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Mad God explained | Phil Tippett’s acidic masterpiece

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Reader Interactions

Discussion

  1. Thanks Chris, I’ll re-watch it with renewed confidence.

    • Let me know what you think on the second watch!

  2. Thanks very much for this. I applaud your courage in putting together one of the most detailed interpretations of Mad God that I’ve seen so far on the internet. Mad God might be the most extreme example of dream logic I’ve ever seen in a movie: the symbolism is obviously incredibly rich in meaning, yet the barrage of imagery appears to be almost completely incoherent, defying any attempt to fit the events or characters into a rational narrative structure. There’s so much going on that it would require almost a frame-by-frame commentary to fully explore all the symbolism. But I’m going to throw my hat into the arena, and my personal interpretation of the main theme is more of a psychological one.

    The priest, the “Last Man,” is just an ordinary guy. One of us here in the real world. But he is also the “Mad God” of the title, and the worlds that he creates and destroys again and again are the worlds within his mind. The Last Man sends Assassins deep into these “worlds” of the unconscious mind because he is deeply unsatisfied with what goes on down there, and in his madness, he can conceive of nothing else to do other than repeatedly sabotage and destroy. The words of Leviticus 26 resonate deep within us, because in a psychological sense, we know full well that we are the all-powerful creators and destroyers of our inner worlds.

    It’s no wonder that we want to destroy these worlds. The unconscious mind is a place in which, in a deep philosophical sense, all the horrors of the universe that could possibly be conceived not only exist, but are given free reign in a nightmarish orgy of violence, tyranny, emptiness, darkness, pain, and suffering. The infernal machines of the mind enslave us and torment us. These very machines are the root cause of all the horrifying ways in which we enslave and torment everyone around us.

    The disembodied eye that begins and ends the movie is the Eye of Providence. A psychological interpretation of the Eye is that we are, in the final analysis, conscious minds that see all in our universe. What do we do with this supreme gift, this supreme power? Do we endlessly destroy and rebuild Towers of Babel, monuments to our pride and egotism? Or do we find a way to transcend? Mad God is perhaps the most mercilessly grim work of art I have ever encountered, because it appears to provide not even the faintest glimmer of hope that such transcendence is possible.

    • Hey Andrew! “one of the most detailed interpretations” is what we aim for! Yeah, the dream logic is definitely very present. I read that Tippet spent a lot of time studying mythology and philosophy. So I think there’s a lot of esoteric references scattered throughout as well. So I’m hesitant to agree on the imagery being incoherent. Like I can very easily see that being the case. But I also wonder if the nuance of where he drew some inspirations means that it’s functionally incoherent to the viewer even if it was purposeful by Tippet. Again, not saying that’s the case. Just kind of withholding judgment at the moment. Agreed that understanding the full scope of the symbolism would be a huge undertaking.

      And, yeah, that analysis I think fits a lot of what we see. It’s kind of the lovely thing about esoteric symbolism, it opens itself up to so many fascinating and thought interpretations.

      Very much in agreement it being one of the most grim works of art. It’s brutally bleak. And there’s something kind of wonderful about that? Though Melancholia is also up there.

  3. Thank you for your interpretation. It really helps make more sense of the movie. While I understood some of the metaphors, like the faceless drones doing the same work day in day out whilst being oppressed or killed without consequences, I had some difficulty connecting the dots with some other scenes (i.e the surgeon).

    BTW, throughout the first assassin’s journey through the nightmarish landscape I kept thinking of Pieter Bruegel’s depiction of Hell. Perhaps Tippet was inspired by some of the imagery.

    Cheers!

    • Actually, the portrayal of Hell by Hieronymus Bosch, another Dutch painter and contemporary of Bruegel, are even closer to those in Tippet’s movie.

    • When the movie first ended, I was left pretty dumbfounded as to the connections haha. Thankfully it being available on Shudder helped a lot since I could keep watching and jumping back and forth and start to see the whole of it a little better. And, man, looking at those works by Bosch, yeah, I imagine he had to have looked at those or at least something inspired by them.

