Vanilla Sky is yet another recent mindfuck film, like The Game, The Matrix, Waking
Life, Eyes Wide Shut, Fight Club, Totall Recall, ExistenZ, 12 Monkeys, Memento, Lost Highway, and Mullholland Drive. So what makes a mindfuck film?
Well, I’m not exactly sure (I’m making this up as I go along – this ain’t no
film-texbook genre). One thing to look for is a hefty plot twist, one
that forces the protagonist to question reality itself. Said reality tends
to be nothing more than a simulation, and a conspiratorial simulation at
that. Common themes are waking/dreaming, truth/fiction, self-deception as
vacation, etc. In many ways these films can be traced to Hitchcock
(especially the plot twists of Vertigo and Psycho). In almost all ways
they can be linked with Philip Dick.
It’s also notable that many concern
themselves, directly or tangentially, with videogames. The Game – well, look
at the title; ExistenZ is explicitly about videogames; The Matrix big-freeze
effect is inspired by videogames’ 3D replays. My pet theory at the moment is
a McLuhanist one. He argued strongly for art’s prognosticative role, in
particular its ability to warn of cultural changes brought about by
the onset of a new medium. In this case the fearsome new medium is
videogames, with their simulative ability growing every day.