Sentience & Semiotics
For our year and three quarters together I’ve been introducing my girl friend to my favorite movies. At first I just shared with her whatever I happened to have on hand, mailed from Blockbuster. Then I found myself tilting the selection toward Gallic froth. We saw the Umbrellas of Cherborg, then Les jeunes Fille de Rochefort. But then I started to stack the selection with my top ten favorite this and that: favorite movie, favorite auteur, favorite actor …
The best movies weren’t always available: we still haven’t seen a single decent Eisenstein DVD: Blockbuster just doesn’t have the best of the best across the board. Anyway, there are still great ones we haven’t seen a single film of together, I haven’t even emphasized the name yet: Tarkovsky, for example, René Clair … But we’re still seeing mostly terrific films: top ten something, or top twenty. And last night we sat before her DVD equipment, in our usual place, on the floor, our backs propped by her bed, and saw her first inkling of M. Night Shyamalan: The Sixth Sense.
I told my dear partner how impressed the movie world was on the appearance of this movie: his first big success. The movie is weird from the first shots, but even experienced film buffs won’t guess how in the dark they are till the final moments of the film. Then, the whole thing comes into perspective: all the shots are explained, by after-the-fact deduction, digesting backwards.
The kid says he sees dead people. Only gradually is his claim supported by footage, and only gradually do we get the most gruesome clues as to the apparitions’ existential status. My favorite moment comes where the boy, Clay, is in his house, upstairs, and some kid is there, good looking kid, says, “Come, I’ll show you where my father keeps his guns,” and the boy moves into a door way, Clay moves after him, and as the kid turns to enter the room, we see that the back of his skull is missing: gaping blood and gore … “They don’t know that they are dead,” Clay had explained to Bruce Willis’s murdered shrink.
I said to my movie partner as the scene arrived, Watch. I’d already told her that the movie contained one of my favorite all time effects. So she was ready: or one might think she should have been. But the scene came and went without any reaction from her. Kids with the back of their skull blown off, appearing un-introduced in the middle of a movie, and no reaction?
We’d just had a moment or two’s irritation on what I see as the same phenomenon, the same with the same explanation. Friday night we celebrated a new job for her son’s fiancee´. We met the couple at a restaurant with an outdoor dance floor. A band called He Said, She Said, as expected, was playing. I’d been recalling to my dance partner last evening before the movie how the he of He Said had been trying to humiliate the she of She Said about her chronic tardiness. I said that I didn’t think the restaurant should tolerate bickering from the bandstand: we’re there to dine and be entertained, not to get dragged into a family quarrel. If Brad and Angela, Burton and Taylor, have a fight, tell it in the tabloids, not in the middle of Cleopatra.
But Jan didn’t know what I was referring to. We’d both been present; but she hadn’t registered the discord.
She hadn’t registered the discord!
Neither did the evidence that the kid in the hallway was a corpse, a ghost, register on her.
How many other people in the initial audience also didn’t “see” the early clues?
It’s coming up on two years that I’ve labored to introduce myself to her. I no longer see any evidence that she’s tried to pass on the information, share the perspective. Her friends are so vehement in their rejection of her account of my experience that she gives up. Selective attention is contagious. The whole kleptocracy is infected with it.
There: I rest my case against the quality of human sentience. It’s not that we’re not sentient; our sentience is of poor quality, it’s purpose is to preserve social delusion.
Kleptocrats edit their evidence through Pollyanna: flatteringly.