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#1 Overstreet

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Posted 21 July 2006 - 02:31 PM

Jenn Wright asks, Is Monster House a movie about assisted suicide or killing off the mentally ill?

Warning: spoilers1.gif

#2 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 21 July 2006 - 06:09 PM

FWIW, my review.

#3 Jeff

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Posted 21 July 2006 - 07:48 PM

Anyone else getting a Goonies vibe off Monster House? I sure do, which means I won't be seeing it since I disliked Goonies pretty intensely.

#4 Overstreet

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Posted 24 July 2006 - 09:41 PM

This is a very clever, detailed, endearing movie... at times.

Unfortunately, it is also an unpleasant, off-color, and ultimately troubling feature. It's too scary for small children, too risque for older kids, and the finale has really bothersome implications (as Peter touched on in his review).



#5 Overstreet

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Posted 30 July 2006 - 09:13 AM

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SDG:

In your review, it seems you've either missed the
Spoiler
vibe in this story that others are picking up on, or you've chosen not to address it. I'm curious... do you agree at all with Jenn Wright and myself... that the conclusion demonstrates
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Is the best solution to Nebbercracker's problem really
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? Or is the situation too outlandish and magical to be taken at all seriously?

Or are we just reading too much into it?



#6 SDG

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Posted 30 July 2006 - 12:16 PM

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Jeff,

I appreciate your point (and Peter's, and Jenn's, etc.), and FWIW I don't think you're reading "too much" into the film, exactly. But I do think your reading is at least problematic, and my take is otherwise.

You know well how passionate I am regarding the issues you raise, and how ready I am to engage them in imaginative settings. Very often I would be the one others would accuse of "reading too much" into a story in this regard, and I respect the arguments put forth here.

But by my lights, this is not a story about a "marginalized outsider" (PTC) or "resentful social outcast" (JO) -- at least, not after the long-ago events glimpsed in the climatic flashback revelation. And while there is a "violent end of a marriage" (PTC), this event is not "celebrated," but is rightly seen as tragic; and while the marriage in question was brief, there is no sign that it was "bad."

This is a haunted house story. Traditionally, a haunted house is a horror, something to be exorcised or destroyed. A haunted house is not a person, and even a ghost is not exactly a person in the usual sense.

Spoiler


I do think the story has sympathy for
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, and means us to feel aghast at the cruelty we see that character suffering, and at
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.

What happens afterward, though, is not the ongoing suffering of an aggrieved outcast. To quote Shyamalan's film critic, it's "like something in a horror movie."

Nebbercracker is trapped, not
Spoiler
, but in the tyrannical shadow of a tragedy he can't put behind him, a dreadful memory that has taken hold will not let go.

The film may even suggest that
Spoiler


FWIW, my rather enthusiastic review.

#7 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 30 July 2006 - 08:15 PM

SDG wrote:
: And while there is a "violent end of a marriage" (PTC), this event is not "celebrated," . . .

The
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yelling "
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!" and the
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saying
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don't warrant that description?

: This is a haunted house story. Traditionally, a haunted house is a horror, something to be exorcised
: or destroyed. A haunted house is not a person, and even a ghost is not exactly a person in the
: usual sense.

Hmmm, I'm not sure that putting this film against the backdrop of a "traditional" haunted-house story necessarily gives us a correct reading of the particular film itself.

: The film may even suggest that
Spoiler

:
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:
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:
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.

Why do I have no memory of this scene?

#8 SDG

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Posted 30 July 2006 - 09:21 PM

QUOTE(Peter T Chattaway @ Jul 30 2006, 09:15 PM) View Post
: And while there is a "violent end of a marriage" (PTC), this event is not "celebrated," . . .

The
Spoiler
yelling "
Spoiler
!" and the
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saying
Spoiler
don't warrant that description?
You missed the fullness of my drift. The scene you are describing is not the "violent end of a marriage." That scene occurred in the flashback moment described in my spoilered-out paragraph above.

QUOTE(Peter T Chattaway @ Jul 30 2006, 09:15 PM) View Post
: This is a haunted house story. Traditionally, a haunted house is a horror, something to be exorcised
: or destroyed. A haunted house is not a person, and even a ghost is not exactly a person in the
: usual sense.

Hmmm, I'm not sure that putting this film against the backdrop of a "traditional" haunted-house story necessarily gives us a correct reading of the particular film itself.
With respect to the points cited, I believe it does.

QUOTE(Peter T Chattaway @ Jul 30 2006, 09:15 PM) View Post
Why do I have no memory of this scene?
Which part? The
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or the
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?

#9 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 31 July 2006 - 02:47 AM

*** SPOILERS GALORE ***

SDG wrote:
: You missed the fullness of my drift. The scene you are describing is not the "violent end of a marriage."
: That scene occurred in the flashback moment described in my spoilered-out paragraph above.

That did occur to me as one way to interpret your drift, actually. But if that is the fullness of your drift, I think you were missing the fullness of my own drift! smile.gif

Anyway, I will grant you that the film expects us to feel sympathy for the missus, at least at first, if only because she is a circus freak who is kept in a cage when we first see her; but in that earlier scene where she falls to her "death", I don't recall her being portrayed in a particularly positive light. If memory serves, she is angry at her husband for not doing something in response to those kids, and she is on the verge of reacting to those kids in some mildly violent way herself when she trips over something and falls to her "death". And then, of course, she possesses the house and begins lashing out at EVERYbody.

So the impression I had, coming out of the film, was that a bunch of neighbourhood kids had driven her to her demise, and now a bunch of neighbourhood kids was finishing the job -- and with such gusto! I saw nothing at all to indicate that the house was somehow a separate entity from the missus. And while your religious beliefs might say that the marriage "ended" when the missus was buried in concrete, I am not so sure that that is how the film portrays the relationship between the missus and her husband; the film takes place in its own world, and not in ours, y'know?

: : Why do I have no memory of this scene?
:
: Which part? The
Spoiler
or the
Spoiler
?

The latter.

#10 SDG

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Posted 31 July 2006 - 05:33 AM

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QUOTE(Peter T Chattaway @ Jul 31 2006, 03:47 AM) View Post
That did occur to me as one way to interpret your drift, actually. But if that is the fullness of your drift, I think you were missing the fullness of my own drift! smile.gif
...I'm not sure why you say that, but I'm not sure this meta-question matters enough to pursue.

QUOTE(Peter T Chattaway @ Jul 31 2006, 03:47 AM) View Post
: : Why do I have no memory of this scene?
:
: Which part? The
Spoiler
or the
Spoiler
?

The latter.
You don't remember
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?

QUOTE(Peter T Chattaway @ Jul 31 2006, 03:47 AM) View Post
Anyway, I will grant you that the film expects us to feel sympathy for the missus, at least at first, if only because she is a circus freak who is kept in a cage when we first see her; but in that earlier scene where she falls to her "death", I don't recall her being portrayed in a particularly positive light.
Perhaps not "positive," but still tragic and not without sympathy. We're meant to shudder at what happens to her, not feel exultant, as we are when the house is destroyed.

QUOTE(Peter T Chattaway @ Jul 31 2006, 03:47 AM) View Post
If memory serves, she is angry at her husband for not doing something in response to those kids, and she is on the verge of reacting to those kids in some mildly violent way herself when she trips over something and falls to her "death".
Your repeated use of qualifying quotes around "death" seems rather forced! If
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means she didn't really die in the fall, then she didn't really die when
Spoiler
, either, since
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.

QUOTE(Peter T Chattaway @ Jul 31 2006, 03:47 AM) View Post
So the impression I had, coming out of the film, was that a bunch of neighbourhood kids had driven her to her demise, and now a bunch of neighbourhood kids was finishing the job -- and with such gusto! I saw nothing at all to indicate that the house was somehow a separate entity from the missus.
Well, the film presents the house as a monster, something utterly malevolent and evil, something that can only be destroyed. Since the wife is presented sympathetically both
Spoiler
and
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, the entity of the haunted house seems to have a different status from her. It is, as it were, the monstrous union of the house and the wife's ghost that is evil and must be destroyed.

I say the film's treatment of the house is in the haunted-house tradition of a thing that is evil and can only be destroyed (or exorcised), and it's unpersuasive and unwarranted to see that as the same entity as the wife, who is not seen in that light.

Beyond that, as I pointed out above, the house's attitude toward Nebbercracker
Spoiler
and the wife's attitude toward him
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are so markedly different that it seems plausible to conclude that
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.

QUOTE(Peter T Chattaway @ Jul 31 2006, 03:47 AM) View Post
And while your religious beliefs might say that the marriage "ended" when the missus was buried in concrete, I am not so sure that that is how the film portrays the relationship between the missus and her husband; the film takes place in its own world, and not in ours, y'know?
"Your religious beliefs"! I hardly think the idea that marriage ends at death (if not sooner) is idiosyncratic of my or any other religious tradition. There is more than enough cultural hegemony there to be taken for granted until and unless sufficient evidence warrants concluding otherwise.

