Supernatural as a By-product of Intelligence: An Analysis Based on David Fincher’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Stephen King’s Carrie
Athira PR & Roshna Rachel Philip
(BA English Literature, Assumption College Changanacherry)
The notion of supernatural gets settled into the human minds through the works of arts, like literature, sculptures, pictures, movies etc. And the intellect creates ‘the supernatural’, which then settles into the deep corners of the viewer’s mind and the viewer’s mind eventually drifts into a doubtful state, regarding the possibilities of such images which once they were sure that did not exist at all. Hence, supernatural is a by-product of intelligence. The term ‘supernatural’ is defined by the compact oxford dictionary as ‘some force beyond the laws of nature’ (Def.1 (a) 911) which comes into existence through the works of the intellects.
While considering the works, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button by David Fincher and Carrie by Stephen King, the intelligence of the director and the writer work parallel to present the unnaturalness of supernatural. The author is the one who determines the depth of the supernatural power possessed by the character or situation. Man has an inborn inclination towards the powers which he does not possess. This inclination results in the creation of supernatural. The mutants, superheroes, paranormal activities, vampires, zombies, fairies etc. projected are the result of this inclination.
David Fincher’s film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is adopted from F.Scott Fitzgerald’s short story with the same title. This in turn was inspired by a remark made by Mark Twain where he said that “it was a pity that the best part of the life come at the beginning and the worst part at the end.” (Fitzgerald 184). In the film, the impulse which made the intellects create such a situation (where a man ages in reverse) is because of the inclination mentioned earlier, i.e., the fascination, curiosity and fear to imagine the unnatural plot where one ages in reverse, and the intellect wisely manage to portray both sides of the coin rather than just the jovial side, for example, while considering the fact that the protagonist gets younger by each day, which most of us are trying to do artificially, none of us will wish to be born as an eighty year old baby, or die as a newborn oldman.
In this film the eponymous central character born under unusual circumstances ages in reverse. He is born old and decrepit and then goes through all of the other stages of life until he eventually dies as a newborn baby. Even though he physically ages in reverse, mentally he ages forward so there is a clash between his physical and mental state and also with the outer world where all age in the proper manner. While considering the movie it is inevitable to consider the script, make-up, sound, acting and several other aspects which contribute to make the supernatural alive. The unnatural existence of Button beyond the laws of nature was created only with the intelligence.
The movie begins from the hospital bed of Daisy Williams, who insisted her daughter Caroline to read her the diary of Benjamin Button. Benjamin’s diary recounts his entire life, which was far away from ordinary. He was diagnosed with several aging diseases at birth and thus given little chances of survival. Surprisingly, he does survive and gets younger day by day. Benjamin’s father abandoned him as his mother died in child birth. Benjamin was raised by Queenie, a black woman. She was a caregiver at a senior home, where Daisy’s grandmother was a resident. Daisy was the love of his life, a beautiful young girl who grows into a beautiful woman while Benjamin grows into a handsome young man. Although, separated at times, Daisy and Benjamin remain in contact throughout their lives. Even though they love each other, Benjamin leaves Daisy in order to avoid the bizarre consequences. Caroline finds it difficult to read, especially after she realizes that Benjamin is her biological father.
A lot of supernatural instances can be noted from the movie. The central character was born with a form which was not that of a new born but of a man in his eighties, waiting for his grave. His eyes were nearly blind of cataract. But his mental state was that of a child seeking the company of other kids. As years passed he grew physically young with no traces of body hair and moustaches but mentally older and mature.
Carrie, the novel by Stephen King is another piece of art which stresses on the statement: Supernatural is the by-product of Intelligence. It is unable to proceed without admiring the skills and style of Stephen King. It would be apt to quote from the ‘Sunday Telegraph’, “You can’t help admiring king’s narrative skills and his versatility as a story teller”.
