What does it all mean ?

General chat about the film.

What does it all mean ?

PostPosted by swallow_it_and_run_a_mile » Fri Jun 26, 2009 2:53 pm

Hi !

There is so much going on in Withnail and I that I don't know where to being. It is a film
about the end of the sixties and the end of a friendship. It is also the end of "a delightful
weekend in the country" and the Withnail and I friendship. In Crow Cragg I is reading
"A Journey's End". Bruce is too clever by far and I love that Indiana song which is playing
when they potter about the house. It is also the end for Monty as well because his dreams
of romantic love go unfulfilled and it is the end of Withnail's career "When one realizes one will
never play the Dane. After that ones ambition ceases".

So it is a story about endings but what else is it about. It is about unfulfilled dreams and the
pains of a life. It is also about much deeper things about man or woman's place in the universe
when Withnail is doing his acting in the park.

It really is one of the most bleak and depressing films for saying it is supposed to be a comedy.
It is one hell of a funny film but I think depressives like it too. It gives me the blues. It is so sad
and melancholic and depressing and true.

The thing is it is true. Life really is this depressing for a hell of a lot of people.


:wine: :wine: :wine: :wine: :? :? :?

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Re: What does it all mean ?

PostPosted by Lostat » Thu Jul 02, 2009 11:57 pm

Its definitely very bittersweet. For "I", we have the happy optimistic ending, he's 'made it' as an actor, moving onto a brighter future where he won't have to live off beans on toast. For Withnail its a tragic sad ending, I tend to assume he never makes it as an actor, probably ends up on the streets, a drunk who dies or kills himself in the end, wondering what might have been.

And yes, a film about the ending of one phase of their lives, and and era (the 60s) and the feelings of hope, worries and concern for what the future might hold, indeed the 'grieving' of the end of the 60s it seems as far as Danny is concerned, where will someone like Danny fit into the world without the hippie sixties?

It is a depressing film in many ways, but I don't feel that depression because I'm an optimist, so depressing as the film may be, I like to cling onto the hope for the future, and for the future of 'I', the glass is half-full when I watch the film rather than half-empty.
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Re: What does it all mean ?

PostPosted by Withwine and I » Fri Jul 03, 2009 6:17 am

Danny should be able to make it, people will always need drugs. Maybe he'll live in nostalgia, but he must have the connections to continue in his line of work.
They found him wandering round Regent's Park with a cheap bottle of sherry...

And like a fool I mixed them and it strangled up my mind, and now people just get uglier and I have no sense of time...
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Re: What does it all mean ?

PostPosted by Lostat » Fri Jul 03, 2009 6:21 am

Withwine and I wrote:Danny should be able to make it, people will always need drugs. Maybe he'll live in nostalgia, but he must have the connections to continue in his line of work.


Heh, well he did make an appearance as an ageing roadie for black sabbath in "Wayne's World 2". 8)
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Re: What does it all mean ?

PostPosted by swallow_it_and_run_a_mile » Sun Jul 05, 2009 1:59 pm

Hi !

I think the moment when I gets the telegram telling him he might get the role
and Withnail says "Well Done" the look on Withnails face is one of utter despair
and the audience and Withnail knows that it is all over for him. It is the saddest
face of disappointment. Withnail knows at that moment that he isn't going to
make it and as he eats his last meal in Crowe Cragg he knows that it is all over
for him. It all seems very anodyne but I find it to be almost infinitely profound.
The scene is haunting for Withnails respite from all his troubles is going to be
over in 30 minutes.

John
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You want working on boy

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Re: What does it all mean ?

PostPosted by Lostat » Mon Jul 06, 2009 8:51 am

swallow_it_and_run_a_mile wrote:Hi !

I think the moment when I gets the telegram telling him he might get the role
and Withnail says "Well Done" the look on Withnails face is one of utter despair
and the audience and Withnail knows that it is all over for him. It is the saddest
face of disappointment. Withnail knows at that moment that he isn't going to
make it and as he eats his last meal in Crowe Cragg he knows that it is all over
for him. It all seems very anodyne but I find it to be almost infinitely profound.
The scene is haunting for Withnails respite from all his troubles is going to be
over in 30 minutes.

John


Its definitely a beautiful scene. I also think Withnail conveys in this scene, that he is genuinely happy for "I", but at the same time very down about the implications for his own future. Its just yet another scene that makes me never tire of watching W&I over and over again. I've long ago lost count of how many times I've watched the film, but still every time I get something new from it with each viewing. That's the mark of a truly great film I think. For me at least.
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Re: What does it all mean ?

