Tes habilités de critique... C'est de la vraie merde ce qui est écrit ici.

Someone-please-explain-the-movie-busters-mal-heart - or, could this possibly be the world's most confusing movie? Because I would really appreciate it if you would stop, and explain what the heck I just watched. IMDB
Reader Rating38 Votes

Oh, wow, how I love bringing crazy complicated movies your way. Because you guys are wicked smart and more often than not you help me figure this stuff out! Gah. Anyway, here at THiNC. we love talking about and discussing really crazy movies. Not your normal, everyday, Forest Gump type movies, but rather your Primer type movies. Your mind-blowingly crazy movies that you just know you have to watch it again, and again, to wring the nuance out of that thing. To really grapple with it to understand it. Right? Well, today? You good folks threw this one at me over in one of the comment sections and I am ever thankful that you did! Alright, let’s do this, okay? Someone Please Explain the Movie Buster’s Mal Heart!!

Quick Overview of Buster’s Mal Heart

Yeah. Nope. If you haven’t seen this one. Just go see it. Here’s a trailer to break up the spoiler section and the non-spoiler section. But if I were you? Just go get it, grab your popcorn. And prepare your thank you cards for Elizabeth and Shelby for bringing it to our collective attention. Yes, they deserve thank you cards. And no, that isn’t hyperbole.

Detailed Deep Dive of Buster’s Mal Heart

Alright, it goes without saying from here on out that spoilers abound. But I still get raving lunatics freaking out about the fact that I discuss spoilers on this site, and it shocks people. Bah. SO KNOW! SPOILERS. ABOUND. FROM HERE ON OUT!!! I think that was clear enough. Normally, I take my notes that I write during my first viewing and I clean them up. But this time, I’m just throwing my unadulterated thoughts as I was watching at you. Sort of a stream of consciousness happening here. But it’ll also give you a perspective of how OCD I am about my movie watching.

  1. Starts out with Buster(?) on the run, shot, and almost arrested in a cave.
  2. Who was that speaking the first lines? Seems quasi-important.
  3. Jumps backwards 10 days.
  4. Ok, so, now he’s in someone’s house and flipping photos? What the?
  5. Another time jump, now Buster is a hotel manager.
  6. Some fast talking guy shows up, oh I like this guy! What is he on about?!
  7. “Babong, the first inversion, binary logic, little by little… what I do is termite control, bug control.”
  8. “Burning fucking bushes everywhere I look!”
  9. Basically he is saying that everything is a simulation, and that there are massive bugs in the system. He stays out of the system intentionally.
  10. But Buster never gets his name. This feels extremely important to me right now. “I just gave you a dollar and you won’t tell me your name?”
  11. His retort? “I am the last free man…” Which I definitely need to talk about at some point. Obviously a reference to the first Adam, the last Adam…
  12. Ok, so right now there is a Buster version on the boat, there is a version in the vacation house. Are these alternative realities or are we dealing with past and future tenses?
  13. Buster is now spewing the same inversion craziness to the radio shows, “I AM THE LAST FREE MAN!”
  14. Buster and his wife have an argument about buying land. He believes that if they pay rent then they become slaves to the system, “we need mtns dirt air.”
  15. Conversation between Buster and the Prophet highlights how lost Buster is, “I feel like my heart isn’t made right.”
  16. Drawing on the glass of the vacation house seems important. Death Star? Blackhole?
  1. Soon Buster and the Prophet are stealing from the hotel guests regularly.
  2. And after a scare Buster kicks the Prophet out of the hotel.
  3. We learn that before Marty met Buster, Buster was homeless and starved for affection – sounds like a huge clue to a bigger symptom to a deeper root cause.
  4. Buster’s boss suggests a stay-cation (“I coined that phrase”) and that he invite Marty and Roxy to the hotel.
  5. During said stay-cation, the prophet comes back – and Buster is tied up working longer than expected.
  6. “And bang, eternal reoccurrence of the almost same… no escape.” Zero divided by zero equals infinity.
  7. Buster arrives in the hotel room and finds his family killed.
  8. Flash back to the boat, frogs fill the boat… is this a plagues of Egypt metaphor?
  9. One of his final vacation break-ins he discovers an old couple and ties them up
  10. Buster dreams of the funeral and the cop that couldn’t see the Prophet in the security videos…
  11. No way… he totally killed his family.
  12. Prophet totally doesn’t exist!!! hahahah.
  13. We hear news footage saying that Jonas survived over a thousand days on the sea.
  14.  So Buster is two people, Jonas and Buster… got it. I think.
  15. Back to pre-cave Buster, calls psychic and she says that Buster is on a boat, “Why am I there?” and she responds with, “There’s been a big mistake, a bug in the system.” Using the Prophet’s language.
  16. Pre-Buster/Jonas bails on the funeral and runs for it.
  17. Epilogue – Jonas/Buster split and walk down separate roads and paths.
  18. The two splits wrestle with one another in the boat.
  19. As the two selves discuss their predicament, “What do you want me to tell you? God is not merciful, just efficient, it was a mistake that we got this far. We are in the belly of a whale my friend. With luck he’ll eat one of us and spit the other one out.”
  20. Ok, Jonah references are always loaded… loaded with meaning.
  21. Buster charges out of the cave shooting.
  22. Jonas wakes up on the beach… end of line.

Buster’s Mal Heart Questions That Are Breaking My Brain

I loved this Buster’s Mal Heart. But whoa-my-gosh is it breaking my brain! So let’s list out a couple of the big big questions of the movie and let’s see if we can answer any of them at all:

Q. Is Buster the individual that killed his wife and daughter?

A. Obviously there are two schools of thought here. The first is that the Prophet of the 2nd Inversion is a real guy and he did in fact kill Marty and Roxy. The second is – “OBVIOUSLY HE DID IT!!” I’m decidedly of the latter school of thought. If you’ve seen the movie Donnie Darko, the Prophet? He is the rabbit in this movie. Or better yet, Fight Club. The Prophet is Tyler Durden. And no, do not email me with angry and hateful epithets for “spoiling Fight Club or Donnie Darko. THESE ARE OLD MOVIES PEOPLE. Reevaluate your life choices.

Q. What is this talk of the 1st and 2nd Inversion?

A. Well, this answer is going to change depending on how you answered the previous question. Either Buster is insane and seeing things, scribbling in the sand, and all that… or Buster is truly becoming enlightened and is really seeing things clearly for the first time. One thing that makes this inversion stuff compelling is the fact that Buster says more than once that it feels like the system is intentionally keeping him down. That he has a hole in his heart, that he wants to run away from everyone. And we all feel that feeling (I have my own theories about why that is, but you don’t want to hear this Christian ramble at you right now) so to hear that a Prophet really has the answer, and it’s all about this inversion? Compelling! Except, we all know that the Prophet is not real. And the really sad thing is? That this really means that Buster killed his wife and child.

