Archives for posts with tag: Videodrome

AS WE REACH THE DODGE CITY ANNEX, where FEMA hopes to find its new Cronenberg, the Mayor fills in some backstory.

 

He starts with the Dodge City Annex Civic Fund, which provides opportunities for its citizenry out of a private fortune. Over the years, there’ve been a variety of projects funded this way, all with the aim of affording the citizens of the Annex a higher standard of living than those of Dodge City, still delimited by a Real World after all these years.

 

As we make our way along the dusty trail, a few prone bodies start to complicate our footwork. From the way they’re crawling, it’s hard to tell if they’re living or dead. I feel a bit square for imposing this distinction where it’s most likely not welcome.

 

Hanging over the entrance to the Dodge City Annex is a banner that reads: “YOU TOO DESERVE A CHANCE TO MAKE VIDEODROME.”

 

The bodies, plentiful now, moan like katydids. They churn and grind the ground.

 

In the distance, we see the gigantic hulk of the State Prison, which farmed me out to work on that chain gang about two years ago, if you remember.

 

A huge mass of these bodies crawls toward us, across the field in front of the Prison. They start organizing themselves into a line.

 

“Ah,” the Mayor says, trying to remain gracious in front of FEMA. “They’re lining up in hopes of being chosen as spokesperson for what’s going on here. Each situation gets precisely one spokesperson. That’s the law.”

 

The Mayor chooses the first one in line.

 

The others fall upon each other in a free-for-fall. We know they’ll be destroyed soon, so we start ignoring them now.

 

The chosen one begins, usurping the Mayor’s narrative in a tangent that may never return to where it started:

 

“So we all got this grant money to make our own Videodrome, you know, from the Civic Fund, and we knew what an opportunity it was for us to be able to make it, and not just go on with our little tiny lives, but then we get sidetracked. A veil was lifted, one that we never thought would be, or even knew was there … and it made us a little power-mad. We started to think that if it was possible to know what it felt like to be Cronenberg, it might not be too much to believe that we could find out what it felt like to be immortal. Very quickly, we grew obsessed. The Cronenberg-state came to seem a very long way beneath us, like some stage of evolution our distant ancestors had transcended in their sleep.”

 

FEMA types this, some of it, into its iPad. I recede into a listening mode, letting the things I was about to say go soft inside me.

 

“So,” the spokesman continues, “we’re all sweeping our Videodrome storyboards into our compost piles of juvenilia when word comes to us, via the Annex Internet, that the State Prison is selling off its lethal injection supplies, having chanced upon a “third method” that will no longer involve the torments and humiliations of this one.

 

“One way or another, as these things go, assuming you  believe that ideas have an organic life of their own (which, if you don’t: goodbye), all of us would-be Videodrome directors became convinced that these deadly chemicals, if administered properly, would make us immortal.”

 

“A sort of zombification ritual?” FEMA asks, looking up from its iPad.

 

The spokesman, visibly not pleased at the interruption, nods. “Correct. Of course, there’d been plenty of word around the Annex as to the misuse of these chemicals in the prison system, the botcheries, paralyses, etc … but, in the state we were in at that time, this was music to our ears. This meant one thing to us: TRANSFORMATION. We came to believe, abetted as ever by the Internet, that these chemicals were never intended to cause death, but rather to transfigure the body and spirit on their most fundamental levels, boil them down to their simplest components and start over, at last getting right what biology has for so many millennia gotten wrong.”

 

The Mayor can’t hide his dismay at being cut out of the conversation. He looks like he knows he could leave now and FEMA wouldn’t even turn to watch him go.

 

The spokesman, shaking off two bodies curled lazily against his shins, continues:

 

“Each death row inmate had his own special brand of lethal injection chemical, specifically calibrated to both his body and the moral fiber behind his crime and subsequent reflection upon it. No two doses alike. So, at this point, we underwent a period of interviews and investigations with the inmates, to see which of us fit most perfectly with which of them, ideally to match each one of us with one of them, in a deep spirit-bond, so that in the end we’d buy their doses and they’d go free, living on as us while we’d become superhuman.

