Break on Through (To the Other Side)

I chose to write about a reference on page 273. Igor describes Russian films when he adds,

“not to mention greatest animated film ever made, Yozhik v Tumane (1975).”

Maxine hears spasmodic sniffling and looks in the front seat to find Misha and Grisha both with tears in their eyes and quivering lower lips.

“They, ah, like that one too?”

Igor shakes his head impatiently. “Hedgehogs, Russian thing, don’t ask.”

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Yozhik v Tumane is an obscure reference to the 1975 animated short that can be found on Youtube. After doing a little research, I found that this film was actually winner of “best animated film” in the Frunze All-Union Film Festival in 1976 and also named the “best film of all time” in Tokyo in 2003. Looking over various web blogs, I found that this film is widely known in Russia and taught in the US in some Russian classes – it’s truly a “Russian thing”. The Bleeding Edge Wiki mentioned that the film was included in the novel, but it did not contain any specific information about it, nor did outside sources probe the specific aspect of this short film that I point out in the subsequent comparison.

As you can see for yourself via the link above, this is an extremely bizarre and obscure animated film about a hedgehog and his friend, the bear. Every night, the hedgehog and the bear count the stars at the bear’s house whilst drinking tea. On this particular day, the hedgehog sets out for the bear’s house with some raspberry jam. In what follows I briefly attempt to explain the hedgehogs journey, but you should watch the video yourself to experience its raw strangeness.

As soon as the hedgehog departs for the bear’s house, he (or she?) is followed by a creepy-looking owl. After passing through woods, the hedgehog notices a white horse standing in a fog. He is worried that the horse would drown if it fell asleep in the fog, so the hedgehog enters the fog to explore its depths. As the hedgehog delves deeper and deeper, the fog thickens.

The hedgehog reaches the bottom of the fog and discovers a dark, mysterious world habited by bats and creatures that slip in and out of the haze. The hedgehog wanders deep within the fog, growing more frightful as he explores this mysterious world. Briefly, the owl appears and scares the spines out of the hedgehog. Despite the terrifyingly unknown world ahead, the hedgehog follows his curiosity into the silent, surreal environment.

Intermittently, a voice is heard calling out for the lost hedgehog. The hedgehog then stumbles into a hollow tree where he takes refuge for a moment, realizing he has lost his jam. A dog materializes with the jam, and the hedgehog finally decides he needs to get out escape the fog. Unsure of where he is, the hedgehog falls into a river where he is greeted by a slimy Someone, which carries the hedgehog safely back to the bear. The impatient kvetch scolds the hedgehog for being late. As the bear talks, the hedgehog sits unblinking, caught in another world.

The narrator concludes the film; “The Bear cub talked and talked, the Hedgehog thought: (queue the non-diagetic violin signaling to the audience some underlying importance here) ‘Isn’t it wonderful that we are together again.’ (Blank faced and lacking all sincerity) And also he thought about the horse: (camera zooming into his thoughts by way of his eyes) How is she, there… in the fog?” (Fade into black, The End).

If you haven’t noticed so far, the fog is eerily analogous to the Deep Web, more specifically DeepArcher. Like the fog, DeepArcher exemplifies the abstract subspace that characters are able to delve into. The hedgehog leaves behind the world he familiarized with when he descended into the fog, which eventually evolves into an alternate reality. Akin to the hedgehog, Deep Web surfers transgress their physical existence upon access into the cyber world. This meatspace/cyberspace dichotomy manifests itself throughout Bleeding Edge. Characters like Maxine and Eric struggle to accept their actualities as they are torn between these two realms. After spending more and more time in DeepArcher, Maxine struggles to grasp meat world reality as evidenced by her disappearing act via invisibility ring and her supposed run in with a goomba. Succinctly stated, “Certainly unforeseen in the original business plan, there arises now a possibility that DeepArcher is about to overflow out into the perilous gulf between screen and face.”(429) DeepArcher enveloped Maxine as she wandered into its depths. As she descends deeper into cyberspace, the farther she detaches herself from meatspace.

To me, the last minute of the Hedgehog in the Fog (which I outlined in the last paragraph in my synopsis) epitomizes the frightening reality of being caught between both worlds. The hedgehog seems absent after reemerging from the fog due in part because he is fed up with his physical existence. Moreover, he fails to detach from the enticing world found within the fog. As a result, the hedgehog cannot wholly exist in one world because he concurrently dwells in both. This directly correlates to Maxine’s addiction to DeepArcher.

“Not addicted exactly, though one day she happens to be back out in meatspace for a second, looks at the clock on the wall, does the math, figures three and a half hours she cant account for. Luckily there’s nobody but herself to ask what she’s down there looking for because the answer’s so pathetically obvious.

Yes, she’s aware DeepArcher doesn’t do resurrections, thanks for pointing it out.” (426)

Pynchon presents the idea that Maxine is searching for a habitable universe independent of her physical reality. This virtual reality enables Maxine to experience things that cannot exist in “the real world”. Maxine even runs into Lester in DeepArcher, despite the fact that he’s dead; though, as he claims, “I’m not dead, I’m a refugee from my life.”(427) He states later, “Lost down here is the whole point. Take a good look at the surface Web sometime, tell me it isn’t a sorry picture.”(428)

Lester (or whatever he/she/it is) elucidates the idea that virtual reality provides an outlet for an alternative life: one that escapes the bounds of physical reality by permitting a limitless existence. Ultimately, DeepArcher empowers users to explore and create their own worlds.

Citations

Pynchon, Thomas. Bleeding Edge. New York, New York: Penguin Group, 2013. Print.

Hedgehog in the Fog. YouTube. N.p., 8 Oct. 2009. Web. 23 Feb. 2015. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oW0jvJC2rvM&gt;.

“Yuri Borisovich Norshteyn.” PYCCAST BEPCUST. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Feb. 2015. <http://norshteyn.ru/eng/modules.php?name=Pages&page=2&gt;.

“Hedgehog in the Fog.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 1 Feb. 2015. Web. 21 Feb. 2015. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hedgehog_in_the_Fog&gt;

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One Response to Break on Through (To the Other Side)

  1. An excellent catch on the reference and a superb reading.

    Like

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