Nebbercracker is trapped in that house
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. His relationship to the house, if you want to call it that, is at best a hideous parody of marriage, just as the house itself is a grotesque parody of a human being.

#11 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 31 July 2006 - 06:45 PM

*** SPOILERS GALORE ***

SDG wrote:
: You don't remember
Spoiler

:
Spoiler
?

Nope. Must have been awful brief. Or maybed it happened while I blinked at my notes. If it made less of an impression on me than all the other stuff, then I think that is still significant.

: Perhaps not "positive," but still tragic and not without sympathy. We're meant to shudder at what
: happens to her, not feel exultant, as we are when the house is destroyed.

Um, ARE we meant to shudder when the house is destroyed?

: Your repeated use of qualifying quotes around "death" seems rather forced!

Well, the question of when and how she "died" is precisely what's at issue here, isn't it?

: If
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means she didn't really die in the fall, then she didn't really die when
:
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, either, since
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.

Except that the man is not free of his wife before the house is destroyed, whereas he is free to find another woman afterwards.

: Since the wife is presented sympathetically both
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. . .

Debatable.

: . . . and
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. . .

An image that was so minimal I apparently didn't notice it!

: . . . the entity of the haunted house seems to have a different status from her. It is, as it were, the
: monstrous union of the house and the wife's ghost that is evil and must be destroyed.

Now THAT sounds a little forced, to me. smile.gif

Part of the problem here, for me, is that the house doesn't really exist at ALL until after the wife is buried in its foundations. I don't get the sense that the wife has "united" with anything; rather, the house is BUILT on her, or BASED on her, in a very literal sense.

: "Your religious beliefs"! I hardly think the idea that marriage ends at death (if not sooner) is
: idiosyncratic of my or any other religious tradition.

Idiosyncracy is neither here nor there; the question is which interpretation takes the film's own perspective into account.

: Nebbercracker is trapped in that house
Spoiler

:
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.

Which raises the question of why he finished building the house, or did not destroy it sooner.

#12 David Smedberg

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Posted 31 July 2006 - 08:08 PM

FWIW, Peter, the image which you didn't notice is there, and you really ought to have noticed it. smile.gif

#13 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 01 August 2006 - 02:51 AM

Must have happened while I was scribbling something in my notes, then. What can I say? An image that is so awfully brief and/or forgettable, especially in contrast to the celebration of the old man's "freedom", couldn't have been all that important to the filmmakers, so I don't think any argument can rely too strongly on it. (If memory serves, the old man says "I am free!" but not "we are free!" or "she is free!", right?)

#14 SDG

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Posted 01 August 2006 - 06:20 AM

spoilers1.gifspoilers1.gifspoilers1.gif

QUOTE(Peter T Chattaway @ Jul 31 2006, 07:45 PM) View Post
Nope. Must have been awful brief. Or maybed it happened while I blinked at my notes. If it made less of an impression on me than all the other stuff, then I think that is still significant.
It was significant enough to warrant a last-sentence mention in CNS's review:
Like all good fairy tales the film is, at its heart, a love story, one in which a boy's first kiss and an old man's parting caress are the most daunting challenges of all.
Anyway, I don't think the fact that you missed it is a very good argument that it doesn't matter. smile.gif It occurs at the climax of the story. It's important.

QUOTE(Peter T Chattaway @ Jul 31 2006, 07:45 PM) View Post
: Perhaps not "positive," but still tragic and not without sympathy. We're meant to shudder at what
: happens to her, not feel exultant, as we are when the house is destroyed.

Um, ARE we meant to shudder when the house is destroyed?
Are you being funny with the "not catching my drift" thing? I didn't think my sentence was that confusing. The point is, we're meant to shudder at what happens to the WIFE (i.e., in the flashback), but feel exultant at what happens to the HOUSE (i.e., in the climax).

That's because the wife is a human being, and the house is a monster.

QUOTE(Peter T Chattaway @ Jul 31 2006, 07:45 PM) View Post
: Your repeated use of qualifying quotes around "death" seems rather forced!

Well, the question of when and how she "died" is precisely what's at issue here, isn't it?
Are you serious? You really question whether the wife's fall into the cellar was fatal? You would quarrel with a synopsis of the film's premise to the effect that the house is haunted by the ghost of the wife, who died in a tragic accident while the house was being built?

QUOTE(Peter T Chattaway @ Jul 31 2006, 07:45 PM) View Post
: If
Spoiler
means she didn't really die in the fall, then she didn't really die when
:
Spoiler
, either, since
Spoiler
.

