MIRROR, MIRROR ON THE SCREEN
Type and Cinema, Studies of classic films and the Myer Briggs Type Indicator
1. POPULAR CULTURE, CINEMA PSYCHE
- introducing the theme.
2. RESPONDING EVERY WHICH WAY...
The Myers Briggs Type Indicator
and Movie Characters
3. GRAPES OF WRATH
"WE'RE THE PEOPLE!"
The ordinary heroism of the American
victims, the Okays, in John Ford's
version of Steinbeck's The Grapes
4. CITIZEN KANE
SOMETHING HE LOST - ROSEBUD
Orson Welles creates and destroys
5. REAR WINDOW/VERTIGO
"REAR WINDOW ETHICS"
James Stewart as a Hitchcock hero:
prying out of his Rear Window,
suffering and obsessed by Vertigo.
6. LAWRENCE OF ARABIA
"NOTHING IS WRITTEN"
T.E. Lawrence created his destiny and
his legends. Robert Bolt, David
Lean and Peter O'Toole combine to
immortalise the legend.
7. MY FAIR LADY
"I can do without you" but "I've
grown accustomed to her face". Can
Henry Higgins and Eliza Doolittle
do without each other after My
8. THE SOUND OF MUSIC
"A WILL-O'-THE-WISP, A FLIBBERTIGIBBET, A CLOWN"
Maria Von Trapp, in the exuberant
guise of Julie Andrews, has made
The Sound of Music one of
moviegoers' favourite things.
9 WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF
HUMILIATE THE HOST, GET THE GUEST
Martha and George do battle and
find a tentative peace in
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf.
10. ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST
"SHE LIKES A RIGGED GAME!"
R.P. McMurphy? and Nurse Ratched are
so near in the cuckoo's nest and yet
"SHE'S A VULGARIAN!"
Woody Allen's windows and mirrors
in beige interiors: rooms and souls.
12. WALL STREET
"LUNCH IS FOR WIMPS!"
Gordon Gecko and Bud Fox as strategists
on Wall Street.
13. DANGEROUS LIAISONS
A VIRTUOSA OF DECEIT
Madame de Merteuil and the Vicomte
de Valmont combine to corrupt
through Dangerous Liaisons.
14. LES MISERABLES
TAKE MY HAND AND LEAD ME
Salvation and damnation for Jean
Valjean and Inspector Javert in
15. DEAD POET'S SOCIETY
"CARPE DIEM - SEIZE THE DAY!"
Robin Williams, as teacher, John
Keating, urges his students to
suck the marrow out of life in
Dead Poets Society.
16. DANCES WITH WOLVES
THE TRAIL TO THE INNER FRONTIER
Kevin Costner journeys west and
encounters the Sioux as John
Dunbar in Dances With Wolves.
17. WHITE PALACE/STANLEY AND IRIS
LOVE AND PAIN
18. THELMA AND LOUISE/
"THEY SAID 'GET A LIFE'... AND
Were the commercials right? At
the beginning of the 1990s, what
kind of life can Thelma and Louise
get? And what about the City
Slickers? See them driving
through a vanishing America.
19. 'NOBODY'S PERFECT!'
Movie Type Watchers.
POPULAR CULTURE, CINEMA PSYCHE
- INTRODUCING THE THEME
This book began with a passion for the movies and continued with the opportunity to review, write about and teach media awareness for a quarter of a century. The movies are our mirrors, often distorted, sometimes plain, and sometimes menacing, threatening. The movies mirror society. They offer us images of our values. As we study these cinema reflections on the mirror screen, we can grow in understanding human nature and human experience (even as we are entertained).
In 1978, I was introduced to the Myers Briggs Type Indicator in Berkeley, California, and responded to it at once. It made sense. It was wise. It was immediately comprehensible thanks to the insights of C.G. Jung and the communication by Katharine Briggs and Isabel Myers. The esteem for the MBTI continued with my work in counselling and training of men and women preparing for religious ministry.
As I continued to watch and write about movies, I found that I sometimes wondered about the type and profile of particular characters. Lawrence of Arabia - an INFP? Perhaps. Clint Eastwood and Burt Reynolds tough guys - ESTP? Sometimes. But sometimes ISTJ and ESTJ. Why not write a booklet exploring this dramatising of types? I had been using the examples and the method in seminars and workshops. It was published as
'Myers Briggs Goes to the Movies' (Spectrum, Melbourne, 1991).
I received good advice and encouragement to write longer studies on movie characters and their type and, especially, their interactions. The good advice included the choice of movies that were a significant part of popular culture, part of our 'cinema psyche'.
Although I enjoy watching the televising of the Academy Awards each year, the Oscars are not the pinnacle of cinema quality. But they are excellent indicators of what audiences like and watch. They are also interesting indicators of the moods and styles of the times.
So, this book consists of explorations of movie characters who are (generally, not always) significant characters in movie history and popular culture.
After a review of our movie sensibilities according to our extraverted and introverted attitudes, our judging and perceiving attitudes as well as our sensate and intuitive, thinking and feeling functions, particular movies have been chosen. They are presented in chronological order, locating them in their times and highlighting the response they evoked. The problem was what to include and what to omit. Availability of the movies was a guide for inclusion.
The book opens with two important movies of the early '40s: The Grapes of Wrath and Citizen Kane. Looking back at the 50s, we find many interesting and entertaining movies, but they do not always stand out as do movies from other decades. Wanting to include at least one Hitchcock movie, I thought it a useful idea to include two of his James Stewart classics from the 50s and examine a Hitchcock hero in action: Rear Window and Vertigo.
The movies of the 60s were often large and long, part of the battle to get audiences to leave their television sets and go back to the cinemas. The Oscar winners of 1962, 1964, 1965 (Lawrence of Arabia, My Fair Lady, The Sound of Music) are still very popular, decades later. Also included from the 60s is the movie version of Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf.
The 70s seem, in retrospect, a little like the 50s, some popular entertainment as well as some fine films. The Oscar winner of 1975 marked the end of the Vietnam War and anti-hero era. (Rocky and Star Wars were just around the corner.) The movie was the allegorical One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Woody Allen emerged in the 70s as one of the U.S.'s master directors, winning Best Film and Director in 1977 for Annie Hall. However, another of his movies, the introspective Interiors lends itself to analysis and is included here.
I chose a number of movies from the recent past. They are movies that have evoked wide response: Wall Street, Dangerous Liaisons, Dead Poets' Society, Dances with Wolves. In considering relationships in contemporary movies, two much lesser known titles were chosen because they illustrate interactions effectively, Stanley and Iris and White Palace.
The movie version of the musical, Les Miserables, has been in pre-production for some time. Jean Valjean and Inspector Javert have been significant literary figures as well as frequently portrayed movie characters. The internationally successful musical version, with the powerful lyrics, has given them new life. They are included here.
Dances with Wolves won many of the 1990 Oscars, including Best Film. It dealt with U.S. history, racism and oppression and the finding of identity. We can expect the 90s to continue to explore important social and personal themes. So, the book concludes with Thelma and Louise, a new look at the (literal) battle of the sexes, the use of perennial movie genres and conventions (the road, the West, companions, the shootout) to dramatise contemporary issues.
Needless to say, most writers and directors do not have psychology handbooks close by when they are making their movies. But the better the artist, the better the dramatising of authentic human experience. Jung's insights into and naming of human experience enable us to appreciate what the artists achieve. Katharine Briggs and Isabel Myers with their Indicator have given us an instrument to gauge and interpret many facets of this human experience. They are our guides through the chapters of this book. They will assist us to look more clearly into that mirror, mirror on the screen.
MBTI AND MOVIE CHARACTERS
Did you ever see Robert Altman's Nashville?
It is a panoramic film, twenty five or so central characters, their lives intertwining in the country and western music capital of the world. The background is a political campaign and a big show, replete with stars, seriously presented but with an amiably sardonic tone that amuses and is critical. And it culminates with an assassination attempt that makes it a particularly American experience.
The reason for beginning with Nashville is that it is a favourite film and that I frequently used it in the past for seminars. I remember telling a group involved in media and values studies that this was the fourth time that I had watched it. One of the participants came up to me during one of those reel breaks that we used to have when we screened sixteen millimetre prints and had only one projector. She asked me if I really did like Nashville. Her eyebrow-raised tone made me pause, but I replied that I definitely did like it. Unabashed, she retorted, 'That says more about you than about the film'. So, it was not one of her favourite films. I grinned and thought I bore it. But it's seventeen years since she said it. But, I now realise how right she was.
The movies we like tell us a great deal about ourselves.
Why do I like Nashville? Firstly, it is full of meanings, an intuitive's delight. Not only is there a range of characters; it is the interconnections. Nashville is a complex portrait of the American personality. It is a people portrait, people involved in the routine of their daily lives as well as in the big and special events. The movie invites us continually to interpret the characters, personally, not just as a study. My response is that of the intuitive as well as of the feeler.
Which is not to say that Robert Altman or his writer, Joan Tewkesbury, are feeling intuitives. I am sure that sensates would relish the immersion in the actual life of Nashville and thinkers would like the opportunity to analyse what makes Nashville and the United States tick as they do.
However, there are particular movies that we enjoy better than others, genres that appeal to us more than others. Whether we are individuals of broad taste or narrow taste, despite the comments of friends or critics to the contrary, we can say 'that is my type of movie'.
The differing ways in which we respond to literature and the arts , our interests, our styles, our tastes, are what we call our sensibility. The insights of C.G. Jung and the developments of the Myers Briggs Type Indicator can contribute a great deal to our understanding of our sensibilities and to appreciate, without the judgmental attitudes to which we are prone when somebody expresses an opinion contrary to our own, the 'gifts differing' sensibilities of others.
Nobody lives life schematically nor according to a theory. However, it is very useful for understanding to use schemas. In exploring our sensibilities and movies, I will use the understandings of the attitudes and functions of the M.B.T.I. to make points. I do not want to determine how one ought to respond to a movie. But I certainly hope there is enough correspondence between theory and our real experience.
Extraverts and Introverts
Soon after I was first introduced to the M.B.T.I. in 1978, I saw Clint Eastwood in Every Which Way But Loose. It was an action comedy that could be described as literal 'knockabout': the climax was an elaborate bare-knuckle fight, prop-smashing galore, in historic Georgetown, Colorado. And the audience loved it. There was Clint with his tee-shirt, shifty-eyed quizzical persona, teamed with an affably large orang-utan called Clyde and with Ruth Gordon doing her backwoods' cussing grandmother turn. It was a top box-office success. And there was a sequel, same style, with an equally syntax-taxing title: Any Which Way You Can. Not exactly my favourite Clint Eastwood movie. Take it or leave it (for me, probably leave it). Definitely for extraverts anonymous.
We can detect an extravert sensibility. The energy in the extraverted action on the screen is adrenalin-pumping for the extraverts in the audience. While wanting to avoid stereotyping, we are probably talking about males responding in this way to these Clint Eastwood films. I think it is fair to say that they appeal to an ESTP and to an ESTJ audience. I think it is also fair to say that the popular singing and dancing musicals of the past can delight, especially, ESFP and ESFJ types, more predominantly women. (I don't know about Julie Andrews in real life but she brought to life the ESFJ Eliza Doolittle on stage in My Fair Lady and the ESFP Maria von Trapp on screen in The Sound of Music.)
Watching Meryl Streep and Shirley MacLaine? in Mike Nichols' Postcards from the Edge reminds us that there are introverted and extraverted styles of performance. While Meryl Streep portrays an actress who is shyly and awkwardly introverted, Shirley MacLaine? is her highly extraverted mother (never more clearly seen as she belts out a Stephen Sondheim song,
'I'm Still Here'. MacLaine? has explained that she likes to know her movements in each scene, wants them established first, almost choreographed. Once she has the movements, the performance flows. Streep, on the other hand, always suggests inner energy, something always going on inside. For her performance as the alcoholic singer in Ironweed, she pressed ice cubes on her face to numb her cheeks for the sequences where she lies on the floor dead. You have never seen anyone act so dead in a movie. As the camera gazes at her, as do we, she is, intensely, dead.
A particularly American 80s phenomenon of extraversion is the youth movie, the type of movie that is symbolised by Where the Boys Are or Spring Break or any of those churned out movies with titles like Fraternity Vacation, Private Resort, Bikini Shop or Wild Life (real titles). They have casts of thousands, all day-time soap-opera look-alikes, who have motored to Fort Lauderdale or some such and who are busy drinking, egging each other one, stripping to bikinis or less in the Florida sun (with wet shirt contests), planning sexcapades (and sometimes doing them), with a seemingly endless supply of energy and money. They were very popular. Introverts often cannot keep up the pace (let alone going there and living it up - or down).
What about an introvert sensibility? This is the sensibility which can be overwhelmed by too much activity and detail on the screen. Rather, this sensibility picks up the clues from the film, sensately or intuitively, and stays with these. The energy of the response comes from within. There are many introverted filmmakers. What about Ingmar Bergman and his brooding Scandinavian meditations on existence, cruel or benign providence and the presence or absence of God? Remember some of his titles, especially those of his 60s trilogy on the absence of God: Through a Glass Darkly, Winter Light, The Silence. Woody Allen is a great admirer of Bergman and offered us in 1978 a title for introverts to relish, Interiors.
Another way of highlighting these differing sensibilities is in the response to comedy. There has been a long tradition of slapstick comedy with its pratfalls and pies in the face and all the variations that budget and special effects can provide. Slapstick may appeal to all audiences, but it is very much a comedy for extraverts: Charlie Chaplin, Danny Kaye, Jerry Lewis, Blake Edwards' The Great Race, the enjoyable shenanigans of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. American humour, loud and crowded, is more extraverted.
British humour has its fair share of this kind of slapstick comedy from pantomimes to the Carry On series. But there is a long tradition of quieter, more subtle humour, visual suggestion, play on words, the understated irony. We might contrast the extraordinarily subdued Barry Humphries (in real life) giving a measured interview (and his monologues as Sandy Stone) with performances by Dame Edna Everage and Sir
One of the difficulties in getting good advice from reviewers about what to see or what not to see is that most(?) journalists who write reviews seem to be introverts. And they often write their reviews with the presupposition that their readers are introverts. It is easy to mock the slam-bang action show, take an elitist stance and look down from an introvert's window on the rowdy movie and write it off. But this does not respect sensibilities. And maybe they are writing defensively, heartily sick of the criticism that the movies they recommend are mocked as dull and boring.
Of course, no one is just extraverted or introverted. However, it may help us to have more confidence in our own taste to realise that we are blessed with a preference and can enjoy it. (There is the prospect that as we move towards wholeness, some of the introverts might be booking early for the wrestling and the extraverts checking for performances of Waiting for Godot!)
Judgers and Perceivers
Many years ago, during a screening of Laurence Olivier's version of Chekhov’s Three Sisters, my companion started (without realising it) to rattle his bunch of keys. We were only 30 minutes into a two and a half hour movie and he was bored to rattling. He found it far too slow. He is an extravert and a judger. I don't know his preference score for judging, but it would be close to maximum, if not maximum. Three Sisters, or any such film, is not for him.
It's a fairly common complaint that movies are too slow. If someone likes them then they 'move at a steady pace' or are 'measured'. A useful example of this is Fred Schepisi's version of John Le Carre's The Russia House. It was not action espionage, but surveillance espionage via listening devices. Too many words! 'Measured' or 'too slow'? While the judging attitude is the mode for Judgers to extravert themselves, it is evident in the way that Judgers want things to move, 'let's get this show on the screen' and 'let's get this show over and off the screen'.
Television styles tend to emphasise this J style and sensibility. Short segments might indicate our increasingly brief attention spans, but they also indicate that we like to keep moving. The music videos of recent years and the seemingly insatiable appetites of some television viewers to look at Music Television (MTV) and Saturday night and Sunday morning video programmes are altering our watching and perception habits.
The art of movie editing has also fostered this sensibility. We get a bit of a shock when we see a fade out and a fade in. When we see them in golden oldies, they look quaint. Editing
these days is J-ish. And the technology of movie-making also fosters it. Everything is possible, and rapidly. Effects are often literally explosive, instant action and consequences. To this extent, a movie like Rambo 3 is ideal. It is continuously explosive, over-packed with action.
Audiences with a Perceiver sensibility sometimes find it hard to keep pace with the action, even the turns and twists of the plot. They don't mind some lengthier setting of the action, an introduction to the characters and the chance to get to know them, the opportunity to feel part of the world of the movie. A number of critics were very severe on the later films of David Lean, from The Bridge over the River Kwai and Lawrence of Arabia, through Doctor Zhivago to Ryan's Daughter and A Passage to India. All of them ran more than two and a half hours, some of them over three. It was a critical commonplace to discuss how they might have been profitably cut. But audiences world-wide loved them. They were happy to stay in the worlds that Lean had created for them, to linger over the majestically austere beauty of the desert, to delay in the Russian winter snows, to share the life on the vast, rugged coastline of western Ireland.
I wonder whether sequels to popular movies are conceived by Perceivers who want to re-visit the world of the movie they liked and whether they are produced by Judgers who want to get the movie out to the box-office!
Another issue which arises in this context is the popularity of the year-in, year-out serial, the day-time soapie, the
action or comedy series. Could it be true that Perceivers watch these shows more than Judgers do? And the advent of the mini-series in the 70s? A chance to offer more over several nights. Do Judgers watch a mini-series over several nights - does their life allow them to do it? With the video-cassette recorder and the fast forward button, they can watch a mini-series at their J leisure.
However, we are not just extraverts and introverts, judgers and perceivers. Our perceiving and judging functions help define our sensibilities.
Sensates and Intuitives
One of the most excruciating cinema experiences I have ever undergone is watching Godfrey Reggio's cinema poem Kooyanisquatsi. It is an environmentally conscious movie with a strong message derived from contact with the Hopi Indians. That was not my difficulty. Rather, the film is solely images and sounds, completely sensate. There is a great deal of time-lapse photography of the changing sunlight and shadows of the day, clouds scudding across the sky with breakneck beauty, always contrasting the natural world with the world of human building and exploitation. The images, which ran for more than 90 minutes, were accompanied by a sound track of symphonic and experimental music by Philip Glass.
Despite the time-lapse images, time passed draggingly for me. I was unable to nod off, mesmerised by the images that I wished I could avoid. Fortunately, my mind wandered and I was able to survive the ordeal. I summoned up the courage and will power to watch the sequel, Powquaatsi, on television but with the fast forward button at the ready. (A more satisfying combination of such visuals with a clearer thematic structure is Baraka.)
At the same time as I saw Kooyanisquatsi, I had the opportunity to interview a documentary film-maker. As we discussed her work, she asked me if I had seen Godfrey Reggio's film. 'Yes.' How had I found it? At least I could say that it was striking - that stayed within the bounds of truth. However, for her and for a number of students I have worked with, it is a masterpiece. It is film-making at its best. It is the power of images and sounds blended together in harmony, modulated by the score and the pace and rhythms of the editing, a visual poem interpreting the environmental ethos of our times.
Boring for me, exhilarating for them. The same movie.
That was the experience that made me realise how different the sensate and intuitive sensibilities could be. As an introverted intuitive, I was being exposed to so much sense data in the outer world that I could scarcely cope. I had no desire to see and hear. I wanted to avoid it. I was being visually and aurally bombarded in my inferior function.
But, I realised that, while I was able to say truly that the film was boring for me, I was in no position to say that others should not like it (which one reviewer decreed), nor was I in a position to brand the film as 'stupid' as so many discontented patrons do as they walk out of a show they did not like.
So, there is a sensate sensibility. Extraverted sensates must love the movie medium - the sheer brilliance of the colours, shapes, designs, movements that can delight them with such detail. Introverted sensates can also delight as they focus, attentive to the movie, a strong sense of presence, here and now. Obviously that is not the whole of the sensate response. But it highlights the difference from the intuitive response.
Novelist E.M. Forster has a phrase that he uses at the opening of 'Howard's End': 'Only connect.' It seems to offer an insight into the intuitive response to movies. Some years ago, the Jung Society of Melbourne held their own weekend film festival. Along with a number of short films, filled with symbols (unexplained) which were a terror to some of the sensates, the program included two features by master Italian director Federico Fellini. They were his autobiographical film of 1963, 8 1/2, (which Woody Allen paid homage to and adapted for his own autobiographical Stardust Memories), and his biographical tribute starring his wife Giulietta Massina, his 1965 Juliet of the Spirits (which Woody Allen adapted and paid homage to in his biographical tribute starring his partner, Mia Farrow, Alice). Only connect!
A Fellini movie can entertain and absorb a sensate sensibility with its lavish and colourful design, decor and costumes, its idiosyncratic creation of a world, not exactly familiar, sometimes even grotesque (as in Satyricon or Casanova). But the sensate may well be bewildered and alienated by the elliptical plot, the elaborate symbols and the invitation to enter into Fellini's own intuitive sensibility. Not that intuitives can always stay with Fellini. But it is worth the effort, entering a different world, perceiving new interpretations of human behaviour and relationships and then linking those with the themes of Fellini's other films.
The movies made from novels by John Fowles are another source of intuitive delight: The Collector, The Magus and, with its film within a film, The French Lieutenant's Woman.
One of the difficulties for an intuitive sensibility can be the presentation of bodiliness. This can be true of violent material and frank or explicit sexuality. On the one hand, it may not make a great deal of impact because of an inbuilt distancing mechanism. Sensates are sometimes amazed at how intuitives can detach their response from sequences that they find they strongly identify with. On the other hand, intuitives can be overly sensitive to such scenes, especially when they respond in their inferior function.
The Silence of the Lambs is a powerful movie, inviting its audience to identify with Jodie Foster's ambitious young F.B.I. trainee in behavioural sciences in her investigations of a serial killer by interviewing Dr Hannibal Lecter (Hannibal the Cannibal), a brilliant psychiatrist, held in a maximum security prison hospital. He is chillingly played by Anthony Hopkins. During the film there are disturbing sequences including an autopsy of a flayed victim as well as the abduction and imprisonment of women to be murdered. Sensates have found the experience powerfully real. Some intuitives have been fascinated and absorbed by the psychological themes; but the physicality of the material and the atmosphere of menace and foreboding has also unnerved them.
A remark was made earlier about the introverted sensibility of many movie reviewers. A similar remark might be made about their intuitive sensibility. This is manifested in their easy scorn of 'hands on' movies, the martial arts actioners, the tough police thrillers, their automatic sneer at Charles Bronson or Chuck Norris, Arnold Schwarzenegger or the latest ripple-muscle brawn hero, like Jean-Claude? Van Damme. A movie with these stars works only when it fulfils their favourable expectations of 'genre' movie-making.
While these comments have validity, they are not always helpful to readers who are sensates and who respond with much more enthusiasm.
Thinkers and Feelers
Two movies with gangster themes vied for the Oscar for Best Film of 1990: The Godfather III and Goodfellas. (The Oscar, in fact, went to Dances with Wolves.) Many audiences found Goodfellas very hard to take but could sit through The Godfather movies, despite their violence, much more calmly. It was said that The Godfather movies offered a mythology of the Mafia whereas Goodfellas pictured the Mafia as it was, cruel and ugly criminals on the streets of New York.
Martin Scorsese was the director and co-writer of Goodfellas. One of his earliest movies, a portrait of petty criminals in New York City, was called Mean Streets. Scorsese's drama of gangsters was played out in the mean streets, the characters were mean 'wiseguys', not glamorised by the director, no matter how much they wanted to glamorise themselves. The director's approach was that of cool passion, the truth, and the audience asked to assess this kind of behaviour and make judgments on it. Goodfellas seems to me to use a thinking approach to the Mafia. Critics were strong in its praise. The public, more used to becoming deeply involved in their movies, felt they were observers and found Goodfellas too cold and distant. (But, if it is looked at with a thinking perspective, the movie is rich and rewarding.)
It was quite different with The Godfather saga. The characters were larger than life. The world they moved in was beyond the experience of the movie audience. Their codes and their loyalties were intricate, demanding total dedication and the violent vengeance was carried out in an elaborately ritual style - intercut in the original with a sacramental (baptismal) ritual, highlighting the religious origins of godfathers, intercut in the finale of the third movie with an opera, Cavalleria Rusticana, which paralleled the events of the Mafia saga: religious, operatic drama. Audiences were drawn, fascinated, into the world of The Godfather from 1972 with Marlon Brando holding court to 1990 and Al Pacino's lonely death. 'What doth it profit...?'
This type of mythic treatment invites a much more feeling response from the audience. We are involved, identifying with or being repelled by the characters, evaluating motives and behaviour, passing our judgments on the basis of a wide range of personal criteria.
This dichotomy is highlighted when a movie has a title like
Terms of Endearment. By sound association, it is judged to be a tearjerker. Stereotype language from the past crops up: a woman's picture. And strong thinkers declare that this type of mushy movie has no right to win the Oscar for Best Film (which Terms of Endearment did).
The opposite is, of course, true with titles like Lethal Weapon or Predator, so-called 'men's' (or boys'), Boys Own pictures.
But Lethal Weapon and movies that portray contemporary crime and the attempts of the justice system to investigate, arrest try and punish, elicit differing responses from thinkers and from feelers. This is particularly the case when the system is unable to do justice or make justice be seen to be done: the legislation has loopholes exploited by smart, over-paid lawyers or police and the system is corrupt, or penalties seem inadequate for horrendous crimes. The question is raised of working within the system or the justice of going outside it.
During the 80s, Peter Hyams directed a thriller, The Star Chamber, with Michael Douglas. He portrayed a judge, trying his best to uphold the law and administer it fairly. However, criminals who were guilty were being freed through the system. He and a group of fellow judges decided to take the law into their own hands and formed, by analogy with secret inner departments in Tudor England, a Star Chamber. They re-tried the criminals, passed sentence and hired their own executioners. Right or wrong?
There is the response that the law is the law and flouting it in any way destroys society. The law must be upheld. However, a further thinking response in so many of the violent movies of the 70s and 80s, following the lead or imitating Charles Bronson in Death Wish, is that justice demands that crime be punished no matter what the state and status of the law. These movies seem to be saying that the principle of justice prevails over all. Clint Eastwood's Dirty Harry Callahan is also a symbol of this approach.
However, many of the vigilante and justice movies elicit a feeling response. The audience is made to share the grief, the helplessness and the fury and outrage of atrocious crime.
It needs vengeance and atonement. The mere (or forceful) stating that the law must be obeyed does nothing for this sense of justice crying to heaven. This kind of movie is powerfully involving for those who would see themselves as calm, dutiful citizens. It is something of a shock to experience this feeling reaction.
I once used the thriller Lipstick for a group about to commence an ethics course. Chris Sarandon portrays a teacher who rapes a prominent model (Margaux Hemingway), is arrested but acquitted and subsequently rapes the model's younger sister. The sisters shoot him dead. When the film was released in Melbourne in 1976, many audiences cheered loudly at the shooting. Moralising critics expressed alarm at such
reactions. An elderly Irish nun who had watched Lipstick with the group came up to me with a glint in her eye. 'That ending...' I paused and readied myself for a reply. She continued in her persuasive brogue, 'Shooting was too good for him. The bullets should have gone through him slowly, searing and burning...' Feeling and thinking!
The Myers Briggs Type Indicator offers us some insights into our particular (gifted) sensibility. Of course, no one is merely sensate or thinking, let alone just an extravert or a perceiver. We function with various combinations - and we are continually challenged in our opposites. There is not an inevitable predictability in our responses. However, Type theory can illuminate how we respond.
But within our sensibilities, we have differing sensitivities.
Sensibility: I might like horror films, you may not. You may rave about musicals, I may avoid them. Sensitivity: we both may like horror films, but your response to graphic visuals of violence may mean you like mild horror, while I prefer something more explicit. You may be more sensitive to emotional scenes while I consider myself more robust. I don't think the M.B.T.I. helps us gauge our sensitivities or their levels.
And our movie viewing...?
A reflection on sensibilities should lead us to a greater affirmation of the way that we are and how we respond to media. It should also lead to a greater tolerance of the sensibilities of others. And this should lead to greater respect rather than the assumption that my sensibility is the right one and when we differ there must be something wrong with you. Respect is essential.
It is the same with reviewers and their critical responses. It is commonplace in MBTI books to note that T types tend automatically to notice flaws and to offer critical remarks that F types find too harsh. F types respond to the values and offer positive comments before they note the flaws. T types sometimes claim that F types like everything. Different approaches, each with their validity - and each requiring respect.
To offer a final illustration: war movies, specifically Vietnam war movies. In 1986-1987, several big-budget movies were released: Oliver Stone's Platoon (winning Oscar for Best Film, 1986), Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket, Barry Levinson's Good Morning, Vietnam and John Irvin's Hamburger Hill. Opinions differed strongly on which was best or which one was the movie to see.
It seems to me that Platoon was a movie that involved its audiences, taking them into the war through the experiences of a young soldier and the limited but intense battles of a platoon. It elicited a feeling response (amongst others). On the other hand, Full Metal Jacket was a more studied movie, divided into three acts: training, the situation in Vietnam, a climactic battle. The audience was involved but detached, observing intensely (especially the extraordinary opening 45 minutes of boot camp training). Thinking response. Hamburger Hill simply offered a battle for a single hill over a two weeks' period, day by day, by a small squad. Much more sensate. In Good Morning, Vietnam, Robin Williams did a wonderful star turn as an anarchic radio announcer, morale boosting for the troops, headache for authorities but whose war became more and more serious. Perhaps intuitive/feeling response.
The intuitive Vietnam war movie must be Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now, an intense experience and an adaptation of Joseph Conrad's 'Heart of Darkness': `the horror of it'
The popular view uses escapist criteria for judging the worthwhileness of a movie. This is a bias for the feeling function rather than the thinking function. (Academics and critics often react accordingly.)
The popular view is that movies and most of what we watch on television is for entertainment rather than for any kind of education or self-improvement.
A movie cannot please all of the people all of the time. Our gifts differing prevent this. However, the insights of C.G. Jung and the Myers Briggs Type Indicator can help us appreciate what pleases or displeases us most of the time and to respect the ways others respond. And that's a great contribution to our human communication.
THE GRAPES OF WRATH
"WE'RE THE PEOPLE"
The ordinary heroism of the American victims, the Okies, in John Ford's version of Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath.
`We're the people.' That is how The Grapes of Wrath ends. Ma Joad is in the front of the old truck with Pa and his brother. They have been driven out of their share-cropping farms in Oklahoma by dust and by the foreclosing companies and banks; they have driven as a family in a broken-down truck through several states and the desert; they have been humiliated and exploited by crooked owners and unlicensed work organisers; Ma's son, Tom, is on the run from the police. But they are on their way to Fresno with hope and with dignity:
We've sure taken a beating. That's what makes us tough. We are the people that live. They can't wipe us out - because we're the people.
John Steinbeck's portrait of the people has become a literary classic and Steinbeck a Nobel Prize winner. In the aftermath of the Depression, it touched a chord in the American heart. It was a portrait of poverty and oppression, not outside the United States, but within them. To make a movie of this novel in 1940 was a big box-office risk. After all, the Oscar-winner of the previous year was the lavish, long and spectacular Gone With the Wind. But, underlying this romance and the Civil War tragedy, there were significant themes for the American psyche: slavery and freedom, war and peace, grief and hope. The Grapes of Wrath dramatises these themes more agonisingly and more profoundly.
The writer-adapter was Nunnally Johnson, a veteran of movie writing from the golden years of Hollywood. The director was John Ford who had already established himself as a film-maker with a vision of American society and its past as well as a master of his craft. He was awarded his second Oscar for Best Director of 1940. He had already won an Oscar for The Informer in 1935 and had just made his classic, Stagecoach.
He was to win another Oscar in 1941 for the year's Best Film (the year of Citizen Kane), How Green was My Valley and a fourth in 1952 for The Quiet Man. His other films from this period were pieces of Americana, Eugene O'Neill's The Long Voyage Home, Young Mr Lincoln, Drums along the Mohawk and Tobacco Road. The classic westerns, so many starring John Wayne, were yet to come.
Ford was assigned this project by Darryl F. Zanuck, 20th Century Fox's chief mogul. Zanuck changed or omitted a great deal of the harshness of Steinbeck's novel. He took a more optimistic view, that the times were difficult but that a concerned government would provide for people (the era of F.D. Roosevelt's New Deal). Ford went along with Zanuck. But author Andrew Sinclair, in his biographical study of Ford, notes that the director was committed to the movie, to the experience of the Okies in all its intensity. The result was that the movie is 'radical in style but conservative in text'. (Sinclair, 'John Ford', Allen and Unwin, Boston, 1979). It was Zannuck himself who wrote and filmed Ma Joad's passionate final words.
Henry Fonda is Tom Joad. It is a strong performance in a career that spanned almost fifty years, culminating in the acclaim and awards for On Golden Pond. Henry Fonda is something of an American icon, an embodiment of American qualities, a personification of American values, straightforward, practical, a man of integrity. Twice, at least, he played Presidents: in the turmoil of dirty election campaigns in Gore Vidal's The Best Man and trapped in the nuclear threat (and agreeing to the bombing of New York as a guarantee that the breaking of failsafe and the destruction of Moscow were not deliberate) in Failsafe.
John Ford himself capitalised on this icon quality while Fonda was still in his 30s, casting him as the archetypal president in Young Mr Lincoln, as a farmer caught up in the Revolutionary war in Drums along the Mohawk. As Fonda turned forty, Ford cast him as Wyatt Earp in My Darling Clementine as well as Graham Greene's whisky priest of 'The Power and the Glory' in The Fugitive. He co-starred in Fort Apache one of Ford's effective military Westerns with John Wayne. He was a thinly disguised unbending General Custer.
A study of Fonda's portrayal of Tom Joad according to the insights of the Myers Briggs Type Indicator can highlight something of the type of an American icon hero.
The other character who has continued to make an impression over the decades is Jane Darwell's Ma Joad. The way her part is written, the appearance of the actress herself (short and, while moving to stout, sturdy), the passion and the compassion of the delivery of her lines all contribute to audiences viewing her and interpreting her character as an archetypal mother. She is clearly an American Mother Courage. (And Jane Darwell was honoured with the Best Supporting Actress award of 1940.)
The Grapes of Wrath is a journey story, a quest of poor Okies, driven out of their land, for a new promised land in California which continues to elude them. The movie builds up its portrait of Tom and of Ma in each step of the journey. They are the poor, the victims of nature and of society even if they don't realise it. Two hands at a gas station who watch them go sum it up:
Them Okies got no sense, no feelings. They ain't human. A human being couldn't live like that, couldn't stand to be so miserable.
Tom is the plain, direct, straightforward man - in speech and in action. He is fair and just, towards himself and others. When things are not clear, he asks questions. He lives in the present although, during the trek and with the new experiences of hardship, greater possibilities open up for him. But he is uncomfortable with more personal approaches to matters. He is quite undemonstrative in his words and in his affections. His profile appears to be ESTJ.
Ma, on the other hand, is demonstrative and involved with every character. She too lives in the present. But the crisis in the life of the Joad family requires her to make harder decisions and act on them, giving her a tougher determination to save the family. Her profile appears to be ESFJ.
Since the portraits are built up at each stage of the journey, we can follow them through these stages.
Tom is first glimpsed alone on a long road leading to a crossroads (intimations of a Christ-figure?). A truck passes. He asks, ‘How about a lift, mister?' He is prepared to explain himself at once. The truck has a 'No Riders Allowed' sticker. 'A good guy doesn't pay no attention to a sticker some heel made him put on his truck.' He rides on the running board. 'My old man's got a place, forty acres, sharecroppers, been there a long while.' But, he then gets edgy towards the driver, is not quite himself: 'Why don't you get at it, buddy? That big nose of yours...' and then explains that he has been in the penitentiary, four years...'tryin to get along without shoving anybody, that's all... Hom-i-cide...'
When he meets Casey, the former preacher (John Carradine in surely one of his best roles), he discovers a friend and can talk frankly, explaining himself succinctly: 'I'd do it again. We were both drunk.' It was at a dance in a hall. 'He took a knife. I laid him out with a shovel. Knocked his head off'. He explains to Casey that he's not ashamed. 'No, he had a knife. Seven years. Served four.'
The audience knows where it stands with Tom. When the pair arrive at the farm, Tom listens to the wind, 'That wind's fixin' to do something. They're all gone or dead. Ma's shoe's left. Do you reckon they're dead? I know they're gone, but where they're gone? What happened? How come they got to git off? 50 years... same place. Who done it? Blowin' the dust away, blowin' the crops away, blowin' us away...' When his friend Muley appears and explains that the banks have foreclosed and everybody has to get out, Tom is bewildered, 'It don't seem possible.' 'What to do?...' As they scramble into the crops to avoid the bank's men, ' If anybody ever told me I'd be hiding out in my own place...'
But then he finds the family. Characteristically, Ma is saying grace and wiping Granpa's face, 'Oh, thank God, thank God.' Tom just says 'Ma' and shakes and holds her hand, no kiss. As they talk, each can assess the effect of prison on Tom. Ma is concerned, 'I was so scared of going away without seeing you again'. She is worried about his parole, but 'did they hurt you mean-mad?' Tom admits that he was 'mean-mad' for a while. 'You were neither man nor boy any more, but just a walking chunk of mean-mad. Did they hurt you that way, son? I don't want no mean son.'
They prepare to set out for California and the movie focuses on Ma. She looks at old letters in the firelight, old postcards, and laughs. She burns them, regrets suppressed - a souvenir of the World Fair at St Louis, 1904. She hold up earrings to her ears as she looks in the mirror. She fusses over the grandparents, cajoling them into going ('who'd cook for you, granpa?'). She mixes up a heady brew to make granpa drunk to endure the journey. But, she does not look back. 'We're going to California, ain't we, then let's go to California.' They tell her that it doesn't sound like her, 'you never was that way before'. 'Never lost my home before, everything I had in life.'
And they leave. Granpa dies on the way. Tom speaks at his grave in the plain Okie way
This here is Will James Joad, died of a stroke, old, old man. His folks buried him because they had no money to pay for a funeral. Nobody killed him. Just a stroke and he died.
He puts a bottle in the grave and asks Casey to speak, 'Ain't none of our folks been buried without a few words.'
They have some moments of rest at a river. Ma strokes Granma's hair. Tom even relaxes, dunking someone in the water.
