has removed from his head, the helmet/mask disguise mentioned in part 2). He then hears someone else coming into the room, so he knows he must act quickly. He looks in a locker and finds a black coat resembling a trench coat, and a pair of black gloves, and quickly puts them on (the gloves are a necessary part of the disguise because some of his fingers had been cut off while he was being tortured; he doesn't need a mask here, since the room is just for the use of clients, and it is unlikely that any employees who may have earlier seen his face will enter the room).

When an American businessman (a client) comes into the room to get ready for his own session, he sees Paxton standing there in a coat and gloves and with a gun in his hand (recall that Paxton obtained the gun from the room where he had been starting to be tortured), so the businessman mistakenly assumes that Paxton is a client. He introduces himself to Paxton, then proceeds to go on at length about how much money he has paid for the opportunity to torture someone and about various other subjects pertaining to torturing, and even a little about his life's philosophy. He then begins to speak in detail about how he plans to conduct his torture session, and he also asks Paxton various questions. Paxton gives brief answers to these questions, answers which are consistent with what a client who has just tortured someone would say.

Finally, the businessman asks Paxton how his session went, i.e., whether it was a short torture session with Paxton killing the victim quickly, or with him drawing out the torture for a lengthy period of time. Paxton initially hesitates upon being asked this, then answers, "Quick." Note that this answer is consistent with him having the gun in his possession, and with the fact that he earlier shot his torturer with it. It makes things sound as if Paxton's brief session with his torturer was actually a session in which Paxton himself was the actual torturer (the American businessman is totally unaware of what actually transpired in the room Paxton was in).

The businessman becomes convinced that Paxton is a client who has just finished a session and is in the locker room changing back into his regular clothing, and that his session went quickly in that he shot his victim a short time into it. The point of this entire scene is not so much that Paxton has fooled the businessman, but rather, it is to suggest that Paxton is now like an actual torturer, in that he has, to at least some degree, acquired the mentality of one.


Friday, February 20, 2009

Silence of the Lambs analysis - part 12: The 'dance' scene


Above left: The mannequins in Gumb's basement facing toward the mirrors (i.e., facing away from Gumb's sitting area). Above right: In a later scene in the basement, in which Gumb is made up as a woman and is doing his 'dance', the mannequin with the yellow blouse now faces him, as if watching him. This is meant to suggest that Gumb believes that he is getting closer to becoming a woman, and thus feels that he is being recognized as one.


Monday, February 9, 2009

Silence of the Lambs analysis - part 11: The second meeting with Lecter


Above left: Starling has just arrived at the Baltimore prison for her second interview with Lecter. She is shown sitting in a corridor, just outside Lecter's cell, facing into it through a plexiglass barrier. The TV set to her left, shows a 'televangelist' (a person who preaches via television). This is actually a video that runs continuously, with the volume turned up high, as a means periodically used by Chilton (the prison psychologist) to punish Lecter. However, Chilton has had the volume muted for the interview. This is, of course, so that Starling and Lecter can converse; but the symbolic significance here is that Starling represents the presence of God, so the preacher stops talking and starts 'listening'. Note the way the white towel is shown around Starling's head and shoulders (in the above left screencap), making her appear like an angel; as previously indicated, she is a friendly angel of death, sent by God to destroy Satan's pupil, as represented by Jame Gumb. Above right: A view from behind Starling, facing Lecter. Note the reflection of the TV set in the middle-left of the plexiglass barrier. Using ingenious camera positioning, Jonathan Demme (the director) lets us, the audience, know that both the preacher and Lecter are now listening in the presence of an 'agent' sent by God himself.


