Saturday, July 19th, 2014 02:01 pm
As I encounter more reviews Snowpeircer has gone from "science fiction film I might enjoy" to "metaphorical film I might enjoy for the story" to "metaphorical film I won't enjoy the story of" to "metaphorical film I won't enjoy whose central metaphor will piss me off". I'm sure it's very good, and I admire the intent, but nope. I can see some people finding it cathartic, and that's cool for them. But I wouldn't, so the film has no appeal.

EDIT: I should add that I had already pretty much decided not to watch the movie anyway because it has lots of bad things happening to children which I find really upsetting.

This piece of meta intended to defend it was the final straw. Spoilers for the end, because it's the end that annoys me. tl;dr: implying that true revolution relies on the ~pure youth~ since everyone else is too tainted appeals to burned out old activists and optimistic young activists but is really annoying when you're the child of activists. And I think it betrays a real lack of imagination.


I'm talking about the movie as described in that review, the actual movie may be different (EDIT: most of the people in the comments who've seen it seem to think the actual movie is quite different indeed!). If you didn't read it: the train everyone lives on is a metaphor for capitalism. The revolutionary protagonist is shown himself to be complicit with the machine. In the end the train is detroyed and two young people leave the train to start afresh.

I have no problem with the idea of capitalism being inherently flawed and the only way to fix it being to "destroy the engine" and start over. I'm not sure I entirely agree, but it's a valid POV and certainly cathartic to see happen in fiction.

I totally agree that the older generation end ups indoctrinated by the society they live in even when they are doing their best to fight against it, and that the younger generation has a better shot of working past that conditioning. It's also true that activist groups, ideas and people often end up coopted by the system they're trying to change. Any attempt to fix things is going to end up having to fight against these activist groups, ideas and people even though they SHOULD be helping. Sometimes the groups, ideas and people are so tainted they do more harm than good. And soemtimes that means the ideas have to be thrown away, the groups disbanded, and the people disdained.

BUT. There is no starting entirely from scratch. Any new, better society is going to have to include SOME people from the old one. And pretty much all those people are to some extent going to complict with awful things, and going to believe some awful things deep down. You can draw a line and say that TOO MUCH complicity/awfulness means you don't get to join the new society, or at least don't get any power within it. But you also have to find some way to include everyone else. THAT'S THE HARD BIT. Throwing your hands in the air and saying "all the old people die! The young people can start over!" is cheating.

And to me it's part of the doctrine of dogmatic purity that screws up so much activism. Because if you think only Perfect Actvisists are good enough then (a) You'll have constant purges of your ranks (b)Everyone will pretend to be Perfect when they're not and get really defensive when their flaws are pointed out and (c) you'll be completely incapable of dealing with regular people eg the actual population your revolution is supposed to help. Because they usually aren't anything like a Perfect Activist at all. And if your revolution KILLS ALL THE REGULAR PEOPLE so that two Perfect Activists can survive and make a Perfect Society I...am not really down with your revolution.

This is less to do with the film and more a personal hot topic I am taking the excuse to rant about: children who are raised with Perfect Activist Values will still be people and that means they may avoid cetain bigotries etc but will still exhibit lazy thinking, hypocrisy, lack of self insight, selfishness, xenophobia etc. And NOT ALL OF THEM WILL BE PERFECT ACTIVISTS. So just plonking two of them down to start afresh and assuming they can make a ~perfect society~ hits buttons for me from watching my grandparents dissapointment in my mother, and my parents dissapointment in us kids for not being Perfect Activists and in some cases NOT ANY SORT OF ACTIVIST AT ALL OMG. Or they will be activists but a DIFFERENT KIND. (eg my dad is green left while I care more about sexuality and gender which he sees as a ~distraction~. Meanwhile my grandparents thought Religion was the Train Driving Everything and my mother is both very left wing and devoutly religious) But you get to avoid dealing with all that if you just destroy everything and stop the story there.

