Movie philosophy

What has Hollywood got to learn from Game of Thrones?

Hold the door. Hold Door. Hodor. RIP.

For everyone that has read the books or seen the show from season 1, the fifth episode of season 6 named “The Door”, was a heartbreaking one. Every viewer must have been touched by the impact of the sacrifice of Hodor. And in a mind blowing reveal, turns out that Hodor had lived in the shadow of his own ill-omened destiny for as long as anyone could remember.. and that makes me a sad panda.

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But out of this tragedy comes a lesson for all (screen)writers. A prime example of how to write a character’s backstory. Hodor was a minor character. The impact of his death didn’t come from the fact that we had invested so much into him, like when a main character leaves. But the kick came from the way he left, in a completely selfless act and by a sudden revelation in the backstory, that made the viewer reconsider the entirety of this characters life. During the entire time we thought we knew this individual. He had only one word to contribute, what’s there not to get, right? But as it turns out, he had a death that had as much impact to fans as Ned’s decapitation or the Red Wedding.

G.R.R. Martin and the showrunners made the perfect move. They knew that fans were interested in Hodor’s background. The easy way would have been to give a nice juicy bit of expositional dialogue and that’s it.  But that’s not how they roll. They saw a chance for a big revelation, heartbreaking moment and a way to make one minor character become the highlight of the season. They ushered us in with a vision of Hodor’s past, who once was Wyllis, a simple stable boy very capable of having a conversation with more than one word. That made the mystery only larger, as the anticipation grew. Why the hell will this boy be able to speak only one random word in the future?

And in a clever move they made us understand the what and the why. Hodor was never one word, it was three: “Hold the door”, as in “Hold the door and accept that I’m going to die”. By merging the past and the present, by letting us simultaneously see both the moment of the change in Wyllis and the realization of his fate, the show gave us one of the most memorable moments of the entire saga. And it seems to me that it only made sense the way they presented it. There was one way to pull it off and they nailed it. They hit the spot so good that they had to apologize for it:


I don’t even know which scenario makes G.R.R. Martin seem more ingenious – if he planned it since the beginning of the first book or if he just looked on what he had and came up with this solution midway. But the determination of this kind of writing is exemplary. Do not let any opportunity go to waste.

Come up with a backstory. Take time.Build on it. Keep secrets. Reveal.

What comic book movies have been trying to do recently, is achieve the same emotional impact without any of the attachment. Hodor had 6 years, movies have 2 hours. There are franchises, that could gain the same momentum. It would be a delight to see what James Cameron has to offer with his upcoming Avatar sequels and Marvel cinematic universe has also nailed some moments that they have built up with several preceding movies. The recent Civil War was a prime example, as the headbutting of Captain America and Tony Stark felt completely natural, whereas the clash of Superman vs Batman felt utterly rushed.

All in all, Hodor’s demise is a bitter moment, but out of it comes a sweet example of brilliant storytelling that is truly inspiring.

What do you feel when you’re missing something?

Continuing last post’s discussion with a movie example. Recently there was a quite successful opening of „Prisoners“.  Combining both psychological and philosophical breakdowns, it’s a good movie to get a sense of how people act in serious traumatic situations. Distrust and disbelief, anger and submission – a true mix of emotions that go through a human’s body.

It’s hard to imagine a more difficult situation to handle for a parent than a situation, where a young child goes missing. what are you supposed to do? Not only in the sense of what the society expects from you, but also in a personal meaning. What should you do inside your mind? A person frequently doesn’t know how he should feel in some situations(what others expect them to think). Should I be mourning, or if you’re not, then why and is it right not to? The questions pile up and the person is left in a gaping hole. Traumatized and paralysed, not able to think clearly. That may be the point where questioning your own morals starts to happen. Because you are a lost emotionally, you start overruling your philosophies also.

Hugh Jackman, playing the family man Keller, made a very good remark on the subject: „ People don’t behave politely under these extremes. People don’t behave as though they care what anyone else thinks. Behaviour becomes elemental, guttural. Whether they fall down and collapse, or get violent and angry, or disillusioned . . . whatever it is, it’s honest. It’s what they need to do at the time just to get through it.”

I have talked about my interest in primal actions before.* I was wandering what a person might do, when the glass between him and the tiger suddenly disappears. That situation of lost glass becomes a metaphor for the scenario of “Prisoners”. The idyllic life is no more, the emotionally safe life has been ruptured, leaving the family in a state where they stop functioning as they have until now.

The director, Jack Villeneuve, said his inspiration for the movie was the feeling of misplacing something trivial as your car keys or phone: “The slight panic you feel when you reach for something where you knew it was, and it’s not there anymore.” Even when the occurrence has so little effect on the flow of everyday life, it still feels unpleasant. You start to question yourself and your memories, your everyday actions and routine. In a very small scale you lose control. And it doesn’t feel good at all.

Speaking of mixed feelings...should I be happy that Breaking Bad ended so perfectly of should I be feeling bad that it ended?

Speaking of mixed feelings…should I be happy that Breaking Bad ended so perfectly of should I be feeling bad that it ended?

In the movie, Keller has a primal need to protect his family. We are urged to trust the others and let society take care of the situation. But Keller doesn’t trust society to take care of things. Is he to blame for the urge? To trust in a higher power is to give away control in your own life. A very challenging dilemma. And furthermore, if you decide not to give away control, then to what extent should you intervene?

Jake Gyllenhaal, playing the detective Loki, who represents the law abiding way, says: „I think that someone who impulsively takes matters into his own hands is frequently going to suffer for it. Keller is trapped in his animal instinct, he’s following his gut, and it’s leading him down a very bad path. Loki is just watching and waiting to see where it goes.“ A philosophy that follows also recently discussed ways of “Foundation” teachings.**

Keller does not ask questions, he rushes to conclusions. The danger of not thinking – it may lead to the right outcome, but has very big risks. Following the way the human mind is programmed, but doing that in a very dangerous situation, not in an everyday happening, where you have a large quantity of samples. He is doing everything right in his own mind and ultimately, his actions are forgiven even by the viewer, but nevertheless, he is treading a dangerous ground of letting emotions and blinding feral urge take over.

A quite possibly the most interesting characters philosophically are the parents of the other girl. They are in submission, leaving all morals behind, only feeling they exist, but not strong enough to follow them on their own. In this situation of feeling lost in emotions and philosophically unstable, they cling to the alpha male. They feel like something is wrong, but if they submit and let Keller do what he does, then it becomes acceptable to them. The torture is not right, but at least they are not doing it. Walking on the neutral ground and not making decisions at all. Only deciding that ignorance is bliss.

And why I liked the film and suggest you to see it is the mindset of the movie. All characters go down a different path and the movie is an examination of the same crisis from many different points of view. There are very many paths to choose from and it’s hard to find the right one.  Just as the mission of this blog – there is no right answers, only a question and sometimes even that is unclear:)

Oh, and the movie is not for the fainthearted:)

* https://mikkvillem.wordpress.com/2013/04/23/whats-your-first-world-problem/

** https://mikkvillem.wordpress.com/2013/08/31/is-there-value-in-doing-nothing/

Who’s the good guy?

Fist of all, how can bad guys be really that bad as they’re portrayed in the movies? Half of the Hollywood bad guys have a follower base that laugh to the henchman’s bad jokes and enjoy killing and torturing people on demand. Where do they find those kind of people? The bad guy groupies that are willing to hit first and think later. And because they are fighting the good guy, they don’t even get the chance to think, only a chance to hit. I just can’t buy that. Humans can not be so willing to kill.

There have been studies, though, most famously the Milgram’s test. Stating that people lose a sense of moral duty, when they are firmly told to do something and that we have an inherent urge to obey orders . The blame lies on the person who gave the order, right? When you seemingly have no choice, but to follow orders. Things get worse with group pressure. When everyone you relate to act in a certain way, then those acts have to be morally correct, right? I can’t be held responsible for the groups decisions, right? But in reality you do have a choice, you just need to resist your primal desire to obey the herd. And when you look back on the situation, then you see that you do have a moral responsibility for your actions, you just felt easier doing bad things because you had company.

Now, speaking of the good guys, we have entered the Dark Knight era of heroes. We like heroes with emotional issues and a dark side. I think Watchmen is the best at that genre. Moral dilemmas all the way through. We get a more deeper look into the mind of the heroes and see behind the mask. They are fighting for their own ideas and ideals, not anyone else’s, otherwise they would have joined the police force. Each hero has a different view about justice, how it should be implemented or if justice exist altogether.  And often those ideas collide.  Some characters justify killing bad guys, some don’t. Should we derive the idea of good and bad characters from the ideals or the way those ideals are achieved? My thinking is that a killing machine can not qualify as a “hero”.

This subject has caused a lot of dissatisfaction with the Man of Steel movie, too. Comic book and Superman fans believed Superman to be unable to kill, he would never do that. But in the movie,  the villain General Zod gets his neck snapped. Easy way out. There is a point of course that Zod wanted to kill the entire planet and he would never stop, but still Superman drifted away from his rooted ideals. Those, like me, who hadn’t read the comics or knew the history, didn’t find the ending so unusual. We were getting used to justifying the acts of heroes with the idea of greater good.

My logic, that has evolved throughout many years and justifies human life is. . Every individual has his own view of the world. His own sight and experiences, his own understanding. We all understand the same situation differently and see the same happenings from a first person view that no one else can see. That means that the world itself is different to us all. We can not understand how others experience colors, pain, sounds etc. That in turn means that the whole universe is different to us. We experience the whole existence differently. And if you take out one person, you don’t just take out a pawn on a chessboard, you take out the player, a whole one side of the table. A totally unique view of the world, and thus, you are committing a crime that equals to destroying a whole universe.

Now i consider a person, who destroys a universe a villain. One can not say that every planet in that universe was “evil”, there had to be another solution. Now you’re thinking of self defense. Self defense is a harder case. When does an act become classified as self-defense and which kind of actions should be allowed to guard yourself? This subject needs some more thinking and some more questions. Watch the Youtube channel of Harvard philosophy lectures on justice to get acquainted with morality. There are so many mind boggling questions that arise from these lectures that you will find hard to keep track of your thoughts.

WARNING!: Take the words of warning from Michael Sandel seriously, these lectures will change your view of the world!

To be continued. .