Fifteen thoughts about Flatliners (Niels Arden Oplev, USA, 2017)

American cinema, Blogpost, Film reviews, Uncategorized
1. Resuscitated films end up being haunted and made to feel bad by their past. Kiefer Sutherland is on hand to ensure that this is so.

2. In the contemporary age, suicide becomes the logical extension of the pressure to work oneself to death (and not to be a loser who simply works and goes home at the end of the day).

3. Computers are the urns in which we are always placing our remains.

4. Rich kids are not really haunted by feelings of guilt for their past sins. They in fact love their demons and accept even the most insincere of apologies – because they never really needed one.

5. The future of medicine is the preserve of the already-rich. They will play god with the lives of the poor who come to visit them. Medicine becomes like sport as doctors compete with each other to satisfy their narcissism.

6. “Why do you like me?” asks Nina Dobrev to Diego Luna after they have just boned. “Because you’re really hot,” he answers. Dobrev, her head on Luna’s chest, looks away with a satisfied glint in her eye: yes, I am, she is thinking. And even though Luna then adds that he was joking and that he likes her because she really cares about people, we all know that she does not care about anyone but herself and the only reason that he likes her and the only reason why anyone would like this film is because… she is really hot.

7. If the film is really a celebration of Hot People Boning, this all gets censored out in the UAE (where I saw this film). Meaning that the even less sense that the film makes… actually highlights precisely the senselessness of the film.

8. Death involves seeing oneself as if from outside one’s own body: death is basically the selfie stick/the selfie stick basically offers us a glimpse of death.

9. The fact that death comes back into life after the kids flatline would suggest that really these kids are already dead (inside).

10. People drive cars way too young in the USA. In being a film in which a woman (Ellen Page) is haunted by her sense of guilt after killing someone while answering her phone at the wheel, then it is not just a remake of a 1990s mediocrity, but it is also a remake of Lucrecia Martel’s Mujer sin cabeza/Headless Woman (Argentina/France/Italy/Spain, 2008). As we shall see, as that film is an expression of bourgeois guilt (or a lack thereof) for centuries of exploitation, so, too, is this film (although this does not make it any good).

11. As selfies are a channel through which we can see our own dead bodies, so are mobile phones a channel through which we speak to the dead. That is: mediation takes us away from direct human contact as we prefer instead phantom contact, or contact with phantoms.

12. The Mexican does not need to flatline – because as per Octavio Paz and the character who comes from the place where they celebrate El Día de los Muertos, he is basically already dead, too.

13. Privilege is based upon geopolitical exploitation and murder. But if you have it within you to forgive yourself, then it is okay to be a Nazi.

14. This recalls Slavoj Žižek‘s old observation that it is only when captured that Nazis tended to kill themselves – thereby exemplifying the public nature of shame, which is unbearable, versus the private nature of guilt, with which we can live. The film would seem to suggest a renewed era of shamelessness: I am shamed, but I basically can live with it – because I do not care (and because I am Really Hot). With the ongoing interest in figures like Eva Mozes Kor in mind (hat tip to the wonderful film scholar Leshu Torchin), one wonders that the forgiveness of victims only adds to the sense of shamelessness. Odd though this may sound, perhaps it is not for victims to forgive. Only God forgives. And if we do not think that this is so, then we are opening the door to new fascisms.

(And if there is no God, then we need a Law that can forgive. And if we have no universal Law as the guilty walk free, then who knows what is to happen? As the oppressed forgive their oppressors, then either we live in a world in which the oppressors are correct to oppress the oppressed, since neither God nor Law will judge them, and really there is no human equality, but only entitled superhumans and subjugated subhumans – many species as we cling to the illusion that really we are one species… or we must invent equality, change the Law, invent God, and give those self-proclaimed homines dei something really to be afraid of. The thing that the homo deus fears most in his belief that he is the summum of evolution… is revolution.)

15. Sex is a theme that runs throughout the film: slut-shaming; being a slut for having a one-night stand; paying for an abortion after a liaison with a working-class woman. Having a sexuality appears as more shameful than anything else, and at least on a par with murder – even though sex is designed to create and not to end life. Sex is shameful because it reveals mortality and failure in an era when one is supposed to live forever. In this way, sexuality has become death, an admission of mortality and of a body – as opposed to being an image, a selfie taken from outside one’s own body – about which one ought to be ashamed (it is only after flatlining that the Really Hot People can bone).