A Vessel to a Desired Reality

15 Apr

The first thing that came to my mind after watching the film Being John Malkovich is one question…what did I just watch? The plot of this movie was completely unpredictable and almost every thing in it was contrary to how my mind thinks it should have been. One of the most confusing aspects of this plot, that Charlie Kaufman created, is how the idea of the vessel (and it being John Malkovich) ties into the plot. There are many layers of the film that were left unanswered that led to my confusion. The movie has left me questioning many of the details.

Throughout the film I noticed that Craig and Lotte Schwartz were always struggling to change the reality of their lives, alongside a few other characters. I began to wonder, what is so bad about their reality that gives them the need to change it? Maybe it is not that their reality is bad but that they merely have a longing to reach the things that satisfy them. The shadows, as shown in Carl Jung’s model of the psyche, these characters are revealing are both explicit and implicit. In watching the film, you see Craig and Lotte’s desire for a different love, for Maxine. That is one aspect of the plot that is very clearly shown.


Every time Maxine enters a scene she has a fierce and attracting nature about her. You see so many times that Craig sees her and immediately feels drawn to her. It is all in her nature too because Craig barely knows her (much like his wife who become draw to Maxine). So, why is Maxine the desired reality?

The main character Craig loves puppeteering as you discover from the beginning. Although we may come to understand that much, it takes a far deeper approach to comprehend that Craig fulfills that dream by going into John Malkovich’s mind. As any of the characters enter the portal to John Malkovich’s mind they not only gain access to his ways but they also come to find that they can control him.

Characters like Lotte work to live out their desires through John Malkovich but none of them fulfill that as well or as successfully as Craig does. Many of Craig’s complexes are shown directly in the film. His unconscious reactions subsequent from his desires are very noticeable (i.e. his initial interactions with Maxine, the puppet shows he preforms, and his lack of passion used in his interactions with his wife, Lotte). He desires a different reality and that is a clear example of existentialism. He works to change his reality because he has the will to do so.

As the film plays out we begin to see how the vessel, John Malkovich, becomes the outlet for many of the characters to fulfill the realities they desire. So, how does the vessel get chosen? Why is it John? Why does it become Emily? While watching this movie it became apparent that the vessel is this all-powerful archetype leading them to their desired realities. Even when I cannot understand how it made it’s way into the plot, I understand that it belongs, that the vessel creates purpose for the plot. It is their gateway. These characters desire realities that they themselves feel to be possible from the will they have as John Malkovich. When they go into the vessel the outcome is satisfaction.


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