Visceral Horror Is Good for You, Composing, 15/11/2017

I spent today talking with my collaborator The Ghost about this horror / sci-fi film project we’re starting work on. I don’t really want to talk about specific story or plot ideas today.

We’re still assembling the details of the script, and until we have the order of events and all the relationships among the five characters straight, I’m not going to talk about any  details.*

* Not entirely true – I’m probably going to describe this in more detail to my Patreon sponsors this week.

I want to talk a little about the themes this film is going to explore. Call it materialist existentialist, if you want to sound pretentious. What does that actually mean?

Look at some of the major works of classic existentialist literature. Books by Jean-Paul Sartre, Samuel Beckett, and of course Franz Kafka.

When we are reduced to the shriek alone.
For Sartre and Beckett, I’m particularly thinking of Nausea and Molloy. They tell stories of men who grow isolated from their surroundings, turning inward in their alienation until they collapse into pure affect – usually rage and depression.

But Roquintin and Molloy become alienated from society thanks to some very general problems. Sartre’s protagonist becomes depressed, enraged, feeling powerless as his intellect and wit is inadequate to all the problems he experiences. Molloy is a man whose existence as an itinerant grows increasingly incoherent that he eventually disappears from sense itself.

We can very easily take these characters as existentialist stereotypes – existence itself, the burden of life alone, brings them to collapse. Life itself is so absurd! But that’s not quite the case. Hell, even in the stereotypical book of these stereotypes, Albert Camus’ The Stranger, the existentialist stereotype is inadequate to what’s really going on.

I’ve come to think lately that the concept of ‘the absurd’ is a method of willful blindness from how existence really does become an empty terror.

Roquintin, for one, is clearly a parody of the empty existence – his existence really is empty, as he doesn’t really have to struggle for anything. He becomes disgusted with his life out of boredom, the emptiness of a life where everything comes easily.

Existentialist readings of Molloy, to me, miss the most important point about Molloy the character – he’s a desperately poor homeless man whose elderly body is breaking down. He sleeps in ditches, scrounges for food, shivers in a downpour with no shelter. Of course his life is absurd – it’s the absurdity of extreme poverty.

Where does the absurdity of my story come from? It’s a five-minutes-into-the-future premise – all the paranoia and state police crackdowns against immigrants and migrants have become universal.

Images of ICE prison camps, Guantanamo and terrorism paranoia, the vile hatred of migrants and refugees, the proud resurgence of ethnic violence and nationalist racism, the bureaucratic slavery of mass incarceration.

Trapped in so many chains. The chains of border police against migrants. The chains of an authoritarian police and court system. The chains of dehumanizing scientific experiment. These are the chains that make his life absurd.

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