But on they go. They stand on their self-respect. Tom reacts to the gas-station hands who look down on them, 'Well, ask right. You ain't talking to bums, you know.' Then the desert faces them. They trust that if they break down, someone will give them a hand. Ma is confident, 'People have done it. If they could, we could.' To Granma, 'Everything's going to be all right. The family's got to get across.' They do, pleading with an official to let them pass because Granma is ill, but Granma dies.
Tom wants Ma to see the first glimpse of California. Birds are twittering, 'I never knowed there was anything like it, purty and green'. But Ma breaks the news, 'Thank God. And we're still together. Most of us. Granma's dead... I told her when she was dying the family had to get across. She'll get buried where it's nice and green.'
But the camp they move into is ugly, Tom: 'Sure do look none too prosperous.' The kids already there are hungry. Ma's response is to feed them all, 'I don't know what to do - feed the family? What about all these here?' Tom, on the other hand, tells them to git. But Ma tells them to find sticks to get bits and leftovers. 'I don't know whether I'm doing right or not.' Ma and Tom watch the family and the children eat.
In the camp, they try to survive. They discover there are too many Okies for all the jobs advertised on the flyers. They discover the conmen, the dealers who promise work but take back the wages as payment for rent and force them to pay high prices at the company store. They discover the conflict between workers and scabs. This becomes the challenge for Tom and his integrity.
Tom watches the struggle between a slick contractor and a man arguing about a contract. Tom reacts to the false arrest, 'You've got nothing on him'. He tackles a man with a gun after he had taken a shot at a woman. Casey gets him to hide in the willows and takes the credit/blame, proud of his answering back.
But Tom has to do something. The family is in trouble. He gently reassures Rosasharn that they will find her husband who has gone away from the camp. However, 'There comes a time when a man gets mad. I'm trying. There was a law they was working with... but they're working away at our spirits, at our decency...' They move to another camp.
Ma is hopeful again. She doesn't want Tom to stick his nose in again. But at this camp, there is only disaster for Tom. He tries to find out what is going on but is forbidden to walk around at night. They find jobs but are beaten down with high prices for their work. They find out again about the unions and the scabs. Then, in the dark, violent scuffles break out. Casey is killed. Tom hits out in anger and is hurt himself. But he has killed a man again.
He seeks out Ma, 'I'm sorry, Ma. I didn't know what I was doing any more than when you take a breath. I didn't know I was going to do it.' Ma is stoical, 'I wish you hadn't done it. But you did what you had to do. I can't read no fault in you.'
Before they depart, Ma makes one of the classic speeches of the movie. She reminisces about the land, its boundaries, and about being born and dying.
We was the family, kind of whole and clean. But now we ain't clean no more. Pa's lost his place. Not head any more. We ain't no family now... the kids are wild, just like animals. They got nothing to trust. Don't go, Tom, stay and help, help me.
Tom agrees, 'OK, Ma. I shouldn’t. I know I shouldn't, but OK.' Tom knows he has learned something and attributes it to Casey, 'He mightn't have been a preacher, but he seen things clear. He was like a lantern. He helped me to see things too.'
They leave quietly and in the dark, but, on the road again, what they find is the Department of Agriculture camp, well-organised, respecting people and letting them run things for themselves. 'You got dances too?' asks a taken-aback Tom. Tom is moved and appreciative. There is hope. He remarks to the Superintendent, 'Ma will like it here. She ain't been treated decent for a long while.'
Life changes for the Joad family in the camp. But Tom is forced to go on the run again. It happens at a dance where, at last, the family are enjoying themselves. Tom overhears talk about the warrant for him. Ma, 'I guess it had to come sooner or later.' Tom wants to stay, 'But I won't never get that chance now, I guess. You hide someone who's killed a guy and you're in trouble.' Tom at last shows signs of affection. He kisses his Pa goodbye and is tender with Ma. He says it is Casey who has had the effect on him. Ma, 'He was a good man.'
Tom will go on the run, but he will also try to work for people like his family,
I bin thinking about us and our people living like pigs... and rich land lying fallow... a million acres. ...if all our folks got together and yelled... but sooner or later they'll get me for one thing or another... it's just as long as I'm an outlaw, anyway, I can do something, just scrounge around, find out what it is... something can be done about it.
I thought it all out clear, Ma. I can't. I don't know enough.
And then follows the speech that has been remembered for decades, the Grapes of Wrath speech, the Henry Fonda speech, the speech of the ordinary American man'
...part of one big soul that belongs to everyone, then it don't matter.
I'll be all around in the dark. I'll be everywhere, wherever you can look. Wherever there's a fight so hungry people can eat, I'll be there. Wherever there's a cop beating up a guy, I'll be there.
I'll be in the way guys yell when they're mad. I'll be in the way kids laugh and they're hungry and they know supper's ready and when the people are eatin' the stuff they raise, even in the houses they build, I'll be there.
Ma says she doesn't understand.
Me neither, Ma, but it's just something I bin thinking about.
The final images of the movie are of the strong, direct Tom and the American Mother Courage, Ma Joad. Tom has declared himself. He finally asks his mother to give him her hands. She declares that they 'ain't the kissing kind', but, finally, they kiss each other:
Ma weeps and cries out, 'Tommy...'
Tom Joad can be seen as an ESTJ, the plainest and most direct of all the profiles. Through the sufferings shared with his family and knowing the injustices in his own United States, he can now declare himself - but without the certainties he had taken for granted and with a tenderness of feeling that he could not previously express.
Ma Joad, the mother, has the final speech of the movie. She can be seen as ESFJ, the feeling provider for her family. But through the experiences of hardship and endurance, she has become stronger even when she does not know what will happen to them:
We ain't got it till we get it. I ain't never going to be scared no more. Enemies. Scared. Hurt and nobody cared.
Pa tells her, 'You were the one who kept us going, Ma.'
A woman can change better than a man.
A man lives in jerks. A woman lives in a stream. We've sure taken a beating. That's what makes us tough.
We, the people that live, they can't wipe us out...
because we're the people.
We're the people.
SOMETHING HE LOST - ROSEBUD
Orson Welles creates and destroys Citizen Kane.
Citizen Kane is over fifty years old. A cause celebre in its day because of the marked (somebody claimed libellous) similarities to newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst, it soon became a screen classic and is always found in the top ten (nearer to the top) in lists of all time great movies by cinema critics. If Hearst had had his way, the film might not have been released. Powerful gossip columnist Louella Parsons, a writer for the Hearst papers, crusaded against the film. But it was released, fared moderately well at American and overseas city box offices despite critical acclaim, fared badly outside the cities, failed to win most of the Oscars for which it was nominated (winning for Best Original Screenplay by Welles and Herman Mankiewicz), but it has survived and its reputation has prospered.
It is the work of Orson Welles who had already startled 1938 radio listeners and convinced them that his dramatization of H.G. Wells's The War of the Worlds was the real thing. (A 70s telemovie re-creation of the event summed up the feeling of the time with its title, The Night that Panicked America, and Woody Allen used it to humorous effect in his Radio Days.) Welles worked with his Mercury Theatre group in radio and they joined him for his first feature movie, Citizen Kane. Released in May 1941, it was a breakthrough in film-making style and techniques, of photography, sound engineering, design, editing. Welles was twenty-five and had already created his masterpiece.
Not that it was all the work of Welles, and he has been strongly criticised for not giving as much credit where credit was due. There was the contribution of Mankiewicz to the writing, Gregg Toland's photography, the strong cast including Joseph Cotton, Everett Sloane, Dorothy Comingore, Ruth Warrick, Agnes Moorhead and the first film score by Bernard Herrman who was to compose for many Hitchcock classics.
Citizen Kane was successfully re-released theatrically in the United States during 1991 to celebrate its 50th anniversary.
The Hearst connection, so blatant in its time despite demurs about rights to creativity and denials of parallels, linked the movie to the most significant national and international events of the previous half century, events in which Hearst had been active. They range from the Spanish-American? war of 1898 (which many said had been created by Hearst and demonstrated the public's response to the sensationalist press) to fraternising with Hitler and the Nazis in the 30s. But Hearst tried to be America: the boy devoted to his mother, the silver lode in Colorado that was the foundation of a fortune, the establishing of the yellow press, politicking in New York state with its corruption and bosses, the self-made man who embodied the American dream of wealth and success, but who got found out in morals - and who moved from being the man of the people, the hero of working men and women, to the aloof and fascist art collector, in his extravagant castle, San Simeon. In this kind of outline of Hearst's life, with names changed, Hearst is Kane. And so Citizen Kane becomes the embodiment of the American dream of the late 19th and first half of the 20th centuries. Welles touched the American nerve with his movie.
Charles Foster Kane is a particularly interesting movie character to explore. The movie itself is structured as an exploration, an attempt to understand the personality and the motivation of the tycoon. However, there is a basic irony that Welles capitalised on. Citizen Kane opens with dark and foggy scenes of a Gothic castle, the stuff of romance and melodrama. And we see a man dying. He has been clutching a paperweight, one of those old and popular paperweights, water in a glass ball and, inside, a winter scene where, if you tilt the bowl, snow is seen to fall. And, in close-up, he death-whispers, `Rosebud'. The paperweight falls and the attempt to unravel the mystery of Rosebud begins. But Welles has alerted us to be careful. Xanadu, Kane's palace, is first seen from outside a high wire fence, barbed wire and cyclone fencing, obviously suggesting a prison. The camera focuses on the sign, `No Trespassing'. But, of course, we, the audience, and the investigator do precisely that, trespass. That is also how the film ends, `No Trespassing'.
Since Citizen Kane, it is something of a movie convention to have a journalist seek out the significant people in a celebrity's life, interview them and reconstruct a portrait and hazard psychological insights. But Welles showed audiences the way, alerting us to public versus private personas, media images versus the unmasked individual, the differing perceptions and judgments of those who thought they were close to the subject. Everything has to be weighed. Everyone's opinion has to be treated with healthy caution and scepticism. But, as the audience watches the movie, they find themselves in a more privileged position. In the space of two hours, they hear the spoken opinions but perceive the unspoken communication and can pit one viewpoint against the other. And they continually see the man himself from the perspective of the actor, the writer and the director. In this case, of course, Orson Welles himself.
The screenplay is shrewd in giving us a newsreel summary first, the popular cinema tributes of the 30s, The March of Time. Kane smilingly declares, `I am, have been, and will be only one thing - an American'. And he is portrayed as millionaire, a politician (`always a bridesmaid, never a bride'), the `great yellow journalist' and, finally, a recluse.
And Rosebud? The March of Time rhetorically proclaims, `... not just what he did but who he was. Maybe he told us all about himself on his deathbed, his last words'. The commentator goes on to speculate. In succinct media glibness, he concludes sententiously, `It will probably turn out to be a very simple thing'.
And he is correct. But nobody, except the audience and only in the final moments of the movie, knows what Rosebud is. The media investigators are inclined to mock: `Who was she...?' `A race horse he bet on once, probably - yeh - that didn't come in - '.
Here's a man who might have been President. He's been loved and hated and talked about as much as any man in our time - but when he comes to die, he's got something on his mind called Rosebud. What does that mean?
Since we, the public, have known for fifty years what Rosebud is, it might be best to consider it first and to see how the deathbed memories and regrets suggest the profile of Charles Foster Kane and how we might explore his type with the help of the Myers Briggs Indicator.
Rosebud is a sled. It is the sled of the little boy, Charles Kane, out there in Colorado in the early 1870s. In fact, in the movie we see the sled almost immediately, in the flashback where the boy's mother signs her son away for his own good and prosperity. Charlie is out in the snow, playing, yelling indistinctly and throwing a snowball, playing with Rosebud. The financier, Thatcher, is to take him away and educate him for his rightful place in the world, away from what Kane later calls `a past world that was spontaneous'. Asking whether his mother is coming too, he is grieved to discover she is not. They promise that he will not be lonely. Young Kane refuses to shake hands with Thatcher and we see him lunge at Thatcher with his sled, with Rosebud. (In The March of Time, the investigator questioning Thatcher puts it to him: `Is it not a fact that on this occasion that boy, Charles Foster Kane, personally attacked you after striking you in the stomach with a sled?' The screenplay adds: `Loud laughter and confusion'.) In the encounter, young Charlie pushes Thatcher to the ground in the snow and Thatcher remonstrates, `Sleds aren't to hit people with. Sleds are to sleigh with'. (Is that a pun with 'sleigh' and 'slay' and the shove at Thatcher?)
Hitting Thatcher with Rosebud is no little temper tantrum. It is a symbol of defiance against the stealing of his childhood (and of his life). When Thatcher asks the young man what he would like to have been, Kane answers, `Everything you hate'. And he proceeds to live his life defying Thatcher's values before finally succumbing to them.
Later in the movie, Kane goes to see what has been sent from his parents' home in the west for storage in New York, to see Rosebud and relish the memories. When he picks up the paperweight in Xanadu after his wife, Susan Alexander, leaves him, he murmurs, `Rosebud'. It is what he clutches at. It is, as Thompson remarks, something he lost. And it is we who see the junk being fed into the furnace after his death, we who glimpse the burning sled, the burning name, the burning childhood, the burning play and spontaneity, `Rosebud'.
Although we scarcely notice him during the sequence of Charlie's leaving home, so dominant are his mother and Thatcher, it is Charlie's father who resents not rearing his son, but who sees most clearly and foretells the future.
You're gonna live with Mr Thatcher from now on, Charlie. You're gonna be rich. Your Ma figures - well - that is - me and her decided this ain't the place for you to grow up in. You'll probably be the richest man in America someday, and you ought to get an education.
But he also apologises to Thatcher after the sled incident and suggests that what the boy needs is a good thrashing. Ma then says that's why he's going to be brought up where his father can't get at him. Would Charles Foster Kane have been different had he stayed at home? At the time of his death, Kane thought so.
What seems to have happened to Kane is that circumstances of wealth, education and opportunity shaped the young man differently from his type. That is, the feeling function boy, with his symbolic sled, is trained as a thinking function boy. These are the expectations for his life, his success and his responsibilities. You can see it in the sullen gaze of the boy as the camera tracks back from him. The boy's dominant function, which guides him during his adult life, is suppressed and his inferior function is affirmed as the way to live his life. Kane is contaminated and, despite the trappings of reputation and wealth, he fails in his life.
How does Welles' movie portray this contradictory character?
At twenty-one, after being expelled from Harvard, Yale and any number of colleges, and returning from Europe, he is responsible for `the world's sixth largest fortune', but he writes to Thatcher to say, `Sorry, but I'm not interested in gold mines, oil wells, shipping or real estate...' But he wants the little newspaper, `The Enquirer', `I think it would be fun to run a newspaper'. His mode of operating is fun-oriented, `I just try everything I can think of'. A suggested headline, `Armada off the Jersey coast' - and Kane quips, `Can you prove it isn't'
He talks `duty' in running `The Enquirer' - but he does not mean it. He adds, `and my pleasure'. Even if 'The Enquirer' loses a million dollars a year, `you'd have to close it in - sixty years'. He is not interested in investing the money. He prefers to buy things:
I've always gagged on that silver spoon. If I hadn't been very rich, I might have been a great man. Not too bad under the circumstances.
And so, he turns the paper yellow, publishes it 24 hours a day, develops sensationalist investigative journalist and buys the top staff from his rivals.
His moment of truth, the meeting of thinking function and feeling function for something honest and creative, is his writing of 'My Declaration of Principles':
I. I will provide the people of this city with a daily newspaper that will tell all the news honestly.
II. I will also provide them with a fighting and tireless champion of their rights as citizens and human beings.
In celebrating his journalist coup, while his best friend Jed Leland and his manager, Mr Bernstein, discuss loyalty and whether Charlie will change, Kane is kicking up his heels with the entertainers, the chorus girls. They sing a song about New York's 'fav'rite son' and everyone joins in. Charles Foster Kane is loved. Later Leland will return the original copy of the Declaration to Kane in disgust, 'an antique'.
His friends and his enemies all focus on Charlie's need to be loved. In losing his mother and his childhood and in being trained by the bankers and their tutors, he had lost love. They all agree that Kane did not love and did not know how to love - and they agree that all his efforts, all his buying, all his building was to get people to love him.
It is seen in his marriage - and the brilliant breakfast collage where we see Charles and Emily, first cooing sweetly and then growing more detached until they are estranged. It is seen in his comic encounter with Susan Alexander and her toothache, where he makes animal shadows on the wall to make her laugh. It is seen in his brazening it out with political boss Jim Gettys and with his wife and choosing to be publicly humiliated by the press and losing the opportunity for office to stand by Susan. It is seen in his marrying Susan, fostering her operatic career when it becomes evident that she cannot really sing and building an Opera House in Chicago for her debut. It is seen in his building of Xanadu, a castle of gargantuan proportions to house his enormous art collection as well as Susan, who consoles herself doing giant jigsaw puzzles. Charles Foster Kane was prepared to spend his fortune to be loved.
Jed Leland offers his opinions on this quest for being loved:
He wasn't brutal. He just did brutal things. I suppose he had some kind of greatness. He never gave anything away. It was just some kind of tip. He had many opinions but no convictions. He never believed in anything except Charlie Kane. He married love. He wanted all the workers to love him. That's all he really wanted out of life was love. He lost it. That's Charlie Kane's story. He didn't have any love to give.
Jed Leland experienced the loss of love, even describes himself as Kane's stooge. Disillusioned by Kane's failure in promises and principles, he transferred to Chicago. Years later, he has to review Susan Alexander's performance. He starts but drinks himself unconscious. Kane comes in, finishes the review in Leland's style and then fires him.
The screenplay seems to suggest that politics might have made a difference to Kane. He certainly gives a stirring speech to his campaigners and denounces Boss Jim Gettys vehemently. He presents himself as `a fighting liberal', `the friend of the workingman'. He wants to help children, talks of decency and his concern for the 'underprivileged, the underpaid, the underfed'. He uses his jocose style (a feeler in politics rather than a thinker): now that the polls are running in his favour he can afford to make some promises, although, `I'd make my promises now if I weren't too busy arranging to fulfil them'.
However, it is Jed Leland, once again, who speaks out the truth:
You talk about the people as if you owned them... you give people freedom as if it were a reward. The workingman wants his right, not your gift... to persuade the people to love you. You want love on your own terms, according to your rules.
Kane replies by making a toast:
To love on my terms, the only terms anybody can have.
And that is what he gets. Gettys calls after him that anyone else would have learnt from the scandal that he had walked into.
The movie draws to its close with the reminiscences of Susan Alexander. Now a lush, singing in a cheap joint, she nevertheless has learnt from her experience and makes some shrewd observations about Kane. After being caught in the 'love nest', she is concerned about her reputation, but Kane marries her. Not only does he marry her, he starts withdrawing from his newspaper empire, concentrating on Susan's operatic career, standing over the music teacher (with authority and money) and building her an opera house that intimidates her for the career she never wanted. Sternly and unswervingly, he gazes ahead as she takes her curtain call and is presented with bouquets. He begins to clap, forcefully until the whole audience applauds. He demands that she continue lessons, `I don't propose to make myself look ridiculous' (and is photographed standing over her, his shadow darkening her). The result is that she attempts suicide.
She feels imprisoned in Xanadu, but he reminds her, standing in a fireplace that could serve as a comfortably sized garage, `Our home is here'. He orders everyone to enjoy a picnic.
You never give me anything I really care about. You buy me things. You don't love me. You want me to love you.
She leaves. He pleads:
Please don't go. From now on everything will be the
way you want it. You can't do this to me.
The only thing left for her to say is:
Oh yes, I can.
Kane is left with the paperweight, wandering, stodgily aged, through a large hallway of endless mirrors, clutching the bowl and murmuring, 'Rosebud'.
Thompson ends his investigation without a result. He says he has been playing with a jigsaw puzzle. An assistant suggests that if he could have found out what Rosebud meant it would have explained everything. She is right. Thompson, for all his interviews and searching is wrong:
No, I don't think so. No. Mr Kane was a man who got everything he wanted, and then lost it. Anyway, it wouldn't have explained anything. I don't think any word can explain a man's life. No, I guess Rosebud is just a piece in a jigsaw puzzle, a missing piece.
Well, perhaps a word does not explain anyone's life. But in cinema, 'Rosebud' is the most encompassing.
Citizen Kane ends with the camera withdrawing from the furnace where Rosebud is burning, from Xanadu itself to the barbed wire and cyclone fencing, to the 'No Trespassing' sign.
Audiences for over fifty years have agree that the movie was worth the trespass.
Post script: As the final credits appear, modestly the final name at the bottom of the cast list reads: Kane... Orson Welles. (An excellent source for studying Citizen Kane is `The Citizen Kane Book' (Secker and Warburg, 1971, Paladin Paperback, 1974) which includes critic Pauline Kael's essay, `Raising Kane' as well as the shooting script and the cutting continuity script.)
REAR WINDOW/ VERTIGO
"REAR WINDOW ETHICS"
James Stewart as a Hitchcock hero: prying out of his Rear Window, suffering, obsessed by Vertigo.
A group of people are sitting at dinner, eating and quietly chatting. We can see them but cannot hear them. A camera, in the garden outside, tracks slowly, almost imperceptibly, towards the window... then glass suddenly shatters and the camera backs quickly off in ungainly retreat. That's a scene from Mel Brooks' 1978 spoof of Hitchcock movies, particularly of Vertigo. He called it High Anxiety.
Hitchcock is easy to spoof. The master did it himself in his trailers for his movies (taking us on a tour of the Bates' motel and, especially, the shower recess for Psycho, floating down the Thames to promote Frenzy) and in his idiosyncratic 'guest' appearances in each of his movies (even in a newspaper advertisement in the confines of Lifeboat).
And countless directors have paid homage to Hitchcock so that we can never forget him and his style: the men pursued by helicopters and planes as was Cary Grant in North By Northwest, Brian de Palma reprising Vertigo in both Obsession and Dressed to Kill. The suspense thrillers of Alfred Hitchcock are an important part of our cinema psyche.
Hitchcock often used the same stars in several of his movies. Actresses like Ingrid Bergman, Grace Kelly, Tippi Hedren made more than one significant appearance. The three male actors who stand out are Gregory Peck (Spellbound, The Paradine Case), Cary Grant (Suspicion, Notorious, To Catch a Thief, North By Northwest) and James Stewart. Stewart had appeared in Hitchcock's experimental movie, Rope. When Hitchcock moved to Paramount for a series of very entertaining, big-budget thrillers, he cast Stewart in the first of them, Rear Window. Stewart then appeared in two more, the re-make of The Man Who Knew Too Much and, what many admirers and critics consider one of Hitchcock's masterpieces, Vertigo.
James Stewart had been in movies for twenty years before Rear Window. Along with stars like Henry Fonda and John Wayne, he had become something of an American icon, so often playing upright heroes (sometimes misunderstood) including real characters like baseballer Monty Stratton, band-leader Glenn Miller as well as appearing in a well-regarded series of Westerns directed by Anthony Mann.
Hitchcock saw this solid and respectable image and used it to advantage. But he also saw the shadow side of the upright American and explored it, often with the light touch but also seriously, in making Stewart the ambiguous heroes of Rear Window and Vertigo. He was not above what Grace Kelly's Lisa in Rear Window calls `rear window ethics'. He indulges in some prurient prying. He falls in madly indulgent love with a dead woman and tries to recreate a living woman in her image.
Looking at the two Stewart characters in the light of the Myers Briggs Type Indicator will help us to understand what happens to him and why.
Author Graham Greene used to make a distinction when he spoke about his books. Some he thought were lighter in plot and tone. He called them 'entertainments'. Others were more serious (much more serious) in dealing with characters in torment and depthing issues of life and meaning. These were the `novels'. The same distinction can be used for Hitchcock's movies.
Rear Window is the lighter movie of the two. It is the 'entertainment'. The screenplay was written by John Michael Hayes (To Catch a Thief, The Trouble With Harry) from a story by celebrated novelist, Cornell Woolrich. Stewart is Jeff, a world-roving award-winning photographer who is laid up with broken legs after an accident at a motor rally. He wanted a picture taken on the track between speeding cars. He got it... and the broken legs. Bored, he watches the people in the opposite apartment block. He looks out of his rear window and into theirs. In his last week of being laid-up, he suspects a murder. He involves Lisa, his girl-friend (Grace Kelly), Stella his physiotherapist (Thelma Ritter) and an old war buddy, now detective, Tom Doyle (Wendell Cory). He is correct. And the movie builds to a final tense climax as Jeff uses his camera flash to ward off the advancing murderer, Raymond Burr. All ends well - though it is open to a repeat-sequel: the murderer has pushed him out of the window and, despite the police stopping his fall, his legs are again broken.
Playwrights Alec Coppel and Samuel Taylor wrote the screen play of the more serious and intense Vertigo. It is based on a thriller 'D'Entre Les Morts' by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac who also wrote 'Les Diaboliques'. It is one of Hitchcock's equivalents of the 'novel'. Stewart is Scottie, a San Francisco detective. Pursuing a criminal across rooftops, he has a paralysing attack of dizziness. A policeman who tries to help plunges to his death. Once again Stewart is out of action, recovering - both physically and psychologically. It seems like a reworking of Rear Window. But Vertigo takes us much further.
Listening to Jeff in Rear Window (naturally, we see him in very limited action), we can hear him as an ENTP.
There is no question about his being extraverted. His being confined in the apartment drains him of energy. He is monumentally flat in this 'swamp of boredom'. Apart from the visits of Lisa and Stella, he occupies himself by watching the oddball/normal cross-section of people in the building opposite: 'Miss Torso' who exercises/dances in her underwear, the sad 'Miss Lonelyhearts', a young newly-wed couple who lock themselves in their apartment, (Hitchcock always enjoys portraying sexual tension with the eye of the voyeur), a sculptor, a composer, an older couple with a dog and a salesman with a nagging wife. The wife becomes the victim of her husband who cuts her up and is seen taking the pieces away in his luggage. The activities of these people energise Jeff. Everyone and everything outside is interesting. But the mysterious behaviour of Thorwald, the salesman, is more than interesting.
We are not surprised at Jeff. He describes himself as unable to settle down. He roams the world, sometimes 'in combat boots... with three days of growth'. Lisa wants him to stay in New York and take on a local photography job - fashions for instance. He loathes the idea. He tries to persuade her that his type of woman would be prepared to take on any assignment, go anywhere.
Jeff is also a perceiver. He is less of an initiator than a reactor, a photographer observer capturing moments. 'I took some of my best pictures on my day off.' This enables him to watch the salesman, Thorwald. But, ever more alert, he picks up binoculars and then looks at him through his camera lenses, to play the detective, to continue investigating despite Doyle's evidence that there is no case. This combination of extravert and perceiver in a situation of confinement is a recipe for curiosity, prurience and prying. 'Right now I'd welcome trouble.'
But it is also infectious. Stella says she can diagnose trouble in the room, but she succumbs to it. Lisa declares she is 'not much at rear window ethics', but, spurred on by Jeff's stories of action, she becomes more and more daring, finally breaking into Thorwald's apartment to get the wife's ring as evidence.
While Jeff likes to be out and about and to be a top photographer, his powers of observation are more intuitive than sensate. He notices details and gets involved when there is some pattern or relationship. Hitchcock’s direction offers the audience frequent panning shots through the rear window. We can gaze at what Jeff looks at, but we can also look at Jeff himself. The audience sees more than Jeff - who misses crucial detail when he is dozing (Thorwald's leaving his apartment with a woman who is later identified as his wife) or frantically talking on the phone (Thorwald's leaving his apartment to come to him to attack him). But Hitchcock offers us the overall view, Jeff's picture of the whole - and leaves it for Jeff and for us to select the details we want to look at.
Jeff's response to Lisa's being 'too perfect' is also an indication of the intuitive. He mockingly asks her what someone was wearing at a cocktail party - she answers with Vogue accuracy. He sees her as 'too perfect, too talented, too sophisticated... in the rarified atmosphere of Park Ave.'
Jeff is also disappointed with Doyle. What is obvious proof of murder to the intuitive Jeff is dismissed by Doyle as a 'second-hand statement of an unsupported witness.'
But Jeff is seen as an intuitive with the backing of his thinking auxiliary function.
James Stewart's sometimes laconic and easygoing style can be mistaken for a more feeling style. But listening to the screenplay, we hear his thinking function. 'There's an intelligent way to approach marriage... we've progressed emotionally... people have different emotional levels.' Or, arguing with Lisa about their compatibility, 'Just let me explain'. She says that's his opinion and he's entitled to it. 'It's a true statement. I can back it up.' As they continue to argue, he defends himself, that he's 'not stubborn, just truthful'.
In fact, he likes arguing, looking at the various truthful angles of the conversation. The ENTP can be a strong debater. Hitchcock's tongue-in-cheek style is to the fore when he suddenly cuts to Jeff and Lisa kissing, but all the time cross-examining her about Thorwald - getting his breath and asking questions between kisses. The extraverted intuitions are strongly challenged by the sensate kisses, but, at this juncture, intuition is winning.
As the plot gets more serious, Jeff's intuition and thinking are in full flight. He analyses Thorwald's behaviour, asking about the plausibility of each hypothesis. Lisa thinks he is 'diseased'. He responds, 'I just want to find out what happened to the salesman's wife. Does that make me a madman?'. He keeps counter-arguing, 'What's she doing? Where is she? ... why not?'
But, as he gets more involved, demands are made on his shadow side. The opposite of the ENTP is the ISFJ, the person who can be fully attentive to the detail of the here and now, fully focussed. Obviously, Jeff's confinement is so stressing at times that his inferior function goes berserk. He cannot concentrate or focus. But, as he writes notes for Thorwald, calls him for a fabricated meeting on pretext of blackmail, he can't be at the mercy of any possibility. He has to make practical decisions about now.
With Lisa in Thorwald's apartment, threatened by him, and with Stella digging up the garden, it is no longer a game or some controllable trouble that he can enjoy. He slips in his attentiveness when he calls Doyle to come, whispering frantically but misses seeing Thorwald leave his apartment. He also gives himself away, impulsively thinking Doyle is ringing back, when it is actually Thorwald checking on him.
There he is in his chair, his legs in casts. He is fixed in the here and now, unable to move to save himself from this present danger. But he uses his wits to flash the camera in Thorwald's eyes as he shouts to Doyle for help. In the event, it is enough to save him.
Lisa, of course, has proved that she is a match for him in adventure. He had underestimated her glamorous city high life-style. While his concern for her showed his feeling function, his praise is expressed in a measured way, 'I'm proud of you'.
Hitchcock, true to his 'entertainment' conventions, ends on a humorously flip note. After his fall, Jeff is once again in leg casts. The camera tracks slowly and knowingly to the reclining Lisa. She is reading 'Beyond the Himalayas'. But she notices that Jeff is asleep. She puts the magazine down and, with a look of loving, glowing complacency, picks up 'Harpers Bazaar'.
Vertigo begins with action, Stewart, Scottie, in danger of falling again. And once again he is confined. This time he is older. We see him in his former fiancee, Midge's studio. She is a painter who has worked in fashion design. But, as they reminisce, we learn that it was she who broke off the engagement, even though she still loves him. But he loves his work more than her and he is not a settler. Is this Rear Window some years on? Stewart still restless, unable to commit himself in a loving relationship? The beautiful, cool blonde Grace Kelly become the plainer, bespectacled, wisecracking but disappointed Barbara Bel Geddes? Whatever the thematic links between the two movies, Stewart's Scottie in Vertigo will now fall desperately in love and be prepared to commit himself even beyond the death of the idealised woman. She is in the form of the beautiful, cool blonde Kim Novak.
Looking at Scottie in the light of the Myers Briggs Type Indicator, we can see him more as an INTP rather than an ENTP.
There is little explicit in the screenplay to indicate that Scottie is an introvert. However, he is in his 40s; he lives alone; he does not seem to need anyone in his life - until he meets Madeleine. He tells her, 'Some people prefer to live alone'. As a lawyer, then a policeman, he seems to draw energy from within.
It is a little clearer in the movie that Scottie is a perceiver. After the initial accident, he is in no hurry to start work again. He is 'looking forward to his freedom'. He has sufficient financial means; they enable him to be 'fancy free' (which, of course, he is not) and allow him simply 'to wander'. He listens to a proposal from his old friend, Gavin Elster, a proposal that he follow Elster's mysterious wife, Madeleine, who, he alleges, has been possessed in some way by the ghost of her great grandmother, Carlotta Valdez. Sceptical, Scottie nevertheless agrees to go to a restaurant to glimpse Madeleine. He is instantly hooked. And he wanders, trailing Madeleine all over San Francisco, fascinated and falling deeply in love with her. Trying to help her regain some sanity, he is unable to save her from falling to her death. His vertigo takes over as he pursues her up a belltower at a Spanish mission.
Hitchcock himself described Vertigo as a story from the viewpoint of a man who's in emotional crisis'. Already guilt-ridden because of the death of the policeman, he is sarcastically and scathingly rebuked by the coroner for his passive response to Madeleine's behaviour and death: '...and again another died because he couldn't save her... we are not here to pass judgment on Mr Ferguson's lack of initiative... he did nothing... he could not face the tragic result of his own weakness and ran away...'
Scottie is caught in his profile, tormented by the deaths and his guilt, rebuked by authority. He withdraws into his passivity, becoming almost catatonic, remaining in this state for months in an institution.
But Vertigo contains its own sequel in its second half. Scottie comes out of his isolation, his emotional crisis unresolved. The audience is then given information that Scottie does not have: that brunette Judy Barton, whom he has noticed in the street and perceived a resemblance to blonde Madeleine, is in fact the woman he followed and fell in love with. We learn that this was part of a plot to lure Scottie into a scenario that exploited his vertigo and enabled Elster to murder the real Madeleine.
While Hitchcock informs his audience of the truth by means of flashback, he does not keep Scottie completely unaware of the mystery. In a surrealistic dream sequence, Scottie experiences vertigo, sees the falling Madeleine, discovers the necklace (Carlotta's) that she wore, and plunges headlong into her open grave. There are sufficient elements in this dream sequence to tantalise Jungians as well as Freudians looking for sexual motivation. Scottie will live out his dream, plunging into the dead woman's grave by trying to change Judy into Madeleine. Hitchcock spoke bluntly in his series of interviews with Francois Truffaut, 'To put it plainly, the man wants to go to bed with a woman who's dead; he is indulging in a form of necrophilia'. Scottie is almost destroyed by this experience. But he comes to assert himself in anger, overcomes his vertigo and understands the truth. Unfortunately, at the moment of truth and self-assertion, Judy is startled, accidently slips and falls to her death from the same place where Madeleine fell.
Scottie's emotional crisis can be understood by examining his behaviour in the light of his INTP profile, his functioning with thinking and intuition and his being possessed by his inferior function (extraverted feeling) and by his shadow profile, the ESFJ.
There is an amusingly serious introduction to Scottie's being a thinker. He is at Midge's apartment. They are discussing his overcoming his vertigo. Declares Scottie, 'I have a theory. If I get used to heights, a little bit at a time... I'll show you what I mean.' He then stands on a box, 'Look up... look down'. Another step, 'Look up... look down'. When he finally goes higher on a step-chair, he does look down, but his gaze automatically strays out the window, down to the street so many storeys below. He is overwhelmed, dizzy, and falls. He will need more than a theory to help him.
As he follows Madeleine around San Francisco, Scottie observes her through the windscreen of his car. From gazing through a rear window, James Stewart is now front windowing. A characteristic of the INTP is the search for the 'big picture', to put everything in its proper place and to understand the links as well as the rationale underlying the picture. Architects and philosophers are often INTPs. And detectives? Detectives who follow all the clues, intuitively alert and piecing the puzzle together for a solution, may also be INTPs. Scottie Ferguson can be seen in this light.
Hesitant to accept Elster's commission and a rationalist in response to Elster's story, he states he 'doesn't believe that someone out of the past can enter and take possession of a living being'. 'Take her to a doctor - and you go too.' He apologises that he 'didn't mean to be that rough'. Elster refers to him as 'still the hard-headed Scottie'. Politely, he then asks more about the case, continually putting clear and clarifying questions; but he still wants to decline, 'I'm retired, I didn't want to get mixed up with this darned thing'.
In his stage of transition and with guilt-feelings, Scottie is vulnerable to his inferior function: extraverted feeling. In fact, it starts to take possession of him. He accedes to Elster's basically preposterous request out of friendship. Once he sees Madeleine, he cannot but follow her. He still tries to build up the big picture, following her to a flower shop, the cemetery and Carlotta's grave, the art gallery and Carlotta's portrait, the apartment that used to be Carlotta's. He enlists Midge's help to find a historian to establish the facts about Carlotta. He does all the right things to establish the picture. But he allows himself to be obsessed, to make judgments with extraverted feeling criteria, backed by introverted sensate perception. Lurking, he sees Madeleine fall into the bay. He dives in to rescue her, takes her to his home, undresses her and puts her to bed. He could not be more lovingly solicitous for her.
He still interrogates her. She tells him that he is very direct in his questioning. He apologises, that he did not mean to be rude. She replies, 'not rude, just direct'. She then questions him about himself. As he offers her a cup of coffee, their hands touch - a close-up charged with tension.
It needs to be said or we need to be reminded that we, the audience, are being deliberately seduced by Madeleine as Scottie is - an intense, plotted and choreographed seduction. The behaviour of Madeleine is all calculated, the data all contrived. We will realise this before Scottie does and have time to reassess the experience before he does. But the first half of Vertigo is Hitchcock seducing his audience along with his hero. (This makes further viewings of the movie intriguing, when we know what we took for mystery and spontaneity is all deliberate - and Kim Novak's screen presence and acting are seen as all the more powerful.)
Scottie is not himself. Meeting Madeleine at his front door with a note of thanks and the hope that they will meet again has him wanting to cure and heal her. They explore the Muir woods and they muse on the age of the trees. But Scottie becomes more desperate for her. The language is that of the thinker, but the urgency is that of the feeler.
'If I could just find the key and put it together...' She leads him on, 'If I'm mad, then that would explain it'. She tells him of her dream of the mission and the church with its belltower. He is excited by the dream and explains its meaning to her, '...it's all there... think hard, darling'. He is compelled to take her to the mission. When she sees it, he says he will finish her dream for her... 'I'll destroy it... I'll take you home'. In retrospect we know that Judy has, in fact, fallen in love with Scottie. She is torn between Elster's plan and this love. Scottie believes that she (and he) will be cured. 'It's all real, think of it... So you see, there's an answer for everything.' He continues to plead with her, 'Madeleine, try. Try for me.' They kiss. She struggles with him. For him, it is the climax, 'No, we're together. No one possesses you. You're safe with me.'
