Rants and reactions to contemporary politics, art and culture.
Wednesday, November 16, 2016
Ron Howard’sInfernomixes Philippa Foot’s famed Trolley Problem with the eponymous Dante poem. For the billionaire geneticist Bertrand Zobrist (Ben Foster), it’s either
the tortures of Dante’s infamous eighth circle Malbolge, or the prospect of a sixth
extinction that will destroy the human race. “Dante’s hell isn’t fiction
anymore. It’s a prophecy” is the idea that the film espouses. It’s doubtful
Dante would have been amused. Tom Hanks plays Robert Langdon a Dante
scholar who finds himself the captive of a hallucinogenic nightmare which is
one way to describe the film’s convoluted plot (based on a Dan Brown novel).
It’s actually Botticelli’s "Map of Hell" (itself based on the Inferno) that
provides the film’s guiding image. But let’s get back to the deal. Would you
sacrifice half of mankind and condemn them to great suffering to spare future
generations? In the film The World Health Organization is out to do anything
they can to stop Zobrist's Inferno virus, under the theory that the evil Zobrist is also mad and that there’s no Sixth Extinction awaiting
mankind. But the paradigm the film presents is not so far flung. What if
mankind really had to make a sacrifice which entailed some degree of suffering
to insure the perpetuation of the race? What if scientists made it clear that if
there wasn’t a cessation in the use of fossil fuels, the earth would become overheated, the seas would overflow and human life would come to an end? What would the choice
be? Continuing life as it is, or doing something drastic? By the way, don't bother to see the film. It won't help you to answer these questions.
Francis Levy's debut novel, Erotomania: A Romance, was released in August 2008 by Two Dollar Radio.
His short stories, criticism, humor, and poetry have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Republic, The Village Voice, The East Hampton Star, The Quarterly, Penthouse, Architectural Digest, TV Guide, The Journal of Irreproducible Results, and other publications. One of his Voice humor pieces was anthologized in The Big Book of New American Humor (HarperCollins). He is presently the Co-Director of The Philoctetes Center for the Multidisciplinary Study of Imagination (philoctetes.org), where he supervises roundtable discussions on topics as varied as “The Psychology of the Modern Nation State” and “Modern Traffic Theory, Behavior, and Imagination”.