The one thing most people feel is the most sacred part of their being is their mind. Many will pay good money to figure out what they are thinking, and entrust the inner workings of their minds to psychiatrists, physicians, and (occasionally) psychics. If you can guess what someone is thinking, they are usually impressed, especially if you have just met them for the first time. And yet, the mind is the one part of someone that is truly their own. Sure, you can influence a mind, you could damage it, or even force it to think what you want it to (like those pink elephants everyone’s thinking about these days). Still, if you can control someone’s mind without them knowing it, how much more power will you lord over them than if they are aware of it? This week’s two films cover covert invasions into the mind.
The Manchurian Candidate
Length: 126 minutes / 2.1 hours
Being able to control someone’s mind is like having an incredible tool at your disposal. Are you weak? Get a strong man to help. Are you unpopular? Get a popular person to make you one of them. Are you insignificant? Get someone with the power to do your bidding. The basis of mind control comes down to one thing: manipulation. Obviously, there is a goal in mind, but how can you get others to accomplish that goal for you? Especially when your goal requires more sinister acts, how can you get others to take the blame? The real challenge is finding the opportunity to control someone’s mind. What better opportunity is there than severe mental and emotional trauma?
Having just returned from the Korean War, Major Bennett Marco (Frank Sinatra) is having recurring nightmares. The nightmares are so vivid that he begins to question the reality of his waking world. He wonders if his military subordinate, Raymond Shaw (Laurence Harvey) actually won the Medal of Honor, and when he finds out that others from his unit have the same doubts, Ben starts to look for the deeper problem. With a few simple triggers and a deck of cards, Ben finds out that Raymond is a sleeper agent of the Communists. How convenient for America’s enemy to be in the mind of someone so close to a political figure, Raymond’s father, Senator John Iselin (James Gregory). Or is there someone even more unexpected pulling the strings?
Length: 148 minutes / 2.47 hours
For centuries, people have been trying to figure out how their minds think. A lot of money and effort has gone into studying the mind and what influences it. Psychiatrists have written prolific amounts of papers on hypotheses and conjectures behind the meanings of certain thoughts or ideas. And yet, the area with the most variance from person to person would be their dreams. While dreams may be simple concoctions of our basest desires, they also reveal to us our mind’s true thoughts. The foundation of Inception (2010) deals with that smallest unit inside our minds: the thought. The idea. How best to control someone’s mind but to have them think they arrived at the conclusion themselves?
Master dream thief, Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is in the business of information. If he can get in someone’s mind, in their dreams, he has ways of making their subconscious give him anything he wants to know. Or at least, his sponsors want to know. However, for him to get back to the life he has lost, he needs to do the exact opposite. To implant an idea in the head of a powerful businessman is the goal that most deem impossible, but Cobb is convinced he can do it. Gathering a crack team of experts in dream creation, he sets a plan in motion that will allow him to finally see his children again. Of course, in order to succeed, Cobb must confront his past while diving deeper into the world of dreams.
2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 invasions into the mind