There’s this hideous idea going around that one must pick apart a piece of art in order to understand it. It starts in school: break it down, cut it open, crack the bones and suck out the marrow of the thing. What does this mean? What does this represent? Like tearing apart a carcass. It’s a way of thinking that sticks with you, gets deep into your brain. A rare success story for the American educational system.
College English classes were miserable for me. All that analysis, all that rhetoric. Sacrificing something beautiful and pure on the alter of learning. Art should be allowed to operate on a subconscious level. It should be given a certain freedom to communicate on an individual level.
I have a friend who has a rather odd relationship to art. He won’t read books, period. I have no idea why. He loves movies, especially movie versions of books. I hate watching movies with him, since he insists that they be broken down afterward. It’s like a test. I showed him Alien once. I fucking love Alien. After we’d finished he sat me down and we laid out the meaning behind every image in the film and how they related to the central theme, which was? Anybody?
Not only did it make for a dull afternoon, it went a good way towards ruining the mystique of the film. Alien in particular is a deeply primordial piece of art. On the surface it’s just a slasher, everything else operates on another level; a level which must remain hidden if the film is to be effective. Shine too bright a light on a thing and it stops working. There’s a reason they hid the creature for the whole damn movie, and it doesn’t have anything to do with unconvincing special effects.
We’re obsessed with the idea that art must be worth something. It has to have a purpose beyond itself, it has to do something. What do I get out of this? How do I know if it’s good? Why not just break it down and see how complex are the gears turning beneath the skin? Inception isn’t a better movie than any other sci-fi shoot-em-up just because it’s more complex than most. It’s just more complicated.
Rip and shred it all apart and lay it out. A dissection, spreading out all the organs to take stock, measure, weigh, evaluate. Once it’s done it’s done. You can’t put that body back together again. You can’t make it live again.