One of the best things about film is the fact that most movies, especially the best ones, are open to interpretation and have various different meanings. Some metaphors and theories are so well-known and talked about that they have become accepted as basically being the truth, such as the idea that Who Framed Roger Rabbit? is about segregation in the USA. Others are much less discussed and more unexpected, and here are five that I find to be the most surprising…
5 – DRAG ME TO HELL is about EATING DISORDERS
Sam Riami’s 2009 outing was released to critical acclaim and it considered a return to the directors roots, with his early outings being the cult classic Evil Dead films. Despite this being the case, a surprising amount of people write the film off as being camp or un-scary, apparently forgetting the cult B-movie appeal that Riami became known for in the first place. Drag Me To Hell tells the story of Christine Brown (Alison Loham), a young woman living and working in LA who has a curse put on her by a creepy gypsy woman Sylvia Ganush (Lorna Raver) which will see her being literally dragged to hell in three days. It all seems like something that could be taken at face value, but one more interesting interpretation of the film is that it us actually depicting a character being consumed by an eating disorder. There is actually quite a bit of evidence to support this idea throughout the film. There is very prominent fly imagery throughout the film, which holds heavy connotations with death and the decay of flesh. We see a picture of a younger Christine who is overweight, and an attack tends to take place whenever food is introduced on screen. Any attacks or incidents that take place in Christine’s home always take place in the kitchen, and when the spirit that is harassing her is shown in shadow form it has pig hooves, again playing into the idea of Christine’s insecurities. The incidents that occur throughout the film are always related to the mouth or including vomit, again creating the idea that Christine is suffering from an eating disorder. Ganush shows many attributes of bulimia sufferers such as poor nails and rotting teeth. Christine is also never shown to eat throughout the film, and the time that she tries to she is attacked. This genuinely just scratches the surface of the idea, and Youtube and the internet is filled with much more detailed analysis of the film which lend even more credibility to this very interesting theory.
4 – TOY STORY 3 is about THE HOLOCAUST
I know, I know, how can a PIXAR film be about something as horrific as the holocaust in any way, shape or form? But there is no doubt that a lot of the parallels are there, and Pixar has made its name by providing beautiful animation with a range of deeper meanings which contributes to its universal appeal. Toy Story 3 saw the toys we had all come to know and love dealing with the fact that Andy is all grown up and going to college. The fact that the film came out in 2010 meant that the generation that grew up loving the first two movies (AKA me) were also growing up and therefore found it very difficult to control their emotions come the films end (if you didn’t cry you are heartless). All the misty eyed emotion that comes with viewing the film means you may not have noticed some of the distinct parallels the it holds with the treatment of Jews in the holocaust. One of the more on the nose references comes when Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) suggests that the toy gang hide in the attic to avoid being given away. This can be seen as a direct reference to the famous story of Anne Frank, a young Jewish girl who hid along with her family in an attic during the second world war, with her diaries becoming famous across the world following the end of the war. Looking at the narrative in a broader sense, we see the toys being taken away to Sunnyside Daycare. What seems like a utopia soon reveals itself to be a fascist dictatorship at the hands of Lotso-Huggin-Bear (Ned Beatty). This can be taken as a metaphor for the treatment of Jews and concentration camps during the Holocaust. It’s an interesting theory which gives a much deeper meaning to an already emotional film. I’m going to stop writing about it now, I think I have something in my eye…
3 – BATMAN RETURNS is about MOSES
The second Batman film directed by Tim Burton, released in 1992, actually went so far as to ignite a debate about antisemitism regarding Danny DeVito’s performance as primary villain Penguin. The film sees Penguin introduced as a grotesque baby who is sent down the Gotham Zoo river in a basket by his wealthy parents, thus growing up within (adopted by?) the city sewers and eventually unveiling a plot to kill the first born in every Gotham family. This can be seen to directly parallel Exodus from the Bible – where Moses was sent down a river in a basket, adopted by the Pharaoh, with God later unleashing plagues which included the death of every first born child in Passover. The fact that Penguin, the films villain, is carrying out these actions is what led to the antisemitic accusations, as well as the arguments that DeVito’s character depicts many Jewish stereotypes. Howeve Wesley Srick, the (JEWISH) screenwriter of Batman Returns, was adamant that this was not the case and said he had made deliberate reference to Exodus/Passover in the script. Personally I thought that this reference seemed rather obvious once it was pointed out, and I can’t believe I hadn’t already made the connection in my mind on my own.
2 – THE GREY is about DEATH
The Grey was released in 2012, with the marketing material having a field day capitalising on Liam Neeson’s post Taken popularity as an action hero. The actual film turned out to be much more than an Alaskan based alpha-male/wolf action fest however, instead proving to be a sombre look at the nature of death. The film depicts the journey of oil-rig workers who are faced with trying to survive after a plane crash lands them right in the middle of a wolfpack (not The Hangover kind) death-zone. No matter what your take on the movie, The Grey does not make for comfortable viewing, and my interpretation is that this is because we live in a society where death is a major taboo, and it is therefore no wonder that when we are faced with a film that tackles the subject in such a head on matter we are bound to feel slightly awkward. In the film we see Neeson’s character Ottoway tell a mortally wounded casualty of the plane crash “you’re going to die”, and we see everyone else react in a mixture of shock, horror and discomfort that we the viewer are also experiencing. Looking deeper into the subtext however, and The Grey is really about the way in which people deal with death, and the fact that no matter how we handle it, it’s inevitable. The wolves represent death in this context, a constantly lurking presence that is ready to strike at any time. The film looks at three ways of dealing with death – running from it, accepting it, or fighting it. We see these played out in the actions of all the characters, some of whom desperately try to escape the wolves, whilst others such as Diaz sit down and accept what is coming to them. Then we have Ottoway, who isn’t going down without a fight (it is Liam Neeson, of course). As depressing as it may be, there is no doubt that The Grey is a surprisingly deep and interesting study of the way we as human beings deal with the inevitability of death.
1 – THE TRUMAN SHOW is about BUDDHA
The Truman Show is a truly excellent 1998 film which starred Jim Carrey as the titular Truman. The film has a lot to say about the nature of reality, reality television and the whole ‘big brother’ concept, but it also draws some quite interesting parallels to the life of Buddha.
Both were raised in a life of comfort which they came to deduce was not a true reflection of real life – Buddha lived in the security and wealth of a palace whilst Truman was brought up in a manufactured ‘American Dream’ reality – which was constructed by a father or father figure. Both went on to gradually reject the environment in which they were raised, going on to pursue a path to enlightenment. It’s quite a cool idea, though it can be argued that the messages being put forward in The Truman Show are universal and can also be applied to other concepts such as Plato’s Cave Allegory.
I have to admit some of these are extremely grim, so to end on a happy note here is the barmy but interesting Pixar Theory, which creates a timeline which argues that ALL of the Pixar films exist within the same world. Some points are really stretching the material, but it is still a really inventive and fun theory. You can check it out below, let me know what you think in the comments section!: