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For a film that has nothing to do with God, it is really just the opposite. It is a profoundly spiritual and theological story. The film gives the viewer God-like abilities. We actually travel, via the camera's eye, into the brain of John Malkovick and see out his eyes. It's incredible and very enlightening.
By David Bruce
David Bruce

Directed by Spike Jonze
Writing credits Charlie Kaufman
Genre: Comedy

John Cusack as Craig Schwartz
Cameron Diaz as Lotte Schwartz
Catherine Keener as Maxine
Orson Bean as Dr. Lester
Mary Kay Place as Floris
John Malkovich as John Horatio Malkovich
Charlie Sheen as Charlie
W. Earl Brown as Erroll
Sean Penn as Himself
Brad Pitt as Himself
A puppeteer (Cusack) finds a door in his office that allows him to enter the mind of and literally become the famous actor, John Malkovich for 15 minutes. Entrepreneur Cusack and his counterparts try to use this experience in a money making venture, but finds himself with a choice between a life of fantasy and deception, or reality and truth.
Imagine being able to actually walk right into someone's brain and to experience life though their eyes. What a concept. What a movie.

Someone once said, "The two greatest things I have learned in life are: God is God and I am not." If there were ever a movie that illustrates why we are not God (and should not be God) this is it.

The question is: Could we be have this kind of power over someone and not take advantage of it? The human condition being what it is, the answer is, of course, a resounding NO!

The main character in the film, Craig, is a puppeteer (what else?). The film begins with him performing one of his puppet shows. He is an amazing puppeteer. And, as you might imagine the film, toward the end, has this same master puppeteer controlling John Malkovich in the same way and doing the same show, except without strings.

For a film that has nothing to do with God, it is really just the opposite. It is a profoundly spiritual and theological story. The film gives the viewer God-like abilities. We actually travel, via the camera's eye, go into the brain of John Malkovich and see out his eyes. It's incredible and very enlightening. We join in on the thrill of manipulating and controlling someone else's life.

This film makes a powerful statement about the restraint of God. We are not puppets on strings controlled by some manipulating tyrant god. God allows us to be ourselves, - to make independent choices - to love, to sin, to do as we please. What a great gift we have been given. The gift of being ourselves with no strings attached.

The other insight we are given in this film is that of the human condition. If given god-like qualities we would use them for our own selfish gains.
This film is a lot of fun and it opens all kinds of topics for discussion. Go see it and have fun. It is a truly profound yet casual film. It's like an excellent stage play on the screen. Count how many times you see the microphone. Such things don't matter in this film.

Bulletin Board:

Subject: BJM as Anti-Christian is a little confused
Date: Wed, 12 Jul 2000
From: Jason

The notion of Craig as a Christ figure is quite [subtly] contrived. The hair and beard thing can be dismissed almost out of hand, as that in itself could never denote someone as a Christ figure. Then the commentator goes on to say he creates people in "his own (and his wife's) image." The problem with this is that it is completely misleading. It's meant to establish Craig as a Christ figure by paralleling God's creation of man in his image. Craig makes the puppet in each person's image, not his own--except of course for when he makes himself. At most I would allow that he is an Anti-Christ figure because he does manipulate people.

The puppetering could be reminiscent of demon possession. The puppet show with the monk and nun, which the commentator stated Craig created. Abelard and Heliose are two famous figures from the Medivel Age. Abelard was considered--and still is--a great scholar. He seduced Heliose. Her uncle then cut off his genitals. In the end, she was forced to be a nun, and he became a monk. The audio is from actual letters of theirs. So, this scene is not an example of Craig as demented puppet master, but rather a literary allusion. The fact that the "second bride is selfish and after money and power " reminds me not of the Church, but rather of Babylon, which is really why I think Craig might be an Anti-Christ hero (remember the key component for the Christ figure is missing up to this point--SACRIFICE, more on that later).

I think that I have shown that Craig is not a Christ figure, and therefore, QED: the movie is not subtly or otherwise anti-Christian. Craig I think is rather almost a tragic hero. He does sacrifice his life (as Malkovich) for his wife. Sure, he almost doesn't, but what would one expect from such a weak man? And his entrapment is beyond his control, and as such, is tragic. Craig, when all is said and done, is merely pitiful. So I think the reviewer is right on to say that this is about the human condition. Craig rejects himself--not in the interest of serving others, but out of sheer weakness, which reminds one of Judas's despair and subsequent suicide. This movie is I would claim Christian, because Craig is trapped in a hell of sorts (hell is the absence of God, and is removed from all his desires). The movie does not have Christ (that I saw), or at least Craig doesn't, and it accurately depicts what that is like.