Madeleine, tormented, says the words that will come back to him when he knows the truth and the scene is re-enacted. 'It wasn't supposed to happen this way. If you love me, then you'll know I loved you and wanted to keep on loving you...'
With Madeleine dead, Scottie goes back to his INTP type and withdraws completely into himself. The doctor diagnoses acute melancholia and guilt complex. Midge understands him better, 'He was in love with her. He still is.' Even though he comes out of himself, he is still obsessed, retracing his wandering after Madeleine, the flower shop, the restaurant, the gallery, seeing images of her instead of the women who are actually there. It is in this frame of mind that he finds Judy. And, once again, he is taken over by his shadow: wanting to transform Judy into Madeleine, her hair, her clothes, wanting her to be the dead woman he loved. Judy reluctantly goes along with what he asks, wanting to run away, allowing herself to be moulded (as she allowed Elster to mould her), letting her love for Scottie take over.
But the necklace jolts him back into reality. An anger overwhelms his love, an anger with touches of cruelty and poetic justice. He takes the, at first, unsuspecting Judy along the road with the overhanging branches that they had travelled before. But now it is night. 'There's one final thing I have to do and I'll be free of the past... I want you to be Madeleine for a while and then we'll both be free.' He repeats her final words to him. He tells her he wants to stop being haunted. 'He made you over, just like I made you - only better.' He projects his anger onto Gavin and denounces him for what Scottie has done himself.
The frightened Judy runs up the stairs just as her Madeleine had done before her. Scottie has been snapped out of being possessed by his inferior function. He needs to assert himself, let his dominant thinking guide him. His anger has made him assertive. He goes up the staircase, conquering his vertigo. He tells her, as they stand at the top, 'you made a mistake... you shouldn't have been so sentimental'. But she answers him, 'I let you change me because I loved you'. It is too late, there is no bringing Madeleine back. At this moment a nun unexpectedly appears having heard noise. Judy topples over the edge and plunges to her death. She pays the penalty. But so does Scottie - the deaths of Madeleine and Judy, no more chances. Once he has said to Gavin Elster that he did not believe that 'someone out of the past can enter and take possession of a living being'. The rational man could not believe or understand this. But, his experience has shown him that there are more things in this world than are dreamed of in his philosophy. But he has had to learn with the pain of love and death.
However, the final image of Vertigo is of James Stewart as Scottie, standing upright at the edge of the tower staring, unflinchingly, downwards.
Rear Window is a Hitchcock entertainment, enjoyably thoughtful in plot and in exploring characters. Vertigo is the serious Hitchcock at his best, once again enjoyably thoughtful, but like the stern Jesuit-educated moralist that he was, leaving us with sin and guilt, repentance and atonement, but without a 'happy ending'.
LAWRENCE OF ARABIA
"NOTHING IS WRITTEN"
T.E. Lawrence created his destiny and his legends. Robert Bolt, David Lean and Peter O'Toole combine to immortalise the legend of Lawrence of Arabia.
There seems to be no doubt that T.E. Lawrence, Lawrence of Arabia, was and is an enigma. In fact, Robert Bolt's screenplay for David Lean's epic 1962 movie highlights the complexity from the beginning. We watch Lawrence on his motor-cycle speeding along an English country road, then the crash that claimed his life. The following sequence is his funeral where Bolt has devised a range of interview comments from people who knew him: General Murray who thought him an upstart, `I never knew him', General Allenby who utilised his talents to win the war against the Turks, `I didn't know him well, you know', Bentley, the American journalist, who helped create the legends and who came to despise so much of what Lawrence bloodthirstily achieved, `Poet, scholar and a mighty warrior - the most shameless exhibitionist since Barnum and Bailey.' It is in this context that the movie goes back into the life and career and extraordinary exploits of Lawrence from 1914 to 1918.
The Arabian theatre of war was not the sole stage on which Lawrence strode; and he did not die until 1935. However, his work in Africa in the 20s never drew the attention of the world as did the Arabian adventures (fostered by his own book (both praised as heroic and damned as hoax), `The Seven Pillars of Wisdom')
One speculates how Lawrence would have enjoyed David Lean's movie. He might have enjoyed being technical adviser (which, of course, through his book, he posthumously was). And he would have enjoyed the sweep and beauty of Freddie Young's photography, the majesty of the desert scenery, the pounding re-creation of the battles, the showy cinematic devices that are still remembered: Omar Sharif riding his camel towards the camera and emerging out of the haze, the distant swirl of sand to indicate that Lawrence was returning from the desert of the Devil's Anvil with the rescued Arab, the extinguishing of the match between Lawrence's finger and thumb in extreme close-up and the sudden cut to the long-shot of the desert panorama. (It is a comment on modern take-away television-watching that in the print of the movie screened on network channels, that the immediate cut from the extinguishing of the match is to a commercial!)
One also suspects that Lawrence would have been pleased with the talent that brought his legend to the screen - and the fact that it was so popular and won so many awards including the Oscar for the Best Film of 1962. Its running time rivalled that of Gone with the Wind; for many years there were complaints from cinema buffs that the print for release was not Lean's own cut; in the late eighties the complete movie was restored, some of the actors assembled for re-dubbing and the movie given another theatrical release - and to some acclaim. Not only Lawrence, the movie had its own legends.
David Lean gave to the story-telling the fine British sensibility he brought to his classics of the 40s, in the adaptations of Noel Coward's work, In Which We Serve, This Happy Breed, Blithe Spirit, Brief Encounter and the Dicken's movies, Great Expectations, Oliver Twist, as well as the epic sweep that became his trademark in later decades, The Bridge on the River Kwai, Doctor Zhivago, Ryan's Daughter, A Passage to India. If one wanted a giant cinema monument, one could do no better than to have David Lean as director.
But it is Robert Bolt who interprets Lawrence for us in his literate screenplay. Bolt is best known for A Man for All Seasons and for his collaboration with Lean on Doctor Zhivago and Ryan's Daughter. Bolt is able to offer a central character who is complex and complicated, who needs to be seen through many distinct and even opposing viewpoints, who needs to be seen in the context of British Empire and tradition (both ambitious and exploitative) and of British reticence and breeding. Bolt captures all of this and writes a Lawrence of Arabia who can be admired, sometimes liked, often loathed and always bewildering and unpredictable. He combines the public Lawrence with what must have been something like the private Lawrence.
The cast is epic, led by a Peter O'Toole who had appeared in supporting roles to this point, but who became a star and most people's image of what Lawrence looked like, sounded like. Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn, Omar Sharif all bring their acting qualities to their Arab roles. The British portray the British impeccably. And one cannot forget Maurice Jarre's score and its by now familiar theme. All in all, a movie that would have impressed T.E. Lawrence.
But how can we interpret the movie Lawrence according to the Myers Briggs Type Indicator? It is suggested that the text and texture of the movie indicate Lawrence as an INFP.
Before exploring this profile, it is useful to see Lawrence in the light of the basic male archetypes. Lawrence is no Father. He is no Sage. Rather, Lawrence appears as a Seeker and as a Warrior.
T.E. Lawrence was a restless man, both in his inner life and in his outer life. He was a questor, intense in his crusades for ambitious goals, but able to leave them when attained or considered unattainable and to move on to another quest. He was a loner, often depending on others, but always on his terms. And he cultivated a philosophy and practice of endurance of physical pain and stress that would be the envy of any fictional larger than life hero.
On service in Egypt, he wanted to leave Cairo, to meet the Arabs and share their war. He dreamed of leading them to victory. And his intuitions led them across impossible deserts to surprise the Turks and capture the port of Aqaba from the rear, their fixed guns pointing out to sea. He dreamed of Arab unification with a sense of people and nationhood and he led them, despite wrestling with the shadow of blood lust and brutal butchery, into Damascus to form self-government. And, weary with the bickering tribes, he decided that it was time to go on with his life, find another goal and leave the Arabs behind.
Lawrence was also a warrior, a successful warrior, a conquering hero. He fought, at first with a theoretician's certitudes, and then fiercely and desperately. The warrior story gave shape to his seeking story. But then he could leave the fighting behind to continue his search for himself and his destiny. Bolt has Lawrence say that there is no fate, that 'nothing is written', unless it be in the human head and heart, in the human spirit. The gruelling experience of desert war and of physical torture will drive Lawrence to openly deny this to Ali, but at heart, he still believes it.
The INFP type is a seeker and a searcher: a questor. The INFP can dream the impossible dream, fight the unbeatable foe... and can right wrongs, even with unbearable sorrow. While the INFP is conscious of inner mortality and may live a life of inner anguish, there is still something 'god-like' about the ambitious quest. The INFP runs the constant danger of being presumptuous - or of blasphemy, trying to 'play god'.
Robert Bolt explores this theme of blasphemy in Lawrence's quest, a Christian-tradition presumption recognised by the Muslim Ali. As they journey with great hardship from heat and dust to Aqaba, Ali expresses his faith in Allah: they will cross the desert 'in God's name', 'God willing'. When Lawrence himself breathes, 'Thank God', Ali challenges him,
Lawrence, I do not think you know how much you have tempted him.
His sense of his own destiny is sealed when he goes back into the burning heat of the Anvil to rescue one of the men whose camel has strayed. He and Ali argue about whether they can stop and go back.
- I can. - His time has come, it is written.
- Nothing is written.
- English blasphemer... conceit... why did you come?
- I shall be at Aqaba. That is written. In here (and Lawrence taps his head).
When he returns with the rescued man and the camp rejoices, Ali offers the water of friendship and Lawrence gazes at him,
- Nothing is written - and he drinks
- For some men.
- Truly nothing is written unless they write it.
The Arabs now give him a new name El Orance, offer him Arab clothing. For him it is 'a great honour'. He salaams and rides his camel elegantly, like the Arabs. Alone, he makes sweeping gestures with his sleeves, twirls his robes, looks at his new image in the knife that he uses as a mirror - and giggles. But he has truly become El Orance.
His capacity for enduring pain is his guarantee to himself that he is right and that his mission for Arab unity has right on its side. As he remarks to the soldier who burns his fingers emulating Lawrence's technique of extinguishing the match and complains that it hurts, `It hurts. The trick is not minding that it hurts.' So Lawrence can bear the initial ride to find Prince Feisal, can endure the journey to Aqaba (and declare vehemently, when he has drifted drowsily in the night, that it will never happen again), can engage in battle and fight to win Aqaba.
But his capacity for bearing pain and his 'blasphemous' attitude towards God and what is written is revealed to be limited - to what he himself can control. When the pain is inflicted by others, he discovers his own mortality and weakness. And he discovers that his discipline of self-inflicted suffering has given him a taste for pain that is frighteningly masochistic.
When a vendetta between Arabs threatens the unity of the attacking force, he learns that the death of the aggressor will satisfy the tribal eye-for-an-eye retribution. He will be the executioner. The culprit is the man he rescued from the anvil. Lawrence shoots him - the audience assumes from his expression that it is with enormous revulsion. It is. But he will later confess to Allenby in Cairo as he tries to resist going back to fight in the desert that he enjoyed it. As well there are too many deaths of those he loved: the servant boy he is unable to pull out of the quicksand, the second servant who is poisoned by the detonator caught in his robes and whom Lawrence shoots to save a surprise attack on a Turkish train. This suffering is not in his control and he finds that it is unendurable.
Commanded to return to the war by Allenby, he becomes a butcher of Turks. Bolt symbolises this in a powerful sequence where, after the capture of a train and a massacre, Lawrence vaunts himself on the top of the train. But a wounded soldier tries to shoot him. His aim is unsteady and he succeeds only in wounding Lawrence's arm. The defiant Lawrence, with glazed eyes, stands firm and stares out the dying soldier, daring him to kill him, until Anthony Quinn's chieftain beheads the soldier. Death wish? Blasphemy and presumption? Morbid enjoyment? All of these? Lawrence has lost control of himself and his vision is clouded by his personal flaws.
But Lawrence experiences two brutalisations that change his vision of himself. The first is the unsuspected and subtly brutalisation by his fellow-Britons. While Lawrence wanted to join the Arabs initially, his experience of deaths and his own violence compel him to ask to withdraw. However, Allenby, superficially bluff and uncomplicated, is shrewd enough to know that Lawrence can achieve Britain's ambition in the Middle East War. He persuades and commands him to go back and lead the Arabs to Damascus. Even when Lawrence returns, literally beaten by the Turks and wanting to be 'normal', Allenby forces him back. The Lawrence who returns is even more brutal and brutalised, shocking Ali and the chiefs, hiring merciless mercenaries. The cry is 'No prisoners'- and Lawrence soaks himself in blood.
The more obvious brutalisation of Lawrence is that perpetrated by the Turks and the Bey. Wanting to take the Arab revolt into the town of Deria, he disguises himself as an Arab, but is arrested by Turkish troops, questioned, tortured and thrown out into the streets. The homosexual overtones of the Bey's gaze and interrogation of Lawrence, the fingering of his white flesh bring to consciousness, according to Bolt, the questions concerning sexual identity that Lawrence thus far was able to bypass or sublimate. And the beating, pain which he was not able to control, was unendurable. He confesses to Ali that, afraid of the pain, he would have betrayed all his friends and allies. Ali's reassurance is not reassuring. El Orance has been brutally destroyed by Britons and Turks alike. And by his own fallibility.
So, we can look at the portrait of T.E. Lawrence drawn by Bolt and Lean, try to go beneath the Lawrence's experiences and reflect on his personality type.
He is portrayed as an introvert, not merely the loner, the soldier with few, if any, friends, the bastard son of a British aristocrat who had to prove his worth in society, but as a man of great inner energy. He could work quietly and satisfyingly at his desk, but was driven by inner forces out into a world, not so much a world that was there, but into a world that he created.
One could discuss just how decisive Lawrence was. He achieved a great deal, but he seems to have been a man who responded to people and situations rather than an initiator. When he did initiate, it did not always sit comfortably with him and he was prone to retire. One might say he was a brilliant visionary reactor.
But the inner life of Lawrence was not predominantly that of insight and intuition, intuitive though he was. He was a man of inner intensity of feeling (and feelings). He wrote what had to be written for himself in his own head and heart and that involved inner anguish. His approach to his decision-making was quite subjective, personally involved. Early in the movie, his approach is contrasted with that of Major Brighton (played by Anthony Quayle in the very English stiff upper lip, imagination-bewildered manner). Prince Feisal notes that Lawrence is 'a young man; young men are passionate and must have their say', whereas Brighton treads 'heavily, but you speak the truth'.
The momentous decision to attack Aqaba came from inside. Committed to the Arabs, idealising them, he spends the night in vigil, sitting quietly in the desert dark. His eyes, gazing out but unseeing, eventually waken to a decision and a strategy. The boys have rolled a stone down the hill. It hits his back. So, the attack on Aqaba. To Ali:
- I'll cross it (the desert) if you will
- (in response to Ali's warning about the harshness of the desert) I can't answer for the place, only for myself. Aqaba, it's only a matter of going.
It is this personal determination that we see after the victory at Aqaba. He gains a personal strength as well as the respect of the Arabs. He crosses the Sinai desert. He reports to Cairo. He is persuaded to continue fighting even though his inner decision is to withdraw because of the grief and pain and of his lust for blood. Even after his collapse, it is this inner strength that keeps him going, even into Damascus and the faltering attempts to establish government.
While the dominant function of the INFP is introverted feeling, the auxiliary function which the world sees is extraverted intuition. The screenplay makes much of this strength of Lawrence. His hunches about the Arabs gain the support of Mr Dryden and the grudging permission of General Murray for him to seek Prince Feisal. Even during the initial journey we hear him taunt the proud Ali (who has shot Lawrence's guide for drinking from his well) with statements on friendship (`My name is for my friends... none of my friends is a murderer') but also on the intuitive vision for the Arabs:
So long as the Arabs fight, tribe against tribe, so long will they be a little people, a silly people, greedy, barbarous and cruel as you are.
With Feisal (who quotes these words back at him), he is more subtle. He quotes the Quran and moves Feisal who detains him to consult with him. He praises the greatness of the Arabs, 'It is time for them to be great again'. His loyalty is to both British and Arabs. 'Is that possible?', asks Feisal.
He employs this intuitive shrewdness in persuading Auda Abu Tayi to join in the revolt. `Be not clever with me, English', he warns. But he succumbs to Lawrence's arguments about his Arabs being 'a tribe of slaves who serve the Turks - it is the servant who takes money'. 'Auda Abu Tayi will come because it is his pleasure'.
Lawrence deals with the crises intuitively: the execution of the murderer, 'I will execute the law - I have no tribe and no one is offended'; the requests from Allenby for reinforcements and supplies; the use of his wits in the raids on the Turkish trains.
His combination of feeling and intuition for the NF temperament means that is a strong inner man who is determined to implement his vision and does so with subtle and forceful courtesy and eloquence.
We might note that Lawrence is sometimes at the mercy of his inferior functions. He learns to be more sensate but he tends to under valuate his sense experience, preferring to channel it into endurance to serve the achievement of his vision. He makes little progress using his thinking function with his British superiors, logical exposition of his views are generally beyond him. A cunning general like Allenby knows what Lawrence wants to say about himself but capitalises on Lawrence's lack of clarity and precision ('I don't think I'm fit for it') to command him to do what he does not want to do. In dealing with the Arabs, he does not have to rely so much on his thinking function.
Whether it is the brutalising that he experienced or his trying to stay in his own personality type without responding to the challenge, he becomes victim of his shadow and, in the raids and the battles, acts in a caricature of his opposite type, the organising and administrative ESTJ. In the dispiriting winter before the taking of Damascus, Ali pleads:
- give them something they can do - with you it's move mountains or walk on water
- who are you to day what can be done? What ever I ask of them can be done. Do you think I am just anyone, Ali? I'll go by myself if I have to...
The movie highlights this arrogance in Lawrence's later interactions with the journalist, Bentley, the man who had promoted his legends with stories and photos. When he survives the soldier's attempt on his life, he mounts to the top of the train carriages. Bentley is revulsed by the slaughter. Lawrence urges Bentley to take his picture. Lean has designed this sequence with Lawrence on the roof. But he photographs only Lawrence's silhouette on the ground, the swirling Lawrence who once danced in delight at being honoured by the Arabs. It is significant that Lean, at this point, actually shows us Lawrence's shadow. Finally, when Lawrence and his mercenaries charge and massacre Turkish soldiers (and Ali cries 'enough, make them stop'), we are shown Lawrence running away, sitting hiding, eyes once again glazed, covered in blood. Bentley despises this caricature of the commander he once was:
Let me take your rotten, bloody picture for the rotten, bloody newspapers.
Perhaps the tragedy for Lawrence was that his vision was clear but that he was not fighting in an ideal world. He could not live his vision. And when he tried to be himself again, he was not permitted. And when it was permitted, it was too late and he wanted to retreat into a false ideal self, one that was more like his opposite.
Back in Cairo, he tries to adapt, takes off his robes (which the British had mocked as theatrical) and listens to chatter about building a squash court ('jolly good'). He tells Allenby:
- the truth is I'm an ordinary man
He does not want to lead the Arabs to Damascus, the reasons are personal
- I'd rather not go mad, that's my reason... I just want my ration of common humanity.
- I've made that boy a hero. After the war he can be what he wants to be.
Mr Dryden replies
- he wants to be someone else.
Allenby still praises him, calling him extraordinary. But Lawrence's answer is
- Leave me alone.
All right, I am extraordinary. What of it?
But he goes back, goes to Damascus with blood-stained hands, ultimately praying 'that I may never see the desert again'. Ali, who will stay and learn politics, speaks of Lawrence's fear and self-hatred. As he wanders Damascus (still in his robes, tanned and dirty) and enters the hospital crowded with wounded and dying, a petty officer abuses and hits him, 'outrageous, you filthy little wog'. The final masochistic identification with the Arabs by a proud, reticent, ostentatious Briton.
The INFP dreams impossible dreams. Lawrence of Arabia dreamed those dreams and some of them were fulfilled. The achievement was epic, the personal cost tragic.
MY FAIR LADY
`I can do without you' but `I've grown accustomed to her face'. Can Henry Higgins and Eliza Doolittle do without each other after My Fair Lady?
Audiences and critics always had some difficulty with the ending of George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion. While Professor Henry Higgins might well be able to manage by himself, a confirmed and crusty bachelor, what about Eliza Doolittle, the flower-girl of Covent Garden who has been transformed by Henry Higgins' (but also by her own fierce determination) into an Edwardian lady? Shaw wrote that she would marry Freddy Eynesford Hill. But she would have had to support him as he was not used to working. (And, besides, he seems to later decade eyes quite a wimp.) Shouldn't she go back to Henry Higgins? But on what and whose terms?
My Fair Lady opts for Higgins and Eliza together. But there still seems to be something askew with that final minute of the movie. On paper, it looks like a capitulation by Eliza. She does the returning to 27a Wimpole St, Higgins' home, and he asks her for his slippers (which she had previously flung at him). However, each of them has sung a song with strong lyrics that indicate insights and growth. She declares that `I can do bloody well without you'. He sings that `I've grown accustomed to her face' - that he was `... independent; I can always be that way again,... but yet...'
On the screen, however, Eliza does not move to get Higgins' slippers. And Rex Harrison's delivery sounds more benign than on paper, much gentler, and he smiles, bending and covering his face with his hands in agreeable disbelief. The movie seems more optimistic about their future and the quality and (equality) of their partnership - even though the setting is still 1913 and the movie won the Oscar for Best Film of 1964.
One would have to be fairly stone-hearted not to enjoy My Fair Lady. It has a strong theatrical origin in Shaw's social comedy and a tradition continues in the 1938 film version (a quarter of a century after the play's opening) by Gabriel Pascal which starred Leslie Howard as Higgins and Wendy Hiller as Eliza. (A telemovie version of the 80s featured Peter O'Toole and Margot Kidder.)
Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe have a respected place in American musical comedy with their collaborations on Paint Your Wagon, Gigi, Camelot. But My Fair Lady is their greatest success. Lerner has kept the spirit of Shaw in the book and written wittily Shavian lyrics. Loewe has composed beautiful melodies and jaunty rhythms to accompany the clever composition of words. It was a major success of the Broadway stage and of world stages in the 50s and 60s, with Rex Harrison being everyone's idea of Henry Higgins. The young Julie Andrews made enormous impact as Eliza. Unfortunately, she was judged by producer Jack L. Warner to be not sufficiently strong as a box-office draw in 1964, so the movie role of Eliza Doolittle went to Audrey Hepburn (whose singing voice was dubbed by Marni Nixon). There was a dramatic irony on Oscar night in early 1965 as Julie Andrews won her Oscar for Mary Poppins and thanked Warner...! The presenter to Rex Harrison for his Best Actor Oscar was Audrey Hepburn. Harrison stood on stage with both Julie Andrews and Audrey Hepburn and urbanely referred to them as `my two fair ladies'.
Both Henry Higgins and Eliza Doolittle dramatise types and can be appreciated with the help of the Myers Briggs Type Indicator. Henry Higgins' character will be explored as an ISTJ. Eliza Doolittle will be seen as an ESFJ. Alan Jay Lerner's adaptation of Shaw will help appreciate the types, but his lyrics are particularly effective in dramatising the types. However, in looking at the movie, we find that, while Henry Higgins is written as an introvert, Rex Harrison seems an extraverted actor. Perhaps this gives his performance such verve. And, while Eliza Doolittle is written as an extravert, Audrey Hepburn seems an introverted actress. Perhaps this gives her performance such intensity. (An interesting comparison in performance is the 1988 recording version of the songs. Jeremy Irons is Higgins, much more introverted in style and in his singing, while the more extraverted Kiri Te Kanawa sings Eliza.)
The production values of the movie are lush. My Fair Lady has been described as 'gorgeous'. Gorgeous flowers in close up background the opening credits. Cecil Beaton's costumes (ladies' black and white gowns and outsize hats, men's grey suits and top hats) give the Ascot opening race day an appearance of affluent decorum. The ball is also costumed and designed for regal elegance. One might say that the movie is a sensate's delight with the visuals, the melodies and the beautifully articulated English.
And Higgins' and Eliza's enterprise is also sensate at core, an education in language and a transformation in appearance and manners.
Higgins, as an ISTJ, is a dominant sensate, a man with strong inner focus on the here and now, attentive to details, direct in his approach to the present reality and relying on tried and trusted methods - especially drill. His sense of hearing and his capacity for distinguishing between sounds is phenomenal. We find him first at Covent Garden transcribing conversations in a phonetics' system that he has invented. He is able to determine where people were born, where they grew up and where they work, all from their pronunciations. He has, at home, some early gramophones which he can slow down in their playing to illustrate for his friend, fellow language enthusiast, Colonel Pickering, that a sound does not combine, as the Colonel suggested, about twenty four vowels but one hundred and thirty, which he demonstrates.
Language, he declares, is his profession and his hobby. He not only respects language, but he is in love with it, `the divine gift of articulate speech'. And, of course, he is heard to witty advantage in his language usage in his songs. `Why can't the English... learn to speak?' expresses his creed in playful exasperation. He is captivated, not only by Alfred Doolittle's amoral morality, but by his lilting rhetoric (`mother, Welsh') and modulated expressions. But he draws his energy from this inner world of acute attentiveness to sound and language.
Eliza, as an ESFJ, is also sensate, but it is her auxiliary. As with Henry Higgins, the sensate function is introverted. Eliza is a flower-seller and delights in the flowers. But she has had few opportunities for education, except from the school of hard knocks. But once she makes up her mind to study and to become a florist, she pursues the tried paths of learning even though she is bone-weary and hungry. And she proves that she too has a good ear and, by George, she gets `the rain in Spain stays mainly on the plain' as well as `in Hartford, Hereford and Hampshire, hurricanes hardly happen'. She maintains her diction and improves it so that at the ball she will be denounced by Zoltan Karpathy, erstwhile pupil of Higgins and now exploiting his skills in exposing frauds. Not only is Eliza a fraud. She must be a Hungarian princess - her speech is too good for genuine English language laziness.
And Eliza has an innate sense of beauty. While she literally scrubs up well and is beautiful when in attractive home clothes or gowned for socialising, she has an inner beauty which glows from her.
The lyrics of her songs highlight these sensate perceptions.
Her first is the delightfully sensate and innocently sensuous
Wouldn’t it be luverly?
All I want is a room somewhere,
Far away from the cold night air...
Lots of chocolates for me to eat,
Lots of coal makin' lots of 'eat,
Warm face, warm hands, warm feet,
Oh, wouldn't it be luverly!
But, angry after the mean-minded treatment by Higgins and now courted by Freddy, she lets go and lets fly with
Words, words, words,
I'm so sick of words...
Is that all you blighters can do?
Don't talk at all,
Show me... show me now.
The dramatic interaction between Higgins and Eliza, however, is not so much a sensate clash, but one between a thinking function and a feeling function. Higgins is a thinker, Eliza a feeler. They are both decisive, both prefer to get things done, but he is more objective in his judgments, she much more subjective. And both ways of decision-making are extraverted, he, with his auxiliary of extraverted thinking, she, with her dominant extraverted feeling.
Despite Rex Harrison's capacity to offer a charming smile when he utters outlandish insults, `you squashed cabbage leaf, you incarnate insult to the English language... crooning like a bilious pigeon... she's so deliciously low, so horribly dirty...', he is a thinker. (Jeremy Irons conveys this much more sternly in his rendition of the songs.)
His expectations of people's use of language are exacting and he accepts (as with Pickering) or dismisses (as with Eliza) accordingly, `Cease this boohooing instantly or seek the shelter of some other place of worship'.
Higgins is a taskmaster, no trouble with such hard work and long hours for himself, but impossible for others. His housekeeper, Mrs Pearce, pleads for him to be reasonable, "you can't walk over everybody". Pickering, who is considerate to Eliza, asks, "Doesn't it occur to you that the girl has some feelings?". Higgins can offhandedly reply, `Oh no. I don't think so. No feelings you need worry about. Have you, Eliza?'
This direct thinking function is heard in lines like these: to Mrs Pearce's remark that the mail is in, `Pay the bills and say no to the invitations', to her concern, `When are you going to stop?', `When she does it properly, of course'. But, more importantly, in his dealings with Eliza,
It's no use explaining things to her. Drilling is what she needs. Leave her alone or she'll be turning to you for sympathy.
If I can go on with a blistering headache, you can...
Of course she matters. What do you think I've been doing all these months? What could possibly matter more than to take a human being and change her into a different human being by creating a new speech? It's filling up the deepest gap that separates caste from class and soul from soul. Of course, she matters... Immensely.
Higgins's songs are humorous thinking function songs, not only about the capacity of the English to speak their own language, but his declarations about the milk of human kindness, in quarts, flowing through his veins! Eliza has just accused him of being a bully which he, of course, denies. But then goes on to prove it, declaring that when he lets a woman in his life, he becomes selfish and tyrannical. He also sounds like a thinker in his exasperation song, Why can't a woman be like a man?'
Why is thinking something women never do?
Why is logic never even tried?
But the professor is not at his best here, somewhat in the grip of his inferior function as we shall see.
Eliza is an extraverted feeler, actually a vendor (the nickname of the ESFJ). It is evident from the time she first appears, trying to sell her flowers, upset when she is sent sprawling and the flowers knocked out of her hand, `Look where you're going. Two bunches of violets trod in the mud. A full day's wages'. She gets even more upset when she is warned about Higgins taking down all that she is saying. She is afraid he is a detective. She shouts and rants against him, demanding to see what he has written, `It ain't proper writing', and protesting that she is a respectable girl, `I'm a good girl, I am'. While her 'luverly' song is sensate, it is also a feeling song and she enjoys the singing and the dancing.
Her decision to visit Higgins and ask for lessons is made for her own betterment, to be a lady in a flower shop. His talk and behaviour frighten her (as does the losing of her clothes and her puzzle about the bath and her being wet and washed all over). But the ups and downs of her education, especially as expressed in her songs, nicely illustrate the extraverted response. She is exhausted and she is humiliated - and the song `Just you wait' sums up her longing to get her own back on Higgins, even to imagining a day named in her honour on which the king grants her petition to execute him.
In contrast, we have the joy of achievement, and of pleasing Higgins and Pickering, with the merriment of` "The Rain in Spain" and the exuberant dancing. It is only a few dance steps to Eliza's special song, `I could have danced all night',
I could have spread my wings
And done a thousand things...
I only know what made it so exciting...
I only know when he
began to dance with me,
I could have danced, danced, danced all night.
Eliza gets carried away at her Ascot testing in high society, her faux pas being described as the latest small talk - talk about her aunt who was 'done in' and her father ladling gin down the old lady's throat. But the climax is the 50s and 60s' equivalent of 1913 out-of-place-in-society swearing, 'Not bloody likely' - urging the horse on with `Move your bloomin' arse'. (What might Eliza have to say to shock us in our times?)
But Eliza has her highs and her lows with the ball. Feted before she goes, received with lavish attention, chosen by the Princess to dance with the heir, victorious over Zoltan Kaparthy's attempts to expose her, she is thoughtlessly but harshly ignored by Higgins and Pickering in "You did it". As they go off to bed tired, with Higgins declaring it was 'deadly dull' after he knew they would win the bet, Eliza is left alone for her moment of truth. What is now to become of her? When Higgins, searching for his slippers, finds her weeping, he uses his thinking function at its worst, `All this irritation', he tells her, `is purely subjective. Go to bed, say your prayers. Now you're free to do what you like.'
Confused at first after leaving the house, and then pleased with Freddy's concern, she wanders Covent Garden, hoping to be recognised. The flower sellers and the market men treat her deferentially and she leaves to visit Mrs Higgins to resolve her questions.
Higgins does not realise it, but his life has changed. He stubbornly wants to stay himself, the self he is comfortable with, the independent bachelor with the important linguistic hobby. When this is threatened, he reacts in his inferior function, his extraverted intuition. Intuitions go berserk. How else explain the erratic questions and rhetoric of `Let a woman in your life?' (and the rhythms, cadences and stridencies of Loewe's music?)
But he is far worse in `Why can't a woman..?' The song is a marvellous example of an ISTJ in the grip of the inferior function, intuitions scatter-shot in all directions,
What in heaven can have prompted her to go?
I cannot understand the wretch at all.
Women are irrational, infuriating...
That's all there is to that.
He then goes on to sing a rising crescendo of preposterous questions: why can't a woman be like a man, (to Pickering) be like you, be a chum and, finally, a door-slamming climax, why can't a woman be like...ME!
Going to his mother's house and finding Eliza (whose exact colour of eyes (brown) and of hair (brown) he has given to the police), he reverts to stubbornness, `I can't change my manners. I have the same manners for all human souls'. At this point Eliza explains the difference between Higgins and Pickering, that Higgins treats her like a flower girl and no matter how much of a lady she becomes, he will always treat her like a flower girl. Pickering, on the other hand, has always treated her as a lady. Higgins tries to bluff by stating how he treats everybody equally, duchess and flower girl, but he is really declaring that he treats all people as the lowest common denominator.
Eliza walks out on him and he is forced to ruminate in a much more gentle song, the song of the ISTJ moving towards more feeling intuitive functioning. He has grown accustomed to Eliza's face, of having her around.
Her ups and downs are second nature to me now, like breathing out and breathing in...
Is this Henry Higgins' love song? But then he succumbs to mean and puerile speculation about her marrying Freddy and living a miserable life. But he can't enjoy these mischievous images. He might have said in the past that he would `staunchly never budge'. But Eliza now has a hold on him. He doesn't say her loves her. She is
Rather like a habit one can always break
then, as possibilities open up for a completely different life, he pauses
It will take time and acknowledgement on his part, but Higgins is a changed man.
Eliza's transformation is more conscious and positive. The humiliation of the aftermath of the ball makes her angry, makes her sad, bewilders her. Her inferior function is introverted thinking. She cannot manage working well with her thinking in this emotional crisis. She cannot think clearly about what she will do, she cannot make clear plans, she cannot make decisions. She reacts (understandably) with some pettiness, checking as to who owned the clothes and the jewellery used for the ball. She does not want to be accused of thieving. Nor does she want to keep the ring that Higgins bought her in Brighton. She flings it away - only to search for it in the fireplace once he has gone.
But she has begun to get matters into focus, to think clearly. When Higgins refuses to change, she can state calmly and categorically, `I won't be passed over'. This new assertiveness continues with Freddy, with her walk through Covent Garden and in the chance encounter with her father. She has had a strained relationship with him, kindly giving him money after her good luck at Covent Garden, upset with him when he came to cadge money because she was living at Higgins' house. Now she listens to him, appreciates him for what he is, and quietly declines his invitation to go to his wedding.
She can discuss calmly with Mrs Higgins and, finally, be assertive with Henry Higgins, `I want a little kindness, I'm not dirt under your feet'. Her song, `Without You' is a song of a sensate feeler moving towards intuitive thinking:
What a fool I was
to think you were the earth and sky...
You are not the beginning or the end.
And she concludes:
I can stand on my own without you.
In the final shot of the film, when she has returned to Higgins and mimicked her old voice and accent after turning off the machine he was listening to, she hears him ask for his slippers. But she does not move. It is to be a marriage and a partnership of equals. It is Mrs Higgins, who has previously shown some upper crust disdain towards Eliza, the mere flower girl, who appreciates what Eliza has done for her arrogant son, but also for herself. It is she who murmurs to herself, `Bravo, Eliza!'
My Fair Lady has been a favourite since it opened in the 50s, its score a delight. The movie and its quality have ensured that it is part of our cinema consciousness. George Bernard Shaw took the archetypal myth of Pygmalion and the teacher who brought a statue to life making it a credible and popular contemporary play. Lerner and Loewe kept the values of the play and enhanced it with their talent for words and music. And we can appreciate the psychological truth in the characters of and the interactions between Henry Higgins and Eliza Doolittle.
THE SOUND OF MUSIC
A WILL-O'-THE-WISP, A FLIBBERTERGIBBET, A CLOWN,
Maria Von Trapp, in the exuberant guise of Julie Andrews, has made The Sound of Music one of moviegoers' favourite things.
Have you seen The Sound of Music lately?
While it is not everyone's favourite movie, it is almost everyone's favourite. It is easy to criticise; and many critics certainly did precisely that with words like 'cute', 'corn', 'chocolate-box' and 'sentimental'. But world audiences found it easy to love, especially when it appeared in the mid-60s and stayed on in cinemas for years. It is still popular on video. Ratings rocket when it is screened on television 'at the special family time of...'
And it was awarded the Oscar for the Best Film of 1965. Somehow or other, it is firmly implanted in the popular consciousness as a key movie.
It shows its age a little - as do most movies. And it really needs to be seen on a very large screen for which it was designed. Otherwise some of the bits, like those with Christopher Plummer and Eleanor Parker as the Baroness, seem a little dull. But the screen lights up when Julie Andrews appears, right from the celebrated opening in the majesty of the Austrian Alps and the sweeping shot of Julie/Maria on the hillside singing that the hills are alive with the sound of music.
Experience and discussion warn me that this is a male kind of statement, a response to Julie Andrews as the female that men would like to see, whom they idealise (as charmingly and beautifully feminine - and somewhat subservient to her husband?). With an international group of a thousand or more seminarians in Rome, 1966, I have never felt more rapport between an audience and movie than in a screening of The Sound of Music. Julie Andrews had captivated them all and they were in love! When recounting this to a group of women some years later, they huffed 'Julie Andrews...' and then sighed, 'Ah... Christopher Plummer...' After viewing the movie again for this chapter, I tried out this observation on some women friends. Almost 30 years later, the result was the same. 'Ah... Christopher Plummer...' Ah well!
What did make The Sound of Music more successful than was ever anticipated? After all, this was only Julie Andrews' third movie (following The Americanisation of Emily and Mary Poppins). She won the Oscar for Best Actress for 1964 for Mary Poppins. Her vivacity shone through. Her attractive voice and her crystal clear precise diction brought songs alive.
