Postmodernism in the film Being John Malkovich
Jae Sung Park – 2011191020
Postmodernism is a philosophical idea that became prominent in the latter half of the twentieth century. This idea focuses on raising questions against the validity of reality and what is commonly regarded as the truth. In this aspect, postmodernism can be seen as a derivative of modernism, which also questions the Enlightenment ideas of absolute truths and individual sovereignty. They are both a significant drift from the realism of 19th century. However, postmodernism is distinguishable from its predecessor in several key aspects (although there is still much debate about the criteria for how this distinction can be made). One aspect, for example, is the tone. Modernists regard the fragmentation of character deplorable and thus as something that should be solved; contrarily, postmodernists view such fragmentation as something that’s beyond solving and often employ a playful tone at depicting it. This will be further discussed later in the essay. Postmodernist perspective can be applied to a vast variety of cultural fields, as broad as to include literature, art, architecture, sociology, music, cinema, and much more. The film Being John Malkovich can be seen as a paradigmatic example of postmodernism, and I am going to study the ways in which postmodern elements are incorporated into the film in the following paragraphs.
One of the main themes of the film is the indefinite identity. After the characters experience fifteen minutes in another person’s body by entering John Malkovich’s portal, their identities waver to the foundation. Recognition of their own sexuality, power relations, and even morality go through major reestablishments. The character Lotte, for example, is surprised to find herself more comfortable in the body of Malkovich than her own. She is amazed and delighted by the power she feels when she is in the male actor’s body. Furthermore, she suddenly finds herself...