PostPosted by HullThespian » Sun Nov 08, 2009 3:20 am

I always got a sense of genuine happiness mixed with a jealous unhappiness from Withnail during the scenes in the cottage and flat (he says "well done" to Marwood twice, once when he hears he has to go back to London for an audition and the second when they're back in the flat and Marwood tells him he has the lead).
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Re: What does it all mean ?

PostPosted by ForkIt » Mon Jan 11, 2010 12:00 am

I'm not an expert on Freudian theory but the movie does appear to be a struggle between a superego (Withnail), standard ego (I), and two Ids, representing sexual drive (Monty) and drugs (Dan). In this sense it reminds me of Seinfeld which has a subject character (Jerry), a super optimist (Kramer) and super negativist (George), and he gets tugged between these forces.

The idea is that the audience has all these elements tugging at their minds to varying degrees and this just fleshes that out for them, makes it material. The movie provides resolution when I splits from Withnail and goes conformist (Withnail, now without a subject I to harass, despairs of that with a depressing soliloquy). This depicts man's passage from keeping society at a distance and being skeptical or critical of it, to full-blown obedience to it.
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Re: What does it all mean ?

PostPosted by McFuck » Mon Jan 11, 2010 12:17 am

wow I never thought of it like that before.
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Re: What does it all mean ?

PostPosted by ForkIt » Mon Jan 11, 2010 12:58 am

Throughout the film, Withnail comes across as a superman compared to I (Marwood). He can defend himself in a bar (Marwood is scared), procure food (Marwood does not confront the poacher, get the spuds or pay the farmer, and his assignment is food and plumbings), drive fast to the city (Marwood finds it too hard in the rain) and escape a dangerous bull (Marwood almost gets killed). There's a constant dichotomy between Withnail's prodigious abilities (typified also by how he uses the lie of Marwood as a toilet trader to get the shack) and Marwood's everyday averageness.

At the end in the tea room, Marwood is right up there with Withnail as he takes one of the 10-pound notes and takes equal billing in bragging about being a multi-millionaire who can buy the building and fire all of them. So the audience thinks Marwood has now swung around to Withnail's way, only to find that in a forseeable twist, he abandons Withnail in the park to conform to societal expectations of having a job and a conservative haircut (gone are the wild curls). In the end, Marwood appears to conquer Withnail's influence, which provides relief for the audience who were struggling with and fearing it with him. So the movie takes you back to beginning at the end (before you saw the film) when you didn't have the conflict that it created.
Last edited by ForkIt on Mon Jan 11, 2010 5:38 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: What does it all mean ?

PostPosted by Withwine and I » Mon Jan 11, 2010 2:23 am

Withnail the superego? How? Withnail's almost entirely id.

Oh, and your second post is more Nietzsche than Freud, and full of holes. Withnail is scared at the bar, is he not the one who shouts 'out of my way?', Marwood suggests the chicken brick thing, which is what works, Marwood stands up to the bull and is victorious.

And welcome to the forum thing.
They found him wandering round Regent's Park with a cheap bottle of sherry...

And like a fool I mixed them and it strangled up my mind, and now people just get uglier and I have no sense of time...
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Re: What does it all mean ?

PostPosted by ForkIt » Mon Jan 11, 2010 3:40 am

Like I said, my Freudian terms are not technically accurate.

While Withnail is scared at the bar, he isn't as scared as Marwood, who doesn't stand up to the Irishman at all, just taking his insults. Marwood also has visions of getting buggered in the toilet (the "I fuck arses" scene) which later almost happens with Monty - yet another couple of examples of Marwood being the one who gets the short end of the stick while his companion gets away with it all, even drink-driving almost.

It was Withnail who suggests removing the chicken's feet and Marwood says he's going to need his feet, using them to sit the bird on a brick in the oven. But Marwood is the food guy so he's supposed to do that job and the final result looks pretty ridiculous (the sitting chicken) as did trying to stuff it in the too-small pot, and associated Marwood with a comical image.

Marwood stands up to the bull only because he's told that's the only way to get out of his situation. He doesn't do it of his own volition or idea - he has no other choice or ideas of his own.

I have to confess I've only seen this film once and another time with the director's commentary, so I doubt my understanding is all that clear, but I do sense some disgruntled rebellion from some of its more hardcore fans against me. Be assured - I think the film is good but I am just trying to identify some of its patterns so I can see how its machinery works so well. It is interesting enough as a film to warrant this kind of dissection.
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Re: What does it all mean ?

