Sunday, December 26, 2004

Dynamite Epic

Gentle visitors, we are not in the habit or business of reviewing movies on these pages; however, a recent gift from Klaus prompts an exception to this rule.

The movie is Napoleon Dynamite.
Warning: semi-spoiling analysis ahead.

The epynomous protagonist, Napoleon, is everything his name does not imply: geeky, plodding, and hopeless. Indeed, he appears to be saved, in the end, only by a bizarre deus ex machina. But, all is not is as it seems.

The film opens with a particularly dweebish allusion to magical, supernatural influences, that pop up throughout, to comic effect. The husband-and-wife writing and directorial team -- Jared and Jarusha Hess -- have brought the mock heroic genre back to life in a post-modern setting -- the wilderness of boring, rural Idaho -- and, the story has the marks of an epic.
It features mythical creatures, such as Pegasus, Nessie ("our underwater ally"), "Ligers", and Tina the Llama. The harsh but ordering goddess Grandma -- like some smoke-raspy, dune-riding Hera -- whose unexpected absence from home occasions ground-shaking changes in the earthly Idaho realm. A thrift shop and "glamour" photo studio appear as secret stores of the gods, offering our oddball hero vital aids in his seemingly impossible quest, which is no other than to win the hand of the sweetly goofy lady, Deb, and to vanquish his foes. Late in the story, after hours of devotion on the Internet altar, a latter-day and larger-than-life Venus appears to transform and rescue Napoleon's hapless older brother and to give Napoleon the last gift necessary for his quest.

In the end, Pedro Sanchez, Napoleon's apparently moribund ally, utters an almost imperceptible prayer, with an allusion to El Nino. His prayer is answered in the most unexpected way, and Pedro casts a glance heavenward, as he sees that the cake that was rejected has become the cake of victory. Sweet! Even the stand-in babysitter, Uncle Rico, suffers chastisement at the hands of Rex -- a kind of preposterous Zeus -- for his vain and dishonorable pursuits; but, with the chance for redemption.

But, there's even more here, namely
  • Napoleon's world is an exaggerated illustration of our own unavoidable propensity for creating our own world -- our umwelt, as some outlandish and incomprehensible philosophers call it. Unlike Napoleon, most of us spend a great deal of effort attempting to order this world, reconciling it to "The World" -- that is, to the most sensible determinative of acceptance and success.
  • Our lives are, again, unavoidably strange -- at least, in some respects. If we invest all of our effort seeking to avoid, deny, or otherwise cancel this strangeness, then we will ultimately be disappointed by an unaccountable defeat, by psychological breakdown, or, worse, by death. If, however, we accept the strangeness, then we might be liberated, even jovial, in the face of it.
  • With the acceptance of this inherent life-is-strangeness, we are then open to the inexplicable and unexpected hand of Providence -- the deus ex machina occasionally dropping into the disasters on our little stages to set things right or, at least, to offer some explanation.
Whoa, whoa, whoa, you say. Our humble Contributor is, once again, too anxious to find fullness in emptiness, everything in nothing -- in this case, by reading way, way into what is, at best, a quirky, marginally entertaining, indie flick.

Well... perhaps. I would simply note that the closing scene of the film will only add to the deepening and mysterious significance of tetherball to the history of the world and the progress of the soul. (Despite the pleas, rejoinders, and threats received, more on this, anon.)

3 Comments:

Blogger Harry said...

Now I must go see the damn thing, for my greatest momentary fear is that you have nailed it with accuracy.

12/27/2004 07:45:00 AM  
Blogger Remainderman said...

Harry --

I am grateful for your fear. Most people fear that I am right about any subject to the same extent that they fear that Donald Trump will renounce the world, and all his possessions, and become a Sufi mystic.

Therefore, be not afraid.

12/27/2004 10:05:00 AM  
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