To celebrate Spike Jonze’s birthday today, let’s take a look back to his first feature film: Being John Malkovich (1999)
Spike Jonze is one of the most influential and creative directors working today. He began his career as a music video director, working on videos like Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage” and Björk’s “It’s Oh So Quiet.” He then stepped away from directing music videos and turned to film-directing. Some of his most famous works include Adaptation (2002) and Her and Where the Wild Things Are (2009). However, his directorial debut Being John Malkovich (1999) is still considered his best work by many; the film perfectly encapsulates his innovative directing style and originality.
Being John Malkovich is a dark comedy film starring the one and only John Malkovich. It revolves around an unsuccessful puppeteer named Craig (John Cusack), who gets an office job to support him and his wife Lotte (Cameron Diaz). Craig begins working on the 7 ½ floor of a peculiar office building. One day, he finds a mysterious doorway, discovering that it has a portal that goes inside the mind of actor John Malkovich; there, Craig can see and hear everything Malkovich experiences for 15 minutes. When the time runs out, Craig finds himself dropped at the side of the New Jersey Turnpike. He tells his co-worker and office crush Maxine (Catherine Keener) about this discovery, and they begin to find ways to use this portal for profit. Eventually, they figure out how to control Malkovich when inside the portal.
Crazy concept, right? The story, while getting even wackier as it goes along, simultaneously evokes philosophical themes and questions. The characters become obsessed with going inside Malkovich’s mind, which leads them to question their identities. The film explores what exactly human consciousness is and discusses the concept of free will. Charlie Kaufman’s terrific screenplay expertly crafts this ingenious plot, and Jonze masterfully brings these ideas to life. The film’s gritty environment and its enchanting atmosphere captivate the film’s audience from beginning to end.
Jonze demonstrates his directorial skill in the most famous scene of the movie: the spectacular “Malkovich? Malkovich” scene. Here, we see his iconic trademarks as a director: close-ups of main characters to show their emotional state and the ingenious use of music that escalates the scene and to add further suspense and awe.
You can check this masterpiece out on Netflix. We wish Spike Jonze a happy birthday and thank him for his phenomenal work.