Q. What is with all the scenes in the boat? And the scene of Buster fighting with himself? Did I miss instructions to have hallucinogenic mushrooms before starting this movie?

A.  Ok, so this boat is bit dicey at best. I’ll do my best to give you options and let you decide for yourself:

The first is a literal view and before Buster was married to Marty, and before they even meet, Buster is on a ship that sinks, and he is adrift for hundreds of days while awaiting rescue. He then gets out of the boat and starts a new life with Marty, etc. Right? And all the while he refers back to the boat experience as a point of meaning and reference.

Rubbish, I tell you, rubbish! The second theory is that the boat scenes are a metaphor for his internal self. It is where his Id and his Super-Ego have it out and his Ego is the boat wherein it tries to reconcile the realities presented by these two mental characters. Every time you see water and a boat? You are walking straight into the brain of Buster.

Q. After the funeral, why does Buster split into two people and walk down two distinctly different paths?

A. Now your questions are getting more annoying. Grrrr. Ok, so if you read that previous part there where I conjecture that the boat is the internal ramblings of Buster’s brain, then I would argue that the physical manifestation of this is his splitting in two. We are watching Buster’s snap with reality. And we are watching as his Id walks one way, and his Super-Ego walks another.

So, after the funeral, he chooses not to go to the interment and instead he heads out into the woods. And his brain splits. His sane self that refuses to believe that the Prophet isn’t real – the self that refuses to believe he could have killed his wife and child – walks out of the car and down one path. The other self? He is the self that believes in the inversion, believes that he is the anointed one of the second inversion. That he is the only sane one on the planet and everyone else just doesn’t get it.

Q. What is with the Jonah references when Buster and Jonas are talking in the boat?

A. Oh whoa, I just realized normal Buster’s name is Jonas. Which, is amazingly similar to Jonah. So if Jonas is a Jonah character what do we know? Well, Jonah was a Prophet  who was running from God. God told Jonah to go tell the Ninevites to repent and to turn from their evil ways. Right? Well, Jonah tells God no, and runs the other direction. Is thrown overboard to abate God’s wrath, he’s swallowed by a whale. And for 3 days and 3 nights Jonah was buried… only to be coughed up onto the beach. Such a poignant picture that even the Christ says that like Jonah, he too would be buried three days only to rise again.

But wait, what does that have to do with our Jonas/Buster? Jonas snaps, kills his wife and daughter… sins… and he has a mental break with reality. He’s in the belly of the whale. He’s dead. For 3 days Jonas/Buster wrestle with this truth only to have Jonas spewed out of the mouth of the whale.

Q. Is this a never ending movie? It sort of seems to be looping forever…

A. Ok, see, and you thought you were stupid! Now we are cooking with gas! You aren’t so dumb really! Yes, I believe you are correct. The Prophet makes a reference to it when he says, “And BANG! Eternal reoccurrence of the almost same, no escape.” It is yet another movie that is constantly looping endlessly in search of a way out. Movies like Triangle, Arq, Stay, Live Die Repeat, and even the One I Love to an extent, all have this as a central theme. I’ll talk about this some more in the conclusions section… I hope. If I remember. If I ever get out of this loop of constantly writing this stupid post! hahah.

Several Buster’s Mal Heart Movie Timelines to Consider

After watching I immediately cracked out some paper and started doodling timelines. And I figured it’d probably be good to just show you those unadulterated sketches to see which one you think is the most accurate. I mean, they are all accurate, but they assume different things. (Please click on the timelines to see a bigger version of each one.)

Buster’s Mal Heart Literal Timeline Explained

This first one I drew was just the literal timeline of the movie. The timeline just assumes that Buster spent months and months adrift on the ocean before coming to America. He washes ashore and eventually meets Marty, and they get married. They have a child and a dream about buying land, and moving out on their own. But Buster, after giving the room to his friend, and his family getting killed, snaps, and heads out into the woods, insane, and living off of people’s empty homes. He is eventually caught in the cave and goes out in a blaze of glory. End of story, end of timeline.

No offense to anyone that thinks I nailed it with this timeline, but you are an idiot. Hahahah. Yes, this is what literally happened in the movie. But what literally happened in the movie is literally the LAST thing that happened in this movie. Hahahha. So yeah, no offense, but this reading of the movie is for those who have difficulties thinking past the literal words on the screenplay page. It’s fine. It’s a passable reading of the movie. But it isn’t correct ultimately. Can’t be.

Buster’s Mal Heart Ocean Drift Timeline Explained

So this next timeline took some of the deficits of the first timeline and spun them on its head. But to understand this timeline I have to explain a couple things that I think I failed to draw out too clearly. And the first is that Buster is constantly adrift on the ocean of his consciousness. And occasionally he plummets into reality, and he gets married. He has a stay-cation, his family is murdered, he goes nuts and lives on the lam while mooching off of vacation homes in the area. Eventually he goes out in a blaze of glory only to find himself back on the ocean raft once again.

Some of the most interesting corrections in this timeline is that it accounts for the looping timelines that we are encountering throughout the duration of the movie. It’s obvious that Buster is constantly trying to get this thing called life figured out. And he is trying his best to Groundhog his way through these repeating timelines, but each time he is constantly discovering the same surprises and is getting derailed by them.

Buster’s Mal Heart Temporal Split Timeline Explained

Now, when I started drawing this next timeline I was trying to a solve a very significant problem that was happening with the previous other two timelines, which was that the split, the divergence didn’t happen at the beginning of the film, it actually happens in the middle. (Not middle of the film, the middle of the timeline. It happens at the funeral, or soon after the funeral, which is sort of right in the middle of the chronological timeline of the movie’s events.)

And so with this timeline I looped the events in sort of a stair step reoccurrence. The mental break happens with the funeral, he mentally escapes to the boat and his two versions of himself war it out. The clean shaven version of Buster ends up on the beach and then he heads out to live in the vacation homes until he is killed in the cave.

The elegance of this timeline is that it accounts for the boat scenes and the split of the psychic split as well as the perpetual looping of the events. But who knows – I could have had one too many shots of caffeine before drawing these things up as well!

What Does Buster’s Mal Heart Even Mean? Conclusions?!

In movies that loop eternally, it is usually predicated by a sin. A fatal flaw. A traumatic event. A massive failing. I’d list some examples, but I don’t want to spoil certain movies for you that you may not have seen. In Groundhog’s Day he failed to get the girl? That’s not a sin. But you get the idea. Sisyphus rolling a rock uphill for all eternity was caused by his jacking around other gods and demigods, and it was his punishment. These movies are just illustrating this great Sisyphean plight in modern terms.

