Recently I made a film titled 'When Milton met Marx', it was a dry comedy about two housemates living and arguing together until finally one of them breaks! - The movie is on my Films page.
After viewing the film some people stated that they enjoyed it, but found that the meaning behind it was too subtle for them to understand. So I decided to make this Analysis to show the amount of subtext and easter eggs that I laid in the film.
So lets begin...
First off the names. Milton is a reference to the great American Economist Milton Friedman, who advocated for Small government, free markets, property rights and the power of the individual. Marx on the other hand is a reference to Karl Marx, a supporter of Collectivism and state control, who thinks that property is theft. For the film Milton will represent the Libertarian Individual, and Marx will represent the Socialist, the modern liberal, or in some instances, the State itself.
Together these two contrasting individuals will teach us an important lesson about politics and economics from a more domestic environment of two arguing housemates.
The first shot we see is one of Milton sat at a bench. We could state that the first bit of subtext is that he is sitting on the 'Right' side politically, however this is moreso a technical issue. The first piece of symbolism is the coca-cola can he grabs on the ground. He then drinks it and feels happy afterwards. His free movement and ability to use the refreshment is sort of a symbol of the free market, the ability to take from the land what you have avalible to you and use it to fulfill your self interests. After this Milton gets up and walks down the path, which could also count as a road.
In the next scene we see Milton on the phone, Cola can in hand, and standing in front of a Tesco express store. Right here we have two symbols of Capitalism, Cola and Tesco. He then leaves and heads off down another path, this time right next to a road flooded with cars.
Next Milton enters a store and is about to buy some Jelly Babies, however his direction is turned when he finds a newspaper, showing two leaders, Tony Blair and George Bush and below it the heading of 'Debt collectors hound the poorest over tax credits', essentially some high up political stuff. Milton shows his distaste for these themes by throwing the paper down and moaning.
Milton then walks down a road, with both Jelly Babies and Coca-Cola in hand, walking past a Volkswagen car - More Enterprise! And if that weren't enough, another brand car is seen driving down the road. This is the third time we see the Road Motif. Roads are a commonly spoken about topic when it comes to small government and or free market Anarcho-Capitalist idenifiying people.
At last Milton has entered his house, where he hears on the radio some pundits talking about companies finding tax havens. Milton is again frustrated with this and goes to turn it off. We also notice a picture of John Hurt on the wall, this is an easter egg refering to his role in two Collectivist/Totalitarianism films. '1984' and 'V for Vendetta'.
Milton enters his room and finds that his housemate (Mark/Marx) is in there stealing his phone charger. The two then exchange words in a small arguement over personal space. In this confrontation we are seeing an argument that Libertarians are all too familiar with seeing, the nessisity of private property. Marx seems adamant that he is entitled to enter Milton's room, which is a representative of Milton's private property, and thinks that he has the right to just enter his room and take a charger from him for now because 'It's OUR house'. Milton on the other hand is defensive and believes that it is wrong of him to enter his room without his permission, because this is his space. You may also notice the l and R on Milton's door, this is an easter egg refering to Milton Friedman's views "I am a Liberal with a small l and a Republican with a big R"
After this confrontation Milton decides to watch a crime film for his thesis (Crime is also a hot topic when it comes to talking about the role of the state and whether it's laws create crime). Behind him is the graphic novel 'V for Vendetta' that symbolises state control and corruption, and above it is a poster of an Eagle, which could be construded as the Eagle of Liberty. This shows a dominance of liberty over the state. However this is cut short when Marx comes along and blocks the view of this with his head.
When Milton declines a cup of tea, Marx seems to coerse Milton into having one by slapping him with the cup and noogying him. Libertarians view coersion by anyone as a wrongful thing to do and Marx is displaying state force when used to get people to do things they don't want to do. This is made ironic later when he says in reference to Milton's choice of films "Dude theres nothing cool about forcing people against their will".
