War symbolism

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In the short "war" there is a close-up of a tooth falling into a glass which seems to have nothing to do with the rest of the story. I have always taken this to symbolize, "eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth". Anybody have any different ideas. Does anybody agree or disagree?

-- John Gauger (john.gauger@yale.edu), April 09, 1998


In the Blair witch they open up a little package of rolled sticks and Josh's shirt, the guy who disappeared (I just rewatched this tonight) inside there is a bloody tooth. I know this because the Blair witch book tells about it. Course Blair witch project was made after Aeon Flux. Kinda interesting to use the same idea, since it's a strange one, expresses personal injury subtley but effectively though.

-- Barb e. (Suesuesbeo9@cs.com), November 24, 2002.

As a matter of fact the book-sequel to the Blair Witch was a dossier of information (compiled of private investigators hired by families after the police failed to find the missing kids) you read between the lines and solved the mystery yourself, (...not totally though). It resembled the Herodotus file 'concept' in that respect. Wonder if the writers were influenced by it.

-- Barb e. (Suesuesbeo9@cs.com), November 25, 2002.

I like that interpretation a lot. Given Flux's writers' history for using Biblical references (Trevor's "head on a platter", etc.), it seems perfectly plausible, especially as it emphasizes the futility of the war.

Is there some arbitrariness going on here too? If we think about what "tooth for a tooth" means, and then realize that the symbolism doesn't return throughout the episode, it becomes a self-referential, ironic image, doesn't it?

That the tooth falls into the glass and not onto the ground or a body or what-have-you says something about the tooth as an exhibit, about one's ability to "drink it in," so to speak--except the glass is empty. Or is it "half-full"? The old debate--sparked by one of the only things that can truly identify us: our dental records. In the war identity becomes relegated to what is recoverable from death.


-- Steve Rach Mirarchi (rach@earthlink.net), April 09, 1998.

Well, it may be naove of me, but I thought it was Varsh's wisdom tooth, so as such he was 'bottling his wisdom' and getting on with taking out an entire Monican base.

-- Philip Mills (philip.mills@cableinet.co.uk), April 22, 1998.

Well, i just want to start off by saying how great i think this forum is, and that i think its awesome that there are others out there who love the show and can think about it for more than its face value. To comment on "the futility of war", as stated above, that was my original impression of this episode. How utterly ridiculous war truly is. We see dozens upon dozens that fon has killed, then the dozens that her killer killed, the ones his killer kills, and the one his killer kills - all for what? So one man can be set free at the end? It just doesn't seem right. I especially like Chung's usage of the painter to hold the door open, showing how war affects everybody. As for the tooth in the jar, for the longest time i had no interpretation. But it occurred to me that dental records can be the only fail - safe way to identify someone, especially during wartime. And i thought again of all those countless dead soldiers, from either side, and thought that Chung was once again showing the horror involved in war. All those dead ... and all in the backround, really, we dont get the chance to know most of them (unless the serve a purpose: i.e., the painter, or the guy who shoots the rope Varsh slides down). They were all facless casulties, and no one will know who they were unless they do some sort of i.d. check later on. I think Chung is trying to say, with all of this, that war just isnt worth it. Now, i'm just a lowly college student, and don't know diddly squat, so feel free to tell me where i'm wrong here ... And i do have a question of my own. The hydrolics that romeo activates to open the door leave a puddle on the floor - they drip consistently. As the short ends, the shot closes in on the puddle. What do you think this represents? i could never be sure. thanx, eric

-- eric troll diamond (djahspuhr@aol.com), April 24, 1998.

At this point it may be worth reminding everyone that the episode only acquired the name 'War' when it was released on video. The point being that this may not have been the original description - imagine how drastically our views may be changed if we learnt that the temporary title had been something else, like 'Hate' for example. However, I think the story speaks for itself and that War is not a misleading name.

-- Philip Mills (philip.mills@cableinet.co.uk), April 24, 1998.

Oh, and do you think Chung really thought that hard about the tooth thing? Some of his ideas were from surreal dreams (and, cough, other trance-like states). It could have nothing to do with the story, and just be a cool thing he wanted to put in.

-- Philip Mills (philip.mills@cableinet.co.uk), April 24, 1998.

On the whole tooth thing... This may just be me, but I find it funny that everyone is trying to understand Aeon Flux in terms of symbolism. The tooth in the jar strikes me as a very nice image, but not necessarily something that serves to illustrate something higher, or intellectual. My impression was that Romeo (the swordsman) was such an incredible swordsman that he turned the Breens in hamburger. It's so incredibly violent that it has to be kept offscreen, and we're shown the tooth as a sort of tease.

I suppose you could read something subconscious into to the tooth; If you dream about losing teeth, it's supposed to indicate that someone is preventing you from speaking, or that you've lost some of your social influence.

-- Zach (rapacity@usa.net), May 01, 1998.

OopsImean Varsh, not Romeo.

-- Zach (rapacity@usa.net), May 04, 1998.

My thought on the tooth was simply that it was a way to say someone's head had been completely blown apart without having to show it ...

The puddle, on the other hand, held more significance for me. We see the puddle twice. The second time, it's not really much bigger than the first time. It's a little larger, but not too much. Meanwhile, lots of people are dead -- the swordsman especially. I thought it was a way of saying that a million things can happen, heroes can be forged and killed, in an amount of time that is otherwise relatively meaningless.

-- Doug Buel (reporter@iag.net), May 19, 1998.

Ever since I first saw this short, when it was first on LTV, I always had the thought that after the ending of the film, as Donna Matrix and her companion attempt to flee, they would slip on the puddle and die. Yeah, it sounds odd, but I was in 8th grade at the time :) But I do still consider it to be a plausible implication... You can see that they're in a gunfight as they run, and they probably wouldn't notice the puddle, then slip and have the moment taken advantage of by their opponents. It could be interpreted as Romeo's "revenge"... he inadvertently caused the formation of the puddle and this could end up killing Donna. This may be a far-fetched speculation, though...

-- Mat Rebholz (mer5@dana.ucc.nau.edu), May 19, 1998.

The puddle represents Naturalism. The entire episode circulates around naturalism (man cannot escape or deny the arbitrary influences of nature or chance.) The puddle was like all the other deaths, just a freak occurance that dramatically influence a life.

-- divinity (divinity@orcalink.com), June 26, 1998.

the tooth and the puddle are symbols of the same thing.....chaos. How many people noticed those events.....in the middle of the battle someones tooth was either ripped, shot, or blown, from his mouth. It flew across a great distance and and ,by chance, landed in a bottle. A very unlikely thing...and it went unoticed. Same with the puddle. By themselves they are unimportant, but they show how even in a large scale bloodbath like in "war" small things happen....even if they are insignifigant. Would the Swordman guy not have died if the tooth didn't go in the bottle. Probably not. But it did happen; thats what's important. (chaos on a macroscale....and microscale) P.S.....when i first saw "War" i thought they would slip too:)

-- tak loufer (Tak.Loufer@land.magic), August 03, 1998.

I like the answer considering that millions of people are dying while something as small as a peuddle is slowly forming. But i have a question? how doy uo guys know the chracters' names? I'm pretty sure they'r not in the credits.

-- Owen Black (Ob200bpm@aol.com), September 05, 1998.

I like the answer considering that millions of people are dying while something as small as a peuddle is slowly forming. But I have a question? how doy uo guys know the chracters' names? I'm pretty sure they'r not in the credits.

-- Owen Black (Ob200bpm@aol.com), September 05, 1998.

I still want an answer to that question. I know Chung mentioned some in an interview, but not all, and not RU-486.

-- Philip Mills (philip.mills@cableinet.co.uk), September 06, 1998.

I have a question (i don't think thais was mentioned yet)...what about the significance of hair? No, wait, hear me out. The only people who survive more than a few seconds in this short (Breen or Monican) have really funky hairdos. Aeon first of all, then the blonde guy who shoots her (dude looks like his hair was sculpted over a party-hat), etc. Also note the swordsman (oh baby love the ponytail), the guy with the mohawk (doesn't last real long, but does better than average), the painter, and the lady who gets the swordsman (helmet, sure, but a redhead!) Meanwhile, all the people who are only on screen long enough to get shot have really normal hair. It's like the hairdressers only bothered with the people who were going to be on camera longer.

-- alex (meat_machine@hotmail.com), November 09, 1998.

In response to the hair thing.

People with normal hair fit into the crowd easier and add to the "faceless masses" image. They're not important, not special, they're not even worth a few extra seconds of the animator's time, so it seems.