Buster’s Mal Heart, is literally discussing his broken heart. Mal, means bad in Spanish right? Maybe the movie should be entitled Buster’s Roto Heart? Except that he is bad. He is the evil that has predicated these looping events. Buster is the person that – wait for it – killed his wife and daughter. I mean, kudos to Rami Malek for selling it like he’s completely shattered by their deaths. But at the end of the day, Buster murdered them both in cold blood. Which, in turn caused his mental fracture when the cop says to him that he watched the security tapes and there was no one else there the night of the incident and he realizes that he’s going mad. 

And while Buster may very well have truly been lost at sea for ages only to wash ashore eventually, that is not what we are seeing. We are watching Buster’s consciousness, in abstract, in absentia, commenting back on reality from the confines of his boat. And when Buster fractures mentally and there are two of him in the boat, shaved and bearded Buster? It is literally two different versions of his sanity fighting it out for sanity’s sake. And in the final shot of the film we see shaved Buster wash up on the shore… only to head into reality, meet Marty all over again, and begin his failing from the beginning again. Buster is doomed to repeat his mistakes and his errors for all eternity. But maybe, for the more optimistic of us, one day? He’ll accidentally get it right and escape the endless cycle and save the lives of his wife and child.

No? What do you think Buster’s Mal Heart means? How would you make sense of this crazy movie? I totally want to hear from you in the comments. Go! Are you a temporal split timeline gal? Or a more literal timeline guy? I promise not to make fun of you too much either way. Or heck! Maybe you have a totally different timeline I should add to the list!? That would be awesome.

Want to watch other movies like this one?? Don’t worry – I got you:


Edited by, CY

Liked it? Take a second to support Taylor Holmes on Patreon!

About The Author

Related Posts

45 Responses

  1. Alyna Karczmar

    I just wanted to comment that I don’t actually think that the “literal” interpretation of the film is that Jonas was lost at sea before meeting his wife. I don’t believe this because when Buster is staying at the elderly couple’s house, he is running on their treadmill while watching TV, and the newscaster reports that his bottle has been found at sea. They look up his name and find his ID, and they assume he is still lost at sea. How would this make sense, when the Buster sequence take place long after the events of being lost at sea and returning? If anything, they would have believed Jonas to be missing elsewhere, because he’s left to live a life as “Buster” in the Woods.

    I’m not leaving a theory, here, I’m more so suggested that the movie doesn’t actually give us any clear timeline to work with because even this one is contradicted by the film itself.

  2. Alyna Karczmar

    Also, I’d like to add that I’m still on the fence about whether or not he killed his wife and daughter. But if he did, I think it was out of insanity, and I don’t think he has any memory of doing it. I believe that he truly loved them, and the grief he shows is 100% genuine.

    • Taylor Holmes

      Oh, I agree with you Alyna. He loved them. He definitely/desperately, and maddeningly, loved them. But oh I definitely believe he killed them. What other option do you propose? We see in the video feed that there is no one there but him. Right? The movie is pretty darn clear that he killed them. But sure, he flipped out. He was completely gone when he did it. The more interesting question is … WHY did he kill them? What drove him to do it? That is where we start to find pay dirt.

  3. Haida Yahoda

    I don’t think the movie is looped though. If you looked at the last scene, it shows two people walking (perharps marty and their child?) So it’s probably he died, so is reunited with his family.

  4. Ryissa

    For those with gentler sensibilities I suggest watching “A Beautiful Mind” and if you have time also read the book. Amazingly a combination where one doesn’t wreck the other and tells you much of what you need to know to not feel too dizzy going down this rabbit hole. Why because although they relate the same person’s story and the book informed the movie, the movie does not rehash the book but uses characters to represent the delusions and hallucinations within the protagonists fractured mind, an attempt to take us inside a disorganized perception of reality (sound familiar??) The book is a much more factual description of the actual person’s life with interviews and no attempt to take an interior perspective of that reality. Both sides of the looking glass if you will.

    Don’t have time for that? At least read the DSM V criteria for schizophrenia and start connecting the dots if you can’t make heads or tails of this.

    I don’t want to get too bogged down in timelines. The broader brush says Buster has had two major full blown disassociattive events. Before the movie when his wife brings him home from streets, cleans him up, and helps him find god. Then the next one is when he realizes he has killed his family at which point he starts hiding in the hills and living like a hermit.

    Now there are some interesting bits that if you understand schizophrenia really show the thought that went into this movie. Although there is no open open dialogue about him dealing with mental illness, there are some clues he knows what he is struggling with. He’s nervous about working night shifts. Stress/lack of sleep can exacerbate symptoms and many suffering from the illness may instinctively avoid these types of situations or they learn through treatment programs to avoid alcohol and get adequate rest. His manager is “it’s no big deal”, but Buster’s facial expression is one of panic. As he’s starting to fall apart it’s revealed he’s abusing caffeine pills (as in no longer sleeping) … hmmm

    Nearly anytime he is paying attention to media he is hallucinating. When it’s passive background noise you can trust it. The second he pays attention to it you can see how his delusions and hallucinations are twisting his perception of reality. Common behaviours for some schizophrenia suffered is to *think* they are detecting hidden messages in TV/music/radio programs. Visual hallucinations aren’t very common, so when I see characters embodying delusions, I tend to favour the character is there more so for me to watch the battle to not let the delusions dominate.

    Now keep in mind the guy was formerly homeless yet his mother at one point is hanging around. I don’t recall anybody else interacting with her. I think she is meant to represent his more benign delusions/hallucinations. I also suspect the house cleaner in the hotel is less than real. But I was sewing while watching this so I may have missed some interactions.

    I also wonder if the cops actually tell him about the security footage? Why would they pop that on him outside the station, especially at his wife’s funeral? It’s obviously to get across to us that Buster is cracked, but I think somehow during the funeral he has a lucid moment.

    When he’s at the front saying “I don’t believe it” on the surface it seems he doesn’t believe what he’s done. I think he’s briefly challenging his delusions about “the Inversion”. He killed his family to save them, but to protect himself his fractured mind projects the blame onto the the homeless prophet. But somehow in the midst of the funeral he puts it all together. The images of the security cameras show moments that arguably the cops wouldn’t care about, but moments he would have gone looking through for proof of the prophet’s existence. Perhaps when it’s something he realized earlier in the movie that led to him briefly eschewing the prophet and his beliefs? And now again the literal falseness of the prophet comes crashing back in on him? Is that fetal bathroom scene in the funeral home? Is it at the hotel right after the killing? I think a lot more collides here than the first pass reveals.

