Skip to main content

The Zoroastrian Dialectic in 'Observe and Report'

Many films are based on the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. Several films focus on the idea of the Übermensch, notably (and most obviously) Alfred Hitchcock's Rope. Übermensch was a idea that Nietzsche proposed in his novel Thus Spoke Zarathustra, arguably one of the most influential philosophical works of all time, (and infamously an inspiration of both Wagner and Hitler).

Aside from Rope, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Being There are two other fantastic films meant to recount an aspect of the tale of Zoroaster. In each of these, a naive person or civilization is exposed to an event that opens their eyes and impels them to change themselves into something more than they already were, thereby they attain a new level of being and enlightenment.

A similar event occurs in Observe and Report, wherein the protagonist Ronnie Barnhardt, a mall security chief, is exposed (both literally and figuratively) to a series of eye-opening experiences. It's an interesting retelling of the story of Zoroaster. Throughout a series of misadventures, Barnhardt does achieve the status of Übermensch in a absurd happy ending. As such, the film is an effective commentary and rebuttal to the story of Zoroaster. Through parody tinted with absurdity the film provides an effective criticism of Nietzsche's philosophy.

It's a surprisingly deep film. Taken straight up, it's very confusing and a strange film, especially as one starring a big name comedian and released in the summer blockbuster season. Mostly ineffective as a comedy, and lacking an identifiable protagonist the film flounders as a by-the-numbers comedy. As a philosophical treatise, the film is spot-on; Barnhardt represents the failings in the Zoroastrian ideal: he's racist, sexist, homophobic, violent and yet unfoundedly self-confident.

Popular posts from this blog

The Dream Is Real

For my money there is nothing cooler than the idea of a city folding in on itself.

Review: Anomalisa

Weird is rarely used as a good quality in film criticism, but few words so completely describe Charlie Kaufman’s work as weird does. All of his films are a window into his very particular worldview, and that p.o.v. is certainly unlike anything seen in pop culture. For that reason, Anomalisa became an entry on many most anticipated lists for 2015. That Kaufman chose stop-motion to tell this story made the picture an event. So it came as a disappointment when the film was one of the year’s more mundane efforts.

Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind have an energy and heart at the center that is not present here. Previous collaborators like Spike Jonze and Michel Gondry were able to temper the overwhelming negativity Charlie Kaufman occasionally falls prey to, but, this time, the writer doesn’t have a director to rein things in. In all of his efforts to create an experience that is both familiar and alienating, Kaufman may have accidentally created something host…

Ant-man Finally Casted?

It looks like Nathan Fillion might be playing a superhero afterall. After being considered for roles in Green Lantern, and Captain America,Fillion (most remembered as Malcolm Reynolds in the cult-hit Firefly) is reportedly in final negotiations to play Dr. Hank Pym in the new Avengers film. It hasn't been stated whether Pym would be Ant-man in the film, or just a S.H.I.E.L.D. scientist, but we're holding out hope.

The Avengers hits theatres in 2012.