Road to Perdition

Row Three has been a hotbed for discussion on the merits of graphic novels as source material for film projects, with a palpable tension between those who write for the site and those who comment on it. One of the films that is often brought up as an example of successful adaptation in this vein is Road to Perdition, a film that coincidentally was voted by contributing writers here as one of the best films of 2002. Keeping with tradition, I’ve not read the graphic novel by Max Allan Collins that this Sam Mendes’ film is based upon. I suspect, however, the movie is loyal to its source material considering how much it feels like a panel narrative with art direction encasing everything with a sense of drawn deliberation. Ang Lee’s Hulk came out a year later and was praised by many for its merging of panel narrative and cinematic storytelling, and while Road to Perdition does not play so literal with its conceit, the same affection for the source medium exudes from frame one of the film, and is the deserving precursor to this fetishistic graphic novel style.

On this, my second viewing of Road to Perdition, I was surprised to find how little of the film I remembered, and that in the seven years between viewings virtually all that was left of my impression of the film was the stagy visual flare with its deep shadows and muddied palette, like a bunch of storyboards one after the other, perfectly composed, enshrining the beats of what was to happen. I had a vague sense of being underwhelmed by the film, but it was only after seeing it a second time that the reasons for this reaction returned. Despite its apparent loyalty to the panel composition of its source material, a formula for brevity one would think, somehow the film has a listless quality to it that even when it is going somewhere it drags its feet doing so. The book-end device of the principle narrator of the film, the young Michael Sullivan, starts things off on this same proverbial wrong foot, as we begin with an event that happens near the end of the film and work our way toward it – a storytelling convention that has long since lost its luster. In between these unnecessary summations of what we are watching, is a fairly straightforward story of a man who lives a double life as a gangster and family man and finally makes one valiant attempt to break free of the criminal lifestyle and do right by his kin.

There are some well-laid set-pieces that squeeze out a bit of tension, mostly scenes dealing with the elder Michael Sullivan (played by Tom Hanks) encountering the hired killer/murdered victim photographer played toothily by Jude Law, but otherwise scenes are telegraphed in that familiar throwback way of simple gangster pictures, adding to my fidgety tedium. While I loved Thomas Newman’s score in Mendes’ last film, Revolutionary Road, his take on the thirties gangster road movie in Perdition was too loud and distracting and not even in an anachronistic way evocative of classic Hollywood could this dissonance be justified. It just felt clumsy.

What saves this film for me from being an utter waste of time is the richness of the visuals, the strong whiff of thirties nostalgia that has carried me through this marathon, and the performances that work within their pot-boiler functions of plot and give much needed nuance. Paul Newman as the Irish mob boss Mr. Rooney takes what could have been a one-sided villain and amps up the complexity of the whole story with this conflicted and sympathetic pursuer of Michael and his son. Tom Hanks as Michael Sullivan does his best to wash away the charisma of his persona to become a very gruff and uncomfortable father and hired gun that in many ways reminds me of the father character in Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. He has little to say or provide by way of fatherly advice but has a pragmatic wherewithal to protect his son at all costs, and this grim demeanor is played out nicely in the performance. Daniel Craig as the jealous son of Mr. Rooney is also a nice surprise, though adds less nuance than others. Chief among them has to be Jude Law whose character embodies the nearly nihilistic greed of capitalist society in the throes of economic collapse, and who will slit your throat for a dollar without hesitation.

Overall, the film does its job and gets out, there is very little depth to mine, very little to think about. Despite its weighty themes of redemption and salvation they are more lip service in this kind of arch preoccupation with surface over content. Road to Perdition is pulp fiction with a hint of something more scratching at the surface but never quite breaking free of its drawn-in boundaries.

49 comments

  1. Thomas Newman's score felt clumsy? Good god, man, this film contains some of his most haunting and memorable pieces. In fact, that score is one of the more memorable parts of the film. Then again, I think we disagree about this film quite a bit, because I think it is a solid 5-five star film.

  2. I expect an onslaught shortly.

    I am on the opposite end of this because everyone was bitching about Rev Road's score and that I love, this, its trying too hard to be old timey and it rings false with me. Hard to critique musical scores, I just know my attention was continually drawn to the score in the film and I find that a fault, a score should underscore the emotions of the story not compete with them.

  3. "While I loved Thomas Newman’s score in Mendes’ last film, Revolutionary Road, his take on the thirties gangster road movie in Perdition was too loud and distracting and not even in an anachronistic way evocative of classic Hollywood could this dissonance be justified. It just felt clumsy."

    You're a fucking moron.

    No debate, this film is remarkably good. Easily Mendes' and Hanks' best work to date.

  4. And if you want reasons why you're a moron, nobody could say it better than this:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RJ1AtRrnzVM

  5. I guess these comments are for people who have seen the movie only. Unless you want to ruin it for you.

    "my attention was continually drawn to the score in the film and I find that a fault, a score should underscore the emotions of the story not compete with them."

    Where is this dichotomy, that somehow the music and the story and images are separate things? Music is part of film. Always has been. Whenever you're drawn to the music in something, you should not lock yourself out of the experience by going "THIS IS A MOVIE NOT A CONCERT!", it is still a movie, it is all a movie. It's all worth taking in. Emotion may grow out of many things.

    Rev. Road stands out in a bad way, because it's the same motif played over and over again, to the point where you're going "enough of this already, where are the rest of your ideas mr. artist?".

    "Jude Law whose character embodies the nearly nihilistic greed of capitalist society in the throes of economic collapse"

    What? I don't know if you've heard, but nihilism and greed has nothing to do with eachother, they may very well be opposites. You mean opportunistic, not nihilistic. I think there's a tendency to think of nihilism as coldblooded and careless, when in fact, it's merely the belief, that no values exist. That includes material ones, which is why greed makes no sense. And I don't think Jude Laws character embodied any of these demographic tendencies that you academics are so happy to look for, he is a professional. Except when it becomes quite personal.

    Not one single line about the father/son relationship. You are like a paid critic, you play the notes but you don't hear the music. Your review is based on what happens in the film, you mention being underwhelmed, but why? You think it's slow-paced, I would argue that you may have ADD. This is a film about Michael Sullivan, not the fucking 30s. It's not a political film, it's a personal film. It's about fathers. And their sons. Concepts you don't even care to mention in your review, which leads me back to my original point:

    You're a fucking moron!

  6. I agree with Henrik, but you can take your anger out on him for the moron comments please :P

  7. People are always so fucking non-comittal when they agree with me.

  8. Clearly you shall never be a leader of men.

  9. "Clearly you shall never be a leader of men."

    And Thanksgiving came early this year!

  10. I shall not be a leader of the sort of men that post on message boards about their love for animated rats and pandas!

  11. @Henrik, The track you linked to I do like and frankly didn't draw attention to itself, the one that bothered me was the twangy "we are on the road" one. Of course there is music in film but scores I feel particularly in this kind of straightforward narrative should not be drawing attention away from the action to say "look at me". The score of Eyes Wide Shut I can accept because it is working in tandem with the emotion of the story, its in your face but so is the suspense of the moments that it is played out upon, there is a synchronicity there. Newman's twangy score is trying to hard to evoke a sense of thirties nostalgia that is awkward, in my oh so humblest of opinions.

    and I KNEW you were going to hone in on my use of nihilism in the review, but if you notice I called it "nearly nihilistic" to emphasize the point that all sense of morality ceases to exist, there is no longer right or wrong, but in that vacuum Jude Law's character does seem to value money. But valuing money is not really something a moral person would typically do, so he is still without moral inclination, he is like an animal whose sustenance is money and in that respect he is "nearly nihilistic" not so much believing in anything but following the scent of money like a predator following his prey. I would say a lion is nihilistic as well, it has no beliefs, it just does… and my point is Jude Law's character just does on an instinctual level.

