K-PAX ★★★½

“It's a shallow life that doesn't give a person a few scars.”


Our past and our mind are conjoined twins, teleporting thoughts and emotions back forth instantaneously, throughout our lifetime via their inseverable binding. Their time of birth is a few nanoseconds apart and even though they continue to co-exist from that moment on, they become fully cognizant of each other's significance and their mutual reliance only several years later. Our past is bestrewn with sweet, bittersweet and traumatic memories. It is an unchangeable, unavoidable record of occurrences, out of which the most prominent reverberations remain permanently etched in our minds, forever ready to be summoned at a moment's notice to affect us. These protuberant memories continually chisel our present and future selves. Whatever we do, unless we have a time machine at our disposal, no one can undo the sins committed, the souls hurt, the lives taken, the relationships forgone and broken. Even more abrasive are the memories of those lives that passed away unsaved. The past is a past phenomenon just in its label, but within its vessel, our mind, it continues to live on as a guilt brandishing, burden mounting devil, that silently creeps up, imposing itself upon our mind, continuously repressing it from living freely, barricading it from achieving its true potential and waging perniciously to induce and instill a regressive mindset within us. With great determination and forethought, one can make amends by leading a benevolent life, as a mark of sincere contrition. Thereby, slowly but surely, relieving oneself from the guilt amassed in installments and decoupling from the dreaded vise like grip of the past, one link at a time.


Our ridiculously tolerant mind magnanimously accommodates even those memories that are seething and hurtful. Our mind harbours and anchors them to the human soft spots called guilt and conscience, causing subconscious unrest from which there is no escaping. At times like these, for souls as beleaguered as these, selective amnesia would seem like an agreeable option. A mind that is a converse of that of Leonard's, who is unyieldingly plagued with only the single most traumatic event from his past, would be ideal. Something similar to the commonplace medical procedure as in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, would be a boon for such marred souls. After all who wouldn't love a spotless mind? Blessed are those who are able to cleave their painful memories and move ahead as replenished individuals. But most, like me, are ordinary ones who remain helpless. Unable to forget, they continue to remain in a subliminal bondage, unrealizing of the infliction caused by echoes that are long dead and gone. Past actions ceaselessly nag the conscience of those who nurture an inherent guilt complex. Even though they were faultless and that which happened had to happen, honest souls are nonetheless encumbered by an unusual rectitude and an uncommon fear that bars them from being free minded people. The only remaining possibility of the past's effect on the mind is when a person earnestly denies having experienced any scarring trauma ever before in his life, which is simple and clear proof of a serious mental aberration.


Forgetting the past is not a permanent solution, as this hibernating parasite could be triggered from the simplest of experiences that mirror past trauma, causing it to rise again like a phoenix, remigrating to haunt and haul us back to those dark places that we, with every passing second, move farther away from. Instead of forgetting, conscious/hypnotically conscious reliving of past should do the trick, as it not only makes us stronger, but also constantly warns our mind against relapsing into its tenebrous mode. It encourages us to consider reparation as a viable option, wills us to support those in need of a helping hand, just like we were, and warms us by emphasizing that such deeds would heel our scars that once seemed incurable. Confronting one's own demons is the biggest challenge that life and fate could throw to a person. If one could trump his past and thrash his guilt amicably, and find great purpose in the reminder of his existence, like Bruce Wayne did, he could lead an exemplary life.


K-Pax is about the life and times of Robert Porter, a man who fits the description of a severely tormented soul to the hilt. Stung by a terrifying impasse, much like patient number 67 on Shutter Island, the legendary Mr. Andrew Laeddis, Robert Porter is a man haunted by all those things he could have done differently that could have presented him a happier present and future.


The significance of the number 67 in terms of Angelic numbers is described below:

Number 67 is a blend of the attributes of number 6 and number 7. Number 6 carries the vibrations of providing for home and family, service to others, balance and stability, responsibility and self-sacrifice, honesty and integrity, and unconditional love. Number 7 adds its attributes of mysticism, spiritual enlightenment, inner-wisdom and good fortune, spiritual awakening and development, persistence of purpose, intuition and psychic abilities. Angel Number 67 also signifies your strong connection with the angelic and spiritual realms that opens the doorway to Divine and Angelic guidance.


The choice of terming Laeddis as patient number 67 couldn't have been without a reason. Laeddis never paid much attention to his wife's mental illness. His foolish confidence that everything would eventually turn out alright, his careless drinking and his obsession with work eventually caused an unthinkable familial disaster. He did not live faithfully to the number 6. But cometh the disaster, cometh the guiding angel of number 7 which encourages him to develop the alternate persona of Edward Daniels, a subconsciously self-induced alter ego to shield himself from his piercing guilt. A compassionate man named Dr. Cawley, employs a revolutionary, sympathetic approach to curing gravely traumatic mental disorders by allowing his patients to play out their fantasies and have them realize and dissociate their reveries from reality, on their own. Even though Laeddis' alias is a cover up aimed at keeping his internal agony at bay, it proves to be effective, but not in the long run because he persists in trying to deny his deeds rather than accepting them.