  4. Really appreciate this analysis and your thoughts. I just finished watching it and it made a huge impression on me. Your exploration of the meaning and themes was very well done. One thing I am unsure about though is your description of the map the “fates” create as driving the assassin to his destination to plant the bomb. There’s two trips down in a diving bell though, and two maps I think. The movie starts with the second trip and a paper map the assassin reads from which falls apart as his journey progresses. I think it’s a second map, because he follows the one created by the fates all the way to the final destination of the inverted tower. That’s the goal and as far as it goes, and we end with him driving the jeep into the abyss. I don’t know how the two trips link up, or how he gets into a new diving bell or the same one on a different path. But his gear looks a lot more weathered and run down by the time he heads down to actually plant the bomb. Although I’ll admit he does have a briefcase in both, the pile of them he passes in the war zone is a lot smaller than the mounds at the bomb site. The two (or connected, maybe the same?) maps puzzled me, and I’m not sure what that adds to the larger picture.

    • I appreciate that! Yes, definitely two trips and two maps. I’d argue it’s probably two different assassins as well. We saw that the crazy guy had a whole army of them. Granted, we do see the second trip (which might be a precursor trip) via the monitor as the doctor looks into the assassin’s brain. But I took that more as narrative liberty of showing us other happenings. Rather than a memory of the assassin. It seems like the assassins make one way trips and they start with the diving bell. So I can’t imagine the one on the operating table is the same one that went to the inverted tower. The map used by the assassin at the start of the movie is a map that seemingly has been used many many many times. I’m not sure how they keep retrieving it. But you can see how many other bombs are in the location that the assassin plants its.

      I just think we’re supposed to realize that there’s more than one world and as there’s this “mad god” trying to destroy these worlds there are also people trying to create new ones. Which is what happens in the operating room. They take the piece of the assassin and use it to create a whole new universe.

  5. Interesting interpretation, but one thing I haven’t seen anyone comment on is the potential connection between the floating ghostly figure and the Assassin(s). Both wear masks that to me feel both different and somehow similar, like they’re differently shaped but the eyeholes look similar. But what does it for me is the figure tapping the page of the grimoire exactly like the Assassin taps the map throughout the film. That floating figure fascinates me too, I feel like there’s a lot of significance to it.

    Had a theory that maybe that figure is a former Assassin that betrayed the Last Man and/or gained his independence and became a part of that hellish world, but possibly, as you mentioned, for oddly noble reasons. There also might be a parallel between that figure and the Last Man, as they both have similarly large and clawed hands, and both seem to be the respective masters of their domains. With the mysterious figure, everything he encounters seems to obey him, and although it’s debatable I’d also say the Alchemist defers to him a little, making me think that figure is the master of this realm. He may also be its prisoner too, though, and seeking to creating a universe that he can escape into. He could be the figure at the top of the Tower of Babel shown in the beginning of the film, cast down and condemned by God as a Lucifer-esque figure.

    • I definitely think there’s a connection between the figure at the Tower of Babel and the floating ghost. They have the same flowing robes. And it sets up this tension between a figure who is above and a figure who is below. And you do have the bit of opposites with the Last Man attempting to blow things up and the floating ghost attempting to create worlds. It could be a former assassin as we see assassins have moments of reflection and consideration. But I”m not sure there’s quite enough direct or even indirect information that supports the theory. Details like the mask make for a good hypothesis, but it’s just a bit too mysterious I think to really nail down such specific world details. But it does give enough space for the viewer to come up with interpretations like this!

      • It has just ocurred to me (after watching the movie and reading your reply) that, perhaps, The Last Man is, indeed, god, and the Assasins are naught but angels as described in Kabbalah, where they are said to lack “free will” and, thus, are “condemned” to do the bidding of God without questioning or real say on it. The Floating Ghost could be Lucifer, trying time and again to build a functional universe by using “angel essence” (the larvae inside the Assassin) which would be “the closest thing to god” he would have access to. Alas, he always fails because, if The Last Man IS God, he too is a failed creator (and, also, mad). So, there, we would have not ONE mad god, but TWO: one mad at his own flawed power, incapable of creating a functional universe and, thus, compelled to destroy it again, and again, and again… and a second one… mad… for trying to imitate an already flawed divinity, doomed to fail as much as his own creator.

        Stories of this kind allow themselves to be interpreted in multiple ways and that’s a rare kind of beauty on itself. Again, thanks for your analysis. It was quite enlightening.

