Dead Planet XXXIX

Dead Planet XXXIX

“The conceptual limitation
then confirms Lem’s ultimate
message—namely that in
imagining ourselves to be
attempting contact with the
radically Other, we are in
reality merely looking in a
mirror and searching for an
ideal image of our own world.”
—Fredric Jameson,
Archaeologies of the Future:
The Desire Called Utopia
and Other Science Fictions

Fredric Jameson calls it “The Unknowability Thesis” in his “Archaeologies of the Future: The Desire Called Utopia and Other Science Fictions.” Stanislaw Lem the author of “Solaris”—simply shakes his head. There can be no contact—between mankind and any non-human civilization.

Not only that but—“Solaris” is negative proof about writing science fiction itself. For there is no SF writing, no message—and the oceanic Other is merely activating traces within our own brains and projecting them back to us. We become lost like Stilitano—in our own House of Mirrors, nicht wahr?

The servants in Amenábar’s huge mansion know—the psychics in the séance know. Even the piano that plays mysteriously in the middle of the night in the empty room behind locked doors—it knows the awful truth as well. The absence of evidence—isn’t the same as evidence of absence.

In other words, if we may briefly divagate from James into the eerie silence of the SETI soiree (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence)—the absence of any evidence to Nicole Kidman that she is a ghost is indeed very different than the kind of evidence that would prove or disprove the existence of ghosts themselves. That Kidman is herself—a ghost.

Kidman must go through her own journey of suspicion—that the huge mansion that she and her two photo-sensitive children are living in is haunted, But surely she and her children are alive and well—and not ghosts themselves? She and her kids are surely doing the ghost hunting—the ghosts are surely the “others” and that’s the real problem?

Gradually, slowly as the plot develops, though—hints are dropped by the servants who appear out of nowhere. Surely there’s something amiss—surely something is not what it appears to be. The wise, solicitous man & wife servant couple—they’re not actually who they appear to be are they? Whoever they are—they’re actually doing more than just taking care of the house, the grounds and doing the domestica Americana sort of things that normal household help does. The day-to-day tasks, chores, cleaning, yard-work, things like that.

In fact, one of the revealing/concealing scenes has the male servant working the yard—raking up leaves. Sounds innocent enough, doesn’t it? Except he’s raking the leaves over some tombstones—with his wife nodding knowingly about something they themselves know, but which Kidman is clueless. Do the gravestones belong to—the already deceased Kidman and children? Are the servants trying to protect Kidman—or gradually ease her into the realization that she’s already dead and a ghost like them?

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