PostPosted by smallrhesusneg.bloodyMary » Mon Jan 11, 2010 6:25 am

Thanks for your comments, they're very interesting.

As I see it, at the beginning of the film, Withnail is the dominant figure. He comes from a wealthy family, he has connections, he went to a posh school, he is flamboyant and, above all, he has boundless confidence in his own abilities.

Marwood follows Withnail's lead because he comes from a less impressive background and he lacks Withnail's ego. However, he also knows that a certain amount of work is required to launch an acting career, and he has been quietly studying and going to auditions. This pays off towards the end, and the positions reverse as Marwood gets the lead in Journey's End and Withnail faces the fact that the world is not going to hand him success. As with most (all?) alcoholics, he doesn't decide to change his ways, he just blames the world for being against him, and sinks into self-pity and self-destructive boozing.

Most people see W & I as a film which celebrates booze and drugs; I see it as just the opposite.
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Re: What does it all mean ?

PostPosted by Lostat » Mon Jan 11, 2010 2:42 pm

smallrhesusneg.bloodyMary wrote:Thanks for your comments, they're very interesting.

As I see it, at the beginning of the film, Withnail is the dominant figure. He comes from a wealthy family, he has connections, he went to a posh school, he is flamboyant and, above all, he has boundless confidence in his own abilities.

Marwood follows Withnail's lead because he comes from a less impressive background and he lacks Withnail's ego. However, he also knows that a certain amount of work is required to launch an acting career, and he has been quietly studying and going to auditions. This pays off towards the end, and the positions reverse as Marwood gets the lead in Journey's End and Withnail faces the fact that the world is not going to hand him success. As with most (all?) alcoholics, he doesn't decide to change his ways, he just blames the world for being against him, and sinks into self-pity and self-destructive boozing.

Most people see W & I as a film which celebrates booze and drugs; I see it as just the opposite.



I think I agree with your assessment of Withnail, and 'I'. 'I' understands that opportunities in life & work don't just fall in your lap, but instead that you have to actively seek them out and that you also have to hold your nerve as it might take some months or years living off pot noodles before things start to really happen for you.

Withnail on the other hand, lets his ego dominate him too much. He believes that he is of position and privilege enough, that why on earth should he be expected to lower himself to, as he sees it, begging for a job when its the TV & Theatre people who should be fawning over him instead. Hence, his irritation and jealousy when he hear or reads about others getting acting jobs but him not ("...and I know what for, 2 pound 10 a tit and a fiver for his arse!").

I think at the film's end though, when 'I' gets the job and is leaving, Withnail finally accepts that his acting career might never happen, sending him further into his depressive introspection and self-pity.

Yeah, fucking fantastic film, I'm about to order the blu-ray on Amazon, they have it really cheap now, plus HMV are shit, they don't even have it in stock in my home city, grrr.
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Re: What does it all mean ?

PostPosted by ForkIt » Mon Jan 11, 2010 3:47 pm

It does come across as a film about how far ego can take you. And it plays that game well, showing Withnail as a successful egotist, but only if he doesn't have to be humble or work for his success. In that realm he fails. And at the end, Marwood has to dump him to remain sane in the face of the possibility of success in the real world.

The strength of the film may be in how it plays upon you with this game - whether or how far Withnail will be able to get through on ego alone or not (i.e. will they believe the mult-millionaire story, will the poacher give him the game, will he beat the cops, will he survive drinking the lighter fluid etc). The scene where he is finally brought asunder with the cops finding the piss device is symbolic as it shows the reality behind the facade - that he can go from Withnail to Withfail. When the curtain is pulled back on these kinds of egotists, there's a fragile being behind them. Its also a harbinger that sets up the remainder of the film, as he goes irrevocably downhill from there.

It's impressive to see how Withnail will go to any lengths to succeed, but ultimately he is his own undoing, as he pushes the bar too far in that area, too many times. If anything the "moral of the story" is that you create your own fate through your choices. But at the same time it takes the mickey out of that concept so it it doesn't come across too heavy. It's a tremendously well balanced film, as it seems that anything that could drive it over the edge is kept in check by some other counterweight of equal strength. Just when you think they may have the crossed the line and overplayed their hand somewhere in the film, you realise that they had that potential weakness covered by something else in it.
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