Rodgers and Hammerstein had already composed a string of Broadway successes many of which had transferred well to the big screen: Oklahoma, South Pacific, Carousel, The King and I. One could speculate about the appeal of the tunes, the lyrics, Austria, big families with absent mother, stern father, seven children and, even, nuns. But it all came together to delight audiences everywhere. (Italian distributors may not have shared the initial hopes: they cut 'Maria' and 'Climb every Mountain' from their dubbed print - nuns apparently should not sing like this - and they actually gave it the suggestive title, Tutti Insieme Appasssionatamente (All Together Passionately!))
But the power of the movie is in the screen presence and performance of Julie Andrews - and in the credibility of her character in the screenplay-writing and, especially, in Oscar Hammerstein's apt and witty lyrics.
If we look at the character of Maria Von Trapp in the light of the Myers Briggs profile, ESFP, we see how attractive she is and why most audiences can identify with her. Robert Slevin's nickname for the ESFP is 'the clown'. Some may think that this name sounds too derogatory, that clowns are more noted for stupidity than for any endearing qualities. This is not true, of course. Alternative names are 'reveller', 'entertainer'. But for Maria Von Trapp, the clown and the tradition of play will do very nicely.
Maria as an ESFP? Briefly: she is an exuberant extravert, energised by people, situations and, as in the opening of the movie and in the outings with the Von Trapp children, by Salzburg's natural beauty. She is a perceiver. We learn immediately that her sense of accurate time is not strong; and she tends to respond to situations and people, impulsive rather than as an initiator.
Her dominant function is a powerful extraverted sensate. She delights in immersing herself in sensate reality. And, of course, she is a feeler, very subjectively involved in her likes and dislikes.
The ESFP woman (like Pearl in Woody Allen's Interiors) responds to life around her in all its wonderful detail. She can enable others to become more fully alive, certainly happier. Play is important - a necessary complement to the very serious opposite, INTJ, and even to the not quite opposite ISTJ, which, it would seem, is the profile of the stern and regular/regulated Captain Von Trapp. She even makes him sing and smile.
The title of this chapter comes from the nun's song early in the movie, 'Maria'. While Maria is out in the mountains singing 'The Sound of Music', the Abbess, the Mistress of Postulants (sympathetic) and Mistress of Novices (unsympathetic) are tunefully wondering what to do with a problem like Maria, 'a will-o'-the'wisp, a flibbertergibbet - a clown'. And problem she is for living in an Abbey with regular routines, at least in the training years, where the young sisters are expected to be introverted in their silent demeanour, acting according to objective rules and timetables and making adjustments according to community needs. 'How do you hold a moonbeam in your hand?'
Oscar Hammerstein knew how to characterise Maria. In a good sense (for herself, not for convent life), she can be described as a problem and, despite the Novice Mistress's frowning tone, a clown. But the Mistress of Postulants sings to her defence that 'Maria makes me... laugh!'
Maria's extraverted sensate function is highly developed. It is clear in the opening lyrics of 'The Sound of Music' with the hills alive, calling to her:
My heart wants to beat like the wings of the birds
that rise from the lake to the trees,
My heart wants to sigh like a chime that flies
from a church on a breeze
She explains to the nuns that she was late in returning to the abbey because she had left the cloister, 'the sky was so blue and the hills so green' that they 'beckoned' her to come. She 'had to be part of it'. And then 'a star has come out to tell me it's time to go'.
Her delight is so strong that when she eventually takes charge of the children she wants them to share in this delight and takes them with her to the mountains and the lakes. Then they too sing 'The Sound of Music'.
But the most obvious song of the extraverted sensate in the movie is 'My Favourite Things'. At first, the children gave her their usual treatment for governesses, including frogs slipped into dress pockets - and her reactions is a loud extraverted scream and grimace - but she does not complain to their father. And they begin to trust her. And just at the right dramatic moment, off-stage, a storm rages with stereophonic thunder and lightning flashes. All the children turn up scared, the boys pretending not to be. A perfect setting for 'My Favourite Things'.
Richard Rodgers' melodies give rhythm to the catalogue of Maria's favourite things, favourite things for an extraverted sensate, all decked out with Hammerstein's alliteration and onomatopoeia:
Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens' Bright copper kettles and warm woollen mittens, Brown paper packages tied up with strings...
Cream coloured ponies and crisp apple strudels,
Doorbells and sleighbells and schnitzel with noodles,
Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings...
Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes'
Snow-flakes that stay on my nose and eye-lashes,
Silver white winters that melt into springs...
When the dog bites, when the bee stings,
When I'm feeling sad.
I simply remember my favourite things,
And then I don't feel so bad!
Maria's other key song from the movie is the now popular sing-along song, 'Do Re Me'. Out in the mountains on a picnic, the children admit they don't sing and don't know how. We know what follows - what has probably become one of the most effective teaching songs for children. Perhaps it's the sensate's sense of good order:
Let's start at the very beginning,
A very good place to start,
When you read you begin with A, B, C,
When you sing you begin with Do, Re, Mi.
But the sensate point is that Maria's examples are given in sensate detail: a doe, a female deer... a ray, a drop of golden sun... far, a long, long way to go... tea, a drink with jam and bread... sew, a needle sewing thread... Which brings us back to do! Easy to sing. Easy to remember.
Before considering the lyrics of other songs that seem to indicate Maria's feeling function, we can put in a good word for the puppet play song, 'The Lonely Goatherd', with its pleasing patter rhymes, its lilting melodies that make them easy for children to sing, the yodelling and the comic characters that are described in a vivid sensate way.
An ESFP's auxiliary function is introverted feeling. This also seems clear in the writing of the character of Maria. Even with 'The Sound of Music', she sings not merely of what she sees and hears but also of what she feels inside. 'My heart wants to fly...'
I go to the hills when my heart is lonely,
I know I will hear what I've heard before,
My heart will be blessed with the sound of music,
And I'll sing once more.
Her feeling function can mislead her. It drew her to the abbey and the convent life, but without her realising it, it is leading her out. She resists. She does not want to be sent away to be a governess, 'This is where I belong, my home, my family'. But, obediently she goes. And with a song.
'I have confidence in me' is the theme of the song that is neatly filmed as a collage of her leaving the convent, dressed in her dowdiest clothes ('even the poor didn't want these', she late quips to the Captain), along the road swinging her cases, onto the bus, out to the Von Trapp mansion. The lyrics extravert the feelings and we understand a little more about what makes Maria run.
While Maria is exuberantly teaching the children to play, she does not realise what is happening inside her in relation to Captain Von Trapp. She looks adoringly at him, dances with him and blushes when the Baroness comments. And she is easy prey for the Baroness’s sophisticated, though unsubtle, manoeuvring her to leave the household and go back to the convent.
When she obeys the Abbess to return to the family, bewildered as to whether the Captain loves her or not, she finds that it is all true. And she sings the feeling function song, 'I must have done something good'. 'Here am I, standing here loving you...' The orchestration of the music, gentle and subdued with Julie Andrews' pensive and emotional vocalising the lyrics indicate to the audience the rightness of her feeling decision to marry the Captain.
Other examples of feeling function songs include 'My Favourite Things'. After all why name them? If something is wrong and I don't feel right...'then I remember a few of my favourite things and then I don't feel so bad.' Late in the film, Maria sympathises with the eldest daughter, Liesl. She had been infatuated with the telegram boy Rolf who has now become a member of the Hitler youth. They had sung 'I am sixteen, going on seventeen...' a chirpy adolescents' song. But Maria reprises it, singing it, again with her pensive style, and offering Liesl both motherly advice and support.
And we can't forget 'Edelweiss', especially when the whole family sings it at the Salzburg Music Festival and they invite the whole audience to join in, an Austrian defiance of the Anschluss and the Nazis present at the concert. Strong feeling function:
Blossom of snow, may you bloom and grow,
Bloom and grow forever,
Bless my homeland forever.
One of the most significant aspects of the characterisation of Maria is the emphasis on play. This is one of the gifts of the ESFP, their own capacity for delight and play and their ability to help others. This true clown is the true Maria. She can make people laugh and she can win them over to a lighter attitude to life. She does wonders with the children. She knows not to report them to their father and keeps their mischief as their secret. When they trust her (and when she gets rid of their drab clothes and dresses them in the play clothes she makes out of the curtains that were to be discarded from her room), they can begin to be and behave like children. She is appalled at their marching in age and rank, their drilled introduction of themselves and their reporting to a ship's whistle - which they eventually playfully parody with their Goodnight song. The audience cannot but be attracted by the ESFP being herself and transforming the children.
And through 'The Sound of Music', she transforms the dour ISTJ captain-father. He listens to his children sing, nods slightly in rhythm, smiles tentatively and quietly sings, eventually becoming louder and joining his children.
Maria does not look exactly like an 'earth mother', but in her own way she is certainly a kindly and appreciative mother.
The challenge to Maria Von Trapp as an ESFP is introverted intuition (her inferior function) and extraverted thinking (her third). The songs in The Sound of Music do not reveal anything about Maria's thinking function. That is left to the screenplay. She listens to Captain Von Trapp's routine for his children, with drill every morning, to be strictly observed, no exceptions. His children are not to 'dream the summer away'. 'The word in this house is discipline.' Her response is clear: making demands for play and for their being allowed to be children. And she defends the play clothes as being preferable to straitjackets.
After the wedding, she is much more subdued, more 'grown up'. But the Nazi crisis has reached them and it is time for clear decisions and escape from Austria. She is able to rise to the occasion and lead the children.
A final focus for this consideration of The Sound of Music is Maria's inferior function, introverted intuition. Her innate inability to deal with her accustomed ease with possibilities is clearest in the lyrics of the song she sings on her way to the Von Trapps, 'I have confidence in me':
I wonder what my future will be...
Why am I so scared... stop the doubts and fears...
I must dream of things I am seeking...
but, despite the uncertainty about possibilities, she comes back to the present and to reality:
I'm more certain things'll turn out fine...
I have confidence in me.
She reacts to the transformation of the children:
I cannot imagine how such nice children as you can do such awful things. I'll have to think about that.
As yet, one of the best-known songs from The Sound of Music has not been considered, 'Climb Every Mountain'. It comes towards the end of the movie. It is the advice sung by the Abbess to Maria when she is trying to understand herself and her love for Captain Von Trapp. She has to face different possibilities for her life than she had ever imagined. She need not be a nun. She could marry the Captain. She could become the mother of seven children whom she had come to love as her own. What is to be real for her?
The lyrics of 'Climb Every Mountain' are highly intuitive - general allusions to 'climbing every mountain' and 'fording every stream'. The language of the song is that of dreams. This is not the usual language of the sensates - so it is a challenge to the sensate to look further than the here and now. Fulfilment is in moving towards one opposite:
Climb ev'ry mountain, search high and low,
Follow ev'ry byway, ev'ry path you know.
Climb ev'ry mountain, ford ev'ry stream,
Follow ev'ry rainbow till you find your dream!
A dream that will need all the love you can give,
Ev'ry day of your life for as long as you live.
The Sound of Music is not a movie that one finds in books of serious analyses of cinema art. Nevertheless it has its place in cinema history as an award winner, but much more: as a movie that millions of people have seen and loved thanks to Rodgers and Hammerstein and to Julie Andrews who have made Maria Von Trapp a familiar figure, a woman of verve and delight.
WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF
HUMILIATE THE HOST, GET THE GUEST.
Martha and George do battle and find a tentative peace in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf.
Perhaps there was a prurient curiosity in the movie-goers of 1966 when they bought their tickets for Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf. With Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton only a few years married, and in rather sensational circumstances, were they acting out on screen something of their real life? Perhaps. Perhaps not. Nor does it matter. The stars give performances which are among their greatest. And that matters.
Martha and George live on a university campus. They are at home in academia. The title of the movie is an academic joke and gives an uppity ironic edge to the sense of menace from the nursery rhyme and the big, bad wolf. But Martha and George are the names of America's revolutionary founding father and first president and his wife. The Washington parallel also gives the movie an ironic edge. Martha and George are not on the same side here. They are at war with each other. And when they taunt each other with jibes about how old each is (and there is a reference to 200 years old), it is clear that Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf is a piece of deliberate Americana.
The marriage between Martha and George is a contemporary dangerous liaison.
In fact, Edward Albee's play made a forceful impression in the American theatre of the early 60s. The characters were strongly drawn, their interactions tough and their language used a powerful rhetoric of abuse. But when the play came to be filmed, there was a certain nervousness in Hollywood. Something of this apprehension can be sensed in the comment of British critic and encyclopaedist, Leslie Halliwell, in his `Film Guide':
... as a milestone in cinematic permissiveness, very important; as
an entertainment, sensational for
those in the mood.
And he elaborated:
its chief interest for historians
will be that it further extended
the bounds of what is permissible
on public screens, its unbridled
treatment of matters sexual being
decorated by `blue' jokes and
It is difficult to appreciate in retrospect how accurate this comment is. However, the film was something of a watershed for Hollywood to reassess its Production Code. This Code was developed in the early 30s in strong reaction to the alleged permissiveness in the movies of the times. The Catholic Church instituted the Legion Of Decency to crusade against the exhibition of films that it judged `condemned'. The Code and the Legion prevailed until the mid-60s when it was challenged by Billy Wilder's sex comedy, Kiss Me, Stupid (1964) (which was sent back for re-takes to clean it up) and Otto Preminger's Hurry Sundown (1966) (with its suggestive saxophone phallic symbols).
The Legion of Decency was challenged by such movies as Sidney Lumet's The Pawnbroker (1965) (where one of the characters bared her breasts) and decided on a less moralistic approach to guidance about movies and to be more critically appreciative. The Legion symbolised this change of attitude by a name change to The National Catholic Office for Motion Pictures. The Hollywood nervousness about Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf was tested by a preview of the movie for the Catholic Film Office. It was said that Warner Brothers, the production company, was prepared to shelve the movie if the office could not give a seal of approval. The nervousness was unwarranted. The Office praised it and created a new category to cover this kind of `controversial' movie, `suitable for adults, with reservations' (a kinder and more positive comment than that of Halliwell).
The movie was a box-office success. It received several Oscar nominations, including Best Film and Director as well as Best Actor and Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Actress. Elizabeth Taylor won the award as did Sandy Dennis; Richard Burton and George Segal missed. That year Paul Scofield and director Fred Zinneman won the awards for A Man for All Seasons which was best film.
The director was Mike Nichols, best known at this time as a Broadway theatre director. But he was to win an Oscar the next year for The Graduate and then to make such films as Catch 22, Carnal Knowledge, Silkwood, Postcards from the Edge. With a screenplay by veteran Ernest Lehman, black and white photography by Haskell Wexler and an unobtrusive score by Alex North, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf is a landmark movie.
It is not easy to gauge the types of Martha and George. The action of the movie takes place during one night - or the small hours of the morning. Martha and George have been drinking at a party and they continue to drink. How much of their real selves do we see? How much of the selves shaped by almost twenty years of frequently cantankerous marriage, family disappointment and career failure? Their relationship is one of love and hate, but where love ends and hate begins is almost impossible to say. Perhaps they are drawn to each other and remain with each other because of `love-hate', a powerful emotion that leads them into dangerous games played with each other and unwitting guests. But, at the end of the movie, we do see a glimpse of their new selves, a touch of wholeness.
Again, the structure of the screenplay controls the behaviour of the characters. It is the structure of the journey of purging and enlightenment, a catharsis for Martha and George as well as a preliminary catharsis for their guests. But it is the structure of the long and arduous journey, the long night's journey into day, from dark to dawn, from darkness to dawning.
The route of the journey is confrontation, breaking spells, disillusionment, exorcism and loving enlightenment.
The confrontation is by cruel and vicious games, the masochistic games, the sadistic games that Martha and George play with each other, games with unspoken rules, but with victory through hurt and sexual humiliation. When either breaks the rules, war is declared. The games become battles, the weapons being verbal: spiteful insult, wit-flaunting mockery and snide innuendo. There are moments of truce, but the battle resumes and rages with the visiting couple enlisted, sometimes as allies, sometimes as foes.
But the games and the battles are also truth games: humiliate the host, hump the hostess, get the guest. They lead to the utterance of the utter truth and to disillusionment with fantasies. The rules of the games perpetuate the grand illusions, but they lead to truth.
The religious rituals of confession, absolution and exorcism
are drawn on to bring about the end of the games and a truce, if not the end of the war. As Martha wallows in her insults and her fantasies, George pronounces the Latin formulae for absolution and then of hymns, antiphons and prayers from rituals of exorcism. With his brutal 'killing' of the son who has lived only in their make-believe and by his pronouncing of the prayers, he casts out the diabolical and the demonic in Martha. He also exorcises himself.
It is important to look at the fantasies that dominate both Martha and George.
Martha has been unable to conceive. But she has experienced a phantom pregnancy and a phantom birth. In the fantasy/game, the day dawning will be their son's sixteenth birthday. So she tells this to her guests after being warned by George not to mention their son at all. She breaks the rules and suffers the consequences. Politely solicitous questions from the guests elicit contradictory information: the colour of his eyes, of his hair, why he is away from home, why he is coming back. George spitefully talks about Martha's continual 'interfering' with their son.
When George finally decides to act, he role plays a telegram delivery and brings flowers to Martha. He acts shyly. The young professor desperately says, "Hell, I don't know when you are lying or not".
George: "Truth and illusion, who knows the difference?"
Martha: "Truth and illusion, you don't know the difference."
George: "But we must carry on as if we did."
Martha starts throwing the flowers, snapdragons, at
George, taunting, "Snap. Snap."
Martha: "Truth and illusion, doesn't it matter to you at all, George?"
George then takes charge. Martha pleads for no more games. He slaps her and prepares her for 'equal battle' to get her mad, to peel off the labels, through the flesh and bone, down and into the marrow.
Martha's response is to tell the story of the birth of their son. It is a wistful and melancholic narration. Martha describes the ideal child, "an easy birth; I was young, he healthy". And Martha focuses for a moment, "Our son, the one light in all this darkness".
When she insists that he is coming home, George describes their son's death.
But to appreciate the way George 'kills' their son, we need to understand his fantasy.
In a moment of respite during that frantic night, George sits out in the garden on a swing and meditates quietly but frankly to the young professor. How much is memory, how much fantasy? Later, Martha will reveal that this is the core of the plot of George's unpublished novel, a novel that was autobiographical.
George reminisces about preparatory school, when he was sixteen. With a group of boys he went into town for drinks at the gin mill owned by one of the boy's gangster fathers. They were drinking with grown-ups and listening to jazz. He remembers one boy, fifteen, who had accidentally killed his mother with a shotgun. The boy ordered drinks, "I'll have a bergin. Give me a bergin, please. Bergin and water." The waiter told everybody and they all laughed. The blonde boy went red. But everybody kept on laughing. The boy was laughing too. Everybody drank free that night. The gangster father bought champagne. The boy was all alone on the train the next day with an adult hangover. But George murmurs: "That was the greatest day of my youth".
George continues with the story of the boy, about his being out driving and swerving to avoid a porcupine and his father dead. The boy went to hospital and laughed, and wouldn't stop laughing. They gave him a needle and the laughter subsided only when he lost consciousness. They then put him in an asylum. That was thirty years ago. George: "Oh yes, he's still there and for thirty years he has not uttered one sound."
It is not surprising when George tells Martha that their son died in a car crash, swerving to avoid a porcupine...
Before we consider Martha and George according to the type theory of the Myers Briggs Type Indicator, there are two other points to be made. They also concern family and parenting.
Unseen, but ever-present is Martha's own father. He is the president of the university. As with Martha, he had high hopes for George's professorial career in the History Department. This has not happened. But 'Daddy' still makes demands on Martha and George (including the forbidding of George's publishing his novel), expects them to socialise at his parties and to welcome newcomers. Martha identifies strongly with Daddy. It is clear that George loathes him.
The other point is the mirror images of George and Martha in the young couple who are the guests. They are arriving at the university full of hopes and ambitions. The young man is attracted to and fascinated by Martha. She seduces him and then treats him in the same way as she treats and despises George. George can relate to the young professor and communicate with him, even though he sees through him and 'in principle' does not like him. The young wife mirrors Martha, outgoing and ambitious, blurting out whatever comes into her head, a young woman with a rich father whose money can benefit her husband. But, more importantly, she has experienced a phantom pregnancy and is afraid of having children. And George is able to take out on her the angers he feels for Martha.
Given the limited time span in which we see Martha and George, and given the restraints of the structure and conventions of the play as well as the alcoholic haze in which they act, how do we see Martha and George according to type?
Martha is extraverted. George is introverted. After they walk home from the party, quietly, during the credits, Martha bursts into the house with her celebrated take-off of Bette Davis in 'some goddam Warner Brothers' epic', "What a dumppp!" She struts Davis-like about the room, interrogating George about the movie and wanting to know its title. Neither know. (In fact, it is King Vidor's over-the-top 1949 melodrama, Beyond the Forest.) She continues loud, George accusing her of 'braying', later remarking," Martha thinks that unless you bust a gut you're not amused, unless you're carrying on like a hyena".
But Martha is outgoing, is eager for the visitors to come, even at the late hour, is caring for the young wife, flirts and is seductive with the husband.
George is introverted. The party has been more than enough for him, "these damned Saturday night orgies". Martha attacks him at once, "You never do anything, never mix, just sit around and talk". She doesn't know why he is tired since he "had no classes, did nothing all day". Nor does George relish the prospect of guests. During the visit, he goes off by himself, needing time for himself. Sometimes he simply stops and the camera focuses on him close up as he stands silent but so much going on behind his eyes. George is not outgoing, even though he is forced to be during this night. And he behaves badly towards the guests.
It is not easy to gauge how decisive Martha is, given the action during only one night and our reliance on her memories. She gives a clue when she is taunting George about his being "a flop, a great big flop". She accuses him of being a coward and hating Daddy "because of his own inadequacies". She recounts for the guests the story of her falling in love with George and then states: "I had it all planned out. That was the way it was supposed to be. Daddy thought so too. But George didn't have much push, not very aggressive, a great big flop". She seems to call the tune in the house; she says she wears the pants "because someone has to"; she bosses George about, demanding that he fix drinks and answer the door. After her sexual encounter with the young professor, she treats him in the same way, her houseboy. Overall she controls the night, at home, out dancing, the emotional reactions of everyone else.
George is much more clearly a perceiver. He comes home with Martha, wishes that there were no guests, " I wish you'd stop springing things on me". He seems to be without great ambition, or has lost whatever he had. He is bogged down in the history department despite the initial impetus from Daddy and Martha. And during the night, until the end when he is most decisive, he seems to be a reactor rather than an initiator.
Before we consider the ways in which Martha and George function and interact, we can state that Martha seems to be an ENFJ and George seems to be an INTP.
What they have in common is intuition. However, it is their auxiliary function, for Martha introverted, for George extraverted. Neither of them are particularly sensate (although it is their third function, extraverted for Martha, introverted for George) - and she comments on the young professor's body and his boxing expertise, mocking George's reluctance , "George doesn't cotton too much to body talk, to muscle".) In fact, Martha is seen as a slob in her house, taking a drumstick from her refrigerator, greedily munching it and tossing the bone back into the fridge, putting rubbish under the mat, pulling up the bed covers to try to tidy the bed. Nor is she very precise, getting the visitor's biology department mixed with the maths department.
Martha's intuitions were about her marriage, her future, George's successful career, a life that has not eventuated. So, her intuition has created an alternate reality, the ideal child she could never have, who enables her to cherish some tenderness, but which she can use as a weapon against George. But the intuitions seem to have possessed her, withdrawing her from reality and opportunity to grow and mature. She needs to be liberated from them.
We are far more aware of George's intuition. His comments on his own life as well as his participation in Martha’s fantasy illustrate this. He can be sharp and quick in moving towards possibilities in the plot-line of their son's life - and death.
He is more than adept at verbal prowess and games, relishing meanings, playing with them: "Good, better, best. Bested". This so exasperates the young professor that he says he doesn't know how to react, whatever answer he gives George will contradict it. He exploits his intuition for mockery. When Martha changes her dress, "She wants to be comfortable. We'll see", he sarcastically notes that she hasn't changed for him in years. And when she leans against the door, in blouse and tight pants, drink in hand the other arm lifted, he smirks (more tellingly on screen than on the printed page), "Why Martha, your Sunday chapel dress".
But more crucial to their interactions are their dominant and inferior functions. In these they are opposites, mirror images of what they might be. She is a dominant extraverted feeler, he a dominant introverted thinker. Here lies so much of the antagonism. When they act in their inferior functions they can infuriate and harm each other. But it is in a 'graced' experience of their inferior functions that we finally see some reconciliation and resilience, a move towards wholeness and peace.
Martha is a dragon when she attacks in her dominant. And yet she is revulsed by the thought that she could be seen as a monster. George calls her "spoilt, self-indulgent, wilful, dirty-minded, liquor-ridden". Martha declares (in a moment of truth?), "I'm loud and I'm vulgar, but I am not a monster."
Despite this declaration, it is difficult not to see her as a monster. She prowls and she growls, she encircles her prey, she swoops and she devours. She establishes the law in her own jungle, "I'll talk about any goddam thing I want to". It comes to the fore when she talks personally, about their son, despite the unspoken rule that she shouldn't and despite George's threats, about Daddy, and about George's academic wimpishness. "In the history department... He's bogged down in the history department. Old bog, fen, swamp... Hey, swampie...!"
Yet, Martha can be tender, especially in her spontaneous care for the young wife in her feeling sick and in her alcoholic exuberance and depression.
But George is an introverted thinker, "everything in its place and everything in its own good time". He communicates by continually asking questions. Making conversation with the professor, he interrogates him: "What department? What made you decide to be a teacher? What were they, the things that motivated you to be teacher? Do you like it here, I mean at University?" He enjoys word games, picking up people the wrong way: "Maybe it isn't true. I've been drawing you out."
His vocabulary is a thinking vocabulary, although Martha describes it as 'convoluted', but laughingly acknowledges that he is a 'phrasemaker'. He taunts his young guest with his ambitions and his use of sex for advancement, "plowing pertinent wives". And he can make points objectively. From the plainness of "That wasn't a very nice thing to say" to the accusation of " By God, you're a wicked woman, a deeply wicked person" to the intellectual, "Do you believe people learn nothing from history?" to the clever, "We're walking what's left of our wits".
George is a philosopher, a man with a deep sense of right and wrong, a wordcrafter who has had expectations imposed upon him and demands made that have stunted his life.
And so the clash interactions. Martha is not logical or focussed. She lashes out when impulse demands. She does not have to justify her principles or her logic - or, when she sounds as if she is being logical, it is her inferior function fixated or berserk, illogical logic. By the end of the night, drunk, angry, hurting and hurt, having used the young man, she dismisses all men as flops: " I am the earth mother and you are all flops. You disgust me".
George, on the other hand, can dominate intellectually, despising Martha for her subjective wilfulness. And she can despise him for his cold estimation of reality. But it is George who journeys further than Martha this night. He breaks out in his inferior function (extraverted feeling), out of control at first, but gradually gaining control and using the function creatively. Initially, he is disgusted with Martha, playing up to her crude talk about sex on the floor but telling her "There isn't an abomination that you haven't done". He bursts out with, “Just don't start on that bit about the kid", and then more himself, "I'd advise against it".
As Martha goads him, he tries to save himself, "There are worse things than being married to the president's daughter".
But when she tells a story about a boxing match where Daddy and she wanted to box him and he withdrew to another room, he leaves ominously, selects a rifle from a closet and takes aim at Martha. It is an umbrella rifle, the kind of joke that Martha likes. "Did you really think I would kill you, Martha? I might kill you some day." Later he leaves the room and quietly tells the story of the boy who drank bergin.
But the evening gets worse for him. Martha tells the story of his novel and becomes truly angry, "I will not be made mock of". And then he falls into Martha's way. He humiliates the young wife by openly telling the story of her phantom pregnancy and of her husband marrying her out of fear and wanting to have the advantage of the money left her by her shonky evangelist father. He is as vicious as Martha.
He stands the humiliation of Martha's slinky suggestive dancing with the young man, watching the silhouettes of them making love in the upstairs room. But he takes it out on the young wife (easier than on Martha), whirling her around in a dance and making her ill, brutally shaking her. But it leads to one moment of truth:
George: "you tear me to pieces"
Martha: "You can stand it, that's what you married me for."
George: "That's a desperate lie."
Martha: "I've been whipping you year after year".
And then they physically fight.
Finally, he goes outside, weeps and cries aloud and concocts the final game, using the young wife as his ally, he planning and she, after he has flung her down, counterpointing that she doesn't want to have any children. He is ready and the exorcism can begin.
Martha is more ready for the exorcism than she realises. She spurns the young man as a sexual flop (in fact, he has not been a flop) and orders him around as she does George. But she focuses on some inner truth. The young professor, insulted, asks whether she always deals in appearances. Martha declares that George "can learn games as soon as I change them. He can Make me happy". And, before the exorcism and absolution, she confesses, "He has made the hideous, insulting mistake of loving me". And she pauses, reflecting.
After the grief, the shouting and the cruelty of the exorcism, the young couple quietly looking on and then leaving, the truth is spoken. Martha focuses on reality. George literally reaches out to his wife.
Martha: "You can't do this... He is not dead",
George: "I'm not a god. I don't have any power over life and death. Do I?"
Martha: "You've no right."
George: "I have the right. You broke the rules and mentioned it to someone else."
Then, in moments of contrition and grace,
George: "It's dawn. The party's over."
Martha: "Did you have to?"
George: "It was time."
Martha: "Was it?"
When George asks Martha whether she is better, she says she doesn't know. She is cold.
George: "All right?'
Martha: "Yes... No..." (and shakes her head),
George softly sings and reaches out to touch and stroke her hair:
"Who's afraid of Virginia Woolf, Virginia Woolf?"
And, as she touches George's hand, ever so quietly, some of the simplest, truest words in movies:
"I am, George. I am, George. I am".
As the gentle music comes up, the camera focuses on the two entwined hands and tracks away from the house.
The end/ the beginning.
ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST
"SHE LIKES A RIGGED GAME!"
R.P.Mc Murphy and Nurse Ratched are so near in the cuckoo's nest and yet so far.
1975 was something of a watershed year in U.S. history. It was the year of the surrender of Saigon and the end of the Vietnam War. For almost twelve years the United States had been officially involved in South- East Asia, advisers first in South Vietnam, then at war with North Vietnam, drawing into the conflict many allies, then flooding countries as far away and as diverse as Thailand, the Philippines and Australia with troops on R and R. The waging of the war in the jungle was bewildering, the enemy elusive and named with racist resentment and hostility, 'Charlie' and 'Gooks'. The 60s drug proliferation also took its toll on troops in Vietnam. And, of course, Vietnam became the first television war, watched night by night in the living rooms of America and the world.
In the previous year, President Nixon had resigned in the wake of the Watergate scandal. What more could happen to a proud, self-confident nation which saw its mission as world leader?
In fact, the 1976 U.S. Bicentenary happened. And the country breathed in for a new post-scandal, post-war era, an era of recovering from the past and of new and more optimistic self-assertion.
A useful project for media students is research to gauge the popular mood of the United States in any particular year or in any particular period by looking at the Oscar winning Best Pictures. The 30s of the Depression ended with Frank Capra's utopian You Can't Take it with You (1938) and, of course, the ultimate piece of Americana, Gone With the Wind (1939). A few years later, with America at war, the winners were Mrs Miniver (1942) and Casablanca (1943). 1946 brought the post-war problems of The Best Years of Our Lives.
The 50s were both serious (From Here to Eternity (1953), On the Waterfront (1954), Marty (1955) and light-hearted (Around the World in Eighty Days (1956), Gigi (1958), Ben Hur (1959).
The early 60s went for spectacle and musicals: West Side Story (1961), Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Tom Jones (1963), My Fair Lady (1964), The Sound of Music (1965). But the mood had changed by 1969, the winner being the grim Midnight Cowboy. Except for the relief of The Sting in 1973, the subsequent winners were also grim, stories of war, drugs, mafia (Patton, The French Connection, The Godfather, Godfather II).
And the winner for the key year of 1975 was the portrait of the American madhouse, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. (With the Bicentenary, the mood change was symbolised by the optimism of the winner, Rocky which beat the more sombre echoes of what had gone before, All the President's Men and Network.)
So, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest can be seen as the award-winner which symbolises the mood of the period.
Ken Kesey's novel captured a great deal of the offbeat experience of the changing 60s, the emerging drug culture, the beatniks and their 'road' successors, the conservative, authoritarian iron-fisted reaction against the new freer spirits and their individualism. British critic Tom Milne calls it 'the New Testament of the flower-power, acid-trip counter-culture, reputedly sharing the same real-life inspiration as the movement's founding gospel, Kerouac's On the Road' (Monthly Film Bulletin, Feb. 1976, p.33). Written under the influence of LSD, it was a blend of subjective voice by the Indian and documentary description.
It was written for the stage, a successful vehicle for Kirk Douglas. The play and the movie adaptation opened out the novel and moved to a more realistic presentation with the focus moving to Randle Mc Murphy.
When it was written for the screen, producer Michael Douglas did not cast his father, but chose, shrewdly, Jack Nicholson. The choice of director was unusual, the Czech Milos Forman, a celebrity in his home country, but who migrated to the United States in the late 60s. Prior to Cuckoo's Nest, his only American movie had been Taking Off (1972). Later he directed such very American pieces as Hair (1980) and Ragtime (1982), won another Oscar for Amadeus (1984), then made his version of Les Liaisons Dangereuses, Valmont (1989). The supporting cast was striking. Up to this point, Louise Fletcher was a character actress. Danny de Vito, Christopher Lloyd, Brad Dourif emerged as character stars during the 80s. And Will Sampson was the memorable Chief.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest won Oscars for Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress. It has remained as a striking example of American movie-making.
How allegorical of the United States is One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest?
Jack Nicholson's R.P. Mc Murphy is certainly the American free spirit. Louise Fletcher's Nurse Ratched is certainly the work-ethic, prudish authoritarian. The men in the wards (including the dispossessed Indian alienated from his family) are a crazy cross-section of American men.
In interpreting the principal characters of the movie in the light of the Myers Briggs Type Indicator, we can see Mc Murphy as an ESTP and Nurse Ratched as ESTJ. According to the statistics available, about 13% of Americans (approximately 10 men and 3 women) score ESTP. R.P.McMurphy belongs to a typical group of men. While 13% of Americans score ESTJ (again approximately 10 men and 3 women), Nurse Ratched does not belong to a typical group of women. But, she can meet McMurphy? on his accustomed ground, although she has the advantages and backing of authority.
In Robert Slevin's listing of nicknames for each type, the ESTP is the 'Promoter' (and I would add 'Rouseabout'), the ESTJ is the 'Organiser' (and I would add 'Administrator'). The nicknames certainly suit the characters.
A question that often arises amongst those interested in the Myers Briggs Type Indicator concerns compatibility between types. I would suggest that, as we look at the type table, amongst introverts, the most compatible type is the adjacent vertical type. The same with extraverts. Thus an ISFJ will probably find the ISFP the most compatible, ENTP will probably find the ENTJ most compatible. This does not mean that these types will necessary be the best of friends; rather, it suggests that they have more chance of being on the wavelength of the other.
This means that R.P.Mc Murphy, ESTP, and Nurse Ratched, ESTJ, ought to be compatible. But, of course, the movie is not about their being compatible but combatable. So near in the cuckoo's nest, yet so far.
It is evident from the beginning. Nurse Ratched arrives, wearing a black beret and a cape. She comes through doors which have to be unlocked. She politely and pleasantly greets everyone. It is medication time and pill-taking soft music is played. Randle Mc Murphy appears, handcuffed, cap in hand. He looks around heartily, shouts and swears, kisses the attendant guards, dances some steps with them, nods and genially calls out, 'Hi!'.
While Nurse Ratched continues her work, stamping documents, looking through papers, checking lists of clothes, Mc Murphy wanders around, says 'Hi!' to all, including the Chief (embellishing it with whooping like a comic Indian), interrupts the men's card game with a flourishing shuffle, wants to know what the bid is, criticises someone for cheating, 'you like to look at other people's cards?' and shows around his own pack of pornographic cards. It is fairly clear where each one stands.
The audience is at a disadvantage in responding to Nurse Ratched. We see her only at work, with the patients and with the staff. We have no idea of her private life. For the audience (as for Mc Murphy and the patients) she is only as she appears, the manager, the controller. Louise Fletcher makes her a credible tyrant. One reviewer remarks that she 'subtly manages to be almost always unpleasant, often insensitive, but never resorting to caricature', another that she is 'blandly intransigent'. She assumes authority naturally and she assumes that staff and patients will respond accordingly. She relies on rules, on regulations, on customs that she has established. All will be well if everybody abides by her rules. This is true of timetables, of medicine taking, of recreation (listening to the piped music instead of watching a ball game on TV - some of the older and sleeping men must not be disturbed) and of taking turns in speaking up in group and therapy meetings.
The outside observer could be led into thinking that she was a compassionate woman, especially as they listened to her quietly modulated requests for the men to speak up. But her gently cajoling, 'Billy, I'd like to write in my book that you began the meeting - just once', is iron control. As Mc Murphy bucks her system and defies her personally, she hardens her stances. In Myers Briggs terms, she is decisive, dominantly so. And her decisions are cool, logical and impersonal, all principles and consequences. She is a thinker. This is backed by her sensate function, focussing on the here and now. But, as her authority is challenged, with Mc Murphy taking the group out of the institution for some deep sea fishing and his subsequent control (and punishment) by shock treatment, she is momentarily shaken. She seems to cope with finding that young Billy has spent the night in one of the rooms with a prostitute, courtesy of Mc Murphy, but resorts to her inferior function, inner feeling, to get at him: 'Aren't you ashamed, Billy... Your mother and I are old friends... what am I going to tell your mother?' This is too much for Billy. He races out and slashes himself to death. She has lost control.
Randle Mc Murphy is a professional rouseabout. And with the men and against Nurse Ratched, he is a promoter. After his breezy arrival and his unwitting but natural attempt to take over the group emotionally and as assumed leader, we learn a little about his past. He is that very human mixture of the engaging and the disgusting. He is ingratiating with the interviewing doctor, commenting on the fish in his photo, chatting quite nicely. He astutely avoids answering the doctor's questions, but reads on the report, 'Belligerent, resentful, lazy'. (The ESTJ summary of the ESTP?)
