7. Thinking About Time

Our travelers shared a very heavy scene in yesterday’s post, one where the artist in the girlfriend emerges and so much is communicated outside of the words. The scene that immediately follows has a sneaky heaviness about it as well, but it starts off, oddly, as if the previous scene had never happened.

The girlfriend finishes the poem and the brief discussion about it by falling into her “I’m thinking of ending things” rumination. She spells it out a little more concretely this time — Jake is sweet, he’s sensitive, listens to me, and is smart. But there’s something ineffably wrong about the relationship.

By now we assume that Jake can hear her inner thoughts and he interrupts this stream by asking if she’s ok and says she seems very far away. This is a strange thing to say given that she just poured out her heart in the recited poem less than a minute ago. But perhaps this is a discrete way to get to the thoughts in her head without being accusatory about them.

He prods her a bit to explain what she’s thinking about, then the girlfriend declares that she was thinking about time. She uses the metaphor of a train — it takes us to where we are headed, there are no detours or side trips allowed. It’s all like Mussolini’s trains, running on time. This permits Jake a moment to be pedantic, explaining that the Italian fascist’s trains were reliable only because of improvements made to the rail system before he arrived. But, of course, the girlfriend isn’t talking about Il Duce. She’s talking about fate and how our lives can take on an oppressive momentum that prevents us from stopping and enjoying the time we have.

Allowing myself a moment of pedantry, what the girlfriend is saying here is very much akin to Martin Heidegger’s theory of temporality in “Being and Time.” We are forever living in a non-existent future, pushing towards our deaths. Jake suggests that we could jump off this train — but the girlfriend reminds him that this is just a movie trope, you would probably die from jumping off a real train.

This transitions the discussion to movies and how they fill our brain with lies to pass the time. When we get to Jake’s boyhood room, we will see a good cross section of the lies that have defined his life. We, the audience, are of course participating in one of those lie-infesting moments. We are watching a movie and are being influenced by the ideas being offered to us. She compares these thoughts — these memes as originally conceived by Richard Dawkins — are like viruses. They want to live and attach themselves to us, changing us in the process.

It’s an interesting discussion to have in this moment in time. Are viruses monstrous or are they just another organism fighting for their own lives that, without any consciousness or intent, end up reshaping ours? We live in a world of such viruses. We are transformed over and over by forces that don’t fully intend to harm us, but cannot help themselves from doing so. They are only trying to live and reproduce, just like we do.

They digress into a discussion of insects that blow themselves up for the good of their community and how this is akin to human suicide bombers. Do they want to live or not? Or is their desire to save their communities of like a form of wanting to live — the tribe must survive. The girlfriend is amused by this thought and, for some reason, is pulled to look out the window.

What she sees is a billboard for Tulsey Town Dairy, with the clown in the top left hand corner of the screen, a cow and chicken below her and a pig to the far right. Why a chicken and a pig would be in an ad for a dairy, I do not know. But we briefly hear that pig talking, in the same voice as the religious radio announcer, stating “come, join me.” At this point in the movie, we don’t really know that it’s the pig talking, we’ll discover that later.

Jake says “so not everything wants to live” right after they pass the billboard. This too is an allusion to the pig’s beckoning at the end of the film. But the girlfriend is not ready to accept that idea at this time, saying that even those who died on purpose do so because they want their communities to live, which is themselves writ large. But she then ask, about the insects one would assume, not the suicide bombers, but we don’t really know if they want anything, they could just be programmed that way. Jake then posits that maybe we’re all programmed, and the girlfriend gives an exploding head gesture.

Her last words before they pull up at the parents’ house is “and now we’re all dead.” The look of dread on her face as Jake pulls into the driveway and says “ta-da!” underscores that thought. It’s the girlfriend who does all of the philosophizing in this scene, Jake contributes very little to it. It is becoming clear that the girlfriend is, in fact, Jake’s intellectualism or perhaps his intellectual aspiration. He can only offer stray trivia and pointless fact checks. The girlfriend is the one with ideas and theories that attempt to explain it all.

We get the feeling, as we are about to enter Jake’s family home, that they aren’t so much a mismatched pair physically or emotionally. He simply isn’t smart enough for her. Her intelligence runs deep while his is all on the surface.

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