Sunday, February 6, 2022

Nightmare Alley Analysis and Review

Nightmare Alley is a movie directed by Guillermo Del Toro and starring Bradley Cooper, Cate Blachett, Willem Dafoe and Toni Collette. There are many different characters played by many actors in this grim neo-noir story.
The movie opens on the main character burying a body in the middle of a house and lighting it on fire. He hooks up with a traveling carnival that doesn't care who you are or what you've done. He is introduced quickly to a carnival mainstay, The Geek Show.
A major theme of this movie is Jung's statement "Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate." The basic idea behind this is that things in our unconscious mind will drive our conscious decisions. Stan has a major drive to make his way and make something better of himself. As he inhabits the carnival. He befriends the head of the geek show that gives him a soft bed. He also befriends Zeena and Pete, who are a couple who in the past have created an intricate mentalist show based on verbal signals.
He has a physical relationship with Zeena and builds a father/son relationship with Pete. All the while swindling both of them to get what he wants, a leg up in society and moving to more success.
In a particularly memorable scene, Pete, who has succumbed to drinking as a way to deal with life, warns Stan to not give in to believing that he has actual powers and always remember that it is a parlor trick, else he will get "shut eye" and lose his way. Alcoholism, in the original movie, was a pertinent issue of the time and is mirrored in this movie. Both Stan's Father and Pete have succumbed to the bottle as a man's of escapism. Clem explains to Stan that the alcohol is in two places. Wood alcohol that is poisonous and Sweet Alcohol that is for drinking. These items are placed in two boxes that are right next to each other. Murder, being an easy mistake, made in the dark.
In the third act, Stan and Molly have run away together and are running a mentalist act in high society.  As they are running their act, a judge is read during the performance who has lost a son in the war. The judge is cared for by Lillith, a psychiatrist who works with some of the most wealthy citizens. Stan is presented with a left or right decision and chooses the decision to present himself as some one who actually communicates with the dead rather than a mentalist performing a parlor trick. He enlists Lillith as an ally and as she records all of her sessions with the others, she has the secrets of all of the potential clients that will give him an in with hooking the clients. The judge recommends him to a rich man named Elliot who is morning the death of someone he loved and feels responsible for her death. Stan goes in to deep as he becomes the person who convinces Elliot that he can materialize his dead wife.
His house of cards eventually falls apart and people begin to abandon his fading star.
After the climax of the movie, he is left in disgrace with no options and as the movie comes to a horrifying conclusion that he condemns himself to a life of hardship in the worst profession possible.
The entire time I am watching this movie, there is something bubbling beneath the surface of the main character and its his past and his actions. He begins the movie as a murderer and through glimpses of what we see him reveal in his nightmares and recollections. He's not telling us who he truly is.
After the second viewing of Nightmare Alley, I am left with the idea that the character, before he made decision in the real world, should have been dealing dealing with his unconscious values and beliefs. The question then becomes are we given the tools to explore the subconscious? Are we able to challenge our basic programming or are we doomed to repeat the same things over and over.
The basic programming of our life is instilled between the third trimester and age 1 through age 7. These attitudes and beliefs are ingrained from observing how the world works and how other people behave. They are the autopilot that is controlling our actions 95% of the time. With 5% of our time being in the creative conscious mind. It's that time right before sleep that we are able to reprogram the subconscious. There are several ways we can do that. Repetition, Positive Affirmation and Awareness of the programs that we are running. This is reflected in what is important to us and what is holding us back. We can see the programs that are running in our lives and it's through awareness and through conscious reprogramming that we can reprogra our character, decisions and attitudes.

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