Except that the man is not free of his wife before the house is destroyed, whereas he is free to find another woman afterwards.
I see no evidence to support the conclusion that Nebbercracker is unable to pursue another woman due to ongoing marital obligations to his first wife! Rather, as I said, Nebbercracker's main concern seems to be protecting innocents from the wrath of the house.

I'm not saying that Nebbercracker doesn't feel some sort of obligation to his wife's ghost / the house. Just as Johnny Depp did toward the Corpse Bride. But a feeling of obligation and being married are two different things. Certainly Nebbercracker lives in the tyrannical shadow of his tragic marriage, and that can make a man act and feel as bound as if he were still married, but that's not the same thing.

QUOTE(Peter T Chattaway @ Jul 31 2006, 07:45 PM) View Post
: Since the wife is presented sympathetically both
Spoiler
. . .

Debatable.
(shrug) Neighborhood kids are throwing things at her for no reason. It seems pretty clear to me whom we're meant to sympathize with.

QUOTE(Peter T Chattaway @ Jul 31 2006, 07:45 PM) View Post
: . . . and
Spoiler
. . .

An image that was so minimal I apparently didn't notice it!
The fact that you were scribbling in your notebook doesn't invalidate the significance of a climactic image.

QUOTE(Peter T Chattaway @ Jul 31 2006, 07:45 PM) View Post
: . . . the entity of the haunted house seems to have a different status from her. It is, as it were, the
: monstrous union of the house and the wife's ghost that is evil and must be destroyed.

Now THAT sounds a little forced, to me. smile.gif
Let's not forget the title of the film. Describe it how you will, the House is a Monster.

QUOTE(Peter T Chattaway @ Jul 31 2006, 07:45 PM) View Post
Part of the problem here, for me, is that the house doesn't really exist at ALL until after the wife is buried in its foundations. I don't get the sense that the wife has "united" with anything; rather, the house is BUILT on her, or BASED on her, in a very literal sense.
Sure, you could well say that the whole house is in a sense a monument to the wife. Walking on the lawn is like walking on her grave. What's your point?

QUOTE(Peter T Chattaway @ Jul 31 2006, 07:45 PM) View Post
: "Your religious beliefs"! I hardly think the idea that marriage ends at death (if not sooner) is
: idiosyncratic of my or any other religious tradition.

Idiosyncracy is neither here nor there; the question is which interpretation takes the film's own perspective into account.
"Which interpretation" seems to imply a plurality of roughly comparable theses with no a priori presumption in favor of any particular thesis as a given or default. If you want to argue that the film rejects the essentially universal understanding that death ends a marriage, it's up to you to show that the film regards Nebbercracker as still married to his wife's ghost.

QUOTE(Peter T Chattaway @ Jul 31 2006, 07:45 PM) View Post
: Nebbercracker is trapped in that house
Spoiler

:
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.

Which raises the question of why he finished building the house, or did not destroy it sooner.
An interesting psychological question, with a number of obvious and plausible answers, that in no way invalidates the point in question.

#15 Overstreet

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Posted 01 August 2006 - 08:30 AM

QUOTE
Nope. Must have been awful brief. Or maybed it happened while I blinked at my notes. If it made less of an impression on me than all the other stuff, then I think that is still significant.


FWIW, I remember this very clearly, and thought it was a beautiful moment... perhaps the only beautiful moment in the film.
Spoiler


#16 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 02 August 2006 - 01:28 AM

*** SPOILERS GALORE ***

SDG wrote:
: Anyway, I don't think the fact that you missed it is a very good argument that it doesn't matter. smile.gif

In and of itself, no. Which is why I'm falling back on the RELATIVE significance of this seven-second (or whatever) image, compared to the other images/dialogue in that scene.

: Are you being funny with the "not catching my drift" thing? I didn't think my sentence was that
: confusing. The point is, we're meant to shudder at what happens to the WIFE (i.e., in the
: flashback), but feel exultant at what happens to the HOUSE (i.e., in the climax).

Ah. Gotcha. (And no, I wasn't being funny. But I hope you find my error amusing more than annoying.)

: Are you serious? You really question whether the wife's fall into the cellar was fatal?

To her body, no. To her marriage, yes.

: : Except that the man is not free of his wife before the house is destroyed, whereas he is free to
: : find another woman afterwards.
:
: I see no evidence to support the conclusion that Nebbercracker is unable to pursue another
: woman due to ongoing marital obligations to his first wife!

Except, that is, from his own jubilation at his newfound "freedom" after the house is destroyed, which the children evidently take to mean that he is now free of his wife and ready to begin another relationship.

