after an experience gone awry, Seth Brandle turns into a fly. And, as his body loses its integrity, which becomes something else, Seth Brandle constitutes the Seth Brandle Museum. A museum of spare parts, pieces of bodies that have bowed out. A museum entirely dedicated to what he was until then. Seth Brandle deconstructs himself to evolve while celebrating a past that is no longer just a fantasy.
The vestiges of him are still there so “He” is still there in a way, terrified that he is no longer himself. But what exactly is “Him”? Where is the Seth Brandle entity? In this ear? In this eye, his brain, his DNA? At what point in his transformation can we consider that this is it, we are facing something else? Total otherness, without a return ticket?
Is that when his human features disappear? Is it when he gives up his human morals in order to survive or does Brandle just boil down to remembering being himself? Seth Brandle is the experience that continually transforms us. An event, an accident, a meeting, the discovery of a work … Brandle is the illusion of what we think of as identity. We are fragments.
This Hook scene always broke my heart and for a long time I couldn’t quite say exactly why.
The children of Peter and Moïra come back from Never Land and throughout the film there was a strange relationship with memory. By becoming Peter Pan again, remembering what he was. The hero forgets for a moment that he has children, yet he is there to save. And as his son Jack lets himself be consumed by his resentment towards him, he even begins to forget that he has a father. And then this end. Returning to their room, the children, for a moment barely recognize their own mother. Yet it’s an ethereal, happy moment but it makes me sad. There is something oddly scary about this. Why do you think Jack’s voice is shaking despite his smile? This little detail touches me every time.
The film does not only capture this fear of losing loved ones, it captures this floating and cottony moment between sleep and waking up when for a moment, we are no longer ourselves. Where the memories that make us “Us” fade away. This moment when identity is more fragile than you thought.
Sincerely with the little girl who talks about her mother as an angel, this almost divine light, where even this sequence just after, euphoric to the point of absurdity where this woman enjoys seeing an old man flying instead of s ‘surprise or even be afraid.
Spielberg is well aware of this ambiguity.
Yes we are surely in a tale but also possibly elsewhere. An elsewhere much less easy to accept. For such a colorful film, there is still some sacred darkness lurking on the edge.
It’s so easy to forget
In a story, memory loss is perhaps one of the most worn-out story arcs but, strangely, also one of what affects us the most because it causes so much discomfort. particular. We can come out of it grown up, but we know it’s going to be a long time to pass.
Memory loss can symbolize a whole lot of things. The passage of time, just like becoming the ideal hiding place for a secret, but above all we touch on what seems to us a little too often to “who”, identity.
When you touch memory, you touch a fear that is very strange. This fear of thinking that if a memory is no longer shared with someone, what makes it real?
What made all “that” real?
Look at his movie posters, all of which represent “the spirit”. There is one idea that brings them all together. A very simple visual idea. The idea of Multiplicity.
Multiplicity of memories, multiplicity of facets of the personality, blurred border of the psyche, unfathomable potential that overflows well beyond ourselves.
Visually, one way or another, this is what comes obvious to so many artists who represent the spirit.
There are many of us. The thing, however, is that the vast majority of works tend to show us this multiplicity as an evil, a disorder that leads the characters to either their demise or destruction. Pure tradition of Lovecraft with its protagonists who discover a cursed ancestry that lies dormant in them. Fiction illustrates again and again this fear that we have of losing our “me”, fear of seeing our identity dissolve and therefore all these sometimes simplistic concrete barriers to protect it.
Among the exceptions we can cite the fourth volume of the “Cycle of Dune” where the character of the emperor Letho II Atreide who gradually turns into a sand worm while possessing in his heart the memory and the personalities of all his ancestors.
This is a logic that we had already seen in the Cycle of Dune, in particular with the reverend mothers of the order of Bene Gesserite, but which there, is pushed to its climax with this relationship so particular to long time and to a kind of intimate immensity to be conquered. There the inner multiplicity is shown as an opening to something greater. Towards an extended consciousness of the world and of oneself.
Here, unlike memory loss, it is therefore a kind of “hyper memory” that questions the boundaries of identity, which is no longer a simple, closed whole, but rather a tree structure. The fear has been neutralized.
Over time has so oversold us characters built as cohesive units, oversold us assertiveness like a simplistic sign, that we ended up forgetting.
We are fragments.
Brienne has mellowed over the seasons, of course, but she would never have cried. Not here, not like this, not for this. There you betray the sap, you betray the essence of something. But once again this essence, where exactly is it? What do we know?
We expect characters to be human and complex without being chaotic. And here we are, a walking paradox, clinging to what makes us “us”, while wanting “more”.
“Life is a cut up. Every time we walk down the street, or we look through the window, your consciousness is cut by random factors. And there you start to realize there aren’t that random, that it makes sense to you.”William S.Burroughs:
Cut Up, this technique popularized in particular by the writer William Burroghs in the 1960s, which consists of cutting up a work and randomly rearranging the ends so that a new meaning emerges.
A technique that has inspired a lot of artists but also the whole internet culture, this culture of mashup and collage that you know so well.
Life is a Cut Up. Our experience of the outside world.
With Seth Brandle, who does a kind of Cut Up with his body, which becomes a new form of life, in accelerated mode, we are dealing with one of the deliberately extreme cases where the multiplicity which is in us is shown as negative.
That said, for a moment through his natural and scientific curiosity, Brandle is tempted to greet this transformation with serenity, without judgment. Very quickly, human fear takes over. As if there was, no matter what, an insurmountable frontier for the mind. We have to close the loop. However, there was the start of something, there was a tangent. As in the end of Hook, in the background we explore this “what if”.
Unfortunately, the two films do not really follow through on this idea. One because Spielberg, despite his doubts, has to make a feel good and accessible film. The other, by its horrific specifications. But what if becoming “other” wasn’t really the end of “self”?
Memories, that glue that gives shape to our fragments, that make our lives tell something.
We always tell of a change and inevitably we get hooked. We cling to our tastes, we cling to the stories that have built us, we cling to them as over a precipice, at the risk that sometimes it boils down to a simple road map of taste and opinions.
Life is a Cut Up. This article is a form of Cut Up. Fragments of emotion, fragment of memories, of thoughts. The fragments of films which, once taken out of context, begin to tell something quite different.
Editing means shuffling the cards, finding an unexpected meaning in the random.
In “The Fly” David Cronenberg and his director of photography lit up certain scenes like an old film noir. All the visual codes are there. The dim light of the blinds, the soft and ethereal lighting on the face of the femme fatale, a woman who stands out in the doorframe, who is therefore the center of attention but who is also lost in the frame, the only source of grace in a dirty and chaotic world. And of course a disillusioned main character, the unwilling detective Brandle investigating human identity. Fragment of one cinematographic genre lost in another.
Or how the film illustrates its point by becoming it self a Seth Brandle, and by showing that all films, at various levels, are Seth Brandles. Fragmented over and over and over again …
Maybe in the middle of it all, in the midst of this inevitably flawed, never-ending puzzle, something will resonate. We are multiple, we are fragments.
Personally I am never more stimulated, when I create something, when I have the impression that it is beyond my control, that strangely, it is not my conscious part which has acted but something more mysterious, something something freer, which is not necessarily the “me” that I know. For a few moments, we become a little more than the sum of our tastes or our memories.
We are more than an abstract line, like an arrow crossing the void.
We have become like everyone else, but in the way that no one can become like everyone else.
We painted the world on ourselves, and not ourselves on the world.
To create, to feel deep down, is to welcome the other.