On Total Recall and Video Game Aesthetic in film
记忆，梦，影像三点交汇的区域已成为大批影像制作者探索和演绎的重点，从像Bruce Conner这样的实验先锋，到像Paul Verhoeven这样的动作大片能工巧匠无不参与其中。Jason Vest 在他的书《Total Recall》(后来被Philip K.Dick搬上荧幕)中探索了真实记忆，虚拟植入记忆和科技产生的幻想梦之间的区别。影片提供了大量的线索，促使我们不得不怀疑剧情的现实地位，但是它也重申了，一个身在现实和感觉中的人，无法确切的监测自己现实与感觉的地位。
除此之外，Verhoeven 提供了大量的讽刺意味和旺盛的自我意识来模糊界限。我们该怎么制作Edgemar 和 Quaid对峙场面的屏幕？用一个Quaid家有两扇窗大小的巨大的视频屏幕怎么样？我们应该用通过动作因素把他们归位的方式来忽视难以置信的情节吗？还是我们应该把难以置信的部分都归于Quaid的梦境幻想？这里梦境和戏剧的链接再次显现出来，就像Buster在Sherlock中的角色一样，Jr梦到了一个幻想的冒险旅行，象征悬疑电影因素，也许Quaidz只是想在梦中表现火星冒险，完全取决于动作因素的隐喻。
在传统的关于梦的优秀影片中，Total Recall 保持了视觉上的难以置信来肯定的说出了梦境和清醒状态的不同。因此我们难以确切的说出电影是应该像清醒现实一样拍摄，还是应该成为Quaid的关于他第一次到Rekall下面那一刻的梦。我必须说，对于电影本身的认真理解，后续带来了更多的观众。除了Total Recall中不可置信的荒谬部分，考虑到Rekall雇员似乎拥有怪异的洞察力，Bob McClane,试图给Quaid推荐作为秘密特工 的火星度假套餐，并承诺他“你得到了这个女孩，杀死了坏人，你就可以拯救整个星球！”确实，这就是事实。
一幕接一幕，Total Recall的美学就像电子游戏的美学。在Rekall，McClane向Quaid规划了游戏的承诺：一个成为另一个人的机会。他说：“你在自我之中完成一个旅行。他是最先进的旅行形式，叫做Ego Trip。”当Quaid同意之后，McClane和Dr.Lull 让他进入了选择角色的流程。年轻的技术员Ernie重申“他一定不想回来。”这确实就是后来发生的。之后当Edgemar面对Quaid,给了他两个选项，回到现实还是继续游戏。未在游戏中感到满足的Quaid，由于脑内的判断和可见的原因（滑落的汗滴），让他不相信Edgemar所说，而去追逐更多交互的体验。
但是尽管这些特性让全面回忆成为一个hypermasculine, misogynist, ultraviolent, sensory-motor-reward-circuit automatic-reaction thought-destroying pleasure-center-stimulation-fest的电影，全面回忆事实上是一个过于复杂的电影。通过使用通用的符号和强化的风格，全面回忆提示观者让位真实，而相信一个难以置信的叙事空间。之后，电影指出这些不可信，并让他们在电影中对立。之后从叙事中给我们一个答案，让我们去怀疑电影中所谓的真实。因此，全面回忆的伟大之处包括，他通过把反身性的怀疑植入叙事结构基础合理化了普遍的恐惧。就像诸如Grindhous这个电影尝试邪恶合理化，或就导演意图而言,全面回忆要求他本身的恐惧作为影片含义的重要架构。没有这些滑稽的类型记号，这个电影就不会提高一切只是QUAID梦境的可能。但是双重可能让我们更有自由选择到底是更向往冒险还是直视嘲讽糊涂。叙事本身包括了叙事本身和我们自己的选择。还有什么比夸赞一个电影是通过装作愚蠢来彰显它的智慧，一个当我们合理肯定他的辉煌时我们总是感到异常优越，更好的称赞呢？
全面回忆诞生在艺术的一个特殊过渡时期。结局归功于令人吃惊的广告，包括小说化和电子游戏化。在20世纪中叶，艺术审美和游戏架构开始融合。OuLiPo 实验，偶然音乐，和之后的自己选择冒险书，孤立的艺术通过和读者或音乐人共同创作经验的方式与游戏元素第一次结合。Romans a clef（RPS小说）存在百年，有挑战性的读者可以拆解未解之谜，和像Bruegel’s Netherlandish proverbs 鼓励a decoding practice somewhere betweenWhere’s Waldo, a rebus, andAmelia Bedelia. 但就这样看，当阅读和观看的经验保持基本可观时，这个解释提供了谜题（或游戏）元素。在艺术作品中添加游戏元素使得观众成为联合创作者。而不是给观众呈现一个设定好的已经完成的美学知觉。被游戏影响的艺术作品包含了更多可能和观众交互创造经验的算法。不用说，这是一个巨大的改变。
1. The triple overlap of film, memory, and dream has become a crucial locus of investigation and play for a number of reflexive filmmakers, from experimental pathbreakers like Bruce Conner to crafters of slam-bang action blockbusters like Paul Verhoeven. Jason Vest argues in his well-titled book on Philip K. Dick adaptations in cinema that Total Recall (1990) reflexively explores the indistinguishability of real memory, fictional implanted memory, and a technologically-produced fantasy dream. The film offers a number of clues to suggest that we should doubt the reality status of the diegesis, but it also reasserts (as Plato and Descartes once did) that one cannot definitively test the status of one’s own reality or perception while bound within that reality and perception.
