14 August 2011

The Wrestler by Aronofsky, 2008

Filed under: Movies — ktismatics @ 9:57 am

Cassidy the stripper stands up and straddles Randy the Ram, gazing soulfully at the scar.
CASSIDY: “He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities. The punishment that
brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we were healed.”

RANDY: What’s that?

CASSIDY: It’s from “Passion of the Christ”. You never seen it?

Randy shrugs no.

CASSIDY: Dude, you gotta. It’s amazing. It’s, like, so inspiring. They throw everything at Him. Whips,
arrows, rocks… Just beat the living fuck out of Him for the whole two hours. And He just takes it.

RANDY : Huh. I’ll have to check it out.

CASSIDY (lightly tracing a finger along Randy’s bicep scar): The sacrificial Ram…



  1. Is there a way to transfer specific shots from DVDs to blogs etc? I was wondering how to do it. You seem to have some way, from what I gather from your film posts.


    Comment by W.Kasper — 14 August 2011 @ 11:48 am

  2. I don’t remember that particular portion of the film, but I remember being impressed by the film on the whole. A person with fairly significant relational flaws trying to hang on to wrestling, something which serves as his primary center of identity. With heart problems, it becomes apparent that he’d rather keep wrestling and die than to try something new…..of course, it is equally clear that the society at large limits his options. So moving out of the entertainment industry would require a good deal of sacrifice. The market will pay to see him get take a beating or bash someone’s face, but it won’t necessarily give a damn if he tries to do something else….perhaps that’s where there is a tie-in with your above quotation. The Christian marketplace will pay to see Jesus Christ take a beating but (as the current political climate has made clear) will not pay to give healthcare to the poor with whom Jesus Christ continually aligned himself.


    Comment by erdman31 — 14 August 2011 @ 12:03 pm

  3. On blog screengrab technique: First you capture the image onto your computer, then insert the image into your post. I know how to do this with a Mac on a WordPress blog. On a Mac, you pause the DVD at the image you want, then click simultaneously the “Apple” key, Shift, and the number 3 — you’ll hear a simulated camera shutter noise when you’ve succeeded. Doubtless there’s some comparable method on a PC. The image now appears on your desktop; you can relabel it as you like — this one, for example, is “Wrestler Tattoo.” Then when writing/editing your post, you Upload/Insert the image from desktop onto the blog. You usually have to resize it to fit the space: this takes some trial and error. You’ve uploaded images onto your blog so clearly you know how to do that part. Does this make sense?


    Comment by ktismatics — 14 August 2011 @ 12:04 pm

  4. The dialogue about Passion of the Christ occurs early in the film, during Randy’s first visit to the strip club. We’re explicitly encouraged to think of Randy as a Christ figure — it’s why I chose the screen shot showing the face of Jesus tat on Randy’s back. Cassidy is Magdalene I suppose. I don’t think Randy is in the wrestling game for the money. Although we do see money changing hands several times in the movie, most of it goes to the promoters and the steroid pushers. It’s clear that he can’t make ends meet doing this gig, that he has to have a day job besides. He’s doing it because he has a “passion” for it: passion = suffering in Latin. He does it for the crowd; making them happy makes him happy; he’ll quit when they tell him he’s done — it’s what he says explicitly at the beginning of his final match. And in the end they cheer him on to his own death, presumably. But he’s also got a kind of intrinsic passion for self-destruction: his doping causes his heart attack, he jams his hand into the meat slicer at the deli, he wrecks his relationship with his daughter. He has a knack for fucking himself over.

    So now do we turn this interpretation back on the Christ? Jesus loved the crowds, and wanted to make them happy. He gave talks and did miracles. He also had an inner urge to self-destruction (possibly instilled by the big Promoter in the Sky) which often manifested itself in his publicly taunting the powers-that-be who could put a stop to him — kind of like a wrestler smack-talking his opponent. This urge, drawn out by the crowd, reached its climax in his greatest public spectacle of all: the crucifixion. The crowd loved it, and it completed Jesus’s own urge or mission to be killed by the crowd and for the crowd.


    Comment by ktismatics — 14 August 2011 @ 12:30 pm

  5. So, perhaps professional wrestling and other forms of violent entertainment are the means in which the masses can participate in a Eucharistic event? This references back, I think, to your blogging years ago on Girard’s scapegoat theology. Perhaps we feel a sensations of having been “cleansed” of our iniquities and better able to move past differences with others when we watch a scapegoat absorb all of our violent inclinations and tendencies.


    Comment by erdman31 — 15 August 2011 @ 10:51 am

  6. Yes. Thanks for the tip, Ktis!


    Comment by W.Kasper — 15 August 2011 @ 11:03 am

  7. Maybe it’s also the other way around, Erdman: Eucharist is a way for the masses to participate vicariously in violent entertainment. “This is my body and this is my blood,” the priest invokes, but it isn’t really. Maybe the only way the parishioners can get a little taste of the scapegoat’s blood is to criticize his sermon at the pancake house. In Girard the scapegoat is typically dragged into the violence; in The Wrestler he is a willing and enthusiastic participant. That makes for a curious alternative Christology: was it easier for Jesus to fulfill his messianic mission if he felt not a constant resistance against his fate but an active desire to pursue it? This seems to be Aronofsky’s artistic vision in Pi, Black Swan, and Wrestler: giving yourself over to your passion is the only way to achieve apotheosis, but the price to be paid for godlike exaltation is madness, self-destruction, death. I’m not saying I subscribe to that vision — just calling attention to it.


    Comment by ktismatics — 15 August 2011 @ 11:35 am

  8. You keep talking about Arronofsky’s themes as if they were what’s in focus in the films, but I don’t t think that’s the case (I haven’t seen the Wrestler mind you). What I think takes center stage is how in those moments of sacrifice, or madness, the movies enter a strange territory where the whole cinematic apparatus used before ceases to function and new spatio-temporal relations come into play. This was already obvious in REQUIEM FOR A DREAM, when the walls of Anne Bancroft’s house shatter and the television image comes to life. Similarly, I don’t see that the ending of Black Swan is in any clear fashion Nena’s DEATH. I rather tend to see it as the birth of the Black Swan, who enters the material dimension – albeit not the same dimension that we know, or that we knew in the first part of the movie. I can’t quite yet describe the coordinates of this experience, but there is clearly something OTHER to these films, quite apart from all this talk about their meanings.


    Comment by Center of Parody — 16 August 2011 @ 5:34 am

  9. Aronofsky pitches theme when he’s trying to raise money:

    ““It’s the end of the world and it’s the second most famous ship after the Titanic. So I’m not sure why any studio won’t want to make it,” said Aronofsky. “I think it’s really timely because it’s about environmental apocalypse which is the biggest theme, for me, right now for what’s going on on this planet. So I think it’s got these big, big themes that connect with us. Noah was the first environmentalist. He’s a really interesting character. Hopefully they’ll let me make it.”

    He wants to make a $130 million movie about Noah and the Ark, an idea apparently he started thinking about when he was 13 years old. Noah is another character that has a strange and overwhelming passion. The difference this time: instead of the passionate one dying, it’s everyone else who dies. The Noah story reveals Yahweh as a genocidal maniac: I think that His story is even more intriguing than that of his sock-puppet Noah. Will Aronofsky’s version be populated by the Nephilim, spawn of the gods lying with the beautiful daughters of men, that race of mighty hybrids who provoked the sons of men to jealousy and evil, prompting Yahweh’s impassioned slaughter?

    This cinematic otherness of which you speak: it’s an expressionistic depiction of the unconscious cut loose from the conscious constraints, not just of the character but of the film itself, no? The film flies away from further character development and even from narrative coherence. If, as Lacan says, God is unconscious, then it’s the release of God into the film. In a Noah reality the whole world flies apart into chaos, drowned in the passion of God. Did you ever see The Passion of the Christ? Aronofsky tips his hat to that movie in The Wrestler: it too cuts character and story loose with the unconscious, the sadistic violence of the Romans spilling forth buckets of blood from the Impassioned God-Man.


    Comment by ktismatics — 16 August 2011 @ 6:12 am

  10. Aronofsky has a sort of rock ‘n’ roll aesthetic. In high school The Doors were my favorite band, and “Not to Touch the Earth” became the favorite Doors song of me and my fellow Doors enthusiasts:

    At the end of the third verse (around 2:30) the song starts falling apart. After the climax/apocalypse, up from the ashes, there emerges the voice of the god-beast — “I am the Lizard King. I can do anything.” Of course the Doors had already pulled this same move in their two earlier albums: “The End” in the first one, “When the Music’s Over” in the second. But in both of those songs the structured music comes back after the end, back from the dead. In “Not to Touch the Earth” what falls apart stays apart.