Mc Murphy explains casually that he 'fights and fucks too much'. Though he has had five arrests for assault, 'Rocky Marciano has forty fights and he's a millionaire!' He shrugs off the statutory rape charge, 'but she was fifteen, going on thirty-five - and she was very willing'. He is accused of faking madness to get out of jobs at the prison work farm. He grins slowly and slyly, 'Do I look like that kind of guy?'. Authorities have obviously wanted to get rid of him because he stirs people, he is a troublemaker. But there's 'not a thing wrong with me. I'm a goddam marvel of modern science'. He promises 'co-operation - 100%'.
Is he, in fact, mad? Can he be believed? Forman is quoted as saying 'I can only define 'mental illness' as an incapacity to adjust within normal measure to ever-changing, unspoken rules. If you are incapable of making these constant changes, you are called by your environment crazy.' But does this define R.P.Mc Murphy as mad or Nurse Ratched?
In theory, Nurse Ratched and R.P.Mc Murphy could get on very well with each other. She could have been the just administrator of the ward and he could have been the genial automatic leader of the men in the ward. She organises and he leads, but the result is clash and combat - which she wins.
The first main arena of battle is the group discussion. He sits and quizzically observes. She quietly but insistently pushes the topics. Eventually, the group is the scene for a showdown. He wants to watch baseball on television. The argument is logical. While Mc Murphy, as an ESTP, is a man who is at home when immersed in the world of the senses, he backs up the sensate with inner thinking. H e takes the initiative, but she explains clearly (and with that laboriously patient tone that is condescending) that the work detail can't be changed. He argues that change never hurt anyone. She explains calmly and clearly that she can't change a carefully worked out program. They agree to let the men take a vote and to accept majority rule. She is cleverer than he and knows that the intimidated men will not vote against her. They don't.
But Mc Murphy can wait and try again. After some group discussion about Billy and his unwise marriage plans where Nurse Ratched uses her friendship with Billy's mother and her high moral standards to intimidate him, asks demanding 'thinking-function' questions of Billy, even about suicide, they move to another vote. Mc Murphy has argued, bargained, pressurised. He thinks he has won when they all support him but, since an old sleeping man doesn't vote, Nurse Ratched wins on a technicality. 'Meeting adjourned.'
Mc Murphy loses his temper, demanding that the TV be turned on 'right now'. He then does his own mock commentary, Jack Nicholson at his insolent best, over the blank screen and the piped music.
This seems to be the key sequence for the hardening of attitudes between them. 'She ain't honest... she likes a rigged game'.
But R.P.Mc Murphy is naturally smarter than Nurse Ratched and, for a while, he outwits her. He discovers that the Chief is not mute at all, but is able to live his own life in his own way within the confines of the institution by pretending to be mute. Assuming that he is not only mute but stupid, he teaches the Chief to play basketball but is beaten at his own one-on-one game of basket-throwing by the Chief.
He also organises a day's escape, the men invited to pretend that they are doctors as they go deep-sea fishing - and they carry it off. Are doctors really crazy?
But Nurse Ratched still has an ace up her sleeve - although she doesn't gamble and disapproves of the men's gambling. At a group session, it becomes clear to Mc Murphy (and to the audience) that most of the men are voluntary patients, that they like the security of being there. Mc Murphy cannot understand it. After an outburst of disbelief, they concur that they are volunteers. Nurse Ratched regains control. 'Those are very challenging observations, Randle.' She then methodically answers all the questions and explains her principles.
But something of Mc Murphy's rebellion has rubbed off. When she insists that the men not gamble again, Cheswick, a moody voluntary patient, acknowledges what Mc Murphy has done for them as persons and speaks up, 'I piss on your fucking rules. I'm no little kid.'
Nurse Ratched likes her fixed game, so the next arena of combat has to be one where she cannot but win. Mc Murphy is examined by the doctor, a report of his unsocial behaviour is given. The conclusion: shock treatment.
The shock treatment sequences are shocking for the audience, a realisation of how much we have sided with Randle Mc Murphy, how much we identify with his free spirit, and how much we have learned to resent Nurse Ratched's authoritarianism and control. The audience shudders with him. Mc Murphy now becomes victim, the sacrificial figure on behalf of the others, the Christ-figure victim, suffering so that others need not suffer. While the treatment debilitates him, it does not destroy him - yet. He still has his touch of anarchy. As he returns from the treatment, he ambles, zombie-like, into the dismayed group. Then he winks. He makes them all laugh. Whatever the hesitations, whatever the arguments (sane or insane) that they have had with him, they are now disciples.
But if Mc Murphy has had a taste of death, he now has a taste for a new life. He wants to get out. Tickled by the Chief's fooling everyone, he pressures him, 'let's get out'. However, before they go, there is to be his ESTP-style last supper.
Mc Murphy gets to a phone and invites some girlfriends over. They bring the booze. And a wild ward party is had by all, Billy being urged to spend the night with Candy, everyone getting drunk, including Mc Murphy - who thus foregoes his opportunity for escaping. In the aftermath of the discovery and Nurse Ratched's ire, and in the desperation of Billy's humiliation and suicide, there is no place for Mc Murphy in the re-organized and controlled ward. McMurphy? loses control and tries to throttle Nurse Ratched. He has forfeited his freedom.
The men return to their cards. In Nurse Ratched's words, 'The best that we can do is to go on with our daily routine.'
Mc Murphy is taken away for the final act in his passion, more shock treatment. He has been defeated. However, he has liberated the Chief and the Chief decides that he will escape. But, first, in compassion for the psychologically and almost physically destroyed Mc Murphy, he takes a pillow and with silent grief holds it over his face. Mc Murphy struggles for breath and then lies dead. The Chief has formalised his death. But now the Chief formalises the escape. He escapes for himself and for R.P. Mc Murphy. Lifting the previously immovable water container, he smashes it through the window. 'I feel as big as a damn mountain'. And he runs, with Mc Murphy's spirit, out into freedom. Nurse Ratched is still freely locked in the institution.
Nurse Ratched is an efficient woman, an administrator whose decisions are objective and who lives in the present. But she remains in her type, is locked further into it and cannot escape. She finds the freedom that R.P.Mc Murphy offers a personal and professional threat. And yet she might have understood him and learned to appreciate him. She might have realised that his capacity for living in the present and his basic good sense, underlying the larrikin bravado, could have been complementary to her organising skills. The men might have recovered - or, at least, recovered a little of their humanity.
She didn't. He died. So near in the cuckoo's nest and yet so far.
"SHE'S A VULGARIAN!"
Woody Allen's windows and mirrors in beige interiors: rooms and souls.
Chekhov wrote of three sisters. Woody Allen is surely an admirer of Chekhov, but this story of three sisters and their parents owes more to the screenplays of Ingmar Bergman. One thinks of the power of the far more intense portrait of three sisters in Bergman's Cries and Whispers. They inhabit a world of interiors, a world of art and culture, a world of sensitivity that is often a cover for self-centredness, a world of American angst. This is a world that Woody Allen can both create and destroy. He is wittily insightful and the master of the gently devastating mock. This is often true of the characters that he writes for himself. However, he does not appear in Interiors. The clown and the fool are absent. The film is the more subdued (and sometimes dour) because of it.
But, Interiors is a fascinating movie for the dramatising of types and for interactions, perfect for applying the insights of the Myers Briggs Type Indicator. Not only do some of their central characters exhibit the traits of their types, they also show how their types can be contaminated. And they also show how they can exhibit the inferior function as they are possessed at times by their opposite type.
Interiors is an ensemble piece. It focuses on a family: the parents are played by E.G. Marshall (Arthur a prosperous lawyer on the verge of retirement) and Geraldine Page (Eve, a talented and sensitive interior decorator who has suffered nervous illness); the daughters are played by Kristin Griffith (an actress of whom we see comparatively little), Diane Keaton (Renata, a self-consciously gifted poet) and Mary Beth Hurt (Joey, the youngest, a restless, dissatisfied searcher for affirmation in the family and in a career). Renata is married to Frederick (Richard Jordan as a tormented novelist with an outlet in cynical reviews). They have a daughter. Joey is in a relationship with Michael (Sam Waterston as genial and long-suffering). Later in the movie, a key character, Pearl (played by Maureen Stapleton) is introduced. She is a widow whom Arthur meets on vacation in Greece, brings back to meet his snobbily dismayed family and then marries.
An indication of the quality of Interiors is that both Geraldine Page and Maureen Stapleton received Oscar nominations for their performances.
It is the women whose roles are so well written that they lend themselves to discussion. The men's roles are well written but not so precisely defined.
The method to be used in this analysis of Interiors is a sketch portrait of Eve, Renata, Joey and Pearl followed by comment on their interactions and the climax of the movie, Eve's suicide, the funeral and its aftermath.
The movie opens with the sisters looking out of their beach house windows, from a beige room, empty except for vases, with glass doors and mirrors. The sisters describe their dead mother: pale, cool, with a single strand of pearls; always poised and distant; black dress; all so perfectly ordered, rigid. "The truth was that she created a world we existed in; everything had its place; harmony, dignity. An ice palace."
The audience first sees Eve intruding in an unself-conscious way into Joey and Michael's apartment with an 'exquisite' vase, 'not an extravagance (all things considered), perfect for what I have in mind for your foyer'. It makes a 'more subtle statement, paler tones, lovely'. Michael does not want the vase and Eve reacts, shutting the window because the street noises are unnerving, continually touching her tightly bunned hair. But the purpose of her visit is also to find out about her husband's regard for her. She is self-preoccupied, claiming that she wants a reconciliation and that she has pulled herself together, accusing Joey of always being negative and making reconciliation sound so impossible.
The next perspective is that of Renata who remembers her mother as an insomniac, pacing in the middle of the night, but also as successful and demanding, putting her husband through law school and financing his practice 'as if he were her creation'. Renata also remembers the tense meal when Arthur announced that he wanted a separation. Her mother's mortified reaction was to declare that she would move out.
With the separation, Eve deteriorates emotionally. After a visit from Arthur in which they discuss Joey's aimlessness and she expresses disappointment in Michael's suitability as well as the loveliness and delicacy of a Matisse drawing she had given to Arthur, she attempts to kill herself. She does so with the greatest decorum, sealing the room neatly with plaster, turning on the gas knobs in order and draping herself on a sofa in an artistic pose.
She lives. She vaguely appreciates her children's support. At home, she watches religious programmes on television, God's chosen people and relating to God's plan for today. She cannot accept the truth about Arthur and still pleads with Joey - that her moods and swings are better and that she has great inner tranquillity. But she is deceiving herself. When Arthur invites her to a church to discuss matters with her, she believes that he will offer a reconciliation. She is still pleading with him, but he asks for a divorce. Arthur: "It's not the end of the world." Eve: "It is." She cries that it is all so humiliating, everyone discussing it behind her back. "I just want to die". She smashes a stand of lit votive candles and runs down the aisle of the church.
The final sequence she appears in takes place on the night of Arthur and Pearl's wedding. She hovers outside. Joey senses her presence and reflects aloud on the blights in their relationship. Eve hears. We glimpse her pained face. She walks down the beach and into the cold night breakers of the ocean.
Eve's type, in Myers Briggs terms, seems to be ISFP. She is a reserved, inner woman, a woman of interiors that she designs and controls. The strength of her inner life is her world of feeling, a subjective, often anguished, world of likes and dislikes and wilful judgments. But her face to the world is that of the sensate, the sensate perceiver with a delicate sensibility, who appreciates shapes, designs and patterns, the quiet colours and shapes that she terms exquisite. She appreciates these for herself, but also wants to offer these talents for the joy of others. But she is elitist, favouring Renata and her poetry ("your images are visual. My own strength is visual") and neglecting the poorly-achieving Joey who craves her mother's approval.
It is said that the ISFP is the most self-effacing of the sixteen types. Despite her gifts and her control, Eve has been self-effacing. The rejection by Arthur drives her to attempt suicide. The seeming rejection by the whole family drives her to complete self-effacement, her death.
Eve shows the wonderful strengths of the ISFP. She also dramatises an obsessive clinging to her profile that destroys her.
Renata stares out the window from the interiors of the house and of her soul. She places her palm, impressing it on the window pane, as she gazes out. Renata is the poet of the family. In Myers Briggs terms, she appears to be an INFJ.
Early in the movie, we see and hear Renata in a session with her psychiatrist. This is how she speaks:
...my impotence, my paralysis... I couldn't write any more. Increasing thoughts about death seemed to come to over me. A preoccupation about my own mortality, futility about my work. What am I striving to create anyway? To what end, what purpose, what goal? Do I really care if a handful of my poems are read after I'm gone forever? Is that supposed to be some sort of compensation? I used to think it was. Now, for some reason, I can't seem to shake the real implications of dying. It's terrifying... the intimacy of it embarrasses me.
While Renata is married, has a daughter she loves and seems to manage her household well and with little obvious effort, we see her only in cultural and social situations. While she is realistic about her parents' trial separation, she seems somewhat indifferent to her mother who is devoted to her. She is more concerned about supporting Frederick and his writing as well as her own. "Frederick has just finished what I told him is his best yet." To Joey telling her that she had read a poem in a magazine, "It's an old poem. I re-did it. It's much too ambiguous. I'll maybe do it again."
But Frederick is in emotional and creative crisis. Renata is quite assertive, even aggressive with him when he accuses her of being patronising. She tries to assure him that it doesn't matter what anyone thinks, that the critics are stricter with him because he attempts more, that his work is not fashionable and does not depend on the superficial acclaim of some book reviewer. But finally she attacks him, sick of his 'nauseating self-pity'. "I'm sick of your needs, tired of your idiosyncrasies and competitiveness... Staying at home drinking is one of the cliches you've had no difficulty with". She claims that she has kept everything going, including the family Frederick said he wanted. Frederick taunts her by saying that motherhood for her was potential for raw material. But she relents. She wants to help him not hurt him. "You're good and I've never hesitated to say it. You're capable of being extraordinary and you've stopped because of spite... throw everything away to spite me."
We see her sitting at a desk writing a poem, crossing out words, thinking, head in hand, looking out the window to still shots (in lengthy takes) of bare branches. She wanders the house. Frederick asks if she is OK.
I just experienced the strangest sensation. It was as if I had a sudden, clear vision where everything seems so awful and predatory, as if I was here and the world was out there and I couldn't bring the two together. It was the same last week, a hyper-awareness of the body, I could feel my heart beating. I began to imagine the blood coursing through my veins, hands, the back of my neck. A precarious machine that could conk out in any second. It frightens me. I'm not far from the age when my mother first showed signs of strain.
Outside her mother's hospital ward, Arthur asks Renata to help the `floundering' Joey. He says that while Joey looks up to her, Renata is antagonistic and holds it over her, 'you seclude yourself in Connecticut playing the part of the aloof author'. Renata asserts that Joey is competitive and attacks her father for being obsessive about Joey.
Renata does understand Joey. Commenting on her aspirations of being a photographer, "the photos are not so good. She hasn't a good eye. She has all the anguish and anxiety of the artistic personality without any of the talent and I'm naturally put in the position of having to encourage her. I don't lead her on, but I can't break her heart. You know how competitive she is. She should just marry Michael and stop being so obsessive about being so damn creative. Sometimes she just annoys me."
Renata does not like Pearl and is rude to her. After the wedding, she walks along the beach with Flyn, talking about beauty, a comfortable talk with her star sister. But she stays alone on the beach, reflecting. Finally, her mother's death enables her to communicate with and be reconciled to Joey.
It is said that the INFJ is the most private of the sixteen profiles. "I need to feel alone, isolated; the creative thing is very delicate." INFJs can be authors and that, with their intuitions, they can have the touch of the seer. Renata exhibits these characteristics. The danger is that she can be trapped in this inner world. Her relationship with her husband and the crisis with her parents challenge her to come out of herself.
Much of Interiors is presented from Joey's point of view. And the resolution is basically hers. But the variety of points of view coincides with her Myers Briggs type. Joey appears as an ENTP - one of the traits of this type being the ability to look at every side of a discussion, to espouse each point of view and argue it persuasively. One of the nicknames of the ENTP is the Debater.
Joey looks out the window from the interior of the house. However, she is restless. She seems to get her energy from outside herself. She lives with Michael and involves herself in his interests, but is groping for something real and substantial for herself. Her father is devoted to her, though he worries about her floundering, but she doesn't seem to realise this. She is devoted to her mother, but her mother does not seem to realise this or want her daughter's affection. She praises her mother's artistic choices and asks Michael to stop picking on Eve, 'she's a sick woman'. She complains that Renata encourages her and fills her full of false hopes. She prefers to be 'realistic'.
But she is not so realistic about herself.
I want to quit my job. I can't keep my mind on it. I read and lose interest. I get headaches.
Michael reminds her that a month earlier she had found something she really wanted.
I was wrong. I'm thinking about going back to acting. I'm not an actress. I can't do that again...
Political activity is not my interest, I'm too self-centred... Sometimes I think if we had a child... it makes me so anxious... Photography is so stupid, I hate it. I feel a real need to express something, but I don't know what it is, or how to do it.
We have seen how Joey clashes with Renata. Joey wants to get together with Renata but feels she is being pushed away. "Well that's great: you're hiding behind your work and I inherited mother. I get all the dirty work... You twist everything I say. I give up."
Her confusion increases. At the prospect of becoming pregnant: "A kid - for me it would be the end of the world. I've thought about it. It's absurd. I don't know where my life is going." However, she can take a stronger stand with her mother. Her father is "a grown man. He makes his own decisions. If he wants to move back, he will. If he doesn't, he won't." She denies she is reluctant to help her mother, "I do nothing but cater to you. I just think you shouldn’t delude yourself."
To Michael: "Why do you stay with me? I bring you nothing but grief... swallowed by an anonymous life-style. I want to do something with my life."
Joey reacts with great hostility to Pearl, dismissing her as a `vulgarian'. But, in the tension of her father's wedding and his demand that all his daughters be present, she comes to a clearer focus on her mother and the destructive influence she has had on her family. As Eve hovers outside the house after the celebrations, Joey articulates the key to the film:
Mother, is that you? You shouldn't be here.
I'll take you home. I feel like we're in a dream together. Please don't look so sad... It's ironic because I cared for you so and you had nothing but disdain for me. I think you're really too perfect for this world. All those perfectly designed interiors, everything so controlled. (Eve looks at her.) There wasn't any room for real feelings. None. Between any of us. Except Renata who never gave you the time of day. You worship Renata. You worship talent.
What about those who cannot create, about me, who are overwhelmed with feelings about life? How do I get them out? I feel such rage towards you. Don't you see? You're not just a sick woman. That would be too easy. The truth is that there has been perverseness and wilfulness of attitude in many of the things you've done. At the centre of a sick psyche, there is a sick spirit.
I love you - and we have no other choice but to forgive each other. Mother...
At this point Pearl answers "Yes' and Eve walks into the ocean.
It is time to consider Pearl.
Pearl appears rather late in the movie. Arthur, who seems to be an ISTJ or and ESTJ - at least an SJ temperament, has gone on vacation to Greece and come back unexpectedly with Pearl. He intends to marry her. They do not have all that much in common, Pearl seems to be ESFP.
Up till Pearl's arrival, the movie has been interiors' colours. Pearl is no introvert. Interiors are not her world. Her colours are bright reds. When she enters the subdued family house, she is more than striking with her red dress and her exuberantly loud voice. 'Hi, glad to meet you.'
While we watch Pearl at the dinner table through the family eyes, especially those of Renata and Joey, (in fact, Michael and Frederick warm to Pearl), we begin to watch the family through her eyes. They are personal snobs. They are cultural elitists. Joey condemns Pearl out loud as 'a vulgarian'. Renata obviously thinks it.
Pearl gives herself away instantly. A drink? 'Whatever Arthur is having is fine.' Greece? 'The food in Greece... I could eat lamb six times a day.' While Arthur was worried about English not being spoken, it did not matter to her, 'Everyone understood what's important.' Temples and architecture? Pearl states she is 'not much on temples'. She preferred the beaches - she could sit in the sun all day. 'How many ruins can you see? Oh, but that hot sand and blue aura.'
The daughters are overtly rude to her, Renata suggesting that they 'continue this er-conversation in the next room'. But Pearl is not put off. She urges Arthur to eat and drink more, ladles more gravy on to his plate. And the daughters react badly to his obvious delight and enjoyment. Pearl rattles on about food, 'give me a good sirloin any time, charcoal and blood red'. She explains her deceased husbands, the first (may he rest in peace) was in jewellery and an alcoholic, the second an orthodontist who had a massive coronary. She has two sons, one in real estate, the other running an art gallery. Renata and Joey pay attention. But it is in the lobby at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas - 'It's pure junk, but people enjoy it and get a kick out of it'. Pearl herself collects, ebony statues with big breasts and big hips, primitive. She even collects voodoo statues - 'I believe in that stuff. I could tell your fortune, but I'll need a deck of cards.' (And later she plays cards with the men.)
(It is not Pearl's fault, but that of the minimally-travelled Woody Allen when she makes some unwarranted claims about Australia and about Sydney where she lived for some time: 'I went nuts. It was dead there. Like a morgue, nothing to do at night. No pizzaz!')
A discussion about a Broadway play does not improve her standing. They argue about the meaning of life, quote Buddha, Schopenhauer, Socrates and Ecclesiastes, extol the brilliance and the ambiguity of the writing. Pearl looks bewildered:
I didn't get that. To me it wasn't a big deal. One guy was a squealer, the other wasn't. I liked the guy that wasn't. (To Frederick stating that it was a little more complex), Why? You liked the squealer? (And to Joey asking her how to figure out the right thing to do), You just do - in your feelings.
It is Arthur who later defends Pearl to his daughters. 'She is kind and affectionate. I'm sixty three and want to lie on the beach and relax. I like her, full of energy, demonstrative, open. A fine woman.'
The wedding goes ahead. The family, all of them, attend. Pearl enjoys the reception, getting into the swing of the music, dancing with Arthur and with Michael and Frederick. But, with the heat and the drinks, she bumps an expensive vase which crashes and breaks. Joey is excessively upset. But Arthur continues to plead and Joey relents somewhat, wanting her father to be happy. He urges her to tell Pearl.
The dramatic night follows where Eve lurks in the shadows and Joey faces and tells her the truth about herself. (In the meantime we see Arthur and Pearl in bed.) Pearl awakes and hears Joey call out to Eve, 'Mother..' Pearl answers, 'Yes..'
In fact a transition has taken place. Joey, in telling Eve the truth and asserting herself, is ready to let the past go. But she does not want Eve dead, so she pursues her into the sea. The screenplay intercuts scenes of the sleeping family with the drama in the waves. It is Michael who rescues Joey. But it is Pearl who has become the mother, the Earth Mother there on the sand, still in red, but giving mouth to mouth to Joey, helping her to breathe and to come alive again.
This is Pearl's achievement (and the achievement of Woody Allen as writer, not only creating the family who share so many of his interests and preoccupations, but writing the wise and vivacious role of Pearl.) She emerges as more real and alive than the rest of the family. And it is she who gives them new life. Dressed in black for the funeral, it is she who leads Arthur out of his old home - and ways.
A Family Transformed
Eve had dominated her family. We see this in the flashbacks to the daughters' childhood. We see it in her response to the breakdown of her marriage, in her control of her children, in her depression and despair. She had the strong qualities of the ISFP, the artist, the designer, the appreciator. But she stayed fixed in her type and was destroyed by not developing. When she dominated her children, depressed, she could move into her opposite and be controlled by her inferior function, extraverted thinking. This contaminated her children.
Renata is the INFJ, author, seer. Her anxiety takes her into her opposite where she cannot control or understand her extraverted sensate experiences. And she cannot really appreciate her mother.
Joey is the ENTP, the debater, able to argue all sides of a discussion. But her longing for her mother's approval and her envy of her mother's awe of Renata's talent prevent her from being satisfied with herself. She seems quite oblivious of her father's doting on her. She is unable to deal with her inferior function, introverted sensing: she cannot get a focus on herself and on her life. At times she is almost the caricature of her opposite (the ISFJ) in her desire to be a loyal and loving part of the family. But ultimately, her intuition and thinking enable her to speak the truth and it sets her free.
Renata is also freed. We see it at the funeral. Joey and Renata touch. Renata stands with her hands on Joey's head. They grieve, they weep, they embrace.
But we need to remember that it is the down to earth Pearl, the exhilarating extraverted sensate, the warm feeler, who has brought the family rightly down to her earth.
The movie ends with the three sisters just as it began. But Joey has achieved some focus. Her voiceover tells us that she wrote in her memoirs about memories and happy moments. She remembers her mother dressing to go out; she thinks of beauty, Renata and art and Eve and a Christmas tree:
I felt compelled to write these thoughts down. They seemed very powerful.
Renata is seen to go to the window. She stands in profile. Joey joins her, 'The water's so calm'. Renata replies, 'Yes, it's very peaceful.' Flyn also joins her sisters. They all gaze from the interiors.
Fade to black.
"LUNCH IS FOR WIMPS!"
Gordon Gecko and Bud Fox as strategists on Wall Street.
Gordon Gecko, alias Michael Douglas in his Oscar-winning performance in Wall Street, snaps down his telephone mouthpiece early in the movie, 'Lunch is for wimps'. Gordon Gecko is no wimp. In fact, he is a commander. He has worked on Wall Street since 1969, a shrewd operator capitalising on inside information, enjoying winning more than actually making money. His sharply alliterative name is a symbol of his deadly lizard strikes in the territory he has made his own.
But Wall Street is the story of the rise and fall of the young Bud Fox, played with creased brow seriousness by Charlie Sheen. Bud's name is bland, though it has potential: fox. And Bud is desperate to become a gecko.
In type language, each can be identified as ENTJ. Gordon Gecko has stronger preferences than Bud. He looks and sounds more archetypically ENTJ than Bud. But he does see in Bud, the zealous yuppy in his mid 20s, the mirror image of himself fifteen years earlier. He wants to make this young image into his own likeness. While he might think he is playing God and attempting a new creation, the audience sees him as more like his gecko relative, the tempting serpent. And Bud is tempted and falls, to be expelled from the illusory Eden of Wall Street (repentant into prison, then to find redemption elsewhere).
Perhaps that difference between Gecko and Bud is in the archetypes that they identify with: Gecko is the Warrior but Bud is the Seeker (only secondarily the Warrior).
However, to shift the mythology, Wall Street can be seen as a Pygmalion variation. It is the education of a young Gecko. Bud Fox rushes much more eagerly than Eliza Doolittle to Henry Higgins to insinuate himself into the good graces of Gordon Gecko. He bears a birthday gift of cigars and some information. And it is information that Gecko prizes. In
Bud, he sees himself and wants to ensure that Bud grows more and more into the likeness of himself. He teaches, he lectures, he allows him to sit in on deals. And he tempts him with luxury meals, limousines, a mistress and unlimited money and power. He is more Mephistopheles than Henry Higgins. Wall Street is a Pygmalion of corruption.
So, it is clear that we are not considering ENTJs at their best. Gordon Gecko, in fact, illustrates the ENTJ remaining in his type, wilfully refusing the opportunities of challenge to wholeness. Bud Fox is the ENTJ who is offered the opportunity to make a decision that will lead to growth. In the words of the kindly broker advisor, played by Hal Holbrook,
A man looks into the abyss and when there's nothing staring back at him, at that moment a man finds his
character and that keeps him out of the abyss.
What is the portrait of Gordon Gecko offered by co-writer and director, Oliver Stone, based on his own experience of his broker father, to whom the movie is dedicated, and of the increase in insider trading on Wall Street by such convicted whizzes as Ivan Boesky prior to the market collapse of October
1987, just after Wall Street was filmed?
As played by Michael Douglas, he is supremely self-confident and has the deals on the board to prove it. He is certainly not plagued by self-doubt. He has boundless energy, walks restlessly, fingertapping, eager to take his incessant phone calls, unable to be doing just one thing at a time. During his first interview with Bud, he checks his blood pressure with a special machine ('so don't upset me'). Information is his 'most valuable commodity'. He is a hunter, 'cut to the chase', and smilingly invites his confidants to be in at and watch the kill. He has his loyal supporters and demands loyalty. While he has a keen eye for art trends, it is the possession and the increasing price tag that thrills him. As he drives along Park Ave and quietly boasts to Bud about the profit he made from selling a building, he smiles in satisfaction that it is 'better than sex'. (His wife is a decorative hostess; he 'gives' his former mistress to Bud; and he is seen with a glamorous, anonymous woman on his jet.) But it is power and the sense of vanquishing that move him. 'I don't like losses. Nothing ruins my day like losses.'
Almost all of the good lines go to Gecko. They well illustrate the self and power play absorbed ENTJ. During the first sequence in which we see him, he goes through the smart repartee of the entrepreneur over the phone and then cuts in with the line that is the title of this chapter, 'Lunch is for wimps'. He is an almost instant decision maker, 'business is business' but also (as he uses his shredder), 'dilute the son of a bitch'. He praises his associate, 'the Terminator, blow them away... let's go, guys... buy everything in sight.'
He lives his philosophy. Even during a squash game when an exhausted Bud is desperate to stop, Gordon demands, 'push yourself'. But it is in the sauna afterwards that he declares himself:
The most valuable commodity is information. I
don't throw darts at a board. I bet on sure
things. Every battle is won before it's ever
fought. Think about it.
Give me guys that are poor, smart, hungry, with
no feelings. Win a few, lose a few, but keep on
fighting. If you want a friend, get a dog.
To Bud, when he has scruples about insider trading,
If you're not inside, you're outside. You can be
rich enough to have your own jet, rich enough not to waste time.
And, in a significant sequence, he walks along the beach at dawn, admiring, even rhapsodising about the sunrise, mobile telephone in his hand. He calls Bud,
Money never sleeps.
Bud assures him that he's in there for him 110%,
I'm going to make you rich, Bud Fox. This is
your wake up call. Go to work.
One of the key pieces of advice to Bud is that he not be influenced by feelings. After an auction where he has bought a painting for over two million dollars on the advice of his former mistress, the interior decorator, Darien, played by Daryl Hannah, they walk along the street and he warns her not to fall too far for Bud, 'he's not around the block yet'. But he adds,
You and I are the same, smart enough not to buy
into the oldest myth running, love.
Wall Street and Gordon Gecko made the cover of Time Magazine with his most memorable and quoted speech, perhaps heralding, without realising it, the bonfire of the vanities: greed. He claims that the U.S. is a second rate power after the enterprise of the Carnegies and the Morgans. Greed is not fantasy but political and economic reality:
The new law of evolution in corporate America seems to be the survival of the unfittest...
In my book, you either do it right or you get eliminated...
I am a liberator of companies...
The point is that greed, for lack of a better
word, is good. Greed works. Greed is right.
Greed clarifies, cuts through the evolutionary
Greed... has marked the upward surge of mankind
and greed, you mark my words, will save...the
Bud's father, played by Martin Sheen (Charlie Sheen's father) is the one who sees through Gecko: 'He's in for the buck and he don't take prisoners.' Not that Gecko would disagree. He tells a joke against himself to a group of unionists assembled to bargain with him. He smilingly explains to them that he was at a roast for himself and a speaker asked, 'why are we honouring this man? Have we run out of human beings?'
In the confrontation between himself and Bud, the relentlessness is final. Bud is disillusioned. Gordon tells Bud that he was reading a story of Winnie the Pooh to his three year old son. Winnie the Pooh stuck his nose in a honey pot and got stung. (He ignores Bud's remark that he should have been reading Pinocchio.) Gecko wrecks companies 'because they're wreckable'.
It's not a question of enough. It's winning.
The illusion has become real and the more real
it becomes the more desperately they want it.
Capitalism at its finest.
We make the news... we own...You're not naive
enough to believe that we live in a democracy.
... the killer instinct. Stick around. I've
got a lot to teach you. Are you with me?
There is no doubt that Gordon Gecko is extraverted. He gains an enormous amount of energy in the business world. Even in that possible moment of dawn introversion on the beach, he has phone in hand and calls Bud. Strategies tantalise him briefly but intensely and he swiftly goes into action. It is a world of situations and battles rather than of people (they form part of the situations) that he prizes.
His mode of extraverting himself is judging.
And his judging is theoretically and in fact cool, logical and impersonal. Hire and fire, using illegal information, conquering competitors come very easily. He is a head man. He is a thinking function man.
But the thinking is backed by introverted intuition. Gecko loves to have more and more information. Its complexity is not problem. In fact, if he had only one project going at a time, he would be bored. He can move comfortably from considering one company to another and giving an instant verdict on its profitability. He enjoys outwitting his British rival (Terence Stamp), the verbal jousts, the playing with figures, the bargaining and the revenge for past losses. And he can argue his case with intellectual dexterity.
According to the screenplay of Wall Street, Gordon Gecko has developed his third function, extraverted sensing. Darien instructs the philistine Bud about art and Gecko's skill and taste. And exact figures are no problem to him.
However, he has not developed his inferior function of introverted feeling. With his theories about the myth of love and his avowed policy of admiring men of no feeling along with his constant advice to Bud not to manifest or rely on feeling(s), he is a man who is unwittingly trapping himself in his type. He is blind to the subjective glee he gets in defeating Sir Larry. He pays lip service only to his favouritism of Bud, explaining it away logically. He seems to have only civilities rapport with his wife (Sean Young), manifests minimal residue of feeling for his relationship with Darien.
But it is his inferior function that is his undoing. In his anger at being outwitted on the market by Bud, he loses all objectivity about the aviation company Bluestar which he wants to buy and sell off after breaking it up. He rages, subjective issues and emotions rising, and loses millions by poor judgment. His introverted feeling also gets the better (or worse) of him as he abuses Bud in the park and gives himself away completely to Bud and to the recording device that the law has taped on Bud.
However, this leads us to Bud himself as an ENTJ.
We enter 'Wall Street' with Bud. Smartly dressed, jaunty stride, he has the office greetings and small talk off pat. He is the rising star. And the way he wants to prove to himself and others is by getting Gordon as a client. He sweet talks Gecko's secretary into giving him a five minute interview, brings a birthday present as well as stock information. But he really proves himself when he uses some information about a forthcoming legal decision given him in easy conversation by his father as a means of ingratiating himself with Gecko. While he hesitates when Gecko asks him for more, is momentarily scrupulous about insider information, has moral qualms about spying on the activities of Sir Larry, it is this initial offering of his father's information that is his real choice.
Bud is a smart mover, a phone persuader, plausible to his young colleagues in offering good advice, a man about town who explains to his mechanic father that he has to live in Manhattan, dress well and be seen to be prospering. In fact he so loves his career that he will get up during the night and ignore his girlfriend to study his computer screen.
Unlike Gecko, who seems to have no family or real friends, Bud has a loving family, a father who is, he later admits, the only honest man he knows. There is also a benign friend in the company who offers him sound advice about himself as well as his career and ethics. Bud is young and, despite himself, inexperienced. And he is forced to look into the abyss. He might well have followed Gecko's path. Gecko thinks he has. But in the crisis, the good influences prevail and he grows through the pain and the humiliation.
Bud is ENTJ but, as was noted at the beginning, with less strong preferences than Gecko. Bud gains his energy from the world of business outside him, the office deals and competitiveness, the excitement of the exchange floor, fluctuating markets and deadlines. He is eager to adopt the yuppy style, to move from the upper West side to the East side (and allow Darien to decorate his new apartment with pseudo brickwork wallpaper complete with designer torn wallpaper). He is tempted by Gecko's fashionable restaurant and limousine lifestyle. And he willingly and shrewdly gets involved in his financial espionage. His ambition is large enough to believe that Gordon will make him president of the reconstructed Bluestar company and that he will be able to manage.
Bud is an extraverted thinker. So far does he follow the Gecko lead that he successfully corrupts his university friend and broker Roger (James Spader) in the same way.
Bud is also an intuitive. Again, one project would bore him. He can juggle figures, wheel deals and not only see the possibilities but so enthuse about them that he can persuade others to follow them.
Bud is still young enough to be developing his dominant and auxiliary functions without too much development of the third and the inferior function. Maybe Darien might have helped him with his sensate but she walks out on him, loving him but more afraid of how Gordon could control her clientele in the decorating business she had developed.
Inner feeling and Bud. In the crisis that he brings on himself, he does not let his inferior function run berserk. Rather, with the help of his father's integrity as a role model and his father's hospitalisation with a heart attack, he makes some decisions that are much more subjective - for the good of Bluestar and its employees at his own expense. But he still follows his strong thinking and intuition in masterminding with expert, precise timing an alternative takeover deal: with the help of the union reps, the contact buzz in his own office, an anonymous phone number to a Wall Street paper that Gecko used for media tipoffs and influence and the financial shrewdness (and revenge) of Sir Larry.
By the time that Bud is investigated and arrested, the audience sees him publicly humiliated, handcuffed and led through the silent and staring line of colleagues. Head down, he weeps - but making a sad greeting to the secretary he had always greeted with a pleasant joke. He has received his deserved comeuppance. But he has also earned our sympathy.
Bud accepts that he will go to prison. A position at Bluestar will be available from Sir Larry when he has served his sentence. There is a possibility for his being able to redeem himself, to grow in his type but to move towards the challenge of transcending it. His father remarks in the car at the end of the movie
In some kind of screwed up way it's the best thing
that could have happened.
However, for our purposes, the interaction between Gordon Gecko and Bud Fox in the park is the significant sequence for bringing this chapter to a close.
When Bud confronts Gordon in his office and Gordon, not reading Bud well, asks whether he is still with him, Bud replies that even if another company were to take over Bluestar and destroy it, 'at least I wouldn't be pulling the trigger'. He has become the mirror image of Gecko but does not have to remain that image,
I'm looking in a mirror and I sure don't like
what I see.
In the park, Gordon is out of control. Bud is calm (the audience not yet realising that he is bugged). Gecko abuses him, rages and punches him several times, Bud not resisting.
Gecko makes his final speech, his anger and disillusionment with his Pygmalion experiment. With Bud exercising such control it's the 'tail wagging the dog'.
The final dialogue runs:
Gordon: I gave you your manhood. I gave you
everything. You could have been one of the great
ones. I look at you and I see myself.
Bud: I guessed I realised I'm just Bud Fox. I
wanted to be Gordon Gecko but I'll always be
Gordon Gecko, the ENTJ, refused to look into the abyss and lost his character. Bud Fox, the ENTJ, looked into the abyss, saw nothing staring back at him and found his character that kept him out of the abyss and on a path to growth.
As they untape the evidence that would convict Gordon Gecko, an officer says
You did the right thing, Bud.
