Psychological Landscape in an Abandoned Warehouse
Scene Analysis 3×09
“Psychological landscape” refers to the environment surrounding the characters as a means of exploring their innermost feelings. The setting in which a scene takes place can have simultaneous dual interpretations – a literal one and a metaphoric one. As this scene between Ian and Mickey transpires, the audience is experiencing the juxtaposition of Mickey’s reality versus his sub-conscious turmoil. On the surface, we see a physical interaction between two tangible characters. But, figuratively, it depicts the internal battle Mickey is waging on the inside. Ian is present in the flesh, but he also represents the demons in Mickey’s head.
As the scene opens, the camera pans the expanse of a cavernous room inside of an abandoned warehouse. A low thrumming sound infuses the background with white noise. Police sirens wail faintly in the distance. Paint peels from the walls in ugly curls. A water-damaged ceiling con-caves up above from which wisps of cobwebs hang down. Chunks of debris litter the floor. The room is empty and stark; dingy, dirty, and cold. Emotionless. Windows, missing their glass, cut out of the bare concrete like gaping wounds, but all that can be seen beyond them is a monotonous network of more abandoned buildings. Off to the far left corner is a dark entrance way. Ian stands in the shadows of the framework.
The entirety of this dwelling represents the dark recesses of Mickey’s mind. Every building, every room of every floor, is a layer of his psyche. A filmy, pale light filters the room in washed out hues of yellowing-white, gray, and hints of a septic green. The lack of distinct colors or direct sunlight creates a bleak atmosphere; the feeling of being in a daze, an almost dream-like state, devoid of the senses. Everything in the vicinity is cracked and decaying. In a far corner opposite of the windows, Mickey sits slumped and withdrawn inside of his depression, eyes downcast, drinking whiskey from the bottle. Dark smudges are smeared across his face. His outward appearance reveals his inward experience. Expressionless, he appears to be consumed in a state of deep melancholy. He dejectedly throws a rock across the room, but the action is halfhearted. There is no force or power behind his arm. There is no passion or anger. There is nothing.
As this room is the mirror of Mickey’s mind, Ian’s presence is the personification of Mickey’s conscience. Ian manifests from the dim edges of Mickey’s thoughts. Ian doesn’t even fully emerge into the room, but rather hangs in the shadows.
Ian’s voice echoes in the vastness of the room. “So, is it true? You’re getting married?”
Mickey doesn’t look at Ian. He takes a swig from his bottle, his attempt to drown out the voices in his head.
Ian asks “So, uh, who is it? Is it, uh, Angie Zahgo? Or, some other piece of trash you screw so you can pretend I don’t matter to you?”
Mickey ignores the inquisition and throws another rock into the expanse of the room. Anything to distract himself from the invasive thoughts swirling outside and inside of his head. For a brief moment, the image of Ian is blocked out by his arm.
Ian rolls his eyes in irritation. Demanding to be acknowledged, he marches the rest of the way into the chamber, into Mickey’s line of sight; to the forefront of Mickey’s mind. Ian grabs an empty bottle from the window sill, spins around, and smashes it into the ground. The explosion momentarily rips Mickey from his catatonic state.
“Oh! He speaks!” Ian shouts, his arms splayed out like a crucifix with the intent to occupy the maximum amount of visual space. He has accomplished his goal of infiltrating Mickey’s line of sight. However, Ian appears small and far away in the shot indicating Mickey’s refusal to focus his attention on him. Mickey rises unsteadily to his feet to leave the room, effectively running away from his problems by leaving Ian behind.
Mickey exits the building with Ian hot on his heels.
“So that’s it, we’re over?” Ian asks.
Mickey raises his hand to his temple in exasperation. He quickens his step, trying to increase the distance between himself and Ian’s needling.
Somewhere along the way, Mickey had resigned himself to his fate. Disassociation is the method he chose to cope with the trauma. By withdrawing socially he avoided future conversations on a painful subject and drowned out any lingering past ones with alcohol. Due to his present drunkenness, the lines are blurring between his reality and his sub-consciousness. Ian is now giving voice to feelings he had pushed deep down inside.
“Your dad beats the shit out of us and you’re just going to get married. No conversation. Nothing?”
Mickey’s expression conveys a controlled anger that is slowly seeping to the surface. He refuses to slow his step, pretending he doesn’t hear Ian’s words. Ian, struggling to contain his own frustration, grabs hold of Mickey’s shoulder and whips him around.
Mickey pushes Ian away. This act is viewed through one of the empty warehouse windows representing Mickey’s mind. The flash from inside the window implies Mickey is pushing away his feelings towards Ian, or the subjects Ian is bringing up, in the same way he physically pushes Ian away from him.
Mickey and Ian face each other for the first time now, but Mickey’s eyes are cold and detached. Ian softly whispers “hey” as he closes the gap between them, reaching out to Mickey. Mickey instinctively shrinks away from him, then lunges at Ian with blunt force, giving him another hard shove backwards. “Get the fuck off of me.”
For a split second, the camera angle changes to a bird’s eye view. This perspective allows the audience to fully take in the surroundings of the scene. Mickey and Ian both appear very small, overwhelmed and encircled by what appears to be an entire campus of neglected, derelict structures. The land itself is cold and barren. Snow lays on the ground. The grass is dead. The trees have no leaves. The lack of life-essence depicts a sense of hopelessness and symbolizes the death of a dream or ideal.
The camera circles back behind Mickey and Ian as they square off. The rotating perspective heightens the sense of tension between the two characters. Their positioning is evocative of those split seconds preceding a confrontation, when the determination is made as to which instinct will kick in first – fight or flight.
Ian’s stance is on the offensive. He faces Mickey straight on with his with feet firmly planted; he is prepared for a scuffle. Mickey’s posture, on the other hand, is indicative of someone on the defensive. He is not facing Ian, instead aiming his shoulder as a potential blocking mechanism, and leaving the path ahead of him wide open. Mickey stands slightly hunched over, shifting his weight from one foot to the other. His body language suggests he does not want an altercation, he wants to flee.
Ian, misinterpreting Mickey’s physical reactions, antagonizes him, “Oh, you wanna fag bash? That make you feel like a man?”
Mickey eyes Ian suspiciously as he licks the side of his mouth, an indication he is uncomfortable and distressed. Ian instigates Mickey further, coming at him while shouting “Come on! Go ahead. Do it!”
At first, Mickey does not respond to the challenge. He stands his ground, though the agitation in his expression is clear. Not until Ian advances forward, invading Mickey’s personal space, does Mickey lash out by punching Ian in the stomach. Ian groans and drops to the ground. Mickey immediately takes two steps back from Ian. Whispering “fuck” as he turns away, Mickey bends over to retrieve the liquor bottle. Again, he attempts to vacate the premises and takes off at a brisk walk.
Ian says, “You love me.”
The camera pans down on Ian, who is still on the ground, clutching his stomach. He whispers “And you’re gay.”
Mickey stops in his tracks. Ian speaks a truth, but it is a fully loaded statement that encapsulates everything Mickey resents in himself. Words that are the reason why he finds himself in this heart-breaking predicament. Words that are the source of his shame, the reason for his depression, the origin of his self-loathing. Words that trigger post traumatic stress and words that are the cause of the violence raged against him. Words that could get him killed or, worse yet, get Ian killed by his deranged father.
“Just admit it.” Ian stands up to face him, “Just this once, fucking admit it.”
Mickey punches him in the mouth, dropping Ian to the ground a second time. Another action viewed from inside the window of Mickey’s mind, as he tries to silence both voices. Quell his own fears bubbling up along with Ian’s spoken words.
Agony and despair wash over Mickey’s face. He looks up to the sky pleadingly, searching for the strength to harness his emotions back down again. Wiping away the tears in his eyes, he struggles to gain control of his composure.
“You feel better now?” Ian goads.
Mickey turns around. The change in his physical demeanor is apparent as he builds up his walls. His expression transforms from anguish to anger.
“Feel like a man?” asks Ian.
Once and for all, Mickey resolves to extinguish his suffering and torment, to mute Ian’s questioning. With all of his strength, Mickey kicks Ian in the mouth, literally and figuratively kicking the words away.
Ian launches backwards on contact with Mickey’s boot and falls on his back. He does not attempt to get up. Nothing is left for him to say. Mickey drains the bottle, numbing any remnants of remorse. He nonchalantly tosses the empty bottle off to the side and walks away without a second glance.
“I feel better now.” Mickey says. He no longer feels anything at all.