 

“Anyway,” the spokesman continues, “I’ll fast forward since I can see you fellows more or less get the picture. We bought our doses, exhausting our Videodrome budgets, and paraded into this field here” — he points at the field which is now littered with bodies in all states of agony and mayhem, the inmates loosed from the State Prison rampaging among them — “to administer our doses, separately in the final moment, each of us turned inward, picturing what we’d come to understand as the locked box of immortal life in our centers, normally stored for subsequent lives, but now about to come unlocked.”

 

“Needless to say, you found it harder than you’d imagined to administer it properly,” FEMA adds.

“Needless,” the spokesman agrees. “A total disaster, as you can see. Zombification in the lewdest possible sense.”

 

We all look at the field, which is truly a sorry sight. Some lie on their backs and howl at the sun; others dig uncontrollably at the dirt, opening pits that still others fall straight into. Some are bleeding from their eyes, others from their ears; others look so pale it’s as if their blood has turned to water.

 

“If you’re so fucked up, shouldn’t you talk weirder?” the Mayor interrupts here, trying desperately to reinsert himself into the conversation. FEMA and the spokesman exchange looks of disdain.

 

The inmates, spared their executions, frolic like children through the field, dancing on the groaning bodies, singing in high voices, crushing the chests of the fallen like grapes in a wine press.

 

*****

THERE’D BE NO DRAMATIC EXIT FROM THIS SCENE were it not for the one guy with the video camera.

 

He appears only belatedly through the desecration, running behind and between the zombies and inmates with his camera rolling, shouting, “Great!! This kind of thing is just great! Let’s get even more of that if we can … ” as if he believes he’s directing the scene, everyone behaving according to a script he’s written two or three drafts of.

 

“That guy,” the spokesman explains, “opted to just still make Videodrome. He said it was enough for him.”

 

FEMA confers, checking its iPad and making a few phone calls.

 

“Great,” it finally says. “Forgive us if our tastes skew traditional, but we’ll take that guy. In terms of delivering a new Cronenberg to the people of this nation, finding one who’s actually willing to still make Videodrome, in spite of everything, will do us a world of good.”

 

“Very well,” the spokesman replies, like a slaver at an auction who’s just made a sale. “I’ll bag him up for you and bring him right over.”

PLANES OVERHEAD make such constant, unseen noise that the sky seems to be on a one-track program of belching and grumbling. It seems to be in disagreement, or trying, maybe too hard, to get something across. Maybe some of it’s heat lightning; maybe some aspects are echoes of other aspects.

 

Under such a thing, we make our way back and forth to an exciting brand-new Dodge City venue called BERGMAN ONE.

 

No one knows how it came about or who opened it, or even who runs it — sometimes, it seems, the things we think of or wish for turn out to exist, as if reality were more in the catering-to-our-whims business than it usually gets or takes credit for being.

 

What BERGMAN ONE is is a place to discover the (unparalleled, unsurpassable, super-human, etc etc etc … etc) films of Ingmar Bergman.

 

But not just to, like, watch them. That’s easy enough to do anywhere. No, what BERGMAN ONE is is a place to discover the films of Ingmar Bergman for the first time, again and again, every day if you come that often.

 

It’s a place — it does, I’ll admit, look like an ordinary theater — where you enter and, no matter how many times you’ve been there before, it’s always your first time. You’re 22, a junior in college, at that point in your life where sex has started to seem not just cool and brag-worthy but also tied to slashed hives of writhing monsters, the irrefutably dual existence/nonexistence of God, doom, dark snow, silence, outrage, madness, viciousness … the persistence of the medieval throughout the supposedly or avowedly “modern,” the way we all play our roles, never more so than when we “refuse” to play them … the way in which the transcendent ideal can be renounced but never escaped … the myriad cruelties required to achieve true selfhood and dignity, more undignified with every step … we’re at the point, every morning at BERGMAN ONE, where we’re just starting to feel a burgeoning totality to life, a sense that we’re not all just ebulliently on the up-and-up-and-up, but that there are countermovements and counterweights fraughting things in there as well, secrets from ourselves, unpopped bubbles of derangement … and the dimness of the woods, the harshness of Protestantism, the nearness of the Arctic, the depths that people crouch in and pull each other down to so as not to be so alone, resentful though they always are at the intrusion …

 

I could go on and on like a real 22-year-old, but I won’t. But I’d like to. That’s how good it feels to hang out at BERGMAN ONE.

