I dread this section of the film, because it’s so dark. Jake becomes a man possessed in this section and gets worse when he reaches his destination. The young woman is powerless as she watches him rant and — twice — suggest that the farmhouse is home. She regains the initiatives briefly while schooling him on “Baby It’s Cold Outside” but can’t keep him from racing off into an unknown, confusing confrontation at the end.
It’s sad to see this crop up right after their intellectual alignment on Guy Debord. But Jake takes a look at the melting Brrrs and decides that they are going to make everything sticky, so he must get rid of them. The young woman tries to find a compromise — is there a plastic bag, perhaps? — but he’s determined to act and, oddly, has a plan ready-made. He will turn onto a road straight ahead. There will be a place to dump there.
This part of the movie stays somewhat close to Reid’s original story, but without the air of menace. Jake doesn’t explode in anger in Reid’s story — he suggests a detour to the school might be a nice diversion, a chance to see more of the area. It also takes very little time to reach the school, less than half a page of text.
The young woman makes a highly rational point — it’s scary to take this detour in a blizzard, if they break down, no one will find them. But Jake talks about how the melting ice cream will “prey on his mind” and he explodes, hitting the steering wheel repeatedly. The young woman calms him down, backing down a bit by saying “it’s not a big deal.” That could be interpreted as it’s not a big deal that there’s melting ice cream, but he takes it as it’s not a big deal to go ahead with his rather insane plan.
He responds “I know that, Ames.” The young woman is confused — who is Ames? Is that short for Amy? That doesn’t sound like me. Jake says that the road goes to his high school and they resume arguing, with the young woman saying she too went to a rural high school and it was not connected to main road by some spooky narrow trail like this one.
Jake ignores her complaints and instead goes into a monologue about life in high school, where he “spent every tortured day. For so long … for so goddamn long.” He doesn’t mean his high school years, of course, he means his life. Then after a heated bit about how weird this detour is, Jake says “it’s fine, everything is tinged.”
That Goethe book sitting on Jake’s shelf now gets taken down for a short lecture on color and how it only exists in the brain, not in nature. Jake says “there is no objective reality.” This touches on Debord again. The young woman replies “yes, I am a physicist. I know what color is.” She then gets poetic “color is the deeds of light. It’s the deeds and suffering.” Jake lauds this poetry, which leads her to say “well, I am a poet.” She then says “this road seems excessively long,” which gives Jake an opening to say “seems. That’s the operative word.”
They digress into a discussion of time and how it exists only in the brain. They get older and older, or so it seems, Jake says, or says he sometimes feels much younger until he catches himself in the mirror. The divide between the janitor and Jake is blurring very quickly in this scene, they are merging into a single character now. Jake’s sad speech about how young people are more admirable — they make the great breakthroughs, are healthier, brighter and more fun. This is the janitor speaking, the one who sees this youth up close every day.
I want to step off the plot at this point for a personal observation — I don’t actually buy this. I think much of the surrender to age that goes on in our culture is a lack of courage, an unwillingness of older people to adapt to the world around them. Personally, I like spending time with younger people, but that’s more a matter of me feeling in closer alignment with the Millennial generation than my own, Generation X. My generation is, frankly, filled with insufferable assholes. I’ve never agreed with the politics of people my age and as they continue to cling to the memories of their youth, I’m pretty much bored with them. Reaching across generations for friendships can help keep your mind young and you can exercise and eat well to keep your body young. There’s no good reason that older people should stop innovating and taking chances — they too can be healthier, brighter and more fun if they’re willing to stop living in the past.
But back to the movie. Jake says that “old people are the ash heap of youth” which prompts the young woman to nearly get her “thinking of ending things” line out of her mouth, but is again interrupted with a “ta-da!” as they reach the school. Jake gives extensive details about this schools, the kind of things a janitor would know well. He says he knows it like the back of his hand — the movie then cuts to the back of an old man’s hand, no doubt the janitor’s.
What follows here is a very interesting little horror movie trick. We get the feared, but not executed abandonment, where Jake doesn’t throw out the Brrrs in the first trash can he sees, but goes to a dumpster to get rid of them. The young woman fears in this moment that he will not return. But he does and then begins acting very strange — saying that it’s really humid in the car (hard to believe that) and he pulls the keys out of the ignition. She again demands to go, prompting Jake to ask if she means the farm house. By now it seems like she’s stuck in a horror movie where she has no choice but to be stuck at the school or go back to the farmhouse, a safe return to the city (whatever that may be) is not in the offing.
Jake then makes a very weird romantic move on her. It’s hard to fathom how any grown adult would see being in a car in a blizzard at an abandoned school in the middle of the night as a potential romantic moment. Maybe a high school student who can’t get away for sex anywhere else might see it that way. Jake also says “baby, it’s cold outside” leading to a debate about the meaning of that song. The young woman is 100 percent right, of course, but the debate seems misplaced here … obviously Jake is doing something strange and dangerous, why get caught up on the meaning of a 1936 song?
Hard to believe, but their argument actually leads to a tender moment between them. It’s similar to what is in the book, but even less believable than that narrative. It struck me as one of the most inauthentic scenes in the movie, something that exists just so the janitor can peep them and Jake gets freaked out about it, setting off the final confrontation.
Jake ran off before to dump the Brrrs and came back. But this time, he will not return. The young woman has been abandoned in a snowstorm in the school parking lot. She is left with no choice but to follow him in there and face whatever it is he ran desperately to confront.