I don’t review films very often. I watch so many I’d do nothing else if I were to write a review for each of them. But I liked Jennifer Lynch’s latest feature so much I felt compelled to make comment. Chained is quite possibly the best film I’ve seen so far this year. I’m a big fan of Vincent D’Onofrio and this is him at his best. It’s like watching Private Pile’s resurrected brother taking his rifle (knife) out for some fun. There’s menace in those eyes and the way he holds his shoulder that permeates to the form of the words that come from his mouth. Every sinew of his on screen being sweats threat. D’Onofrio reminds me a little of the late Chris Penn. And a little like Mr Penn, if he lost a little weight the cinema going majority might realise that he is actually Robert DeNiro in his prime. Eamon Farren is emotionally engaging as the victimised Rabbit who despite all that is thrown at him desperately clings to a overwhelmed humanity. A huge chunk of the credit for the films success has to go to Ms Lynch, who true to her pedigree keeps you engaged to the end. Just when you think you have the measure of the story, the characters, where it’s all going, she takes a skull cracking left turn that’s as shocking as it is poignant.
As I wrote yesterday, I’ve been thinking a lot recently about Adam’s main opponent Anthony Reiner. Specifically I’ve been struggling to understand what makes Reiner such a willing exponent of prohibition? As I pondered in the comments of my previous post; “I’m trying to figure out the mechanism of his adherence to the cause. Why does he react so violently to Adam’s need to save Christine?” (1) Reading back though yesterdays post I realise now that Reiner reacts to Adam’s decision to help Christine as a betrayal of the cause. A reaction rooted in Reiner’s totalitarian mindset. A mindset that has no tolerance for ambiguity. When he encounters the kind of complexity offered by Adam’s willingness to help Christine he tries to impose his pre-existing frames of reference on the decision, reducing it to an us or them ultimatum. Going back to Alfonso Montuori paper “How to make enemies and inﬂuence people” (2) it’s interesting to note the kind of personality the totalitarian mindset attracts. Consistent attempts to suppress “complexity through maladaptive simplicity is characteristic of the closed-mindedness of the authoritarian personality.” (3) Montuori’s characterisation of the totalitarian mindset as an authoritarian personality fits perfectly with description I have in my head of Reiner. For Reiner ambiguous situations cause anxiety. A stress he copes with by adhering to “a clear set of rules and regulations… imposed by whoever is in charge.” (4) While this might be described by John Truby as his psychological weakness. A weakness that Truby defines as hurting only himself. It doesn’t describe his moral weakness. The weakness that is hurting at least one other person. It is clear to me now that Reiner’s moral weakness is explicit in his framing of drug users as an external threat. As Montuori notes “the perception of an out-group as a threat and an enemy is the glue that holds this (totalitarian) mindset together.” (5) A distinction that’s at the very core of Carrion. In this fiction, as in reality, drug users are universally defined as a threat; blamed for everything from social unrest to criminality. The prohibitionist routinely reduces our understanding of the drug issue to a simple black and white choice; “if we sort out the drug problem everything will be all-right.” In Carrion the threat from users becomes even more acute when they are attacked by the insects. But it’s no coincidence that the government are behind the release of the insects. It serves two functions. First it’s an attack on the drug using population; it unites people against an identifiable enemy. Second it creates a crisis that allows drug users to be targeted for persecution. In Carrion the drug user is not only a threat to public order, now he’s a threat to public health. A threat that needs to dealt with in the expedient (read harshest) terms possible. Although it’s interesting to remember that when Hitler was asked whether he thought Jews should be annihilated he replied no. If we didn’t have them “we should have to invent him. It is essential to have a tangible enemy, not merely an abstract one.” (6) In trying to answer the question; what makes Reiner such a willing exponent of prohibition? It has become apparent to me that Reiner’s willingness to persecute drug users, in Trubian story telling terms, is his moral weakness, a manifestation of totalitarian mindset that is embedded in the authoritarian personality that is his psychological weakness. Now all I have to do is work out his need; what he “must fulfil within himself in order to have a better life.” (7) But that will have to wait for another post.
I’ve been thinking a lot recently about Adam’s main opponent in Carrion, Anthony Reiner. I’ve been struggling to understand what makes him such a willing exponent of prohibition? Within the fictional world of Carrion prohibition is the product of a totalitarian regime. Wikipedia defines totalitarianism as “a political system where the state holds total authority over the society and seeks to control all aspects of public and private life whenever necessary.”(1) So the question I’m really asking is; what kind of person is attracted to totalitarianism? To answer that question you first need to ask; what allows totalitarianism to flourish? The short answer is uncertainty. In his paper “How to make enemies and inﬂuence people” (2) Alfonso Montuori characterises the “totalitarian mindset” as a response to the stress of contemporary pluralism. Basically we live in complex times full of ambiguity and uncertainty. We feel threatened. And when we’re backed into a corner we have a tendency to succumb to “simplistic, black-and-white solutions.” Montuori goes on to note that “individuals all over the world have sought relief from the uncertainty of a pluralistic world in the arms of absolute belief systems of a religious fundamentalist and/or political/nationalistic nature.” Within the world of Carrion the threat posed by those who use drugs is lightning rod, a life-threatening danger, that allows the government to “drastically reduce ambiguity and complexity.” The forces of authority instinctively “fall back on a form of very simplistic… totalitarian thinking.” Just as the Nazi’s persecuted the Jews, so the prohibitionist government in Carrion persecutes the drug user… (I realise that this is only half finished but I’ve taken this idea as far as I can for today. My thoughts need further clarification so will have to wait for another post.)