“Being John Malkovich”: the idea of becoming someone else has been tried before (and not just during Advent)


On November 30, 2014 Rev. Judith Fulp-Eichstaedt at the Trinity Presbyterian Church in Arlington VA started an advent series about getting into the mind of some of the characters leading to the Christmas story, with a sermon titled “Being Isaiah”. And she started out by a mini-review of the 1999 independent satire film “Being John Malkovich“, directed by Spike Jonze, from Gramercy Pictures

Here’s a short clip:

The story concerns a puppeteer, Craig Schwartz (John Cusack) who takes a job as a file clerk (a job about to become extinct) on a hidden floor, 7-1/2, in an office building, only 4 feet high, working with Lotte Scwartz (Cameron Diaz),  Craig finds a hidden door, and when sliding down the chute, he finds himself living inside the mind of actor John Malkovich (who plays himself, of course).  After a 15-minute simulation of being another person, the puppeteer gets ejected near the (divided) New Jersey Turnpike, in the days before Chris Christie’s deliberate traffic jams (and accidental overzealous gun control).

Needless to say, a story like this can explore “what it would be like” to have a relationship — if you really could be another person. Craig gets several tries at this experience, before it plays the usual games what we expect from the theory of relativity (he goes beyond the “Schwarzchild Radius”).

It’s one thing to wonder what it would be like to wake up on the morning of a critical day in your life years before, and “play the game” differently — like choosing a different subvariation in a critical chess game.  (Maybe stepping up to some kind of existential challenge to work with others on their terms when you really have to, as with a particular substitute teaching assignment in early 2005, link .)  But what I would relish, as an “old man”, is the chance to wake up and experience my body as it was at, maybe 24 (when I was in my best physical shape ever, after mandatory Army Basic Combat Training), and notice the things I’ve lost to “time” (as a fourth dimension), like leg and “pate” hair.

But waking up in someone else’s body, it he was an 18 year old Clark Kent (for perfection, try the market on another planet, like Gliese 581 G, thank you), would be cool.  Actually, though, this movie is about being inside someone’s mind.  So imagine waking up as “Clark” and knowing all his memories (from Krypton, or maybe a tidally locked perpetual-twilight Gliese planet), for maybe fifteen minutes or so — and then  — poof!  You vanish until the next session (or maybe wake up from a great dream and go back to being “you”).  One thing, about being Clark Kent, is that losing his “powers” even temporarily isn’t cool (see this blog Jan. 7, 2014).

Actually, in my novel “Angel’s Brother” something like this happens to some people, because of bizarre virus that encapsulates a micro black hole  (see this blog June 9, 2014).

One irony is that, of practically all the A-listers  Hollywood (March 4, 2014), John Malkovitch could best play ME as I am now.  And I am working on just the right script for “moi” (July 17. 2014).

And don’t forget, Mark Zuckerberg is an alien.

But he is too young for John Malkovich to play.


(Published: Thursday, Jan. 8, 2015 at 3 PM EST.)


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