-- Frostbite (foo@bar.com), November 09, 1998.

Oh, and about the tooth and puddle:When I first saw the tooth I was completely baffled(of course, I was convinced their was more to Aeon than meets the eye, but for some strange reason was impossible to decifer. Perhaps there were previous episodes in which the plot was explained. Perhaps there was some deep, gnostic meaning.Maybe it was an allusion to some great literary work....*pulls herself out of her flashback*) Years later, watching the same short and having no deep insights, I finally concluded it was just to show that someone's head had been blown apart. This chaos idea, however, sound intriguing and tantalizingly plausible.

My first reaction to that puddle was the same as everyone elses;that they would slip and fall. Later I saw it as an image that was supposed to look like blood(Actually, at first i thought it WAS blood, then later decided it was just reddish oil) But once again, the chaos thing makes for an even cooler explanation.

-- Frostbite (foo@bar.com), November 09, 1998.

The names: I believe Ed Stastney (www.sito.org) coaxed the names of the characters out of Peter Chung during an interview, a few years ago.

-- Zach (rapacity@usa.net), November 12, 1998.

The growing pool of blood symbolized the quickly multiplying body count in the short, which speaks to war everywhere. Each drop was an additional human being added to what eventually amounts to mass bloodshed.

-- Tom Martin (feofino@aol.com), November 27, 1998.

i agree with Phillip Mills and Zach on the tooth-in-the bottle issue. now i'm not trying to attack anyone here, and i realize everyone's different, but this is my take: if you try to read symbolism into everything in this show, if you over-intellectualize everything and don't take some of these things at face value, you will miss the real meaning of much of this series: outrageousness for outrageousness' sake. now some of you quit being so smart, stop thinking ( if you can ), and go watch this short again!:-] like most, it's absolutely imploding from extremism and outrageosness!!!

-- neobe 316 (neobe@kscable.com), December 12, 1999.

OK, you know those "brawl" scenes in action flicks? Where the hero is facing a large group that he obviously outclasses, & dispatches them off-screen (usually with a flying table or chair) for comedic effect? That's how I interpret the tooth. Varsh was about to break into the enemy base; we see several enemy soldiers, then a tooth falling into a jar, then he's in the base. So we have a scene that would be played for laughs, but when handled more realistically (flying teeth instead of furniture) it is, in fact, kind of grim.

-- Inukko (nadisrec@worldnet.att.net), July 15, 2001.

Oh BTW, I meant the table & chair were for comedic effect (not the method of dispatchment ;)

-- Inukko (nadisrec@worldnet.att.net), July 15, 2001.

Jeeze you guys are pretty dumb.... it you actually listen closey to the sound you will hear gunfire. the tooth is supposed to be from one of the mons that that breen guy killed to get into the base.

-- HAHAHA (fds@aol.com), November 10, 2001.

Gun, fists, whatever ^_^

-- Inukko (nadisrec@worldnet.att.net), November 10, 2001.

I like the "chaos" theory on this... while I believe much of what happens in Ĉon Flux is purely arbitrary and ridiculous for its own sake (which is very much a good thing in the context of the series), there's nothing wrong with a little speculation on symbolism and such. And in the context of this episode, both the tooth (which flies into the bottle entirely by coincidence and unintentionally preserves and shelters that "record" of the soldier) and the puddle (formed unintentionally by the door's hydraulics) appear as entirely arbitrary circumstances but can still have large effects on the events around them. It's a statement that even in the most epic and grisly of circumstances, the smallest things can determine everything. It also feels, to a lesser extent, like a statement on futility and transience, but that's probably because I've been thinking like a lit major too long. ;)

It's just fun no matter how you look at it, though :)

-- Ubik (ubik@purdue.edu), March 18, 2002.

This is my first time on this board, and I'm really surprised at the thoroughness and intellectualism behind these arguments. It's really quite interesting.

Anyway, in response to the puddle in War, I always thought that the short had nothing to do with widespread death and destruction, but more to do with the pattern of people. We see Aeon, a member of the purple-clad Monicans, then she's killed by a blue-clad Breen, whose killed by a Monican, who is then killed by the woman in white (I used to know the names, but I don't feel like trying to remember them).

I thought the whole point of showing the puddle was so that the viewer could infer the rest of the episode: if the woman slips and falls, she will die, and the rescued man now takes over the action. He would no doubt kill thousands of Monicans, then be killed by one, who would be killed by a Breen, and so on and so forth.