    The father and son relationship left me cold, there is not enough about the son to make me feel much of anything for him, which is all the more surprising to me seeing as he lost his mother and brother, an event that should draw me to him emotionally, but partially the actor, partially the role made for him, it didn't amount to anything than a symbol (Michael is good, he needs to be protected). More interesting to me was Tom Hanks as the father, who though minimal, was able to exact a sense of mechanical determination to do right. For me to get caught up in the relationship I would have to value both sides and I don't, I see this as very much Tom Hanks story, and the narrating by the son further irritated me that made it harder to accept the emotional conceit of the film.

    About the pace, its off, but don't get me wrong, its not so much slow as a lot of dead air and nothing much happening, its that there is not an organic flow to the scenes and within each scene, a movement forward… I really got the sense of being in a gallery and looking at individual paintings, and admiring each and walking on, and not feeling the fluid flow of all of them together. I originally thought it was just that the first time I saw it I was interrupted a lot and that I imagined this pacing issue, but the second viewing with no interruptions and it was still there. In general I feel Mendes' film are somewhat stilted, a little too precious, and Rev Road is definitely an example of that, but there was enough compensating in Rev Road for me not to be bogged down by this trait, whereas in Perdition everything is pointing to it.

    and yes, I am a moron.

  12. "I would say a lion is nihilistic as well, it has no beliefs"

    See, you did it again. Nihilism is not a lack of belief, it is the belief that there are no values.

    What do you expect from the son? He doesn't have many monologues (I agree the narration is bullshit), not talking is not stilted, it is real life. You want Leo DiCaprio-type animation in the performance, well, that's not real life.

  13. no beliefs is no values, I mean I see that you are trying to limit the meaning of nihilism to just values but a robot that has no belief other than what is programmed into it, and therefore no will to believe is also nihilistic, because by extension it cannot be said to have any values of its own.

    You see nihilism as requiring belief first, I am cutting out that condition altogether, no values is nihilism, belief or no belief.

    I would say the grizzly bear that eats me is nihilistic in that it values nothing outside of its biological imperative, its a lack of value… but you privilege the meaning to say only human beings can be nihilistic, there is a philosophy and a characteristic, I am talking about the characteristic.

  14. "I shall not be a leader of the sort of men that post on message boards about their love for animated rats and pandas!"

    you are an Animated Turtle Fascist.

  15. Also I hope you see the irony in the fact that you are trying to assert the TRUE meaning of nihilism as being a belief in no values.

  16. "no beliefs is no values"

    Not that I'm in any way going to defend nihilism, but I dont think this statement is true. Value is only determined by what you deem to have worth.

    Do you not think it is possible for someone to believe a particular religion is true, but at the same time believe it to be worthless? Because if this distinction is what Henrik is arguing (ask him, he's the nihilist) from my perspective he's got you beat, and you're once again telling another person what their philosophy or beliefs are, which I find a bit more obnoxious than someone telling me my beliefs are worthless.

  17. saw part of Rev Road again and it still came off as overly dramatized stagey sub Mad Men crap, btw :)

  18. I'll take a 7/10 attempt at twangy 30s nostalgia over yet another movie of Thomas Newman playing 2 notes and calling it a new score.

  19. My favorite Newman pieces are the intro to Six Feet Under and the song in the end credits of A Series of Unfortunate Events, a shitty movie that if you see in the library, you should rent just to watch the animated credits sequence along with his score.

    or just watch this (crappy quality):
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NUx8Jf8F7Ks

  20. Goon you have it completely reversed, I am not making any judgments on his belief about what nihilism is, he is judging mine, and it is a value judgment to say anything is true or false in some fundamental way, so on top of that he is contradicting himself by doing so.

    if something is true and if something works are different concepts, and I don't really see what your point is with that Goon, I don't think either of us is talking pragmatically. We are talking about these privileged concepts of truth and falsity, good and evil… I am saying the lack of these concepts in any thing sentient or otherwise is an example of nihilism (note my definition is not limited by a notion of will, but it is not exclusive of will either, whereas Henrik's definition is exclusive of anything without will).