        • I could see Tippett inspired by that dynamic and doing some version of it or incorporating elements of it. And so many mythologies kind of overlap, so even if it wasn’t directly God/Lucifer maybe it’s another myth that share similar dynamics which make the God/Lucifer connection applicable. But, you’re absolutely right, the multitude of interpretations allowed is such an awesome thing. Thanks for reading!

  6. I too often see planets aligned and instantly think of school children. A very normal and understandable simile.

  7. Thanks I agree with a lot of your interpretations. Some while I watched and many from reading this and reflecting on it. You did a great job of summing it up and presenting it as possible interpretation rather than telling us what to think. I appreciate it as I am not ready to watch it again for a while. There’s enough nightmare fuel to last me for some time.

    • Hahah thank you. I was a bit intimidated after I saw it in theaters, but just scrubbing back and forth like a dozen times via Shudder made it a lot more digestible/approachable.

  8. I think it’s worth noting the origin of the faceless workers near the beginning.

    The Assassin walks by a group of gigantic humanoids that appear to be eternally tortured in electric chairs. This torture causes them to defecate and urinate constantly, and this mixtures is captured and funnelled directly into the mouth of some kind of trapped biomechanical creature who has.no choice but to swallow it.
    That creature’s head is attached to a series of pipes or tubes that lead down into a machine that molds and presses this twice digested waste into the Faceless Worker humanoids. I think of them as “misbegotten fecal demi-humans.”
    Their existence is the result of filth derived from endless torture, and their lives are nothing but toil, pain, and sooner or later brutal deaths.
    No part of them is anything one could consider valueable. Is this how a massive capitalist structure sees people themselves?

    • When I thought the movie couldn’t get any bleaker lol

      • I assume those giant bodies getting electrocuted should have had the worker drone bodies being shoveled back into their mouths. Where is all this fecal matter coming from?

        • Haha, what a sentence. Probably? That would make it quite a cycle.

  9. Really really interesting write up. I found this article by googling something along the lines of “mad god explanation” to see if there was one singular answer. Glad there isn’t because that would mean I missed something obviously.

    You gave a lot to chew on, when my friend has time I’ll rewatch it with him.

    Personally I disagree with it having an anti technology message. To me technology was only the tool used to inflict pain, the tools themselves aren’t evil or bad only the creatures using them.

    Not so much anti technology as much as going along with beings in an evil world with evil intentions. Of course, that’s only my thinking.

    A really fun read thank you!

    • That’s a good counter point about technology! Especially since the movie is very bleak about people lol. Maybe it dovetails to the idea that people may always use tech for negative things because people are negative things? Which is bleak. But…this movie is pretty bleak lol.

      Hope the re-watch goes well!

  10. Great explanation. Right off the bat I knew I would be pretty dumbfounded by the end. I feel I followed pretty well, considering. I understood the baby making a universe. But you put so much into context that I did not I interpret. Thanks for this. I immediately came looking for this right after I finished.

    • Happy to hear that! Same thing happened to me. Saw it in theaters and was just like “WTF.” Went home, and watched it on streaming immediately after and got to writing lol. The second viewing and being able to keep jumping back and forth between scenes made contextualizing everything a lot easier.

