Lessons learned from “The Invitation” (2015)

You probably already know my stance on fiction in general: it teaches invaluable lessons otherwise not taught. I recently saw a new movie called “The Invitation” and decided to write about it because it has so many valuable lessons for an aspiring Overhuman. So, here it is.

WARNING: MANY SPOILERS AHEAD

Okay, so, the movie is incredible on several different levels, but I will only comment aspects of it that relate to the topic of Overhumanity. The technical aspects of it, the impressive camera and editing – not my specialty, even though I do appreciate it.

What is my specialty, or, better said, what do I want my specialty to be? It would be knowing things and being able to do things. Especially when there is danger.

The plot goes like this: Will is invited to a dinner party by his ex-wife whom he hasn’t seen for two years after some tragic event transpired. There are his friends that he also hasn’t seen for two years. He brings along his new girlfriend, Kira. From the moment he enters the house he previously lived in, he starts to feel unsafe. Everything is off, somehow. All the doors are locked and windows are barred. There are 3 people that he doesn’t know: his ex-wife’s new husband, and two friends of theirs. They, including his ex-wife, are in some religious cult that teaches that death isn’t something to be afraid of and that we should accept it.

As the evening goes, more and more weird shit starts to happen. For each weird shit, there is an individual reason that is plausible. First lessons: when there is a series of weird incidents, their individual reasons might be plausible, but the fact that there are so many weird incidents in a row is highly unlikely without some overarching reason. In other words, if you notice that the windows are barred, the doors are locked, your hosts are in a death accepting cult, one of the invited people are missing, there is a shitload of phenobarbitals in a drawer… Yeah, sure, some individual reasons may apply. Hell, all of these things could be (and have been, in the movie) explained by individual, plausible reasons. Yet it is highly unlikely that they happen in such a cluster without a general reason that includes them all.

People will try to rationalize things and find reasons that are plausible, but if there is a sequence of unusual events, there should be an explanation for the sequence, not for the individual events themselves.

Going on to probably the most important lesson of the movie: trust your gut when it yells danger! No, seriously! I’m totally for not trusting our instincts in many different things; after all, we are cognitively biased creatures, and we often make miscalculations and appraise things poorly. But when it comes to danger, I believe that you MUST trust your instinct, even if it turns out to be a false positive. If you don’t feel yourself to be safe, do not ignore this feeling, don’t just put it away. Never ignore your instinct of danger.

Moving to another related lesson: don’t be uncomfortable with uncomfortable social situations. If there is peer pressure around you to do something you really don’t want to do, do not do it. If you are expected to nod your head politely even though you feel like your life is in danger, say something. If you are expected to stay at a dinner party where there are some seriously alarming things happening, go. Just fucking go man!

 

Here’s a little story that I read once and it immediately stuck with me (bold added by me for emphasis):

“You’re in a hallway waiting for an elevator late at night. Elevator door opens, and there’s a guy inside, and he makes you afraid. You don’t know why, you don’t know what it is. Some memory of this building — whatever it may be. And many women will stand there and look at that guy and say, ‘Oh, I don’t want to think like that. I don’t want to be the kind of person who lets the door close in his face. I’ve got to be nice. I don’t want him to think I’m not nice.’ And so human beings will get into a steel soundproof chamber with someone they’re afraid of, and there’s not another animal in nature that would even consider it.”

Can you imagine a cat do this shit? Cat would be like “GTFO, I ain’t getting inside there homie. Cat don’t care.”

They’re animals. They don’t give a fuck. They don’t have fear of socially uncomfortable situations. They will not enter a steel soundproof box with something that makes them afraid. We will, because our social awkwardness will override our instinctive fear. This is extremely stupid.

You don’t need to justify your feeling of danger. That’s something that’s yours and whatever your group is pushing you to do – don’t do it if you’re feeling endangered.

Okay, now a more abstract principle. I’ve previously written on resimplification or how, given time, everything reverts to simple things. This is a concept strongly tied to another concept I want to share with you, and that is taking a step outside and looking at the context. You will agree that this is too big an expression for a concept, so we’ll name it recontext.

What is recontext? It is when you say to yourself: “If I was looking at this situation from the outside, what would I notice? What would I think? What would I suspect?” For example, you’re walking out and you see a car crash in front of you. There are two people arguing. Recontext: “Has this been orchestrated for me? If not, how is it dangerous for me?” You take the exterior view of the situation, not your interior view. You go from FPS to RTS. You always ask yourself: “Is this intentional? Is somebody trying to manipulate me through this?”

If Will had simply asked himself this question: “How is this potentially dangerous for me?”, he might have done things differently in the movie. Instead, he feels unsafe, but it is not an explored notion in his head. What would you do if you were your own enemy? How would you think?

Then: finish your theories. For Christ’s sake, if you are already not going along with your gut instinct and getting the hell out of there, why are you simply saying to people “something dangerous is happening here”. Why? I mean, think about it from the perspective of the enemy. If they witness you say “something dangerous is happening here”, they will know that you know. And they will adjust their actions accordingly. For fuck’s sake, don’t tell your enemy that you know what he’s up to! If you’re not getting the hell out of there (as you should), then at least be smart enough to finish your theory. Let this entire process fold out in your mind: “I notice I feel unsafe. -Why? -I have noticed small details that are off-putting. Each can be explained for itself, but I feel that all of them have some sort of connection. -Do you feel in danger? -Yes. -Who do you suspect danger coming from? -I don’t know… I suppose my hosts and their friends. The house is barred from entry or exit, but it doesn’t feel like it’s for safety reasons. -What do you know about them that makes you uneasy? -They are weirdly friendly, and they are in a cult that seeks to accept death. -Okay, ask yourself this now: ‘what would a person that wants to accept death, is in a cult, has barred windows and doors – what do they want from me?’ -Well, if you put it like that, the potential reason is obvious enough… To commit collective suicide. -In other words, your hosts seek your death. Your hosts are your enemies.”

Will does pretty good on most of these lessons, but he should be more decisive and less emotional.

Here’s another lesson, more subtle. When it turns out that Choi was actually safe and that he simply went to work and then returned, Will started doubting his own sense of reality, thinking that he was maybe being paranoid. This was exacerbated by the rest of the group who also considered him to be too paranoid. This is a strong pressure, and Will let it influence him to a certain extent. You have 1) the group telling you you’re crazy and 2) the proof that one specific thing you were saying indeed was wrong. You feel crushed, because you lost. You were wrong, they were right. That’s when you start thinking they may be right about other stuff too. WRONG. The fact that someone was right about one specific thing is only partially convincing – you still have unaddressed fears that have nothing to do with that specific thing. And furthermore, you still have your fear which you shouldn’t doubt and shouldn’t need any reason for. It will be extremely difficult for you to proceed to be vigilant (paranoid in the eyes of others) when you have once been proven wrong. However, do not let the group dictate your feeling of danger.


Have you seen The Invitation? Did you like it? What did you learn? Do you have a good movie with this much learning potential? Leave me a comment!

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2 thoughts on “Lessons learned from “The Invitation” (2015)

  1. I have also seen the movie. I agree with you – if you feel uneasy, just go. You do not have to be rude, it is enough to be sincere.

    But, I’ve also noticed how Tommy “accused” Claire for her uneasiness (because she is sexually introverted) and Choi (because he is unreliable).
    We often pick sides with the perpetrators instead with the victims (ok, unless it is the obvious crime – usually). Perhaps, because we do not to admit that maybe our uneasiness is not without reasons and that we should take action (that is, simple rationalization).

    I mean, I do not know, just guessing 🙂

    • I agree. It’s because we side with what we perceive to be more powerful, I think. Being ‘cool’ is more powerful than being sexually shy, for example. We want power, and if we don’t have it, we want proximity to power. At least many people are like that.

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