    I am not saying anything about Henrik's opinion that he hasn't already stated… he says nihilism is "the belief that there are no values" … belief means sentient beings believing… means limiting definition… means also he is contradicting himself by asserting the TRUE meaning of a term.

  21. I haven't rewatched Revolutionary Road yet, but will soon.

  22. Belief, conviction, natural instinct, whatever. But a bear attributes value to its existence, hence is no nihilist. I am not a nihilist either, since I value my comfort. Jude Law in Road to Perdition is definitely not a nihilist, nor an incarnation of any nihilistic beliefs.

    "it is a value judgment to say anything is true or false in some fundamental way"

    Tectonic plate movements are truth, yet I contribute no value to them. Facts are facts, they have no ultimate value, yet they are true in the sense that we perceive truth.

    I don't see how you got values and truth mixed up in this way, to me they are obviously separate.

    Ninjas > Chefs and Kung Fu Pandas IMO.

  23. Your robot analogy makes no sense by the way. Another "what if?"-scenario that doesn't explain or clarify anything.

  24. you and I both know Po from Kung Fu Panda would fit in perfectly into the TMNT universe :P

  25. I have not seen Kung Fu Panda. I don't like Jack Black and the title seems unappealing to me.

  26. wow. facts are facts, Nietzsche would have a field day with that.

    I am really surprised you don't see this Henrik, the difference between attributing something as fundamentally true and pragmatically likely or useful.

    There is no absolutely true tectonic plate movement in Nietzsche's interpretation of nihilism, he sees all physical sciences as aesthetic expression… all you can say is it is useful to believe one thing over another.

    You are attempting to Falsify my definition of nihilism, not based on something inherent to it but because of this outside IDEA that you embody with a sense of absolute authority. I am describing MY nihilism, its use as a descriptive tool in an aesthetic expression, you are throwing down thunderbolts from your cloud up high saying NIHILISM is this and only this, that I have transgressed the TRUTH of this term.

    Truth not in a pragmatic way, you are not saying I shouldn't use 'nihilism' that way because it is such a bother to list so many things that could be characteristic of this trait, no you are saying I am absolutely wrong in my usage, and would probably show me the Webster dictionary definition to prove your point.

    That's crazy talk.

    As for Jude Law's character, being NEARLY devoid of values save the bestial instinct for will to power (power being money) I think it makes perfect sense to call him nearly nihilistic.

  27. Well, I find you guilty of confusing terms, muddling up your own points, and bringing unnecessary criticism to your post. I did not realize the genius of your writing, that it was in fact a nihilistic post, and that all you wrote has no value and can not be discussed, since it is all in your head, and what I read is all in mine. I thought we were speaking the same language precisely so we might understand eachother. Why bother putting it down in english, when your words mean whatever you want them to?

    You are using it wrong, and it is confusing. You are allowed to, but it just ends up being this circlejerk about definitions and abstract interpretations of truth and reality. Why not try and avoid that, by using words properly, to make your meaning clear, instead of muddled, confusing and misleading?

  28. This is the same Henrik that reads and respects Nietzsche right?

    So I guess you prefer the surface aesthetic of his ideas and don't want to get bogged down in the actual underpinnings of them?

    you are such a poseur Henrik… really you can't even grasp the fundamental difference between absolute and relative concepts (i.e. Webster definition IS GOD! and the meaning is relative to use)

    Its the difference between proving and describing. A theorem sets out to prove something, prose sets out to describe something, the same fundamental words may be used, but in different contexts. MY nihilism is not your rigid idea of the philosophy of nihilism (which by the way has no relationship whatsoever with Nietzsche's), it is a description of a mindset that is devoid of value… ask the average person what nihilism is and they will probably say 'someone who doesn't believe in anything', and they would be right, because they are describing a word-in-use not a fixed context.

