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13 June 2011

Monsters from the Id

Forbidden Planet was released in 1956 and stars Walter Pidgeon, Anne Francis, Leslie Nielsen, and Robbie the Robot.

The adventure takes place on Altair IV, an earth-like planet 16 light years away. A rescue ship has been sent from Earth to investigate the disappearance of an expedition sent to Altair IV two decades earlier. The captain of the ship is warned away from the planet by one of two survivors, Dr. Morbius. Only he and his daughter, Altaira, survived a mysterious, invisible force that killed the members of the expedition. The original inhabitants of the planet, the Krell, were also destroyed by the same violent, invisible force. All of the Krell technology was left intact and in good working order, but every single inhabitant vanished in one night. The machines and computers on the planet are powered by a vast network of thermonuclear reactors.

Dr. Morbius has spent his years on Altair IV experimenting with a Krell device he calls the “plastic educator.” The device increases intelligence and enables the user to create a 3-dimensional projection of his or her thoughts. The device, obviously created for Krell biology, is dangerous to human brains and can cause instant death to the user. Dr. Morbius has managed to build up some resistance to the dangerous effects of the device during his years of experimentation.

One night a mysterious, invisible entity enters the crew encampment and destroys some valuable equipment. The captain orders a force field to be installed around the camp, but the entity returns the next night to murder a crew member. Several more crew members are killed over the course of a few nights. A member of the crew, Ostrow, sneaks into the Krell facility to use the “plastic educator” in the hopes of increasing his intellectual abilities so that he will have the knowledge necessary to understand the invisible monster that has been killing the crew. The device proves to be too much for his human brain to withstand and he is mortally injured. Before he dies, he explains to the captain of the crew that the machines left behind by the Krell were used to create physical matter from mere thoughts. He reveals the knowledge he received about the entity that has been killing them: “Monsters from the id! Monsters from the subconscious!” The film ends with Dr. Morbius sacrificing his own life to save his daughter and the captain of the rescue crew.

We human beings don’t need a “plastic educator” to release the monsters that lurk in the deepest recesses of our subconscious minds. According to Sigmund Freud, the “id” is that part of the human psyche where the primitive desires reside. These subconscious desires drive us to act in ways that satisfy our desire for pleasure. The id takes no notice of reality, is unrestrained by morals, ethics or consequences. The id wants what it wants when it wants it. There is no reasoning with the id. The ego pushes back against the id to balance base impulses against reality and avoid pain. The superego is the place in the mind where the morals and self-restraint reside. When the id is unrestrained by the ego and the person has an under-developed superego, the monsters in the id are unleashed. Every evil, vile, erotic, hateful, violent, lustful and terrible thought takes form in the words and actions of the person whose id dominates the structure of their psyche. In Forbidden Planet the monster is the id; the force field is the ego; the sacrifice Dr. Morbius made to save his daughter is the superego.

Sometimes artists and writers use their craft as a way to give shape and form to their monsters from the id. The monsters are often outlined in the paint, the shape of the stone and the arrangement of words. Those monsters move from their mind and into the art where they destroy the viewer and the creator alike. The monsters want what they want when they want it, and nothing, not morality, not compassion, not fear of punishment or being ostracized – nothing will stand in the way of the monster. It exists for its own pleasure and nothing else. It will attack with great ferocity anyone who it perceives as standing in the way of achieving its goal.


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