Milton then asks Marx if he managed to deliver the money he gave him to his friend, to which he replies no, but that he will do it soon. It is evident that he probably spent some of the money on the chocolate bar he is currently eating. This is another reference to the bad results delivered by the state. We all know that the government doesn't have a good track record when giving certain things to us, it will take money away from us and then spend it on things the people didn't want and then take a long ardous time getting the things we do want done fast.
To add insult to injury Milton notices that Marx has thrown his chocolate bar wrapper on the floor. Symbolism again for Private Property and the economic situation known as the tradgedy of the commons. Marx drops his litter onto Milton's land because he doesn't have an incentive to clean up, but if it were on Marx's land, he would have incentive to do so because he would have a dirty room. You may also notice that on the wall next to Milton there is a poster of the video game 'Twitch Plays Pokemon' a video game where users from across the world play the same game of pokemon together. There were two ways to play it. Anarchy and Democracy: Here is a link to find out more so you get a hint as to what I am referencing.
Milton is then seen playing a single player game 'Fallout: New Vegas". The single player nature of the game is supportive of Milton's individualist personality. Marx enters and asks if he can play a game with him. Milton shows him that the majority of the games he owns are single player focused games, further evidence of his personality. The topic of Roads is brought up again, and Milton states the reason he doesn't have any of those types of games is because "He didn't need any" a reference to how many Libertarians only want what they decide than something they don't need. The scene is also swampped in Red as a symbol of Communism/Socialism, and Milton as the lone individual in Blue.
Marx goads him into playing a Multiplayer game with him, and thrashes him at it, quite like how the government thrashes in the individual. When Milton leaves in frustration, Marx steals some of his Jelly Babies and lies back like an evil genious as he watches his victory in the game and we hear a Nuke explode. This is clever representation of the government destroying places with force, and taking from us without our permission.
Milton decides to waste some time by building a Road of books, and we find him firing a yellow Berlin cabby into a wall. This shot shows clear representation of Berlin during the cold war. Two opposing sides, Capitalism and Socialism, East and West Berlin, he the fires the cab into a wall, showing that he wants to destroy the boundaries and bring back freedom.
Marx then appears and informs Milton that he is going off to pay the bills, and that he requires a hefty sum of money from him. Milton is outraged, stating that he wanted to be individual and pay for his own energy usage. Here three economic points are brought up...
- The spreading out of wealth amoungst people incentivises others to use up more because they know in the end they will pay less.
- The debate as to whether it is fair for someone to go without if they don't have a job avalible.
- Whether it is selfish to keep the money that you earn.
In the end Milton is defeated and comes out with Marx to pay the bills.
Outside, Marx crushes a cola can, this should be very clear symbolism, the can represents capitalism and Marx is clearly destroying it. Marx is then seen continuously pestering Milton by telling him of how the Bush years were absolutely terrible with his war in Iraq, these comments are hypocritical however seeing as when Milton reminds him that Obama is just as bad Marx tries to make excuses to cover himself. These were typical lines stated by many who were sceptical of Bush's presidency yet were compliant and supportive of Obama without question.
Marx then complains about how rich people can afford to pay a little bit more, yet Milton allows reason into the argument by reminding him that those lines are never mentioned outside of business oriented people, never Brain Surgeons.
The discussion finally boils up and Milton bursts out on Marx for being unfair and irritating to him throughout the entire day. He states numerous things that mirror many of the actions of a government. - Barging into his room/ Barging into someone's property, or a foreign country. - Take advantage of his posessions/ Take money from people through law rather than persuasion. - Breaking all the promises he was asked to keep/ Breaking political promises to gain support.
Marx simply tries to brush these off by smearing him as being silly, but Milton doesn't stand down and tells him that he is going to pay for the bills that he owes, for the energy that he used, with the money he earned, from the job that he works at. The entire scene takes place on various roads, again using the same motif, Marx final trip as he exits the scene could be viewed as a finger to the government established roads.
Milton stares at Marx, and when he leaves, he feels puzzled, almost amazed, he has done something that every Liberty minded person has wanted yet seldom accomplish; He has triumpthed over a Statist hands down. He punches air in his joy.