Alright – alright – alright. I’ll admit it. I literally have no idea in the world what this movie is all about. But I have faith that by the end of this write up, and with some help from my tireless, selfless legion of readers, we’ll get this GAH! infuriating movie figured out together. Fair enough? Great. See? There is some honesty in this world. You are welcome. What’s funny about this movie – The Incident – it is literally the most asked for movie walk-through I’ve ever done. It’s been asked for more than Donnie Darko even… which, I know, now that I’ve said it out loud, I’ll be attacked by a moving pile of zombie requests for that movie. It’ll be like straight out of World War Z. Anyway – let’s get on with this shall we – so that I can eventually get around to that Darko walk-through. Alright, here we go, Baffling Movie The Incident Explained…
First, if you haven’t seen this film – you gotta check it out – if only to help us all figure it out in the comment sections below. And lucky enough for you – you can find it over on Netflix. See!? That link? It’ll take you right to it!! Technology is so amazing. So fantastic. Now, go watch it. Because the spoilers are going to start with the very first sentence – and we really don’t want to spoil this movie, okay? Great. And if you’ve already seen it, perfect, continue reading…
Each of the Sections We Know
Let’s kick this thing off with a bang. As far as the recorded history of The Incident has been recorded, it began with a train. A 35-year railway ride. And then it transitioned to a 35-year water raft ride. And from there, it changed to a 35-year wait on a never ending road. After that, it was a 35- year abandonment on a never ending stairway. And finally, it will be a 35- year stay along a hotel hallway…
Section One: The Infinite Stairwell
Alright, so as the movie kicks off, small-time criminal Carlos comes home to find his younger brother, Oliver, freaking out. But before Oliver can explain what is going on, a cop, Marco, jumps out and arrests them both. Oliver eventually tells Carlos that he has, under duress, confessed. But he is desperate for his brother to forgive him. But when Carlos asks for Marcos’ warrant, Marco admits that he doesn’t have one. But when Marco attempts to take the brothers to the police station at gunpoint, they jump him, and run down their apartments’ stairs. As they are running, Marco shoots Carlos’ leg. But didn’t it seem to you like Marco was surprised by his action? But then the stairs turn out to be endless. A never ending purgatory. Oliver does his best to help his brother, but at the end of the day, trapped in a never ending stairwell, Carlos bleeds out the next day.
All the crazy really starts to happen when Marco notices that the vending machine in the stairwell has mysteriously been restocked. Every 24 hours, everything must be resetting. Eventually, Marco lets down his guard, and Oliver takes Marco’s gun and threatens to kill him. But it’s interesting to note that Marco is adamant that he didn’t intend to shoot Carlos. Something overcame him. Years later, 35 to be exact, Oliver and Marco spend their days working out on the stairs, and genuflecting towards Carlos’ skeleton.
Section Two: The Endless Road
Now, here’s the trick – we jump backwards in time, something like 70 years? Plus or minus. We open with Sandra, her two children, Camila and Daniel, and her new husband, Roberto. They are all heading out on a road trip to visit Sandra’s ex-husband. Obviously Roberto is super uptight about this trip, but Sandra is certain that it will be a good time for the four of them to bond while on the road. When Roberto gives Camila fruit juice, which she is deathly allergic to (SOMEONE EXPLAIN WHY IT’S IN THE CAR AT ALL? Yeah, massive plot hole, I agree.), Camila downward spirals into an asthma attack. Worse, Roberto breaks the inhaler, which, similar to Marco’s shooting of Carlo’s leg, Roberto insists that this was fated. He is certain that this wasn’t an accident. (Which, seems to a pretty important detail in this movie…we’ll have to put a pin in this, and get back to it later.) Even worse than the worse of the inhaler breaking, he forgot to bring the backup inhaler. (This was the new husband’s job – why? This bit has a ton of problems in my mind, but whatever.) But it’s okay, all they have to do is to return home and get it. But when they continuously, and repeatedly (continuously repeatedly is a lot. hahaha.) And that’s when they realize they are looping over the same stretch of the road over and over again. Alright folks, we now have two loops. First the road, then the stairs.
Now, Roberto heads off into the bushes to look for help. And with a broken inhaler, and an absent backup, Camila dies. Sandra though, is certain this is all just a nightmare (reminds me of our recent discussion of The Lodge, just saying.), and absent any remorse for abandoning a figment of her imagination, she takes off without her kids. And Daniel? He picks up his sister and heads another direction. But when they all arrive back at the same place, they give up trying to leave. Similarly to our stairs loop, every item replenishes itself every 24 hours…which, is an eco-conservationist’s nightmare, as all their things pile into enormous towers of trash.
Sandra and Roberto eventually make up, and live off on their own, while Daniel lives separately from his parents. Eventually Sandra passes away, and the two men have a funeral for her. And as Roberto is nearing death himself, he has an epiphanic moment of clarity. He realizes – after 35 years of being trapped – why they are stuck in this loop. Roberto reveals that he isn’t actually Roberto, but rather Ruben. And unless Daniel writes down his name, he won’t remember who he is. When Daniel gets into the police car, it’ll be all over for him. Well, Daniel has zero idea what Roberto, or Ruben, or whomever, is talking about. Of COURSE he’ll remember that he is Daniel. Duh. But then, after Roberto dies, he finds a police car – gets in, and becomes Marco, never to remember again, well, for 35 years anyway.
