Sunday, February 06, 2011

Narcissism and Hollow Man


Those of you who read me regularly know that I am a person intrigued by darkness. After a long time today I saw Hollow Man again. It's amazing what Kevin Bacon has done in the movie. The first time I saw the movie, I was a child; I remember getting scared and yet being immensely attracted towards him. May be that's what power does to you. It intoxicates you; grasps you in its powerful hands, seduces you. Sebastian Caine (Kevin Bacon's character), the narcissistic scientist, then had little choice but to fall prey to its powerful grasp.


He is that kind of a person who is extremely self obsessed and suffers from a God Complex. This is a personality disorder in which the person thinks that he can achieve more than is humanly possible. He also thinks that his opinions matter more than of those around him. People with God Complex (the medical term is "Narcissistic Personality Disorder") cannot imagine themselves to fail. They are absolutely scared of failure. In that way, they hover on a thin line between superiority and inferiority complex. 




Sebastian Caine is a successful molecular biologist who is hungry for more success. For him, success is more important than money. Success, the sole thing in the world that makes him feel worthy. Success gives him a sense of power. People who suffer from Narcissistic Personality Disorder also have a hard time being close with people. They can be successful in large gatherings but when it comes to one-to-one conversation, they generally lag behind. In Sebastian's case, he has trouble keeping up with even a group conversation.


He is repeatedly referred to as the "genius" in the movie. His colleague says that "genius is the ability to go from A to D without passing through B and C. Sebastian can do that. But I need that B and C." Not to mention, Sebastian's extreme self obsession, where he refers to himself as "God". His confidence increases his sex appeal, no doubt, but it is only when the water has settled do you begin to see the mud underneath. 


One thing that has always amused me about people; they refuse to admit that a person can have a mental problem if he's a genius. Human beings have the ability to completely "not" read in between the lines and to accept a thing as it is given to them. What has genius got to do with mental stability anyway? It is wonderful to see how people in the movie never think that Sebastian can be a threat, till he starts acting erratic. Only his colleague and ex-girlfriend, Linda (Elisabeth Shue) who knows him well, suspects foul play. But by the time they take any action, the damage has already been done.


What do you do when you have the power to get away with almost anything? Most of us would be thrilled at the idea. For Sebastian who is a self obsessed freak, ultimate power would not only serve to him as an escape route to massage his ego; it would also make him safe, away from the reach of every other mortal. 




In the beginning, invisibility was a curse for Sebastian. But when he is forced to stay in a glasshouse under observation for 10 days, he begins to lose his cool. This was his project, his brainchild. How on earth can a bunch of "underachievers" take his glorious position, treat him as a "lab rat"? He goes out of the laboratory for a couple of hours and returns to his apartment. There through the window he sees his beautiful neighbor changing her clothes; something he has often seen before and sighed upon. 


He turns back and it suddenly dawns upon him, should he approach her? He quickly shakes his head at the thought and proceeds to leave. But then, a question, "Who's gonna know?" pricks him and he shakes off the last garb of humanity. He enters his neighbor's house by deceit and rapes her. And all the time, she does not understand who's doing this to her. 




After this Sebastian relatively calm returns to his laboratory, obviously happy at the "conquest". When his colleague asks him whether he had done anything to the girl, he nonchalantly replies that he may have messed with her "a little bit". Sebastian's hunger for power is also probably seen in the very early phase where he proceeds to touch Sarah, the vet while she is sleeping. The movie is extremely sexual in its portrayal of Sebastian's power hungry nature. 


The only person Sebastian treats with some respect, and possibly fear is his ex-girlfriend and fellow scientist, Linda. She makes him feel vulnerable. He thinks that she is like her; hungry for success, for power and that is why she understands him. Linda goes to a heavy extent to be successful in the movie, but unlike Sebastian she does not lose her humanity. In the end she kills him.


When Sebastian sees Linda with another colleague, he becomes furious. Rejection is another thing people who with God Complex cannot tolerate. And to see that her present boyfriend is working under him, enrages him more. It is at this moment, that he decides to unleash his power, show his brute strength to the world, to all the other humans, who are of necessity below him. He decides to teach them a lesson. 


After this, there is a scene where he tries to touch Linda as she sleeps, but she wakes up and he has to leave. I did not want to get into the whole masculine preoccupation with authority about which I am sure, Monsieur Freud has worked in details. But it just occurred to me, during the writing of this post, that Sebastian's need to prove his authority over women in a violent way probably can be related to his insecurities of being a male. 


There can be multiple readings of Hollow Man. For instance, who does the hollow man refer to? Is it only the invisible Sebastian Caine, or also the power hungry deeply troubled scientist, Sebastian who wants to prove desperately to the world that he is the best? Is hollowness only a physical state or also a mental emptiness? These are questions that the movie compelled me to think about. 



For all my criticism of Sebastian Caine, I cannot denounce the fact that he is one of the most intriguing characters I have ever found in movies, besides Patrick Bateman(American Psycho) and Kathryn Merteuil (Cruel Intentions). While American Psycho II and Wicked have been female-centric psycho thrillers, Mini's First Time was about a cold and calculating girl who does not hesitate to kill her mother and put her stepfather in jail. However undoubtedly the list tops with Kevin Bacon and Christian Bale and I don't think any other Hollywood actor would have been able to do the roles they did.




I have always been immensely attracted towards Bacon, specially after watching Hollow Man. I remember wanting him to see in kinder movies, in less violent roles, but well that opportunity never came (I did see him in Tremors and hated it). His sex appeal is raw, unrelenting and captivating. With one look, he can make you do things you would never dream of doing. And you cannot help but surrender to him. I remember trying to justify his role in Hollow Man, looking for an inch of kindness, or a sign of vulnerability here and there. However when all has been said and done, Sebastian Caine is one of the most sexist, insecure and impeccably hollow men in movie history. But then so is Patrick Bateman. and how can I forget the evergreen Kathryn Merteuil? And yes, I love all these deeply troubled and dark characters. And I am deeply attracted to them. :)

6 comments:

Mr. A. said...

an awesome take on the "Hollow Man"...informative...got some good amount of knowledge on God Complex...:D

and i believe most genius people have a bit of god complex...and that fuels them to do something which cant be done by everyone...

the silent observer said...

ahan...I see. :P

Maun Vision said...

excellent.very deadly frank writing

the silent observer said...

hey thanks.. :)

Phoenix said...

though id never see the movie not my genre...but i simple love the way you bring forth things! :) i think im addicted!

the silent observer said...

:D tht's a big compliment, thanks a lot raka!