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SWAP: Bubble (2005, Steven Soderbergh)

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Carmel1379
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SWAP: Bubble (2005, Steven Soderbergh)

#1

Post by Carmel1379 » September 12th, 2019, 2:16 pm

spoilers


***

“Been out on a date lately?”
“Not for a while."
“No prospects, huh?”
“No, I’ve been busy working, pretty much.”


All places, with the web of people that live therein, carry their particular ebb and flow, the dictating practices characterising an insulated environment, where as far as we know the only net export are the hollow dolls assembled by a small factory workforce. People work, spend their day watching TV, go to church on Sunday, and this schedule keeps their lives ordered, relatively uneventful. Economic and parental constraints are the overwhelming currents, one needs to take care of a parent, a kid, live with a parent, or save up for a car to go to any bigger city or holiday destination. Whether it's during working hours or outside of them, the majority of the stale conversations precisely revolve around jobs past or present, ones savings, ones immediate household concerns, how one manages ones time, what future plans or dreams one has. Best discussed over the daily consumed fast food or over a cigarette. The cycle continues, the viewer positioned outside the bubble loses track when one day ends and the other begins, time keeps flowing by, dolls keep being made, dirt is shovelled.


“So how do you like it there?”
“It’s pretty good, it’s not too bad, it’s busy, but, you know, it’s a job”


In this configuration, with these rhythms, it's a pretty big deal when a new kid comes to town, especially a young, pretty, unmarried girl like Rose, a "Professional Asswiper" and exploiter, probably prioritising money above all (well, who doesn't). She goes out on a date with Kyle to rob him, she takes advantage of Martha to babysit her younger daughter, she's adept at showing the door to her kid's father demanding she gives him back his money and weed. All in all, she seems to have it together. Relaxing in richer people's baths in houses she's supposed to clean.

Compared to Rose, Martha and Kyle seem far less articulate, pressing, determined. After the murder the police is left reconstructing the events of last night, glueing all the puzzle pieces. But the conclusive evidence is found through pure forensics, there are little definite motives or explanations to be found in Martha's talking.
“Only you can explain to me what happened.”
“I can’t, I just don’t know.”

The small dirty prison window separating clueless conversing characters is a nice symbol of what communication looks like in this bubble. The somewhat corny guitar solos making up the whole score, are also surprisingly fitting to the parochial, awkward dynamics of the place. It's like dolls, you know. Hollow, plastic, artificial, they only hold value insofar as one projects it unto the toy, imbues it with life of ones own. Possibly the only instance of 'judgemental' (actively commenting) editing by Mary Ann Bernard was at Rose's place, with the toys strewn around the place and seemingly abandoned, dolls along with other discarded plastic excrement.
“You wanna play with some toys?”
(crying) “Nooooo”


The video cinematography is amazing, the colour palettes appear spectral, a lot of hazy auras are left hanging in the air from mysterious, eerily beautiful lightning, interestingly playing upon all surfaces, reflected by the many glass ones, spectacularly alluring inside the factories.

The biggest laugh for me was Kyle's mum's employment at the end of the movie. . . .

. . . and I guess that's it. Not really sure what to make of Martha's two illuminations in church and in prison, but I hope PdA has some thoughts on that.


Continue shovelling.


7 or 8/10
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whom shall we find
Sufficient? who shall tempt with wand’ring feet
The dark unbottom’d infinite Abyss,
And through the palpable obscure find out
His uncouth way, or spread his aerie flight,
Upborn with indefatigable wings,
Over the vast abrupt, ere he arrive
The happy Ile?

Nur dein Auge – ungeheuer / Blickt michs an, Unendlichkeit!
Close the world. ʇxǝu ǝɥʇ uǝdO.
t o B e c o n t i n u e d

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#2

Post by Perception de Ambiguity » September 12th, 2019, 10:11 pm

Beautiful fucking prison cell.

Kyle has his little weed time in his room after having done his two shifts to break out of the bubble, and Martha has her church time on Sundays to transcend what on superficial inspection constitutes her life. The "somewhat corny guitar solos" I felt only played at moments that characters transcended that bubble in one way or another, having time to themselves away from monetary concerns and/or being truly involved in a fantasy about having a great future, in the context of which this trite guitar strumming is heard woefully little in the film.

After having done the evil deed Martha's life is spent in a different bubble, but one in which the majority of her days she is afforded the luxury to transcend it while Kyle's mom has been sucked into it, having to fill two pair of shoes (I too was quite amused by "KYLE'S MOM", wondering if maybe it was an intentionally subtly cheeky conclusion to that plot line).

Stop shovelling.
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#3

Post by Carmel1379 » September 13th, 2019, 7:20 pm

Prison and escape, lines of stratification and lines of flight.

