Saturday, March 17, 2012

Desperately Searched: Andrew Kevin Walker


Let's take a poll: 
Who agrees with this line from the film Doubt
When you take a step to address wrongdoing, you are taking a step away from God, but in his service.
Well, do ya... punk?

This post is long. 

Doubt is a film much like receiving Chickenpox at a young age; it hurts, and sometimes even the memory of it stings, but you are better for having gone through it. It provides you with a sort of invincibility if you can withstand it. 

As a long-time survivor of doubt myself, drinking from that cup is, in some ways, like coming home. It is at once a feeling of warmth as well as shame. 
Warmth: because you can see that others process 
and are affected by the world in a manner similar to yourself. 
Shame: because you now see yourself as a card-carrying club member 
of society you'd rather not be numbered among the ranks of.

A conversation arose in a pub. 
One man was drinking a dark beer, the other hot tea. 
The discussion of why people do the things they came to pass. 
The beer drinker noted, 
"I wouldn't be too quick to label between good and bad people."
He took another swig, 
"I feel uncomfortable saying there is such a thing as good and bad people."
The tea drinker enthusiastically nodded, 
"Yes, because good and evil don't exist."
The beer drinker paused mid-swallow. 
This was not the conclusion he intended the conversation to reach.  

Later in the week, I pondered over such things as this. 
I pondered and pondered.  

After many-a-thought, my mind declared to me that I needed to seek something of an authority on the matter, for it is not good enough merely to show the ramifications of (what I would call) evil actions. The philosopher can decipher any one singular act as the mere consequence of environment, or the psychological progression of an innocent on a certain path by some previous incident. 

No. Showing the effects of maleficience makes no impact. 

What then could be shown? What then could be proven? How do I show that good and evil exist if actions alone are not worthy of judgment? 

I am not akin to the depths of wrongdoing. I am not knowledged in the education of the motion of the deeper of evils. I know not their shadowy ways. But then I ask in fear, if not I, who does know? Who could be my Virgil on this spiral of hell? 
 Enter Andrew Kevin Walker. 
disclaimer: the content of this post gets decidedly darker from here on out. Reader beware.
According to imdb, he has produced only two scripts that are wholly his. The rest of his writing credits are shared. 
The two films that he alone hath penned are 8MM and Seven. Whilst I considered his personal canon, a vague recollection of the drama surrounding the production of 8MM came to mind. 

As it turned out, Mr. Walker walked (ha!) off the set over changes made to his script. Apparently, as studios are apt to do, the ending was changed to bear a more hopeful, optimistic hue. This infuriated Walker to no end, and he later refused to have his name associated with the picture. I knew this story, but also recalled 8MM as a pretty damn dark film. I was curious as to how the script could have been any bleaker.

So I scavenged the internet until I came upon Walker's original script. I read and read and read. 

By tale's end, my soul was flayed open by the nuance of the difference between the script's denouement and that of the film's. It happened as follows: 
In the film: a load of horrific eye-gouging events occur. 
Our protagonist somehow makes it through it all. 
He returns to his wife and child. 
He embraces his wife and says abruptly, "Save me."

In the script: a load of horrific eye-gouging events occur.
 Our protagonist somehow makes it through it all. 
He returns to his wife and child. 
A montage is expressed, showing our protagonist returning back to normal life. 
One day he abruptly burst into tears and cries out, "Why, why, why?!" 
He goes home, embraces his wife and says, "Save me."

All the violence, the murder, the extremes of sex, the snuff -- it's all their in the film. But what the studio balked at, what they couldn't reckon themselves with, is that evil has a lasting effect. You can't just experience it and move on. 

Let's explore the plot for a bit.

Brief Referendum: 
A new film entitled The Hunter has something to do with a search for the Tasmanian Tiger.
The tasmanian tiger went extinct in the thirties. 
The slogan for the film stands as:
Some mysteries should never be solved. 
That may be true, but who can ever resist?

Back to the business at hand. 8MM.
  • Nicholas Cage is a P.I.
    • FYI: That's good.
  • An old lady pays him to watch an 8mm film her recently deceased husband had in his vault.
    • That's good, right? I mean, we all like movies.
  • Turns out the film is of snuff nature. 
    • Shucks. That's bad.
  • Cage is paid to go hunt down the makers of said film.
  • Cage hires a porn-store dayworker to be the Virgil to his Dante.
  • Our Virgil takes us down and down the circles of porn hell.
    • That's bad.
  • Bad stuff happens.
    • That's very bad.
  • A masked-man is our main villain.
  • More bad stuff happens.
    • That's still very bad.
  • Even more bad stuff happens.
    • Make it stop!
  • Masked-man is killed. We never know learn his identity.
    • That's good?
  • Bad stuff stops happening. 
    • Good... I think??
  • The movie is over.
    • ???
Okay, how about Walker's previous movie, Seven?
  • Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman are cops.
    • That's good!
  • A fat man is murdered. 
    • That's bad.
  • Turns out the murderer, John Doe, is a serial killing.
    • That's worse.
  • Bad stuff happens.
  • More bad stuff happens.
  • John Doe turns himself in.
    • Hooray!
  • Even more bad stuff happens.
    • Wait... that's bad! But I the bad guy was already caught!
  • John Doe is killed. We never really know his identity.
    • That's good, I think. 
  • Morgan Freeman tells us the world is not a good place.
    • Don't says those words, Morgan... don't say those words!
  • The movie is over.
    • Sigh. 
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

Both stories deal with the concept of a master play of evil, and a slipping into the recesses of dark knowledge by the ardent protagonists. 
A couple scenes in each story contains very telling monologues which stand -- if we consider our surroundings with care -- as hidden compasses. 