: Rather, as I said, Nebbercracker's main concern seems to be protecting innocents from the wrath
: of the house.

And yet he has never destroyed the house BEFORE. Hmmm.

: But a feeling of obligation and being married are two different things.

Yes, but this is where it is important to see the film through its own perspective and not through our own perspectives. (Note too that there are different understandings of the relationship between marriage and death even among us Christians. One of the reasons Catholics and Protestants can have as many marriages as they want, at least if all their spouses keep dying, is because their wedding vows specify that they are attached only "till death do us part". The Orthodox, OTOH, see things a little differently, which is why second weddings even for widows or widowers are somewhat penitential in nature -- or so I am told; I have not yet attended any such ceremonies or read the scripts for those services.)

: Neighborhood kids are throwing things at her for no reason. It seems pretty clear to me whom
: we're meant to sympathize with.

Except for two things: The way she treats her husband, and the fact that her death is finally completed by a second set of neighbourhood kids.

: Let's not forget the title of the film. Describe it how you will, the House is a Monster.

And so is the Wife. The House IS the Wife. (FWIW, tonight I bounced your theory off my 12-year-old friend, with whom I saw the film, and she agreed that the House IS the Wife, and that there was no separate House for the Wife to have a "union" with, monstrous or otherwise.) (Oh, and FWIW, she too remembered that seven-second blip that I apparently forgot or never noticed in the first place.)

: Sure, you could well say that the whole house is in a sense a monument to the wife. Walking on the
: lawn is like walking on her grave. What's your point?

Well, when the lawn/grave is an extension/expression of the wife's hatred and/or malice ...

: If you want to argue that the film rejects the essentially universal understanding that death ends a
: marriage, it's up to you to show that the film regards Nebbercracker as still married to his wife's ghost.

It is enough for me that Nebbercracker himself seems to regard himself thus, as do the kids.

Jeffrey Overstreet wrote:
: Or is Nebbercracker dancing with a fond memory of her, one last time, before putting the past
: behind him for good?

FWIW, my 12-year-old friend and I agreed that something like this might be what's going on; she said she found the wife more "pathetic" than "sympathetic", and likewise, Nebbercracker's attachment to her, and his willingness to let her walk all over him as it were, was also "pathetic" more than anything else.

#17 SDG

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Posted 04 August 2006 - 04:18 PM

QUOTE(Peter T Chattaway @ Aug 2 2006, 02:28 AM) View Post
In and of itself, no. Which is why I'm falling back on the RELATIVE significance of this seven-second (or whatever) image, compared to the other images/dialogue in that scene.
I think it's relatively important. It's meant to have climactic, revelatory force, to provide an interpretive context for the destruction of the house, which has set both Nebbercracker and his wife free.

QUOTE(Peter T Chattaway @ Aug 2 2006, 02:28 AM) View Post
Ah. Gotcha. (And no, I wasn't being funny. But I hope you find my error amusing more than annoying.)
No worries! smile.gif

QUOTE(Peter T Chattaway @ Aug 2 2006, 02:28 AM) View Post
: Are you serious? You really question whether the wife's fall into the cellar was fatal?

To her body, no. To her marriage, yes.

: I see no evidence to support the conclusion that Nebbercracker is unable to pursue another
: woman due to ongoing marital obligations to his first wife!

Except, that is, from his own jubilation at his newfound "freedom" after the house is destroyed, which the children evidently take to mean that he is now free of his wife and ready to begin another relationship.
No one's disputing that Nebbercracker wasn't "free" before, and he is "free" now. The question is, what is he "free" from? An ongoing "bad marriage"? Or the fallout of a brief marriage that ended in tragedy, and the grief, guilt and sense of obligation with which he has lived ever since?

The mere fact that his previous lack of "freedom" -- whatever its nature -- prevented him from beginning another relationship hardly establishes a real ongoing marriage. Many widowers are for years and years unable to move on after a spouse dies, and remain as trapped in the shadow of the tragedy they have suffered as Nebbercracker is. This doesn't mean we should think of them as still married.

QUOTE(Peter T Chattaway @ Aug 2 2006, 02:28 AM) View Post
And yet he has never destroyed the house BEFORE. Hmmm.
As I already pointed out, it's hardly necessary to posit an ongoing "marriage" to explain this; furthermore, the "ongoing marriage" theory provides no unique interpretive light on why he DOES agree to destroy the house NOW, whereas he hasn't before. The data fits both interpretations.

