2. The Opening Monologue

An interesting thing about the girlfriend’s monologue that starts the film is that it demonstrates that the character either 1) has precognition of what will be said during the drive and the sights of the journey or 2) is out of sequence in the movie, going through the mind of the narrator after the action of the movie kicks off. The speech refers to a specific section of dialogue about stopping for something to eat and gravel on the side of the roads, even though the characters are not yet on the road.

This is an interesting adaptation choice by Kaufman. He has decided to keep the opening monologue as written by Reid, but then backs up the action of the story to an earlier spot. There are other clues in the movie that there is a time loop element to the movie that did not exist in the novel. The girlfriend’s precognition of events to come hints that these events have happened before and she’s about to relive them again, which could account for why she is thinking of ending things, she wants out of the time loop.

Most of what we see during the monologue are items in the janitor/parents house. One thing I want to focus on is a print of Wanderer above the Sea of Fog by Caspar David Friedrich that hangs on the wall right near the front door of the house. It’s a famous piece that often brings to mind German romanticism and philosophy. Penguin Classics used the painting for its cover of Friedrich Nietzsche’s bizarre (some would argue post-lucid) autobiography “Ecce Homo.”

Another item we see during the intro monologue is the swing set, which later appears in exactly the same form in front of an abandoned house. Jake is clearly disturbed at the mention of the swing set, but we’ll get to that later.

When we approach the end of the monologue, we see the girlfriend on a small town main street, carefree in the way she reaches out her tongue to catch a snowflake. This is a pretty small town, far too pretty for Oklahoma, actually. Having spent my high school years in the state and attended many debate tournaments, I have seen my fair share of Oklahoma small towns and this looks like none of them. And it’s, in fact, somewhere in upstate New York. The book takes place in an unnamed locale, so you wonder why Kaufman bothered to make the story takes place in Oklahoma. It’s clearly tied to his decision to feature the Rogers and Hammerstein musical (also not in the book) so prominently.

We then see the janitor looking out a window down at the girl, mumbling an interrupted version of the same lines that he will say to her on the phone repeatedly: “The assumptions are right. I can feel my fear growing. Now is the time for the answer. Just one question. One question to answer.”

The movie then dissolves into the journey and finds the girlfriend deep in thought, finally breaking the silence with the internal thought (apparently heard by Jake) “I’m thinking of ending things …”

I’ll pick up tomorrow with some initial thoughts on the casting, which is interesting because the main characters look nothing like the descriptions in Reid’s novel.

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