Macchars don’t wear sweaters

War of the Worlds

Posted on: February 9, 2007

The War of The Worlds is one of those movies which I didnt like much after the first viewing. But the same night (or a few nights after) I dreamt a dream which helped me understand what I think is the spirit of the movie (silly huh??). I dreamt I was walking down an open road in my hometown, suddenly there is a ruckus around me and everyone is scrambling for cover. Someone has launched a bomb a little distance behind me and it falls in front of me. I dive for cover as the bomb explodes. Suddenly (as things go in dreams) my hometown is converted into a war torn area. Rain is pouring down and I am standing behind an overturned truck and someone is approaching me from the other side. I scale a wall which is right behind me and silently drop into a house.

What was most distinctive in this dream was the vivid feelings I felt. I felt palpitated and an overwhelming sense of fear and insecurity, as the slightest wrong move would give me away and cost me my life. But at the same time I felt strangely liberated and alive – as if I were completely in my element. Not weighed down by any consideration in the universe (not even my family) and merely being concerned with my primordial instinct of survival. I felt the “thrill of danger”. I guess this is what motivates people to go to war..to court danger.

And this feeling that I felt in the dream, I think, was derived from the movie. The movie in no way glorifies or endorses this “thrill”. But at the same time it pervades the entire movie. A certain “thrill” one feels when one is confronted by constant and immediate danger.

A friend of mine who saw the movie disliked it because he thought the plot was fraught with loopholes. “Why did the Aliens who were so advanced wait for millions of years to invade?? Were they so silly that they didnt realise microorganisms would kill them??”..and so on. I wanted to tell him (which I could not) that the movie was not about the plot at all. It was about human reactions to a disaster. “it was a disaster movie more than a sci-fi movie” as my father said. And I agree completely. The plot could have been anything. It could have been aliens flying in in saucers, it could have been prehistoric creatures on rampage.

The movie was about individual reactions to a disaster and what these reactions translate to on the mob scale. Everyone wants to protect thier own family and thier loved ones and these interests clash when there is immediate danger to all. Spielberg has beautifully captured the ruthless power of the mob in a scene when tom hank’s family is overpowered and forced to give up thier car by a mob as theyre passing through a small town. The mob is ruthless and has no logic, but when the mob is disaggregated to the individual, every individual acts absolutely as he is expected to in such a situation – to protect and ensure the survival of self and kin.

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