Knives Out Analysis

To my eyes:

  • She goes along with Harlan’s plan to keep her mother’s secret.
  • She tags along with Benoit to keep her mother’s secret.
  • She helps Ransom to keep her mother’s secret.
  • She’s worried about the press because the attention might lead to the discovery of her mother’s secret.
  • She helps Fran, deciding people getting hurt isn’t worth her keeping her mother’s secret.
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I can see that…
But, worry about her mother’s secret, or caring about her mother’s secret… isn’t that still Mind?

Her mother’s secret is only a problem because she thinks she’s guilty of something.
In truth, she is not guilty of anything. No one was poisoned.

When Benoit is interviewing her, she’s not being grilled about her family and where they’re from.
She’s being grilled about the family dynamic, who is cheating on who, etc.

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That’s what I was going to say.

In this context, “keeping secrets” and “being guilty” = Mind/Memory/Falsehood.


I’m totally amenable to Mind. I’m just trying to make sure I’m looking at things clearly.

To me, the external state of her mom being undocumented is what leads her to worry. If you took out the Situation the worry would follow.

She’s not being grilled about where she comes from, but any attention in her risks her mother being found out.

Is that not a fair argument for a source of conflict?

If the situation about her mom was removed from the film, we might still have the same film.
Harlan could just as easily have not wanted her convicted of murder, since he already made the choice to change his will to give it to her… because she’s the only real family he’s got.

Then, at every point in the movie, she would still be worried about being caught for murder vs. doing the right thing.

Someone with a heart of gold who accidentally killed something would be pressed to turn themselves in, right? Which she ultimately (almost) does, until Benoit interrupts her.

I didn’t see each moment of dilemma as being about her mother being deported, so much as it was about her being exposed for being guilty of murder.
Her mother being deported was a “Cost” or “Consequence” to someone finding out her guilt.

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Harlan didn’t think she would be convicted of murder, just that the scrutiny of any investigation would lead to her mother being found out.

To me it seemed like a bit of both. In that attic scene, he talks about making sure she isn’t involved, and also that her family will be broken.

But, to my last point… is that really the thing creating conflict for her?
Say her family is deported. So what? What if she were like the Thrombeys and didn’t care?

Isn’t the real source of her inequity in her fixed attitude about it? That she has to Help her family?
That’s the thing she’s justifying, right? Isn’t that where we find the true source of inequity?

Her “problem” is that she has to help. Help Harlan, help her family, help Benoit, help Fran. She has to help when helping can get her in trouble, or when helping means also lying. To help save her family, she has to lie… which is something she literally can’t do without exposing herself.

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I’m not going to make an argument for anything below the domain level, but …

In my understanding the Thrombeys are the IC and that attitude is what resolves her conflict. :smile:

With lying about the phone call so the bad guy will do his bad thing and admit what he did?

If that were the case, wouldn’t she be permanently stuck in that new resolve of hindering?

She wouldn’t have that last dilemma discussion with Benoit where he commends her for maintaining her good heart and not playing their game.

She wouldn’t look at Harlan’s portrait and know that the right thing to do is follow through with his wish to change the family dynamic.

         I want you to remember something very
         important:  you won not by playing
         the game Harlan's way, but yours.

Through the window she sees the family outside.

         I should help them.  Right?
         I have my own opinion.  But I have a
         feeling you'll follow your heart.

He gives her a wink, and strolls off.

It seems here, Benoit implies to her/us that she will once again follow her heart and do the right thing.
It just so happens that in this case, giving the family monsters what they want is NOT the right thing. And she knows that now with certainty. So that’s why she keeps the house. It’s what’s best for them, for everyone.

Those are fair points, but I’m not arguing anything at the problem level. Only the Domains.

Okay, well let’s look at the Thrombeys as IC and see if that tracks.

I still think they’re OS, not IC.
And I still see Marta as remaining Steadfast, influenced by Harlan more than she’s influenced by them.

But, I’m willing to entertain the idea to prove it one way or the other.

So say they’re the IC. What Domain do you see them in?
Jim saw them in Universe>Past…

How is their Universe>Past causing conflict for Marta?

This would be a case where you want to separate what the characters think their problem is, and what the Author is focusing in on as the source of conflict. This is the trouble with the “Situation” nomenclature, because every character thinks she is in a difficult situation (not saying that’s where you’re coming from, but this where many others get tripped up).

Undocumented immigrant is the Subject Matter - the storytelling on top of the story structure.

Is the story about the label of illegal alien (Universe), or is it about attitudes about you people (Mind)?

Another way to check is to look at the personal moments where Marta deals with issues not connected to the Overall Story. The “ignoring murder mystery television” sequence mentioned before is a great example.

Lastly, looking at the Concerns and seeing all four at once, which one feels more complete in her journey?

Does Marta personally deal with Past, Present, Progress, and Future? Or does she deal with Memory, Preconscious, Subconscious, Conscious?

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I was simplifying the journey of a Changed perspective from one Domain to another as that is how it is often understood. A story is an argument, a teaching to the Audience, of what approach is more appropriate given a certain context. She “learns” Universe is more appropriate than Mind given a problem that appears as Speculation.

By proxy, the Audience learns this as the message of the film.

Marta says, “I can’t lie.” Harlan responds, “You don’t need to lie, just tell parts of the truth.” She actually LIES at the end willfully and with courage, almost like she has to choke down behaving like them. Yet, she does it.

That’s a Changed perspective.

Somewhere earlier I pointed out how she does this throughout the film. She lies 4 times, each time able to stifle the puke a little longer.

Yes, but in those cases she is unsuccessful. It is only the last one where is able to fool anyone.

3/4 times she is successful.

The first time she lies to introduce us to her problem.
The second time she lies being interviewed, and successfully holds it in until she leaves and no one notices.
She lies again when they’re caught after the car chase, holds it in again, duping the cops and Benoit, and pukes in the Big Gulp.
Then there’s the final lie about Fran dying, which she holds in longer, but still pukes.

If she were to be able to lie without puking, that’s change. But that never happens.

Storytelling vs. story structure.

Luke attacks four times in Star Wars - going after Sandpeople, throughout the Death Star, in the Gunpod, and finally against the Death Star. Attacking is the Subject Matter, the quality of attacking changes when he gives up Testing himself in exchange for Trusting in something else.

Marta puking is Subject Matter, but the quality of it–the structure of it–changes at the end - it’s intentional. Instead of the puke coming from Speculation, it’s now a matter of Projection. She’s literally projectile vomiting – knowing that putting the lie out there will probably result in Ransom’s confession. The other times it “came up” as a result of Speculation.

What’s an example of the speculating?

If they find out you accidentally poisoned Harlan, they might think you did it on purpose. They might think you convinced him to rewrite his will the week before. And they might find out your mom is an illegal alien.

The last lie isn’t speculation, it’s projection based upon what she knows a Thrombey is most likely going to say to protect himself.

The Speculation in the OS is classic whodunnit.

Clue is a family game of Speculation. In this version of Clue, Benoit seeks out motives (Desire) as he unravels one’s capacity (Ability) for murder.

I see what you’re saying about the quality of the Element

But still seeing a difference in quality in Knives vs. Wars. In Star Wars, it’s assumed Luke goes on to continue trusting in the Force. In Knives Out, we’re to assume she’s going to… what, exactly?

Or, how does the last scene beyond the projectile puking continue her illustration of having moved into projection?