 

Every day it’s the same rotation — Seventh Seal, Virgin Spring, Wild Strawberries in the morning (the early months of being 22), then a heavy middle period of Shame, The Silence, Winter Light, Through A Glass Darkly, The Hour of the Wolf, culminating in Persona, which we tend to watch a good 30 times in a row (this is the swollen heart of our collective 22nd year), then an attenuated later period where we get through the whole TV versions of Scenes from a Marriage and Fanny & Alexander, and some of the color ones like Cries and Whispers and Autumn Sonata (when we’re all coming to terms with the nearing reality of turning 23 and facing Senior Year, applying for post-grad stuff, etc etc), then a kind of stunned postlude where we watch the not-even-all-that-good stuff like The Serpent’s Egg and The Passion of Anna, just hoping to come enough back to reality to carry on with our in-comparison hopelessly minuscule and low-energy lives.

 

We write the same furious, revelation-juiced notes in our journals every single day. Then, exhausted, we all go out for late-nite Chinese and DISCUSS: “He’s just so right … about life!!” we all agree.

 

We are self-consciously aware of ourselves sounding like Woody Allen acting out Woody Allen talking about being obsessed with Bergman in the actual 70s, but this only adds to our wattage.

 

All summer, we start each day as 22-year-olds and end each day as 23-year-olds. That’s the cusp we toggle on and around. Amazing what a world of difference Bergman makes between them.

 

*****

I WOULD HAVE SPENT THE REST OF THE SUMMER in this state, starting every single day with The Seventh Seal and ending it in rapt awe at what a testament to a life split between or trying to unify God, pain, and art Fanny & Alexander truly is, and would have done so gladly, like one of those rats you always hear about that just keeps triggering its dopamine center until it dies from dehydration, had it not been for the RABBIT INFESTATION.

 

But the rabbit infestation, and its — I’d say — strange results, put me in a different mindset. It returned me, for one, to my natural age of 26, forcing me to let go of 22/23 like dropping a guy off a cliff or building after losing hold of his fingers in one of those stock action movie set-ups.

 

What happened was that all these rabbits were around everywhere — like everywhere, like you almost couldn’t get your feet through them to the sidewalk. You were crushing one or two with every step, wearing a compacted mass of five or six as shoes before long.

 

Perhaps the rampant sexuality of the Bergman worldview had spread to their species, and this was what it had gotten them.

 

It got gross quickly; then it got weird.

 

The way in which it got weird was that, overnight, all the dead and living rabbits were removed and replaced with glass replicas. There were replicas of the intact rabbits, in the positions they’d last been seen in, as well as replicas of all the crushed rabbits, in the exact positions (don’t ask me how they got the glass to mirror the crush of flesh, fur, bone, &c) they’d last been seen in.

 

It was like a display set up by the Dodge City Police Dept. for Future Police Generations to study, in hopes that they’d figure out, historically, what the problem had been, like a recreation of a crime scene … or perhaps, more hermeneutically, to determine whether, with the benefit of hindsight, it had been a problem at all.

 

*****

I WAS OUT exploring this exhibit one night, imagining myself to be a member of that Future Police Generation, filing a report to myself, reminiscing on my now long-bygone-feeling Bergman days, when I was approached from behind.
He appeared behind and then beside me on a dark residential street exactly like the villain in The Flame Alphabet does.

 

I was trying to think of that villain’s name (Molloy? Malone?) when he told me that his name was Internethead.

 

He didn’t ask my name and I didn’t try to tell him.

 

He told me, kicking a glass rabbit aside with the toe of a boot, that he was the only man alive who’d “made it to the End of the Internet.”

 

“Just as you would a book or a workout,” he said. “Or a series of Chemo sessions, or a list of Names.”

