The Real Symbolism of the Film Deepwater Horizon
I fought going to see this movie about the largest oil spill in U.S. history (as well as largest ecological disaster) as I’ve become so pissed off at how Hollywood reverses back reality back on me like looking at the reverse of myself in a mirror.
Hollywood (as well as “others” out there) attempt to impose their version on many, it seems, and I’ve often felt it tried to beat its version into my head. It has a particular relevance in my life since my parents had a number of friends that were movie stars of the times. Breaking away from LA and Hollywood has proved to be a difficult task for me. The opposite pull of a place in my life has been Ohio. I’ve spent most of my life bouncing back and forth between California and Ohio.
I always seem to be in my California state of mind or my Ohio state of mind. Of course the two are opposition symbols in some way that needs further investigation.
So I’ve been involved with the study of symbols and symbolism for many years and wrote a book called Battle of Symbols about the two great opposition symbols in the world today. It was published in Zurich, Switzerland by the large Jungian publisher Daimon Verlag. The grand symbols I suggested in my 2003 book Battle of Symbols are now seen in a new way in some type of story in development.
Just as they are in America during this upcoming election. As well as symbols of the Eastern and Western cultures coming increasingly in to opposition.
The real symbolism in this brilliant action movie is that it is not really a battle between the human symbols of corporate man and common man, as many might suspect the film story is about. Rather, the real theme of this beautiful screenplay crafted from the December 25, 2010 article from a brilliant New York Times reporting trio, is stated not by some powerful hero of this story but rather by a little blond, haired girl. The daughter of her Hero father of the story. Played by one of Hollywood’s leading men. We’ll let you keep guessing on this one.
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Critical by some in various Hollywood media is the long time that the film takes in domestic relationships versus time on the oil rig. Yet, this time is essential in creating the unbelievable suspense of this film. The suspense before the blow up of the oil rig I feel are perhaps the greatest ever caught on film. At least in this particular genre of film.
The brilliant footage and editing and work by George Lucas’ Industrial Light & Magic are on brilliant display in a huge disaster movie that looks like its attempting to make its claim on disaster movie of the decade. Creating perhaps some new “tent pole” franchise?
But most interesting is that sub-textual play between man and nature by switching from scenes on the oil rig to scenes under water. In fact, much of the subtext of this film spends time under water.
As many screenwriting scholars tell us, the theme of the story should be told by someone in the first ten minutes of the movie.
The school project scene – theme & symbolism stated by the hero’s daughter
Not more than ten minutes into this brilliant suspense film, equaling Hitchkok in my opinion on building up suspense. The daughter of the Hero reads her father a school project where she writes about what her father does. She shares her reading from her notebook over breakfast that her father is leaving for his three-week job on the Deep Horizon as Chief electrical officer. She reads that her father fights a great dragon from the deepness of the earth.
The words she reads are so true the imagination of a young girl like this. The scene works brilliantly for a number of reasons. For one, this little girl is a real star in the making. Perfectly cast for her part in this story. And the screenwriting subtext is working at its greatest right here. Having a girl tell us what the story is really about. It is about man versus nature and not man versus man. The man versus nature is the great underground, subtext of the film. And of course much of the great symbolism of the world is not between battle on a horizontal battlefield but perhaps a vertical one. Man against mother nature and the depths of the earth?
There is a battle of fathers in his daughter’s class. One girl is bringing in some exotic bird as evidence of what her father did for a living. The little girl in the film sure wishes her father could bring back something very special from the oil rig and the depths of the earth he would be drilling in. Her father promises to bring her some great fossil from the ocean.
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The story scenes of Deepwater Horizon move on from this particular point in the story. With the brilliant appearance of a BP executive played (by go see this brilliant film).
But maybe this relates to that funny way I feel tonight, thinking about this brilliant film I saw today.
It is the Hollywood version of a great event of American history. The film is powerful enough to create the official “history” of this event. A history going against all past versions of this historical event. The greatest ecological disaster in history.
By a BP foreman taking orders from London who answered just to them. Controlling a bunch of American southern boys from Louisiana and the oil industry of the area. The American foremen against the BP foremen from the beginning. Brilliant going back and forth between these two symbols of common man (populist?) character Mr. Jimmy in the film. (Played by another legendary actor you simply have to go to the film to learn who it is).
Yet, below the great island of civilization a mile above the ocean floor, and to the greatest depth the oil rig went to, 35,000 feet, never this deep before. This is really the story of surface man going against the “depths” into nature. A vertical move to be sure and not another horizontal move. Something truly different for the first time it seems to me.
Something is coming up from the depths of the earth to this little island post of mankind within the great body of water. He was an invader to a land, a territory he did not know. Nor a territory he was welcome to explore. This feeling is a subtextual feeling created with the brilliant screenplay.
The great force from deep within the earth rushes to the surface to explode. A type of volcano through a pipeline one might say.
In somewhat of a lesser way, many today remember (about) where they were when they heard word of the great explosion of the world’s deepest drilling oil rig in the world, the Deep Horizon owned by British Petroleum and run by Americans from the Louisiana oil county.
The story is so brilliant and at work on everyone’s subconscious (in parallel to its work in the consciousness area) the subconscious really rules the day. It is what Marshall McLuhan might term the “medium” of this story. Man versus nature. A fairly large medium.
See an “inventory” of John Fraim’s writings and philosophy at https://midnightoilstudios.org/writing/.