  11. Terrific analysis, very orderly laid down too.
    I agree with some others who in the thread pointed out the importance of the floating creature. Its appearance is punctuated by ethereal music that accompanies us through great part of the last act of the film, and I thing this same music makes this figure stand out greatly. I agree that, as already said, we could consider it to be a benevolent God, as opposed to the many mad gods that populate this magnificent and visionary film.
    Words accompany the appearance of the floating creature: the language is Italian, luckily enough my mother tongue, so I managed to find where the sentences are from. It’s an extract from Federico Fellini’s 1969 film “Satyricon”, more precisely the last words the dying poet Eumolpus recites to the main character Encolpius (I know, these names!).
    It goes like this (Italian first, then my own translation, which is more literal then the poetic, yet loose one the film subtitles provide):
    I poeti muoiono Encolpio. Ma che importa, la poesia resta. Fratello mio, sei stato l’ultimo compagno della mia vita. Potrai dire: “Ho conosciuto Eumolpo, il poeta”. [Mad God cuts some here: Ah, che dire, se fossi ricco come Trimalcione ti lascerei un podere o una nave, ma ti posso fare erede solo di quello che ho avuto io. Ti lascio la poesia, ti lascio le stagioni,] soprattutto la primavera e l’estate. Ti lascio il vento, il sole, ti lascio il mare, il mare che è buono ed anche la terra è buona. Le montagne, i torrenti, i fiumi e le grandi nuvole che passano solenni e leggere. Tu le guarderai e forse ti ricorderai di questa nostra breve amicizia. E ti lascio gli alberi e i loro agili abitanti. [missing in Mad God: L’amore, le lacrime, la gioia, le stelle. Encolpio, ti lascio] i suoni, i canti, i rumori, la voce degli uomini e la musica più armoniosa. Ti lascio.”
    “Poets die, Encolpius. But that doesn’t matter, Poetry is here to stay. My dear brother, you’ve been the last companion in my life. You will have the honour to say: “I met Eumolpus, the poet”. [What can I say, had I been rich like Trimalchio, I would have left you a farm or a ship, but I can bequeath you only what I myself enjoyed. I leave you poetry, seasons,] and above all, spring and summer. I leave you the wind, the sun; I leave you the sea, the sea that is kind, and the earth that is also kind. Mountains, brooks, rivers and the big clouds who float by solemnly and lightly. You’ll look at them and maybe you’ll remember this brief friendship we had. I leave you the trees and their agile inhabitants. [Love, tears, joy and the stars. Encolpius I leave you] sounds, songs, noises, the voices of men and the most harmonious music. I leave you.”

    The film Fellini Satyricon is an adaptation of the very unique work with the same name written by the ancient roman poet Petronius (27-66 CE), a work, which we possess heavily incomplete. We only have parts of books 15 and 16, out of the over 20 books that made up the whole. The Fellini adaptation of this incomplete work is also very fragmentary, dreamlike, a true experience more than a plot-driven story. It is clear the fascination this movie has played on Tippett, and how Mad God shares these same characteristics.
    What I cannot put my finger on is why Tippett chose this extract from Fellini Satyricon, why it was used in this passage, and exactly where this voice comes from. My only thesis is that it is a commentary on the passage of the newborn creature from the hands of the putative-mother nurse to the floating creature, like an offer to a God. It’s then the nurse that leaves the child to be used for a greater purpose, as this same child will go on to shape new worlds, and “seasons and sounds and songs” and basically life.
    I hope these 2 cents of mine may help us interpret the figure of the floating creature better, so I am eager to hear other interpretations of this.

    • What a wonderful comment. Maybe a top 10 comment on the site all time. Thank you for that insight. There’s definitely something to the idea of the world as the world beyond people vs the world of people. Think about the landscapes we see throughout Mad God and it’s a world devastated by civilization. So there’s some contrast to that. Then there’s something to the one guy being “The Last Man” and the Satyricon quote addressed to someone who has been left behind. Then maybe something to the idea of poetry and the alchemy enacted by the floating creature? I don’t really have a definitive idea at the moment. But those are just some of the initial connections that I’m seeing and would explore if I was going to go deeper. I mean, the poem talks about what’s left behind but the movie ends with bombs erupting and destroying everything. Hm.

      • Regarding The Factory Chapter

        The Factory is a representation of the workplace. Workers, fodder for the great machine, for Moloch, feeding the industrial complex.

        In The Factory the workers are indeed mistreated, and a deformed and sadistic supervisor class is whipping them to work harder. These task masters are shown as quite brutal.

        Interestingly enough, over the PA system/TV is the voice of the administrator, the administrator’s voice that of a babbling baby. A baby’s voice implies a lack of experience, a lack of wisdom, and in most work places those in higher managerial roles often have less seniority and experience than the workers and front line supervisors they command. They babble orders, policies, and instructions that make no sense, but supervisors(the task masters) and workers still listen and obey.

        The workers have no path or future except to be fodder for the machine. In the real work place there is no real career path, and workers are just expendable tools to accomplish an objective. Just like in the real work place worker safety comes second to the objectives of the corporation or agency.

  12. This kind of film which includes a new mystery with each passage drives me crazy. I read this article rich in explanations and I can also leave my point of view and my interpretation on the feature film.