    We could go looking for deeper meanings in his delusions and there are some threads there of that. But it’s very clear he’s attaching a disorganized meaning. He is weaving Y2K into his delusion to support the inversion. Ideas of salvation, persecution, the only free man cannot be teased apart enough to create a true cohesion and the more he tries the more he falls apart and disconnects from humanity and loses any sense of how he’s perceived. To drive that home he winds up hosting the strangest dinner ever oblivious to the old man’s dementia as well as the woman’s fear. He has no harmful intent towards them that I can ferret out, but he can’t figure out how to deal with their intrusion into his reality.

    A brief delusion in the form of mom searching for him snaps him partially back to reality. So he cuts his hair and briefly seems outwardly normal. But he has nothing to effectively ground him. So the downward spiral continues.

    He isn’t equipped to tease apart his delusions and never has been. They’ve had a hold on him before anybody around him had any clue he was ill. The foundations of his delusions he’s voicing before the prophet shows up. Multiple triggers occur early on to set him off — working nights, his wife wanting to move, his in laws wanting them out of the house, talk of putting down the dog, financial struggles, …

    Perhaps there’s a bit of a shot at how someone struggling with a serious illness like schizophrenia should be saved through faith is a delusion in itself. His wife seems to sense more is wrong with him than just being tired, but never brings him to a doctor for help. Before she’s murdered some of what she is watching on TV is some good ole evangelical broadcasting.

    In fairness it’s clear she is his touchstone. When she’s part of his life he has some handle on reality. So I don’t want to sound like I’m indicting how faith can ground a mentally ill person as clearly Buster fares much better when he’s connected in faith and marriage. But just like love isn’t enough, faith alone is not enough to hold his delusions at bay.

    The boat and the water is a nice allusion for him being cut off from anything connecting him to humanity, faith, and sanity. Sometimes I wonder how out of time the boat is. Are we seeing pieces of his psyche both before he meets his wife and after. Perhaps even moments while she’s still around? The order in which things occur is bound by temporal laws, but not necessarily our emotional experiences of those events.

    The end I believe his how he envisions his inversion layered on his death. When he’s shot he passes through the wormhole. We are seeing the event through his eyes still, so of course no body. He wakes up on a beach with his family after way too much canned imagery for my taste.

    Back on earth of course there’s a body with bullet holes. An investigation figures out Buster killed his family before disappearing. His mother may have been a prior victim of his or died when he was younger when he disassociated before the film’s events (I maintain its very clear she is not a physical presence and somehow her death was a very likely earlier trigger). Mental illness gets bandied about the news for a few weeks and then the whole mess is forgotten by most of the country. Trump announces all welfare recipients must work and we must pray for the mentally ill because it’s “so terrible. So unbelievably terrible.” Cut off funding to outreach clinics and insist homeless pay for their own medications out of their bottle money.

    Yah I went there. So shoot me.

  5. Ryissa

    After researching this film:

    I have to take back sone commentary in my last post. Clearly Buster’s mom is not hanging around nor do I think the cleaning lady is a delusion

    The non linear reveal of the day of the death of his family does get confusing. I’ve gone back and forth a few times trying to tease out what scenes happen when. I don’t think going into that will change my take on this substantially. On the second viewing the jumps illustrate how his delusions drive his choices.

    But I will point out near the beginning in the cave he says some things out loud by himself that reflect his discussions in the boat that are shown later. As if to emphasize he’s not aware that he isn’t actually talking to somebody else.

    The crying in bathroom scene is very much in the funeral home.

    And as I played connect the scenes the structure of the jumps clarified. For instance he’d talk about wanting to just drive away, cut to brief flash of him pulling out of funeral parking lot. Or “Papi wake up”. He’s falling asleep while watching his daughter bathe background static and he’s waking up bearded in tub and he’s waking up on boat. It connects the us close to the start of his delusions as well as near the end point. How long he’s been trapped and driven by his delusions, in the belly of the whale if you will. At least that’s one layer of the onion.

    As weird as I find the cop revealing everything in the funeral home, starting to think this may have happened. But we are dealing with an unreliable narrator because his memories are coloured by his delusions. So although it’s put forth he was told nobody came in, he may have figured that detail for himself. The cop may have only had to ask him to come by for more questions for him to put together the rest. As he leaves the funeral home he’s clearly convinced everybody is eying him with suspicion. Whether anybody actually looked at him sideways is a different matter. But he always had easy access to security footage at work, so he may have been aware that there was no evidence to back his story of a homeless man.

  6. Dave

    I am going to point out there was no body in end after getting shot at by a couple score of rifleman. Meaning he did go through the sphincter. He cam out on beach with mate and child…not his own child but from previous boyfriend, etc.. but this time he is sans his bad side and will start again without the dual ” mistake” of before. He battled on the boat with his negative self and spoke one last time to his negative self just before blowing out fire concave, but you need su titles on to hear alt self response.

  7. Ryissa

    For fun I’lll point out when we returned to the part where he’s being cornered by troopers with rifles at end of movie, it is entitled “epilogue”.

    This may be meant as hint that what we are about to see is Buster’s interpretation of how his life ends, not actual ending.

    So I see the end as his interior reality not what an objective watcher would see if they were there. Much of the film is his interior reality, so not a stretch to end that way as well. In “reality” may be dying from bullet wound, but in his mind’s eye he is passing through the sphincter etc.

  8. dan

    I thought buster slipped in a wormhole at the end and just ended up on a beach somewhere… maybe!!

  9. Grinder

    I’m an eternal optimist, and I’d like to make a more literal approach to this. The “prophet” was real and had found a way to put himself “outside the system,” meaning he literally couldn’t be seen by any system, like cameras. Also meant he couldn’t label himself or give himself a name, even a nickname. He related Jonah in full by sending his family through the inversion before Y2K. For Jonah to pass through/ open up the inversion for everyone else, he had to be at both the mouth and asshole simultaneously. The boat wasn’t just in a random spot in the ocean, but precisely halfway around the world from that cave. In the opening credit sequence we see the two people in the boat start to flicker out of existence, right before we get the title screen of “Buster’s Mal Heart” notably reflected.

    So as his reward for opening the gate Jonas/Buster gets to be reunited with his family safe and sound in whatever comes after the inversion.

  10. John Anderson

    I’m an eternal optimist, and I’d like to make a more literal approach to this. The “prophet” was real and had found a way to put himself “outside the system,” meaning he literally couldn’t be seen by any system, like cameras. Also meant he couldn’t label himself or give himself a name, even a nickname. He related Jonah in full by sending his family through the inversion before Y2K. For Jonah to pass through/ open up the inversion for everyone else, he had to be at both the mouth and asshole simultaneously. The boat wasn’t just in a random spot in the ocean, but precisely halfway around the world from that cave. In the opening credit sequence we see the two people in the boat start to flicker out of existence, right before we get the title screen of “Buster’s Mal Heart” notably reflected.

    So as his reward for opening the gate Jonas/Buster gets to be reunited with his family safe and sound in whatever comes after the inversion.