Purview the internet and you'll find several different drafts of Walker's Seven. The most dramatic changes come in the final act. In one draft, while John Doe is being transported into the desert, Freeman (Somerset), Pitt (Mills) and the cold murderer have a brief back-and-forth about the purpose of all Joe's scheming.
SOMERSET
You want people to question God's existence?
You want them to...

JOHN DOE
No!! No!! I want them to question their own existence.
I want people to question their own existence.

MILLS
You really think what you're doing is 
God's good work?!

JOHN DOE
The Lord works in mysterious ways.

It should be noted that throughout the story, Detective Somerset, though wholly repulsed by the things has is brought to see, is innately curious to understand it all. Wherein Mills simply writes John Doe off as a lunatic, Somerset sees him as too calculated to be purely motivated by insanity, and so works hard to comprehend the killer's drive. 
See it yet? That police car conversation changed when it made it onto the screen -- it adds a similarly complex nuance to Joe's motive.
MILLS
Wait, I thought all you did was kill innocent people.

JOHN DOE
Innocent? Is that supposed to be funny? An obese man... a disgusting man who could barely stand up; a man who if you saw him on the street, you'd point him out to your friends so that they could join you in mocking him; a man, who if you saw him while you were eating, you wouldn't be able to finish your meal. After him, I picked the lawyer and I know you both must have been secretly thanking me for that one. This is a man who dedicated his life to making money by lying with every breath that he could muster to keeping murderers and rapists on the streets!

 



MILLS
Murderers? 

JOHN DOE
A woman...

MILLS
Murderers, John, like yourself?

JOHN DOE
[interrupts] A woman... so ugly on the inside she couldn't bear to go on living if she couldn't be beautiful on the outside. A drug dealer, a drug dealing pederast, actually! And let's not forget the disease-spreading whore! Only in a world this shitty could you even try to say these were innocent people and keep a straight face. But that's the point. We see a deadly sin on every street corner, in every home, and we tolerate it. We tolerate it because it's common, it's trivial. We tolerate it morning, noon, and night. Well, not anymore. I'm setting the example. What I've done is going to be puzzled over and studied and followed... forever. 

See it yet?
If Se7en exists as a strange testament as to one man's effort to make mankind reflect on his evil ways, then 8MM is the scalpel which focuses finely on the deeds themselves. 

Our Virgil has seen much. We trust him and know him to be true because whilst working in the porn-shop, our P.I. spots him highlighting selections out of what appears to be a porno-mag. Who does that? Answer: no one. He was reading legitimate literature, but hiding it behind the perception that he was the common dreg, getting off on some new comic fantasy. Anyway... the point is, we trust him. That's why we're inclined to believe him when he goes on this rant:

MAX
(aka Our Virgil)
Know what else? It's only gonna get worse. More and more you'll see perverse hardcore coming into the mainstream, because that's evolution. Desensitization. 'Oh my G-, Elvis Presley is wiggling his hips, how offensive!' Nowadays, MTV's showing girls dancing around in thong bikinis with their asses hanging out. Know what I mean? For the porn-addict, big tits aren't big enough after awhile. They have to be the biggest tits ever. Some porn chicks are putting in breast implants bigger than your head, literally. Soon, Playboy is gonna be Penthouse, Penthouse'll be Hustler, Hustler'll be hardcore, and hardcore films'll be medical films. People'll be jerking off to women laying around with open wounds. There's nowhere else for it to go. 


As I contemplate that slippery slope argument, I ask you, gentle and patient reader, why are vampires so popular now? What is so alluring about attractive cannibals? 

Look at the most heinous of all crimes.
What do they consist of?
Sex and blood.
It's no coincidence.
From the dawn of time, poets and philosophers alike have recognized BLOOD as the life of a being -- as the essence of a soul. And SEX. As Christians we recognize it as the symbol of God's relationship with us. We see the Church in the New Testament (and Israel in the Old) consistently spoken of as the Bride. Christ Jesus is our Bridegroom. Think of the book of Hosea. The harlotry of Hosea's wife, Gomer, as used as a direct analogy for God's people's unfaithfulness to God. They turned to idols instead of their Lord. God speaks of this as adultery; sex with another. 
It's no coincidence. 
When captured by the bad guys, our protagonist, Nicolas Cage aka Welles, has one question left nagging at him.