Not to say anyone was wrong. I'm just presenting how I saw it.

-- Castor Troy (castortroy@europe.com), August 16, 2002.

Wow a forum that spans four years thats definitely the longest conversation discussion I've ever seen. RDN

-- RDN (seraftrev3000@aol.com), August 29, 2002.

The Tooth: I agree with the interpretation that its a less graphic way of showing that incredible violence occured.

The Puddle: My interpretation of that was as follows: Romeo needs to get to the battle, so he opens the large door. Yhe door opens, but it leaks some oil onto the floor. Romeo doesn't care about this; sure, its bad that oil has leaked out, but its just a cost incurred in opening a door that Romeo feels is negligible. I think this is a parallel to the redhead lady who comes in to rescue her boyfriend. All the fighting and deaths she has incurred in invading the base to rescue her bf are just incidental things to her, in the same way the oil leak was an unfortunate, but incidental and unimportant by-product of opening the door. That the redhead couple runs through the hall toward the oil is what brought it together for me. They're parallel events. Romeo didn't care about spilling a little oil to open the door, and the redhead lady didn't care about spilling a little, or a lot, of blood to get her boyfriend back.

-- Alec Smart (argantael_z@hotmail.com), October 11, 2002.

I wonder if the inclusions of things like the tooth_bottle and dripping_puddle symbols were included 'specifically' to invoke second thoughts and discussions. As in, Peter Chung didn't have any 'specific' idea in his mind, other than that people would probably come up with their own specific ideas, probably differed ones.

To me this is genius, the story highlights diversity, and you only know so much. For example, we follow a variety of notable individuals, we see them kill and be killed. The idea resonates that know one escapes death, we see the rather anti climactic fall of our beloved Aeon (again). But in seconds we find our interests redirected to some new enigmatic protagonist, and so forth (although my affinity for well done fighting Choreography had me a little annoyed about Romeo's removal and replacement). But who else is dying?

We all know Peter is a good enough storyteller to make his ideas in symbols apparent enough if he wants to. I remember his encouraging fans to avoid simply disputing other interpretations and to simply appreciate the knowledge of a differing take. I love it; it's that importance of regarding diversity.

Although I think this kind of thing is probably identifiable in all the eps. And, maybe if you take everything in "war" into ideal consideration, you will see that there is a very apparent and specific meaning behind the symbolism. But I really do feel that a point is you can't take 'everything' into consideration with "war". The variables are beyond a realistic humans ability to quantify.

Now I want to say a little about my (other) take:

After each character dies we have no real camera time to acknowledge their death. Most people should care when Aeon dies, but the story just moves on. We're now following her killer as though he was some kind of hero, all of a sudden were introduced to his proficiency in killing and the entertainment kicks back in. He's confident, seems on top of business. Is over the top, but like 007 or something, you can get comfortable with supporting him if you want, because he's suave and wont screw up. He is then dispatched, in a way so undermining to what he was, and so impressive, that his killer more than fills his shoes. Even Aeons, if your still thinking about her at this point. Plus, it is revealed that he is noble, protecting a nearby child...Soon he's killed by a beautiful woman who proves to be a real 'visionary' in 'art' of killing. And she is trying to save what looks like her boyfriend, we can decide she is the most worthy protagonist if we want. She is the knight saving the boyfriend in distress, or whatever you like. There's all this colourful diversity going on, but everyone is only concerned with black and white, ie life and death, the common consideration that every one is rightfully operating on. Its very give and take, we loose heroes just as quickly as we gain them. 'Death' gives precedence to 'life', and "war" gives precedence to "heroes".

I was always more hung up on the bottle than the tooth. Call it a "bottled" interpretation, but I found its presence more enigmatical than a detached body part. However, yes, the tooth's significance inside the bottle is what needs to be considered. My take here: A tooth is part of something bigger, a tooth in a bottle isn't anymore. The tooth is preserved in a bottle that isn't that much bigger either. Indeed with technology, you can go so far as to determine whom the tooth belonged to. You can find records of the person, learn their name, talk to their friends and lovers, and publish their life story, or not. I find this relates to the theme of "deception as a means to an end". That "need for illusion". Dental records can account for only so much. Names and records don't reflect human consciousness. War memorials might as well be teeth in bottles, any one worth remembering, will be, by whoever thought so.