Sunday, February 8, 2009

Silence of the Lambs analysis - part 10: Reference to the Passover


Above left: Hannibal Lecter standing in his Memphis, Tennessee cell. The prisoner number printed on the upper left part of his t-shirt is 'B5160-8' (click image to enlarge). 'B516' is a reference to the sixteenth chapter of the fifth book of the bible, Deuteronomy - i.e., 'book 5 chapter 16'. This is the part of the Old Testament in which God instructs the Israelites in how to conduct the Passover celebration. Above right: Lecter's second meal sitting in his cell. The silver tray and white napkin indicate that this is, symbolically, the Passover meal.

[If you are only interested in viewing the explanation of the film's hidden plot, continue on to part 13 of the analysis. Otherwise, use the buttons below to navigate the analysis.]


Thursday, February 5, 2009

Silence of the Lambs analysis - part 9: The movie's use of colors


Top left: Starling wears red at the autopsy. Here, red represents fire and so symbolizes the 'presence' of God.[a] Top right: Starling talks with Chilton in the prison basement. In this scene, the red 'glow' represents Hell rather than the presence of God. Above left: Starling prefers green for the showdown in Gumb's house. The color green is sometimes considered to represent the Holy Spirit. As worn by Clarice here, green symbolizes the 'presence' of the Holy Spirit. Above right: A view through Gumb's night vision goggles. Here, green is being used to represent evil. The human eye can differentiate more shades of green than any other color, allowing for greater differentiation of objects.[b]

Above left: A simulated example of subtractive color mixing.[c] Subtractive color mixing is used in paints, pigments, and dyes. The primary colors are yellow, magenta, and cyan. The overlap regions are red, green, blue, and black where all three are overlapped. Above right: A simulated example of additive color mixing.[d] Additive color mixing is used in lighting applications. The primary colors are red, green, and blue. Note that in the four screen captures from the movie shown earlier above, colored lighting represents the presence of evil, while colors such as those used to make dyes (e.g., those in clothing) represent the forces of good. We will soon see how color mixing is used as a 'metaphor' in the movie.

a. Wikipedia, 'Red'. Web, n.d. URL = https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red.
b. Wikipedia, 'Green'. Web, n.d. URL = https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green.
c. Image from the Wikipedia 'Color mixing' page; A simulated example of subtractive color mixing, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commmons.
d. Image from the Wikipedia 'Color mixing' page, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.


Monday, February 2, 2009

2001 analysis - part 2: The HAL computer as Shakespearean


HAL's camera 'eye'.

A correspondence exists between the HAL computer character in A Space Odyssey, and William Shakespeare's character, Prince Hal, from the play Henry IV. To illustrate the correspondence, we first look at the description of Shakespeare's Hal, in literary scholar Harold Bloom's book, Genius: "[Falstaff] has one prize pupil: great, cold, unloving, hypocritical, Machiavellian Prince Hal - a student of authentic genius. Before Henry IV, Part I begins, Hal's course of study is complete, and the outrageous professor Falstaff - irrepressible and omnipresent - needs, in the Prince's judgment, to be terminated. Hal passionately desires and indeed needs to get Falstaff off the stage, for until Falstaff ceases to distract us, Hal cannot be a star turn."[a] One could reword Bloom's passage to fit 2001's HAL character: '[Man; HAL's creators] have one prize pupil: the cold, unloving, Machiavellian computer, HAL - a student of authentic genius. Before the [space voyage; movie] begins, HAL's [programming] is complete, and [the Discovery One crew members] need, in HAL's judgment, to be terminated. [HAL] desires to get them off the stage, for until they cease to distract us, HAL cannot be a star.' If HAL gets rid of all five men aboard Discovery One (David Bowman, Frank Poole, and the three astronauts in hibernation), he will be the only 'crew member' remaining on the ship, and he will be the only remaining 'actor' on the movie stage.

Well-respected stage actor Douglas Rain, who was the voice for HAL in A Space Odyssey, had played Prince Hal many times in past performances of Henry IV.

a. Bloom, Harold. Genius: A Mosaic of One Hundred Exemplary Creative Minds. New York: Warner Books, 2002. p. 22.


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