  11. T

    Just wanted to point these out. They might not make any sense but I found them interesting

    If I’m not mistaken, at one point in the film something to the effect of “throw family into the inversion first so they don’t get lost” is said. I think this answers why he killed his family (in an effort to not lose them in the inversion). But his timing was off, signified when his mother tells him he’s lost in the news report. I think the psychic saying “there’s been a mistake” may also reflect this.

    I also believe the eternal reocurrence of the timeline is referenced when they say he always calls around New Years (it sounds like he’s just been in hiding for about 3 years (1000) days and he calls around the same time every year), but in one of the opening scenes (where he’s driving) the radio says the dark ages of 1994 (maybe this isn’t important but it might be worth looking into?) so if the year of the murder was 1994, and he’s hypothetically calling about y2k 3 years later, he’s still off by an additional 3 years, serving to further complicate the idea of a linear timeline.

    there are so many ways to invert the storyline. great film

  12. Nicole Ruffin

    I think Marty met and married a mentally ill man from the start. He was a self medicatinghomeless man and she was volunteer at the soup kitchen. He tried to fix himself by living a normal life, but finally his untreated mental illness caught up with him. He broke his own heart by killing his wife and child. The scenes of him in the boat and with the “Prophet”, we’re just his mental illness as he saw it in his subconscious mind.

  13. Stu

    He and the exterminator are Jonah and God. God tells Jonas to go to Nineveh but he gets on a boat and goes to Tarshish. God is angry n sets Jonah tui sea. Jonah yells at God. I think jonah may be an angel (angle)… Marty is the sinner. She says at the podium i have been saved. Jonah wants to be human. But the duality is jonas goes to both. Nineveh and Tarshish… Nineveh as an angel and Tarshish as a human. he sees both fates. The song “go tell it on the mountain” plays at the end… go tell your story Jonah. Maybe why 1000s of years later we are still hearing the story of our duality. Some can handle n some can’t. Okay, that’s reaching but i just watched it and my brain is fatigued from this rabbit hole

  14. Stu

    He and the exterminator are Jonah and God. God tells Jonas to go to Nineveh but he gets on a boat and goes to Tarshish. God is angry n sets Jonah t sea. Jonah yells at God. I think jonah may be an angel (angle)… Marty is the sinner. She says at the podium i have been saved. Jonah wants to be human. But the duality is jonas goes to both. Nineveh and Tarshish… Nineveh as an angel and Tarshish as a human. he sees both fates. The song “go tell it on the mountain” plays at the end… go tell your story Jonah. Maybe why 1000s of years later we are still hearing the story of our duality. Some can handle n some can’t. Okay, that’s reaching but i just watched it and my brain is fatigued from this rabbit hole

  15. Peter

    I just watched this film with my girlfriend. We each have our own theory that differ, with some points of congruity. What’s interesting to me is that both of our theories called upon the heavy Catholic overtones of the film, while your theories mostly ignore this facet of the movie. Interestingly enough, neither of us saw the movie as a loop, at all, and after reading your theories here (which are excellent, I do not want this to sound like I am hating on your thoughts), I still don’t feel like there’s enough evidence to support the idea that the movie loops.

    We both read the ending as Buster/Jonas being allowed into heaven, with a strong implication that his wife and child were there too.

    Although I just had a thought – what if the ENTIRE film is the dream of an regular dude who just fell asleep on the beach during a family vacation? And that none of it actually happened?

  16. sekinj

    They do not find his body at the end in the cave, so he slipped through the inversion and thus was able to reset and be thrown up on the beach with Marty and Roxy. The first time he got caught in the system and he felt trapped, but he was actually trapped by the system, not by his family. He killed his family as that was the only way he could escape, but that was the error, because killing his family allowed him to escape the system, but it split him in two. So he had to come to terms with himself (battle himself) in order to debug the system and get it to reset. Once he slipped through, he had gotten rid of the bug and was free, there with his family. Yes, that ending beach could be “heaven” but I like the idea of just a reset (given no body was found). Either way, whole good self, whole family, free of the system. The end :)

  17. shelsea

    This analysis plus all of these replies really give us a well-rounded view of the film in its entirety. Which is very fortunate for me at least, because personally i can analyze certain things in good depth and see -a- bigger picture, but i often can’t see every detail come together in -the- bigger picture. All of the pieces are important, i.e. the catholic overtones, biblical allusion and therefore allegory, psychological lense, optimistic vs pessimistic pov of audience, and details of the conspiracy theory (the island, “save your family,” etc), because if you only take one outlook, you fail to see how all of these parts come together.
    not to say that i now have a flawless interpretation of this film, because honestly i think it or i still fail to reach a solid conclusion for the film’s end, but i’ve definitely got a healthier grasp on it.
    and, who’s to say that’s not the point of the movie in itself? that the meaning/understanding that we derive from it depends entirely on ourselves (as the case with most interpretations are, in all actuality).

    sorry if this is too generic or straight-forward; this comment is my small brain trying to wrap itself around all of this information lol

  18. shelsea

    oh no i can’t forget about the motif about bilingualism!! Obviously, both Jonás and Buster spoke mostly english with deliberate instances of spanish being spoken. Jonás teaching his little girl spanish early on and his conversations with the hotel maid were both purely interpersonal uses of spanish, his most likely first language, compared to buster’s intrapersonal use. When Buster spoke on the phone, to his captives, and to the police officer, he spoke purely in english, but there would be spurts of dialogue with himself in Spanish. This duality is shown especially through the scene in the boat, where Buster/id/his instinctual half of himself speaks purely in Spanish, while Jonás/Jonah/superego/his idealistic version of himself speaks in English.
    From a cultural/social perspective, this could be some sort of commentary? His wild/free half Buster speaks in his native tongue even though he is technically (mostly) disconnected from his past self–as not once in the film are we given any information on who he was when he was a child.
    We already know of the split in himself/of his heart, but how does that relate to linguistics? I think this might be alluding to the feeling that a lot multicultural individuals experience, about how the divide between one’s first language that they instinctually think in and their outwardly performing, English-speaking identity that interacts with society puts these two seemingly separate identities at odds within the same person.

  19. Stac

    I love all of these theories. I was so enthralled with this movie and, of course, like EVERYONE want to know what really happened. But the beauty of movies like this is that they inspire debate and thought about what really was going on. I can’t really decide if he killed his family or not. If I take myself on the logical road, he did. He had a mental break or something and began living in the woods because he couldn’t cope. The other pieces seem like just parts of that. In the logical world, you could also say that the ‘last free man’ was knowledgeable about where cameras were to stay off the radar or out of the system. So maybe he was there and left no trace (haha, I know… long shot).