    To begin with, I support the thesis that the universe of the film is happening in someone’s head or is a nightmare of a night. Indeed, the laws of matter are very different from reality. There is for example the manufacture of humanoid slaves printed several times per minute. I wonder how these lines of very simple mixed wools can look like humans, with a biological functioning. Then there is levitation technology. I find it odd that slaves have to manually move and lift the monoliths before they can levitate and travel great distances very quickly. It seems that someone. manipulate them with thought. Just with this kind of power, we could avoid coming to the point of exploiting life forms that suffer permanently. All this business to create blocks that don’t seem to play such a big role in fertilizing a new planet in the microverse. Because, indeed, it is the assassin who makes it possible to do that, but I will detail that later in my commentary. Thereafter, there is the constitution of the forsaken world of God. Everything is vertical. I imagine the universe of the film is a dream because it’s really detailed, but unrealistic. Gravity must be gigantic for the lower floors. The entire structure of the walls and pillars seem weakened. But, I imagine that everything takes place underground. The rocky walls support all these little people, but I have difficulty looking into the background to confirm my hypothesis.

    To continue this momentum, I would like to talk about the roles of the characters. First there is the killer. With the article, I understood that coins represent the wealth of a person that we do not take into consideration. We throw this wealth on the ground as well as his talents which I think are represented by the books and papers. We throw the value of qqln. and we only take what interests us. The newborn worm is an important and exploitable thing and that’s all that’s interesting, without me knowing what it means to represent. There are hundreds of assassins waiting to role-drop the briefcases, but none explode. Instead, thousands are dropped off and form mountains of suitcases. I assume that all wasted efforts can one day be useful when there is enough of them. If they are real dynamites, whereas if only one suitcase is needed, there would be a disproportionate explosion if any assassin succeeds in his mission. Only there is a red bird that comes out instead of an explosion. This passage is still too vague for me, even with the explanations of the other comments and the article with the notion of time. But I will come back to the roles; including that of the presumed God. The problem I have with this statement is that this old man who seems to have the best living condition in this deleterious universe is that he is a mere human. He is certainly a Pope who has great powers, but certainly not a God who could destroy and reshape the Earth in such a compacted way. This man seeks to destroy the macabre enterprise that is taking place under his feet with on top of that a positive attitude despite the conditions outside his admittedly poor bunker, which remains the only comfortable place in the entire universe of the film. The guy has the luxury of materialism, clean clothes and long fingernails. I don’t think he is a God, because his power is political, not divine. Finally, there are the roles of the flying plague doctor whose message to embody this professional outfit and the atrocious thing with a baby’s voice that seems to give orders in the speaker and why his face parts are shown on rotating screens. For the human surgical doctor and the chubby thing, I understand better. The thing that has a terrarium that means even in a semblance of paradise can’t escape the violence of the outside world with the spider that eats the miniature residents. The terrarium exists for what. In any case, it makes the shapeless thing laugh, but he too allows himself to be materialistic. He has various objects and he is an alchemist. From what he’s doing to his terrarium, I imagine he’s having fun creating worlds with the thing that allows you to create a microverse, but maybe it’s not to try to give hope . Actually, I have a terrible theory. If the alchemist is trying to create worlds, but it’s only to pass the time, then maybe the movie universe is a microverse that only exists to distract.

    Finally, I would like to make another comment, but a personal one. I would like to find a short film posted on YouTube which takes up the idea of a diving bell which will visit the depths and discover worlds, but which is a kind of rocket which disassembles as it falls. We can see the blue sky before the box is released and falls into the void. Everything is white and clean, then you go downstairs and everything looks cold and messy and dark. The traveler is guided, a dweller gets eaten by vines on the corner of a wall, and the deepest level of the underworld can be seen near the end with black mouse-like life forms giving off white light. We’re somewhat in the same concept of Mad God, but it’s a simple short film that surely lasts between 15 and 25 minutes. I have been searching for it for eight years now on YouTube, but to no avail. That’s why I discovered the movie Mad God. It’s a great stop motion.

  13. Thanks to you . What a wonderful content. Thank you for definitely something to the idea of the world as the world beyond people vs the world of people. Think about the landscapes we see throughout Mad God and it’s a world devastated by civilization. So there’s some contrast to that.

    • Appreciate it, Robert!

  14. One of the monoliths crashes into a moon looking planet and seems to trigger life on that planet. That is different from what the monoliths represented in 2001 a space Odyssey, I think. Then, after life is started on that planet, the radio signal, I think, represents the fact that technology is our new God and it destroys us the same way a real God destroyed us when we reached the top of Babel. Perhaps?