 

He went on to say that, now that he’d put the entirety of the Internet behind him, he was about to dive “back into the flesh pool.”

 

I took a step away from him.

 

“Ha,” he said.

 

His head bulged, especially in the region of his left eye, in a simultaneously internal and external way, as though a second head were in the process of bursting up and out through his first, main, one.

 

If he started bleeding frantically right now — or at any point in however long this scene ends up going on — I would not have been (will not be) at all surprised.

 

He displayed, I realized, the exact symptoms of the New Flesh from Videodrome, as if the whole Internet amounted to no more than what VHS and TV, in the end, amounted to. He was a character cribbed literally from David Cronenberg, without even minor adaptation or reinterpretation — like an actor made up to star in one film who, because shooting got done a bit early one day, wandered across the lot and onto another set and slipped into the shooting of a completely different film, in exactly the same role, to everyone’s apparent satisfaction.

 

It’s a relief to be so totally open, for once, about my influences.

 

Waking me up from this reverie, he says, taking in the sweep of the glass rabbits surrounding us, “You know the little-known story of the Dodge City Genocide?”

 

I have to admit that I do not.

 

“Well,” he says, his bulge fulminating, “it was one of the worst.”

 

I can tell that we’re walking, on our way somewhere.

 

We pass through endless fields of glass rabbits, regarding which he says, “Try to let this metaphor support rather than obscure my point.”

 

I agree to try.

 

“It was,” he says, “an untraceable Genocide, as the worst ones always are. No visible bodies, no one to say for sure that it happened.”

 

My silence inspires, or at least permits, him to continue.

 

“In the middle part of the last century, some Elements came to Power in Dodge City that set about purging the place utterly of what they termed Ghost Detritus. They were heavily influenced by the theology of Daniel Paul Schreber, who wrote endlessly and, for them, convincingly, about, depending on what translation you use, a highly undesirable demographic of ‘Floating Trash People.'”

 

Internethead buzzes and shivers in a way that I’d describe as Nearing the Edge of the Human. Then he goes on:

 

“This Element turned its dark attention to this demographic in Dodge City, dubbing it Ghost Detritus so as to avoid any translation ambiguities, and set about radically exterminating it. The thing is, this Ghost Detritus left no record. Their bodies — living and dead alike — do not show up in photographs. There is no record of their ever having possessed residences or objects of any kind … families, jobs … no trace. So, you won’t be surprised to hear, this Genocide has been especially easy to Deny.”

 

We’re standing beside a car now, and I know it’s only a matter of time until Internethead tells me to get in.

 

“Most of the citizens of Dodge City, if you ask them about it, will manifest no difficulty in Denying that this Genocide ever, in any form, occurred. The chilly presence of Ghost Detritus drifts naturally in and out with the winds of history, is the most you’ll likely hear, from anyone, on this topic.”

 

“Aw, I bet you say that to all the towns,” I half want to tell him, but he has a gravity that’s hard to interrupt. It’s hard to know whether a man who’s made it to the End of the Internet ought to be the first or the last one you listen to.

 

Now he’s opening up the car, dabbing his New Flesh with a handkerchief. He might be crying.

 

He says that he’s going to drive me way out into the desert, to see the remnants of the City that once was. “It’s some Prelapsarian, if that’s the word, shit,” he promises. “From before the Genocide. You will not, I promise, feel like Denying what happened after you’ve seen it.”

 

I initially express concern about being driven “way out into the desert” by a complete stranger such as he, but he just laughs and says, “Man, where I’ve been, I’ve seen and done it all … all I ever wanted to do and then some. It’s out of my system.”

 

He makes a fluttering motion with one hand, to show that “It,” whatever had been in his system and that I’d been afraid might pose a threat to me, has gone off to join the other air.

 

“Sorry about the mess,” he says, indicating the Qdoba bags that I’ll have to clear away to sit down on the passenger seat.

 

I exhale as he starts the car. Glass rabbits crunch as he backs up. I worry about the tires, surprised to find that I now very much hope we get where he wants us to go and aren’t halted by a flat on the way.