Table of contents

Mad Max

Some notes on ghosts

This is a story of what man might look like at the end of the world. The first two things we see in this picture that we would not usually see in our world are sex in public & lawless gangs. We are given to understand that public things & private things are confused. It is a question how this shapes the expectations of the audience. Let us say provisionally that it recalls barbarism in its shamelessness.

In the end, we learn that life is nasty, brutish, & short. People as we know them have been replaced by vaguely human bodies who live, most of them, as if they were in a state of war. The conventions by which we recognize one another & learn how to speak & how to act are falling apart. The streets are empty & somehow recall death in their misery. People look shellshocked.

Mankind seems to have separated into two kinds of creatures. Some few live with death nearby. Most others live with fear of death. Recklessness & murder seem to separate the two kinds. Men in the emphatic sense are all part of the first category. Their sense of strength depends on cars & bikes, whereas the others are pedestrians. The lawlessness has degraded the technology incredibly, but not completely. But technological society is permanently lost.

Our protagonist is a patrol cop in a world where road rage is a common occurrence. He sees that the people are terrified. He also sees that the courts of law are useless. There is nothing left to prop up the formal rules of justice. People say there are no more heroes, presumably there are no more heroic causes. A biker gang one of whose members Max had killed kills his partner, Goose, burning him in his car.

Max seeks Goose in the hospital. He first sees the charred hand, but he does not stop & wants to see his face. He refuses to believe that the horrible corpse is his friend. He quits his job & drives into the countryside with his wife & kid. Sooner rather than later, the biker gang destroys his family. This adds solitary to the list of what’s wrong with life.

We see that one motive for justice has not been extinguished: Revenge. We have already seen that the biker gang desires revenge as well, not just Max. Indeed, the barbarians care for their dead, which does not preclude them from murder. Attachment to the dead causes madness because it removes fear of death. The good things one remembers, but which are lost, replace the good of living. Perhaps this is how men face the end of the world.

This the film that made Mel Gibson famous.