Incarnation is an Interesting Looping Puzzle

Incarnation is an Interesting Looping Puzzle
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Incarnation is an Interesting Looping Puzzle. . The other day, we looped through fifteen endless looping movies in the school of Groundhog Day in order to determine the best of the best. You guys even voted for the results (which means you are wrong, but whatever… we here at THiNC. can attempt to be democratic about things every once in a while! hahah. Inkarnacija. Or, Incarnation. Is a Serbian film made in 2016, and is available for streaming over on Amazon Prime or on Tubi?. And it tells the story of a man repeatedly waking up on a park bench in a city square, only to get hunted down and killed by four masked men, over and over again. This one isn’t for everyone – and might be a bit too abstract for many of you. Just saying.

Incarnation is a super low-budget film, but what it lacks for in budget it makes up for in guts and ingenuity. Sure, it isn’t perfect. But I had a lot of fun investigating this one (Thanks for the recommendation Nancy!) after we just recently talked about looping movies. Let’s hit the trailer and walk this one through:

Incarnation Movie Walkthrough

Please don’t continue on if you haven’t seen this movie yet. It was spoil the surprise of this ingenious film. It’s free on Prime, and will only cost you like 80 minutes of your life. Go check it out. Anyway, as I said at the open, the movie has a simple hook going for it. A man wakes on a park bench, in a city plaza somewhere. He can’t remember his name or how he came to be there. The open is repeated over and over again. The same kids playing, the same lost tourist, the same serious looking woman. But the threads always end with the man being shot to death.

After 15 minutes or so of this, we get our first glimpse outside the cycle. A view of a child, sitting next to two murdered individuals (his parents?). And a gunman standing over them all. This is quickly followed by our man, waking on a hospital table, with brain scans on the wall next to him. What is happening here? Has he been trapped in his mind since a childhood trauma? And it is playing out endlessly within his mind? But as the hospital scene unspools, we learn from the doctors that there is something in his blood that they cannot identify. And then the men in masks appear once again, and murder him there at the hospital. We learn that the doctor there was forced to inject him with something that would erase his memory. (Is that really a thing? No. No, it isn’t. Is it? Someone tell me. Because I want that drug. Pronto. ORDER UP!)

He finds a package under the park bench he wakes up on. That package has a paver in it. But why? And while being chased by the masked-men he keeps his eyes on the street, looking for a missing brick in the street. Eventually he discovers a missing paver in the street – and under the loose paver beside it is a piece of scrap paper with number 5 4 1 on it. BLAM! They kill him. The next time around though, one of the kids tips him off to the underground tunnels that run beneath the city and this time, he takes shelter below. The masked men are there too. And after running and running through tunnel after tunnel, he escapes out into the forest, and finally looses them. After sleeping a while, he wakes very thirsty and hot. Then, soon after, chilled and cold from a fast approaching storm. Seeing a fire, he finds a mask remnant in the fire. A mask similar to the masks worn by the men chasing him. But still, the masked men catch up to him and kill him.

Incarnation is an Interesting Looping Puzzle - a wicked complicated puzzle that is being to be solved, deciphered, and ultimately understood.

I just shifted the inevitable – only one street remained. The street from which they came. The day is not repeated for them as it is for me. They don’t recognize him – and he attacks one of them, finally getting the upper hand. “Take off your mask”… “It’s not up to me”… and then he tells the masked man to dial the number. But he doesn’t know the entire number – and this is where his “541” number he found comes in. He calls, uses another phone, and then the masked man tells him that “They are coming.”

He tells them that the effects of the serum have been reduced, and we watch as the masked men come to kill the boy. Are you with me here? I’m sorry… I have been so intent on figuring this movie out, I didn’t check to see if I’d lost you all in the dust. Sorry about that. But yeah – if you aren’t already seeing where this is going… I don’t know if I will be able to help you! hahah. Here’s where the other shoe drops. The masked men refuse to kill the child after killing the parents. And the last remaining masked man shoots off into a wall, and allows the child to live. A minute later we see that a masked man is struggling to get a mask off, and when he finally does… it’s himself. Covek, the guy who is having the repeating visions, is the guy behind the mask. At least one of them. But probably all of them… right? Because it makes sense.

“I saw the man who ordered my murder… but who wouldn’t murder anyone ever again. You’re either a killer or a victim. Therefore he made a plan…he would die without guilt, as a victim.” He burnt his clothes and mask. “He erased his memory. And then ordered his own murder. It was an idiotic plan, that was unsuccessful. But it didn’t matter, I would not be born again. I should not have woken up.” There were five of you, right? This was the number I called you from, I was the fifth. They turn the tables on him, and turn their guns on him. But he decides he isn’t going to wake up again. And he shoots himself in the head. But he wakes up again. And he’s despondent about being trapped there forever. He had tried every street, he knew how it ended. But what if he didn’t go anywhere? This time, the men knew Covek had expected them. “You forgot this one.” They gave me a chance to start again. But Covek responded, “No, it’s over now.” And they shoot him.