Do you think Martha's transcendent illuminations involve a level of guilt, remorse, and self-consciousness? Or is she perhaps warped inside her own self-justificating narrative (since we do see the scene replayed) and doesn't really perceive the murder as if she were the perpetrator?

I'm not too much into the idea of a literal prison functioning as a spirit/mind liberator... yet, I'm not really sure. I guess on a spiritual plane maybe, since a prison is adequate enough to provide plentiful solitary and introspective time periods throughout each day, and for example Raskolnikov returns faith in Dostoyevsky's epilogue to 'Crime and Punishment' (the matter is left ambiguous/contestable at the end of the novel). But, say, Meursault finds nothing, doesn't care about anything. The problem with Martha is her inarticulacy, contrary to great literary works her inner life isn't written down on paper, the outward stupid man suit is conjunctively as uncanny and as shallow as a plastic doll.
IMDb, letterboxd, tumblr
Image
whom shall we find
Sufficient? who shall tempt with wand’ring feet
The dark unbottom’d infinite Abyss,
And through the palpable obscure find out
His uncouth way, or spread his aerie flight,
Upborn with indefatigable wings,
Over the vast abrupt, ere he arrive
The happy Ile?

Nur dein Auge – ungeheuer / Blickt michs an, Unendlichkeit!
Close the world. ʇxǝu ǝɥʇ uǝdO.
t o B e c o n t i n u e d

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#4

Post by Perception de Ambiguity » September 13th, 2019, 10:04 pm

I didn't feel that guilt or remorse played a role in the film on the whole. If by replayed scene you are referring to the murder, we didn't see it when it happened "at first", so when we do see it it was a reveal of the killer for the viewer (regarding the kernel of doubt that still remained), but of course also a reveal to herself, becoming aware at this moment that she indeed did it. You could hypothesize that she will "forget it" again, that whenever she isn't in that state of mind she has no memory of anything she experienced in that state of mind, or in the particular case of the murder, that she won't remember it even though when we see her standing over the corpse she doesn't appear to be in that state, but rather stands there with the expected "what have I done" face, not to mention that she would still have to be in a major state of denial to justify to herself the buying spree that she goes on the next day which she financed with the loot.

I couldn't say for sure if this recollection of hers sticks from then on, but this question isn't of relevance to me. Instead what is the nature of her transcendence would be a more interesting one to me. You get some ideas about her latter one, but what about the one in church? I took it as a regular thing for her to experience at Sunday church, though of course there is no evidence of this in the film. Instead it creates a connection between the other times she is in this state, and the real life link between all of them would probably have to be Kyle, which would make the one in church a premonition of sorts of what would follow. She put all of her hopes into Kyle, to possibly have a shot at him one day, or at the very least to maintain the existing relationship of him being her best friend. She seems to kill Rose for Kyle, essentially. Although to anyone else it should be obvious that this hope is never going to be fulfilled and that to Kyle she is just a beneficial relation.

There is nothing special about Martha, just as there is nothing special about Kyle. He is every bit as "inarticulate" and stuck as her. You could say that she breaks, and that this is the only thing that makes her special. I do see it as a self-preservation mechanism of sorts. In the alternate ending (on the DVD), by the way, the film goes into a whole spiel about how Martha has a brain tumor which is discovered after she faints in her prison cell (yes, quite 'Lost Highway', I still didn't find it to be about guilt). Which would be an overly reductive explanation that Soderbergh I think was right to cut, but it doesn't for me change my reading of it in one way or another.

I'm not proposing that a literal prison is required to free you mind, just that for Martha it was a possibility to break out of the grind that used to be her everyday life. Put differently her bubble became so small that this became the most rational thing to do to make the bubble larger again. She can have "Sunday church" now every day, many times a day. This eventually depends on her daily prison routine, of course, but there is no indication that she is required to do much labor in prison, so it was a victory for her. At its core for me there was the desire of her for something better, a hope to get something more out of life, that lead to the crime. As for a justification for it, how could she NOT have a right to demand more? Have you seen the first half hour of the film? Have you really SEEN it?

I feel like I missed the significance of Kyle's final shovelling scene though, other than that he keeps doing his two jobs while being a little melancholic about having lost two of the most important people in his life. Duh.
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#5

Post by Carmel1379 » September 14th, 2019, 12:53 pm

The ending cell flashbacks are likely shocking self-realisations, such that during the police interview, when the detective is asking her to confess and show remorse, she's truly baffled and unable to respond with any concrete information, being unaware of having strangled Rose with her bare hands, remaining anosic, which could be due to a brain tumour, but that's just obviously one possibility among many, it would indeed be reductive of the film to suggest that as the only explanation. Martha most likely isn't a "cold-hearted killer", she could've had an episode of anterograde amnesia, while her return home, as well as the events of the following day, are the sufficiently 'logical' steps of actions the organism should pursue on automaton. "To help the investigation" she provides her fingerprints with unusual ease, convinced of her innocence, or perhaps too ignorant to understand incriminating forensic evidence.