QUOTE(Peter T Chattaway @ Aug 2 2006, 02:28 AM) View Post
: But a feeling of obligation and being married are two different things.

Yes, but this is where it is important to see the film through its own perspective and not through our own perspectives.
Which, of course, is what each of us thinks we are doing, and what each of us perhaps thinks the other is doing wrongly. (Obviously by "not through our own perspective" you don't mean to imply that a fundamental disjunction MUST exist -- it's always POSSIBLE that the movie's perspective may in fact converge with our own -- but only that we must be open to such disjunctions when and where they DO exist.)

At any rate, if you mean to imply that YOUR understanding of the movie's perspective that a feeling of obligation and being married ARE the same thing, I say prove it.

QUOTE(Peter T Chattaway @ Aug 2 2006, 02:28 AM) View Post
Note too that there are different understandings of the relationship between marriage and death even among us Christians. One of the reasons Catholics and Protestants can have as many marriages as they want, at least if all their spouses keep dying, is because their wedding vows specify that they are attached only "till death do us part".
Hm, that seems to be St. Paul's view too...

QUOTE(Peter T Chattaway @ Aug 2 2006, 02:28 AM) View Post
: Neighborhood kids are throwing things at her for no reason. It seems pretty clear to me whom
: we're meant to sympathize with.

Except for two things: The way she treats her husband, and the fact that her death is finally completed by a second set of neighbourhood kids.
The first I grant you, but not the second. I think the film contrasts the ugly behavior of the kids in the past, who cause the problem, and the brave behavior of the young protagonists, who clean up the mess caused by the first set of kids.

QUOTE(Peter T Chattaway @ Aug 2 2006, 02:28 AM) View Post
: Let's not forget the title of the film. Describe it how you will, the House is a Monster.

And so is the Wife. The House IS the Wife.
Odd, then, how she turns on a dime from murderous rage at the thought of being blown up to a loving final farewell.

QUOTE(Peter T Chattaway @ Aug 2 2006, 02:28 AM) View Post
(FWIW, tonight I bounced your theory off my 12-year-old friend, with whom I saw the film, and she agreed that the House IS the Wife, and that there was no separate House for the Wife to have a "union" with, monstrous or otherwise.)
You're getting hung up on words; "separate" and "union" are not important to the discussion.

QUOTE(Peter T Chattaway @ Aug 2 2006, 02:28 AM) View Post
: Sure, you could well say that the whole house is in a sense a monument to the wife. Walking on the
: lawn is like walking on her grave. What's your point?

Well, when the lawn/grave is an extension/expression of the wife's hatred and/or malice ...
Still not seeing the point, I'm afraid.

QUOTE(Peter T Chattaway @ Aug 2 2006, 02:28 AM) View Post
It is enough for me that Nebbercracker himself seems to regard himself thus, as do the kids.
DOES Nebbercracker still see it that way at the END of the story, at any rate? DO the kids EVER see it that way? (Again, the mere fact that he's now "free" doesn't establish the nature of his previous lack of freedom.) And there's also the question whether any particular character's POV is the same as the movie's.

QUOTE(Peter T Chattaway @ Aug 2 2006, 02:28 AM) View Post
Jeffrey Overstreet wrote:
: Or is Nebbercracker dancing with a fond memory of her, one last time, before putting the past
: behind him for good?

FWIW, my 12-year-old friend and I agreed that something like this might be what's going on
Sauce for the Goose Dept: I submit that if the final dance/caress represents a fond memory of a departed loved one, the long trial of the haunted house itself equally represents the bondage to the past of tragic memories and grief and guilt and misguided sense of obligation. The final vision of the wife is at any rate no less the wife than is the house; perhaps more.

QUOTE(Peter T Chattaway @ Aug 2 2006, 02:28 AM) View Post
she said she found the wife more "pathetic" than "sympathetic", and likewise, Nebbercracker's attachment to her, and his willingness to let her walk all over him as it were, was also "pathetic" more than anything else.
I absolutely agree that Nebbercracker's attachment to the house is a festering, disordered, dysfunctional, morbid thing, a parody of marital devotion rather than any kind of genuinely admirable commitment. That's because he's not married to the house.

#18 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 05 August 2006 - 08:08 PM

Well, Babs likes it, so now I guess the rest of us have to, too. smile.gif

*** SPOILERS GALORE ***

SDG wrote:
: I think it's relatively important. It's meant to have climactic, revelatory force, to provide an
: interpretive context for the destruction of the house, which has set both Nebbercracker and his
: wife free.

Assuming that your interpretation is correct and not, say, Jeff's suggestion that this is more of a memory -- a projection, if you will -- of Nebbercracker's.

