Same Rules Apply: Why Cinema is Filth.

Is cinema as a dream, not a realization of life. Just more honest with its lies.


Are we not animals in a farm being controlled by fate. Others mercifully following under the weight of life and being picked at random to gain fruit from life. While others are just pigs. Free willed and filthy and even in their deepest attempts to be clean, become filthier. This is a heavy theme in  Jon S. Baird’s 2013 movie adaptation of Filth, from the novel by Irvine Welsh. I am ofcourse not the first to realize this parallel between Bruce Robertson, the protagonist of the movie, with pigs. The marketing campaign of the movie does a brilliant job at illustrating this. However my interest in this analogy is because like the movie keeps reminding us “the same rules apply” a phrase that is constantly repeated by Robertson through out the movie. The rules of insanity, of manic depression and anxiety, of loss, of bi-polar disorder, of suicide, of mental illness or insanity do not change no matter how vastly they may be portrayed in cinema. (Let me contextualize this)

Without heading to much into spoilers the film’s wikipedia page describes the movie as:

Bruce Robertson is a Detective Sergeant in Edinburgh, Scotland who suffers from Bipolar disorder.He is a scheming, manipulative, misanthropic man who spends his time indulging in drugs, alcohol, sexually abusive relationships, and “the games” — his euphemism for the myriad foul plots he hatches directed at workmates. Robertson also delights in systematically bullying and taking advantage of his mild-mannered friend Clifford Blades, a member of Robertson’s masonic lodge whose wife, Bunty, he repeatedly prank calls and asks for phone sex.

Robertson’s main goal in life is to gain promotion to Detective Inspector, the path to which appears to open when he is assigned to oversee the investigation into the murder of a Japanese student. He slowly loses his grip on reality as he works the case, however, suffering from a series of increasingly severe hallucinations. These hallucinations become worse over time, and Robertson descends into insanity.

Now the rest I will not go into detail of because the movie is beautiful and needs to be experienced fully as the twists and turns are fantastic.

My interest in the movie comes from the heavy theme of the illusion of choice that appears in the story. Robertson is given the choice to stop drinking but can he? He is given the chance to change but can he? Should he? and in the end if a pig stops conforming is it still a pig, or rather a swine with hopes for life under the illusion that is has a chance to life, while it was created to be filthy and to die. The portrayal of Robertson’s descent into insanity is fantastic because as filthy as it is, as an audience we love it. We are completely insensitive and when the time to make a choice comes, we make the wrong choices with him.

This movie reflects very well the relationship between cinema and mental illness. One can almost argue that the whole movie is one wild hallucination we invited ourselves into. It never becomes too shy to show you how the mind works and because we are invited into the manipulative nature of the protagonist we become more and more disappointed when we realize the movie is manipulating us too. We fall in love with this filthy man that we do not even know and even when we learn that he probably is not a good person, we give reasoning as to why he is. These are the rules we give when we tag people names regarding mental illnesses. A depressed, a manic, a schizophrenic. These are the rules we have so become accustomed to. Give labels to their existence but shy away from the reasons why they exist. Nobody cares that the psychopathic murderer was raped as a child or saw his mother get murdered in front of him, that is only the plot line we will use for the movie adaptation of his story years later. Nobody cares that the depressed artist is depressed not sad until he commits suicide. Nobody cares that the anorexic girl is having issues with a set beauty standard but rather that she is just too skinny and should get on a proper diet again. This movie highlights very well that we claim to care about mental illnesses, we dedicate years and years researching how to cure them, but not their causes. These are the rules of surviving in a society that is getting more and more mentally ill by the day. Act like you care by focusing on the issue not the roots of the issue. This movie pulls this trick so well on people that when the last magical shot of the movie happens, we are left to question. Why do these rules even exist? and more importantly:

“Why do the same Rules apply?”

The answer is seen in the protagonist. We are pigs. We have no choice but to be filthy. We can only be demoted to the uniformity of labels. Those who observe the mentally ill from a distance, can only walk on away, not intervene because fate chose them to be the “lucky ones”. Those who can be promoted into the greener pastures of life, those who can fall in love without internal fear of complete inadequacy. Those unaffected by the filth. So much so that even if we try to involve them, we can only make them filthy without tarnishing how clean they really are. Cinema is filthy because of being able to carry such honesty in a light hearted, sexually fueled drama/thriller. (JAMES McAVOY IS AMAZING IN THIS ONE!!!!HOLY CRAP THIS IS BETTER THAN TRANCE AND THAT IS SAYING SOMETHING. TRANCE IS GOLD!!)

So it is True.

The Same Rules Apply.


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