    Comment by ktismatics — 16 August 2011 @ 7:05 am

  11. “Maybe it’s also the other way around, Erdman: Eucharist is a way for the masses to participate vicariously in violent entertainment.”


    Yes, it could be the other way around. I wonder what your opinion is on the Eucharist. Do you believe that it promotes violence in society? Do you believe that traditional substitutionary atonement theology promotes violence?


    Comment by erdman31 — 16 August 2011 @ 10:49 am

  12. Not compared with wrestling it doesn’t, or even movies about wrestling. A ritual loses most of its original punch after two thousand years, wouldn’t you say, Erdman? The Christian religion itself, though, seems to have a persistent bloodlust. You mentioned Girard, who believes that the Judeo-Christian religion encourages identification with the substitutionary scapegoat and so short-circuits the violence. I’m skeptical based on the history of really-existing Christianity.


    Comment by ktismatics — 16 August 2011 @ 11:10 am

  13. This cinematic otherness of which you speak: it’s an expressionistic depiction of the unconscious cut loose from the conscious constraints, not just of the character but of the film itself, no?

    I don’t really know about God and the Devil, in the scene where Nina starts going nuts just before the show, there is such a piling up of excess (the drawings in her room begin to move; she hurts her mother; the camera is flying all over the place; she gets hallucinations; she murders Mila Kunis; she kisses the director; she becomes the black swan…bla), it is stretched way over the limit of believability, and yet it maintains a perfect rhythm, a brilliant musical spiral. There is and isn’t logic at the same time. There’s another spatiotemporal logic, it is of another ORDER. Somebody wrote something about the body without organs, maybe that’s it, although you mustn’t ANALYZE so much!

    Erdman I keep getting visions of Ralph Fiennes from your avatar. I think they should have used you for Voldemort in Harry Potter.


    Comment by Center of Parody — 16 August 2011 @ 12:23 pm

  14. The Doors song somehow sounds outdated, although Morrison’s voice and persona keep on fascinating. I always have listened to Riders of the Storm.


    Comment by Center of Parody — 16 August 2011 @ 12:25 pm

  15. Body Without Organs was released the year after Riders on the Storm. By then the music really was over for Morrison.


    Comment by ktismatics — 16 August 2011 @ 1:38 pm

  16. CPC the SLC.

    It was Ellen Burnstyn in Requiem for a Dream. But you probably decided it was the very different Anne Bancroft, because you always wished your mom would turn into her, inviting Steven Shaviro over to play the nervous, boyish Dustin Hoffman. Giving you the film you always craved, while you referred to misreadings of Lacan to confirm how groovy your reprocessed Oedipal scenario was. Whatever it was, you lived in denial of the existence of Mel Brooks. You just wanted Mel’s wife to be your celluloid mama, replayed over and over in the same three movies.


    Comment by W.Kasper — 17 August 2011 @ 2:46 pm

  17. LOL. Yes, the luminous Katherine Ross, not the young and dashing Dustin Hoffman, because that’s who got to do the line of Mrs. Robinson as the oozing aging nymphomaniac, i.e., “The room num-bah, Benjamin. I think you want to tell me the room num-bah”. But I think somehow that the often-overlooked and ‘really real’ Laura Linney might work as someone who I could find really HOT. Almost like that ‘black girl’ in the underrated ‘True Blood’…If not then, one’s SLC can always go back to licking Catherine Deneuve’s feet, although I daresay the woman has taste, and would definitely object.


    Comment by illegal dances of new york city — 17 August 2011 @ 3:53 pm

  18. Professional wrestling was one of the most successful sports of the 1950s. While the matches were not genuine contests, the combination of drama, athleticism and crowd interaction made it a unique form of live entertainment. –

    Please do go look at our favorite web portal


    Comment by Bruno Nicklin — 26 February 2013 @ 2:20 am

  19. I do have thinning hair, Bruno, and I suspect that many of the great wrestlers have attempted to compensate for their hair loss in one way or another. While Dick the Bruiser wore a sparse flattop, his tag-team partner the Crusher went in for the long hairdo, as have so many of the pretty-boy wrestlers who would later step into the ring. My friends’ and my favorite, Moose Cholak, wore long sideburns in what was perhaps an attempt to distract the audience from his thinning hair.


    Comment by ktismatics — 26 February 2013 @ 11:34 am

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