  29. If you want me to clear things up nice and neat:

    There are no absolutes in words, only what we employ in contexts of use.

    you are employing the context of some Henrik-specific philosophy of nihilism (that is not remotely like Nietzsche)

    I am employing the context of the general parlance of nihilism as the absence of values

    Neither is more RIGHT than the other. Each is right for their particular contexts.

    But when talking in relation to Nietzsche's ideas, there is common ground for relative rightness and wrongness to be worked out.

    Is that clear?

  30. Haven't seen this since the theater and was underwhelemed. Having said that, I really like Mendes these days and will revisit… tonight.

    "What saves this film for me from being an utter waste of time is the richness of the visuals, the strong whiff of thirties nostalgia"

    This is about the only thing that I remember really liking about the movie too. We'll see though.

  31. "I am employing the context of the general parlance of nihilism as the absence of values"

    Except you then stretched it to mean something about truth as well. And above all, you tried to have your cake and eat it too by putting a 'nearly' in your post, so you always had a fail-safe.

    I would be a poseur if I had claimed to be an expert on nihilism, or Nietzsche. I have no basis on which to make a judgement on which of your two options I prefer.

    I think nihilism is simple. Lack of value. Belief in the apparent nothingness in our understanding of anything. I combine this with the real world, in the sense that I trust in gravity and the sun to exist, I believe in them, yet I attritube no absolute value to them. They could very well not exist, or mean something completely different than what I think at this time.

    "you can’t even grasp the fundamental difference between absolute and relative concepts (i.e. Webster definition IS GOD! and the meaning is relative to use)"

    I am presenting a point of view. You misunderstand and presume when you attempt to describe to me what I think about things like definitions. I am simply calling you out on bad writing to the masses. If you meant for your nihilism to be understood as the Nietzschean principles, you should have defined it. If you didn't, you should be aware of the general understanding being something different than what you've used it as. Saying someone is nearly nihilistic is bad enough, makes no sense, but to attribute it to a character who obviously takes joy in his work, is not only a sadist but a man who fetichizes his own brutalities, is a big misstep.

  32. yeah where did I get that foolish idea of associating 'truth' with values… its not like the average person would think claiming something to be true a value-judgment, "This is a TRUE work of art", nope, no value, thats empirical fact.

    Is something getting lost in translation, perhaps, because I find this genuinely shocking you don't understand this point?

    I can accept your criticism of the contradiction of terms in "nearly nihilistic", honestly I thought you would start with that. But its common to say something is nearly whole, so its along the same lines, so I kept it.

    "I think nihilism is simple. Lack of value. Belief in the apparent nothingness in our understanding of anything. I combine this with the real world, in the sense that I trust in gravity and the sun to exist, I believe in them, yet I attritube no absolute value to them. They could very well not exist, or mean something completely different than what I think at this time."

    so I say again, you require belief for there to be evidence of nihilism, I don't. You suppose will to factor into this, I don't. So you don't believe there is absolute truth to tectonic movement then why are you arguing against my definition lacking absolute meaning? Mine is a broader definition but it is not excluding yours, so you can't say I am missing the meaning of the word entirely, you are nitpicking a specific point, and not on the basis of pragmatism, but absolutism… yours is the right version and mine is the wrong version. Otherwise show me the pragmatic logic of you pointing out my 'mistake'?

    My use of "nearly nihilistic" to refer to Jude Law's character is not to define his affiliation to a ethos, its not about him believing the kind of stuff you are talking about and acting it out, its embodying it without belief, through actions, LIKE A ROBOT. I am saying he doesn't need to have a belief one way or the other, his actions give him away… he doesn't respect the dead, he doesn't respect the living, he mechanically goes about his work for money, he might as well be a terminator. That is the nihilism I am talking about, the absence of normal values, except monetary, hence NEARLY.

  33. Man, let's be a little more positive here… such as the one part: "I'm glad it was you." Fuck. Gets me every time.

  34. Yeah that was cool and as my star rating would suggest overall I like the movie.

    30 comments deep on this thread over two words of a review… thats pretty funny.

  35. Andrew, look forward to your response tomorrow. Seems like we are in sync on this.

  36. "its embodying it without belief, through actions,"

    But his actions clearly show him taking both pride and joy out of his work. Valuing his own abilities, ie. putting a price on them, and fetichizing himself. Who cares what he believes, he doesn't seem very nihilistic.

    Now you provide an example of truth being used as a value judgment. I have provided an example of the opposite. Is it fair to say, the two do not go hand-in-hand as you seem to think?

    The pragmatic logic you seek is in the pragmatic convenience of understand one another when communicating. To avoid failure like calling Jude Laws character nihilistic (or nearly nihilistic) when clearly he is neither, based on either bad observational skills (which you also presented when not even mentioning the father/son story in Road to Perdition, and again when you thought the father/son story was related to the child), or bad language.

  37. The nearly nihilistic of his character is that he is exempt of the common moral values, which I have said over and over and you refuse to accept I guess. He doesn't care for the dead, other than to make money off them, what he does with the bodies is nothing reverential, hell he kills a guy that is nearly alive just to get the shot… that there should seal the deal that this is a person of whom the normal moral values are absent. He shows no interest in society, in his appearance, he is 100% a predator like a shark. You say he values his own abilities, I don't see that, I see that he likes to kill, and if you are referring to the conversation in the diner with Michael that is clearly a predator playing with his food. That is sadism, sure, but I say again sadism is not a normal moral value, the things that the majority of people if asked what they value, what is important about humanity, and put all those things on a chalkboard, this character possesses none of them, except possibly the survival instinct of making money, the capitalist ambition of self-sufficiency, hence NEARLY NIHILISTIC.

    He outwardly shows nothing human save the industrial spirit, this lack of humanity, this removal of regular moral values is what I am saying constitutes him being nihilistic. Nihilistic as in the absence of what we commonly think of as moral values…

    The term nihilistic need not be reserved for this special meaning inside your head that constitutes an absence of ALL VALUES… I get what you are saying and that is another use of the term, but it is not the TRUE or ONLY sense of the term. Especially not true considering I was never talking about an ethos and this is not a philosophical treatise, the context of my use of the term is the everyday descriptive of the term, an individual who seems to have lost faith in humanity and in God and behaves outside the regular social mores…

    A shark is nihilistic

    A robot is nihilistic

    a man who values nothing but money is nearly nihilistic

    Mine is the cynical pejorative use of the term, the same way I could call a nonbeliever a heathen, I'm calling the character a nihilist. I could have called him amoral but again, this isn't a clinical treatise on psychological symptoms, the word people know best is nihilist, its there in the word, "nothing", the absence of things, this character is the absence of things.

    as for why I didn't mention the father son storyline…

    1) first of all I did, twice.

    2) I am not about recording the notes of the story, I am about the music, how the parts express themselves to me. I loathe doing synopses, unless it pertains to my experience of the music I can't be bothered inventorying the events.

    3) AS I said the son storyline was so boring to me that I glossed over it with the exception of two references to it… ultimately I see this as a story of a gangster trying to redeem himself and do right by his family, thats what I said it was about and thats what I feel is most important. The story uses Michael jr. as the narrator (again something I noted in the review) but it adds up to so little in my estimation that I feel no obligation to go further than that.

    4) I was deliberately vague by saying he is trying to do right by his kin, because AND SPOILER WARNING, I didn't want to say outright the son is the only family member left, because that implies bad things happen to the rest of the family. I try not to spoils things.

  38. No mention of Tom Hanks' relationship to Paul Newman. No relationship of Paul Newmans relationship with Daniel Craig. Fail and fail. It's not that you have to mention that they happen, that's worse, it's that they are the core of the story and the characters, and you seem to have missed all of it in trying to see how it portrays the 30s and gangsters. All that is secondary to the human beings in the film. To not realize this is a massive failure on your part.

    We agree a better term would have been amoral, it would have spared us all this. You still don't seem to realize that he actually takes pictures, develops them himself, and has them on display in his own home. Clearly pride and a fetichistic approach to his own work.

  39. The Road to Perdition is certainly an example of a successful adaptation from a graphic novel. I have also always thought A History of Violence was another good adaptation.

  40. Had I cared about the relationships Henrik I would have expanded on them, instead they are given the following inventory:

    "Paul Newman as the Irish mob boss Mr. Rooney takes what could have been a one-sided villain and amps up the complexity of the whole story with this conflicted and sympathetic pursuer of Michael and his son. Tom Hanks as Michael Sullivan does his best to wash away the charisma of his persona to become a very gruff and uncomfortable father and hired gun that in many ways reminds me of the father character in Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. He has little to say or provide by way of fatherly advice but has a pragmatic wherewithal to protect his son at all costs, and this grim demeanor is played out nicely in the performance. Daniel Craig as the jealous son of Mr. Rooney is also a nice surprise, though adds less nuance than others"

    Maybe I have a warped perception of the function of this post, I don't see it as my obligation to give you a synopsis of what happens, I expect most people have seen this film already, as part of this marathon I am accounting of my experience of it. My experience of it was bored by the story and drawn to the veneer, hence my talk of graphic novels, the score, the pacing problems… and then offset by the things I liked, the nostalgia factor, the performances, the visuals. With a film like this, hovering around three stars its very hard for me to write much of anything, I only get excited about films I sharply like or don't and of them I can be more explicit… but this, if there is something to take by the review, its that I am rather "meh" about the whole thing, and the glossing over of details to the film shows that.

    Its the perfect review for what I had to say :P

  41. Oh and I rewatched the Jude Law parts of the film and he is even more of a shark than I remembered… he has this menacing grin throughout and the way he shoots the cop, its like nothing happened… he is the terminator, set on his mission… and I still do not get this notion that because he has pictures up in his room that makes him not a nihilist. The pictures are his and are representations of the emptiness of life, dead corpses, and his own sadistic desires to kill things, that's nihilism! He could love to take pictures, although that is not shown in the film, that doesn't change his feverish embrace of the void, his disinterest in society and their sense of right and wrong.

    I am sure Charlie Manson had hobbies too, that doesn't negate his nihilistic tendencies.

  42. It does show that he takes pride in his work rot! Clearly, he cares immensely about his pictures, since he can not take it when the guy isn't dead, and even brings a camera to the final scene.

    But I guess you gloss over such details. Which is fine, this rich, layered film is just not something for you. Go back to the childish obviousness of Revolutionary Road.

  43. caring about his work does not exclude his nihilistic tendencies, the Zodiac Killer cared about his "work" too by the detail he showed in it but the transgressions of normal social mores would suggest an affront to normal moral values… one cannot be 100% purely nihilistic without killing oneself, its a characteristic that no one is completely defined by… to be devoid of all values consciously or through actions is impossible unless you are an automaton. He is a nihilist who still co-exists in the world, has to put food on the table, wants to kill people. A person who puts pictures of murder victims in his room to me does not shout photo enthusiast, it draws attention to why is choosing that subject matter, why does he want to be surrounded by it? You see the frame, Henrik, I am talking about whats in the pictures. If he was just a happy picture enthusiast and thats what the film wants to get across, then why not have him taking pictures of flowers? His interest is brutal unsentimental death, whats more nihilistic than that?

    Pull it back a bit Henrik and see that calling someone a nihilist can legitimately be a generalization of behavior where relative to normal social mores someone shows signs of indifference to or complete disregard for values we normally deem important in a human being. Christ if you spent this same energy trying to nail down every definition of a word, you would be going crazy, you would be looking for Plato's IDEAL chair to point to and say all these other chair-y things they are not accurate, they don't count!

  44. Henrik

    The theory of falsification is hard to argue with Mike, it will produce the most accurate results.

