Ponty Pool is a hard movie to grasp and most of the time through the movie you do find yourself grappling with ideas the movie puts before you and actually struggling. And I find it interesting that the movie actually centers itself on much of the same idea of language as a source of horror for society.
The kind of horror the movie plays on initially is the kind of horror that intelligible language can convey. It was interesting at first where you spend a great deal of the movie listening to the horror. In that sense the movie takes you back to the roots of horror as a narrative form. The movie even goes out of its way by employing the most distilled form of narrative there is, the spoken word. The time you spend in the movie listening to the accounts of the news correspondent outside witnessing brings to note one thing about horror and that it exists at the point of understanding. What I mean by this is that the concept of fear, horror, and revulsion begins the moment we understand. In a manner of speaking the moment we realize the horror, it is already too late in that we’ve already let it in the door. And the movie operating on that is what initially sets the tone for the horror because we spend a good amount of time letting it in already and the moment that we come to understand the nature of the horror in the movie, a virus transmutable through language and cognition, of all things, does the actual visual horror begin.
The movie for me builds off of an uncommon kind of fear we have not really explored because of the fact that it operates on the level of the abstract. There is a hidden fear that is rendered in our usage of language. We use language as a means for expression and understanding which we do by syntax and order. This is how we derive and inscribe all meaning into our conversations but, as the movie illustrates, what if that very process had taken on a life of its own. What if language was able to exert a will over us? Not like in a way that it could make us do something we didn’t want to do or physically control us but if it could make us mean something without us meaning. There is that day to day fear we encounter of being misunderstood and the movie plays that to the extreme where we are being forced to not understand as the countermeasure against the horrors. It’s unimaginable really to have a method of salvation that is available but nigh impossible.
As such, it raises the issue of the possible dangers of understanding. As human, we are apparently biologically and psychologically conditioned to learn to make sense out of the non-sense of the world; as is the basis for much of human curiosity. The movie then presents the idea of what if we weren’t supposed to make sense of the non-sense unlike what we do, out of said curiosity. The movie presents a cautionary tale of the said dangers of understanding and the consequence of knowing what shouldn’t be known. But along those same lines, the movie also presents an equally horrible outcome of the current trend of language and that is the possibility of overusing it to the point of words losing meaning. That is what it means to break a language; to have to unlearn it, learn another, and hope that the depth of meaning is the same.