David Mamet's The House of Games and David Lynch's Blue Velvet
Length: 1460 words (4.2 double-spaced pages)
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to control another person's mind? The mere capabilities of someone possessing this powerful of an influence on others has a twisted and very horrifying , yet interesting sense of bewildering control and has boggled the minds of many for centuries. There have been several instances of historical examples in which a person in power somehow persuades the people under them to surrender their personal beliefs and submit to authority. Although, there are many more instances of this nature that occur in everyday life also. It must be incredibly exhilarating to get into someone's most private thoughts or easily attain their unquestioning trust with the things you say and what you do. I think the power to persuade someone else fits in exclusively with certain characters within the films we viewed in class. Although complete control over another person is difficult and rare, this main theme of dominant human interaction occurs several times throughout each movie.
Mike, the con man in The House of Games, was extremely talented at this concept and continued to perfect it. He once told the woman who was intrigued by his line of "work" that in order to get someone else's confidence, you had to give them yours. He tried twice to fool her out of her money, the first unsuccessful and the second hitting home. She had given him her complete and utmost trust and adoration which made her an easy target to be taken advantage of. Mike's experience of human nature helped him know exactly what to do to get what he wanted from other people. The way he conquered the minds of his unsuspecting victims was through the simple and popular tactic of deception.
Many people today use others to achieve their selfish desires, lacking the ambition to reach the top through honest, trustworthy, and admirable means. Instead, they find what they think to be the most direct route to success and usually end up using the ones who they think can get them there. Using someone often means making them think the way you want them to. This is what the movie was trying to portray to the viewer. When Mike was sitting around the table discussing with his accomplices how easily he had outwitted the woman, it conveyed to me that he thought that the world is merely a game to be won by the strongest and most competitive soul who risks the most to become the person they think is the best.
Unfortunately, Mike believed this wholeheartedly and thought that this was done only by deceiving people and using their innocent intentions to further himself.
The woman also showed us the seemingly important prophecy of self-fulfillment through deceiving others in the furious and unmerciful manner in which she shot and killed Mike in the airport and again when she stole the decorative cigarette lighter from the lady in the restaurant. Her mind was undoubtedly persuaded by the outside influence of Mike and his power of deceptive impressionism and also that of her older co-worker, mentor, and friend. The older woman she worked with had a calmingly smooth affect on her nerves so she often confided in her and asked for the older woman's opinions on issues that would help her deal with problems or console her when something was extremely bothersome. In this way, the thoughts and expressions of other people were very important to the woman doctor and somehow taught her how to find the emotional support and intellectual endurance she needed to survive her career and life.
Even before she met the con-artist from the bar, the woman had been practicing basic techniques of mind control, unaware of just how powerful her words were to those who sought her guidance. The study of human thinking made her career in psychiatry similar to that of Mike's ability to use the confidence of his victims to fulfill his own selfish purposes. They both used the same tools of confidence and morale to persuade people to think a certain way. Her book was a prime example of what she, as a psychiatrist, believed to be important and exemplified her versions of how and what to think in order to maintain a worthwhile lifestyle in today's society. The many fans of her work and customers of her book who were begging for her autograph or a couple minutes of her time depicted just how influential the art of understanding people's way of thinking is. It also illustrated how much people long to be understood and are willing to pay for or do almost anything for that peace of mind. This can definitely be used to the advantage of anyone, such as the con-artist Mike in The House of Games.
In our second film, Blue Velvet, there was also a vague sense of mind control. Frank's violent character portrayed a need to possess absolute control over everyone, whatever he said went without protest. He also knew that he could convince Dorothy to do almost anything with the threat of harm to either her husband or son, both within his destructive reach. Each character had a different quality that made them psychologically complex in many different ways. Sandy was the optimist who saw the good in every situation, and she proved that through interpreting her own dream of the robins representing love. Dorothy made me think of the underworld since she seemed dark and tangled in danger, the mysterious one of the cast. Jeffrey seemed to be somewhat drawn to both worlds, wanting the peace of Sandy's thoughts and the excitement of Dorothy's. It shows how evident one's need to be accepted and understand themselves is. Jeffrey was swayed by both of these women and was torn between their opposing views in finding answers.
The easiest way to become psychologically confused is to find yourself under the influence of any foreign drug to your body. Frank illustrated just that when he inhaled the gas in the mask he carried with him. The way he then acted towards Dorothy and expected her to act in return was sickening, but Dorothy was being influenced more and more each time. She seemed to want to be abused and mistreated when she pleaded with Jeffrey to hit her while he made love to her. Frank, although evil and full of weird notions of pleasure, was a pull to another world away from the sweet neighborhood across town. The whole idea was not to pull people into his way of thinking, but in reality, that happened in accordance with the sequence of events that occurred.
The last movie was a good example of how anxious humans are to please others. When someone knows this, they are free to use it as they desire to accomplish many things. The doctor in it was strangely and unhealthily attracted to the opposite sex. He knew just what to say or do to get what he wanted from each woman he came in contact with and proceeded to have a sexual relationship with every single one. To him, physical pleasure was much more important than emotional gratification. He made one woman after another bend to his wishes through his sweet speech and seductive touch. In a way, the doctor was controlling them by winding the strings of their minds to create a pattern he could knowingly control to his satisfaction.
Sabina, his long time "girlfriend," understood his confusion and wanted complete freedom in her life as well. She had a way with the mind of a man. The professor she met would have done just about anything for her, but she did not want to feel tied down. Sabina could make him melt with the look on her face and easily seduce him with her nakedness. Control was not what she strived for, but it came with the territory.
In all of these movies, the vast number of examples in which mind control is made evident takes several forms. Psychology can be used for both good and evil. It can also be done unknowingly by someone with no intentions of ever having power over someone else. The three films we watched all had very different ways of accomplishing this same concept. Human minds are so easily sculpted and can be made to fit the mold of someone with the right skills to do so. After all, Hitler did not take over Germany with no knowledge of human thought patterns. The human brain will forever baffle those who study it, and also prove more and more interesting as time goes on. The question of how it works may never be quite answered, but its intense structure will prove useful in the times to come.