Basically, for me, I think "War" is the best short story I've ever come across. "Heroes" is definitely my favourite track. I found the symbolism crucial for introspection. I think a problem is that "War", as a short on liquid TV, is amongst too much other stuff to allow for a proper remembrance of some aspects. Like that for a lot of the shorts maybe.

-- Sam (janecherrington@paradise.net), October 13, 2002.

i havent tried to analyze war much, the basic idea i got from the episode is that neither side is evil or good(the swordsman side has a little girl he was obviously trying to defend, and the aeon's side for instance, had the chick who got reunited with someone at the end) and that heroes die, and are replaced by new heroes(only there's a twist in this case: every time a hero dies, the person who kills him becomes the new hero).

as for tooth in the bottle, it does seem to be a symbolic "eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth" kind of thing, chaos? maybe, i havent thought about it.

could be that chung just wanted to do a cool shooting sequence instead of metaphors and deep meanings, though.

-- zack the new lurker (mr_spidy@hotmail.com), November 22, 2002.

I think the tooth is a way to say a head was blown without showing it. The puddle of oil obviously is going to finish the breen and her boyfriend, giving rise to another Monican hero, and so on. The puddle is a witty way to show the end (or the continuation of the cycle). I loved the alternation of music. For the Monicans the track is oriental, for Breens it has tastes of classical music. That plus Breens being usually white and Monicans more tanned, it makes me think of a classical confrontation of East and West. Jews VS Arabs comes to my mind, considering Bregna is virtually fused to Monica.

-- Ricardo Dirani (spharion3@yahoo.com), November 24, 2002.

As War was one of the first episodes of Aeon Flux I saw, I always saw it as sort of a encapsulation of the theme of the series, the changing will of the gods. The heroes maintained favor only as long as they maintained our interest- and were quickly swept aside for bigger, better heroes. Why should we, the gods, care about those swept away? our attention is refocused- we're following the winners, not the losers.

In the same way that season one shifted to the uncomfortable final thoughts of a delusional and dying man, so does War shift in a rather startling way from one "hero" to another. The person we cared so much about is dead a second later, and we are given to caring for a new one. This plays on our mental urge to side with the subjective point of view, to give that view leeway even if we disagreed with it moments earlier.


-- skye (skyknyt@aol.com), December 20, 2002.

I'm gonna push this one over another year.

War was by far, my favorite Aeon Episode.

From the soundtrack, to the obvious indictment of our love of violence.

It's the ultimate gambler's paradise.

Up and down, over and over again.

Each death left us saddened, only to be distracted and caught up inthe killer', (now hero's) plight.

This is the episode that defined the entire series.

And as such, it's odd that Aeon's character wasn't defined yet. Her facial features are a bit different, and her pose in this episode is the one on the back of the long sleeved Aeon shirt I still ppoudly wear as often as possible.

Thank you Peter.

You're an inspiration

-- ash (3am@t256.com), December 11, 2003.

proudly, that is.

-- ash (3am@t256.com), December 11, 2003.

I'm really sorry I came so late to this discussion.

I actually recorded the "War" soundtrack to audiotape via a boombox set right next to my TV's speakers. My favorite part is Remeo's theme (from the moment he says goodbye to his daughter to when he's slicing and dicing on the Breen plane.)

It is easily my favorite LTV episode besides the one with the eggs and the aliens, which is the first Aeon Flyx episode I ever saw.



-- Sandbat (elfblade@yahoo.com), March 06, 2004.

Aeon I submitted for, but no catch I guess. What's war without fighting for the passion of knowing you have nothing to lose so take it all. Just for the sexuality of the lust motivational oppression and thus how could one take that into a fear into modern society that cripples the take to the romance...that's what I can do...

To am being poetic and not to offend the people doing the film, just wanting to know why the location? ;=)

-- Daniel Patrick Stenger (dannystenger@sbcglobal.net), July 08, 2004.

my response here and now is nearly insignificant, but i thought i'd cash in my remaining 2 cents.

the tooth in the bottle might have something to do with the hollow tooth scene in that other episode. or maybe the other way around. i forget which one came first.

but in general, i think i also agree with most of what the others have come up with as well.

i guess there are more than enough frame-by-frames to go around for everyone. :)

-- sleepy head (DayOfBrahma@aol.com), November 22, 2004.

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