Some fiction off the top of my head which deals with similar ideas in ways I find less annoying:
Full Metal Alchemist
The Dispossessed (actually shows what an anarcho socialist utopia made of actual people might be like: flawed but still better than the alternative)
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Winds
The Matrix Trilogy...ish. They were pretty annoying too.
Saturday, July 19th, 2014 08:25 am (UTC)
I will say that when I watched it, the "older people sacrificing themselves so the younger could live" really didn't come across to me as the tainted symbols of the old regime having to die at all. (Though I imagine it'll be difficult to read it otherwise for anyone having read those reviews ahead of time.) I mean... if anything, to me the allegory read as, those who want to break the system have to take some of the brunt of the damage. And I don't believe the line in that review that Yona is some kind of untainted pure soul; her connection to her father feels way too stressed in the narrative for that for me. I mean, if nothing else, there's the drug connection; sure, it's his hallucinogenic escape from the reality of the train, but it's also implied that he got her hooked on the stuff.

I dunno, I enjoyed it, but I wasn't expecting something DEEP that would BLOW MY MIND, I expected an action/SF movie with a central narrative driven by other-than-USian obvious-narrative-choices.

If it's just gonna annoy you at this point, though, there was nothing so supremely amazing in it that I think it's worth watching through for.
Saturday, July 19th, 2014 11:41 am (UTC)
Yeah, certainly not quibbling with your take on the review. Just wanted to throw in my two cents about the movie because I've been kind of puzzled by some of the back and forth on it. I think some people are REALLY INTO the metaphor and some people are REALLY ANNOYED by the lack of worldbuilding, and I didn't hit either of those poles, I dunno.

And yes, if child harm bothers you, then this is not the movie for you.
Saturday, July 19th, 2014 10:16 am (UTC)
I dunno, I enjoyed it, but I wasn't expecting something DEEP that would BLOW MY MIND, I expected an action/SF movie with a central narrative driven by other-than-USian obvious-narrative-choices.

same here. i definitely didn't get all the things from the film that the reviewer did. and there were too many aspects that just didn't make sense. even within allegory you have to have a coherent narrative.
Monday, July 21st, 2014 02:20 am (UTC)
I suspect that movie would piss me off no end.

There's no such thing as perfect activism, no such thing as the final achievement of the perfect society, and you have to maintain a balance between the ideals for which you strive and compromises with the status quo.

Because you're definitely not going to pull off a Perfect Revolution. Progress, like politics, is the art of the possible. And demonising the system you dislike is actually bad, because it's unrealistic, and people know that - people know it's not actually as bad as you're making out if you do that, and so they dismiss you as a crank or a loony, and also because if you do that you won't see the aspects of the system that work - because something has to work for it to BECOME the system.

And if you're wanting to fix it without just burning the world to the ground and hoping whoever's around to dig through the ashes builds something better on the ruins, you're going to have to alter the system by stages, and you can't prioritise if you say it's just all EEEEVIL.
Monday, July 21st, 2014 05:50 am (UTC)
Haven't seen movie, just seen someone I trust really enjoy it - but am not in the right headspace right now and probably won't be for months.

What my friend seems to enjoy, is the showing of how people get caught up in thinking the solution is to bring everyone up in the system and not that the system is both seductive and flawed -- and that what the ending meant to him/my friend's interpretation, is that the system EATS the next generation. It can't surive with chewing them up and exploiting them, and it takes realizing this for the protaganist to finally realize there's no winning, and the people telling him he's become obsessed with 'moving up' rather than 'things being better' are right - and he breaks things.

And yes there's a sacrifice, but it's not about any 'perfect rebellion' and in fact there's a lot there about how the rebellion is instigated a purge of the restless, cause it's controlled decimation via something obvious like 'lines to a slaughter/death house'.

It really makes me want to see it when I'm in the right place mentally. Cause he left me thinking of the fact that some people just want to survive, some people want to do good but become exhausted and seduced, some people want the system to keep going and lie about the damage it does, some people recognize the solution is to get out of the system but have no power to... and more.

Also in direct reply to you Sami; the system 'might work', but who is it working FOR. The movie seems to point that out within its own universe at least.
Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014 08:28 pm (UTC)
Haven't seen Snowpiercer, but a lot of this resonated with me as the child of activists (who had/have very different priorities to my sibling and me, due to both generational and national gaps). BURN SOCIETY DOWN AND START AGAIN isn't the most thoughtful or coherent message, though I can't offer an opinion on it in relation to the film.