Existentialism In The Film Vanilla Sky

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Vanilla Sky is a 2001 thriller loosely based on existentialism. This movie was inspired by the 1997 drama, Open Your Eyes. It was directed by Cameron Crowe, and stars Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz, and Penelope Cruz, etc. The movie has several existential canons, and characters. Using my knowledge, I will compare the movie to existentialism and see how it adds up.

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David Aames Jr. is the son of literary legend, David Aames Sr. After his father passed, he was passed down the rights to the company. David has many freedoms. He states that he’s “livin’ the dream”. He has dreams of his most authentic life in the beginning of the movie, which is him waking up with the same life except he’s the only person in New York City. He tries to achieve a more authentic life by joining Life Extension, and cryogenically freezing himself until later in life. All his freedom results in angst, and his hasty decision to kill himself is a result of this. Existentialism positions that one cannot blame outside influences for the consequences of their actions; however, this is exactly what David does when he is arrested for murder, but incessantly blames the “Seven Dwarfs”, saying that he’s been framed.

David does not believe in God. His atheistic tendencies are shown by his lack of self-awareness, and his constant sinning without repentance. He has sex out of wedlock, we are led to believe that he committed murder, he sleeps with different women at the same time, and he can just be an all-around jerk. Existentialists believe that people are isolated from one another. At the end of the movie, we are shown that all of David’s life since his time at the night club, has all been a dream. This further emphasizes his alienation from others, because all the people around him are figures of his imagination. He is alone in the world, but even in the authentic life he is trying to create for himself, he is never happy. Another existential tenet is “you cannot rely of past experiences to predict future events”.

Existentialists believe in focusing on the “here and now”. Sophia declares, “every passing minute is another chance to turn it all around”. Every door that closes is a new chance for a better one to open. She wants David to know that his past mistakes do not define who he is, and that it’s never too late for him to change for the better. “You can’t let yourself be defined by an essence of your past, or a spirit inside you, but by the thoughts that you think in the present. ”

Existentialists may or may not believe in reincarnation. They focus themselves on the concrete world, and they have faith in there being no end goal or meaning to the life we live. Since there is no afterlife, who’s to say you don’t just live a continuous cycle of worthless lives. “I’ll see you in another life, when we are both cats”. Aames also talks about how he wants to come back in his “next life” as the mole on Sofia’s chest. This never stops, and meaningless lives will keep going on for forever.

Vanilla Sky displays existential tenets, like “people are free, and freedom results in angst”, “people are isolated and alienated from one another”, and “focus on the concrete world”. Existentialism is very prominent in this film, as well as many others, and I hope I’ve shown that well.

10 October 2020

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