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Author Topic: IN THE LINE OF FIRE: The Story: 9. Themes  (Read 12259 times)
Xichado
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« Reply #20 on: August 28, 2003, 08:16:21 PM »

Thanks for posting that quote from the book, Matt. For some reason I had pictured Leary doing more or less what is on the book.

From my point of view, Leary didn't single out Frank until he saw him in his apartment.

Leary is a very intelligent man, he wanted to call the attention of the Secret Services -Leary wanted an agent to go by his apartment.

Intentionally, I believe, he left the crumbs in the oven that set off the fire alarm, which draw the attention of his landlady, who called the police and the police "forward" the case to the Secret Services.

As mgk mentioned and accordingly to Frank Horrigan, there are about 2000 agents and any of them could easily be the one checking Leary's apartment. But it was Frank Horrigan... Leary set a trap to see what kind of fly he could catch and he caught the right agent, at the right time.

mgk's quote
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I am guessing that Leary probably recognizes Frank since Leary has also been in the service of the government for years and has obviously followed all of the assassinations

I agree, and most likely he knows the personal stories of the agents that were by Kennedy's side when he was shot. (Just a side note, I collect stamp and I believe I have more than 10,000 -I know most part of them... by heart!... I know! it's sad  ;D... by I know the stamps I have because I research them in catalogues, spend some time organizing them, try to know what the stamp theme is about… so, yes, I can picture Leary knowing all the secret agents' faces, a little bit of their bios, their special abilities, their personal lives, etc.-I’m thinking about the scene when Leary calls Horrigan to tell him that he’s watching his –Horrigan’s- movie and he mentions the magazine, most likely something he collects)

Leary, when he sees Horrigan in his apartment, knows that he has the perfect playmate, the perfect adversary.
« Last Edit: August 29, 2003, 06:45:07 AM by Xichado » Logged

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bcm
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« Reply #21 on: September 24, 2003, 12:56:20 PM »

I just watched the movie again tonight, to see if my opinion had changed with time. I can clearly see now that indeed, it was a hasard that Horrigan was Leary's "partner" in the game. He even says so himself:
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Fate has brougth us together
(yes, I admit, I only noticed that line AFTER mgk's, Matt's and Xichado's post, sorry :(). So, my view changed a little. But I have to admit that it has stayed the same regarding Leary's feelings towards Horrigan. As eustressor wrote, I still feel that Leary wants
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respect, gratitude, trust, understanding, acceptance
I have since seen John Malkovich play Talleyrand (in a TV-production about Napoleon), where he has to play a very ambiguous man. I guess he's more capable than anyone else to leave the audience in doubt wether he meant what he said, or if he meant the contrary. These are the troubles Leary is causing us all too. Somehow, it's very difficult to KNOW for sure if he means what he says on the phone, or if he just taunts Horrigan. I still think he means it, when he calls Horrigan a friend. As Lilly and Matt pointed out in the "two sides of the same man"-thread, Leary
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...does have an obsession with not lying...
(quote from Lilly). Or, as Bob Dylan once said:
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To live outside the law you must be honest
He also, in one phone call, tries to tell Horrigan that it was not really only his fault that Kennedy died. And in my eyes, in telling him:
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I think he didn't care that his death would ruin your life
he shows deep understanding for Horrigan. So, even after reading all that has been written on the subject of friendship in this thread, I think the movie and John Malkovich's performance leave it to every single one of us to see and feel what we wish to see and feel. Maybe we ought to ask Malkovich about it  :D
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"He wondered what the man's name was and where he was from; and if he was really evil of heart, or what lies or threats had led him on the long march from his home: and if he would not really rather have stayed there in peace" Sam, TTT, written by JRR Tolkien, 1954
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« Reply #22 on: September 24, 2003, 09:21:23 PM »

I agree, bcm. Malkovich is a master of subtlety and ambiguity. :)

Seeing this thread back at the top of the discussion, and returning from a bit of an absence, I thought I'd meander back over for some clarification and final thoughts before it gets locked up....

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According to Ira Konigsberg's The Complete Film Dictionary, a theme is "a general subject, topic, message, concept, social attitude, or mood that runs throughout a work of art."

General. Concept. Runs throughout.

My original assertion was simply this:

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I'd only add that I think the theme of friendship is also explored in this film... And then of course the "friendship" – at least from Leary's twisted point of view – between himself and Horrigan.

Note the quotes around Leary's "friendship". Any further statements which followed were interpretive and speculative comments based on this tragic character's point of view. Supporting arguments and ruminations regarding what strikes me as a deliberate exploration of a recurring, general concept. Deliberate because it involved the writer who chose the words, the director who chose the shots, and the consummate actor who delivered so well on both counts.