Robert Porter performed the heartless job of a knocker day in and day out. One day, an uninvited guest comes knocking at his door when he is not home and destroys everything that Porter lived for. In his mind Porter knows, what had happened was an act instigated by severe sexual poverty and desperation driven by material needs. It is no more cruel than him killing all those cattle for meat, which could be categorized under the norms of a demand or a want, but never under a need. But he could not resist killing the perpetrator and he does. After he avenges, he has nothing to live for and decides to drown himself, figuratively in his guilt and literally in a river known for its deadly current. Which is when his co-existent, spiritually conjoined, behaviorally inverse, light-weight alien from another planet, Prot, permeates him and strives to undo his wrongs, in an attempt to pacify the unresting turbulence within Porter's mind. Not much is said about Porter's past, apart from bits and pieces of information shrouded in mystery, but his approach towards his family could have been very similar to Laeddis'. But he was luckier than Laeddis as he had Prot to help him recuperate, whereas Laeddis had only his imagination.


With Prot, the film establishes an entity that could authentically be described as a stand out from the rest of humanity. Hence he holds the right to deliver opinions very much alike John Oldman in The Man from Earth. Prot is unaccustomed to the life of us Tellurians. Hence, his sarcastic criticism and mockery of the human condition during the immensely intriguing sessions with Dr. Mark Powell, his human psychologist, should only be taken as a healthy repartee aimed at the betterment of our race as a whole. Writing it off as insulting or something that is eye-rollingly preachy is missing the point, in my opinion. By mentioning that for K-Paxians, intercourse is a painful process, Prot indirectly hints at how we have approached it carelessly and have caused a mammoth raise in population, thereby resulting in an unnatural imbalance between the number of inhabitants and the resources available. Multiply that with our prodigal usage and greed and we can arrive at the reason for modern warfare. Prot talks about capital punishment:


Let me tell you something, Mark. You humans, most of you, subscribe to this policy of an eye for an eye, a life for a life, which is known throughout the universe for its... stupidity. Even your Buddha and your Christ had quite a different vision, but nobody's paid much attention to them, not even the Buddhists or the Christians. You humans. Sometimes its hard to imagine how you've made it this far.


It is quite possible that Jerome Bixby could have modeled the whole ideology of John Oldman based on the above quote as a respectful acknowledgement. The truest form of restitution is forgiveness. Through the above words Prot advocates the necessity of forgiving and that revenge is just a mirage that falsely promises the reward of tranquility to the person who consummates it. But in actuality it does the polar opposite of it. Revenge actually makes a person hollower, ratcheting up his perceived insignificance of life and simultaneously plummeting his guilt to previously unseen depths.


What more, Prot is a devout vegetarian. He even goes to the length of commenting that his trip from K-Pax, which is 1000 light years away, was worth it just for Earth's produce, indirectly vouching for vegetarianism. He always eats mouth fulls, unmindful of the possible reproach from onlookers and as if it was to be his last supper. What took my affinity to Prot to even higher reaches was that he could communicate with Dogs. Prot, in every sense of approach to people and life, is a complete antithesis to Robert Porter. He cures the nosemaphobic Ernie, enlightening him with the truth that death is something that no one has control over and that it is nonsensical to waste one's precious life worrying about dying, in a way simultaneously instilling the same idea within Robert Porter. He cures Howie, the obsessive compulsive, by subtly training him to focus on life as a whole rather than being obsessive about futile tasks, indirectly nudging Porter to unfasten his mind's obsession of the past. He helps the autistic socialite, Mrs. Doris Archer to come out of her self imposed isolation, indirectly prompting Porter to break out of his self-imposed detention within his guilt bubble. By curing Sal, the bromidrophobic, who endlessly complains of the stink in others, he encourages Porter to develop a positive outlook of the world and its people, a view that may been severely dented after what he had experienced. Not only the patients but Dr. Powell (brilliantly underplayed performance by Jeff Bridges), is also extremely obsessive when it comes to curing his patients. Everything comes at a cost and the cost Dr. Powell pays is the alienation of his family.


Nobody wants, nobody needs. On K-PAX, when I'm gone, nobody misses me. There would be no reason to. And yet I sense that when I leave here... I will be missed. Yes. Strange feeling.


The chain of miracles performed by Prot and especially the above words causes Dr. Powell to reexamine his life and priorities, in a way helping him realize how gifted he should feel to have a family that cares and how that emotional bond must be protected and requited, something that Porter might not have paid much heed to. And by taking Bess, the loneliest being in the medical center, back to K-Pax, Prot's curing trip attains a sense of fulfillment, something that is reflected by the miniscule smile at the edge of Porter's lips when he is being wheel chaired by Dr. Powell in the end.


K-Pax not only intrigues with its interesting plot and its two lead characters but also with its line up of meaningful, purposeful supporting characters. Its intricately designed layer of mystery is engaging because it always keeps open two possibilities, feeding our interest and keeping the guessing game alive right till the very end, as we try to separate fact from fiction. But as the film progresses, we ourselves realize that Prot or Porter's true identity does not matter as much as what the film ultimately tries to convey. If that thought strikes you by the end of the film, I think K-Pax and Prot have succeeded in their endeavour. Prot well and truly deserves a beatification for his services.


PS, I am amazed by the enigma that is Kevin Spacey. His performances are so effortlessly captivating that each role he breathes life into seems to have been tailor made for him and him alone. Prot is a character that demands extraneous nonchalance and intrinsic complexity and Spacey pulls it off with his characteristic brilliance. The man is literally capable of sleepwalking in a role and still making it remarkable. Spacey is an outstandingly special actor, which is a statement I will hold on for K-Pax eons. Period.

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