In one of William Shakespeare's most famous plays, Hamlet instructs the players to hold the mirror up to nature to reflect the human condition. And in Being John Malkovich, the actors follow those instructions to the T.
Director Spike Jonze, writer Charlie Kaufman and the players could not have portrayed humanity in a better way.
In the film, people can enter into John Malkovich's mind and, for a period of time, be him. The motivation to do such a thing can be summed up as trying to attain that which one does not have to be happy.
For Lester, the old man who knows how the process works, it is all about striving to have an eternal life
For the puppeteer, it is a way to be successful in his career and have the woman he loves.
For the puppeteer's wife, this is a means to become sexually fulfilled.
And even for the other people, who pay $200 to enter the portal and become John Malkovich, this is a way to have a more exciting life.
So what is wrong with being happy? Nothing of course, only that Malkovich himself is the one who pays the price for the fulfillment of everybody else's desires.
At one point the puppeteer analyzes his actions, realizes that what he has been doing (sending people through Malkovich's mind) is wrong and wonders if he has become a monster.
And though the thought of it scares him, he is powerless to stop. And instead his obsession leads him not only to be inside Malkovich's mind, but to take control over his whole being.
This is an extreme concept - yet not really. We all seek to control our own lives, our own circumstances. And in a time where we are encouraged to think that "anything goes as long as it makes you happy," the characters' actions including the puppeteer's seem quite justifiable.
Unfortunately, the film shows that no one really found a happy ending - even though all, except Malkovich, got what they wanted. This leaves us something to think about concerning our own natures.
Written by Tatiana Morales. ©1999 CBS Worldwide Inc. All Rights Reserved
Copyright 1999 CBS. All rights reserved.
CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff