The Tangle Retro-Modern Brilliance Explained

The Tangle Retro-Modern Brilliance Explained
Reader Rating0 Votes

If you haven’t seen The Tangle yet, you can watch it online at one of these fine streaming confectionaries:

The Tangle Retro-Modern Brilliance Explained… Some movies are impressive before they start. I mean, even before the first rays of technicolor brilliance smacks the screen, you already know that what is about to play out in front of you deserves your respect and adoration. Why so much introspective adulation? Well. Let’s talk about The Tangle’s pedigree. Ink. Yes? Come on! Ink?!? (If you haven’t seen Ink… just stop here, and go watch it. Then come back.) Or The Frame? Really? Come on people. Okay, I know you’ve got this one. Infinity Chamber. The common denominator here? Christopher Soren Kelly! This time, not only is Mr. Kelly leading in this film, but he has also crafted his own screenplay, and directed his own film.

There are just so few members of the indie world royalty. Obviously Shane Carruth is in this pantheon of indie royalty. Maybe Bong Joon Ho (Parasite), Richard Kelly (Donnie Darko), and Jeremy Saulnier  (Blue Ruin). (It’d be an interesting exercise to pull together a list of the actual indie Kings and Queens, but I’ll leave at that for now.) But Christopher Soren Kelly is definitively a member of this exclusive club. I even once chatted with Travis Malloy about working with Mr. Kelly in a 2018 interview for his film Infinity Chamber:

THiNC. – “Christopher Soren Kelly is like a minor deity in the world of small, independent film. His work with Jamin Winans in Ink and Frame was awesome. And his upcoming crowd-funded film, The Tangle looks like it will be off the hook. What was it like working with mainly just him for the creation of Infinity Chamber?”

Travis Milloy – “I don’t how else to put it, but I love Christopher.  He really was the reason why the whole project took flight.  When I was working on the script, I knew I was going to need a very unique talent, someone who was interesting enough to hold the screen by themselves for a majority of the movie.  One guy talking to a security camera, I knew I needed someone with an interesting presence, someone interesting to watch do very little, someone who could do a lot with very little.  And that was Chris.  I talked to him about my idea and he was the first one to say, ‘Just go do it.’  No need to wait for the right timing, the right money, just start making it.  Chris is from that world, he produces and directs indie films and he knows better than anyone what is possible with limited resources.  There’s a lot of people in this business who can not grasp the idea of making a movie for $100K but Chris knew exactly what I was trying to do. It was the inspiration I needed and with him agreeing to be in it, I had very little hesitation to start the journey.

“He was a joy to work with especially considering our working conditions.  This was not your usual production.  We had no money for support services, no catering, no dressing rooms, no air conditioning, no luxuries.  He was a champ and never hesitated to go the extra mile to get what we needed.  I dragged him all over the country, threw him into the Mojave desert where he burned his feet and into 10-below snow covered mountains in the Rockies with nothing but a thin layered space suit!  He never gave a single complaint, only a smile and a nod, always believing in what we were doing.

“Performance was something I never had to worry about with Chris, he’s an amazingly talented actor and, believe me, I don’t say that lightly.  Performance is everything and honestly it was the least of my concern throughout this production.  Chris knew what the role needed, knew what the moments meant, and his choices in delivery was a blessing.  Over all, we had a very low shooting ratio, we were a run and gun operation so we did very few takes and there was not much left on the cutting room floor.  I considered myself extremely lucky to have him be a part of this.”

Now, that doesn’t mean that this movie is for everyone. It’s a film cut from the cloth of detective noirs (like Brick) but, set in the future. It’s a closed box film, but deceptively open… even though it isn’t in the least. It’s a poetic, and lyrical screenplay that hearken backs to yesteryear… like Maltese Falcon, Chinatown sort of vibe. But not everyone is going to like that The Tangle is actually a play masquerading in a movie format… so, you are going to have to suss that out for yourself before going in. But I loved it. Here, have a movie trailer – and then go watch the movie right here.

The Tangle World Setup

The Tangle gets it’s name from an advanced technology that helps to bring about nirvana on planet earth. Or an attempt at nirvana anyway. That was the goal. After the world wide web, came the internet of things, and billions of devices, all talking and integrated within the internet. Next came The Tangle… wherein molecular nanobots (? this bit was a bit vague) as numerous as the stars, began circulating around the world, and everyone was monitored and watched 24/7. This lack of privacy was met with the benefit of the fact that there hadn’t been a murder in years, since the release of the Tangle.

So, that is the setup. A world controlled by the Tangle. A world without crime, but also a murky world where a murder has just occurred. Wait, what? Yeah. So, in this Tangle-filled world, we are questioning the fact that although we are free from sin, a sin has still been committed… and now everything is at risk.

The Opening of The Tangle

A secret government agency entitled the ASP (Army of Simply Purity) monitor the world at large by watching the tangles. And within the confines of a safe room (a Tangle-less location devoid of the nanobots that monitor the rest of the world) we learn that Margot Foster was murdered. It was the first murder in the past three years. And the suspect that they were certain did it was Carter Carmine. Carter was a private detective that supported the ASP agents – or the Cleopatra Squad. And who might Cleopatra be? Well, she was the one that invented the nanobots, and the entirety of The Tangle. Edward and Laurel apprehended Carter, and they have got to get to the bottom of this before word gets out and The Tangle comes crashing down.

They surgically removed the tangle from his brain, and they begin by interrogating him in hopes of figuring out exactly what happened. And it would seem that Carter was following Margot just before the murder, but then his tangle readout shutdown. It would also happen that during this shutdown vacuum of readout logs, is when Margot was murdered. Edward and Laurel are certain that this is their guy… that this is the individual who murdered Margot – but they need a confession to be sure, to tie up the loose ends… to solve this existential crisis buried within the capabilities (or the flaws rather) of the Tangle.

But, in time, it slowly becomes clear that Carter loved Margot, and more specifically, Cleopatra, and endangering either of them is the last thing he would ever do. So, if it wasn’t Carter, who could it possibly be? And that is when it becomes clear that it was Edward that killed Margot. And Edward isn’t going to be taken… no, that isn’t an option. Instead, he has a gun, and has decided he is going to head to the watchtower in order to find Cleopatra himself.

Why though? Why would Edward, one of the members of this Cleopatra Squad, try to kill Cleopatra herself? Well, it could very well be that Edward and Margot had come to suspect that Cleopatra was becoming a despot – that her powers were too far gone. And so maybe, if the world found out that murders were still possible, worse, that Cleopatra, and her squad, could be capable of abusing their powers, maybe the world would reign her in.

Think about this for a second. Technology has been unleashed. In the form an infinite number of nanobots. In our blood. In the air. Literally jacked into our minds. And the one person that has oversight of all of this is Cleopatra. And she may or may not even be human. There were hints and ideas throughout the dialog that maybe she was created? That Carter had helped to create her, or give her a benevolence and a kindness that would allow her to handle the weight of this enormous responsibility anyway. Regardless… Edward is climbing the mountain, heading off, to interact with this all-seeing, all-knowing person… this deity, that controls the fate of the entire world now. Edward is going to the watchtower to kill god. No? Am I missing something here? Or, at the very least, have his own, very literal, come to Jesus meeting…

The Ending of The Tangle Explained

So Edward goes in search of that mountain top experience with Cleopatra. He’s going to confront her. She needs to be stopped. She has too much power, and the world has careened out of control with her at the helm. Or so he believes anyway. And so up to the watchtower he goes. But Cleopatra is gone. She’s nowhere to be seen. And Edward stares at a plaque on the wall that says, “It was a miracle of rare device” and then he takes off his suit helmet.

Now, this is a big deal. This gesture. This movement in this movie. Why? Because the Cleopatra Squad has been separate from The Tangle. They move independently from this latest iot infestation. You know, this molecular Cleopatra infused network. So when Edward pops his suit off he is actively admitting his own defeat. But before we get to that – what is this miracle of rare device plaque thing?

Well, 200+ years ago, Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote an extraordinary poem, ‘Kubla Khan’ that has to be read to really be believed. My own personal favorite poem of all time is T.S. Eliot’s ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,’ but ‘Kubla Khan’ is without a doubt in my top five favorite poems. Even top 3? Coleridge has said about the creation of the poem that back in 1797, that he took some opium, and fell asleep reading Samuel Purchas’ Pilgrimage of 1614. Specifically, the portion where he talks about the palace of “Cublai Can.” And during his sleep the poem just came to him. And when he awoke, he began scrawling out the poem from his dream over the course of several hours. There was not a single sense of conscious effort on the poets part, it just unspooled from him from his memory in the dream. But then, out of nowhere, came a knock at the door… and the poem was done.

But looking at the poem itself, the narrator of the poem had a vision of a damsel singing of Mount Abora. This almost assuredly is a reference to Coleridge’s longstanding vision to create a 300 line masterpiece… which he never did. Almost his Moby Dick. The speaker in the poem continues on that if only he could rebirth this passion of the woman and her song, well then he would be able to finally craft his pantheon or pleasure-dome out of words. At which point he would take his place as the visionary magician and poet. Dude! Come back to earth!! What is the miracle of rare device?? Oh, right, sorry. It is literally referring to the “sunny pleasure dome with caves of ice.” It’s a balance of fire, and of ice. An impossible structure of two opposing forces. Which, some believe, is needed in order to maintain a poetic imagination. But in this context, it is in reference to The Tangle. A mythological perfect harmony of tech and of harmony that results in an earthly nirvana.

So think about the poem a second. It refers to its own vaunted of goal of perfection and a single solitary work that would cement himself as a literary wunderkind. An impossible task really. Similarly, the Cleopatra Squad was creating this impossible balance of good and evil, of fire and ice, of technology and peace. And from this balance, murders would end, and crimes would cease. It’s sort of laughable when you think about it really. Except that we know that this is metaphor. This is a picture of a perfection that is unattainable. Just impossible. And The Tangle admits its own impossibility with Edward bringing the entire pleasure-dome of fire and ice down around our ears because of his own desire for power and prestige. It’s the movie’s own admission that this idea of the pleasure-dome, The Tangle, is far fetched and inane. That man is corruptible even in the face of the Garden of Eden and perfect bliss.

But the movie ends with a very interesting twist. Edward takes off his mask, breathes in deeply, and we see a vision off in the distance only for a quick second:

We flip back to Edward, eyes closed, and then the picture snaps to black. And after about 5 or 10 seconds, we hear: “Hello Edward.” What could that possibly mean? Well, we know that Cleopatra is able to utilize these nanobots in order to see and hear everything. It is also able to take control of someone, use their eardrums as audio equipment. And so this is Cleopatra saying that the game is up. Edward has lost. But maybe she is also saying that there is a lot more here than just power. That here is a land across the Jordan available to us all. That in this life, that we can all strive for this harmony and this deeper connection in life.

Or, it could also mean, she was about to throw him off the watchtower to his death. One or the other. I’m not sure which. Do you have any ideas?

Edited by: CY