Charlie Kaufman brings Iain Reid’s ‘I’m Thinking of Ending Things’ to the screen by constructing a surrealistic web that captures the effect media has on us. Featuring the talented Jessie Buckley, Jesse Plemons, Toni Collette, David Thewlis & More! This is The Universal Theme with Keagen Fritz!

Written by: Keagen Fritz – September 16th, 2020 10:22 am pst

Netflix Poster – Let’s jump down a rabbit hole

Netflix Poster – Let’s jump down a rabbit hole

Every day we wake, greeted by fresh stimuli, typically in the form of media, to occupy our attention.  From pages to screens, the specific becomes less important as we tread through modernity.  We now have endless horizons of possible experiences by way of advancing technology, and the sponge-like nature of our psyche becomes increasingly vulnerable as a result.  What we see and feel fights viciously to dig into our sense of self and direct our realities, like a virus clinging to life inside a human host.  Adding to this danger, mass media technologies seek to hijack this fragile system and attach strings to our limbs by introducing predetermined narratives to be soaked up by our sponge brains.  An important question arises then from these new conditions; Do you actually exist?  Or are you simply an impressionistic collection of experiences reflected back into the world akin to a mirror?  Or even further, is there even any difference?    

Still – Have a seat

Charlie Kaufman’s adaptation of the novel I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid dives into these questions in his trademark surreal fashion as we look at the potential of the human sponge.  Of course, this film benefits from the mysterious haze it drapes its themes in, so If you haven’t watched it yet, you may wish to go in blind for the full effect.  That being said, I won’t be going into anything that isn’t already a fundamental aspect of the book, which may provide a worthwhile frame to view the film for the first time.  The choice is yours, and if you decide to watch it first, be sure to double back here to debrief.  Alright, warning over!

Still – Toni Collette & David Thewlis turn in remarkable performances as Jake’s parents

Both the book and film present us with a character, Jake (played by Jesse Plemons), who’s taken his surrounding stimuli and amalgamated it to build his psyche, personality, and active life.  Every movie or show he’s watched, every book or poem he’s read, it’s all working together to paint his perspective in a particular way.  Each impression left behind pulls him further from objective reality and deeper into his created fantasy.  The story starts out with Jake taking his new girlfriend, Lucy (played by Jessie Buckley) to meet his parents.  With every minute that goes by you’ll find yourself being tangled in the film’s unsettling web.  Scenes feel like different sections of his brain, switching off control as they dictate how moments will play out.  The media he’s consumed is wholly governing his reality, and salvation appears only as a distant mirage.

Still – Jake

During a long conversation in an even longer car ride, Lucy makes poignant reference to this idea by pulling from Guy Debord’s Society of the Spectacle.  She remarks, “The spectacle can’t be understood as mere visual deception produced by mass-media technologies.  Instead, It is a worldview that has actually been materialized.”  Jake replies in agreement, “We watch the world through this glass, pre interpreted for us.  And it infects our brains, we become it.”  This conclusion of a media-tinged reality is not new to film, but what is new is a film that captures the raw and messy desperation of losing yourself to outside influences.  It’s a slow slip that succeeds by convincing you it must have always been this way.

Still – Car rides make for great conversation

Do not let this happen to you.  We now live in a world that is actively fighting for our attention, and we must take the time to be aware of what’s being absorbed into our psyche if we hope to hold onto ourselves.  The ‘Spectacle,’ as Guy Debord calls it, relies on your passivity as a cloak to conceal its methods and intentions as it takes advantage of our neuroplasticity.  Thankfully, Charlie Kaufman has orchestrated the most spine-chilling warning possible against such a fate with I’m Thinking of Ending Things while still telling a compelling story.  Heed Kaufman’s warnings and reclaim the autonomous power of saying either; Yes, this is me.  Or no, this isn’t.  Remember to show little mercy and drop what doesn’t make the cut, as there’s far too much gunk trying to live on your windshield.

Still – What do you think is real?

You can stream I’m Thinking of Ending Things on Netflix.    

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About The Author:

Keagen Fritz is a screenwriting and production major at California State University Fullerton with growing industry experience looking to make a living off the written word.  He currently writes for AfterBuzz TV and has his own series “The Universal Truth” where he dives into art to pull out messages that could relate to anyone.    

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