Mark Reads ‘Moving Pictures’: Part 18

In the eighteenth and penultimate section of Moving Pictures, Victor and Ginger race to save the Disc. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.

Holy shit, this was incredible.

It’s remarkable to me to see how dedicated Pratchett was to the logistics of the Holy Wood metaphor. There are numerous examples of how reality twisted in a way to make the world of film frighteningly real. Or, in one case, comically real, such as the wizards crashing into the barn and erupting on the other side, covered in chickens. Nothing about that was frightening, just kind of adorable. Well, the barn was full of cabbages that turned into chickens, so I guess that’s kind of creepy. (All I could think of was the Cabbage Man from Avatar: The Last Airbender during that scene.)

This truly is the most unsettling Discworld book so far, and I’m absolutely okay with that. It doesn’t make it less funny, but it makes it different. When Victor, the Librarian, and Ginger arrived back in Holy Wood, I felt uncomfortable. How were they supposed to wake the guard with so little time left and no idea what they needed to do? But even that part of the story is a Hollywood joke, isn’t it? Just like major action films, the plot in Moving Pictures gets down to the wire, forcing the team to improvise in the nick of time. There’s even a last-minute explanation of one of the few dangling plot threads:

“He says you’re probably descended from the original High Priestess. He thinks everyone in Holy Wood is descended from… you see… I mean, the first time the Things broke through the entire city was destroyed and the survivors fled everywhere, you see, but everyone had this way of remembering even things that happened to their ancestors, I mean, it’s like there’s this great big pool of memory and we’re linked up to it and when it all started happening again we were all called to the place, and you tried to put it right, only it was weak so it couldn’t get through to you unless you were asleep –”

He trailed off helplessly.

I loved that this exposition explosion was given terribly by Victor, and yet it makes sense. It explains the “call,” it explains the mysterious affect Holy Wood has on all these people, and it explains why Ginger, in her trance, was so desperate to get down into that temple. She was trying to save the Discworld, not destroy it. I’m not even sure that these characters understand what they’re a part of, but they know it’s a lot bigger than themselves. AND IT’S SCARY AS HELL. I mean, how eerie was it when they realized all of Holy Wood was empty? It only got worse, especially once the rules of the moving pictures they created began to take hold on their lives. Like I said earlier, it’s a commitment on Pratchett’s part, but it also provided a hell of a suspenseful sequence, no? No one is able to talk out loud because THEY NEVER INVENTED SOUND IN THEIR MOVIES.

Good lord.

So, with the Dean and the Librarian in tow, Victor and Ginger return to the Cinema (the Cthinema?) below Holy Wood, where reality is so twisted that two of them exist in the same spot at the same time. Oh, and this:

Ginger gripped his arm tightly as they inched their way down from the aisle.

All of Holy Wood was there. They saw faces they knew ranged along the seats, immobile in the shivering light, every expression nailed in place.

He felt her nails dig into his skin. There was Rock, and Morry, and Fruntkin from the commissary, and Mrs. Cosmopolite the wardrobe lady. There was Silverfish, and a row of other alchemists. There were the carpenters, and the handlemen, and all the stars that never were, all the people who had held horses or cleaned tables or stood in queues and waited and waited for their big chance…

Lobsters, thought Victor. There was a great city and lots of people died and now it’s the home of lobsters.

It’s a haunting metaphor for a haunting scene. Are all these people like those crustaceans, simply waiting in the tank to be plucked out and served to the Things from the Dungeon Dimensions? Is this the fate of everyone who once stopped Holy Wood from destroying the world?

There’s something super funny to me about the fact that the way to awake the guardian being nothing more than a giant gong. It’s so deceptively simple that it amuses me. That amusement was killed by the fact that their reality began to turn into a film, so much so that they moved in individual frames, lost to the magic of octo-cellulose. Which was frightening because I worried that Deritus would swing the hammer too late! But holy shit, in true Holy Wood fashion, the end of this section is an ongoing spectacle of absurdity. I can’t get over how well this book fits the format of an action/adventure film, you know? IT’S SO CLEVER. But that’s how the rules of this world work. Ginger and Victor had to be the last ones out; they had to have a close call, nearly certain that they wouldn’t make it out of that chamber alive; and in the end, Holy Wood had to be destroyed.

There was no way it could remain. So the shockwaves from the guardian’s battle with Them bring the whole place down in a heap of lost dreams (but saved worlds). It was a strangely wistful sequence, and I understood why Ginger cried. To get so close to a dream, only to have it taken away? That’s sad. But I also think that Ginger cried at the end because she was relieved. She, and plenty of others, had escaped the treacherous pull of Holy Wood.

They were free.

The original text contains use of the word “madness.”

Mark Links Stuff

– The Mark Does Stuff Tour 2015 is now live and includes dates across the U.S., Canada, Europe, the U.K., and Ireland. Check the full list of events on my Tour Dates / Appearances page.
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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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