Subtext and themes

BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 31,733Chief of Staff
Let me say upfront that I know James Bond adventures are not meant to be deep and meaningful- anyone who's seen MR would know that. They are there to be enjoyed first and foremost.
Nevertheless, there are some themes in there which enrich them- if one is interested enough. The book "Bond Films" (Virgin, 2002) by Jim Smith and Stephen Lavington touches on a few of these, and I'm hoping this thread can elaborate on their observations.

In another thread http://www.ajb007.co.uk/topic/44113/my-summer-love-letter-to-james-bond-a-series-of-bond-reviews/page/5/ I mentioned that FYEO has a subtext about aging, including Bond himself. For example, the very young Bibi rejects Kristatos as being too old, but throws herself at Bond, who politely rejects her as being too young. Perhaps ironically, Julian Glover is a good few years younger than Roger Moore in real life although his character is meant to be older. Tied in with this is the theme of revenge- specifically the possible uselessness of it- not only Melina's desire to avenge her parents but the whole Columbo/Kristatos simmering rivalry which dates back entire decades. I could point out more details (such as Jacoba Brink and her role) but would be happier if others could contribute.

As a relatively serious entry in the film series, it isn't too surprising that FYEO should have relatively serious themes (and of course these trace back, at least partially, to the Fleming short stories it was based on). What is surprising is that DAF should have a theme. It's one of the weaker Bond movies (much as I love it, I do have to admit that) and is usually held to be light and silly. The theme here is doubles/pairs and the list is endless. Blofeld employs two pairs of two assassins/bodyguards (Wint and Kidd. Bambi and Thumper), he doubles as Willard Whyte, there are two sets of diamonds, Bond doubles as Peter Franks, Blofeld creates doubles of himself.... you get the idea. Or perhaps the theme is falseness? Bond is a false Franks, Blofeld a false Whyte, one set of diamonds is false, Bond kills a false Blofeld (twice!), the moon walk is false....

OHMSS is about snobbery and titles. The two main characters (aside from Bond himself) are a man who wants to be a Count and a woman who doesn't want to be a Countess- she'd rather be Mrs James Bond. In her book "The Devil With James Bond!" (Knox, 1967), Ann S. Boyd draws parallels with Bond's villains and the Seven Deadly Sins- this story is her example of Pride. Obviously, Goldfinger is the representative of avarice- his greed for gold is the mainspring of the plot.

Smith and Lavington claim that LALD is about masks and personae- the most obvious example being Mr Big/Kananga of course. I'm not sure I 100% agree with that, but it's there if one looks for it.

Okay, there are a few examples. I'm happy to be shot down if anyone disagrees (Silhouette Man, this is very much your area) but would be even happier for us to discuss other examples- I could go on, especially with SF which is rich in subtext, but would like to open this up.
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Comments

  • ThunderpussyThunderpussy Behind you !Posts: 63,697MI6 Agent
    I'm not going to be any help on this one, as I only
    Found out today that Patrice's gun was built into a
    Briefcase. :)) if I couldn't see that, I have no chance
    Of seeing any subtle subtext or themes. :D
    "I've been informed that there ARE a couple of QAnon supporters who are fairly regular posters in AJB."
  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 31,733Chief of Staff
    You underestimate yourself, TP. It's all there if you look for it!
  • Charmed & DangerousCharmed & Dangerous Posts: 7,286MI6 Agent
    First off - excellent thread, Barbel. -{

    I find the subtexts and themes fascinating. One of my favourites is the theme of Betrayal which runs through Goldeneye. It's as though, in the aftermath of the Cold War, nothing is quite what it seems anymore - nothing and no-one can be trusted.

    Bond is betrayed by Trevelyan, Natalya is betrayed by Boris.
    Bond says to Ouromov, "What has he promised you, this Coassack? You knew, didn't you? He's a Lienz Cossack... he'll betray you. Just like everyone else".
    And of course, the British Government betrayed the Lienz Cossacks in the Second World War.