2. In addition to this, Verhoeven provides a number of hiply ironic and self-aware flourishes (as well as some classically metacinematic gestures) to further blur the lines. What should we make of the prominent mirrors in the scene where Edgemar confronts Quaid? How about the large video screens in Quaid’s home which double as window simulators? Should we dismiss the implausibility of the plot by situating it solely within the action genre, or should we narratively account for its implausibility by explaining that it’s all Quaid’s dream-fantasy? Here dreams and cinema link up again; just as Buster Keaton’s character in Sherlock, Jr. dreamed up a fantasy adventure determined (and overdetermined) wholly to the tropes of the mystery film genre, perhaps Quaid merely dreamt his adventure on Mars (while hooked up to a machine at Rekall) entirely according to the tropes of the action genre.
3. In the tradition of the best films on dreams, in Total Recall it remains visually impossible to definitively tell the difference between dream and waking states. Thus, we cannot say for certain whether the entire film should be taken as waking reality, or whether the film becomes Quaid’s dream the moment he first goes under at Rekall. I’d like to suggest that a careful interpretation of the film turns up more evidence for the latter. In addition to the unbelievable absurdity of the plotting of Total Recall, consider the uncanny clairvoyance which Rekall’s employees seem to have (and they’re not even mind-reading mutants, though they do have mind-hacking technology). Bob McClane, trying to upsell Quaid to the “secret agent” Mars vacation package, promises him, “you get the girl, you kill the bad guys, and you save the entire planet!” And indeed, this is just what happens.
4. Then, at the midpoint of the film, Dr. Edgemar arrives to try to convince Quaid that he’s experiencing a schizoid embolism, “a free-form delusion based on our memory tapes.” When disbelieving Quaid threatens Edgemar with violence, Edgemar explains what will happen next: “One minute you’ll be the savior of the rebel cause, then, next thing you know, you’ll be Cohaagen’s bosom buddy. You’ll even have ridiculous fantasies about alien civilizations–as you requested. But in the end, back on Earth… You’ll be lobotomized” (script here). And indeed, all the rest of that happens, too, right down to the blinding glare of light that overwhelms the kiss at the end of the film. Verhoeven himself has said that this white-out represents Quaid’s loss of consciousness as he is lobotomized (see Vest, p. 38), an interpretation perfectly consistent with the predictions of the most reliable characters in the film.
5. So if we accept that the entire film is a dream, what kind of a dream is it? Edgemar tells Quaid that his delusion is based on Rekall’s memory tapes, but “you’re inventing it yourself as you go along.” This brand of creative interaction with a program implies more for me than Quaid taking over his memory simulation and constructing it according action film clichés. Rather, l argue that Quaid takes over his memory simulation and begins to play it as though it were a game. To be sure, one can account for quite a lot in Total Recall by adapting interpretive tools developed for simulated reality films (like World on a Wire) or dream films (like Waking Life), but I argue that nothing rationalizes its aesthetics and excesses better than postulating that Total Recall is a recording of gameplay.
6. Scene by scene, Total Recall’s aesthetics resemble the aesthetics of a video game. At Rekall, McClane lays out for Quaid the promise of video games: the opportunity to be someone else. He says, “You take a vacation from yourself. It’s the latest thing in travel, it’s called the Ego Trip.” When Quaid agrees, McClane and Dr. Lull take him through the process of character selection (see above). Ernie, the young technician, remarks, “He’s not gonna wanna come back.” And indeed, this is what happens. Later, when Edgemar confronts Quaid, he gives him the choice, in essence, between returning to reality or continuing to play. Quaid, sensing that the game has not yet fulfilled his desires, invents both conceptual justifications and visible reasons (the trickle of sweat) to disbelieve Edgemar so that he can pursue more of his interactive fantasies. Just after the Johnny Cab drops off Quaid from his first visit to Rekall, his buddy from work and three other thugs corner him with the intent to kill him. But with inexplicable adeptness for hand-to-hand combat, he disarms and kills all four of them. As in many games, the character has skills which the player does not, and weapons are used to solve a great many problems. The tiled grid and blank wall upon which the four others die visually suggest a space of undifferentiated polygons, a metaphor for video game architecture. Having dispatched these four bad guys, Quaid has beaten the first “level” of the game. As if to underscore this point, the film immediately cuts to a literal interactive game: Quaid’s ersatz wife Lori playing some sort of holographic Kinetic tennis.
