Sunday, March 15, 2009

Hostel analysis - part 4: The movie's underlying theme


In the previous post, it was described how Paxton's interaction with the American businessman suggests that he has acquired, to some degree, the mentality of a torturer. By the time the movie concludes, Paxton has become an actual torturer, this being signified by his cutting off of two of the Dutch client's fingers (to get revenge for this client having earlier killed Paxton's friend, Josh). With the action taking place in a train station restroom, Paxton subsequently dunks his victim's head several times in a toilet bowl, then kills him by cutting his throat.

The overall picture is that gradually, as the movie has progressed, Paxton has gone from being tortured, to getting the upper hand with a torturer, to acquiring the mentality of a torturer; and finally, to torturing (and killing) someone. We see that Paxton has gone through a process whereby he has effectively 'switched places', from tortured to torturer. This switching between tortured and torturer is, in fact, part of the underlying theme of the movie, and in the below, we will 'combine' this theme with something else from the film, and then determine what the film's overall message to its audience is.

There is a scene early in the movie in which Paxton and Josh have entered the hostel for the very first time, and are standing at the check-in desk. It can be seen that the movie Pulp Fiction is playing on a TV set sitting on a countertop near the desk (see screencap at left). Pulp Fiction was directed and co-written by Quentin Tarantino; and, Tarantino was also involved in the making of Hostel (he was an executive producer for the film). Thus, the members of the Hostel audience, by watching Hostel, are doing something that some of the characters in Hostel (including Paxton) are here doing, by watching Pulp Fiction: watching a Quentin Tarantino movie.

The audio of Pulp Fiction, as it is shown on the TV set in Hostel, has been dubbed to suit the natives of the foreign country (Czechoslovakia) in which the hostel is located, such that it is playing in their native language. There are no English (or other) subtitles being displayed on the TV screen, and Paxton, who notices this, comments by saying, "great - no subtitles." Then later, in the room where he is about to be tortured, Paxton begins pleading with his captor in German, and we, the audience of Hostel, are shown no subtitles. Putting these two scenes together, it can be seen that there is some relationship being established between the characters in Hostel, and the members of Hostel's audience.

In fact, it is the case that we, the Hostel audience, and the characters in Hostel (in specific, Paxton), are to switch with each other, as suggested by the parallel relationship between the audience and characters implied by the two related scenarios just described. And, as mentioned above, we have already gone over the fact that one of the Hostel characters, Paxton, undergoes a gradual transition from torture victim to torture perpetrator, effectively switching from the former to the latter. By combining these two ideas (that within Hostel of Paxton going from tortured to torturer, and that of the parallel relationship between Hostel and its audience members), we conclude that the underlying theme of the movie is that each of us (as well as anyone else), given the right set of circumstances, could 'switch', from being a torture victim, to becoming a perpetrator of torture (i.e., any person is capable of undergoing the same basic process that Paxton did, given a similar set of circumstances).

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