    Is there also a sense that Bond betrays Trevelyan? "I knew that 007's loyalty was always to the mission, never to his friends". Of course, we know better: 007 would never betray his country - but he's prepared to drop his friends. Literally, in the case of Trevelyan. :))
    "How was your lamb?" "Skewered. One sympathises."
  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 31,733Chief of Staff
    Nice one, C&D. Betrayal, who to trust, it's there all right.

    I wonder if there's another theme hiding in GE, too, just a hint of "is 007 out of date in the 90s?"- to which the obvious answer is "of course not"! :))
  • HigginsHiggins GermanyPosts: 16,422MI6 Agent
    edited August 2014
    Excellent thread Barbel, but IMO you are overinterpreting things.

    There is a common example in Germany which shows, that 2 isolated observations don't necessarily have something to do with each other:

    Observation nr1: The populaion of Stork birds is decreasing for years in Germany
    Observation nr.2: The birth rate in Germany drops since years

    So one could say from these observations, that the falling birth rate is caused by the increasingly absence of stork birds (which are said to bring the babies).

    400_F_48517570_YHjst41uJxehdNWosWBGG1inbO8K6hjU.jpg

    The entire "too old" "too young" theme in FYEO IMO had a much more simple reason:
    To mock on Jimmy Bond's image to lay every chick in his presence within seconds. Roger Moore once said that it's hilarious that the baddies in his movies don't know the name "James Bond" while in the real western world every kid knows that he is a british secret agent.

    Rejecting Bibi may be in the same context - just smiling to the audience "you know - he'd usually join her in a second but the entire scene is so absurd in real life that we do something different".

    So, yes, there are certain "age" points in FYEO, but in my opinion, they have no real connection in a larger scheme.
    President of the 'Misty Eyes Club'.

    Dalton - the weak and weepy Bond!
  • HigginsHiggins GermanyPosts: 16,422MI6 Agent
    Barbel wrote:
    Nice one, C&D. Betrayal, who to trust, it's there all right.

    I wonder if there's another theme hiding in GE, too, just a hint of "is 007 out of date in the 90s?"- to which the obvious answer is "of course not"! :))

    Hmmm, wonder if the Dalton Movies make a nod to NSNA: Tears of Allah :D
    President of the 'Misty Eyes Club'.

    Dalton - the weak and weepy Bond!
  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 31,733Chief of Staff
    Thanks Higgins. Yes, I may be overinterpreting but IMHO it's worth going into just for fun.
    The English equivalent to your saying would roughly be "Two swallows do not a summer make". I'm sure there is a bit of coincidence involved (or is there...?) but much of it is surely intentional. There are other examples to cite and points to make, but I'd rather others get involved than me make lists.
  • Sir MilesSir Miles The Wrong Side Of The WardrobePosts: 25,369Chief of Staff
    Wow - I'm amazed - "AJB in good thread shocker :o

    Great observations by all - except Higgins of course :v :))

    Seriously - great thread -{
    YNWA 97
  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 31,733Chief of Staff
    Thank you, Sir Miles! :)
  • Sir MilesSir Miles The Wrong Side Of The WardrobePosts: 25,369Chief of Staff
    Barbel wrote:
    Thank you, Sir Miles! :)

    I know - high praise indeed coming from me :D
    YNWA 97
  • ThunderpussyThunderpussy Behind you !Posts: 63,697MI6 Agent
    " Coincidence ! I don't believe in them !". :))
    I do think perhaps even subconsciously when a script is being
    Worked on some themes will work their way in. In the cases
    Mentioned by Barbel, there seem too many to be mere coincidence. :D
    "I've been informed that there ARE a couple of QAnon supporters who are fairly regular posters in AJB."
  • HigginsHiggins GermanyPosts: 16,422MI6 Agent
    Sir Miles wrote:

    Great observations by all - except Higgins of course :v :))

    In a fast-changing world there must be consistency.
    And I am happy to provide these spiritual anchors :D
    President of the 'Misty Eyes Club'.

