I Heart Huckabees: Concept of Dasein Essay
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This is one of my attempts to highlight a few of the connections between the thought provoking scenes of this movie and the Existential movement in 19th and 20th century Philosophy. I do list and describe a few scenes and quotes, so i’ll throw on a SPOILER alert just in case. One of the most prominent concepts in I (Heart) Huckabees is that of Martin Heidegger’s Dasein. Dasein, literally meaning “Being-there”, is Heidegger’s method in which he applies another prominant Existential philospher, Edmund Husserl’s phenomenology to human beings themselves.
What it does is instead of defining a “thing” and putting it into a preconceived category, one waits for the “thing” to reveal itself in its own time. The remarkable thing about Heidegger is that he never calls human beings “man”, but instead we are Dasein – in other words, we are simply in a field of being where we are free to define who we are for ourselves.
Our being Dasein is our “thrownness” into life(a prominant theme to the Existential movement), and we are “thrown” into life with other Dasein(you and I).
This then leads to mitdasein (“with-there-being”), meaning we are still “being-there”(Dasien), but now we are there with other Dasein. I (Heart) Huckabees demonstrates Heidegger’s Dasein and mitdasein multiple times, usually emphasized by Dustin Hoffman’s character, Bernard. In the first few scenes of the movie, Bernard speaks of infinity and “the blanket. ” He holds up a blanket and asks us to imagine that it is the entire universe. Each part of the blanket is a different person, place, or thing; whether it is a hammer, or Paris, or you, the reader of this review.
The point he makes is that everything in the universe is interconnected and we can’t tell where one person begins and another ends. Bernard also tells us, “The universe is an infinite sphere, the center is everywhere and the circumference is nowhere. ” This is a wonderful example of Heidegger’s Dasein; our being has no outside to speak of, it is totality. The blanket represents mitdasein, demonstrating that we are not alone in our infinite field of being, but instead are accompanied by every other Dasein, all overlapping.
Another of Heidegger’s Existential ideas is tossed about in I (Heart) Huckabees, though not as defined as the illusions to Dasein. When Tommy (Mark Wahlberg) and Albert (Jason Schwartzman), meet the French nihilist, Caterine (Isabelle Huppert), she introduces Heidegger’s concept of authenticity and inauthenticity. In the scene, Caterine has Tommy and Albert repeatedly bash each other in the face with a large ball; they continue to hit one another until the one being beaten ceases to think for a brief period. They have discovered what Caterine calls “Pure Being.
” In ceasing to think, Albert and Tommy are allowed to simply be free to exist (Dasein, again), but they are soon pulled back in their minds, which Caterine names human drama. Though they think they can teach themselves to stay in a state of “Pure Being” all the time, Caterine explains that it will always be a cycle, going from “Pure Being” to human drama and back again. According to Heidegger, before we realize our selves, we are in a state of Verfallenheit, or “fallen-ness. ” In this state, we are slaves to what Heidegger calls the One (“human drama”), or rather the public life.
We are part of this public creature and we are categorized for being as such. This constricts us as Dasein and doesn’t allow us to realize our full potential. It is during this state of Verfallenheit, and being part of the One, that we are inauthentic. We are not being true to ourselves as Dasein, and therefore not allowing ourselves to rise to the level of existence we need to reach. It is only when we break free from the One and enter the level of Self that we become authentic, true selves.
Heidegger understands, however, that sometimes we are pulled back into Verfallenheit, and must then go back through the One, or human drama as Caterine puts it, and back into the level of self. As Heidegger explains our cycle of inauthenticity and authenticity, Caterine explains much the same thing in her description of the cycle between “Pure Being” and human drama. Another I (Heart) Huckabees scene with high existential fiber is the short poem about a rock which Albert has written for his “open spaces” campaign: “Nobody sits like this rock sits. You rock, rock. The rock just sits and is.
You show us how to just sit here… and that’s what we need. ” The poem brings to light the term Being-for-itself (etre pour soi), which is most closely associated with famous Existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre. Because of our consciousness, this term is most often applied to human beings and states that we are always beyond ourselves, thinking thoughts of ourselves, obsessively thinking of our pasts and futures, etc. This causes alot of pain and suffering for human kind – causing us to view ourselves in the future or judge ourselves according to the past – failing to be in the present moment, in the NOW.
Unlike the rock which is always in the present moment, or, “being-in-itself”, Sartre believes that we can never possess ourselves fully. We can posses the rock, however, because it is a thing. The rock is not conscious, it is what it is at all moments… but this is something impossible for humans because of our capability to go beyond ourselves in consciousness. In the final scene of the movie, Albert and Tommy are sitting on the rock and Albert claims that “The interconnection thing is definitely for real.
” Heidegger would smile at Albert’s newfound discovery of mitdasein, that we are not alone in our infinite field of being, but instead are accompanied by all others. “Everything is the same, even if it’s different. ” In this closing scene, in the same place as when the movie opened, seeing them both there on the rock made it hard not to think of the characters Vladimir and Estragon from Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, a famous Existential play in which two men wait endlessly in the middle of nowhere for a man named “Godot”. The Existentialism that gave birth to many of the scenes in the movie, I believe to be numerous.
I have only touched upon a fraction of these. For example, two very famous philosophers – Friedrich Nietzsche and Soren Kierkegaard – can be seen as represented by the characters of Caterine and Bernard. Nietzsche, most well known for his claim that “God is dead”, may very well be an incarnation in the philosophy shown by Caterine. Kierkegaard on the other hand, who believed that God is not dead, but trully being faithful requires a “leap of faith”, is brought alive in the enlightening and “soft” teachings of Bernard and his wife.
I wont go into further detail about the works of these two men, but encourage anyone interested to read deeper into their two philosophies… you will certainly find more connections between the movie and the Existential movement. I hope this has helped share some light on those both perplexed by the movie and those interested in knowing the deeper historical and philosophical aspect of I (Heart) Huckabees. If you take some time to educate yourself on the background of Existentialism, you may find that I (Heart) Huckabees prooves to be a totally different experience when viewed a second time around.