This week I finally saw Being John Malcovich, one of many "must-see" "cult classic" films I've managed to avoid. As ever, I thank the United Artists Theater on Shattuck for their flashback flicks each Thursday.
Anyone who still hasn't seen it can easily find a way to do so, or at least read about the plot online. Suffice it to say that an amazing number of people are willing to pay $200 for the experience of 15 minutes within the head of John Malcovich. He brushes his teeth, you see it. He moves other parts of his anatomy, you see that too. Etc. Malcovich plays himself, and John Cusack plays a puppeteer who eventually invades Malcovich entirely. There's a lot more to it than this, but I'm being skimpy on plot so I don't spoil it.
BJM reminded me of both The Lord of the Rings and Tuck Everlasting. I read Lord avidly as a kid, most often in the upstairs bedroom at my dad's house on the south side of Columbus (he was a fan of the series too.) As you'll recall, the Ring has the power to make its wearer invisible. So the ring-wearer has access to the world that nobody else has. This is intoxicating at first, but ultimately destructive because nobody should have the ability to violate the natural order like this. It is too much power to be managed well.
Tuck Everlasting is a great children's book. I read the entire thing in one day in seventh grade, pausing only to eat and get in the car when the family drove to see a movie. (I watched the movie, but only because it was too dark to keep on reading.) The Tuck family lives forever, which at first seems magical to ten year old Winnie Foster. But as she grows to know and love the Tucks, Winnie realizes that death (as painful as it is for those left behind) is a necessary part of the circle of life. It's the final part of that circle, and knowing that the end will come can serve as an impetus to live the kindest and best life we can today.
Once again, we shouldn't try to surmount the natural order.
Likewise with Malcovich--as much as we sometimes want to know what makes others "tick," we really shouldn't have direct access to another person's brain. And yet, it would be very hard to resist if the possibility presents itself...just like being invisible...and just like being immortal. All of that seems liberating but would ultimately be enslaving. And in the case of Malcovich's head, after people get their 15 minutes they are rudely dropped in the grass beside the New Jersey Turnpike anyway. That's no fun at all.