    Dalton - the weak and weepy Bond!
  • Sir MilesSir Miles The Wrong Side Of The WardrobePosts: 25,369Chief of Staff
    Higgins wrote:
    Sir Miles wrote:

    Great observations by all - except Higgins of course :v :))

    In a fast-changing world there must be consistency.
    And I am happy to provide these spiritual anchors :D

    I'd be happy if you were consistent in your watch choices ! :v
    YNWA 97
  • ThunderpussyThunderpussy Behind you !Posts: 63,697MI6 Agent
    The word certainly rhymes with Anchor ! :)) :p ;)
    "I've been informed that there ARE a couple of QAnon supporters who are fairly regular posters in AJB."
  • AlphaOmegaSinAlphaOmegaSin EnglandPosts: 10,924MI6 Agent
    The Cold War was a fascinating, but dangerous Period in History -{
    1.On Her Majesties Secret Service 2.The Living Daylights 3.license To Kill 4.The Spy Who Loved Me 5.Goldfinger
  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 31,733Chief of Staff
    The Cold War was a fascinating, but dangerous Period in History -{

    A theme of many movies at the time, and even a few later. The Bond film which features that most prominently is FRWL, of course.
  • AlphaOmegaSinAlphaOmegaSin EnglandPosts: 10,924MI6 Agent
    Of course ;)
    1.On Her Majesties Secret Service 2.The Living Daylights 3.license To Kill 4.The Spy Who Loved Me 5.Goldfinger
  • ThunderpussyThunderpussy Behind you !Posts: 63,697MI6 Agent
    ..... and thanks to Putin and his mates, we're entering the second Cold War ! :#
    "I've been informed that there ARE a couple of QAnon supporters who are fairly regular posters in AJB."
  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 31,733Chief of Staff
    Okay, no-one's prepared to step forward with the honourable exception of Charmed & Dangerous who put up some interesting points about GE. So, it's back to me.

    FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE

    The film is ostensibly about the Cold War, as AlphaOmegaSin hinted above. The theme, though, is sex. (Got your attention? :D )

    The most obvious example here is Bond being obliged to sleep with Tania as part of a plot forced on the two of them by their respective governments (in the book, she is under the direct orders of Mother Russia- in the film, she only thinks so.) Bond is attracted by Tania- who wouldn't be?- but is reluctant to, in Fleming's choice phrase, "pimp for England". She reluctantly goes along with her orders. Once they see each other, though, the orders are stuffed (cf TLD) and they truly are drawn together. A genuine attraction keeps them together for the rest of the story, apart from one instance where Bond doubts her after the death of Kerim and viciously slaps her.

    James and Tania are presented as the central, "normal" couple and are contrasted with the other main characters surrounding them. Klebb is shown as a repulsive lesbian (hard to miss that), Grant is a psychotic asexual who achieves satisfaction through killing (much more of this in the book), Kerim has irrepressible sexual appetites (exactly how many sons does he have? "Biggest family payroll in Turkey"). The gypsy girl fight is there for the audiences's voyeuristic pleasure- again, the book scores higher than the film here. Terence Young has been quoted as saying to Fleming "Exactly how do you expect me to get that past the censors?!". The confrontation between Grant and Bond is heavy with symbolism- male/male dominance/submission primarily. Tania's having to choose between shooting Klebb and Bond at the end speaks for itself.

    All Bond stories, by which I mean novels and films, have sex as a strong element. I suggest that only in FRWL is it the main theme of the story, ie the story would not exist without it. DN would work without Honey, GF without Pussy, etc. IMHO the only other Bond story which compares with FRWL in the strong sexual theme, and I know I'm going to get flack for this, is TWINE- and that has its own themes/subtext to deal with (Elektra is called Elektra for a reason, you know!).
  • samurai4114samurai4114 Alberta, CanadaPosts: 129MI6 Agent
    Barbel wrote:
    Okay, no-one's prepared to step forward with the honourable exception of Charmed & Dangerous who put up some interesting points about GE. So, it's back to me.

    FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE

    The film is ostensibly about the Cold War, as AlphaOmegaSin hinted above. The theme, though, is sex. (Got your attention? :D )

    The most obvious example here is Bond being obliged to sleep with Tania as part of a plot forced on the two of them by their respective governments (in the book, she is under the direct orders of Mother Russia- in the film, she only thinks so.) Bond is attracted by Tania- who wouldn't be?- but is reluctant to, in Fleming's choice phrase, "pimp for England". She reluctantly goes along with her orders. Once they see each other, though, the orders are stuffed (cf TLD) and they truly are drawn together. A genuine attraction keeps them together for the rest of the story, apart from one instance where Bond doubts her after the death of Kerim and viciously slaps her.

    James and Tania are presented as the central, "normal" couple and are contrasted with the other main characters surrounding them. Klebb is shown as a repulsive lesbian (hard to miss that), Grant is a psychotic asexual who achieves satisfaction through killing (much more of this in the book), Kerim has irrepressible sexual appetites (exactly how many sons does he have? "Biggest family payroll in Turkey"). The gypsy girl fight is there for the audiences's voyeuristic pleasure- again, the book scores higher than the film here. Terence Young has been quoted as saying to Fleming "Exactly how do you expect me to get that past the censors?!". The confrontation between Grant and Bond is heavy with symbolism- male/male dominance/submission primarily. Tania's having to choose between shooting Klebb and Bond at the end speaks for itself.

    All Bond stories, by which I mean novels and films, have sex as a strong element. I suggest that only in FRWL is it the main theme of the story, ie the story would not exist without it. DN would work without Honey, GF without Pussy, etc. IMHO the only other Bond story which compares with FRWL in the strong sexual theme, and I know I'm going to get flack for this, is TWINE- and that has its own themes/subtext to deal with (Elektra is called Elektra for a reason, you know!).

    I've always been surprised by how many sexual references there are as well in the story. For instance, Tania says, " Thank you, but I think my mouth is too big." "No, it's the right size...for me that us." Is he talking about his...

    Or when Bond visits Kerim Bey after the bomb goes off. "The girl left in hysterics." "Found your technique too violent?" I mean for 1963, I'm surprised they got away with as much as they did.
  • ThunderpussyThunderpussy Behind you !Posts: 63,697MI6 Agent
    Also, there's a lot of trains sliding in and out of tunnels ! :D
    "I've been informed that there ARE a couple of QAnon supporters who are fairly regular posters in AJB."
  • AlphaOmegaSinAlphaOmegaSin EnglandPosts: 10,924MI6 Agent
    Is that a Euphemism TP? :))
    1.On Her Majesties Secret Service 2.The Living Daylights 3.license To Kill 4.The Spy Who Loved Me 5.Goldfinger
  • ThunderpussyThunderpussy Behind you !Posts: 63,697MI6 Agent
    No, they're all diesel electric these days. :D
    "I've been informed that there ARE a couple of QAnon supporters who are fairly regular posters in AJB."
  • AlphaOmegaSinAlphaOmegaSin EnglandPosts: 10,924MI6 Agent
    Times have changed :))
    1.On Her Majesties Secret Service 2.The Living Daylights 3.license To Kill 4.The Spy Who Loved Me 5.Goldfinger
  • ThunderpussyThunderpussy Behind you !Posts: 63,697MI6 Agent
    :)) Very interesting thread though -{ , I'll be watching these films
    more closely the next time. :)
    "I've been informed that there ARE a couple of QAnon supporters who are fairly regular posters in AJB."
  • AlphaOmegaSinAlphaOmegaSin EnglandPosts: 10,924MI6 Agent
    Yes, me too -{
    1.On Her Majesties Secret Service 2.The Living Daylights 3.license To Kill 4.The Spy Who Loved Me 5.Goldfinger
  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 31,733Chief of Staff
    James Bond adventures can be boiled down to a simple phrase- "St George slays the dragon and rescues the beautiful princess". This view is not an original one- both Kingsley Amis* and Ann S. Boyd (see above) have alluded to it. Perhaps DN is most explicit in its interpretation of the legend: Bond really does fight a dragon (albeit a mechanical one), and in the novel a giant squid, which is about as close as nature provides.
    Perhaps surprisingly, a fairly recent Bond film has elements of the myth buried within.

    THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH

    Often dismissed by Bond aficionadoes, although in my view unfairly, this film has rich and glorious subtext. I'm not even going into the Elektra complex, but feel free to bring it up. Please do, it's there as well.

    It's a standard theme of Bond adventures that he "saves" the beautiful girl from death/a fate worse than death (eg marriage or concubinage to the villain)/etc. She is metaphorically the princess in the St George story. In TWINE the beautiful girl is the daughter of a "king", Sir Robert King to be exact, and what is the daughter of a king but a princess? James Bond feels strongly compelled to protect her- look at his delicate movements when he sees her discussing her captivity on his computer- and goes out of his way to do just that. He is certainly attracted to her, but restrains himself... at first, anyway.

    Renard is the dragon, as much as modern audiences will accept (and in movie tropes, that is exactly what he is- the tough, invincible henchman/protector/right hand man to the real villain). Naturally he does not breathe fire, but his introduction amongst the flaming rocks (which he is impervious to, unlike ordinary men such as Davidov) is symbolic enough. The dragon has kidnapped the beautiful princess, and St George must save her- Renard did kidnap Elektra, and her "freedom" is false.

    Determining the actual locale of myths is notoriously full of problems- a good example is Robin Hood, who has been claimed by various locations in England. At least one location of the traditional St George/dragon/princess tale is Trebizond (nowadays Trabzon) on the Black Sea.... which is the main location for TWINE.

    The film cleverly subverts the myth by having Elektra turn out to be the true antagonist of the story, and this is one part which gives it real depth. Bond has genuinely fallen for her, and will suffer internally for having to shoot her (despite his cold "I never miss" claim).

    I therefore propose that in no other film (with the arguable exception of OHMSS- please argue with me about that) is James Bond more clearly a knight, a Byronic hero, and closer to Fleming's conception than any film not directly based on his work (which OHMSS most definitely is, of course).

    It doesn't hurt that TWINE features Pierce Brosnan's most carefully thought-out interpretation of his role. It's my opinion that here he comes closest to embodying Ian Fleming's character.


    * "The James Bond Dossier" (Jonathan Cape, 1965)
  • ThunderpussyThunderpussy Behind you !Posts: 63,697MI6 Agent
    Not so much on sub text etc but I remember my wife once saying that
    She didn't think the Bond films were really suitable for our girls to be
    Watching.
    I pointed out that in many ways ( as Barbel has already alluded to ) -{
    Bond is a fairy tale. He's the knight, the lady is the damsel in distress
    The villain is the dragon that has to be slain and even Q is like the Wizard
    Who provides the knight with his "magic" sword or shield. :D
    So if she didn't want the Bond films on, she'd have to throw away all their
    Story books and DVD of fairy tales etc.
    One of the few arguments I've ever won :)) although I did pay the price
    No "special hugs" that night ! :))
    "I've been informed that there ARE a couple of QAnon supporters who are fairly regular posters in AJB."
  • HigginsHiggins GermanyPosts: 16,422MI6 Agent
    ... as long as you kept the shaggin ...... :D
    President of the 'Misty Eyes Club'.

    Dalton - the weak and weepy Bond!
  • ThunderpussyThunderpussy Behind you !Posts: 63,697MI6 Agent
    Who's the Bond fan
    That's a sex machine to all the chicks?
    ( Thunders)
    You're damn right
    Who is the man
    That would risk his neck for his brother man?
    (Thunders)
    Can ya dig it?
    Who's the cat that won't cop out
    When there's danger all about
    (Thunders!)
    Right on
    You see this cat Thunderpussy is a bad mother
    (Shut your month)
    But I'm talkin' about Thunderpussy
    (Then we can dig it)
    He's a complicated man
    But no one understands him but his woman
    ( Thunderpussy !). :))
    "I've been informed that there ARE a couple of QAnon supporters who are fairly regular posters in AJB."
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