The bench is empty… “I don’t know where I am, but at least I didn’t wake up on the bench anymore.” The end.

Incarnation Movie – What Did I Just Watch?

I’m going to bet that something like 25% of the people that watched this movie were intrigued. They decided to wrestle with it, and really try to understand what it was that they had just watched. Another 25% liked it, and may have had an immediate idea of what the movie was about. Then there is a third 25% of you that were probably pretty frustrated, but really want to know why it is that you didn’t get it. And then there is the final fourth of you that probably would burn your copy of the movie if you had a physical copy to burn. No? I’m betting that this movie does a lot of different things to a lot of different people. Well, I personally think that the film is grounded in reality, but it might be that I am giving the film too much credit. (I’ve heard as much from the folks over on the Discord server – which, you can join in on right here.) So, to keep the yelling at a minimum, let’s talk through a variety of plans … and you can pick your favorite, or heck, bring your own to the comments below!

The 0% Reality Interpretation of Incarnation

The easiest interpretation of Incarnation to explain is this 0% reality interpretation. Why? Because it’s the most subjective. Basically, the idea is that everything we watched from beginning to end was just fantasy. It isn’t grounded at all in reality. And there is nothing we can take away from the movie that is telling us anything about the “real” world. You could explain this away by saying that it is someone’s mind rambling in a coma – or it could be that it’s someone locked in a mental ward, and they are just raving about raving.

The Absurdist’s Interpretation of Incarnation

You can be forgiven if you have no idea what absurdism means, or what it might be hinting at in this context anyway. But in philosophy, absurdism refers to the conflict between the human tendency to seek inherent value and meaning in life, and the human inability to find these with any certainty. So, with that definition of absurdism in mind… you can guess where I am going with this. Could it be that Incarnation is just a grappling with the insanity of attempting to derive meaning within the inherently chaotic lives that we live day to day? Maybe, the lack of a point, is the point. Could it be that the thrashing, the endless cycling, and search for an escape is just a conversation about the human condition in a random and pointless universe? Maybe? I guess. It’s definitely an option anyway.

The Jacob’s Ladder Interpretation of Incarnation

Spoilers to Jacob’s Ladder to follow… but come on. Could it be that Incarnation is a similar set up to Jacob’s Ladder, wherein we learn that Jacob is actually dying in a rice paddy in Vietnam, and the rest of the movie is just the Angles and the Demons that are at war over his soul? That hell, ultimately, is just the fact that he has no peace with the terms of his death. That Covek is dying or dead… and he is just thrashing with the details, the injustices of, his death? Maybe all of it is tangential to his dying. Maybe he was that kid, and he was shot during his parents death… and maybe the rest of it is his raging against this one truth. Could it be just a spiritual war raging in the dying light of his before he completely dies??

The 2% Reality Interpretation of Incarnation

Could there be some reality in here somewhere? Hrm. Well, we have the bench, and the plaza. We have the different streets out of the plaza. We have the tunnels. We have the masked men, and the doctor that causes his amnesia. Hrm. Not much there so far. None of that really is a candidate for coming from a real world.

Oh, wait, there is a kid in here. Not the kids playing games. No, they too are stuck in the recurring city quad. But what about that kid with the assassinated parents? The story cuts back to memories – at least, as far as we can tell – Covek’s memories as a kid. Did his parents get murdered by a man in a mask? And was he spared at the last minute by one of the men in a mask. And did this man in a mask cover his grace by shooting off into the wall? Maybe. Maybe??

If we can state this as a fact, and we can extrapolate from there, maybe the entirety of the movie is young Covek dealing with the insanity of this moment. Could it be that in that infinitesimal moment, Covek sees a million possibilities and traps, and counter possibilities, and a million lost possibilities? Could it be that Covek is trapped in his mind as he looks for a way out of this insanity? Does he join the mayhem and seek revenge? Or just become a murderer just like the other masks in his life? We know that that is how the insanity plays in his mind at first… He becomes a mask, joins them in their murderous spree. Then can’t cope with the chaos anymore and hires a doctor to make him forget. Then he unleashes the other masks on himself. Runs, runs, runs… but is never able to find a way out. And it is only in his realization to not play that he wins the game, and ceases to exist.

Final Thoughts on the Movie Inkarnacija/Incarnation

The lack of solidity here will cause many viewers to really rage. I mean that literally. And on Discord there are a few people that would like blood for this movie getting suggested. And yet, I really liked the ambiguity of it. I almost want to go back through it again, and come through the details in search of that one extra key that I might have missed. To unlock it. To figure it out. But I have a feeling, that the movie was made to be our mess. To be our recurring nightmare, whatever that nightmare might be. You know? Maybe our parents weren’t murdered violently in front of our eyes. But there is a bit of absurdist in all of us.

Edited by: CY