    But what if it’s more like Donnie Darko? What if he isn’t crazy but the “last free man” was really there? The last free man was someone that was cleaning up a bug in the system. What if the bug in the system was Jonas? Jonas (while in the pool) makes a comment about his past and how his wife found him. There were other comments about how he didn’t think he was supposed to be there. He got lucky. Was he not supposed to survive his prior life as a “bum” to have a wife and child? Was the last free man/exterminator guy the one who rights the things on the earth that go wrong and fixes the bugs? With this idea, the exterminator was there solely to remove things from the timeline that weren’t supposed to be: Jonas’ wife and child. He wasn’t able to be seen on the cameras because he can’t be seen (except by the those involved with the timeline he’s fixing).

    His wife during a Mormon testimony meeting talks about her own struggles. Like maybe they found each other at terrible times in their lives and connected to bring themselves back to reality. She even tells him he’s remembering how they met incorrectly. We never get to hear what it is because he’s the unreliable narrator.

    Maybe I went down this rabbit hole because the ending seemed very sci-fi with him not being in the cave. Maybe I want an ending where he didn’t do it.

  20. Isa

    Loved this movie and I loved your different timelines explanation that, expect for the literal one, all of them could fit.
    The film also reminded me a bit of a Donnie Darko mixed with some Lynchian madness. And Rami Malek just shows what a great actor he is.

  21. Carl

    Your interpretation is based on the assumption that Buster was a psycho, which is typical of Hollywood movies. Yes you can apply your theories to some extent, but you have to resort to interpreting events that the movie clearly reveals as matters of fact.

    For instance, Buster disappeared at the end. This is the deal breaker where your theory becomes completely untenable and must be discarded. There was no body found, no trace of anything in spite of the fact that he was completely surrounded by the police. How do you explain that? If there was a dead body, Buster was simply crazy. Since there was none, he was not.

    The movie is actually about solving the contradiction between predestination and free will (Please watch the director’s interviews). Buster disappeared in this universe and entered a new one created specifically for him by the mercy of God, much like how Eve changed the previous universe. Buster successfully escaped the original world that was predestined for him and entered a new realm out of his free indomitable will.

    Buster denied his cruel fate when he said “I don’t believe this”, which happens to be most powerful scene in the film. And then afterwards, his body split into two: one taking the low road of the doubting Biblical Jonah, and one taking the high road where “Buster” puts his faith in God and hopes to escape the cycle of sadness. Near the end of the film, both Jonah and Buster wrestle each other. Buster remained faithful (i.e. when he looked up to heaven after they wrestled) as Jonah mocked him.

    As for the prophet, he was working with the ones who controls the world. He was the solution to the bug and was ordered by his superiors (the ones that appeared on TV) to kill Buster to prevent the next inversion, which is catastrophic to the present universe’s very foundation. Fortunately, the prophet refused to kill Buster and instead killed his family to trigger the inversion itself. I think Buster’s family were saved, not killed, for at the end of the movie, Buster saw them there on the beach in his new universe, implying that the prophet transported their existence there.

    When you watch the film knowing what it’s all about and under the assumption that the inversion theory was actually true (not crazy as you suspect), you will appreciate how brilliant Buster’s Mal Heart was put together. It’s one of the best films ever made. It belongs to my short list of absolute masterpieces which includes No Country for Old Men (about Nihilism), Bladerunner (about the creation of a soul) and 2001: A Space Odyssey.

  22. Carl

    Sorry for some errors as I thought I could edit my post (just typed my reply directly). The second sentence should be:

    “Yes you can apply your theories to some extent, but you have to resort to interpreting events as illusory that the movie clearly reveals as matters of fact. “

  23. M

    I just watched this movie and was glad to find this thread because, damn, that story was all over the place.
    I think our struggle to make sense of the movie shows that we think there is sense and logic inherent in our lives.
    There isn’t.
    Life may not be as disjointed as this schizophrenic string theory jenga of a movie, but life is also not linear, predictable or safe.
    I think that is the underlying theme of Buster’s Mal Heart.

  24. Odelia

    Watched the movie, got frustrated by my inability to make total sense of it – found this thread, which I am totally enamored with. This is my opinion and thoughts on all the other threads. One of the previous posts mentions that the director said definitively that the movie is about “solving the contradiction between predestination and free will.” To allow for the depth and artistry present in the film, I have to acknowledge that the content of the film is someone’s profound mental masturbation on the common human concern of predestination versus free will. The movie leans toward championing free will. Kudos that the writers also leave space for considering which is better, to go with predestination or to fight for free will, or strive for some kind of mix of the two. If the movie is posing this question, then all previous posts on this movie, have validity, and they make sense – all of them. Just depends which Buster you want to be while watching the movie. Love it. The movie calls on the viewer to use one’s self to track the different realities. Essentially, the viewer is taken on a journey of participating in holding fractured or seemingly disconnected, disorganized realities. I found this both annoying and the crux of the genius of the film. If the movie intended to present the struggle between predestination and free will, it was also greatly influenced by the times we live in now. I found many bits of dialogue that seemed to reference the nature of reality as presented by modern day pop culture: reality is a wormhole reflecting back on itself, their exists an actual energetic warp and woof, multi-universes do exist and there are thousands of versions of each one of us living out our lives in different universes, reality is as your mind organizes and perceives it, reality is a dream state that is escaped when you re-merge with the universal, after death you pass onto a state of your own creation, your brain fires as you die and the last impressions is what your consciousness interprets as death and then there are the Matrix references. Not an exhaustive list, but you get the idea. These are all past and current pop culture references, each scientifically or spiritually based as to the nature of life and death. The theory that fits the movie best is that all of this is existential and there is no knowing, only experiencing. My experience is that this movie is viewing reality intentionally or unintentionally from a multi-faceted perspective. The movie, again intentionally or unintentionally does not integrate the different perspectives or the different realities for us. The viewer must find or search for the point of integration, how to organize what is presented in the film. In a person, usually extreme non-integration is a major characteristic of insanity. Thus, my feeling that the movie drove me a little nuts. How fun and a bit of work in digging for the entertainment value. Career wise, I have spent my adult life attending to the nature of reality as presented by other people (enough said.) I found myself fast forwarding through this movie. Each time I observed a new constellation of reality being presented, once I got the gist of it, I fast forwarded. (I mean it’s a movie, not a person.) Ultimately, I am putting the movie to bed with the understanding that this movie is an existential contemplation of reality based on the idea that given enough stress, life for any one of us can become very fractured. A side note is that I personally really enjoyed the implication of the profound effects that bi-cultural or multi-cultural stress adds to any one person’s life. Enough stress in a life, genetic, nature-nurture, financial, physical, emotional, cultural, spiritual – commonly results with the individual taking leave of part or all of the current corporeal reality. The ending of the film begs the question, whether or not leaving one’s body and to what degree the leaving takes place, still allows for continued existence (not to mention the ability to actually function?) The ending is an invitation to consider whether or not, there is a continued existence for the main character. What then is the nature of this continued existence? What became of the corporeal body? I would like to think that these questions are existential – just like the interpretation of the end of the movie. Of course if you take the director’s stated intent to heart, then it just becomes a retelling of a bible story. I like my messy version better.