I don't think there's any one viable explanation of what drove her to the murder, which for me is just as 'absurdist' and unexplainable as Meursault killing the Arab on the beach while he finds the Sun too hot. Kyle is one plausible reason, Martha's always been jealous and worried when she sees her only friend and this new femme fatale having their private conversations while smoking or going out on a date ("Why didn't Kyle ever ask *me* on a date?") *she* might not have helped to facilitate had she known Rose would be going out with Kyle, but it could as easily have been her persuasion of "feeling used" and being told to "mind her own business", so that she experiences an impulsive moment of overreactive rage, thus forcibly reaching for the other's throat, the whole scene over in seconds, her actions irreversible. Or is it an abstract feeling of radically changing ones life, as you also suggested? Or the desire to experience the pure thrill of strangling someone else? Or maybe God, with a shining blue aura, told her to do it, and in the end congratulates her on her deed?

I saw Martha's church illumination as weekly religious rapture as well, her blocking out all the other people, God now peering right down solely into *her* soul. At the same time there's of course a level of estrangement occurring during the episode, the other churchgoers are left completely hidden in the dark, she now sits alone, unable to convey her experience in language to anyone else, warped in bliss?

When you got to the point of the discovery of Rose's death, did you immediately think Martha killed her, or did you not rule anyone out and consider Rose's ex-boyfriend, Kyle, or some unknown assailant as well? I like how structurally the film allows for the latter possibility and even gives everyone their own possible motives, at least until Martha is brought in for questioning.


We must imagine Kyle saving up for his own car.

Image
IMDb, letterboxd, tumblr
Image
whom shall we find
Sufficient? who shall tempt with wand’ring feet
The dark unbottom’d infinite Abyss,
And through the palpable obscure find out
His uncouth way, or spread his aerie flight,
Upborn with indefatigable wings,
Over the vast abrupt, ere he arrive
The happy Ile?

Nur dein Auge – ungeheuer / Blickt michs an, Unendlichkeit!
Close the world. ʇxǝu ǝɥʇ uǝdO.
t o B e c o n t i n u e d

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#6

Post by Perception de Ambiguity » September 14th, 2019, 8:39 pm

>At the same time there's of course a level of estrangement occurring during the episode<

As opposed to the estrangement that describes her entire existence?


I didn't immediately think of Martha as the culprit, just when she sells some of her jewelry that seemed to come out of nowhere it seemed pretty clear, and any further scene with her solidified that suspicion more, yet a kernel of doubt remained until I "saw it with my own eyes". The fact that subsequent to the event she was so "dumb" and unsophisticated about hiding it put fuel into the fire of doubt.
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#7

Post by Carmel1379 » September 15th, 2019, 12:59 pm

As opposed to the estrangement that describes her entire existence?

Yes, did you not see the rich, colourful, jolly happy church community she was in? What else do you want, man?


I'm not really in a position to speculate about the characters' options in life, but I don't see getting convicted as particularly advantageous. I agree the film isn't about guilt or retribution following a murder at all -- rather just complete general cluelessness -- but nonetheless rotting inside a cell with only your own naked self is difficult for me to view as an escape or avenue to free her mind, which are quite indefinite abstract goals anyway. It's a phase change for sure, and she might possibly thrive better on a journey to God in this physically smaller and bounded prison, but from another perspective one wordless evening with her dad in front of the TV might be preferable to what's left of her imprisoned lonely existence. And no one will be banging at her door for interviews asking her if she loves the world she lives in.

Kyle's mum also substitutes one prison for another, turning off the TV and turning on the gears. You'd wonder if it was the uproar in the community which woke her up somehow, or maybe she started trying to keep a better eye on her son after seeing him just lose his only colleague and latest date.
IMDb, letterboxd, tumblr
Image
whom shall we find
Sufficient? who shall tempt with wand’ring feet
The dark unbottom’d infinite Abyss,
And through the palpable obscure find out
His uncouth way, or spread his aerie flight,
Upborn with indefatigable wings,
Over the vast abrupt, ere he arrive
The happy Ile?

Nur dein Auge – ungeheuer / Blickt michs an, Unendlichkeit!
Close the world. ʇxǝu ǝɥʇ uǝdO.
t o B e c o n t i n u e d

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#8

Post by Perception de Ambiguity » September 15th, 2019, 4:49 pm

It's not "rotting inside a cell", it's not just "freeing the mind" and I don't think of there being a goal. She is no more likely to "rot" quicker or more strongly in prison than she has done and would continue to do outside of it. Her life was stuck in a rut for probably about as long as Kyle is old, and prison is an alternate lifestyle. You, Carmel, I reckon, can't relate to her situation too deeply to have a good sense of the place she was in in all those years, thinking that if she was unhappy with her life she could have just opened a boutique, gone on travels, go to swinger clubs, get into collecting garden gnomes, get a job at a different factory, move town, or gone fishing, etc. Even if there had been such things to bring joy into her life that maybe wouldn't be a "physical" impossibility to do and achieve, the doors were closed to her. If you get stuck in your ways for so long you almost inevitably likewise get stuck in your mind, More even, it over the years increasingly becomes a necessity to do so, to not have the mind adapt at all to the situation that is becoming increasingly more difficult to deny is your reality only makes your existence more unbearable.