WELLES
Just tell me. Tell me some more of the secrets you and Christian shared. What kind of degenerate pervert was he really? What the fuck did he want with a snuff film?

LONGDALE
(aka bad guy lawyer)
You're asking me why.

WELLES
I'm asking.

LONGDALE
A man like Mr. Christian, a great man... all his money, all his power... a man who had everything there was to attain...

WELLES
Why did he buy a film of some poor, lost girl getting butchered?

LONGDALE
Isn't it incredibly obvious?

WELLES
Enlighten me.

LONGDALE
Because he could. He did it because he could.
(pause)
What other reason were you looking for.

That's the type of evil that our John Doe was evilly trying to destroy
-- killing evil by evil --
PURPOSE
 Here's why this discussion is relevant to us.
Andrew Kevin Walker's brief resume shows us something that we ourselves perhaps couldn't see. 
He spares us the action steps of becoming evil -- he shows us its mechanism. And most importantly, he shows us its futility. 
Vainly, I'll try as best as I can to summarize:
  1. Evil exists.
  2. It functions in a certain direction. Always forward.
  3. There is a curiosity that we may have towards dark knowledge, but it will never satisfy.
  4. Evil is never static in that it is insatiable.
  5. Evil is perpetually inclined towards sex and blood. 
  6. Participation, on any level, always ends in futility.
Remember the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil? "And Evil". Let us not be so arrogant as to forget that there is such a realm of information; that rabbit hole exists, and it falls forever downward.

Through Andrew Kevin Walker we see a revelation of the reality of evil motivation. My controversial claim is simply this: that such a gift was given to Mr. Walker from the Lord. This is perhaps a part of his cross to bear. This is, in some fashion, a responsibility in that it is a gift, and we are remiss to bury our God-given gifts.

GENESIS 6:5-6, The LORD say that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.  And the LORD was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. 

And so are told, and so we can see.

As for us, we are now given a new context in which to understand PHILIPPIANS 3:8 ...whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Doubt ends with the two main nuns of the film sitting on a bench. 
SISTER JAMES
I wish I could be like you.

SISTER ALOYSIUS
Why?

SISTER JAMES
[tearing up] Because I can't sleep anymore.

Sister Aloysius, the nun who gave us the quote about stepping away from God in his service long ago, sighs and admits:

SISTER ALOYSIUS
Maybe we're not supposed to sleep so well. 




5 comments:

  1. Hi.

    I saw the 8MM the other day and it shook me. I watched 7 in 1997 and shooked me ok but I had to wait almost 15 years to watch 8MM. I felt from the beginning that this movie is, hmm, let s say, too disturbing (disturbing is the word mostly used in the IMDB reviews for this movie - 6,4!?).

    When the movie finished I was like thunderstruck. There are the two scenes that fit into the thriller - experience (the scene in the warehouse and the scene in the home of the Machine) but the un-easiness comes not from these scenes but from the sick, perverse world that the pen of Walker creates.

    I read that Scuhmacher literally destroyed the film and I can see why. Ok, this movie is good but you have to imagine how it would have been with Fincher as director. I mean, I waited the last scenes and believed that everything (sick) could be possible : for example, when Welles informs the wife of the millionaire that her husband was just a pervert, it wouldn t surprise me if the wife was into the "game" and just double-crossed Welles. Or - another example - I wasn t sure that Welles would manage to beat the Machine. U see Walker had almost out-foxed the "good" guys in 7, so I watched 8mm thinking that "the nature of evil is so insidious that it can twist not only the character of Welles but even the traditional happy (...) end"

    I don t know if there is any other so powerful script writer as Walker out there (who wrote the script of The Usual Suspects?) but I think that the real problem in the Schumacher film lies right there:

    Imagine a crime so hideous that it starts and ends in a film, that does not exist anywhere else. The only witnesses are the rich guy, the director, the executioner and the producer, all bound (not literally) by the hideousness of their act - an act worse than any other. Now imagine that a guy watches the film (Welles), investigates, finds and as he tries to uncover the bad guys the only proof of the act that he has is destroyed - not to mention that his Vigil is killed, the only silver line let s say, no Justice, no cops, no other self-righteous taxi drivers, no nothing! Welles all alone against the evil itself. Where s the poetic Justice?

    I mean if the whole idea is not Claustrophobia in itself, maybe the nature of evil, what else could it be?

    (As you rightly point out Spacey in 7 has at least the moral creadentials of a totally logical lunatic that can not cope with this kind of society. I would mention perhaps Keyser Soze from the Usual Suspects but the script writer does create more of a mind game not a study in the nature of evil).

    But the bad guys, what can you say about them? I mean, there are not only cold blood murderers but something more, something else, the script of Walker has something of a dostoevskian dystopia, something of the Russian s genious.

    You can not think of something more appropriate that to fall on your knees and pray I think, after this disturbing experience. So I tend to agree with your controversial claim : yes Lord works in mysterious ways and Walker seems to have walked His way.

    PS. I apologise for my bad english but I m not native speaker, I m Greek.

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