  25. Carli

    Watched this today and was baffled, until I went, “maybe the whole movie was a dream, and when he woke up on the beach at the end, Marty and Roxy were the adult and child you see right there near him.” Too simple an explanation? Perhaps. At any rate, I loved the movie. Rami Malek is fantastic.

  26. Marcelo

    Do you think that the scene with her daughter drowning in the pool has some deeper meaning, an alternative fact, or it is just to add some tension?

  27. Vitaliy Chernov

    So this is what happened in the movie: I’m not going to formulate my own opinion. I’m going to take the movie’s explanations into account. Your diagrams are great and all. But keep in mind: the diagram has already been drawn. By buster and the loony guy on the television. The circular shape being drawn is not the death star, it’s explained. That reality warping shape is actually a timeline of events. His reality will shatter into two (definitely more than two if we take the diagram literally and assume the prophet version of himself was from a possible different timeline) different timelines. His life will be alright. Normal as usual. And then eventually, something will cause it to split. And no, it’s not always that he murders his family. This in fact, may be the last version of the timeline to exist. Assuming that it is an infinite number of splits that lead back to the present, we can assume every and any possible number of reasons to cause him to split. Because he is broken. His mind lives in a permanent, repetitive state with no true beginning and no true end, just a cycle. Throughout both divergent sides of the loop, we see the extremes. And in each convergent reality, he is being effected by his other realities simultaneously. What’s kind of hard to see in the diagram he draws is that there is a circle wrapped around that shape. Which we can only assume to mean that all of those realities are happening simultaneously. We can also assume that the reason he sees the prophet, and the prophet kills his family is to send him on his darkest timeline. Maybe he interferes with the other timeline at the most recent point possible to cause two extreme and absolute diversions. One which he gives up his own life so the other may live. This may effectively knock him out of the loop. Maybe he manifested himself as a drifter so he can kill his own family, to doom himself while also freeing one of his fragments to go through a linear path. That drifter may even be him from another timeline to fix a “bug” in the system. He doesn’t tell him his name because he wants the audacity of the crime to break him into two distinct timelines. When he awakes at the beach in the end, there is hope in his eyes. A smile on his face. As if he is happy he gets to see his family again.

    This brings up a dark side, though. Because we don’t know who survived. Buster or Jonas. Regardless of which it is, he is back with his family. Either to relive everything again, or to be knocked out of the cyclical loop, like the context clues have been suggesting.

    TL;DR: He is living in an infinite number of timelines that have an in-explainable, but very distinct effect on one another. We focus on the one where he meets himself and frames himself for the murder of his own family, hoping to knock himself out of the cyclical loop by creating a version of himself willing to sacrifice himself due to how much he hates himself for what he has done. He fixes his own bug.

  28. Keanu Reeves

    You cunts literally spoiled fight club for some people. Your shitty blog is just that, shitty. Live with that, die with that.

    • Barry Allen

      And fight club was how many years ago? 1999 to be exact. I’m pretty sure anyone who has done a review in the last twenty years has given away the twist ending. So, no, these “cunts” haven’t given anything away; in fact the post was pretty damned insightful. Too bad you are so angry over information spilled about a trivial movie from two decades ago. Get with the times man. Hopefully you man up and apologize for your impolite ranting.

  29. beltran

    Kinda surprised you mentioned sisyphus since it’s pretty obvious how hard a christian you are, usually you guys are pretty obstinate that theres only one god so acknowledging a greek myth kinda seems blasphemous

    • Barry Allen

      Blasphemous? Really? Or are you just reaching? Obviously you are trying to disregard the rather well thought out synopsis from someone who you have biases against. It’s called critical thinking, try it instead of trying to knock others for their religious beliefs. I honestly think that you are one of those people that if something other than Christian eschatology wasn’t mentioned, you’d probably bash others for their explanation being too Christian.

  30. Your mother

    Oh muy god, you are so patetic. Keanu Reeves? Bitch, please. The sad thing is you didn’t understand the movie and that’s the reason you are here. Live with that, die with that.

  31. JoeBine

    Just saw this yesterday. Great movie. So many good theories, there’s also a thread on reddit with other theories.

    A few points/thoughts/impressions…

    – I feel like the drifter was real. Jonas cannot do the stealing alone, he needs to watch the cameras’ monitors and phone in the room to alert the thief.

    – They also have a conversation in Jonas’ car about splitting the money. If the drifter isn’t real, what does that mean? Jonas is throwing half the money out the window?

    – Jonas feels something went wrong when he sees his family photo is upside down. Yet he waits until his coworker relieves him to leave his desk.

    – Throughout the film, it keeps hinting that the child dies drowning. When Jonas falls asleep while she’s in her bath. When they stop watching her in the pool. The full bath before Jonas find them dead in bed. Even in the beginning, when they are walking by some lake, discussing buying land, right there I thought the child would drown. There’s a flash of that scene (the child walking on the path) later in the movie, as well as the shot of the kid seemingly drowning in the pool. It does feel like Jonas is stuck in an eternally cycling life where his child keeps drowning.

    – Is Jonas ever accused of having killed his family? All we are witnessing is the police looking for a guy squatting empty houses. Had he killed his family and ran away during the funeral, you’d think the police would be chasing him and not just some guy busting homes.

  32. Gabriel SR

    I think the must confusing part is at the end where he gets shot but his body disappears, which gives foot to believe that either he was really killed or managed to run away and continue either its journey through vacation homes on the run or , perhaps and only maybe, why not find a boat and run away by sea, which might also explain the boat scenes. But might be as you said, the boat is just a representation of his splitted mind and when he arrives at the shore , his mind finds peacefulness as he encounters again his wife and daughter, but only in his mind, while in reality, if wasn’t killed, he would continue his run away in the vacation houses in subsequent events that we cannot see but we can assume. Or if he was killed, probably washing ashore was the last thing that passed through his mind before passing away.

  33. Vittorio

    I explain this movie this way.
    He had created a spilt personality with amnesia when he was lost at sea.
    Most of the movie is happening in his subconscious mind while he is with his family wife and daughter as you see at the end.
    He never actually killed them as you see, this was all in him subconscious as he struggles to find himself.
    In his subconscious the finding of the bottle on the beach brings his reality to confront the 2 split personalities created whilst lost at sea.
    This confrontation snaps him out of his amnesia and this is why you get to see him see shadows shapes of his wife and child in the present and in reality.