7. After his altercation with Lori puts Quaid on the run, the film threads the plot through a number of deus ex machinas - cheap just-in-time coincidences designed to propel Quaid down a twisting path of goal-driven action. A man with a suitcase appears out of nowhere so that the plot can take Quaid to Mars. Benny’s taxi always seems to show up at just the right moment to efficiently ferry Quaid, et al, to the next plot point. In other narrative modes, spectators spurn deus ex machinas as tawdry shortcuts around character development, things which rob the audience of a proper working-out of the narrative tension. But in video games, the player expects that the plot will always arrive just in time, by whatever implausible or illogical means available. Eventually, the viewer begins to notice that Quaid’s individual free will becomes irrelevant as he tracks down whatever clues the environment drops in his lap (he follows them to Mars, to the Last Resort, to Kuato, and so on). When Benny turns on Quaid and attacks him with a large mining machine, not only does a weapon appear at exactly the right place at exactly the right time to penetrate the cabin and kill him, but the machine even unbelievably breaks through a rock wall, revealing the subterranean chamber which will provide the third-act climax (a towering ejaculation of air). Within moments after this run-in with Benny, Quaid and Melina’s injuries have miraculously healed (as they have several times before), as though they each just leveled-up and earned a restoration of health. And instead of simply blowing up the ancient alien reactor, Cohaagen - the final boss - kindly waits around for Quaid to arrive so that they can engage in a final battle.
8. In this sense, Total Recall was one of the many harbingers of the rise of video games in the blockbuster media landscape. Not only have video games begun to take over the economics of Hollywood, but in response to their 70 billion dollar annual world marketshare, it has become commonplace for films to adopt the aesthetics of gameplay. This is the case even in films which were not adapted from games. Christopher Nolan’s Inception (to return to a familiar touchstone) presents a rule-bound universe, violence as a preferred method of conflict resolution, discrete levels of escalating action and difficulty (which uncoincidentally correspond to the levels of the dream), and characters which are able to withstand inordinate swaths of opposing gunfire without injury (Saito is the only exception to this, but his exacerbating injuries work to deepen the challenge for the other characters). Jim Emerson wisely opined that “Inception was conceived as a kind of video game puzzle-movie.”
9. But despite the fact that all these characteristics make Total Recall a hypermasculine, misogynist, ultraviolent, sensory-motor-reward-circuit automatic-reaction thought-destroying pleasure-center-stimulation-fest, Total Recall is actually quite a sophisticated film. Through its generic markers and stylistic excess, Total Recall prompts its viewers to make concessions on reality and believe in an implausible diegesis. Then, Total Recall takes this suspension of disbelief (which is what allowed us to accept a filmic reality which has so little in common with extrafilmic reality) and turns it against itself, giving us a reason from within the narrative to mistrust a majority of what the film seems to present as reality. As such, Total Recall’s greatness consists in the way it justifies its own generic terribleness by implanting reflexive skepticism into the very foundation of the narrative. Whereas a film like Grindhouse attempts to justify its badness intertextually (it references other bad movies, so it’s okay) or in terms of the director’s intentionality (they meant it to be bad, so it’s okay), the narrative of Total Recall requires its terribleness as essentially constitutive of the film’s meaning. Without the ludicrous markers of genre, the film wouldn’t raise the possibility that nearly all of it is just Quaid’s dream. But its double-address allows us full freedom of choice over where we will enjoy the adventure and where we will scoff at its silliness! The narrative itself circumscribes both reactions and our oscillation between them. What’s more audience-flattering than a film that shows its intelligence by pretending it’s stupid, a film we can always feel superior to while justifiably insisting on its brilliance? (See quotation #6 here)
10. Total Recall arrived during a strange moment of transition in the arts. The end credits surprisingly advertise both a novelization and a video game based on the film (see above). In the second half of Twentieth Century, the aesthetics of art and the structure of games began to converge. In OuLiPo experiments (like this one), certain aleatoric music, and then later in Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books, isolated artworks first toyed with incorporating game elements by forcing the reader or musician to co-create the experience of the work on the fly. To be sure, Romans a clef had existed for centuries, challenging readers to crack an allegorical riddle, and paintings like Bruegel’s Netherlandish Proverbs encouraged a decoding practice somewhere between Where’s Waldo, a rebus, and Amelia Bedelia. But in such cases, the interpretation provided the puzzle (or game) element, while primary experience of reading or viewing the work remained basically an objective one, autonomous of any audience activity. Introducing game elements into an artwork turns the spectator into a co-creator. Rather than presenting the viewer with a stable set of aesthetic percepts, as artworks have always done, the game-inflected artwork contains a field of possibilities and a set of algorithms through which the viewer’s interaction creates an experience. Needless to say, this is a big change.