Wednesday 15 August 2012

Sucker Punch

A friend recommended the movie Sucker Punch to me, telling me it was weird and incoherent but I was going to love it.

Now I’ve seen it.  And I’ll agree it was weird and I did enjoy it, but I didn’t find it to be incoherent.  The plot was strange but with a weird internal consistency.  There were three levels of plot: the “real” world, the burlesque theatre and the steampunk action hero.  In the real world, our heroine is committed to a mental asylum which quickly transforms into a burlesque theatre and brothel.  She plots her escape and each time she tries to achieve her goals, she is transported into a comic-esque steampunk fantasy world.

The visual elements were somewhat jarring in mixing technology and fashion from different time periods but it almost makes sense when you consider that we’re dealing with the point of view of a crazy person (or someone driven crazy by events).  Regardless of how you feel about the heroine, there’s no doubt we’re seeing a fantasy world that she has created.

In all, it was a neat bit of writing.  I was impressed.  Somewhat less impressed by the sexy costumes of the five teenaged dancers/action heroes but I understand that I wasn’t the main target audience. 

I’ve always enjoyed movies and stories where figuring out what was real was part of the fun.  In Firefly, the final broadcasted episode, Objects In Space, featured scenes from River’s point of view.  River was amusingly crazy and it was interesting to see her walking through woods and picking up a branch before telling the Captain: “This doesn’t mean what you think it does.”  Switching to the “real” view, we see the branch is in fact, a gun.

I loved the season 6 Buffy episode where Buffy keeps switching between Sunnydale and a mental asylum.  Her doctor explains that the entire series arc has been a delusion.  The final scene is of a catatonic Buffy in the asylum.  At the time, it amused me to realize I was thinking of the world of demons, vampires and magic as the “real” world and rejecting the asylum as a hallucination.

Star Trek: The Next Generation had another great what-is-reality episode where Riker keeps shifting between an asylum and being in a play.  He worries he’s gotten too far into character and can’t tell what’s real and what’s not anymore.

Perhaps it showcases my own need for a psychiatrist, but I enjoy well-written crazy people.  Walter on Fringe, Drusilla on Buffy, River on Firefly.  I like characters who see the world in a unique way.  It’s fascinating to see the distortions which almost, but never quite, make sense.  They have a freedom which the rest of the world lacks: the freedom to point out boredom and hypocrisy, to break free of expectations.

There is an old Greek story where a powerful politician stops to converse with a beggar.  The politician tells the beggar: If you could learn to get along with people, you wouldn’t have to live as you do.  The beggar retorts: If you could learn to live as I do, you wouldn’t have to get along with people.

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