January 21, 2018
Existentialism in Vanilla Sky
Vanilla Sky is a
2001 thriller loosely based on existentialism.
This movie was inspired by the 1997 drama, Open Your Eyes. It was
directed by Cameron Crowe, and stars Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz, and Penelope
Cruz, etc. The movie has several
existential canons, and characters.
Using my knowledge, I will compare the movie to existentialism and see
how it adds up.
David Aames Jr. is the son of literary legend, David Aames
Sr. After his father passed, he was
passed down the rights to the company.
David has many freedoms. He
states that he’s “livin’ the dream” (D. Aames, Vanilla Sky). He has dreams
of his most authentic life in the beginning of the movie, which is him waking
up with the same life except he’s the only person in New York City. He tries to achieve a more authentic life by
joining Life Extension, and cryogenically freezing himself until later in life. All his freedom results in angst, and his
hasty decision to kill himself is a result of this. Existentialism positions that one cannot
blame outside influences for the consequences of their actions; however, this
is exactly what David does when he is arrested for murder, but incessantly
blames the “Seven Dwarfs”, saying that he’s been framed.
David does not believe in God. His atheistic tendencies are shown by his
lack of self-awareness, and his constant sinning without repentance. He has sex out of wedlock, we are led to
believe that he committed murder, he sleeps with different women at the same
time, and he can just be an all-around jerk.
Existentialists believe that people are isolated from one
another. At the end of the movie, we are
shown that all of David’s life since his time at the night club, has all been a
dream. This further emphasizes his
alienation from others, because all the people around him are figures of his
imagination. He is alone in the world,
but even in the authentic life he is trying to create for himself, he is never
Another existential tenet is “you cannot rely of past
experiences to predict future events”.
Existentialists believe in focusing on the “here and now”. Sophia declares, “every passing minute is
another chance to turn it all around” (S. Serrano, Vanilla Sky). Every door
that closes is a new chance for a better one to open. She wants David to know that his past
mistakes do not define who he is, and that it’s never too late for him to
change for the better. “You can’t let
yourself be defined by an essence of your past, or a spirit inside you, but by
the thoughts that you think in the present.”
may or may not believe in reincarnation.
They focus themselves on the concrete world, and they have faith in
there being no end goal or meaning to the life we live. Since there is no afterlife, who’s to say you
don’t just live a continuous cycle of worthless lives. “I’ll see you in another life, when we are
both cats” (S. Serrano, Vanilla Sky). Aames also talks about how he wants to come
back in his “next life” as the mole on Sofia’s chest. This never stops, and meaningless lives will
keep going on for forever.
Vanilla Sky displays existential tenets,
like “people are free, and freedom results in angst”, “people are isolated and
alienated from one another”, and “focus on the concrete world”. Existentialism is very prominent in this
film, as well as many others, and I hope I’ve shown that well.
1. Crowe, Cameron, and Paula Wagner. Vanilla sky.