I never meant to imply that Horrigan and Leary would ever get together for a beer. Or that, had Leary lived, Horrigan would have visited him in prison.  Nothing of the sort, rather the search, the longing, for the underlying qualities which make up a friendship. A filmmaker and an actor's joint exploration.

As I've mentioned, Leary wants respect, gratitude, trust, and understanding – constituents all of a good friendship, but not a good friendship does the want of them make. For one, Leary is clearly mentally ill. He has a host of emotional and behavioral issues, as is amply demonstrated throughout the film. I offered a number of links to reflect the many possible ailments he could be suffering from. This notion of friendship which is being observed by Peterson's camera is Leary's skewed notion – again, not the type of relationship that would lead one to lend him a twenty until payday.

Mitch Leary and Frank Horrigan are NOT friends in any rational sense. As far gone as Leary is, he couldn't sustain a real friendship if he had one. But Leary would dearly love to have a friend, and moreso, to BE a friend. To be a good man again, to be redeemed.

To be at peace.

At the end, when Leary asks, "Do you want to save me, Frank?" (a loaded question in and of itself in a thematic context), Horrigan replies, "...to be honest and fair with you, no." But it seems to me that Leary was looking exactly for that. Honesty and fairness. Art often employs exaggeration for dramatic effect. This acceptance, finally, this reciprocation from Horrigan means much more than life itself to a lonely, defeated Leary. The filmmakers, I feel, chose to drive this point home by having Leary let go. Leary lets go of his struggle for respect, for understanding, for all the things he's missed so badly that would be best remedied by real friendship. But all he's got is his mental anguish and Frank Horrigan.

In the end, that suffices.



...


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Matt
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« Reply #23 on: September 24, 2003, 10:19:59 PM »

I guess what it really comes down to is... what are Leary's motivations? Was he looking for a friend, or was he looking to exploit an adversary's vulnerabilities in a way that would cause him the most anguish and pain? I go for the latter, and I see it in every scene of theirs.

I like what Xichado said above, and in a nutshell, this is how I see it:

Leary, when he sees Horrigan in his apartment, knows that he has the perfect playmate, the perfect adversary.

Like a child in a schoolyard, Leary taunts and ridicules Horrigan to try to get under his skin, to hurt him.  It's his game, and he's enjoying the power it gives him.  That's how I see it, anyway. But, at least both views have been presented here (and presented again). ;)

If we had any idea we'd have a discussion this lengthy in our general "Themes" question, we would have created a separate thread for this topic.  If there are other themes in In the Line of Fire that haven't been brought up yet, I hope that we can move on to those, since I can't imagine anything hasn't been said already on this topic.
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eustressor
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« Reply #24 on: September 25, 2003, 05:11:46 AM »

BTW, bcm, you mentioned redemption as a major theme in this film, citing Horrigan's situation:

redemption...By reacting the right way, Horrigan gets the chance to proove that he is a good secret service agent. I think his life will be much easier with this knowledge than with the weight of the I should have...

I'm curious if you (or anyone else) see a similar quest of redemption, albeit through a mirror darkly, for Mitch Leary. Is there any truth to the old cop-show cliché, "The killer wants to be caught"? Could this be a motivation for Leary to work so hard at keeping Frank "in the game"? The endgame scene I mentioned above is what led me to believe that perhaps Leary's motivation is a misguided dopplegänger to Horrigan's own search for redemption:

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LEARY: You want to save me, Frank?

HORRIGAN: To be honest and fair with you, no. But it's my job.

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bcm
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« Reply #25 on: September 25, 2003, 12:03:18 PM »

interesting question, eustressor  :)
As I wrote in the "game-thread", I clearly feel that Leary is commiting suicide here. He knows he will die. Actually, as he says himself:
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we can't have monsters running in the quiet countryside, now can we?
He could have committed "conventional" suicide, but this way his death would have gone unnoticed. He talks to Frank in the movie how they both have nothing worth living for, and I guess he feels as if the country had stolen his soul. There's nothing left, but death, but he is  (quoting myself ;D):
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wanting to die in the realm of life
Or, as Matt said:
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I see a man who wants to be heard and understood
If he had died alone, the most he would have got was a remark such as: great, he took care of it himself! But I think what he wanted was to show the country how things go wrong, hidden and secretely, but they do go extremely wrong. He wanted people to think about it, to question his "job". He wanted his death to change something. So, I think he's already redeemed before the movie starts. His redemtpion is his choice to die under the flashlights of journalists, his choice to cry out injustice, hoping to be heard. The film begins when his plan is already on the road, and I don't think he gains much more during the film, exept the game on a much higher level, with Horrigan.
  ok, this is my understanding of Leary. But, as we have noticed  ;), there are different ways to see him, so I'd like to hear/read other opinions as well  :D
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"He wondered what the man's name was and where he was from; and if he was really evil of heart, or what lies or threats had led him on the long march from his home: and if he would not really rather have stayed there in peace" Sam, TTT, written by JRR Tolkien, 1954
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« Reply #26 on: September 25, 2003, 12:26:57 PM »

I definitely see the "redemption" theme with Horrigan....probably because it's pretty obvious and probaby because he was successful at attaining his redemption.  And, bcm's comments about "second chances" applies and overlaps the theme of "redemption." Horrigan redeamed himself by successfully defending this President and that, in turn, gave him a second chance......not only at correcting a wrong in his life but a second chance on life itself.  He no longer had to hang onto being a Secret Service Agent and, under the circumstances, couldn't.  Since his face had been plastered all over the news, he couldn't really do the same kind of work he used to so he was at a place in his life where he could start over and he now had Lilly to make starting over more promising.

As far as Leary seeking redemption, albeit somewhat tainted, I don't know if I see that.  eustressor, you asked if he could have wanted to be caught and that could have been his motivation for trying to keep Frank in the game.  I don't think Leary thought he was going to escape his assassination attempt so I don't think he gave too much thought to being caught other than to make sure it was after he had done his deed.  Even his last phone call to Frank indicated that he thought the President was dead and that he, himself, was probably also dead.  So, I don't think he expected to get away in the first place.  What would happen to him if he was caught and imprisoned as opposed to being caught and dead would be something that I don't think he would have wanted to try and live with. He would rather be dead. If you mean him wanting to be caught in the sense of wanting to be killed....maybe.  I'm sure he wanted his miserable life to be over and, if he could reap some kind of revenge on the government that made him the way he now was, then he would die a "happy" man.  To me, Leary was seeking revenge for the life that the government stole from him and chose the most important act of revenge that he could.  And, he thought he was going to be successful but yet he also thought he would be killed in the process.  If his death absolved him from his sins and saved the world from anymore of his sins, then maybe that is a form of redemption.

As for him trying to keep Frank in the game.....I think that was just an added bonus he never expected to have.  It didn't make any difference whether Frank was in the game or not, as far as Leary was concerned.  He would go on with his plans whether Frank entered the picture or not.  But it wasn't often that he met intellectual equals so having Frank in the "game" just made it more fun for him....made it more challenging for him and Leary loved playing the game.

Themes aren't exactly my "strong suit" so everyone please jump in and help us out here. :)
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mgk
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« Reply #27 on: September 25, 2003, 12:32:30 PM »

I was so busy writing my own response, bcm, that I didn't see your post. :(

I do like your comments about Leary committing suicide.  That's what I see that he's doing and he knows that from the very beginning.  He has everything set in place so that the President will be dead and "someone" will have killed him in the end.  But.....choosing this particular form of revenge does provide him with that stage to be heard from so that he doesn't go unnoticed.
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Matt
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« Reply #28 on: September 25, 2003, 04:23:03 PM »

Rather than "redemption" I see the theme that runs through the film and motivates Leary's assassination attempt of the president is "betrayal" and the consequences of that betrayal, "death". This theme doesn't only apply to Leary, but to many characters in the film.

The Counterfeiters:  Discovered Al had betrayed them and was a Secret Service agent. The penalty for his disloyalty was death, and he only escaped the penalty by having a partner who could tell the difference in weight of a loaded gun vs. an unloaded gun.

Model Car Designer:  (aka the man in the wheelchair)  Here the theme is spoken: "The penalty for disloyalty is death."  When Leary felt his model designs were stolen, he said those words to the man who he felt betrayed him, but let him go. Coming full circle, the Model Car Designer keeps a gun on hand in case Leary should ever return... death would be HIS penalty for the betrayal too.

Mitch Leary:  He was betrayed by the government. He served them and was then hunted by them. The penalty for their disloyalty would be the death of the president.  And the penalty for Leary's disloyalty by attempting to kill the president would be death.

Leary's friend:  Sent by the CIA to kill Leary, the penalty for the betrayal of his friend is his death.

John F. Kennedy/Robert Kennedy: Several different conspiracy theories, but many people wanted them dead within and outside of the US government. Many of their supporters who had put them in office felt betrayed by their anti-crime policies, they both paid the price.

Horrigan:  Feels he betrayed JFK by not saving him, and punishes himself by drinking and losing his family. In a sense, he is dead and it is only later in the film where he is able to forgive himself and live again.

Anyone else I'm forgetting?
« Last Edit: September 25, 2003, 04:54:45 PM by Matt » Logged
bcm
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« Reply #29 on: September 26, 2003, 01:55:37 PM »

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...and the consequences of that betrayal, "death".

another theme is the opposite, is life, or rather, what makes a life worth living
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L: You're the same as me, Frank.  Name one thing in your life that has any meaning.
H: I play the piano.
L: That's not enough.
H: How do you know, do you play?
L: I've seen you in your bar alone. There's no cause left worth fighting for, Frank. All we have is the game.
What is it, that's worth fighting for? Is it the job? The answer seems to be no, since Horrigan vows never to let  his job get between a woman and him again. On the other hand, Lilly does stay in her job (emancipation and equal rights seem to be a theme too  ;)) Is it to have a fulfilling hobby? No, since Leary doesn't take Horrigan's piano-playing into account. Is it to escape the loneliness, have friends and family? I guess so, at least this is how I interpret this theme. I hesitated to write about this theme, although it seemed pretty obvious to me. It gets very philosophical and personal, if we start debating what is worth living (and fighting) for. But I'd wonder anyway how you others understood that theme. After all, it's a matter that concerns every single one of us  :D
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"He wondered what the man's name was and where he was from; and if he was really evil of heart, or what lies or threats had led him on the long march from his home: and if he would not really rather have stayed there in peace" Sam, TTT, written by JRR Tolkien, 1954
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« Reply #30 on: September 26, 2003, 03:56:30 PM »


Is it to escape the loneliness, have friends and family? I guess so, at least this is how I interpret this theme.

I can see this theme when Al was nearly killed and said he wanted to go home and hug his wife and kid. Then he remembered the lead they were supposed to check out and told Horrigan he'd go with him, but Horrigan said: "No, you go home. Hug your wife and kid." He knows that's what's most important, maybe better than anyone.
« Last Edit: September 26, 2003, 05:59:33 PM by Matt » Logged
Xichado
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« Reply #31 on: September 26, 2003, 05:35:49 PM »

And I see it when in the scene when Al and Frank are returning home

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Frank: You missed my street, Al
All: Oh, Frank, why don't you have a car?

I've always interpreted this scene as if Al had his thoughts in his family that was waiting for him at home -the important reason- and Frank's home is empty, with nothing important to go back to (except for his jazz records with 16 saxophone players or the 16 piano players... just getting back at the man for saying pretty much the same thing about rock bands )

Same scene:
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All: Why make me go out of my way every night?
Frank: I like your company

The confirmation that Frank enjoys the few moments of friendship (outside work) with Al.

Later, after Al's death, there is a scene with Frank riding on the bus, no partner, no company, with nothing to share and with the same emptiness at home to go back for.

I’ve also noticed that all the scene in Frank’s apartment are filmed when it’s night, which to me reflects an emotion of loneliness, seclusion. And at the end of the movie, the scene in the apartment with Frank and Lilly was filmed during the day and there is light and warm emotions in the scene. They leave as Leary’s message is playing on the answering machine as if to tell us that things have changed and it’s Leary the one who's left behind and alone.
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bcm
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« Reply #32 on: September 26, 2003, 11:50:39 PM »

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I've also noticed that all the scenes in Frank's apartment are filmed when it's night, which to me reflects an emotion of loneliness, seclusion
Leary's appartements are also always presented as pretty unfriendly places. It's either night, or it's messy, or completely empty. No personal things, no warmth at all. The same emotion of loneliness, seclusion, but much more pronounced.
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"He wondered what the man's name was and where he was from; and if he was really evil of heart, or what lies or threats had led him on the long march from his home: and if he would not really rather have stayed there in peace" Sam, TTT, written by JRR Tolkien, 1954
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« Reply #33 on: September 27, 2003, 05:04:07 AM »

Leary's appartements are also always presented as pretty unfriendly places. It's either night, or it's messy, or completely empty. No personal things, no warmth at all. The same emotion of loneliness, seclusion, but much more pronounced.

bcm, maybe you'd like to post in THIS thread a little more about that. It's one of only two unanswered topics in this discussion and asks about how the themes of loneliness and isolation/seclusion are conveyed in the film.
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mgk
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« Reply #34 on: December 27, 2003, 05:55:45 PM »

Thanks to everyone for participating in this discussion. This topic is now closed, please post any additional thoughts in the General Discussion forum.
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