An unexpected encounter at the movies yesterday
An American History Now extra, in observance of the 100th post of this blog.
I took my boys and a friend to see 9, the latest animated feature to be released under the imprimatur of Tim Burton, which, though I knew little about it, was enough of a recommendation for me, as I’m a big fan of work like Edward Scissorhands and The Nightmare Before Christmas. Like WALL-E, 9 is a post-apocalyptic story (what does it say that this is the second such big-budget movie to be pitched to children in the last couple years?) in which human beings destroy life earth through their addiction to wasteful and dangerous technology. In this particular case, a scientist, remorseful over his role in enabling a fascist regime, hand-crafts a series of small, hand-crafed doll-like objects, dressed in burlap into which he literally pours his soul before he dies. The last in this series, who gives the title to the movie, becomes aware of his compatriots, who are immersed in trying to navigate hostile technological machines that seek to destroy them.
The heart of the plot concerns a small object which, when plugged in, can bring confer tremendous power on that which it is inserted. In the course of rescuing another of the series in a cathedral clearly modeled on Notre Dame, the object ends up in a huge devouring machine that must be destroyed. Given the genre here, I don’t think I’m giving much away to say that while this band of survivors will suffer casualties, they ultimately triumph and open the way for the resurrection of the spirit (though not necessarily the flesh) of humanity.
What I found striking about this is how aptly it evoked the classic image of “The Virgin and the Dynamo,” a famous chapter in Henry Adams’s 1918 autobiography The Education of Henry Adams.