OBLIVION and New God Symbolism

OBLIVION (2013) Dir. Joseph Kosinski

Downward pointing triangle is their new God.

Oblivion is an ode to the inverted triangle. Imagery of the potent symbol is in nearly every scene and is represented by a giant floating downward pointing pyramid. The pyramid/triangle is representative of the number 3, the holy trinity; mind, body and spirit; life, death, and rebirth; past, present and future—all aspects that are suggested in this movie. 

It’s only the downward pointing triangle that appears in the film, representing water, earth and the female. There is no representation of the upward pointing triangle, which if placed over the downward would represent the fertile sexual union of male and female and/or the relationship between man and God, the Star of David.

Throughout the film the character played by Tom Cruise seems to question his place in the world and broods over memories of himself before the futuristic apocalypse he now finds himself in. We sympathize with his inability to connect to his past life and love.

In Oblivion, the Divine Female is replaced and represented by the monolithic pyramid.  It speaks through a monitor and is represented as a woman named Sally whose southern accent helps humanize her through all the visual static we see her in. We only ever see this digital image of her, one that is devoid of real emotion. The earth-pointing triangle she embodies is highly symbolic of emotion, but Sally inverts the meaning and plays with our real human feelings, subtly suggesting that our emotions are misplaced. When questioned by Cruise who is represented as emotionally weak, she responds, “I am your God.”

The most prevalent use of symbolism to represent the triangle is water.  It is everywhere and we see that the main characters are comforted by it. They swim in a massive pool, pausing underwater as if reliving a memory of the embryonic state. Later we learn that it’s not the womb that they recall, but pods where their clones float in water, waiting to be put to use on the decimated planet.

Death of the individual.

In the end, our hero does not break down when he learns he is a clone or that his memories are not actually his. As viewers we must accept how unaffected he is and how he so readily claims an identity he knows that he shares with countless others. In fact, he witnesses the sight of his own clones in a vastness of hive-like pods and it doesn’t seem to matter much to him.

The disingenuous wrap up ending is designed to make us feel that humanity wins and there will be a new Eden.  And even though the monstrous pyramid that represented an earthly hell is eventually destroyed, it doesn’t change the fact that for two hours it bombarded us with subconscious programming that forbade knowledge and self-reflection—it denied the existence of our Divine spark, interestingly symbolized by the fiery upward pointed triangle never seen in the film.  The message of the film from beginning to end is that the individual doesn’t matter. You can be replaced with a new you and nobody will care. Submit to the hive, I am your God.

This review first appeared in the print version of Victims of Cinema. The first 50 reviews can be obtained here.

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