A VIRTUOSA OF DECEIT
Madame de Merteuil and the Vicomte de Valmont combine to corrupt the innocent through Dangerous Liaisons.
"It would be humiliating if you fail, commonplace if you succeed." Thus, Madame de Merteuil, worldly-wise aristocrat of a regime about to be toppled by the French Revolution. It is the early 1780s, a powdered and bewigged era, where idle men and women move as in a minuet of lust and cruelty in a hermetically-sealed society of wealthy amoral dilettantes and elegantly-mannered wicked seducers. Madame is commenting on the Vicomte's proposal to seduce the virtuous Madame de Tourvel. But the Vicomte triumphantly corrects Madame. He does not intend to corrupt Madame de Tourvel. He wants to seduce her while she is still virtuous and believes in God. Madame allows this to be an acceptable challenge.
Chaderlot Laclos published his novel of manners and morals in the decade of the Revolution. His portrait of a decadent society is death-ridden. His society has a death wish but does not know it. Laclos is a moralist but runs the risk of alienating and/or disgusting readers from more externally moralistic cultures.
Les Liaisons Dangereuses was filmed in the late 50s with that title. However, screen writer and director Roger Vadim, who may have fancied himself a Laclos of the 50s and 60s with his movies of sexual mores in his own France (with his stars/wives Brigitte Bardot, Annette Stroyberg, Catherine Deneuve, Jane Fonda) dramatised the story in a contemporary setting. It starred the dashing Gerarde Philippe and the often sinister Jeanne Moreau. The plot and central characters were retained, a story of passion, seduction, betrayal and death.
However, two versions were filmed in Europe in 1987-8. Director Milos Forman, Czech emigre who made fine satiric comedies at home before going to America where his movies included Taking Off, Hair, Ragtime and Best Directions Oscars for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) and Amadeus (1984) made one. Forman's lavish version is called Valmont.
Photographed in France and Czechoslovakia in wide screen process, it is in the vein of Amadeus(the period is the same) and relies on an epic sweep as well as the plot intricacies. The international cast is led by Colin Firth, Annette Bening and Meg Tilly. Its release was delayed by the extraordinary success of the other version which received Oscar nominations (including Best Film, Actress and Supporting Actress) and won for screenplay and design.
This version retained the title, Dangerous Liaisons. It is Dangerous Liaisons that is the subject of this chapter.
Dangerous Liaisons was based on the successful play by Christopher Hampton who adapted Laclos' novel. Hampton also adapted it for the screen. Direction is by the British Stephen Frears (My Beautiful Laundrette, Sammy and Rosie Get Laid, Prick Up Your Ears, The Grifters). The principal roles are taken by Americans: Glenn Close as the Marquise, John Malkovich as Valmont, Michelle Pfeiffer as Madame De Tourvel, Uma Thurman as Cecile and Swoosie Kurtz, Keanu Reeves, Mildred Natwick. Once again the filming was done in Europe. But Dangerous Liaisons is not a pageant, nor an epic. Rather, it is a chamber piece, often miniature in scope, but beautifully designed, set and dressed. The movie keeps us in the sealed world of its protagonists, makes us willingly/unwillingly privy to its intimacy and its evil. It is the most telling and powerful of the three versions.
The Myers Briggs Type Indicator highlights our 'gifts differing'. It is non-judgmental. The Indicator and Jung's insights are affirming. We are affirmed in our type, affirmed in our dominant and auxiliary functions and challenged in our third and inferior functions. That is normal. However, there are people who cling to their type, reluctant or unwilling to move out. They are not interested in, perhaps sub-consciously fear, any challenge. They trap themselves in their profile. Thus there is no growth, no moving towards wholeness. Rather they set themselves on a path to self-destruction.
This is true of the main characters in Dangerous Liaisons.
We see Glenn Close's Marquise de Merteuil as dramatising an INTP profile, John Malkovich's Vicomte de Valmont an ESTJ profile. In their liaisons they play deadly games, match wits and ultimately declare war. There is victor and there is vanquished. But which is which? Their victims are feeling types while the Marquise and Vicomte are thinking types. All are corrupted but one languishes and dies (Madame de Tourvel), one acts as a messenger of revenge (the Chevalier Dancenay), the other is converted to corruption (Cecile).
The portrait of Madame de Merteuil. Glenn Close's playing of Madame is superb - from the movie's opening with Madame making up her face and looking slyly and proudly into her mirror, adorning herself for the hunt and the kill, to the final image where, humiliated by society at the opera, she returns to the mirror, smudge-wipes off her make-up, gazes, wounded and lost, into her own eyes and a single tear falls down her face.
Madame tells her story, of the route to her malice and cruelty. Married by arrangement at fifteen, abandoned and bitter, she tells Valmont that she invented herself. In a men-dominated world, a woman has to develop skills and find ways to survive and find a place in society. She believes she has a destiny "to dominate your sex and avenge my own". It appears that she has loved Valmont in the past. It is not clear how they fell out of love. Perhaps they had merely used each other without appreciating the emotional attachment. Madame is expert at detachment. But she is an observer. Valmont asks her how she achieves her vengeance. "I listen and observe - to whatever they are trying to hide. I practise detachment."
Madame has her salon, her visitors, her casual lovers. But her mind is forever active. If the INTP can be described as the architect or the philosopher, this is particularly appropriate for Madame de Merteuil. Though she is shaped by her hedonistic and corrupt society, she contributes to it in her own way, or, rather, she manipulates it in her own way. She invites Valmont to participate in plot to revenge herself on a discarded lover by inviting Valmont to seduce the intended bride (a cousin of hers, Cecile, who has newly completed her convent education). "I need you to carry out a heroic deed." She pouts petulantly at his initial refusal. But she has her way and steers herself strategically through the complicated strands of her wicked web: choosing a Chevalier to teach Cecile music with the hope that they fall in love, encourage Cecile to succumb to Valmont after she confides in her about the seduction, seduce the Chevalier herself as well as assist the Vicomte in his intended seduction and demand written proof of his accomplishment. She constructs her world of corruption, keeping in focus the 'big picture' and gaining her satisfaction from its intricacy and achievement.
The dominant function of the INTP is introverted thinking. Madame is comfortable in using `thinking' vocabulary.
Her opening words in the movie are, "How are things in the outside world?" and "Let us see what we can devise for your amusement." She is a deviser. She is not afraid of speaking bluntly. She refers to `betrayal' - no - `cruelty, it has a nobler ring to it".
Her repartee is in this vein. A thinker, she expresses herself with intuitive style. She describes herself as a 'virtuosa of deceit'. She wants not pleasure, but knowledge. She has read the philosophers so that she would know what to think and the novelists to know what to get away with. And her conclusion is 'win or die'. Her ironic remarks are clever. To an anonymous lover, "Make a concerted effort not to sound like the latest novel." To Valmont she refers to "insultingly simple tasks - one does not applaud the tenor for clearing his throat." And, when it emerges that he loves Madame de Tourvel, and she offers a scarcely stifled yawn to his emotional account, "I'm not sure whether I could face another catalogue of incompetence." Madame de Merteuil is cool, is cold. She is beautifully and elegantly cold, with a beautiful mask which we watch her applying as the movie begins, beautifully gowned in the classic style. The cold evil is within.
In contrast, the Vicomte de Valmont is much less complex and complicated. With him, what you see is what you get. It is obvious in the way that each of them lies. Madame has a plausible insinuating guise. Her deceit is beautiful and as beguiling as her mask and dress. She discreetly feigns interest in Cecile and ingenuously suggests music lessons for her from the Chevalier Dancenay. She tut-tuts to Cecile's mother about liaisons. More forthrightly, she chides the distressed Cecile about Valmont's seduction: "your resisted him?" and to Cecile's tearful protest that she was unable to say anything, she offers and arched eyebrow, "not even, no?" and then moves on to justify dangerous liaisons for Cecile, "when it comes to marriage, one man is as good as another". She truly deceives.
But Valmont employs a rather guileless guile. He lies, but he more often actually tells the truth about himself, his intentions and his motives. There is deceit in the truth he tells and it is ultimately just as seductive. But it is more plausibly forthright, calculated half-truths. He does not pretend to Madame de Tourvel that he is not a rake. He frankly refers to his 'appalling reputation', but, with a pious half-glance in her direction, "I have allowed myself to be influenced by moral people". He soon capitalises on this feigned goodness by confessing to her, "the key to the paradox is weakness of character, the influence of a stronger... yours." Although Madame de Tourvel is overwhelmed by his declarations, she is not altogether unwise. He reads in one of her intercepted letters, "he torments only the safest kind of victim - women."
He is brutally frank in his treatment of Cecile, trapping her because of her fear of the seduction and then explaining the reasonableness of a promiscuous sexuality, meanwhile making surreptitious lewd grimaces at her, tormenting her at the dining table. After arranging for her to leave behind her scarf as an excuse for a rendezvous with him, he warns her with po-faced severity, "If there's one thing I can't abide, it's deceitfulness". He is not hypocritical about being hypocritical.
He is truthful to Madame de Merteuil, "you are a genuinely wicked woman", to Emily the courtesan, to his servant and to Madame de Tourvel's maid as he blackmails her into stealing her mistress's letters.
Valmont is more extraverted, a thinker certainly, objective and cool, more focussed on the here and now relationship than Madame and decisive in putting plans into action. His profile is ESTJ. He plans the seduction of Madame de Tourvel, her piety to be left intact, and goes about it with surface gusto: discussing not taking the sacrament, telling her of his reputation, walking with her, dining with her, arranging for his servant to find a poor family and staging a purse donation with grateful hand-kissing (a regular French Little Lord Fauntleroy) impressing Madame and relatives alike (later caught out as he had forgotten all about it).
His conduct is the same with Cecile, arranging with her to get an impression of her key to deposit love letters from the Chevalier Dancenay and then using it for her seduction and sexual initiation and instruction. And he is always direct in his encounters with Madame de Merteuil. After the seduction, he wants the reward of a night with her.
But the person he deceives is himself. The elegant, brutally manipulative rake has not counted on any challenge to move towards wholeness. He is unable to recognise this. But, when the seduction is accomplished but not consummated, he hesitates, moved with 'pity', and calls a doctor for the distressed Madame de Tourvel. He is amazed but does not understand. The Marquise does. She yawns at his story, upset at his account, "I think you may omit the details". To his description of his declaration of love to Madame de Tourvel, "I actually meant it. It's extraordinary, isn't it?", she retorts, "It is perfectly commonplace". She is angry, refuses his reward and declares their contract null and void. "I am not used to being taken for granted." She will not listen to any more, "I'm not in the mood for confidences. I can see quite plainly that you are in love with this woman."
But Valmont cannot cope with this change. Possibilities open up as never before. He could put his mind to stratagems of seduction, simple role-plays. But this is real. And as regards his inner feeling function, his certainly underdeveloped inferior function, he is not prepared at all.
He has fallen in love. He does love Madame de Tourvel. He does not want this. He does want it. He callously allows her to see him with Emily who laughingly scoffs at Madame as she leaves the room. But then he softens and gives her a lying explanation that he gives money to poor prostitutes in charity through her. So desperate is he that he succumbs to the Marquise's devious advice, her story about a man in similar circumstances to his own, who extricates himself by falling back on the excuse-device, "It's beyond my control". In a sequence painful for the audience, he confronts Madame de Tourvel, who now loves him passionately, with callously studied indifference and responds to all her pleas with hollow echo objectivity, "It's beyond my control. This is the way of the world, no regrets."
He is able to leave the distressed Madame de Tourvel who will now languish and die, tormented, repentant and unrequited. He is able to go to the Marquise, contract fulfilled and demand his night with her. But there is more bewilderment for him. He discovers her affair with the Chevalier who calls him out for a duel. He is caught up in the surface joy of his achievement, "It is my greatest exploit; it sets new standards". But it is the Marquise's moment. "This is not your appointed night". "One woman strikes at another and the wound is fatal. My victory was over you. Why did you treat her so viciously? Vanity and happiness are incompatible." She dismisses him, declaring she will never be ordered about again. "I am sorry, I have made other arrangements." In the confrontation of wits, it is now war.
However, it is the moment of truth for Valmont, a moment for repentance and redemption, to move from being trapped in his profile and moving towards his opposite. He takes the opportunity but it means his death. He drops his sword in the duel, allows the Chevalier to pierce him. He tells the Chevalier the truth about the Marquise, "We are both her creatures". As he dies, he has two messages: to Madame de Tourvel his love and sorrow, "I cannot explain why I broke with her. My life as been nothing since then. I am glad not to live without her. Her love is the only happiness I have ever known" (and it is delivered as she dies); to Madame de Merteuil, his revenge: the Chevalier is to circulate her letters in society and so destroy her reputation.
Madame de Tourvel's final words are, "Enough, draw the curtains". She has some relief in death. And there is a kind of negative nobility in Valmont's last words, "He (Dancenay) had good cause. I don't believe that is something anyone could say about me."
And Madame's victory? She does not deceive herself, but she has so committed herself to the person she invented, based on her type, that she is trapped. Like Valmont, she is a dominant thinker, but hers is introverted thinking. Valmont hesitatingly and reluctantly learns something of his world of inner feeling in his genuine love for Madame de Tourvel. The Marquise, on the other hand, is not skilled in extraverted feeling. She is cold and calculating in her meeting people, looking aside, looking haughtily self-protective, glancing in mirrors. She believes in the nobility of cruelty and can smile in self-satisfied disdain - seen in all its genteel malice in her listening to Cecile's letter and her interrogation about Valmont's seduction. She is unable to demonstrate any feeling and resorts to elaborately removing her hat before the mirror.
Her practised detachment develops this and prevents her from moving towards her opposite functions. We sense her inner frustration as Valmont fails to fulfil her demands for written proof of his seducing Madame de Tourvel, but all she can do is be sarcastic and ostentatiously yawn at him. Finally reading Madame de Tourvel's letter-proof, she retorts, "I see she writes as badly as she dresses". She is too self-contained.
But, at an early stage, after her claim to be a virtuosa of deceit, Valmont asks her if she is infallible. She offers the reason for her past affair with him, "My self-esteem demanded to have Valmont". But she adds in a moment of unanticipated frankness, "It is the only time I have ever been controlled by my desires". Later, the contract between them declared null and void, and stating aloud for Valmont that she sees plainly, "you are in love with this woman", she seems to want to succumb to his love, "Illusions are, by their nature, sweet". But her features harden and the audience sees her walk behind a glass panel, distorting glass. Yet her quest is not over. After the pettiness of her comment on Madame de Tourvel's writing and dress, she lets her guard drop, "I shall love you in spite of all your faults and my complaints". And, to control him, she tells him of the story of her friend and his unsuitable love and the stratagem of repeating the excuse, "It's beyond my control", to sever the bonds of the relationship.
It is too late. She has not won Valmont despite his cruelty so she claims victory. But it is short-lived. When her letters are made public, she breaks in a desperately unexpected show of emotion. She is seen weeping, rushing headlong into her boudoir, screaming at servants to get out, spilling powder and make-up and scattering it and collapsing on the floor. The control vanishes; she is caught up in her inferior function, feeling and feelings berserk. But she achieves no salvation. The mask is donned again. The self-made woman, appearing older, harder, traces of the painted woman, chooses to defy society and appear in public at the opera. But, she is trapped, inside herself and in the theatre. She stands regally and defiantly. The orchestra stops. Silence. All stare at her. And the hooting starts, hooting and booing. In close-up, we see her eyes circle the theatre. She turns with dignity, but either loses strength in her legs or stumbles. She steadies herself. Exit. How can the movie end?
As it began. The Marquise is back at her mirror. She avoids her own eyes. She starts to remove the mask, wiping the make-up away, yet smearing her face, her beauty awry. What is left? Where will she go? Her malevolent construction of betrayals and cruelty has crashed.
A single tear trickles down her face. Fade to black.
The Marquise has been outwitted; she has been left unmasked and exposed. Is the tear genuine, a tear of self-knowledge, of regret, of repentance? Is it a crocodile tear of rage, of frustration, of self-pity? the tear of a woman who is trapped in her profile, ungraced, self-destructive?
Dangerous Liaisons is a moral fable. We are beguiled into a world of evil beauty, perhaps seduced, perhaps not. In a world of elegant manners, manipulation controls morals. In fact, there occurred a momentous social revolution soon after. This era was in its death throes. Madame de Tourvel was its innocent victim, Cecile was its corrupted victim, Chevalier Dancenay was its disillusioned victim. In the death throes there was both hope and despair. Valmont glimpsed salvation. The Marquise preferred her dangerous liaisons, chose herself, the isolated hell of self.
TAKE MY HAND AND LEAD ME TO SALVATION
Salvation and damnation for Jean Valjean and Inspector Javert in Les Miserables.
The extraordinary success of Les Miserables on the London stage and then on Broadway and then throughout the world meant that the musical version of Victor Hugo's classic novel was not restricted to the French language and the French theatre. 'Les Miz' became a popular abbreviation and an affectionate name for a wonderful theatrical experience.
It was not as if Les Miserables was not well-known or appreciated. Victor Hugo is a French national hero (and was a hero in his own day). We remember well his Hunchback of Notre Dame. But, of course, it is the movie and television versions of his classics that have made him more of a household name.
Lon Chaney, in the 1920s, created an image of the hunchback that drew memorable horror and pity. So did Charles Laughton in the 1939 movie. There have also been versions starring Anthony Quinn (1956) for the big screen and Anthony Hopkins (1980) for television.
There have been even more versions of Les Miserables. The French themselves have honoured Hugo with a sombre 30s version starring Harry Baer and a spectacular and moving version from 1957 with the French movie icon Jean Gabin as Jean Valjean and Bernard Blier as Javert. (This version may have been one of the direct sources of the musical which resembles it quite closely; it capitalises on the screen presence of comedian, Bourvil, as Thenardier, the innkeeper who also makes his presence felt in the musical). This 1957 version runs almost three hours, incorporating a great deal of the novel. (It was re-released in July 1989 for an American season as part of the bicentenary celebrations of the French revolution.)
Les Miserables has appealed to American film-makers as well. Charles Laughton hounded Fredric March in 1935. Robert Newton hounded Michael Rennie in 1952. Anthony Perkins hounded Richard Jordan in the 1979 telemovie remake. It is not as if Les Miz appeared suddenly and caught audiences unawares and unfamiliar with plot and characters. There have been several plans for making the movie of Les Miserables. Directors mooted have included Britain's Alan Parker and Australian Bruce Beresford.
Before proceeding to study the interactions of Jean Valjean and Inspector Javert in the light of personality type, tribute should be paid to Alain Boubil and Claude-Michel? Schoenberg (music) for their skill in mining the novel to produce a three hour stage version and for their music and lyrics. A special tribute needs to be paid to Herbert Kretzmer for his witty and sensitive way with words to match the melodies in the English version. We will be relying on these lyrics for the analysis of type and interactions.
Les Miserables is set in a penal era, a period of slavery. Comparisons might be made with the contemporary convict system whereby Britain sent their prisoners to the Australian prison colonies or to the battles over the slavery issue in the American Civil War. While Les Miserables is set in the first part of the 19th century and reflects the world view of the period, of oppressors and oppressed, it has remained extraordinarily relevant during the 20th century, even as we move towards the 21st. The contexts of social evil and repression and the responses of revolution may change continents, but they are still with us.
Which makes Les Miserables something of an archetypal story and its principal characters symbols of humanity and the human spirit.
Jean Valjean is the hero, victim of inhumanity and injustice, but who receives a second chance, a chance of grace, and becomes a redeemer and a saviour. Hugo's world is that of French Catholicism. Jean Valjean's instrument of grace (a word the lyrics use) is the Bishop who allows himself to be robbed and who gives his candlesticks in the spirit of the Gospels to the poor man. This means that it is appropriate to see Jean Valjean as an archetypal victim-hero-saviour and to use Christian terminology. Jean Valjean is a Christ-figure, someone who resembles Jesus Christ significantly and substantially.
In the Judaeo-Christian? biblical tradition, this kind of figure can be a redeemer (the Servant of God, the Suffering Servant who lays down life for others or the Job who is visited with undeserved misery but who remains faithful) or a Saviour (the Son of Man who leads a graced people into a promised land, an empowerer who rises to new life and enables others to do the same) or a Liberator (the Moses who leads a shackled nation to freedom, a Joshua who leads into the promised land, a Jesus who can confront authoritarianism and legalism). Jean Valjean is a Christ-figure.
Inspector Javert is the evil figure, an antichrist-figure. Javert is also a victim of the unjust system, but in his inability and his unwillingness to respond to grace and freedom, he locks himself into the role of the persecutor, the fury, the avenger. He becomes the biblical monster of pride and brutality, the diabolical and demonic in human form. (His lyrics, as we will see, make reference to the fall of the angel of light, Lucifer, who then becomes the Satan, the adversary of the human race and eventually is seen as the Devil).
Hugo's images of men and women are those of his times, a period of social concern rather than explicit psychological awareness, the period of Marx and Engels and of Dickens' novels, rather than of the age of Freud and Jung which was about to arrive.
The men are generally gallant heroes at the barricades, students, young revolutionaries:
The colour of the world
is changing day by day...
Red - the blood of angry men!
Black - the dark of ages past!
Red- a world about to dawn!
Black - the night that ends at last!
Marius, Enjolras and the others are the heroes, the martyrs, the emblems for a revolutionary society.
While there are glimpses of evil men, the galley prisoners, the guards, the workers exploiting Fantine and the women, Hugo's focus is on the heroes.
The women are either the Madonnas or the whores. Cosette is a Madonna and the object of the hero's protection and love. Fantine is the Madonna who is victimised by the social injustice and is forced to become the whore. Cosette is saved and marries the hero. Fantine dies. But, in the vision of the musical version, it is she who rises to new life, empowered by Jean Valjean. It is the same for the victim, Eponine, the ill-fated daughter of the mercenary innkeepers, the Thenardiers, whose love for the hero, Marius, is unrequited and who gives her life for him on the barricades.
While the images might be the conventional images of the nineteenth century (and still lingering in stereotype), the musical gives the final lyrics of grace and salvation to the three victims, Valjean as expected, Fantine as expected, Eponine, perhaps unexpected:
Take my hand
And lead me to salvation.
Take my love
For love is everlasting.
The truth that once was spoken
To love another person
Is to see the face of God.
A word on the Thenardiers in this context of archetypal characters is in order. They sing one of the best comic songs in any musical, 'Master of the House'. Its lyrics catalogue the meanness, the greediness, the manipulative small-mindedness of idiots who are evil. Thenardier's song touches on how the seven deadly sins flourish at the petty level of a provincial inn. And his wife, no slouch in the deadly sins' department, is able to sum up this kind of comic-serious evil:
I used to dream
that I would meet a prince.
But God almighty,
Have you seen what's happened since?
'Master of the house?'
Isn't worth me spit!
- and life-long shit!
Cunning little brain
Thinks he's quite a lover
But there's not much there.
What a cruel trick of nature
Landed me with such a louse
God knows how I've lasted
Living with this bastard in the house!
Within this framework of social context, archetypal characters and music and lyrics, we can explore the profiles of Jean Valjean and Javert and their struggle in the light of the Myers Briggs Type Indicator.
It is far easier for us to determine Javert's type than to determine that of Jean Valjean.
Javert is intense and relentless, driven by an inner energy that is fuelled by a deep resentment,
I was born inside a jail
I was born with scum like you
I am from the gutter too.
Dare you speak to me of crime
and the price you had to pay?
Introverted, he is also decisive: in his police work, in his tracking down of Jean Valjean and in his actions to arrest Valjean as well as in his covert operations with the revolutionaries on the barricades. Javert seems to be sensate, an introverted sensate with a sense of order, focussed on his duty, relying on established and well-tried procedures for the administration of justice. He uses the stars as a symbol for this focus:
Stars in your multitudes,
Scarce to be counted,
Filling the darkness
With order and light.
You are the sentinels,
Silent and sure,
Keeping watch in the night.
Keeping watch in the night.
You know your place in the skies You hold your course and your aim
And each in your season
returns and returns
And is always the same.
But the way Javert acts in his world is from a sense of duty, his decisions are thinking decisions:
Valjean, at last,
We see each other plain!
`M'sieur le Mayor',
You'll wear a different chain.
My duty's to the law
You have no rights
Come with me, 24601...
I've hunted you across the years...
There is no place for you to hide.
Wherever you may hide away
I swear to you. I will be there!
Inspector Javert can be seen as an ISTJ. Hugo (and the lyrics of the musical) portray Javert as a man who opts to remain in his profile until he is trapped and destroys himself. It is in his dogged pursuit of Valjean that he traps himself and refuses the moment of grace offered by Valjean. But this will be considered after looking at his type.
There are several difficulties in determining Jean Valjean's profile. We see him first as an embittered convict, jailed for nineteen years for a petty crime, the stealing of a loaf of bread for his hungry family. On release, with demands made on him to report to authorities wherever he went, he receives kind hospitality from the Bishop and his sister. As well, the Bishop presses no charges when Valjean steals the candlesticks. Indeed the Bishop gives them to him as a gift and Valjean, touched by this grace, disappears and reappears as Monsieur Madeleine, the mayor and a factory-owner in Montreuil-sur-Mer?. He is transformed.
Is this new Jean Valjean the same as he was before his imprisonment? We do not know. Has the conversion experience and his service of the townspeople revealed his true self? This seems a more likely direction to follow. However, Hugo sets up Valjean as an archetypal hero and Christ-figure (as do the lyrics). This idealises him. In fact, Jean Valjean seems to exhibit strongly all the attitudes and functions described by the Myers Briggs Indicator. Valjean is the ambivert saint. (And it is this that, thematically, leads to the confrontation between light and darkness, Valjean, the light, Javert, the darkness; it is this that leads, psychologically, to the confrontation between the individuated Valjean and the stunted Javert.)
There is no difficulty in seeing Jean Valjean as an introvert. The nineteen years in the galleys have certainly taken their toll and Valjean emerges as a loner. And there is an intensity about his inner energy, in the drive to redeem himself and the times, in his grief for Fantine and in his care for Cosette, his preparedness to disappear into the convent in Paris for the sake of Cosette. And when Cosette's future is in danger, he chooses to disappear from her life, alone as an old man getting ready to meet his God.
But a case might be made for him as an extravert. He does not live in retirement as the mayor. He has invested his wealth, courtesy of the Bishop, in a factory which he has developed,
I run a business of repute.
I am the master of hundreds of workers
They all look to me.
Can I abandon them?
How would they live if I am not free?
He intervenes in disputes between the workers and the women, intervenes to save the man pinned under the wagon, intervenes for Fantine and with the Thenardiers for Cosette. And on the barricades, he is active, saving Marius, freeing Javert.
He also appears as decisive with his interventions. But he is also a man of patience, responding to situations and needs as they arrive. Whatever drive he may have had as a controller, he gives it up. He is able to let people be and to wait.
Valjean is comfortable with sense perceiving, focussed on the present and exercising practical skills. He is also comfortable with intuitive perceiving, looking to possibilities, making connections, not bound by what is expected. Both can be discerned in his song, "Who am I?":
That stranger he (Javert) has found
This man could be my chance!
Why should I save his hide?
Why should I right this wrong?
When I have come so far
And struggled for so long?
If I speak, I am condemned.
If I stay silent, I am damned!
Who am I? Who am I?
I am Jean Valjean!
And so, Javert, you see it's true
That man bears no more guilt than you!
Who am I?
It is in his decision-making that Jean Valjean is the ambivert, comfortable in making objective decisions, comfortable in making more subjective decisions. He is a man both of justice and mercy.
He appeals to the women of the town to stop fighting:
This is a factory not a circus
Now come on ladies settle down
I look to you to sort this out
And be as patient as you can.
His debate in "Who am I?" shows the struggle in himself:
Can I conceal myself for evermore?
Pretend I'm not the man I was before?
And must my name until I die
Be no more than an alibi?
Must I lie?
How can I ever face my fellow-men?
How can I ever face myself again?
My soul belongs to God, I know
I made that bargain long ago.
He gave me hope when hope was gone
He gave me strength to journey on.
He is at his most gentle at the death of Fantine, swearing on his life that Cosette will live in his protection, will want for nothing, and no one will harm her as long as he is living. As Fantine dies, he prays for peace, keeps her warm, prays, "take shelter from the storm".
The justice and mercy can be heard in his confrontation with Javert:
Before you say another word, Javert,
Before you chain me up like a slave again.
Listen to me. There is something I must do.
This woman leaves behind a suffering child.
There is none but me can intercede.
In mercy's name, three days are all I need.
Then I'll return. I pledge my word...
There is a duty I am sworn to...
You would sooner see me dead
But not before I see this justice done...
I am warning you, Javert,
There is nothing I won't dare
If I have to kill you here
I'll do what must be done!
Finally, in the first climax of "One More Day", we hear the difference between Javert and Valjean. Javert is consumed by his mission in life, an antichrist-figure:
I will join these people's heroes
I will follow where they go
I will learn their little secrets
I will know the things they know.
One more day to revolution
We will nip it in the bud!
We'll be ready for these schoolboys
They will wet themselves ... with blood!
Valjean sees his destiny as a Christ-figure:
One day more
Another day, another destiny.
This never-ending road to Calvary...
Tomorrow we'll be far away
Tomorrow is the judgment day.
The destiny is for all the protagonists; they combine:
Tomorrow we'll discover
What our God in Heaven has in store
One more dawn! One more day! One day more!
Javert's destiny is death. He comes to the barricades but is exposed as a police spy. Jean Valjean is there at the same time and has the opportunity to kill Javert. He lets him go. It might have been a moment of grace for each of them. It does free Valjean from any traces of vengeance. But it bewilders Javert. It does not fit with his sense of justice. But the opportunity for a second grace comes when Valjean emerges from the sewers carrying the wounded Marius to safety. Valjean pleads for an hour to take Marius to safety. Javert decides to let him go - and is bewildered by his own behaviour, bending his unbending principles. The wholeness that might have been his destiny, the opportunity for the sensate thinker to become more subjective in his compassion, feeling, but, more, to glimpse possibilities for living that were beyond his imagining terrifies him. He is destroyed. The torment is powerfully expressed in his "Soliloquy":
What sort of devil is he?
To have caught me in a trap
and choose to let me go free?
After stating that Valjean should have killed him,
Vengeance was his and he gave me back my life!
Previously Javert had likened himself to Lucifer,
And if you fall
As Lucifer fell
You fall in flame!
And so it has been, and so it's written
On the doorways to paradise,
That those who falter,
And those who fall,
Must pay the price...
Now Javert has faltered and he must fall like Lucifer into Hell:
Damned if I'll live in the debt of a thief,
Damned if I'll yield at the end of the chase.
I am the Law and the Law is not mocked...
I should have perished by his hand.
It was his right.
It was my right to die as well.
Instead I live - but live in hell.
Javert's final stanzas are the heart-cry of the sensate thinker who cannot, will not change:
And must I now begin to doubt,
Who never doubted all these years?
My heart is stone and still trembles.
The world I have known is lost in shadow.
Is he from heaven or from hell?
And does he know
That, granting me my life today,
This man has killed me even so?
I am reaching but I fall
And the stars are black and cold
As I stare into the void
Of a world that cannot hold.
I'll escape now from that world
From the world of Jean Valjean.
There is nowhere I can turn
There is no way to go on...
Complete suicide - body, soul, spirit.
Javert gave Marius life but destroyed himself. At the same time Jean Valjean prays for God to save Marius' life, even at the price of his own. Just as the intense score for Javert's suicide dramatises the death, so the sweetness and grace of "Bring Him Home" dramatises Valjean's prayer:
God on high
Hear my prayer.
In my need,
You have always been there...
Bring him peace,
Bring him joy...
You can take. You can give.
Let him be. Let him live.
If I die, let me die.
Let him live. Bring him home.
It is the intercessory prayer of the saint.
All ends happily. Cosette and Marius marry and have a prosperous life to look forward to (and the Thenardiers are exposed and mocked). Fantine appears to the dying Valjean and he can sing of the achievement of his life, a life which has achieved a personal wholeness, indeed, holiness:
Now I can die in peace
For now my life is blessed.
As he writes his 'last confession', he sees it as a story of love, of his and Fantine's love for Cosette. Javert's last words were of pride and damnation. Valjean's last individual lyrics pray simply and humbly:
Forgive me all my trespasses
And take me to your glory.
In this light, in the Christ story that is archetypal and that Hugo recounts in the experiences of Jean Valjean, there is hope of resurrection. The musical ends with the rousing chorus of revolution, social justice, "when tomorrow comes..."
But wholeness and holiness are in the final words of the victims, Jean Valjean, Fantine and Eponine:
Take my hand
And lead me to salvation.
Take my love
For love is everlasting.
The truth that once was spoken
To love another person
Is to see the face of God.
DEAD POETS SOCIETY
"CARPE DIEM! - SEIZE THE DAY!"
Robin Williams, as English teacher John Keating, urges his students to suck out the marrow from life in Dead Poets' Society.
It was said at the time of the release of Dead Poets' Society that three key words to kill a movie at the box-office were 'dead', 'poet' and 'society'. You can get away with 'dead' in the title of a thriller, but how many movies have 'poet' or 'society' in their titles?
Whatever the wisdom about titles, Dead Poets' Society was an extraordinary success all around the world, garnering many awards (including Best Film of the Year in Britain and Italy) and being nominated for Oscars. It caught something of audience aspirations in 1989, romanticism, earnestness, creativity with the touch of non-conformity. (This can be gauged by the American Academy's giving its Best Film award to Bruce Beresford's genteel Driving Miss Daisy).
Interestingly, Dead Poets' Society did not rely on big name stars for its attraction. Certainly Robin Williams is there, but audiences would have been expecting the more raucous clowning of his television or stage performances and in movies like Good Morning, Vietnam. (In 1986, Williams appeared in American Playhouse telemovie version of a Saul Bellow novel, Seize the Day.) Yet here, Williams is quite subdued. He has subordinated his lively talent to the overall impact of the movie and has served it well. He has some scene-stealing sequences but he does not obtrude. The young actors in support were not really known although their careers have developed since.
The witty and sensitive screenplay was written by Tom Schulman, drawing on the poetry of Walt Whitman, Tennyson and Shakespeare as well as quotations from Thoreau. It won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. Schulman has a flair for comedy with such popular shows as Honey, I Shrunk the Kids and the engaging spoof of self-absorbed psychiatrists and daffy patients, What about Bob?
Direction was by Australian Peter Weir who had already demonstrated his ability to re-create the worlds of education and adolescents in Picnic at Hanging Rock and of young men on the verge of adulthood in his portrait of young Australians literally blooded in what has become the symbol for Australian nationhood, Gallipoli. It was something the same in his two American films prior to Dead Poets' Society: the enclosed world of the Amish and the perspective of the little boy who was witness to murder in Witness, and the retreat from the United States by Ally Fox and his family to The Mosquito Coast where his adolescent son has to take charge when his idealist father fails to create a new world for them.
In Dead Poets' Society, Weir takes us into an enclosed world, not only the world of the school, but the enclosed world of the exclusive preparatory school of the United States of the late 50s. This means that it is more difficult to explore the characters according to Type. It is easier to analyse their behaviour according to Temperament theory. John Keating and the main two boys in the screenplay (Neil Perry, played by Robert Sean Leonard, and Todd Anderson, played by Ethan Hawke) all seem to be NF. They contrast with the headmaster (Mr Nolan, played by Norman Foster, and Neil's father, Mr Perry, played by Kurtwood Smith) who both seem to be SJ.
However, keeping this Temperament 'diagnosis' in mind, we will consider these characters according to Type. The difficulty with the character of John Keating is that we generally see him in his teaching role, in relationship with his class. There are glimpses of him in his room and some conversations with Mr Nolan and other teachers. The difficulty with the characters of the boys is that they are adolescents, their characters still developing. However, the screenplay gives some clues as regards their type.
The movie might be seen as the dramatising of the clash between the NF temperament and the SJ temperament, the victory going to NF - a moral victory because John Keating does not survive at the school and Neil Perry does not survive. Was this the appeal of the movie throughout the world, a cross-cultural appeal? Did the romanticism of the poetic NF encourage parents and educators who share that temperament to broaden their methods of guiding and educating? Did this romanticism and creativity appeal to the shadow of the SJ temperament in a holistic way?
There was not unanimity in the response to the movie. Letters to the Editor in various newspapers and magazines decried the film as subversive, promoting anarchy in the family and in education with an attractively unrealistic glow. Many were, like the headmaster, the staff and the board in the movie, offended by the liberal approach to dealing with the tender-minded and the young. The entry in the widely-used and referred to "Movies on TV" guide edited by writer and television personality, Leonard Maltin, gives the movie a guarded commendation and refers to its not giving the right direction in education. These strictures need to be kept in mind as we explore the characters and their type.
The indications from the screenplay are that he is NFJ. He is decisive and orderly, gets things done and enjoys this achievement. He likes being a teacher and is prepared to put up with his expulsion so that he can go on teaching. He is J. His relationship with his students is subjective, his approach to what he teaches (be it English literature or football) is not objective. He is F, an extraverted feeler. His world is one of possibilities and opening up these possibilities to his students. Whatever the attractiveness of the here and now, it is the other world that is attractive. He is N, introverted intuition.
But is John Keating an extravert or an introvert? The presumption is that he is extraverted. He is obviously enlivened by his teaching and as he enlivens and empowers his students. But an argument might be made that he is an introvert since we see him quietly alone in his small room and do not see much sign of other extraverted activity. The interpretation is complicated by the extraverted style of Robin Williams himself and many of his performances like that in Cadillac Man which he made straight after Dead Poets' Society. However, an interesting comparison is Williams' performance after Cadillac Man, as Dr Oliver Sachs in Awakenings. Williams as Sachs is in the John Keating vein, but, more literally, a life-giver. But he is much more evidently a shy man and an introvert.
Whether John Keating is an INFJ or ENFJ, there is similarity in style: extraverted feeling and introverted intuition - the INFJ being mistaken in the classroom for an extravert. But the nickname for the ENFJ is 'Teacher', and John Keating is certainly a superb teacher.