Subject: "Gay Agenda"?
Date: Tue, 27 Jun 2000
From: Kadimah

I would like to respond to Paul, the man who said that Being John Malkovitch's "gay agenda" ruined the film for him. First of all, Paul, there is absolutely NO gay agenda, period, end of story. Relationships in films, especially films with so much symbology and cerebral imagery are NOT MESSAGES OF PROPAGANDA. This was someone's artistic vision...not someone's attempt to brainwash you into thinking that gays are your friends.

You are obviously very, very threatened by homosexuality to feel so very put upon by one gay relationship in a film. You don't see the relationship in the film as a simple relationship in a film, but automatically view it as evidence that someone is trying to mess with your head (Hollywood).

Second of all, you display your ignorance on your sleeve by so publicly attempting to psychoanalyze your neighbor. You take inventory of her life experiences and make a lot of disturbing assumptions about her thoughts and biology. You assume there is not a "born that way" scenario going on...as if it makes a difference. I would like to know why YOU care one way or the other. You have no need to concern yourself with anyone but yourself and your own relationship with God. If you feel the need to point fingers and concern yourself with other people's lives in this manner, you are obviously in denial about your ignorance and bigotry. What struck me about your post was that it was so cleverly disguised as "not hateful".

Some advice, Sir: reveal yourself to yourself as the ignorant hate monger that you are...God wants you to be honest with yourself.

Date: Fri, 10 Dec 1999
From: Paul

I saw the movie last night with a good friend (we are both Christians). We went to see a dark comedy with some depth. I felt we got what we came for but both felt the movie was tainted by the heavy homosexual overtones. I do not carry the normal party line when it comes to homosexuality in that I am not fearful or offended by it as many Christians are. I simply am not one and haven't been convinced that it is right. I have a childhood friend who turned homosexual. I love the guy as a friend but I still can't agree with the choices he has made. I also have a neighbor who turned homosexual after 1) a failed hetero marriage, 2) workplace rejection in an industry that employed 99% men, 3) volunteering as a counselor for abused women. This was hardly an "I was born that way" scenario. I can see D.B.'s (Dave Bruce) point about Lotte seeing a woman through the eyes of a man and therefore wanting to become one. But this may just be an incidental spin off from the original message. I believe it is simply Hollywood plugging their pro-homosexual agenda again. In marketing, we use a term called the "Drip". It simply means put your message in front of the buying side of the market enough times and they will become more comfortable with your product and will eventually be more likely to buy. Again, I am not spouting the anti-homosexual rhetoric here, I am just tired of the unrelenting promotion in the same way I am tired of McDonalds trying to sell my kids on the idea of dragging me into their restaurant to buy happy meals with the useless plastic toys. This aspect ruined for me what would have otherwise been an engaging movie.
My response: I can see this is a sensitive issue for you. I am sure you know that God loves gays as much as hetrosexuals. Remember to think on that next time and it might save the next film for you. However, there is no gay agenda in this film. None!

Date: Sun, 28 Nov 1999
From: G. Richter

I saw this movie as a subtle anti-Christian story. Craig is a Christ figure (with long hair and beard) who creates "people" in his own (and his wife's) image then manipulates them to do his will. Note that his street puppet show features a monk and a nun who desperately desire each other but cannot be together because of a wall built between them. Craig, as the puppet master, gives the couple their desires and built the wall the between them. (Wouldn't a loving puppet master create a world where such longings either wouldn't exist or could be fulfilled?)

His old bride (Israel?) has become tiresome and he seeks someone new (the Church?) The second bride is selfish and after money and power (as is Craig). Craig becomes incarnate in John Malkovich and becomes the savior of the unappreciated art of puppeteering.

Dr. Lester is God the Father. He brings eternal life through re-birth into each successive "portal" (being born-again). Lotte at first desires to be born again as John Malkovich, then desides better of it, seeking her fulfillment with someone like herself (another woman.) Her initial experience was to desire to become something else (a man), but decided she'd be happier remaining as a woman with another woman. Analogosly, she was a human who preferred to remain human rather than be "born again" and become more Christ-like.

Charlie Sheen portrays Malkovich's friend, Charlie, in whom he confides that someone is "possessing" him. Sheen once claimed to have become a born-again Christian, but in this movie is back to his old self, wondering if Maxine "has a friend." In the end, Charlie is getting his own chance at "eternal life" from his old buddy. But Craig (Jesus or Christianity) is trapped, forced to watch the woman he loves live happily without him and with the woman he rejected.

G. Richter

My response: Well, What can I say? I saw the film as a statement about the human condition -only! I did not see it as an anti-Christian story. You certainly have given this some thought. Thank you for your contribution. I hope others will respond.


Being John Malkovich  © 1999 Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.


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