The Unknown Masterpiece: “Heart String Marionette” and Authenticity

One would think that in the era of sharing and the omniscience of the “interweb” there would be at least one or two reviews for any given film recently released. I started to search for a review after I incidentally got my hands on a copy of the animated feature film Heart-String Marionette; I was so impressed with and in awe of this film that I just took it for granted that it had won several awards and is a celebrated work of art, at least in the right corners. Do a search yourselves and you will discover that there is not a single review or rating even on sites like IMDb. This post, however, is not a speculative attempt at a pathology of aesthetic reception and Internet fame. I am currently working on several essays and reviews on HSM in order to draw much deserved attention to it, at least in philosophical quarters. Here I will place a piece of a work in progress, hoping to get some feedback.

The film is made freely available by its generous director, M dot Strange. Watch Heart String Marionette on YouTube.


The 2012 Stop-Motion/Animation feature by the visionary cult director M dot Strange offers a very dense intellectual experience, loaded as it is with a multitude of philosophical themes. Although working through the whole spectrum of these is a nigh impossible task, this article sets itself the task of revealing and commenting on some of the more explicit themes.

The theme most sustained throughout the film and the one that seems to be its main issue is that of authenticity and (simultaneously) novelty or originality. The protagonist, who claims to be a certain Samhaine Tsuke, is constantly oscillating between a self-conscious questioning of his being and uniqueness and an unthinking falling into the life of the Marionette Prince which he believes to be.

This is further reinforced and complicated when we realize that there is a certain play in existence, called the Silent Form written by one Samhaine Tsuke, which seems to be describing, in advance, the very events in which the Marionette Prince becomes involved. Everything points to the fact Samhaine is an actor hired by a little boy to play the role of his brother, the prince, who is trying to avenge the former; Samhaine himself seems almost aware of that sometimes, and he tries to somehow break the spell of the play and be himself, be original, improvise, as it were. There is always the sense of an audience watching his every move, there is a certain theatricality to the whole story; the fact that there are several dance numbers does nothing but reinforce this pseudo-paranoia. In his quest to break free from his pre-ordained fate and end his fake existence to become authentic in his being, Samhaine presents some of the more radical philosophies that challenge the notion of authenticity and subjectivity in the era of cybernetic capitalism where the obsolescence and demise of the subject coincides with the proliferation and main-streaming of subject-commodities. The time of marginal or minority subjectivities (e.g. African-Americans, homosexuals, etc.) has given way to an era of complete mainstreaming of all subjectivities. This “celebration” of diversity, which many were all too eager to declare as one of the unique achievements of capitalism, in fact corresponds to a crisis in subject-production (we will come back to this, as well as the as well as the creation of new markets and new commodities (the metrosexual is the only one of the more obvious results of the marketing of subject-commodities). Of course, within this surge of subjectivities, what is imperative is to choose: your possible life-styles have been conveniently laid out from birth to death and it doesn’t matter which one you choose as long as you choose and stick to it, at least for a while. In a society where even fear itself has been categorized and bundled up (e.g. in terms of horror sub-genres: vampires, werewolves, zombies, etc. … a finite set of choices define the monstrosity of the dreadful, even while monsters were once defined as that which could not be categorized), authenticity and subjectivity are but phantasm-lights luring the consumer onward in an infinite search.

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