Monday, June 1, 2009

VALIS - The movie within the book.

When John Locke first handed Benjamin a book form his own library, while holding him in captivity (Eggtown), everyone started looking for a synopsis, or even a copy, of the famed Philip K. Dick's VALIS. There were quite some significant comparison points to our beloved LOST, and some bloggers and writers described them quite aptly. One such writer, Nikki Stafford, not only pointed out the book and brief outline of it on her blog entry for the episode on the night of the airing, but wrote an extended analysis of the book and its similarities to lost in her own Finding Lost - Season Four: The Unofficial Guide. Despite all that is good coming from Nikki, she could obviously not see what was going to come next in the universe of LOST, neither could she project that some major upcoming similarities to LOST would be from the movie that appears in the book, a movie aptly titled VALIS!

In Chapter 9, Horselover Fat, Phil and Kevin go see a sci-fi (or is it syfy) movie called VALIS in which some remarkably unexplainable and weird stuff happens. I will not detail the movie (or the book) here, so you can get your own copy from a bookstore and library. On their way back, the group discusses the subtleties of the movie and the comparisons to Fat's real life events.

One of the main aspects of the book (and movie) is the pink beam of light Fat says transports information. In Fat's life, the beam of pink light can only be seen by Fat himself and it inputs knowledge and information into Fat's head. In the movie, the light represents a beam from the VALIS satelite and enables it to controls individuals. The only similarity to LOST is strictly that we've seen the purple/pink haze in several events. Unlike the VALIS light, the haze has been present in events related to time travel/transposition:

1- When Desmond turns the failsafe key (Live Together, Die Alone), the sky turns purple and an electromagnetic anomaly is detected at Penny Widmore's listening station. One theory is that the island was made visible to outside observers. As a result of his proximity, Desmond relived part of his past and started having visions of the future (Flashes Before Your Eyes). IT is also considered the reason why Desmond was unstuck in time for 1996 to 2004 (The Constant).
2- The second occurrence of the haze was when Ben turned the wheel below the Orchid station to move the island (There's No Place Like Home, Parts 2 & 3). As a result, Ben was transported ten months into the future (The Shape of Things to Come) and the group of survivors who remained on the island started skipping in time (Because You Left).
2.5- While the survivors were skipping through time, every jump was announced with a loud noise and the haze (from Because You Left to This Place Is Death).
The last 'official' on-screen haze was when Locke replaced the wheel on its axis. As with Ben, Locke was transported into the future, only three years ahead (The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham). On the island, the survivors were stranded in the 1974 DHARMA period (LaFleur).
4- Prior to Locke's episode, we saw the last chronological haze when Ajira Airways entered the island's field (316). The effects were that four passengers from the flight were transported into 1977.
(5?)- One theorized occurrence of the haze was when the incident occured (The Incident, Parts 1 & 2). The suggested theory presents the idea that Juliet managed to detonate the bomb (many suggested the audible explosion sound as confirmation of detonation) and, whether or not this was or prevented the incident, sent the survivors back to their original time. The flash to white, while a potential sign of a detonation, could be seen as the lead in to the haze.

This leads into another general aspect of VALIS and LOST, aside their all-caps title. That of time. We've seen numerous times on the show discrepancies in time or, in a more extreme case, time travel. There was the small time discrepancy in Daniel's experiment (The Economist), Desmond's shifts in time (Flashes Before Your Eyes, The Constant) and of course the entire season 5 events of time traveling. The main debate in the current season is whether or not the past can be altered, and this will only be answered next season. Other plot points have been with regards to the existence or progression of time.

In VALIS, time is also a main constant. As part of the story, Fat experiences time as being somewhat static. To Fat, it appears time was stopped in Roman times and never realy progressed. He sees superimpositions of Rome with his current California. A perspective presented in the book is that time does not quite exist. In the movie, the presentation of time is only minor. A particular sequence describes the reconstruction of time quite aptly:
"[...] Eric Lampton ran backwards in time: the electronic components of his head imploded, the skull returned intact [...]"
All the while, events occur in real time and one character's exploded head plays on rewind to be reconstituted.

Probably the main time characteristic of the book is how Fat's consciousness get superimposed with Thomas, his past self from Rome, and what he considers a god-like figure, or his future self. These selves are reincarnation of individuals. That Fat is in contact with both past and future selves is a testament to the structure of time. How this transposes into the movie is described as characters dissolving and metamorphosing into other characters. The two characters involved being a man named Brady and the President, Ferris F. Fremount. Brady progressively becomes Fremount and, by the end of the movie, President Fremount has become Brady. This is the analogy of Locke's return to the island. Locke's body has been taken over for purposes in opposition to Jacob and possibly the island, while Locke was trying to act in the best interests of the island itself and, by extension, Jacob (or so he believes).

But what caught my attention were some specific years identified in relaition to the movie and Fat's connection with 'God'. The first time Fat gets information sent to him is in 1974. This was a significant time in Fat's life. The movie deals with the same type of powerful being/entity with some of the same properties that Fat had described. After seeing the movie, Fat asks when the it was made and the answer is a surprising 1977. Is this a coincidence that those two specific years are significant in the lore of season 5? Well, it certainly could be. I'm only identifying interesting comparisons and similarities here. The movie enventually sets Fat on his quest to find the filmmaker and ultimately leads him to find his daughter, the Savior.

On the show, 1974 was when some of the survivors were cast in the past and left to build a life for themselves. When 1977 rolled around, they were joined by a group of their friends. While the reason these four were thrown back in time has been posited as the circumstances of Oceanic 815 not beeing recreated exactly, the year they were thrown back was certainly not random. They went back in 1977 because they were to reunite with their friends and end their quest to change history and return to their current time. What will ultimately happen is that they will come face to face with... well we don't know, but potentially a Savior, or Destructor.

But perhaps the most striking comparison to LOST, and possibly a nod to the viewers, is how subtleties of the movie can be caught on second and third viewing. We, as fans of the show, watch and rewatch episodes constantly and catch minor details from books on Ben's shelf to painting in Widmore's office to characters appearing in the background and other, inumerable, little things. This is what we do here and it is generally the purpose of these blogs, to indentify details and aspects of the show and bring them to the forefront of mass discussions.

The same is happening in VALIS when Fat, Phil and Kevin come back from the movie. They keep discussing it and, since Kevin had already seen it, brings some details of it into light for Fat and Phil. They keep discussing the meaning of characters, the VALIS satelite and even of a small pot (one that Fat's friend had made and given him in the past) which keep reappearing on many occasions throughout the movie. The three of them can only seem to keep discussing the movie and the hidden gems within it and what it all means, just as LOST fans all over the web are doing.

This last one is by far the biggest comparison between the two (three ?) works. There are many more comparisons between LOST and VALIS the book, as discussed in Nikki's season 4 guide. And now that the whole savior theme has arisen in the show, there are likely to be more. But this entry is not for this purpose. I encourage you to read the book for yourself and discover the many comparisons.