The misfit and shy teenager Carrie White has been abused, both physically and emotionally, all her life by her mother Margaret White, who is a pious and paranoid woman that sees sin everywhere and the need of self-inflicting punishment and her bullying peers. When Carrie had her first menstrual cycle, she was seventeen. She was terrified having no concept of menstruation, and believed that she was bleeding to death. Instead of sympathizing with the frightened Carrie, her classmates mock her and throw tampons and sanitary napkins at her. After Carrie’s exceptionally late and traumatic commencement of menstrual cycle, she begins to notice that she could move or cause changes in objects by the force of mind. Later, one of the girls at school, Sue Snell, who made fun of Carrie feels guilty and convinces her boyfriend Tommy Ross to take Carrie to the senior prom. But Chris and her boyfriend Billy plots an evil prank, which resulted with tragic consequences.
King narrates the story in a way which makes the reader believe each and every event within the novel. Much of the book is written in an epistolary structure, using newspapers clippings, magazine articles, letters and excerpts from books to tell how Carrie destroyed the fictional town Chamberlain, Maine while exacting revenge on her sadistic classmates.
Stephen king through his powerful and imaginative narration portrays on Ordinary girl, Carietta N White with an extraordinary gift-the gift of telekinesis. Telekinesis according to the Compact Oxford Dictionary is “The supposed ability to move objects at a distance by mental power or other non-physical means” (Def. 1(a) 934). A more detailed definition is provided within the novel Carrie under the reference of Ogilvie’s Dictionary of Physic Phenomena:
“Telekinesis is the ability to move objects or to cause changes in objects by force of the mind. The phenomenon has most reliably been in times of crisis or in stress situations, when automobiles have been levitated from pinned bodies or debris from collapsed buildings etc.
The phenomenon is often confused with the work of poltergeists, which are playful spirits. It should be noted poltergeists are astral beings of questionable reality, while telekinesis is thought to be an empiric function of the mind, possibly electrochemical in nature…” (42-43).
Through the telekinetic power possessed by Carrie, Stephen king is presenting a supernatural existence. The author’s intelligence creates the supernatural essence of the novel. Even though studied have been made on Telekinesis it’s not yet scientifically proven. The existence of this power remains as a question. Stephen king utilised this fascination or curiosity to make his novel sound real.
Authors exploit the fascination and curiosity lying deep within the minds of readers to create supernatural. The created supernatural element forces the reader to believe in its existence. The minute idea or theory of telekinetic power instigates Stephen king to take his readers to Chamberlain, Maine, a fictional world where he turn this power supernatural and Carrie, a misfit High School girl into a character with unusual existence. He presents his novel as a collection of reports, case studies and newspaper clippings to make his readers believe in such a power, place and murderous deeds. The very same thing happen to the film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, here David Fincher presents the movie very naturally which forces the viewer think as though he is an acquaintance of Button, witnessing his age reverse.
The manifestation which we believe as supernatural does not exist; it is created or formed by intelligence. The intelligence of the author is basically the fascination which triggers a thought which is then developed with creativity and imagination. According to Ted Hughes Imagination isn’t merely a surplus mental department meant for entertainment, but the most essential piece of machinery we have if we are going to live the lives of human beings. Imagination leads to the creation and these creations in turn leads to researches.
The supernatural have always been a piquant and intricate theme. Its existence is questionable as it is not scientifically proven but there is a doubt regarding such supernatural powers, situations or places. When the supernatural aspect projected is salted with some scientific aspects, the viewer or reader will be forced to doubt as he/she cannot reject the whole work as something unreal. The magnitude of the supernatural quality that exists can be rejected by reasoning but the supernatural quality lays bold as the intellect have presented it in such believable plots.
The reader/viewer’s such beliefs, fantasies or fears which lie at the corner of the mind are brought out and exploited by the author. This is when the author turns into an intellect, he observes the thread which leads to the readers mind and intelligently uses it.
Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Tales of the Jazz Age. London: Harper Collins, 2013. Print.
King, Stephen. Carrie. Great Britain: Hodder & Stoughton, 2011. Print.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Dir. David Fincher. Screenplay by Eric Roth. Warner Bros, Perf. Brad Pitt, Clate Blanchett. Paramount Pictures, 2008. Film.