  34. K

    I found this film harrowing and incredibly sad – however I think the director has managed to capture brilliantly the claustrophobic and disturbing internal fights of J’s deteriorating mental health. If you are after literal answers to the plot – his child drowns in the pool and his wife commits suicide later in the hotel room as a result. We know this as he wasn’t arrested when the cop shows up at the funeral – they know the child has drowned and the wife appears to have killed herself – however they need to speak to him because his own story is so bizarre and doesn’t add up. Being lost a sea is simply a metaphor throughout dipicting his internal struggles. The odd cave scene at the end (but also hinted at throughout the film) is highlighting the invisibility of the plight of so many people like J that are lost due to some terrible event/s in their lives. In the final scene he has died and is finally with his wife and daughter.

  35. Geeg

    He is clearly a Jesus metaphor. They show him with long hair and a beard while “He’s got the whole world in his hands” is playing. Then he is shot at the end of the movie but his body can’t be found. He has ascended into heaven (the beach), where he meets his wife and daughter, whom he definitely murdered. That part doesn’t jibe with the whole Jesus thing.

  36. Ro Jo

    I figured all that happened was just in his head. He clearly had mental issues because of imagining the upside down signs of the room numbers at the hotel. He was imagining it like in a dream or blackouts. In the end he woke up on the beach and there was his wife and kid and none of those other things ever even happened. That’s just my take.

  37. Nyx

    I thought it was interesting that Jonah’s last name was Cueyatl. It means frog, but has a strong tie to Aztec myth. I feel the duel language could be interpreted as the Old Guard, Aztec beliefs and English with Catholicism. The film’s end, really, is anything you want it to be. I like the idea Brown was there all the time…it is science fiction after all. If he killed his family, would there not be an investigation especially with no video of Brown? There are other holes like this if it happens in reality. It makes more sense that Brown killed Jonah’s family to send them through the sphincter and his being split at both openings when he opened the gate, brought him to the new era to be with his family living a better life. Maybe Brown was Satan and Jonah an Aztec Jesus…who knows?

  38. Kelly

    My take on the movie was that he was lost at sea. And I think that’s when he had his mental break. The first one anyway. Hence at the end there was 2 of them in the boat. I think when he found land. He didn’t even know who he was anymore. He started going by Jonah. But his ID in that news report and the note he wrote was that of a Jónas. And he was from Mexico. Pronounced Honas. But he washed up in America and started going by Jonah. He had already cracked when he was at sea. He thought the dreams of him lost at sea were just dreams. But they were real. But he lived a fairly normal life with his wife. Except the whole conspiracy thing. Which he actually learned from watching that scientist on TB. Not the friend. I think when the wife died. He cracked again. And completely lost it. Because if you recall. There was no friend! The sheriff says that they checked the surveillance videos, and there was nobody there. So he’d already snapped. But his split personality at that point. He was seeing this non existent friend. After the wife died. Jonah went one way and Buster was born. And he’s the one who killed his wife and baby. There was no friend. It was him. He didn’t go to the funeral because of the way everyone was looking at him. And he snapped again. The only part I didn’t really understand was the very ending. Where did he go when the cops shot him. And where exactly was he when he washed up on shore. That def wasn’t from when he was lost at sea. Because he was clean shaven ‍♀️

  39. Kelly Kay

    Brilliant movie! To me, maybe because I study spiritual philosophy and esotericism, this film is fascinating study about purgatory and salvation and enlightenment. Even the title is so interesting: ‘Mal’ can mean ‘bad’ in Spanish OR ‘abnormal’ as a piece of a word (malformation) or ‘crazy’ in South African slang. Interesting, isn’t it?

    To me, he is stuck between living from the fearful, selfish, crazy ego, but yearning to live from the loving higher self/soul. He is classical Man, stuck in duality but looking for a way out. He is split. He is both sane and crazy, violent and gentle, loving and selfish. He is in purgatory, suffering from his sins of killing his family. His mother’s prayers are trying to reach him: you have to open your heart to God, it’s the only way to be saved, she says. He cries. He is moved. So how does he open his heart to God?

    Well many spiritual traditions say, only an enlightened being can truly enlighten someone else. The nameless man, the last true free man, is this guru for him. To me, whether he is ‘real’ or ‘imagined’ is irrelevant: he gives Jonas messages he needs to hear. He starts him waking up of out of the purgatory (the boat) he’s been in for a verrrry long time (much longer than 1000 days I’m sure). His daughter, in her innocence too, shouts ‘wake up!’. Slowly but surely, in a non-linear way, he starts to wake up to his reality that he is split, he is stuck, he is in a purgatory hell of his own creation.

    In shamanic traditions, water is symbolically viewed as a connection to your subconscious and your emotions. Oddly, his note in a bottle says: ‘the water has always been calm.’ Does he needs to be shaken to wake up? Does he need some deep waves to come to push him to change his fate? Say….the deep waves of grief from finally accepting the truth that he killed his family? On the boat, he reaches a breaking point. He allows himself to surrender his ego and even says ‘I surrender! I give up!’, and is given a miracle: frogs appear out of nowhere and allow him to survive! But to survive, he must eat them raw: very primal, very ego/self survival focused. So the ego is still there in him. In many spiritual traditions, you can only achieve enlightenment through true and complete surrender of the ego self. So how does he TRULY surrender?

    In the epilogue, he makes a decision. He realizes he may have been a coward. He comes out of hiding. He faces the local bounty police searching for him. He is willing to die, to disappear, to surrender his will to live and open himself up to whatever else may come…and guess what! His final surrender works. His body disappears. He has been freed of both Buster and Jonas to become…someone new, someone better, someone healed and whole.

    That is the esoteric wormhole of enlightenment. You pass through duality and emerge whole, unsplit between ego/higher self- you are just your pure Soul. On a beach, in heaven/nirvana with your loved ones. The inversion as never an external one- it was an internal one. He passed through his own inversion from wild/homeless/damaged to….civilized but still trapped/damaged/violent urges not totally eradicated…to….we hope….a new man. An enlightened man. A truly free man, free of the violent/selfish/ego. That is the only true freedom, from the esoteric perspective.

    Can’t wait to watch it again. Thanks for reading my perspective

  40. Renee Garcia

    Ok I know why he killed his family… he did indeed have two versions of himself… the family man (Jonas) and the ‘mal’ version (buster)… the family man longed for the off grid property and separation from conventionality, buster knew there was only one way out. In the kitchen with his wife Jonas made statements about going deeper into the system if they got an apartment and the daughter by proxy would also follow the same fate. Buster killed them because it was the only way to free Jonas and also the family. After this the two separate. Jonas legitimately does not understand what has transpired. They go their separate ways, one to the woods and the other to the sea… both the end and the beginning… and then converge in the belly of the whale where Jonas does prevail and gets a second chance.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.