This is a movie for people educated enough to know that turning human fat into soap is talking about the Nazis. So the reader must decide whether the story teaches you how to be the only worthwhile fascist, the successful fascist – because it has become the only moral thing to do in a consumerist society – or how necessary it has become to moderate both consumerism & the subsequent fascist reaction.
The philosophical premise is pretty obvious: The man is the city writ small. A consumerist society will create a consumerist man: Pale, flabby, hesitant. He believes in nothing enough to sacrifice. He has no respect for martial virtues. He could neither survive in the wild nor rape. But a man violent, chaotic enough to escape this cannot live by himself – he must destroy the city to remake the world in his image. The city might be the man writ large.
The style of the wit has a woman & man fight over what cancer meetings to attend to feed on the emotions of the dying. Bowel cancer is the big ticket – a scatological joke about consumerism. Another contention is testicular cancer – consumerism apparently emasculates man. But the joke is turning suffering into consumerism. Our protagonist is an insomniac whose mental insanity is provoked by his refusal to fully submit to the consumerist city. Ennui is the modern condition.
The psychological level drives the story – the madman calls it Enlightenment. The soul is split & embodied. What other way to save it? Reason is too weak to mention. Spirit, anger is embodied, because it wants to save the body. But to teach salvation, destruction must be practiced. Bloody Christianity then: To save oneself, one must lose oneself. To truly live is to brave death. Hopelessness alone cancels all ideals except the body.
The political level is trickier. Destroying capitalism is justified by democratic resentment. But also by undemocratic Romanticism: The image of New York turned into a jungle. Destroying the false capitalist prosperity to return to harsh necessity teaches that striving is original, but it is insufficient. Using Machiavellian wisdom teaches that striving must be added beyond survival: Terrify people with death, then they will love you as a savior. This is no return to nature. It is an attack on nature: The appetites driving rational capitalist comfort & prosperity are as natural as the anger that, denied, rises to destroy everything that denies it.
What will replace the destruction? Sacrifice & pain are good because obviously non-mercenary. Genuine, authentic, immediate – the fundamental manly experience – they apparently teach not escape but acceptance – suffering is the only good in necessity. Loving sainted martyrs of democracy – Gandhi, Lincoln – is killing them.
Probably the wittiest blockbuster of the ’90s, the most radical attack on America; or, a cult movie about cultures.