Martha's life has become such that she sees her utter most reasonable prospect of an "upgrade" in a young, decent-looking pothead, whether it is about holding him as a surrogate son, as a lover, or both. And it's certainly not because she is aiming high, Kyle is just the uttermost easy target to project her desires into, he has been served to her on a silver platter. Now try to imagine that compared to this dream ANY dream that would be less futile to pursue, like for example finding a good friend her own age, finding a fulfilling hobby (rather than just a belly-filling one), feel more out of reach to her.

Or let me put it this way, when your life has become what Martha's life has become, and has been for the past decades, with the very probable prospect that this will be the rest of her life, if it won't even only become gradually more difficult and joyless (her father is on his way out, so she'll soon live alone anyway), and all your dreams have withered, then being locked up in a more literal box while being able to dream again isn't the worst thing that could happen to you.

Kyle's mom clearly just wanted to be able to afford her own fishing gear. Soon she and her son will regularly go camping together and they will become as close to each again as they haven't been since he was five years old. It will be beautiful...
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#9

Post by Carmel1379 » September 15th, 2019, 7:48 pm

Naah, Martha's "ready for the beaches", she saw it on TV the other day: beaches are great! Just give her a little more time and someone to take care of her dad if he's still kicking around, and then she'd be flying off to Aruba, Kenya, or Der siebente Kontinent, having the time of her life looking at young, decent-looking beach tourists to tell her hairdressers and pastry-sellers about. Silly of you to think her life was just about fading away or putting plastic eyes into dolls to keep her dad and herself alive only to put in more plastic eyes into more dolls, expending whatever auxiliary energy she had into sentence-formation and car-driving for the well-being and company of a socially awkward pothead co-worker, only to become jealous after he's been out on one date and commit a crime of passion against that girl who also shushed her. She was just one step from completely changing herself and her life around: courageously embarking out wide to the beach, like a true free spirit, was the first stage of her incredible adventures to come; like a thunderstorm bursting through the air she'd roam the universe and experience life in all its multifacetedness, beauty, and weirdness, with all the many fish to catch; she had options!

No, but Kyle was a sufficiently good reason to get out of bed in the morning, and now she won't even be able to move further than 6 feet from her bed, free to spend the rest of her life in personalised fantasies.


Gone fishing with a friend. And maybe buffalo hunting too.
IMDb, letterboxd, tumblr
Image
whom shall we find
Sufficient? who shall tempt with wand’ring feet
The dark unbottom’d infinite Abyss,
And through the palpable obscure find out
His uncouth way, or spread his aerie flight,
Upborn with indefatigable wings,
Over the vast abrupt, ere he arrive
The happy Ile?

Nur dein Auge – ungeheuer / Blickt michs an, Unendlichkeit!
Close the world. ʇxǝu ǝɥʇ uǝdO.
t o B e c o n t i n u e d

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#10

Post by Perception de Ambiguity » September 15th, 2019, 8:48 pm

Carmel1379 wrote:
September 15th, 2019, 7:48 pm
Naah, Martha's "ready for the beaches", she saw it on TV the other day: beaches are great! Just give her a little more time and someone to take care of her dad if he's still kicking around, and then she'd be flying off to Aruba, Kenya, or Der siebente Kontinent, having the time of her life looking at young, decent-looking beach tourists to tell her hairdressers and pastry-sellers about. Silly of you to think her life was just about fading away or putting plastic eyes into dolls to keep her dad and herself alive only to put in more plastic eyes into more dolls, expending whatever auxiliary energy she had into sentence-formation and car-driving for the well-being and company of a socially awkward pothead co-worker, only to become jealous after he's been out on one date and commit a crime of passion against that girl who also shushed her. She was just one step from completely changing herself and her life around: courageously embarking out wide to the beach, like a true free spirit, was the first stage of her incredible adventures to come; like a thunderstorm bursting through the air she'd roam the universe and experience life in all its multifacetedness, beauty, and weirdness, with all the many fish to catch; she had options!
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Carmel1379 wrote:
September 15th, 2019, 7:48 pm
No, but Kyle was a sufficiently good reason to get out of bed in the morning, and now she won't even be able to move further than 6 feet from her bed, free to spend the rest of her life in personalised fantasies.
Still enough room to do yoga.
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