After his introduction to parents and boys in the chapel, we first see Keating peep round the door of his classroom. He then enters, whistling Tchaikowsky's '1812', walks through their evident bewilderment and curiosity and out the back door. "Well, come on". After some hesitation, they go out. He explains himself with the lines "O Captain, my Captain", written by Walt Whitman about Lincoln, and suggests that they might like to address him as Mr Keating or Captain. But he also assures them that he went through their school in the 40s, survived, even though he was the equivalent of the 98lb weakling and people at the beach kicked copies of Byron into his face! "Let me dispel a few rumours before they fester into fact".
The boys respond variously, but Todd is caught up by Keating and Neil is smilingly delighted. It is now that he introduces the boys into his philosophy of education and life, getting them to read "Gather ye rosebuds while ye may" and explaining the motto, "Carpe diem", "Seize the day". As the boys look at the photos of past students enshrined on the corridor walls, he helps them to see that the boys of those days are no different from themselves, "full of hormones, invincible, the world their oyster, destined for great things, eyes full of hope, not realising one iota of what they were capable". He makes them really look at the photos. He makes them crowd in and listen to the whisper of these dead boys, "Carpe diem".
"Make your lives extraordinary."
He captures their interest in poetry by asking them to read the preface of the poetry text by J. Pritchard Ph.D. with its 'scientific' method and graph process for establishing the perfection and importance of a poem. Pritchard asserts that "enjoyment and understanding" will grow from this method. Keating urges them to rip out this page, then all the pages of the introduction. Most boys do so with relish. "This is war, a battle for hearts and souls. Learn to think for yourself, savour words and language. No matter what anyone tells you, words and ideas can change the world". He gets them to huddle again to hear the secret: "We don't read poetry because it is cute, but because we are members of the human race." He extols passion, passion for beauty and romance. Life exists and we find our identity. Poetically, "The powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?"
It is at this stage of the movie that he has a table conversation with Mr McAllister?, another teacher, who has looked into Keating's classroom, askance. McAllister? denies he is a cynic, he is a 'realist' and quotes
Show me the heart unfettered by foolish dreams and I will show you a happy man.
To which Keating replies,
But only in their dreams can men be truly free, for thus it was and thus it always will be.
McAllister: "Tennyson?", Keating, "Keating."
Meanwhile the boys discover an old annual and Keating's photo, "the man most likely to do anything". They also read about the 1941 Dead Poets' Society, a society of boys who met in a cave to read poetry, "even our own". Neil finds the volume of "Five Centuries of Verse" that belonged to Mr Keating and was used, with its handwritten quotation from Thoreau to open the meetings. Keating remembers it for them. It was not "just guys sitting round. We were romantics, poetry dripping from our lips". The ritual passage for the beginning of each meeting was from Thoreau urging his readers to suck the marrow out of life. But, Keating is aware that the present administration would not be in favour of the society. Nevertheless, inspired by Keating and organised by Neil, the boys revive the Dead Poets' Society and experience the exhilaration of sharing the experience together, friendship, food, bravado, poems and the exciting, stomping rhythms of Vachel Lindsay's "Congo".
We then see John Keating in action as a teacher. He takes the by now eager and appreciative class into the world of poetry where language is not for communication, but "to woo women". In the best Robin Williams' manner, he impersonates Laurence Olivier's Shakespearian voice, but also Brando doing Julius Caesar and, even better, John Wayne delivering a line from Macbeth. But then he stands on his desk and urges the boys to do likewise, "to look at things in a different way". (Neil is the first to do so.) He urges them also to find their own voice because the longer they wait to begin, the less likely they are to find their voice at all. He quotes another Thoreau saying: "most men lead lives of quiet desperation". They are not to be resigned to that. They must break out, not walk to the edge of the cliff and tumble over like lemmings.
A football training session also provides a lesson. "Sport is a chance for other human beings to push us to excellence." He brings slips of paper with quotations on them, gives one to all of them, begins to play a record of classical music and invites each boy to come up to the ball, hear the music, recite his lines and then kick the ball. They crowd him and finally carry him off the field as a hero.
Keating then sets them a poetry writing assignment - and assures the shy Todd that he knows that it will scare the hell out of him to recite it publicly. Todd spends a great deal of time writing, but cannot face the recitation and says that he has not written one. One boy has screwed his paper up in embarrassment and another has opted out with "the cat sat on the mat". Keating explains that poems can be about ordinary things, "but don't let your poems be ordinary, let them have the stuff of revelation".
In one of the movie's most memorable sequences, Keating excitingly draws a poem out of the shy boy. He stands him in front and demands from the boy a yawp, a barbaric yawp, taunting him to yell. He asks him to look at a picture of Whitman. He is to describe what he sees. The intuitive tells Todd to close his eyes, to use his imagination, to say whatever `pops into your head even if it is gibberish'. The initially anguished and embarrassed Todd, standing there like a gawk, has his imagination and tongue loosened. He sees Whitman as 'a sweaty-tooth madman'. Keating tells Todd to make this madman do something. The camera circles and continues to circle the boy. Keating backs into the aisle and crouches as Todd spills out his poem. Neil's face is lit. Todd triumphs. But so does John Keating the teacher. And the boys applaud. Keating does not say, `That's good', or `Do it well again next time', but rather, in a feeling expression, `Don't you forget this'. It is a moment to be savoured.
The last class we see him teach has the boys in a courtyard marching in unison to "Sound Off" (with the headmaster looking ominously out his window). Keating explains conformity and the difficulty of maintaining one's own beliefs in the face of others. He acknowledges the need for acceptance (and the boys joining in the uniform clapping rhythm) as well as one of the boy's exercising his right not to walk when he invites them all to move in their own individual walk.
But he takes the opportunity to reflect on non-conformity, the philosophy for the rest of the movie,
Trust that your beliefs are unique, are your own even though others find them odd or unpopular.
He quotes Robert Frost's poem of the crossroads and taking the road less travelled and invites each of them to walk in their own way.
One of Keating's class has written an article in the school paper about not permitting girls near the boys. It draws down the ire of the headmaster and the board, especially on Keating as scapegoat. Commenting on his 'unorthodox teaching methods'. Mr Nolan sums up the education philosophy of the school (SJ temperament contrasting with NF temperament),
The curriculum here is set, it is proven, it works. If you question it, what prevents them from doing that themselves?
Keating goes from the headmaster to the boys who expect support from him, but, he explains,
Sucking the marrow out of life does not mean choking on the bone. There is a time for daring and a time for caution. The wise man understands which is called for.
Expulsion means missing opportunities (like his classes!). Keep your head about you.
(These must surely be the lines of the screenplay to be quoted to reassure those who condemn Dead Poets' Society as totally subversive.) But he still moves to the edge of daring rather than caution. Dalton, the boy in trouble, had pulled a prank in full assembly, taking a phone, making it ring and declaring it was a message from God about girls in the school. Keating says it was not daring. "If it had been collect, it would have been daring".
After this Keating moves from centre screen as the movie focuses on Neil and Todd. Neil comes to Keating's room for advice about performing in A Midsummer Night's Dream against his father's demands. Keating offers wise advice to the boy urging him to speak from the heart as Neil has spoken to him. "You act the part of a dutiful son, but you are not an indentured servant. This is not a whim. Show it by your passion and conviction." Neil pretends the next day that he has done so and Keating believes him, enjoys his performance, ("I was speechless") and realises too late that Neil has lied to him. And, lonely at his suicide, he goes to his desk and weeps for him.
Keating is blamed for the Dead Poets' Society, for the upheaval and for Neil's behaviour and his death. He must go. How to offer a climax ending for such a movie. The headmaster is taking his English class and, of course, gets the boys to read the 'excellent introduction' of Dr Pritchard. Keating arrives to collect his personal things. Todd apologises for naming him, "They made us sign." He says he knows. Then, as Keating leaves the room, Todd climbs to the top of his desk and stands defiantly, saluting "Oh Captain, my Captain". Gradually, most of the other boys, despite the headmaster's insistent calls for them to sit down, mount their desks. He turns at the doorway that he first peeped around and entered their lives. "Thank you, boys, thank you."
John Keating dramatises the NF temperament, the teacher whose type is I or ENFJ.
And the two boys, Neil and Todd? They too share this temperament. They seem to differ in type. Neil is sensitive and open to possibilities in life but also an organised leader who is energised by his world. He seems to be ENFJ. He seems to be the mirror of John Keating - but who is controlled by his father's expectations and does not survive as Keating did. Todd, the shy boy urged to tread in his illustrious brother's steps, is the introvert, the searcher, the INFP.
Todd's profile is more immediately evident. Dominated by his parents, he is quiet and awkward, the boys quickly mocking him. He is fortunate to be sharing a room with Neil. He cannot look at or talk to the other boys while he is unpacking. He stammers. He resists Neil's urging to go to study group. But he is immediately won over by John Keating, printing "Seize the day" on his pad page. He begins to trust Neil and goes to the inaugural meeting of the Dead Poets' Society. He enjoys it. It is his world. He makes every effort to write his poem for the class, but cannot face the class. Keating shrewdly asks him up, "to put him out of his misery", but he adds "Mr Anderson thinks everything inside him is worthless and embarrassing... but he is wrong" and then draws the poem out of him in that memorable sequence.
Todd becomes stronger, trying to defend Keating before the headmaster and the board (including his parents), actually fighting one of the betrayers. He capitulates and signs. The last we see of him is his being woken with the news of Neil's death, his going down stairs, upset and vomiting, and his running alone out into the snow to grieve and finally, with great strength, apologising to Mr Keating and leading the salute and tribute to the teacher who had changed their lives. Todd will always be a searcher who agonises, but at a crucial growth period of his life, he has had guidance and a role model.
Neil's drama is more complex. He has had within him a dream of being an actor, but his father has decreed that he is to become a doctor (quoting the sacrifices the family have to make for this ambition for their son and forcing him to obey with reference to how much this means to Neil's mother). Mr Perry might love his son, but he has no respect for him, demanding in public that Neil drop his work on the school paper and then rebuking him for disputing with him in public. Neil is more tender-spirited than his father ever imagines. He does summer schools in chemistry ("my father thought I should get ahead"), studies hard and, then, when his father makes demands, states that "I don't give a damn about any of it".
But he does. He organises the others for study group, supports some of them in thinking about challenging their parents. And then Mr Keating enters his life, affirming all that he had hoped for, showing him possibilities and the poetry of life. He reconstitutes the Dead Poets' Society and chairs the meetings, persuading Todd to come and, if he cannot speak, then enjoy the listening. He tells a symbolic story of a jigsaw puzzle and a woman finding the last pieces and looking at its mirroring her. He brings a statue which is to be the patron god of the society. In the romantic vein, he quotes Tennyson,
One equal temper of heroic hearts, To seek, to find and not to yield.
He is the first to stand on the desk and see the world from a different viewpoint.
But it is the audition for the play that is his most daring act. "Ever since I can remember, I wanted to try it. I have found what I want to do, what is really inside me. For the first time in my life, I know what I want to do and I'm going to do it." Todd is cautious. But Neil wants to enjoy the idea for a while. He wants Todd to be stirred. He forges a letter from his father to the headmaster and declares that he is ready for the consequences. But he is not.
His father comes to a rehearsal, abuses his son for talking back to him, quotes the sacrifices, refers to the absurd acting business. It is then that Neil seeks Keating's advice, but cannot follow it, pretends that his father has changed his mind and allowed him to act. He refers, as he has before, to being trapped.
The performance will be, in fact, the climax of his life. As Puck, he is exhilarated, acting, speaking the poetry, absorbing the applause. Puck's closing speech is his epitaph:
If we shadows have offended,
Think but this and all is mended...
Gentles, do not reprehend:
If you pardon, we will mend...
And, as I'm an honest Puck,
If we have unearned luck
Now to 'scape the serpent's tongue,
We will make amends ere long;
Else the Puck a liar call:
So, good night unto you all.
Give me your hands if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends.
But his father does not hear or understand. He ridicules the acting and tells Neil that he has "opportunities I never had". He goes to bed, placing his slippers neatly side by side, "It's going to be all right".
Neil's last words are to his weeping mother, "I was good. I was really good". He takes the Puck garland which now looks like a crown of thorns, gazes out the open window on to the snowscape, bows, goes downstairs without the crown, finds the key, opens the desk, takes the gun and shoots himself. The only way he can find out of the trap.
As his mother screams over Neil's body, his father kneels and says for the first time, "My son, my poor son".
The principal characters in Dead Poets' Society are intuitive feelers of one type of another, NF temperament. The villains of the movie are sensate thinkers of one type of another, SJ temperament.
The movie opens with the headmaster listing times, dates and statistics about the history of the school and its graduates (over 75 percent going to Ivy League universities). The teachers educate by demands for essays on time, points being taken off for lateness, or by recitative rote. The headmaster is stern in rebuking the rebels, does not want unorthodox teaching methods and, though moved by Neil's death, immediately states that he will conduct a complete enquiry and complete cooperation is expected.
Mr Perry, the movie's main villain, has absorbed elitist traditions and made them expectations for his son and communicates them in a rigid, demanding manner. He seems to assume that he has no part in the destruction of his son. It is all the fault of the liberal Keating. No compunction.
John Keating is betrayed by his students. The extreme voice is that of Cameron (an STJ) who has copied everything carefully into his book, who wondered after the opening class whether they were going to be examined on it, who has passed through the meetings of the Dead Poets' Society unscathed and who has named Keating: "Let Keating fry. Why ruin our lives? You can't save Keating but you can save yourselves." (Of course, it is he who explains to Mr Nolan about the ripping out of the pages; and he does not stand on his desk at the end.) Cameron is not even aware that he has betrayed Keating.
Dead Poets' Society ends sombrely but with some hope. This exploration will end somewhat mischievously, referring to the four pillars of the school's tradition which are carried on banners into the chapel in the film's opening ritual. The four pillars are: Tradition, Honour, Discipline and Excellence. As they are settling in for the new term, there are some moments of good-hearted schoolboy humour as Neil and the others parody these principles: Travesty, Horror, Decadence and Excrement. Yes?
DANCES WITH WOLVES
THE TRAIL TO THE INNER FRONTIER
Kevin Costner journeys west and encounters the Sioux as John Dunbar, and Dances with Wolves.
Kevin Costner has performed a great service to humanity.
Dances with Wolves was welcomed by audiences the world over. Its justice, its gentleness, its attempt to look into the darker side of 19th century American frontier history and acknowledge racism, colonial attitudes of superiority, prejudiced attempts at subjection of the Indian peoples, if not genocide, reached a wider audience than any book or serious article could. The movie touched its audiences. It had them talking, discussing. It had them put human faces and names on what could be abstractly considered as a problem.
The movie was Costner's work. Not only was he the star, he co-produced the movie with a close friend, Jim Wilson. Another close friend, Michael Blake, wrote the screenplay from his own novel. But Costner also directed the movie, his first, a widescreen epic that runs for three hours, a significant achievement for a man in his mid-30s who had thus far achieved heart-throb and up-and-coming star status.
Costner was rewarded with the knowledge that millions appreciated his movie. He was also rewarded with numerous awards, more popular than critical, but awards nonetheless, Golden Globes and Oscars. Dances with Wolves won seven Oscars including photography, musical score, but, more significantly, Best Adapted Screenplay, Director and Film of 1990.
During the Academy Awards Ceremony, Michael Blake was accompanied by a Sioux Indian who had helped with translations and the use of authentic Lakota language in the film, not merely, as one cynical commentator wrote, to get more TV time while the woman spoke out Blake's acceptance speech in Lakota, but for American and world viewers to have an opportunity to see Native Americans take their stand on the winning platform.
We might ask how the movie communicated its message so well to such large and diverse audiences. How was it received? The movie received its United States' release during the final months of 1990, a period of world tension with the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. It was a period of negotiation as well as military build-up, the United States taking the opportunity to take the high moral ground in world events (with the memories of Vietnam and defeat always in the background). This was not exactly the most propitious moment to release a film critical of the western heritage and of racist aggression by Americans. Yet the movie was a box-office success.
It received world-wide release by the time that the war had begun in mid-January, 1991. Issues of oppression and the wiping out of minorities is topical for countries right around the globe, so it is easy to see why the movie would be popular, even for what could be taken as highly critical attitudes towards the United States. But audiences did not respond with a crusade mentality. Rather they were touched by the humanity of the movie.
Costner was not the first to raise the relationships between Indians and whites in sympathetic movies. Forty years earlier, James Stewart had befriended Jeff Chandler's Cochise in Delmer Daves' breakthrough movie, Broken Arrow. (The Indians, however, were portrayed by white actors.) During the 50s there were quite a number of similar movies and Hollywood was able to break through the alleged stereotyped Cowboys and Indians image.
But it was in the early 70s that there was a spate of Westerns with a renewed appreciation of Indian culture and the victimisation of the Indians by westward moving pioneers and by the military. With the opening up of all questions during the 60s and the growing anti-war feeling of the time, the Indian movies had a social point of reference for comparisons with the war in South-East? Asia.
The significant movies of this period included Little Big Man, Soldier Blue, A Man Called Horse, Jeremiah Johnson, Man in the Wilderness and Tell Them Willie Boy is Here. They were directed by such name directors as Arthur Penn, Ralph Nelson, Sydney Pollock, with such name stars as Dustin Hoffman, Faye Dunaway, Richard Harris (two movies), Robert Redford (two movies) and Candice Bergen. It was at this time that Marlon Brando refused to accept his Oscar award for The Godfather (1972) and sent a Native American woman in his place.
This is the Hollywood movie tradition for Dances with Wolves. Some writers, strongly supporting those films of the 70s and their Vietnam war associations and meanings, stated that Costner had done little more than re-make Broken Arrow on a larger scale. This criticism notes that the love interest was between whites but ignores the casting of Indian actors and the use of Lakota dialogue with English sub-titles. But they deplored the absence of the war references. They declared that this left the worthy message up in the air. But, could it be that the United States of the 90s wants to face its racial heritage and disharmony more forthrightly than before - and to see its human face?
The approach of the 90s is more universal. John Dunbar, Costner's character, writes and sketches in a journal which becomes more and more precious throughout the movie. When he decides to leave with the Indians, leave the Fort behind, he says that the only thing there he needed and wanted was his journal. "It is like a trail of my life."
But, two soldiers, rough, ignorant and illiterate, have taken the journal, look unseeingly at its intimate thoughts and feelings and at Dances with Wolves' declaration of love for Stands with a Fist. The soldiers use pages to wipe their bottoms after shitting in the bushes. Though the journal floats down river, seemingly lost, a young Indian brave whose life Dunbar had saved in the buffalo attack, hands it back to him at the end of the movie. It is a gift of life, the map of the trail of his life. We, the audience, live his journey with him - this 19th century American experience, though bitter needs re-living.
The publicity for Dances with Wolves highlighted the frontier theme of the movie. However, it spoke of Dunbar's discovering the frontier within. He became an apprentice in life to the frontier Indians and grew to discover himself.
We can now examine the sensibilities of the film and the profile of Kevin Costner's character, John Dunbar.
It is important to note how sensate a movie this is. Costner's sensibility has chosen the vast widescreen process to give an epic dimension to his movie but also to give us vivid images. Vivid they are in Dean Semmler's Oscar-winning photography. We admire a wondrous array of skyscapes and the moods of sun, clouds and the heavens, nature in the arid South Dakota mountains and plains comes alive in its detail, culminating in the thunderous buffalo hunt.
But we begin with the Civil War, with close-ups of John Dunbar's bloody and potentially gangrenous leg, his agonising putting on of his boot and walking away to avoid amputation. We follow him into battle and share the disturbing mixture of exhilaration and despair as he rides into the range of enemy fire to be killed. This attention to detail continues throughout the movie, to his meticulous tidying of the fort, to the agonising arrow death and scalping of the trader who brought him to the fort, to life in the Indian village, ceremonies, hunt, the close-ups of flayed buffalo and the vigorous violence of the clashes with the Pawnee. With John Barry's epic score and the differing moods and pace of the editing, the movie is a delight for sensates and an alluring experience for intuitives.
If Dances with Wolves is a sensate movie, it is also a thinking movie that develops into a thinking/feeling movie.
It opens with the experience of the Civil War, the harsh impact on dying and wounded individuals, the decisions for the waging of war. It moves to the frontier - but with a bizarre alert to the audience in the character of the commander whose eccentric behaviour and remarks raise Dunbar's eyebrow and who sees him (prophetically and correctly) as a Knight of the West and then insanely shoots himself. But Dunbar's duty and desire send him to the outpost fort, alone, where he assigns himself tasks and performs his duty with as much dedication as if he were being supervised.
He had listened to reports concerning the 'hostiles’ and was suspicious of them. However, out of his sense of duty, he goes to their village and the trail of his life begins its most significant phase. And the sensibility of the movie tends to move towards more subjective and more personally involved action. The values that Dunbar experiences amongst the Indians become more important than his commission and his orders. And his name is changed by the Indians. He has been initiated into a new life, new manhood by the Indians and he receives a name with meaning, a baptism among the Indians. He is 'Dances with Wolves'. (And no matter how hard we try to look at the military replacements at the fort, no matter how strong our sense of rightness and proper order, we cannot but see them through Dances with Wolves' eyes, through Indian eyes, and the whites are found wanting, not only wanting but disgusting - this is the achievement of the movie.)
A profile in Myers-Briggs' terms for John Dunbar? Most discussions concur on introversion and judging attitudes. There are no problems in seeing him as sensate. But, thinking and feeling? The text and texture of the movie indicate thinking. Perhaps feelers, caught up in his experiences so identify with his journey that they see him as a feeler. That is where he is moving towards, but the screenplay writes him as a thinker. Listening to Kevin Costner's voiceover rendition of the journal confirms this as does listening to the word choice and his expressions. This means that John Dunbar, Dances with Wolves, is an ISTJ on a journey towards wholeness.
John Dunbar seems to be a loner. He is a military man who fights, is wounded, attempts a flamboyant suicide by riding between enemy lines. Instead, he becomes a rallying figure for a Union attack, wins the admiration of the commander and is restored to health without having his leg amputated. He seems to have no relatives, no friends. And he opts for the remotest outpost as his assignment. He wants to see the frontier before it disappears.
Costner directs himself and has chosen to heighten the audience's sense of Dunbar's aloneness. He uses close-ups, sometimes extreme closes (on the wide screen) and lingers on them. We take time to ponder with Dunbar. He finds a skeleton with an arrow in it. He surveys the landscapes. He considers thoughtfully the fort in disrepair and the practical tasks needed. He wonders about the caves he finds and how they were used. The audiences is continually invited to look behind John Dunbar's eyes into his inner energy.
And Dunbar keeps a journal, the trail of his life. The screenplay uses the device of the voiceover reading of the journal so that we are taken into the world of Dunbar's inner thoughts and feelings. He pours his inner energy into the writing, the drawings and enjoys returning to look at his journal. It is his most precious and successful way of communicating until he encounters the Indians and loves Stands with a Fist.
In his personal journey, Dunbar learns to respond more extravertedly and relishes the experience. After sharing the life of the Sioux camp, he returns to the fort and, in voiceover, says that previously he had been alone, able to be alone, but now, with the absence of the Indians, he feels truly alone. Dunbar comes to the frontier alone but learns that he is not alone and draws life and energy from the tribe.
It may be that Dunbar has been so well trained by the army that he is decisive in his conduct. However, decisions seem to come easily for him. From the very beginning of the movie he is in command issuing orders about his leg, deciding to leave the hospital base, wanting to die and doing something about it. When he survives, he decides to travel west and goes immediately. It is the same when he departs from the post presided over by the mad officer.
It is the same in his management of his life at the fort, assigning himself duties and carrying them out with detailed care. This carries through the whole movie: in his relationship with the Sioux, his participation in the buffalo hunt, in his wanting to fight the Pawnee with the Sioux, in his decision to stay with the Indians and, finally, to leave with Stands with a Fist. He has discovered a mission and it is urgent. "I must go and talk with those who would listen."
This attitude is seen clearly when he makes his first, official move towards the Indians. He has already met the Sioux when they tried to steal his horse and confronts them naked (and has fainted, comically, in relief when they are gone). But he finally realises that he has been too cautious, "I have been walking on eggs, waiting. I am through waiting. I have been wrong." He decides that he must go to their camp. He dons his uniform, grasps the American flag and takes the initiative in making contact. This is the significant and decisive step on his journey.
John Dunbar is introverted and decisive. But how does he function best? He is both sensate and a thinker.
Dunbar is a very strongly focussed man. One of the most telling expressions of this is in his love for and marriage to Stands with a Fist, the white woman, rescued as a little girl from a Pawnee massacre of her family, who has grown up with the Sioux, married a brave but is now a widow who is asked to remember her past and her language to bridge the gap between Indian and white. After the ceremony, they retire to their tent. Dunbar is tender with her and expresses his love lyrically. His focus is totally on her, he touches and speaks of the contours of her body, the smallness of her feet, her beauty and her sensual response to him. Here, as throughout the movie, Costner the director takes his audience into the detailed reality of the experiences.
Costner and Dunbar seem to possess a sensate instinct. Some audiences gasp at the physical impact of the blood, the wounded leg and the agony of pulling on the boot over such painful wounds. The photographing and the editing of the buffalo ride once again enhance the physical experience of the hunt (as does the stunt work and the special effects for the wounded animals). The stark and cruel death of Timmons, the wagon driver, wounded by many arrows and then scalped, enhance this response along with the battles with the Pawnee and the final Sioux attack on the military to rescue Dunbar.
Dunbar is a practical and orderly man. He reorganises the fort with thoroughness. He is able to join with the Sioux in the detail of their camp life - and eat the raw buffalo meat that he is entitled to as a warrior hunter. He begins to learn the Indians' language. On his return from their camp, he dances by himself around his fire, Indian style, the wolf watching in the light of the flame and the sparks.
But he also dances with the wolf. A lover of animals, especially Cisco the horse that he rode in his suicide bid, that he was given for his trek West, that no Indian could ride or steal (but is eventually killed by the hostile military), he is fascinated by the wolf who comes to the fort and watches him. The wolf is a sign, that he is being observed at first, but that he is accepted. He reaches out to the wolf, gently feeding him. He looks at his feet and names him White Sox and the wolf becomes companion, mascot, a kind of totem symbol that Dunbar is merging into the frontier and the Indian way of life. Trying to urge White Sox to go back to the fort, he plays and chases the wolf. To the delighted watching Indians, they are dancing. John Dunbar becomes Dances with Wolves, a name which means something to him, names his life and which he accepts with pride. And he writes in his journal "Dances with Wolves loves Stands with a Fist."
John Dunbar makes decisions on objective grounds. He deals with the outer world as a thinker. He decides to save his leg. He decides to die. He decides to go to the frontier: "I am here at my own request". He is comfortable in giving orders - we see this in his dealings with the wagon driver ("the foulest man I have ever met", otherwise "I would be having the time of my life").
At the fort, he automatically acts like a soldier. "This is my post and I will stay." He puts the fort in order. "I have assigned myself clean up duties." And he works in uniform and cap. As the time passes and no relief arrives, he rations his food, buries the extra ordnance: "I will not abandon my post".
He continually asks questions of people, wanting to know about Indian life, wants names and identities, wants to know why Stands with a Fist is not married. As he experiences the Indians, he realises that "nothing I have been told about them is correct. They are not boogeymen". He is fair-minded and looks forward to going to their village.
Later, when the Sioux go to do battle with the Pawnees and he is refused permission, he accepts this, but welcomes the responsibility assigned to him to care for the women and children left in the camp. But he is still prepared to stand his ground when one of the Indians keeps his hat. Since he found it, it meant that Dances with Wolves no longer wanted it. A fair trade is mediated and he accepts this. But he has to learn to give way sensitively. Finally, taken by the soldiers and mistaken for an Indian, he holds his ground. But when he is identified, he answers all questions truthfully.
However, John Dunbar's trail takes him towards wholeness. His journey can be seen, like that of the movie, as thinker moving towards feeler, with the opening up of possibilities never guessed at. The friendly behaviour of the Sioux makes him question the information he has accepted about them. He is touched by the meeting with Stands with a Fist. "She's hurt."
He learns to communicate, trying to mime a buffalo. And then, when he hears the reverberating herd in the night, he is compelled to let the Sioux know.
But his response to the cruel greed of the white hunters who take hides but leave carcasses to rot indicates the way he was changing. "Who would do such a thing? They have no heart, no values. They have no respect for Sioux rights." Having gone "from suspicion to standing - in short, a celebrity", he is still uncertain back in the camp. He does not know where to sleep. "It is hard to know where to be. And they are a people who are not able to predict the future."
Now, appreciating Cisco and White Sox as trusted friends, falling in love and then marrying Stands with a Fist, receiving his new name and dressed as a Sioux, he has gone over to this new way of life. Up till then he has been unable to tell the Sioux the truth about how many whites would come into their land. Now, knowing and appreciating them, he can tell them the truth. It will affect his life - immediately.
With the coming of the soldiers, he makes his decision against what he stood for. Except for his journal, "there is nothing for me at the fort". Captured, he is tortured and interrogated as an Indian, then as a traitor who went over to them. "I am Dances with Wolves". They kill his two trusted animal friends so when the Sioux attack the military train, he fights with them. "Killing the soldiers was a good thing. I was glad to do it."
Dunbar decides to leave the tribe with his wife to save the Sioux from military vengeance because of him. The futility of his gestures is read in the final wintry images of the movie and the words that tell us that thirteen years later, the last of the Indians capitulated and the frontier was finished.
But there are images of hope. As Dunbar goes, the young man gives him his journal, fellow warrior Wind in His Hair waves his grief and friendship from the cliff top and the holy man, the Shaman, who befriended him, taught him and transformed him embraces him in farewell. Ten Bears says, "The man the soldiers are looking for no longer exists. There is only a Sioux called Dances with Wolves." We do not know what happens to Dances with Wolves. He has moved towards wholeness in his life. And as he journeys away, the wolf reappears and howls.
In his creative directing, producing and acting in Dances with Wolves Kevin Costner has been something of a contemporary shaman. He has sensed the sacred in the tragic experience of the Sioux and the need for atonement, at-one-ment, in the conquering Americans. He has told a story in moving images that can transform us.
STANLEY AND IRIS
LOVE AND PAIN:
TRANSFORMATIONS THROUGH RELATIONSHIPS
Cliche or profoundest expression of one person to another, "I love you" is an assertion, an invitation, a gift, a challenge. In exploring personality type, loving relationships can be the most revealing. Two interesting and entertaining examples of unlikely love are the relationship between Nora and Max in White Palace and the relationship between Stanley and Iris.
When James Spader as Max, a 27 year old executive, tenderly offers to Nora (Susan Sarandon), the 43 year old waitress at the burger restaurant (White Palace), with whom he is having an intense affair, the beautifully wrapped gift box and, delightedly, she opens it to find a dust buster, we are sure that Max is an ISTJ. And we have suspected that Nora is an ENFP.
The movie is Luis Mandoki's White Palace, advertised as a steamy love story between a younger man and an older woman (which it sometimes is, steamy that is). But it is much more than that. The screenplay by Ted Tally (who adapted The Silence of the Lambs) and Alvin Sargent (writer of relationship movies like Love and Pain and the Whole Damned Thing and Kramer versus Kramer) creates rounded characters, brought to life on screen with strength and insight. The situation might be something of a movie cliche but the characters are not. Some of the incidents might be, even the humorous ending, but the movie as a whole is not a cliche.
Max has been a schoolteacher but is now handling big accounts. His wife has been dead two years, killed in a car crash at the age of 25. His school friends are trying to fix him up with dates. He prefers his loneliness, touched with self-pity, and a celibate lifestyle in his immaculate 1200 dollars a month apartment.
Nora, on the other hand, has acquired a tough veneer at the White Palace. She has survived a loveless marriage and the death of her son (she tells Max, leukemia) and lives according to the plaque on her door "DDSS - Different Day, Same Shit".
Their first encounter is something of a slanging match at the White Palace, he demanding (on principle) a refund for six burgers - only 44 of the 50 ordered were supplied. By chance they encounter one another later that evening at a bar, she alone having a drink, he slightly drunk after a buck's party where one of the slides on show was a picture of his dead wife. It is antagonism at second sight, she laughing out loud at his story of a dead wife killed in a crash (she doesn't believe it but it's true), he momentarily touched by her story of her son dead from a disease (he believes it but it isn't true). This odd coincidental meeting leads to an affair.
Max dramatises an ISTJ. He is a loner, this reinforced after his wife's death. Nora's sister, Judy, a psychic who interprets his palm and his life for him, asks him, "what is going on behind those eyes?" He prefers limited company and, once in love with Nora, she is enough. After their final conflict moment is reached, he sits on a sofa, his mind elsewhere but his attention focussed on a dust buster tacked onto his hostess' wall, one similar to his inept gift to Nora. He can't stay at the party. He can't stay in his job, in his apartment, in the city. He determines to follow Nora who has left for New York.
The screenplay makes a great deal of Max's neatness and orderliness. He is in the league of Rob Lowe's Danny Martin in About Last Night... and Tom Hanks' Turner (a complete contrast to the screen's biggest slobbering dog, Hooch) in Turner and Hooch, both ultra-meticulous. His apartment is spotless, almost glacially so. His wardrobe has everything hanging, shirt rack, suit rack... And he dresses tastefully. He makes sure the seat belts are done up by passengers in his spotless car - with the opera cassettes already cued for use.
That first night with Nora, he dreams that he is making love with his wife. But it is Nora and he is frantically caught up in his own and her passion. This does not prevent him from emptying her ashtray and straightening up in her house before he leaves in the morning. The aforementioned vacuum cleaner is the clincher for establishing his type. Later, when he accompanies Nora to the supermarket, he follows his written list, detailed in its naming of herbs and cheeses required for the dinner he is about to cook and serve so tastefully.
Max makes objective decisions. It seems most normal to him to return to the White Palace to demand his refund on the burgers - though his friend Neil suggests he can use the money to pay his therapist. Max retorts that he acted on principle. His life seems to be governed by principles. He certainly uses principled vocabulary: he does say things are 'right', but he tends to state they are 'correct'.
He seems a genial ISTJ but is in danger of closing in on himself and avoiding or refusing challenges to draw him towards his more whole self.
The contrast with Nora is obvious. She is outgoing, vivacious, often loud, despite her battering experiences from life and her low self-esteem. She thrives on her work and simply in being with staff and customers. She doesn't go straight home after work. She goes to bars for drinks and for whatever might happen.
Nora likes people. It is she who does the approaching. But she is not focussed like Max. Nor is she tidy. We first see her house, the dirt and the clutter through Max's fastidious gaze. She is sloppy and doesn't notice or doesn't care or both. She has picked up Max for the night. Who knows who tomorrow night? She is genuinely surprised when he comes back. She is an ENFP who has not been affirmed and who has been forced to settle down.
It has been noted that ISTJ men and ENFP women are often attracted to each other. If they are much the same age and young adults, he may be drawn to the vivacious woman, her vitality and zest. She may be drawn to the strong, silent type. In mid-life, if there have been tensions in the marriage, or if one or other partner, especially the ISTJ man, has not developed their opposite, a gulf begins to appear. She is eager to be out there again. He, satisfied with his quietly ordered and clear-cut way of life, cannot fathom what she is up to, cannot bring himself to be interested in her new worlds. They are exact opposites.
But this is not the case for Max and Nora. He is still young and has opportunities to develop. She is in mid-life crisis time, but the crisis has struck her early.
While Nora takes the initiative in the seduction, it is Max who experiences the greatest changes - at first. His decision to visit her again is more subjective and open to more possibilities than he could suspect. He uses his logical reason for visiting: to mend the letterbox he crashed into. But he is almost immediately overwhelmed. Then, as the relationship develops, he begins to wear more leisurely clothes, is late for work, even clumsily knocks a cup of coffee all over an executive during a meeting. While he used to ignore his mother's overwrought messages on his answering machine, he now ignores his friends and stays away from his apartment.
If leopards cannot change their spots, then sensates cannot lose their orderly sensibility - he really does want Nora to clean up the house. But he underestimates her. In fact, she has begun to clean; but it had never occurred to him that she would. He apologises for the gift of the dust buster which, when she opens it aghast, seems to him a perfectly normal gift. (By packaging it with ribbons, he has rendered it romantic in his own eyes.)
Max is not a man of intuitions. When Judy, the psychic, reads his life for him, she asks whether he knows anything of 'precognition'. He replies, seriously, "I've never experienced it". But when Judy asks during a meal where he and Nora met, it is Max who makes up a story, near enough to what actually happened, but taking the responsibility. But possibilities out there are still very difficult for him. He meets a friend in the supermarket and lies to Nora about remembering her name. But she is Rachel, his best friend Neil's wife. He tells Nora that he is helping his mother with her accounts when he is, in fact, at Neil and Rachel's wedding. He doesn't lie well.
Nora is changed by her love for Max. Wildly and sensually exciting for a night, the affair goes on. She has to, and wants to, focus on the relationship, on him. And while she has lied about her son: he did not die of leukemia but drowned, full of alcohol and drugs at fourteen, which she has interpreted as his getting back at his failure parents, she does not want lies from Max. She wants the precise truth.
And, a sign of the change, is that she does clean up the house. The intuitive, interested in everyone, everything, settles down and becomes attentive.
He absorbs something of her profile, she something of his.
The crisis of difference in age, class, work and interests comes at a Thanksgiving Dinner at Neil and Rachel's. She looks the part. He is ready for anything that might happen.
Before the meal, and after some drinks, she voices her contempt for the wealthy but is told off, very effectively, by a young woman guest. Nora is uneasy, has several more drinks and, by the time the dinner talk is under way, she loudly states her working class point of view and then leaves. Max goes with her.
At this point, she is strong enough to start a new life. Max has helped her appreciate herself, feel worthwhile and beautiful. She leaves town, asking Max not to follow her and to find a wife from his own background. In the short span of the affair, the drama of the movie has her growing towards her opposite profile. She could now have a future of her own, on her own.
Her leaving jolts Max. His friends try to help, continuing to fix him up with dates. But the experience with Nora has changed him, even at 27. He follows her to Judy's apartment in New York where he finds her in a job, waitressing in a `better' class of restaurant. In his declaration of love to her with the restaurant clientele looking on (shades of The Graduate and many romances), he opens up to a world of possibilities and feeling, to the world of a relationship that society would be wary of. He sells up home. He leaves family and friends. He decides to go back to school-teaching which he likes.
Will the relationship between Max and Nora last?
