When Pixar first announced they were going to do a movie about what might be going on inside the human mind, most of us probably thought it meant the animation company going abstract for the first time in one of their stories. The idea of conveying what’s going on inside a human brain has been mostly elusive in films, especially in ones designed for families. But we should have known that it would have been impossible to tell a complete story with nothing but abstract shapes. While it may look that way in real life if we could live inside a brain, it was inevitable a little bit of human elements had to be seen there.
Hollywood has always realized this when conveying a world on the inside of a human being or technology. The movie “Tron” was one of the first movies to go within, except inside a computer. Even there, the figures interacting in the computer’s universe had human faces. Pixar’s brain movie “Inside Out” will now do the same, with perhaps a little abstraction thrown in to differentiate the world of the brain from the outside world.
Yes, the main characters still have abstract body shapes to represent certain emotions. To some, that might give more adult connotations of Woody Allen’s early 1970s film “Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask).” In said film, we had to be tortured into seeing sperm cells as people being ordered to take action from an even more human-looking command center in the human brain. It might have been the first look at the inside of a human body in an overly satiric way.
Regardless, plenty of serious novels that spent considerable time in a character’s mind have had to be chucked as movie adaptations because of the difficulty in conveying someone’s internal thoughts. A classic such as “Ulysses”, for example, has far too many thoughts inwardly (and too many banalities in the outside world) to make much sense as a film. The same goes with far too many other novels, even if some movies have managed to work around it all with narration in the background surrounding invented action on screen.
Now that Pixar’s “Inside Out” will convey emotions for the first time on screen, will it finally convince Hollywood to try more experimental movies where they try to show more of what’s going on in the human mind? While “Inside Out” might get a little Freudian in a funny way, how serious can movies get when figuring out how we tick?
Movies About the Brain and Mental Illness
We might find out more than we ever knew about a teenager’s mind in “Inside Out” thanks to depicting how individual emotions almost work in concert with one another. With Fear, Anger, Joy, Disgust, and Sadness as the main characters, we see a lot of the same emotion you might see in a mentally ill person who doesn’t get as much attention. Would a film be able to look inside the brain of a mentally troubled person and see why it leads to the actions they take? While it might be impossible to be completely serious when showing key figures inside the brain, showing them interact with the person they inhabit would be even more interesting. If sounding like an overly experimental indie movie, it doesn’t necessarily have to be with clever writing and situations.
No matter if a film about mental illness also has to have a little comedy with the drama, the insights it would give to understanding motivations and disruptions in the brain could enlighten everyone. With mental illness in the news whenever there’s another incident of mass gun violence, looking directly into the brain is the only way to process exactly what they’re thinking.
It also doesn’t matter if the movies have to put a human face on the cells and abstract emotions floating around in our cerebral regions. Perhaps they act more human in their basic behavior in there than brain scientists even know. If cells look abstract in shape, actually residing in the human brain could very well resemble a busy metropolis where motivations and intentions are full of chaotic intelligence around you.