    "His interest is brutal unsentimental death, whats more nihilistic than that?"

    Having no interests.

    I will agree that calling someone a nihilist can be a generalization of behavior where relative to normal social mores someone shows signs of indifference to or complete disregard for values we normally deem important in a human being. I agree that this is what you did. Lazy writing.

    Obviously he finds some value in the aesthetic of the dead body. He arranges things to make his shots pleasing. You're too appalled by this disregard of life to get to the meaning of the characters, that's why you jump to lazy shit like "a nihilist who cares about nothing except money, the proof is that he will kill".

  45. ""“His interest is brutal unsentimental death, whats more nihilistic than that?”

    Having no interests."

    SO like I said, no nihilism except PURE nihilism, which is physically impossible to sustain. Thats a great demarcation of a definition.

    Why not say a person is not ignorant if there is a single case where he was bright, not a liar if once he told the truth, not a stutterer if once he got a sentence out perfectly. We might as well do away with most adjectives because nobody fits them according to Henrik.

    and I hope you are not trying to make a case based on Popper's Falsification as some kind of proof… please tell me you know it has long since been refuted? Popper himself admitted so.

    Its lazy to generalize? Show me a word that is not a generalization…

  46. so again by your falsifying logic Henrik, a guy who once told the truth but lies 99% of the time, he can't be called a liar?

    having a hobby doesn't negate one being characteristically a nihilist, especially since the hobby in question is one whose subject matter is brutal unsentimental death. He is not decorating the pictures with flowers and this aesthetic you are talking about, he is taking their photographs in situ, as they are, he adds nothing but captures reality.

  47. "he is taking their photographs in situ, as they are, he adds nothing but captures reality."

    This is clearly wrong, as he is introduced doing exactly the opposite. Fixing whatever he thinks is wrong with the picture.

    It just makes no sense to speak on nihilism when none is present. It exist only as concept, not as an actual way of living your life. That's your error. Why use the word that doesn't fit? Try and find another word that might fit better what you are trying to describe. THAT'S WHAT FUCKING WRITING IS. Besides you asked what is MORE nihilistic, I gave you an example of something more nihilistic, you use it as if this were the smoking gun, revealing my position, when all I did was being completely concrete towards your question.

  48. Henrik you are plain wrong about both the notion of defining a word and the actual assumptions of your definition, so I will stop arguing you with this point because there isn't the remotest sense of reasoning to your position.

    regarding the first time we see Jude Law's character I can tell you exactly what happens… he comes in to take a photograph of a man lying on his back with a knife sticking out of his chest, suddenly the man comes back to life, choking up blood, and Jude scowls, walks over to the man and covers his mouth to suffocate him, end scene. Now I guess you are taking that as evidence of his interest in photography which I find bizarre, it seems very clear that someone who could arbitrarily kill someone just to get paid (i.e. make his photograph, and lets not forget he is a paid killer) is being shown is this scene to drive home the point how without morality this individual is. Like I said in the review he would slit your throat for a dollar, that is nihilistic behavior, that is a disregard for all things we as a society regard as sacred, with the exception of money.

    There is nothing in that scene to suggest his interest were purely aesthetic… he wouldn't have a picture to sell at all if the guy was alive, he killed him not to create a perfect scene but to get paid. On the phone to Rooney's guy in Chicago Jude's character says whatever he gets for the photograph of killing is his… its about money and the morbid fascination with death that these photographs depict… there is no monologue in the film where he goes "I take these photographs for the beauty they depict". I find it really strange you read that into the movie Henrik. Its a straight line to see why he would have the pictures up in his room, they mirror his own nihilistic tendencies, they show death as brutal, and most of them are people he probably killed. If he has pride in killing that doesn't make him any less nihilistic… he is becoming entropy, he is the nothingness, the destruction of life, he is proudly nihilistic, that is not a contradiction in terms.

  49. there appears to be a problem with archived posts like this, the title’s are larger and in a different colour and the thing on the side cuts into them… otherwise I love the new look!

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