Whether it does or not, White Palace offers two characters who are easily identifiable as ISTJ and ENFP. By means of the gender differences, age differences, professional differences, religious differences (he is Jewish, she was Catholic but going to Confession got to her), they interact and draw the complementary qualities from each other. There is some basis for the relationship to last. We hope so.
STANLEY AND IRIS
They both work at a bakery, he in the canteen as a cook, she on the assembly line for cakes. It seems highly likely/unlikely that they will fall in love: likely because this, after all, is a movie; unlikely, because they come from different worlds and their personality types are so different. He is Stanley Cox, played, even at times somewhat underplayed, in a pleasingly naturalistic style by Robert de Niro. She is Iris King, played, even at times somewhat underplayed, in a pleasingly naturalistic style by Jane Fonda.
The movie is Stanley and Iris, written by the veteran husband and wife team of Harriet Frank and Irving Ravetch Jr whose credits include Hud, Hombre, Norma Rae, Backroads, Murphy's Romance. Stanley and Iris is the last movie of director Martin Ritt, once a victim of the Hollywood blacklist (and director of the 1977 blacklist expose movie starring Woody Allen, The Front) who also directed the previously named movies written by Frank and Ravetch. The supporting cast is led by Swoosie Kurtz as Fonda's sister, Martha Plimpton as her daughter and Feodor Chaliapin as de Niro's father.
The star power of Fonda and de Niro did little for the movie at the box-office or at the video store. Perhaps it was too ordinary. Perhaps it was too nice. But it is a humane movie - the kind of movie that people say they don't make any more and that they ought to; but then those who criticise don't go and see it.
However, it dramatises well the psychological profiles of its central characters and their interactions. We see Iris as an ESTJ and Stanley as an ISFP. According to statistics (though life is not necessarily lived according to statistics), the ESTJ profile is more likely to be found in men and the ISFP in women. So there is something of a role reversal from expected types in the relationship between Stanley and Iris. This is all the more strikingly and valuably portrayed through the talents of Jane Fonda and Robert de Niro and by the sensitivity of the writing.
The first encounter between Stanley and Iris helps us to appreciate their profiles. After getting off a bus, Iris has her bag snatched and chases the thief. She is feisty and fights, 'Give me my purse, goddammit, you little bastard'. Later she wishes she had 'given him a knee where he lives'. Stanley has seen this, chases the thief, but stops running to help Iris get up. She punches him. Iris is preoccupied with the loss of her pay check, the whole week's wages. She tells Stanley to go after him. While Stanley protests that the thief is probably in the next state by this, he is concerned about her, 'Are you all right? Are you OK?'. He keeps on asking her this. She is still too preoccupied with the loss of her keys, her wallet, her credit cards, her rosary, her kids' picture...
As they begin to talk more personally, Stanley reveals to her that he sees her at the bakery. She has not seen him. He tells her that he works in the canteen, behind the mashed potatoes, `Nobody ever looks at a cook'. When they part, Iris wants to do the right thing and offers him some money. He refuses, but states in his caring way, `Stay out of harm's way, Mrs King'. Iris is straightforward and up front. Stanley becomes involved because he cares for Iris.
While we get to know each of them well as they meet each other at work, at a shoe shop, at the laundromat, at the bus stop, at the canteen, we learn a great deal about them in their family relationships. Iris is a widow of eight months who looked after her dying husband, is bringing up two children (one a pregnant teenage daughter) but who is also sharing her house with her out of work sister and brother in law (Sharon and Joe). Stanley's only relation is his elderly father (Stanley was born when his father was fifty), a retired travelling salesman who is forced by Stanley's precarious holding on to jobs and small wage to go into a nursing home.
Iris is very direct in her dealings with her family. After an initial clash and angry words exchanged, Iris advises her sister, "We're all in the same boat. Don't rock it." To Joe, saying that he married Sharon because she was cute, "None of us stay cute". But she is able to look back lovingly at her care for her husband, 'sleeping on the floor by his bed, washing him, cleaning up his mess after him, holding him up in the toilet'. While she misses him, having a man in the house, she accepts this as her lot.
This mix of directness and difficulty in expressing tenderness is aimed at her daughter, Kelly, especially in the hospital: "The doctor says you're pregnant. This is all news to you? You had to let me show up here and get slapped in the face with it. This was to get back at me." The rest of the encounter involves questions about the baby's father and a precipitate slap on the face for her daughter. At home, later, Iris speaks plainly about responsibility, about the need for a plan to raise the baby. "It's not a jolt of semen, it's a human being." She is unvarnished in her dealings with Kelly, doubting whether she will be able to manage since she still sleeps with her teddy bear. But "a girl's best friend is her mother - at least on greeting cards".
Stanley is different. Quiet, he is able simply to be with people, be there silently, be there speaking with tenderness. We observe this as he strolls with his father, appreciating the beauty of the park, as he sadly takes his father to an interview with the director of the old people's home, promising his father to move him to a new place if he gets a good job, advising his father to play cards, not to sleep too much, assuring him that if he doesn't like the food to tell him and he'll do something about it, that he will visit every Sunday. There is a delicate sequence where the two of them sit on a park bench and Stanley peels an apple, cuts it in half and they eat, "Sweet, isn't it?"
Stanley visits his father with a bunch of flowers, only to discover that his father had died. We watch him silently grieve with his father's few possessions.
However, as Stanley and Iris get to know each other and talk, they confirm what we might suspect about their profiles. Dramatically, the important issue is that Stanley is illiterate, has moved around so much in school days and with his jobs that he lost the incentive to learn. We share his defensiveness at the shoemaker's and at the canteen when he is caught out not being able to read his docket for his shoes or give Iris the correct bottle of tablets. Iris realises what is wrong and tries to defend him by explaining what is wrong. He loses his canteen job. He tries many odd jobs including cleaning public toilets. Finally, he asks Iris to teach him to read.
In their interactions Iris is easy to read, up front ESTJ. "I like bright lights and a lot of people." She cooks - but out of a box or a can, whatever's fast. "I ask a lot of questions. I do a lot of talking. I want to know about a guy." And she expresses her wishes: "Why do they call it a good cry? When you've finished, what's missing is still missing... I like to garden and cook. I like making love, three times a week like clockwork. Sunday mornings, locked doors and eating whatever is in the refrigerator. I don't want anyone else." And her dream: "I'd love to go to Boston for a day and stay in a hotel and have room service, coffee at $2.50 in a little silver pot, the bed turned down and a chocolate on the pillow."
Stanley, on the other hand, is reticent. He admits that he lives with his father, has no wife. When Iris asks if that is the whole story, he protects himself, "I think that's about as much as I'm going to talk about." He admits then to going to the movies alone - with a bag of popcorn. He doesn't mix much. "I think I'm out of small talk".
But Stanley is caring. He reassures Iris that she doesn't have to be scared of him, expresses concern for her husband's death and how long her day is. But, listening to her story about Boston, he allows himself to be drawn out. He tells a story that he once went to the Grand Canyon. He walked all the way down to the bottom, stayed six days and six nights, slept in a bedroll and didn't see anybody or speak to anybody - the best time I ever had. (Iris interjects that six days like this would have driven her crazy.) Stanley continues that there you don't have to fight for anything, explain anything, dodge anything. You can feed the white tail deer and watch the sun go down. (Later he will take Richard, Iris's young son to the park and explain the names of trees - Latin names - to him; he knows them because he once went to a Japanese nursery, they liked him and he liked them and he sat on a manure sack and talked for hours.)
The screenplay highlights the introverted Stanley, his inner feeling, his outer sensate, his taking life as it comes: ISFP.
His tenderness often emerges, not only in his grief for his father, but in sharing with Richard their sense of loss at the fathers' deaths.
But Stanley has another secret. He invents things, `contraptions'. In the garage in which he lives, he has set up a workshop. He makes things painstakingly - in the early hours of the morning. It is these inventions, his learning to read and Iris's forceful (and loving) support that transform his life: moving into industry, writing to Iris, loving her.
The interaction between Stanley and Iris as he learns to read is true to type. Iris goes for it, makes demands on his time and attention, voices her anger and dismay when he gets lost, but refuses to give up: "I hate to give up". Her lessons are clear, plain and orderly, using charts of letters and symbols for the letters. This kind of learning suits Stanley except that he needs to work at his own pace: "It came too hard. I'm not a kid any more." It has taken extraordinary courage and decisiveness for him to ask to learn to read. He makes an impassioned statement about what an illiterate man suffers "... ask yourself, have I got a name if I can't write it? am I a human being if I can't read it?" When he finally enrols and Iris writes down his answers to the questionnaire, he is diffident, expressing his hope... "that I don't make a damned fool of myself".
Stanley emerges from his encounter with Iris and with himself stronger and more assertive. Iris emerges from her encounter with Stanley and herself as more tender and understanding - and more tentative. Each is drawn towards the wholeness of their opposite.
And Stanley gives Iris the dream outing to the hotel in Boston.
THELMA AND LOUISE
THEY SAID, `GET A LIFE'... AND THEY DID.
Were the commercials right? At the beginning of the 1990s, what kind of life can Thelma and Louise get? And what about the City Slickers? See them driving through a vanishing America.
On a rather quiet Saturday afternoon (football excepted), shoppers were ambling about a large mall in Sydney's western suburbs. Some, in town, visiting from the country were sitting quietly in a coffee shop, relaxing and chatting, including a mother, her daughter and her daughter's two sons. Suddenly and within minutes the two women were dead along with seven others and many wounded - including the reclusive man in his 30s who ran amok with a knife and an automatic repeating rifle. The nation responded with grief and shock - and the inevitable speeches about gun-control. It was that very morning that the first advertisements were run in the daily newspapers for the forthcoming movie, Thelma and Louise (and word of mouth had got around that the movie had a dramatic killing in it): "They said, 'Get a life'... and they did." Bad timing. And an illustration of the gross commercialising of the dangerous realities of violence in our society?
The advertising punchline and its implications are reprehensible. They reinforce the alarm about outbreaks of mindless and repressed violence. But do they do Thelma and Louise justice? No. But the movie certainly raises questions about society and the structures and attitudes that perpetuate oppression which breaks out violently. In this particular case, the questions concern the relationship between men and women, the assumed and presumed domination of men, contemporary sexual politics.
Thelma and Louise was one of the hit movies of the 1991 American summer. Another hit was the comedy City Slickers. In the course of reviewing, I saw both movies within two days of each other. The comparisons and contrasts were evident. And each was saying something about how and where men and women stand at the end of the 20th century - at least in prosperous first world countries.
The insights of Carl Jung and of Isabel Myers and the Myers Briggs Type Indicator can offer ways of examining these symbolic characters: Thelma and Louise and Mitch, Phil and Ed (the city slickers) and how men and women are changing (or not).
When the books come to be written about the movies of the 90s and the dramatising of trends, Thelma and Louise will probably feature with some prominence, especially in chapters on women's issues, whereas City Slickers will probably not be high-noted. It will be just one of the popular comedies of 1991 - but could receive some consideration for its treatment of men's issues.
The credentials of Thelma and Louise have cinema buff respectability. The screenplay is by Callie Khouri, her first filmed work. Direction is by Ridley Scott, an English director of commercials whose movie credits (including The Duellists, Blade Runner, Black Rain) would not suggest a sensitivity to women's issues until we remember the vigorous Sigourney Weaver surviving the menace of Alien and Mimi Rogers as the murder witness under threat and Lorraine Bracco as detective Tom Berenger's wife in Someone to Watch over Me. His movies are always praised as well for looking good and stylish.
Thelma, a dominated housewife, is played by Geena Davis (The Fly, The Accidental Tourist, Hero, Angie) with great verve. Louise, a waitress akin to her character in White Palace, is played by Susan Sarandon (Joe, Atlantic City, Bull Durham, Lorenzo's Oil, Little Women), one of Hollywood's very talented character actresses. Harvey Keitel, as one of the few sympathetic males in the movie, leads the supporting cast. It is a genre movie that appealed to many mainstream audiences.
City Slickers was quite well received critically, an engaging comedy with a star performance by Billy Crystal, ably supported by Daniel Stern as Phil and Bruno Kirby as Ed. There is a very likeable performance by Jack Palance as a gnarled cowboy ('a leather bag with eyes' who can strike a match on his cheek). Palance was menacing decades ago in Shane, but here his threats turn into a more genial wisdom. The screenplay was written by the team of Babaloo Mandel and Lowell Ganz who were responsible for the good humour of Ron Howard's movies, Night Shift, Splash, Parenthood. It is a mainstream holiday movie.
It is worth noting first what the two movies have in common: women and men driving through a vanishing America to find themselves. Then, second, we will see what the women find and what the men find - and where their driving has led them.
Most reviewers and audiences saw Thelma and Louise as looking at two modern women from a women's point of view. This was too strong for some commentators, both male and female. Janet Maslin, of the 'New York Times', did a spirited defence of the movie against a number of strong critiques, 'Lay Off Thelma and Louise'. But a female British reviewer saw the movie as filled with phallic symbols and dismissed it as just another road movie in which women were aping men. An Australian critic, Neil Jillett, sourly noted that the movie 'seemed more concerned to revive stale genres by putting them in drag and cynically to exploit women's understandable anger at the way men treat them'. He summed up the movie as a 'cinematic transvestite', 'a Bonnie and Bonnie caper that takes the line that women find emotional fulfilment by behaving like gross men'. One might ask whether there is any point behind his smart writing? (The same critic did not like City Slickers either, mocking the 'prolonged bouts of male navel-gazing'.)
Women commenting on the movie acknowledge the road and robber genres and that generally these movies are called 'buddy' movies. While Thelma and Louise do some things that men do in these movies, they are not copying men. The basis for the chase and the adventures is, in fact, a man's attempted rape of a woman and the other woman, with her own memories of having been raped, shooting him. They are not buddies. So, this is not a 'buddy' movie but, rather, a 'sisters' movie with women behaving like women. Of course, City Slickers is a buddy movie - and the men behave like men and not like 'sisters'. But the two movies heighten our awareness of the parallels and the differences between men and women. They make us realise that the genre has been determined by the behaviour of men and this is what audiences expect from a road movie, variations on easy riders.
Both Thelma and Louise and City Slickers are movies concerned with middle age. The protagonists are in their 30s, their late 30s. They find themselves in marriages or relationships that have reached crisis point for one or both of the partners. The prospect of 'more of the same' is alarming and depressing. They all have a great yen for 'time off' (even if it is only a weekend for the women and two weeks for the men). They want some personal freedom, time and space to find something of their real selves. They discover that their potential for crisis is greater than they realised. If the advertising punchline that is the title of this chapter had referred to their getting a new life, in the sense of a new lease of life, then it would have been spot on.
Both movies are located in the west, nineteenth century frontier territory, where men and women pioneered a new way of American life in the wild. The west made its demands on the pioneers, travelling through rugged, if beautiful, terrain: life on the move. They travelled beyond the comforts of civilisation and sometimes beyond the reaches of the law. It was a harsh way of life which made the pioneers into the Americans of the twentieth century. As Thelma and Louise drive out of Arkansas into Oklahoma and into New Mexico, fleeing like desperate men and women before them into Mexico, they relive, in a 1966 Thunderbird convertible, the legends of the almost vanished West. As Mitch and his buddies join an old-fashioned cattle drive, get over their saddle-soreness and are guided by one of the (literally) dying breed of cowboys through Colorado, they relive the heroism of the cattlemen.
Both trips begin with a spirit of light heartedness, the women getting away from their men, from the humdrum of every day and wanting to let their hair down, the men getting away from their women and the humdrum of every day and wanting to let their hair down.
For the women, the attempted rape of Thelma and Louise's shooting of the would-be rapist in desperate rage turn the vacation into a flight from the law. Yet, despite the deadly seriousness of their situation, there is a great deal of good-natured, sometimes raucous, humour. And there are some funny and some bitter caricatures of the men. While this is generally presented realistically, the audience is also made to share a sense of the ridiculous, almost unreal, to appreciate what is happening to Thelma and Louise and why.
For the men, the hardships of the drive, their gallantry towards the only woman on the trek (named Bonnie!), the death of Curley their boss and their taking on the responsibility to get the cattle through to the ranch, underlie the entertaining, comic routines. This is all realistic, but the comedy modifies the sense of realism with some enjoyable farce.
One of the striking features of Thelma and Louise is the portrayal of men in the movie. There is a Hagar the Horrible cartoon panel, in Dik Browne's penetrating psychological style, in which Helga and her daughter Honi are having a rather intuitive conversation. Honi speculates, 'Why did the gods make men so stupid?' Helga agrees, 'There must be a reason.' Then it hits Honi, 'Of course, it does make women look good.' Helga, 'There you are.' It's the same joke when Helga says to Hagar, 'Half the people in this world are selfish, dirty and ignorant.' Hagar falls into the trap and asks, 'What's the other half?' Helga, 'Women'. The attitude towards men in Thelma and Louise is much the same. While some of the men are presented as caricatures, there is enough realism in the caricature to make the point.
Daryl, Thelma's salesman husband, is a bully, vain (his numberplate is The 1 and he wears a number 1 chain around his neck), has a habit of preening himself (his wavy hair, his lapels) before he answers questions and lacks any understanding of his wife whom he orders around, shouting, critical of every detail and without any self-conscious qualm. It has been suggested that with his dress style and manner, his cultivated macho football-watching image, that he may well have been, unawares, gay.
Harlan, the married cowboy out for a good time and who picks up Thelma and dances with her, expects easy sex to be the culmination of the evening. When she refuses, he mouthes words of gentleness. But his callous actions belie his words and he then turns verbally and physically brutal and tries to rape her. Still trying to tough it out, unapologetic, he is shot by Louise.
The police are tough and relentless men doing their job, ready to shoot down the two women as if they were gangsters in a showdown. J.D., the young stud on the highway, is a sweet-talk sex-hungry con-man who robs Thelma - she, at least, gets some revenge by using his alleged spiel for holding up gas stations to rob a store. The highway patrol cop, all dark glasses, swagger and 'get out of the car, ma'am', falls to jelly and whimperingly begs when they pull a gun on him and load him into the trunk of his car. And, finally, there is the gross truck driver whom they keep overtaking and who propositions them with obscene gestures. He has no conception of how crass he is - and by this stage of the movie, even the most chauvinist male in the audience should be ready to cheer as the women fire at his tanker and it goes up in a mighty and fiery explosion (a momentary apocalypse now).
Jim, Louise's boyfriend, a musician, is presented, on the other hand, as a decent man who tries to help by bringing money to the women and who proposes and offers an engagement ring to Louise, loving without being seductive. Harvey Keitel is the decent police officer who tries to reason with the women and protect them from the heavy arm of the law.
And what of the women in City Slickers? They seem to be fairly disposable characters rather than caricatures. Mitch's wife is the best drawn, sensing the need in her husband to get away to find some happiness again. Phil's wife, on the other hand, is a dragon who lords it over her husband, using her father and his giving Phil a supermarket supervision job as a controlling weapon. Ed is a womaniser, but his latest girlfriend, who models women's underwear, is presented as young and sensible. There is a cameo by the young check-out girl who announces publicly at Mitch's 39th birthday party that Phil has made her pregnant. She is naive (and mistaken).
The only other woman, beside the ranch owner's equally tough wife, is Bonnie, played by Helen Slater, who goes on the cattle drive, taking her place with the men - but also the victim of the two young hands' lecherous advances. When the going gets tough, she is persuaded to go back to the ranch and not to participate in getting the cattle through.
So, what the two movies have in common is the journey of self-discovery through the American west, the women together (and the men taking a lesser place), the men together (the women taking a lesser place). Each group expected to return to their normal lives - but the way the journeys turn out and the ultimate destinations are where the movies differ, and significantly.
We can consider the men first because it is their kind of journey that has shaped the genre. In the pre-credits' sequence of City Slickers, the three amigos are in Pamplona on the bull chase day. They are running in the crowded plazas, in the middle of macho country - but their mishaps with the snorting, charging bulls tell us that the traditional male heroics are being set up for spoof, if not for critique.
Back in New York, they return to the supermarket, the sports goods' store, the radio station. Mitch turns 39 with a 5.15 am phone call from his mother - the exact time of his birth. The rest of the day is downhill (as are all his birthdays): the realisation that as salesman for commercials all he is doing is selling air; the boss wanting to vet all his buys; giving a talk to his son's class about what he does. He follows a burley, blunt-speaking rigger who can lift crashed loads off crushed passers-by and save them. His son announces that his father is a submarine commander. Mitch then gives the kids a lugubrious spiel about selling air, urging them to find out what they can do in life. It is clear that the macho vacation activities with his friends has had little effect on Mitch.
Ed, who is the entrepreneur of these vacations, and Phil offer Mitch a gift of the two weeks' cattle drive. They go to Colorado - and their lives are changed.
Both Ed and Phil seem to be ESTP, in Myers Briggs terms. They are the 'promoters', the `rouseabouts'. They are definitely the outdoor types, even though they are not particularly good at it. They are not particularly decisive, more, reactors. They are definite sensates, extraverted sensates who enjoy getting involved in everything they take on, finding the experiences exhilarating. And they are thinkers in the male tradition - though this is the area in which they are challenged. But, deeply ingrained are the male supremacist attitudes (which includes gallantly going to the rescue of maidens in distress). Mitch, on the other hand, seems to be an ESFP (the 'clown', the 'entertainer', the 'reveller'). He is much more of a feeling function man, although caught up in the stereotyped thinking function male world.
They expect the tough outdoors cattle drive to solve all their problems, to help them re-discover their manhood. And they do. While they eventually do all the riding, roping, river-fording (with explicit references to Howard Hawks' classic Red River) and overcoming the villains, they find that they did not have to prove this to themselves. The drive didn't do them any harm. In fact, it was good for them. But, it was their more subjective world, their more intuitive world, that opened up.
While they get the cattle through, they discover that the herd is due for the slaughter-yards, then supermarket plastic wraps.
But each man gets a better sense of himself. Ed (in some prolonged bouts of navel gazing - which he certainly needed) is able to reminisce about his best day and his worst day, the day his womanising father walked out on the family, the father that he has been trying to match ever since. Ed realises that he need not be frightened of commitment, that he can marry his young girlfriend and that he need not dread having children. He need not see all women as bimbos. He is on the way to breaking through his neo-Hemingway image.
Phil has been bullied, has sought a moment's consolation in adultery. He is not just hen-pecked, he is hen-plucked. Unfortunately, the resolution of his trek is minimally developed. In theory, it makes sense that he find a more mature relationship with Bonnie. But the screenplay has not indicated that they have attracted each other, or really been very much aware of each other. The point is that he is not a kid anymore in his relationships.
But, of course, the focus of change is Billy Crystal's Mitch. He is not really the macho man he is expected or expects himself to be. Kidding around, he gets on the wrong side of Jack Palance's Curly, but asserts himself by playing his mouth organ. Curly approaches him grimly - and then bursts into unmelodious song to his music. He has to help Curly deliver a calf in an attractively sentimental sequence that develops his sense of the wonder of life. And he learns some wisdom from Curly, about finding the one important thing in life, against which nothing else matters. So, it is Mitch who takes on the responsibility of finishing the drive, who goes into the stormy river to rescue his calf, who listens to his friends and enables them to break through in self-understanding.
In their humorous way, the three friends go on the traditional quest with its testing, its endurance, the achievement of finding and acknowledging the real self.
But where does their trek lead them? Back home. To where they came from. Back to the family, to loving wife and children, to a future that is built on relationships and loving respect. In some senses, this might be called a conservative solution. As regards family, yes; as regards the patriarchal presuppositions of the past, no, or, at least, not quite. Which is something positive for men at the beginning of the 90s, some resolving of the thinking-feeling confrontation.
Thelma and Louise's journey is symbolic of women's journey in the twentieth century, a mixture of self-assertion and finding themselves put down and dominated.
Consider the ending first: Thelma and Louise choose to die.
Is this to be seen as an exhilarating choice, refusing to be controlled by men, men's law and men's violence, the ultimate romantic gesture? Or is it the ultimate in nihilistic resolution, women driven by American society to their only way out, death, even if it is in a spectacular, stunt-work, freeze-frame? Of course, we can go back to examples from the genre and realise that the American road movie often ends with the death of the heroes, the victims of society, hard done by, outlawed, hounded by the law, with no other place to go. The easy riders got theirs. Bonnie and Clyde chose to be robbers and gangsters and, cinematically, were sprayed to death with bullets. Like Thelma and Louise, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, escaped by leaping over a cliff but lived to go out in their particular blaze of glory, all guns blazing. No problem for the men to go like this, not much problem for Bonnie to go with Clyde. But Thelma and Louise? And in 1991? Not so easy to deal with.
But the end has to be judged in the light of the journey. And here is where Thelma and Louise is important in what it has to say about women in contemporary society.
Thelma and Louise are good friends. Louise takes the initiative in organising a weekend vacation where they can get away from everyone, especially their men, and relax and fish. It is easy enough for Louise. She works in a diner and is in an on and off relationship with Jim. Thelma finds it harder. She has to ask her husband's permission. She can't. But she musters up the moral strength to write him a note and leave a meal for him to heat in the microwave. And off they go, taking to the road. The friends in City Slickers enjoy men's talk. Thelma and Louise enjoy women's talk. When they stop, against Louise's timetable, to have a meal and a drink, Thelma, out of the clutches and away from the demands of Daryl, decides to have a good time, enjoy some drinks and some dancing. She responds to Harlan who, to Louise and to the audience, is obviously looking for a pick-up. When he accosts Thelma in the car park and starts to rape her, Louise challenges him with Thelma's gun. He dares them. Louise shoots him dead.
And here the difference between men in road movies and women in road movies begins to be seen dramatically. Men rob banks or deal in drugs. They shoot victims and innocent bystanders and then flee. And the law goes after them. As we get to know them we might discover some mitigating circumstances. But these women have shot an aggressor, an experience that no male in the audience can fully empathise with or be able to express concern about adequately. Women, who know from the inside their treatment as sex objects and the growing menace of and their liability to sexual assault, can express it - which is what the writer and the actresses have done here. And the law goes after them for their violence. They cannot believe that the agents of the law will believe their story. Nor can they prove it. They feel that they are forced to run from the law. Male-dominated society has forced them to be outlaws. And they cannot trust, even the most sympathetic man.
Shrewdly, Callie Khouri does not reveal until the end that Louise has been, some time ago, raped in Texas. We might guess it. But the shooting of Harvey stands by itself and is to be judged by itself. Louise's story and her feelings and motives will reinforce the judgement on her actions. So their journey to find themselves turns into a desperate chase. It turns into an allegory of women's journey in society with the various men, J.D., the police, the highway patrolman, the truckie, exploiting them.
But they turn the tables on the men. As they go through the west of the old frontiers, heading for the safety of the Mexican border, they learn about themselves and find themselves.
In Myers Briggs terms, Thelma seems to be an ENFP, the 'celebrator', the 'enthusiast'. The comic contrast of her disorganised packing (and taking everything, just in case, including the gun) with the neatness and order of Louise illustrates that she is not particularly sensate. And, once she is on her way and can let her hair down and be her real self, she can be the extravert she cannot be at home. The drinks, the dancing, the attraction towards J.D., the boisterous night with him, all give her a chance to be herself. She is a feeling function woman, responding to the crises in a subjective way. But the mistakes she has made, especially letting J.D. steal the $6000 Louise was relying on, and the danger they are in, bring the opposite side out of her and she can almost take charge, brilliantly robbing the store with maximum safety, holding up the patrolman with her gun, ordering Louise to shoot the car radio, ultimately making the decision that, given the options of giving themselves up to the law or not, it was better to die.
Critic, Tom Ryan, quotes a theme from Sam Peckinpah's 1962 classic western, Ride the High Country, starring Joel McCrea? and Randolph Scott. After their experiences, the McCrea? character says that 'something's crossed over in me... I can't go back... I feel awake... everything looks different.' This is certainly true of the 'innocent' Thelma. She has certainly 'crossed over'. And, ultimately, as they decide to die, it is true of Louise.
It is more difficult to determine Louise's personality type. She has experienced the trauma of rape and it has affected her deeply. On the surface she seems to be ISFJ or ESFJ or ISTJ; she certainly has the SJ temperament with her tried and true organisation. Her packing and her orderliness remind us of how sensate she is. She can enjoy extraverted behaviour, but there seems to be another, more introverted, life within. Again, she is a feeling function woman (even in the glimpse of how she treats customers pleasantly in the diner). It is clearer in her relationship with Jim and the tenderness and regret of their encounter in the motel in Oklahoma City. It is clear in her dilemma about what to do, in her inability to come up with quick and thought-through solutions for what they had to do. As the chase goes on, she changes. She is much less in control. She allows herself to respond more spontaneously. But her thinking becomes clearer about what she and Thelma must do, contacting Daryl, contacting the police, arranging the collection of the money, deciding that a future was possible in Mexico.
Thelma and Louise find themselves during this journey. Free of the male presumptions and constraints, they can be themselves.
They too have been on a quest, tested, learning endurance, finding themselves. But in the United States of 1991, where does their journey take them? Not back home. Home could never be the same. There is no promise of happiness and loving relationships in the nuclear family. Any bid for freedom will not be heard, believed, even if it is the truth. Harvey Keitel's character offers the possibilities of justice, but his is a lone voice against the voices stacked against the women.
Thelma and Louise have rebelled and we are asked to share with them their cause. They have found inner freedom but the legacy of the patriarchal society has driven them to the edge, to the edge of a precipice where turning back will lead them only into a large posse of men in authority, repeatedly firing at them (an ultimate phallic symbol of rape to death?).
Thelma and Louise choose to go over the edge.
According to statistics, in United States society, men score 70% to 75% for the thinking function, only 25% to 35% for the feeling function. The men's world of decisions and consequences, structures and systems is a thinking world. It is the expectation set for how all of us should be. And this still prevails.
Women score 70% to 75% for the feeling function, only 25% to 30% for the thinking function. (Which has its difficulties for the thinking woman trying to be herself and forced to compete in a man's world and become one of the boys and discover that she is seen as a `bitch'; and has its difficulties for the feeling man who will be belittled by homophobic epithets if he is considered one of the girls or he is simply judged a `wimp'.)
Statistics also suggest that changes in the 20th century, especially in growing respect and equality between women and men, in the consequences of the women's movement, and in some gentling of men and some acceptance of authority in women, mean that the patriarchal tradition is crumbling. But that has not happened yet. City Slickers is an easy comedy that contributes to the gentling of men. Thelma and Louise reminds us that, in the last decade of the century (and of the millennium), women are still driven to the edge.
MOVIE TYPE WATCHERS
One must end. But, as soon as the decision is made to draw a book to conclusion, someone suggests another example which would make an interesting chapter. While exchanging ideas on movies and the Myers Briggs Type Indicator yesterday, I heard someone say that Alec Guinness's colonel in The Bridge on the River Kwai was a telling example of an ISTJ who is trapped in his type. Obsessed by the building of the bridge that became his bridge, he found himself unable to destroy it when the patriotic need arose.
But, that is what happens - or, at least, I hope it happens - when we begin to be Type Watchers at the movies. The better written the screenplay, the better the dramatisation of characters and the credibility of their behaviour. Type names experience for us.
One of the regrettable omissions from this book is a chapter exploring a character who is an INTJ. They don't seem to make too many movies about INTJs. And, if they did, how interesting and entertaining would they be? The main activity, the principal functioning, is going on inside. You would need strong devices of voiceover perhaps - or make an Andy Warhol type movie that simply focuses on the subject for hours on end. But, just in time for a note came Richard Attenborough's portrait of English academic, poet and theologian, C.S. Lewis, Shadowlands. William Nicholson's screenplay and Anthony Hopkins interpretation of Lewis present a reserved professor, methodical and decisive, strongly intuitive who encounters an extraverted American writer who suffers from cancer and his life is transformed.
INFJs cause a similar problem. However, with their extraverted feeling face to the world, they can be sometimes mistaken for extraverts. And there are some movies, not many movies, which have INFJs as their subject. Meryl Streep as The French Lieutenant's Woman seems to be an INFJ. Some Woody Allen characters, like Renata from Interiors, considered in this book, are INFJ.
Strangely, portraits of Jesus Christ on screen provide examples of INTJ and INFJ. Pier Paolo Pasolini's stark picture of a strong and stern Jesus in The Gospel According to Matthew can be read as INTJ. On the other hand, Denys Arcand's arresting Jesus of Montreal offers an INFJ Jesus as well as a central character, Daniel, the actor who portrays Jesus and writes and directs the Passion Play, who is INFJ.
The other types are well enough represented in the movies. Obviously, it is easier to present extraverted characters than introverted characters, especially sensate thinker extraverts. However, there are many introverted characters who are well dramatised. Once again, it is the sensates (both thinkers and feelers) who are more easily and more readily portrayed.
The appeal to the sensate moviegoier is particularly strong these days. Terminator 2: Judgement Day was reputed to have cost almost $100,000,000. Most of the budget went into special effects. The wizardry, the gadgetry, the computergraphics, the photography and tricks all delight the sensate.
However, the intuitives are being provided for. With the technological developments influencing the grammar of screen language, there is a growing complexity in story-telling that can tantalisingly engage intuitive attention. The rediscovery of science-fiction and science-fantasy in the Star Wars era has been a boon for intuitives as well as a way for younger sensates to develop their intuitive function.
Perhaps the movies have always had a strong feeling function attraction. But this was particularly noticeable at the beginning of the 90s. In the 30s Depression times, there was a disillusionment with government and bureaucracy and great faith in the ordinary man and woman, in the 'little' people. Wall Street has reminded us of the collapse of the ruthless corporate giants. In the atmosphere of recession, there is a new awareness of the feeling function.
Look at what is happening to some of the high flyers in the movies. Look at the attack on the yuppies. In Regarding Henry, Harrison Ford is the consummate lawyer: the skill, the kill... He is wounded accidentally in a neighbourhood store shootout. He has to rediscover himself, learn to remember, learn to talk, learn to walk. And he does not like what he discovers about himself. He becomes a human being. A thinker discovers the feeling function and, optimistically (over-optimistically?), he is transformed.
There are medical high-flyers. William Hurt is one as The Doctor. One of his lines as he performs surgery is, 'Cut more, care less'. When he is diagnosed as being ill himself, it is not difficult to guess what happens when the doctor becomes the patient. It happens when young Michael J. Fox as Doc Hollywood is stranded in a small Carolina town and finds that he really does not want to be a smart Beverly Hills plastic surgeon. Mel Brooks, in Life Stinks as a tyrannical billionaire who accepts a bet that he can survive for a month in East L.A. without cash or credit card is all the better for living with the poor. The movies are not confining the experience to thinking function men. Smart, ambitious lawyer Kelly Lynch gets an emotional comeuppance when she meets up with a latter-day Shirley Temple, Curley Sue. Also powerful is the mutual odyssey of Robin Williams and Jeff Bridges in The Fisher King.
After ambiguous and controversial behaviour in his characters in Fatal Attraction and Basic Instinct, Michael Douglas took on the even more controversial role of a male sexually harassed by Demi Moore - the movie takes on company politics in its broadest ramifications, including the sexual politics. But Douglas's character, Tom Sanders, is presented as a feeler and Moore's character, Meredith Johnson, as a Thinker. Susan Sanders says of her husband, `You must be the only person who sucks up to those who are under you' and, during the crisis, remarks that he is `too nice'. His boss says that he won't cause any trouble because `when push comes to shove, he hasn't got the guts'. While the male is becoming more feeling, Disclosure works on several levels, including breaking through stereotypes of male-thinking and female-feeling.
My nightmare would be the eager MBTI movie-buff, staring intensely at the screen, assiduously analysing the characters and their interactions according to type. On the other hand, with the insights that type theory offers, we will often recognise aspects of behaviour and the 'ah-ha' will keep us alert to how the characters function.
We can enjoyably type-watch during the movie and type-study afterwards. Otherwise we may have our own variation on the hilarious ending of Billy Wilder's Some Like it Hot where Joe E. Brown is so confident of his powers of observation that nothing, not even reality, will stop him. Throughout the movie he has been eyeing off Jack Lemmon, disguised as Josephine in an all-girls' band to hide from the mob. As they sail together in a speed boat, Brown proposes. 'Josephine' Lemmon keeps putting him off. Exasperated, he/she tells the obdurate suitor, 'But, I'm a girl!' Brown keeps smiling, 'Nobody's perfect!'
TYPES AND CHARACTERS
John Dunbar: Dances with Wolves
Henry Higgins: My Fair Lady
Javert: Les Miserables
Louise: Thelma and Louise (or ISFJ)
Max Baron: White Palace
Captain Von Trapp:Sound of Music
Ed and Phil: City Slickers
R.P.McMurphy: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
Iris King: Stanley and Iris
Nurse Rached: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
Tom Joad: Grapes of Wrath
Valmont: Dangerous Liaisons
Louise: Thelma and Louise (or ISTJ)
Stanley Cox: Stanley and Iris
Maria: Sound of Music
Mitch: City Slickers
Eliza Doolittle: My Fair Lady
Ma Joad: Grapes of Wrath
T.E. Lawrence: Lawrence of Arabia
Tod: Dead Poets Society
Nora Baker: White Palace
Thelma: Thelma and Louise
Charles Kane: Citizen Kane
John Keating: Dead Poets Society
Martha: Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf
Neil: Dead Poets Society
George: Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf
Mme de Merteuil: Dangerous Liaisons
Jeff: Rear Window
Bud Fox: Wall Street
Gordon Gecko: Wall Street
Jean Valjean: Les Miserables
MOVIES, CHARACTERS AND TYPES
Charles Kane: ENFJ
Ed and Phil: ESTP
DANCES WITH WOLVES
John Dunbar: ISTJ
Mme de Merteuil: INTP
DEAD POETS SOCIETY
John Keating: ENFJ
GRAPES OF WRATH
Ma Joad: ESFJ
Tom Joad: ESTJ
LAWRENCE OF ARABIA
T.E. Lawrence: INFP
MY FAIR LADY
Eliza Doolittle: ESFJ
Henry Higgins: ISTJ
ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST
Nurse Ratched: ESTJ
R.P. McMurphy: ESTP
STANLEY AND IRIS
Iris King: ESTJ
Stanley Cox: ISFP
THELMA AND LOUISE
Bud Fox: ENTJ
Gordon Gecko: ENTJ
Max Baron ISTJ
Nora Baker ENFP
WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF