I had to just vent this somewhere. Spoilers below of course.
Overall this is a good movie, I think it did what it set out to do quite well, but it is basically a reactionary and insular view of existential dread and depression through aging.
The director is actually very forthcoming about what the film is "really" about, so there isn't much interpretation except death of the author alternate versions of what the movie was about. Kaufman said the movie is mostly the fantasies of the janitor, who is kind of trying to escape his regret and depression by imagining a better life. But in the process, he is basically so depressed and broken that he can't even achieve that. Kaufman kind of suggests he is interested in a wider notion that it can't be achieved at all, but within the movie it is specifically the janitor who can't fantasize. His own fantasy girlfriend kind of looks down on him, isn't totally interested in him, wants to leave him. He can't decide what her name is, how they met, what her career is. He keeps changing his mind about what happens on the night that they go meet his parents. He even inserts himself into his own fantasy as a creep, when the girl and the janitor's younger self kiss in the car and suddenly the younger self notices the janitor peering at them and rages that there is a pervert watching them. Ultimately the movie ends with the janitor killing himself by getting in his car during the blizzard and not turning it on.
So maybe it is obvious why this movie feels like it has a very liberal or even reactionary message, but I'll spell it out anyways. The director, Kaufman, is kind of a pretentious guy. I like a lot of his movies, but he is very concerned with existential crises and memory and identity and stuff. He is a good filmmaker, but I want to highlight how his focus is kind of idealist. I think he has very metaphysical notions of what drives human beings to behave and think the way they do, so to him this movie isn't about a depressed janitor so much as about the human condition. However, the movie is literally about a depressed janitor. Not only that, but the movie has several key lines in it that feel like they almost directly confront and endorse the concrete form the movie takes.
Basically, the movie explores this guy's regret and depression by kind of suggesting that there is no resolution to it, it is just a part of the human condition to have regrets and fear aging. The viewer just watches it to feel the pain of the janitor and maybe cry about how cruel the universe is. In particular there is a line that is stated after the janitor goes in his car to die and starts hallucinating the pig with a maggot infested belly. This is a callback to earlier in the film when he tells his fantasy girlfriend that some pigs died on his farm a long time ago when the family found their bellies were infested with maggots, and they were being "eaten alive". So he hallucinates himself following the pig back into the school, and the pig reassures him that everything is going to be ok, we are all actually the same, and that he basically shouldn't fight his regret and depression because "somebody has to be the maggot infested pig".
This is at the very end of the movie, maybe the last 15 minutes, and it feels like the capstone message to the whole thing. Ultimately what the movie is about is the regret and depression of an extremely unaccomplished and lonely man at the bottom of society, and the movie tells you "it's ok, this is just the way the universe works. You were just born as the maggot infested pig. But don't worry, we are all made of the same dirt". And then the audience nods and cries and says the movie was very deep.
But the movie has a clear ideology. What is "sad" about the movie is the defeat of hope and the acceptance of that defeat. The movie isn't giving you any other message about suicide or even the wider context of this man's life. In fact, he really is barely a character for how indulgent it is of his mental state. He really is just a blank sad guy, and we get some glimpses into the fact he grew up on a farm or that his parents probably died of dementia, but nothing that is too revealing. We aren't really sure if he was even actually a physicist or he made that up as a part of his fantasy. He is just a sad old loser janitor guy.
So it obfuscates a message of the acceptance of the existence of this kind of regret, defeat of hope, of people being able to continue living but being forgotten and neglected beyond their utility in their jobs at the bottom of society, and it just suggests that this is the eternal human condition. The pig directly tells him that somebody has to be in his situation, but he can basically take comfort in knowing that even the person he wishes he was would die and turn to the same dirt. And while there is some truth that again, everybody grapples with existential dread from aging, the concrete form the movie took was all revolving around these other themes. The guy was a loser, he was at the bottom of society, he was forgotten and socially neglected.
So the concrete experience of the movie has become a bunch of people in the society that may produce this kind of person simply consuming a piece of media making them feel sad about it in a matter of fact way. Like it is a kind of emotionally or intellectually sophisticated piece of fiction that allows the liberal subject to view the horror of a person in their own world suffering from things very rooted in that world, and cry about it and say "it couldn't have been any other way, and understanding that makes me feel as though I've understood the universe".
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