Sunday, December 7, 2008

Jigsaw Post #3

EC, God help me, what you posted was disturbing and, to steal from Scotty's word vault, awesome as hell. I don't know whether to feel elated or unsettled. I know what my stomach feels like: it feels like about half a bottle of the Jamey. And it feels like the other half should be coming soon. I wish you'd gotten that video out before I'd got tossed out of my head, but I can't stop watching it. I really doubt I'll be able to contribute all that much, but it's just amazing to me. Where did you say you got this again? Promise me you'll remember better and tell us more.

Okay, okay, we should look at some of the frames of this, because the individual pictures reveal probably more than the video as a whole, insofar as the choices the director made are animated ones (at least partially) where he could pick out the themes of violence he wanted to evoke, irespective of consequence.

This is an amazingly menacing image, because you've got the rat behind bars. I can't tell if this is immediately a capitalist metaphor, the predatory animal that eats and steals from others. It would seem to be the well that any good Soviet video would go to. This thing creates nothing and yet prospers due to exploitation and theft from the creative and generative class. Better that he be locked up. What happens to him is anyone's guess. I can't tell what's killing him, but his stabbing/strangulation seems almost lusciously vindictive and bloodthirsty.

Given how much the "Higgins" (cf. Scotty's post) character is lecturing or directly narrating at the camera, this substance seems to be a critical element (but is it an element?—the notation suggests it is not) in the dramaturgy. But not knowing what it is obviously means that we can't really say anything informed without venturing into putting on airs or, if you like, Asshole Territory.

If you remember, our earlier inclination was to say this was an anti-nuclear film — as if to say, "Here are your horrors. You would not want them yourself. But what could they do to us?" Perhaps it was the USSR drafting a westerner ("Higgins") to warn us about the dangers of our overreaching militarily and damaging the balance of power or the planet itself. But given how threatening or frightening the rest of this clip becomes, I don't feel comfortable anymore with this being cautionary. It could be an aggressive warning. I don't know what the substance is, but my first guess is that it's highly radioactive particulate matter. Something that shows the west that their weapons have direct harm.

Can you weaponize exposed soils? If teh Soviets had access to low-density soils exposed to an atomic blast, maybe they might offer them up as condemnation (in this video) of western action, or maybe they might offer them up as a threat. Remember that balloon from the earlier clip? Perhaps they could be saying, "If you poison our soils, we will drop your poison on you."

I could not get a clear screenshot of any of this, but there is a sustained sequence involving burning bodies and fires within a city. My guess is that it shows the horrors of a deliberate strike and the breakdown in social order. But I don't know if this is a passive or active statement. Food for thought.

This is another complete puzzle. This plane flies, and after it we see stalled boats and driftwood, which seems to signify the arresting of conflict. I don't know if this is a propagandizing gesture or a descriptive one. Is what's within this plane a metaphor? Is it an actual, named weapon? Is the word an acronym or a representation of something else?

This shot is a very poor one, but I'm having trouble getting my fingers to hit the keys at the same time I'd like. What I was trying to get is the people going by in gas masks. Again, I don't know what that signifies. My quick guess would be "Fallout Protection." Going off my earlier guesses, if this animation sequence is immediately post-war, that means that the Soviet Union did not then possess nuclear capabilities. They didn't get those until the Cambridge Five brought them the necessary scientific shortcuts in the later 1940s. If my dating suppositions are accurate, then it would make this video the product of an era of total and extreme paranaoia. It would make sense that they'd broadcast to the world both nuclear horrors and how those horrors could be turned back on the aggressor: how the seeds he'd planted with his bombs could taint the soil and grow into death and malignance for himself as well, how ripe the death could be for everyone who tilled that murderous field. How crappy poetry he could write if he were drunk. Sorry for writing all dramatic like this. Gross.

Here's where the warning stops being implicit and starts getting explicit. But I don't think this amounts to any such thing as a declaration of war. Although, I'm not naive. It just as well could be. However, as I've said, the dating of the video seems to be from a very praranoid time, so you can see this violence as retributive. If there is an atomic age that the USSR isn't part of, you can see them conceptualizing nuclear violence as something that beats back and bloodies its user just as hard and just as well. I don't know. I feel like I'm almost arguing against myself and better judgment at this point.

And here's where I'm starting to freak the fuck out looking at it. Because you can see the spread of this "CNOPbl" element cast across the North American continent and rise up into this Death's Head. Obviously, it's easy to incorporate this in my earlier thesis: this is the Soviet fright manifesting as a cautionary tale for the Americans. "Use this," it says, "and the death you bring is death across your own territory too. It doesn't get localized. Nuclear terror is global. Even for the user." On the other hand, there's something not at all "friendly warning" about skulls skipping across a continent and getting huge until they blot out the screen.

I feel like I started out wanting to believe one thing about this film and now almost want to believe the exact opposite. My problem is that I still think the dating of the film is on-target. If that's the case, it just makes it more confusing and difficult to deal with. If this is a pre-nuclear Soviet film, the threats it makes are all threats WE created. If it's post-nuclear (and I don't think it is), then the threats are clear. And it's an aggressive and confident document from early in their nuclear career. If it's not nuclear and not passive, it's just a bizarre anomaly that's hard to reconcile.

I have to quit now because I'm just drunk enough to be starting to write really crappy prose-poetry, tilling that field of sounding really sappy. And I need the rest of that Jamey.

Thanks again, EC.

Also, Boston College sucks completely and couldn't even come close to the spread. Assholes.

(I'll add links in the morning.)

(Hell, who am I kidding? I'll add links in the afternoon.)

(Links added — 12/7 8:09 p.m.)

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