    • It’s functionally different from 2001. But 2001, the monolith essentially triggers humanity’s relationship with technology (using a bone as a tool). Then thousands of years later, triggers an advancement in technology to seek out the signal. Then brings in Bowman and converts him into the Space Baby that returns to Earth, you imagine with some kind of super powers or something. So the monolith is kind of responsible for the birth of humanity as we know it. And then the rebirth. So Mad God takes that idea and reshapes it.

      Radio signal definitely relates to technology. I wonder if it’s less a new god and more a golden calf? A false God? Which is why that world gets blown up? Hm.

  15. 👏 Just wanted to say thank you for this article and your insights and thoughts. After reading it, and all of the comments, I can surely say that ‘Mad God’ made a whole lot of more sense to me.

    • Hey Gideon! Appreciate that. You should have talked to me when the theater screening ended. I had nothing. Thankfully, getting to watch it on Shudder and jump back and forth as I was writing really helped me get my head around it.

  16. Fantastic article. Thanks so much for this!

    • Thank you!

  17. I think because he is called the Last Man, he is not the Mad God. The Mad God is the one who has destroyed and debased the world, and the last man is the last hold out, the only representation of free will. I do, however, think the Last Man is emulating God. He chooses a cardinal’s outfit out of what may be other religious garbs that he had to choose from. He is representative of the religious activity of seeking redemption, an essentially human activity. He is the last one trying to redeem the world below. He tries to redeem the world by sending down a messiah, but the world is so defiled that it can only be destroyed.
    In the surgery we see the Assassin’s motivations: riches and then the papers represent ideology, then at his core is the essence of rebirth, the desire to remake the world, which is harnessed by the alchemist to make a new world.

    • Hey, Mitch! Yeah, I agree with that distinction. But I would add that in emulating God, the Last Man does become open to the titular namesake of Mad God. As in, you had a God who was angry at the world and messed it up, then a “god” who has gone crazy from living in that world.

      I took the papers to represent education/art. But ideology works, too.

  18. Greetings!

    Here is my theory (2 cents worth) about the creation of the faceless factory worker’s – common man – creation.

    The huge creatures (professors/textbook authors) in the electric chairs are defecating “knowledge” and this is then processed by an/our education system. This is then funneled down to create “graduates” all stamp-formed into identical drones to be put into the labor pool.

    Then we watch as the drones make the “machine” work (cue: Pink Floyd – “Welcome to the Machine”). They definitely live to work – as so many other graduates/drones in the society do.

    Also, I have a question. In the scene where the “Last Man” is monitoring the latest assassin’s descent and we hear an SOS coming from the speaker, he seems to be responding in Morse Code. He doesn’t seem to be merely parroting the SOS.

    If any sharp-eared people who can understand Morse Code would make an effort to see how he responded and report back, that would be greatly appreciated. It was a rather shory reply – perhaps, the beginning of a reply. His reply is visible for a second or two. Then it continues for a bit longer with sound only as the camera focuses back onto the “First Man”.

    • Hey, Michael! Yeah, I think that’s one of the great things about art like this is that it’s specific enough that we get the broader concept (exploited workers) but it’s vague enough that it allows for interesting and dynamic interpretations depending on the frame.

      That’s a good call on the morse code! I’ll have to find someone I can ask and get an answer. I put it on the list! Will respond here when it happens!

  19. I haven’t had time to read every comment so sorry if this has already been said
    First of all great analysis I found it very interesting!

    The universe of Mad God struck me and I watched it 5 times in theathers as the sound design and the visuals are so great it cannot be watched on a small screen

    As for the analysis itself great stuff about 2001! I was really curious and had no real thoughts on it

    For the eye, I was going more with the first option
    And even more so as yesterday I saw Phil Tippett comment on reddit that he had the idea of Mad God as a vision, it all came at once.
    Hence the eye that gets overwhelmed at the start.
    For me the saddest part of the movie that got me every time after I made that connection is the last shot of the eye closing.
    For me this eye is Phil Tippett’s, which would explain why you would put it after the credits. (I do not know if the actor who does this eye is him but it seems to be a bit old so it could be idk? haven’t checked the credits about that actually mb)
    This moment gets me emotional has it represents Phil closing his eye on this project which has taken 30 years, his masterwork.
    So when I see this eye close I basically see Phil the artist die.
    That could be very far fetched but yeah It didn’t occur to me before that it could be the floating creature’s as it doesn’t look human like
    I’ll have to think more on that aspect!

