cultural criticism | photography | place & space

"When it freezes...the molecules have’s clean."

The Ice Storm has been on my watch list for over a year, but given some knowledge of its subject matter, until now, I’ve always said to myself that I wouldn’t be in the mood to watch it. Interestingly, even though I believe I would have viewed this film in the same way a year ago as I did now (as it would have tugged on all of the same memories and attitudes) I don’t think that I would have had been able to articulate my impression of it in as clear a way as I shall attempt to do now. After viewing the film I cannot say that I have learned anything new about our societal heritage or the human condition, but I did gain some new metaphors and new understandings of personification to add to my lexicon. More than anything, I was enthralled by the ice.

This film has a large and impressive cast...very large, and so any kind of in-depth character study is really impossible, but that doesn’t seem to matter, because, all of the characters are portrayed as fairly single-issue and rather interchangeable...that is, all except for Mikey Carver. Is that why he had to die? So in order to make sense of character, a certain abstraction has to be undertaken, and that abstraction delivers up two characters in this film...nature and anti-nature. Yes, the protagonist is really the ice storm of countless manifestations of nature. The antagonist is 1973 American society...heir to all previous years and progenitor to all subsequent. Let’s take a look and step into that snapshot.

From the beginning we know that the ice storm is coming. It is all over the television. Even the youngest child (those who are less likely to reject mystery) makes prophecy to the impending danger, but the storm is ignored because we are too preoccupied pursuing all of our societal and personal pathologies and aspirations. We are trying to find meaning and fulfillment in a world where the ability to attain those very things has just been compromised in a cultural revolution.

This is why the society is manifest as an anti-nature, because those benefics that are inherent to our human nature have been reordered into malifics. Added to this is the resigned optimism towards our new, psychology, sociology, and the revolution itself...along with the endless drumbeat of freedom and liberation...freedom and liberation ultimately from our own humanity. Through it all, we instinctively resist going along with our liberation...much of what it asks of us is really a bit repulsive. We succumb and we still criticize. No, we’re not hypocrites as long as we really believe.

Although animate, the ice storm is not sentient, and so it is oblivious to us. The storm is also a metaphor reflecting the culture that it is slowly enveloping...oblivious to what it is, developing unrelentingly one seeming innocuous layer after another, until some lives go spinning and sliding out of control while others become entombed in glass...that is until the final snap under the weight of it all. To this day, some have not yet experienced the snap...

...but for others there is melting...not only of ice, but of hearts.