OK, I have to say, being a fellow that really really has a hard time with names…(like, medical condition kind of bad with names I’m talking about here) this movie ruined me. And just to have some semblance of sanity, I created this image – and while I’m fairly well known for my crazy infographics (like this Dark madness, Mr. Nobody, Timecrimes, HECK, I did one for Knives Out even. Sheesh.) – this isn’t that. This is just a visual notepad in order to keep from going completely insane.
Man, I hate this movie. I mean, I love it. But boy do I hate it. OK, let’s finish this thing out okay? Brilliant.
Section Three: The Hotel Stay
Marco tells Oliver, as Roberto told him, that he has to remember who he is. But he doesn’t, and so, when he enters the elevator, he immediately becomes Karl, an elevator operator. And the next 35 years will be spent with the Bride he met in the elevator. Wait, what happened to the Groom?!? Well, when Karl released a bee, and stung the Groom, he is obviously allergic, and will soon die. Which means that Karl and the Bride will spend 35 years wondering how they’ve been stuck in this spiraling madness – and Karl won’t realize he’s actually Oliver til he’s almost dead. Right?
That isn’t the only 35-year loop we learn about though. There is one other loop. We know that Ruben spent 35 years on a raft with his rafting instructor. But Roberto tells Daniel that his instructor was also in a previous loop, prior to their rafting excursion. And that loop was on the rails. He spent 35 years trapped on a never stopping train.
But What Does It Mean?
There were a couple of really really blatant messages that the dying individuals share with us. Section 1 Lesson: I never enjoyed a single part of my life, I was always waiting for the next more enjoyable part to come. This is a very good lesson for us all to learn, in any moment, we should be thankful for what we have. Sure, life isn’t perfect. But later in your life, you will miss the moments that you didn’t cherish. Personally, “trapped” in my house…I have had to actively be thankful for my family. I’ve had to intentionally consider them a gift. That I am allowed the opportunity to be totally and completely annoyed by my kids and my wife is really an amazing opportunity. But I shouldn’t take this moment for granted.
Section 2 Lesson: We have to keep moving. Yes, physically, but it’s even more important to not stagnate emotionally. This is a really rich lesson given to us by The Incident. As we get older, our emotional elasticity drastically diminishes. We really have to work to emotionally grow as we get older. Children adapt, grow, and learn emotionally all the time. But as we get older, we have an opportunity to become bitter, and frustrated by what life throws at us. Are we still learning, growing, and developing even as our physical abilities diminish?
Theories to Explain The Incident
The Incident As Temporal Sinkholes: What if, the movie is just a fictional portrayal of a world that is plagued by temporal sinkholes? We are just watching these poor people struggle to escape from one sinkhole, only to be nabbed by the next sinkhole. It’s just a sad story about these horrible time dead ends. K? Great.
The Incident Metaphor: Or, as we continue thinking through this movie, it’s probably easier to explain this movie as a fable. A fable about a fox, and grapes too high to reach, all designed to teach us not to declare the grapes sour. Right? It’s just an idea in order to remind us to be thankful. To not wallow. To not forget. And to take each moment as a gift.
The Incident as Multi-Verse: This theory actually has the strongest support inside the movie itself. There are several moments where characters in the film declare themselves as having lived a false life. Elder Marco is the most obvious example. That his life in the stairwell has been a lie. And we watch as alternate possibilities of their lives flash before our eyes. We watch as Marco finds a wife, goes to cop school, has children…etc., etc… a totally different multi-verse of possibilities.
Could it be that we have been watching as the one true timeline is constantly splintering, dead-ending, re-converging again, and the splintering again? If this is what is actually happening, then why?
The Role of Tragedy in Our Lives
In all the possible explanations of how this movie works there exists this idea of tragedy. And tragedy happens to all of us. Many of you reading this have had close ones to you die recently. Covid-19 related or not. It could be that you’ve lost your spouse, a child, a parent. Heck, maybe you’ve lost your job in the middle of this madness. Something like 20% of us have lost our jobs in this season. That is a ton of tragedy going around. Now, the question in this particular moment is, how are you going to respond to this tragedy that has befallen you? Are you going to learn, grow, be flexible, change? Or are you going to become angry, and upset about the loss of what you once had?
There is a key moment in each of the reality offshoots that presents itself to each of the people escaping the 35 years of madness. Will they choose to remember who they are? Will they refuse to walk into the role of hater, that this sinkhole has determined for them? For example, Daniel has a choice to not get in that police car. He could have avoided it. But instead, he took the easy way out instead of remembering, and figuring out a better way to proceed with his life. And what is sad is that literally every single person in this movie chose the easy way forward. Everyone took the path of regret, hate, and disdain. Why is that?
Well, the movie says that the reason that is, is simply because as we get older, we have a harder time forgiving. We have a harder time rolling with the punches. Of letting things go. But if we could, maybe we could partake of finally arriving at our destination. Of enjoying this life that we are given. Of truly being thankful instead of angry…
Edited by: CY