: No one's disputing that Nebbercracker wasn't "free" before, and he is "free" now. The question is,
: what is he "free" from? An ongoing "bad marriage"?

That is how the children, our primary window into this story, seem to interpret it, yes.

: As I already pointed out, it's hardly necessary to posit an ongoing "marriage" to explain this;
: furthermore, the "ongoing marriage" theory provides no unique interpretive light on why he DOES
: agree to destroy the house NOW, whereas he hasn't before. The data fits both interpretations.

Perhaps. In the meantime, I finally got around to reading Jenn Wright's commentary, and she mentions a detail that I had forgotten, and which I don't think you have addressed yet:
And here’s what disturbs me -- once they determine that the house has a human's soul, they set out to kill "her." Not "it," but "her." And when Nebbercracker miraculously returns from the hospital . . . , he pulls out dynamite that apparently has been saved specifically for this purpose. He knows that killing Constance (whom he still talks to as his wife) is the "right" thing to do, but because he loves her so much he has not yet been able to bring himself to do it. So what does he do? He asks a boy to do it for him!
Note the "her" rather than "it" business. Now, given that everybody within the movie itself seems to regard the wife and the house as one and the same entity, does it really make sense to try to impose on this film a set of conventions that OTHER films (but not necessarily this film) have followed? Is that one, brief, seven-second shot of Nebbercracker with the ghost/memory of his wife really enough to overturn the obvious meaning of all this OTHER data? Is the film really asking us to believe that ALL of the film's characters have been wrong (and will continue to be wrong) to equate the house with Nebbercracker's wife, as opposed to your theory that the house is a separate entity which is somehow dominating Nebbercracker's wife?

: At any rate, if you mean to imply that YOUR understanding of the movie's perspective that a feeling
: of obligation and being married ARE the same thing, I say prove it.

Um, no, I never said that the state of being married is identical to one's feeling of obligation. I do, however, think that Nebbercracker feels an obligation BECAUSE he is married. (Not was, is.)

: Hm, that seems to be St. Paul's view too...

I wasn't aware that St. Paul voiced any opinion on that particular point. If anything, I thought his admonition that widows should stay unmarried was one of the points in favour of what I am told is the Orthodox sensibility on this matter; if anything, it is the words of Jesus, not Paul, that I have raised in the past as a possible contradiction to this sensibility.

: I think the film contrasts the ugly behavior of the kids in the past, who cause the problem, and the
: brave behavior of the young protagonists, who clean up the mess caused by the first set of kids.

Well, yes, there is a contrast there. But what you call "cleaning up the mess" could just as easily be called "finishing the job".

: And there's also the question whether any particular character's POV is the same as the movie's.

Yes, but I don't think this movie is that clever.

: I submit that if the final dance/caress represents a fond memory of a departed loved one, the long
: trial of the haunted house itself equally represents the bondage to the past of tragic memories and
: grief and guilt and misguided sense of obligation. The final vision of the wife is at any rate no less
: the wife than is the house; perhaps more.

Um, except that the house was capable of acting on its own, ESPECIALLY when Nebbercracker was not there to project anything onto it, and a projected memory would not be.

#19 SDG

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Posted 09 August 2006 - 08:52 AM

QUOTE(Peter T Chattaway @ Aug 5 2006, 09:08 PM) View Post
: I think it's relatively important. It's meant to have climactic, revelatory force, to provide an
: interpretive context for the destruction of the house, which has set both Nebbercracker and his
: wife free.

Assuming that your interpretation is correct and not, say, Jeff's suggestion that this is more of a memory -- a projection, if you will -- of Nebbercracker's.
Well, the kids seem to see the ghost of the wife, so it doesn't seem to be just in Nebbercracker's head. And, again, once we start interpreting (or allegorizing) onscreen phenomena as an externalization of Nebbercracker's internal feelings, I think it becomes very tempting to interpret (or allegorize) the activity of the haunted house itself as a subconscious "projection" of Nebbercracker's guilt and grief. Nebbercracker haunting himself as it were; a kind of Forbidden Planet "monsters from the id" sort of thing.

Contrariwise, if we take the more straightforward view of the haunting as literal and "real," then I think the ghost at the end should be "real" too. There is no compelling need to do otherwise.

QUOTE(Peter T Chattaway @ Aug 5 2006, 09:08 PM) View Post
Um, except that the house was capable of acting on its own, ESPECIALLY when Nebbercracker was not there to project anything onto it, and a projected memory would not be.
Not necessarily. Perhaps on this view we might imagine Nebbercracker consciously keeping the rage of the house (that is, his own subconscious guilt and grief) in check, so that when he collapsed, his subconscious raged out of control. (Doesn't something like this happen in Forbidden Planet?)

I don't advocate this as a literal, straightforward reading of the film. But then as soon as we brought in euthanasia and mental illness we haven't been dealing solely with literal, straightforward readings, and I do think that the reading above is suggested as soon as we make the ghost at the end something other than a real ghost.

QUOTE(Peter T Chattaway @ Aug 5 2006, 09:08 PM) View Post
: No one's disputing that Nebbercracker wasn't "free" before, and he is "free" now. The question is,
: what is he "free" from? An ongoing "bad marriage"?

That is how the children, our primary window into this story, seem to interpret it, yes.
Perhaps so, perhaps not; the evidence seems wanting. As I said (and you seem to allow), the data seems to fit both interpretations.

QUOTE(Peter T Chattaway @ Aug 5 2006, 09:08 PM) View Post
In the meantime, I finally got around to reading Jenn Wright's commentary, and she mentions a detail that I had forgotten, and which I don't think you have addressed yet:
And here’s what disturbs me -- once they determine that the house has a human's soul, they set out to kill "her." Not "it," but "her." And when Nebbercracker miraculously returns from the hospital . . . , he pulls out dynamite that apparently has been saved specifically for this purpose. He knows that killing Constance (whom he still talks to as his wife) is the "right" thing to do, but because he loves her so much he has not yet been able to bring himself to do it. So what does he do? He asks a boy to do it for him!
Note the "her" rather than "it" business. Now, given that everybody within the movie itself seems to regard the wife and the house as one and the same entity, does it really make sense to try to impose on this film a set of conventions that OTHER films (but not necessarily this film) have followed? Is that one, brief, seven-second shot of Nebbercracker with the ghost/memory of his wife really enough to overturn the obvious meaning of all this OTHER data? Is the film really asking us to believe that ALL of the film's characters have been wrong (and will continue to be wrong) to equate the house with Nebbercracker's wife, as opposed to your theory that the house is a separate entity which is somehow dominating Nebbercracker's wife?
I think you're being too rationalistic and Western-scholastic -- Thomistic, almost -- about all this. smile.gif

I agree that the house, or the consciousness animating it, is identified with the wife. I do not believe, and have never meant to assert, that there is actually another entity -- an autonomous House-Monster -- that is somehow holding the wife prisoner, or something.

I also agree, as I have from my very first post, that the reading that emphasizes the identity of house and wife, and therefore sees the destruction of the house in terms reminiscent of euthanasia, is credible and worth considering.

But I also think that there is another dynamic, another set of conventions that do apply to this film, that qualify or nuance the above, and it is this that stands out to me.

The basic assumption that a haunted house is evil (not just sick or broken-hearted) is at work here, yet I think we are meant to see the wife as not-evil, both before her death and after the destruction of the house.

Certainly there's a sense in which the House is the wife -- it's not someone else -- and yet it's not her true self, not the self we see in life, or briefly restored in the ending.

Jen's "mental-illness" reading is one way to account for this, of course, but I think the more natural reading is to see it in light of the general ghost-story convention that a ghost is a dreadful, tortured thing that can be substantially different from the person in life. I don't care how friendly you and Joseph Marley were in life, this is his ghost, and it ain't the same thing.

There's just something wrong about that person's spirit being stuck here, and it's significant that she stops being scary precisely when she's about to leave. She's at peace now. That's the way it works.

QUOTE(Peter T Chattaway @ Aug 5 2006, 09:08 PM) View Post
: Hm, that seems to be St. Paul's view too...

I wasn't aware that St. Paul voiced any opinion on that particular point.
Rom 7:1-3?

QUOTE(Peter T Chattaway @ Aug 5 2006, 09:08 PM) View Post
: I think the film contrasts the ugly behavior of the kids in the past, who cause the problem, and the
: brave behavior of the young protagonists, who clean up the mess caused by the first set of kids.

Well, yes, there is a contrast there. But what you call "cleaning up the mess" could just as easily be called "finishing the job".
I guess it's possible to emphasize either the contrast or the continuity; to me it makes sense to emphasize the contrast.

Edited by SDG, 09 August 2006 - 08:54 AM.


#20 WriterJon

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Posted 09 August 2006 - 12:58 PM

So... did anyone else think that Nebbercracker looked a lot like Gollum? unsure.gif

(FWIW, I'm enjoying reading this exchange very much.)