    Anyway sorry if these thoughts were a bit of a mess
    Good analysis once again!!

    • Thanks, Simon!

      I’m really glad I got to see it on the big screen first. Truly was an incredible experience.

      Ah, that tidbit from Tippett makes a lot of sense. The comments were fine! Not messy at all. And, yeah, I think there’s some layers to that. The eye closing because the vision was overwhelming. The eye closing because the project is over. The eye closing because this is the climax of Tippett’s career and he probably won’t get to make another project like this ever again. I think all of those are very valid directions to take it!

  20. Greetings!

    Here is my theory (2 cents worth) about the creation of the faceless factory worker’s – common man – creation.

    The huge creatures (professors/textbook authors) in the electric chairs are defecating “knowledge” and this is then processed by an/our education system. This is then funneled down to create “graduates” all stamp-formed into identical drones to be put into the labor pool.

    Then we watch as the drones make the “machine” work (cue: Pink Floyd – “Welcome to the Machine”). They definitely live to work – as so many other graduates/drones in the society do.

    Also, I have a question. In the scene where the “Last Man” is monitoring the latest assassin’s descent and we hear an SOS coming from the speaker, he seems to be responding in Morse Code. He doesn’t seem to be merely parroting the SOS.

    If any sharp-eared people who can understand Morse Code would make an effort to see how he responded and report back, that would be greatly appreciated. It was a rather short reply – perhaps, the beginning of a reply. His reply is visible for a second or two. Then it continues for a bit longer with sound only as the camera focuses back onto the “Last Man”.

  21. Greetings!

    I have just finished watching the “Cast & Crew Commentary” on the DVD and it was revealed that what the “Last Man” was keying into Morse Code was actually: “Shave and a Haircut”.

    So, I have discovered the answer to my previous/above question in amongst the extras on the DVD.

    • Oh, well haha. I should have read this before responding to the other comment! That’s great! I’m glad there was an answer!

      Anything else interesting from the commentary?

  22. Good god, this piece is so very far from even pretending to be anything like a definitive explanation.

    • I took the time to make points and back them up with examples. If you’re going to try to discredit the entire work, the least you could do is add to the conversation. What did you think was wrong? Why do you think it was wrong? What do you believe is the better interpretation? Why do you think it’s better?

  23. Wow! Just finished watching MG after it was listed on a TikTok top horrors list and was not disappointed!

    Thanks for writing such a helpful review – it helped unpack a lot of the deeper meaning for me.

    One scene I don’t think has been discussed is the one with the audience watching the literal gutting of the assassin. Could that be a comment on the audience/us and our role as passive spectators, asking us to reflect on what we’re getting out of watching this – if not entertainment, then what exactly? I also wondered if it could be asking if audiences appreciate the blood, sweat and tears that have gone into the assassin’s journey and the production, or do they just want to get to the good stuff (the treasure).

    I also came across this very illuminating interview with Tippett, which supports the psychological/subconscious readings many have suggested: https://fabulistmagazine.com/24-frames-per-second-the-phil-tippett-interview/

    Thanks again – I look forward to reading your analysis on other hard to ponder films

  24. i really needed some guidance when it came to interpreting this film. i’m certainly not the most critical thinker out there, and a lot of vague ideas and perceptions i had about Mad God were solidified after this read. i saw a few interpretations of this work that i… really disagreed with, but this one hit the nail on the head for me.
    a lot of my appreciation for this film came from an artistic and technical stand point as an artist myself, and the display of stop motion skills was wonderful. i’ve always been a huge horror fan as well, and one thing that stuck out to me a lot was the use of music and sound design in Mad God. i think the tone of the movie could have been drastically different to what it was, but the music settles it somewhere in between dread, terror, and melancholy. i found the use of the chime of the clock during the surgery scene to be very haunting. at first, it sounds like the uncomfortable, droning sting of a background song that is meant to put the viewer into the terrified and pained view of the assassin, but once you realize it’s the chime of a clock and is directly connected to both the assassin’s perception of time and his own mortality, it’s just perfect!
    overall, loved this film and loved this analysis <3

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