I haven't said it in awhile, and now would be a good time for bringing it up because the topic can become a confusing issue. I do my best to draw your attention to recurring symbols, themes and motifs; for example, snow globes are used in both Red Dawn and The House At the End of the Street; does that mean those aren't "original" films? No, when there are recurring ideas in art, they are, literally, recurring ideas, and validates the previous usage (as well as your reading, if you have read the symbol/idea correctly) thereby "building up" the importance of whatever it is the recurring idea wants to communicate; the more film makers and artists are talking about something, and the more of them using the same ideas to communicate it, the more important it is. Originality, then, has nothing to do with recurring themes and symbols, rather, our attention is drawn to that pattern the recurrence establishes and gives us cause to consider what it's saying. (Please, please please remember that what I am going to talk about in this post was also mentioned in last year's Best Picture Winner The Artist when George (Jean Dujardin) yells, "Free Georgia!" from the plane he flies in the beginning, referring to the August Uprising when Russian Georgia revolted against Soviet Socialists trying to collectivize their farms; please see BANG! The Artist & the New Agenda In Film for more).
|Of all the possible images in this horror film to use, why use this one, of the mask not going completely around his head? To begin with, the laces are remind me of the the stitch wounds prevalent throughout Silent Hill: Revelation. Like in The Collection, both films correlate that gaping aesthetic with a lack of identity. Showing the back of a masked serial killer might not make much sense but the gaping opening in the center of the poster is exactly where our attention should be for two reasons: first, the film heavily relies upon chaos theory (think of the butterfly effect) and The Collector--for as brilliant as he is--hasn't thought of everything, including Arkin's and Elena's strength and intelligence in overcoming him. For as tightly as he pulls on the strings of control (like killing everyone at the warehouse rave in the opening sequences; something should have gone wrong there, but it didn't) he can't pull tightly enough to keep it all in, something is going to ooze out no matter how hard he tries, and those "unknown variables" are attributable to chaos theory.|
Let's start with the password: "Nevermore."
By knowing what the password is actually a password for, we can deduce what the party is going on inside. "Nevermore" from Edgar Allan Poe's poem The Raven may seem like a ploy to introduce the macabre into The Collection, yet we've seen Poe in (the book) Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter and The Raven (John Cusack). Poe's traumatic life of poverty has been fodder for both sides: socialists saying, if the state had funded Poe, he could have produced far more and not suffered so, while capitalists say it's precisely because of his sufferings that he was able to produce such brilliant work and artistic immortality is the workplace benefit of writing (please see The Raven & the Raccoon: Edgar Allan Poe & Karl Marx for more). That debate is one issue. Who else, though, would have cause to say, "Nevermore?"
Why is this the moment in which he is revealed?
|The point in the story when we see Arkin's tattoos is just as important as the tattoos themselves. Just after this scene pictured above, Arkin found a dumb waiter; trying to find a way out of The Collector's hotel, he gets the door of the dumb waiter open and, at the bottom, sees innumerable severed, bloody human limbs piled up. To avoid being found by Lucello (from whom he is hiding, fearing that he will die if he stays with Lucello's group) Arkin climbs inside the dumb waiter and perches on the ledge; unable to keep himself up, he falls down into the pit and discovers there is gasoline all over the body parts; he climbs out and, once again in the hallway, he removes his long-sleeved shirt to wear his undershirt, then revealing that he has the tattoos (this place in the hotel is also important because, towards the end, Arkin successfully pushes The Collector down the dumb waiter and drops a match on his body covered in gasoline at that point). What is this scene about? First of all, the dumb waiter, because it is used to convey food to the different floors of the hotel, should be seen primarily as a symbol of the appetites. The different floors of the hotel symbolize levels of "higher thoughts" (the upper-floors, the higher you go, the more lofty, idealistic realm of thought you encounter) and the lower-floors being lower-thoughts or the animal passions. Now, we must ask, who in history has had a "craving" (the appetites the dumb waiter symbolizes) for humans to be butchered and burned? The Nazi Socialists and the Soviet Socialists. In the Holocaust of World War II, hundreds of thousands of Jews were put to death (and this is probably the direct invocation by the images in The Collection) but 14.5 million were put to death and starved from government-induced famine when Socialists tried to collectivize people in the countryside and make farms state-run in the Soviet Union. TO COLLECT PEOPLE TOGETHER IS ACTUALLY TO TEAR THEM APART, because it is a denial of their free will and their ability to project their own course in life and follow it. This is why the film makers chose to depict a socialist as an entomologist (a person who studies insects) because socialists deny that people have any free will or any individuality, rather, we are like bugs, to be stomped upon and controlled by a greater will than our own (the government; more discussion on this below). Now we can understand why, in the image above, Arkin slips through the wall with all the nails on it: it's like a human-size display board for human to be displayed upon the way a collector will pin his insect collection to a board to display (there is an example of a large beetle collection displayed that way at this link).|
As you may or may not know, The Collection is the sequel to The Collector of 2009, when Arkin first encountered The Collector. One important detail we know is that Arkin is a twice convicted thief. Why would this be important? This weekend, another important story about a "thief" opens, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is about a thief, the hero, Bilbo Baggins, who is chosen by Gandalf to go on an adventure because Bilbo will make an excellent thief (more on this later). There is a spiritual quality to being a thief, and we can contribute this theory to Arkin with confidence because, on both of his arms, are Christian tattoos, the "mark of Christ" (as apposed to the "mark of the beast). On his left arm, Arkin has a tattoo of the Cross with a banner and Latin inscription; on his right arm, he has a tattoo of Latin inscription with "Virtue" and "Strength" written (among some other Latin words I didn't catch). So what were the two acts of thievery Arkin committed?
Obviously, the tattoos on both his arms play a huge role in characterizing him thusly, however, there is an even more impressive scene: Arkin, Elena and Paz (one of Lucello's mercenaries) are trapped in a cage, and about to be blown up; to save them, Arkin has Paz step on his forearm to break it so he can get it through the holes in the cage and unlock them; why am I so impressed with this? Because it's suffering. One of the methods of socialism spreading is to create a fear of suffering in people so they will depend on the government to provide for them and they don't have to worry about ever being out of a job, going hungry or being without their birth control,... because the government is providing it for them. Arkin, however, takes suffering upon himself and lays down his life to help Paz and Elena. Which leads us to what differentiates Mr. Peters, Lucello and Arkin from The Collector.
Now we can understand what Lucello symbolizes.
|Lucello holding onto Eleana, Arkin on the far right.|
When Arkin stumbles into a room with a flickering light bulb (it's included in the trailer above), the light symbolizes an idea, the "light going off" in Arkin's head, because when he sees the framed picture of the beetle he also sees The Collector, he sees beyond the mask and the essence of what The Collector is; that's why, even though The Collector is so close to Arkin (sneaking up behind him), The Collector can't catch him because knowledge of The Collector's real identity breaks the strength of The Collector and The Collector's hold on Arkin: knowing who and what The Collector is, Arkin knows how to defeat him.
Because it has such a high-body count and so much blood, it's not a film everyone will want to watch, but I assure you, I have only started to scratch the surface of this film's political message (I will probably leave some additional comments below, so check to see). It hasn't grossed well at the box office, so if you are interested in seeing it, check your theater listings because it's not playing very long. There are so many things in the film I am skipping, I hope you will have fun plugging in your own interpretations and meanings!
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner