Saturday, 31 January 2009

Heat Presentation - A Message of Hope in a Dark World

I gave a talk earlier in the week to about 40 people presenting a message about Heat. I showed several scenes from the movie, these being:

  • LA shootout (after main bank heist)
  • The Conversation (between Vincent and Neil)
  • Vincent telling his wife that after seeing three dead bodies he can't be concerned about burnt chicken and being late home.
  • Neil returning to his empty, minimalist home looking out to sea.
  • Vincent discovering his step daughter following a suicide attempt and taking her to hospital.
  • The final shootout and the ending of the film. Moby's music finished it off.
In my talk I presented these two men to people who the majority had not seen Heat before. I tried, in a very short space of time, to represent these two characters as men that had somehow lost their way in a very confused world. The LA shootout represented the "badness" of Neil, out to kill whoever gets in his way - and Vincent, the relentless hunter of an elusive, intelligent prey.

Turning the clock backwards, I then show these two men in conversation, a useful contrast having just seen them try to take each other down. The conversation demonstrated the paradoxical reality of their lives - that whilst they are on each side of the law, they are still very much the same. One is deemed "good", the other deemed "bad". This theme continues throughout the film. Both Vincent and Neil share their bad dreams at night. Vincent sees decomposing dead bodies, the victims of brutal murders he has investigated. There is no explanation of the dream, but it is clear that whilst trying to live on the good side of the law that you cannot escape the horror and "badness" of life - it affects him every day. Later on we see this affect Vincent in his normal life as his family life and marriage fall apart. For Neil, his dream is one of drowning in his sleep, trying to gasp for air. Unlike Vincent, he can explain his dream - he doesn't have enough time to do what he does. He isn't talking about robbing banks. He sees a future outside his current circumstances, and he later shares this, unusually, in his new relationship with a girl he met. Both men are seeing negative manifestations, consequences of their activities, affecting their lives. In doing so, we see the two men identify with each other.

I went on to demonstrate how Vincent's life was falling apart through the scene where he falls out with his wife, Justeen. As Vincent explained to Neil in the conversation, "my life is a disaster zone".

In contrast to Vincent's attempt of a respectable "family life", we see by contrast Neil's minimalist "no attachments" life. He returns to an empty, cold house, walks to the window and stares to the oceans horizon - yearning for something more than what he has. The scene is short and shot with a blue tint for added coldness... detachment.

The clip depicting Vincent's step daughter's suicide is powerful and I showed this to further illustrate the deterioration of his family life. Not only this, but the screwed up mess the world is largely in. There is so much personal tragedy out there, much we never see, much that is never reported.

Finally, I showed the end scene of the movie. Vincent shoots Neil and he goes down. Neil's last words were, " I told you I wasn't going back." As Neil's life started to slip away he lifted his hand to Vincent, not wanting to die alone in the dark world he was trying to make sense of. Neil's earlier family life condemned him to what he became. His mother died young and he had no idea where his father was. There was no love in his family.

In the conversation with Vincent he said don't attach yourself to anything you can't leave in 30 seconds if heat is around the corner. I read in some movie trivia that just as Vincent spotted him in the final chase, that Neil spent 45 seconds looking at his new girlfriend he was about to start a new life with, and then looking at Vincent. He had finally attached himself to something, and it was his downfall. He lived his life with no attachments, and he broke his discipline of observing the 30 second rule. It cost him, but as he said at the end, "I told you I wasn't going back". Perhaps he was talking about jail, but maybe he didn't want that life on the run, of drowning. The reason he was with his girlfriend at that end sequence was because he was on the way to the airport to start a new life. It never happened.

So, that final scene we see Vincent talking Neil's hand. There is that moment of identification with each other. The great sadness of a world that is in a hopeless mess, that whether good or bad, we are all caught up in it and some of us consumed and destroyed by it - just as Vincent's step daughter almost was - quite often at no fault of our own. Just lives dictated by cruel circumstance.

It was the "bad" character of Neil who finally lost. But lost to what? "Good" prevailed, as so often does in a film. Yet Vincent still has his junk, and will no doubt continue to have his bad dreams.

Well, at the end one can think the world is a nihilist place. I personally believe in God. I believe he is the only one that can save us from this hopelessness that seems to wrap this film like a blanket. There is good out there, but somehow it gets corrupted. God offers something incorruptable, and that is where my hope is. That was my message. What do you think?

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