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Quest Delivery

by Sarah Scialli


In this scene of Being John Malkovich, Dr. Lester explains the purpose of John Malkovich as a vessel. This scene is used for several purposes, one of which being to provide some background for the existence of a portal into John Malkovich’s mind.  The description serves to flesh out the magic/science slightly so that the audience has some frame of reference for understanding the surreal plot. In addition to this, the scientific explanation provides something for the characters to do other than explore the strangeness of being inside Malkovich. Now, Lotte feels she must make sure that Dr. Lester and his friends can get into Malkovich before time runs out, lest they face being stuck in an infant ‘s mind forever.

The existence of a time limit and a way to be stuck forever not only provide a way to further the plot, but suggest a tie-in to games. In many adventure games, the player initially is exploring the world of the game and discovering what everything does. However, there is a point where exploration for its own sake is abandoned because there is now a goal to work towards and some kind of threat pushing the player away from succeeding. In the earlier part of Being John Malkovich, the characters could explore the world through Malkovich’s eyes, and discover the pleasures of being someone else. But at this point the quest is delivered, and the characters, or at least those who are aware, must now work towards accomplishing that quest.

Of course, there is an inherent connection to gaming and interactivity by the fact that the characters are controlling Malkovich in the real world as an avatar. And the joy that the characters have in discovering how to control Malkovich offsets the fear that could come with being stuck forever inside a person’s portal with no control. The character would not only lose control, but would discover that the game world has become reality and there is no way to escape. This is certainly a topic explored by the other movies we watched this semester, specifically in eXistenZ where the game world and the real world began to blur and seem impossible to separate.

This scene may not be very climactic in itself, but it certainly frames the narrative of the rest of the film and provides a gamelike goal for the characters to work towards. 

Malkovich vessel scientific explanation

A mock-scientific explanation of the process of reincarnation within John Malkovich

from Being John Malkovich (1999)
Creator: Spike Jonze
Posted by Critical Commons Manager