3rd. article in our 7-week series on the film Cosmopolis
Delillo’s Cosmopolis is a frequently paradoxical and enigmatic story that focuses on the events of Eric Michael Packer’s frequently complicated day. No doubt a genius, the efforts Delillo expends to illustrate a personality almost fully defined by his materials is almost dizzying. This essay will commit itself to exploring these descriptions at the expense of so many of Eric’s other dynamic attributes: which include his technical might as a hacker, his genius as an asset manager, and his status as a visionary of his age. Though Delillo’s book spends very little time objectively exploring Eric’s psychology, it is no secret that Eric’s is a difficult protagonist. The products of his life do the most to define him as a character.
But first here’s a general summary of the dominant narrative paraphrased by writer Stuart Noble:
“Cosmopolis tells the story of the twenty-nine year old ego-maniacal billionaire currency trader Eric Packer, whose sole raison d’être is to manipulate the electronic flow of capital on global financial markets. The story unfolds mostly from within his opulent high-tech limousine, from which the other characters are introduced. Most notably, Vija Kinski, Packer’s “Chief of Theory” (77), whose role serves to support the underlying themes as expressed by Eric Packer. The story unfolds over the course of one day. ”
Is it necessary to understand Eric’s obsession with products? Many of Eric’s idiosyncrasies could appear to be strength’s looked at in isolation. Because he thrives in reflective social situations, the people of his immediate environment express many of his philosophies barely leaving us another avenue into his skewed intellectual life. Provided as narration his stream of consciousness rarely veers to concerns of anything other than himself. His frequent self-defining revelations and epiphanies are one of the frequent comic accents of the book though sympathetic they certainly are not objective. Normalized these incidents and anecdotes, tell us nothing. Yet material evidence helps us identify some of the holes in Eric’s reasoning.
A massive job to bring Cosmopolis to screen, Production Designer Arvinder Grewal had an enormous challenge bringing Eric’s world to life. Property master Ron Hewitt, Assistant Property Master Michael Huschka, Construction Coordinator Marc Kuitenbrouwer and Set Designers Matt Middleton, and Brad Milburn all had their work cut out for them. For much of the promoted look and feel of the film had to be sourced as well as lived. Quoting influential adman Earnest Elmo Calkins, Cultural critic Virginia Postrell under emphasized the weight of creating the world of a protagonist as powerful and demented as Eric’s. An audience would equally expect a material approximation of Eric’s success …
“We demand beauty with our utility, beauty with our amusement, beauty with the things with which we live. ”
Not a novella product placement advocate by any stretch, in most situations Delillo is satisfied with the vague poetic descriptions. Delillo doesn’t always name products by their brand names; paraphrasing you might just have to settle on a description like “white stretch Limousine of various sizes.” Though the narrative features rappers, the author doesn’t namedrop like one. Production design cues from the trailers aren’t declarative enough for this reviewer however in terms of a cast of products, these would be the most prominent among a huge filmed ensemble.
I’m sure these companies appears somewhere in the credits. I will assume the companies used in the film could be either Royale Limousine or Club International Limousine. These companies stand out in the limousine transportation industry.
What role does this limousine play in the narrative? Obviously it is a vehicle of transportation and it defines Eric as one of the upper echelon Technorati; it simultaneously defines his value. He’s so sought after by a range of interests (that he as a target) is safer mobile than stationary.
Deriving its character from its customizations, when not acting as a luxury taxi sometimes it acts as a defensive combat tank. A mobile sanctuary sometimes the limo acts as his cradle as it does on page 88 when subtly Torval demands Eric use the limo to ensure his personal safety.
“The two stared balefully at each other for a long moment. Then Eric lowered himself into the body of the car and eased the sunroof shut .”
Accounting for Eric’s narcissism and placing a huge emphasis on his club chair sometimes the limo carries his throne room as well.
Without an exact product name like the limousine, Eric refers to his “hand organizer” only once before claiming it is poorly outdated. He could only be talking about a Blackberry because the smartphone’s introduction was actually in the late Nineties. Drawing attention to Eric’s gift for uncanny technological prediction, this equally ubiquitous communication aid barely entered the market in this period yet he thought it was antiquated.
The product did not mature until President Obama impressed the electorate with his technological fluency during the election of 2008. By then the product had to fight off the market insurgency of the I-phone and other upstarts. Because most of his interactions with people are in person, we barely see how addicted to the Blackberry he actually is.
Because we are only talking about one day, filmgoers will not see a lot of variation in Packer’s wardrobe. The trailers feature what would appear to be Gucci and Raybans and Costume designer Denise Cronenberg confirms Gucci’s involvement. The term Gucci is actually used as a verb in street slang, so the products appearance would guarantee Eric’s instant street credibility for the rappers he was hungry to impress. In another emotional contradiction with Packer he is a billionaire yet needs the sympathy of a poverty reared and stricken population he may not really know.
In clothing, the film describes the way the character Eric unravels as the narrative progresses. Articles of clothing keep disappearing helping his wife determine the termination of their relationship. Upon meeting intermittently throughout the day, his wife seems to take great pleasure in noting this observation as the story and day unfolds.
Treated more like a passport to an experience than a weapon, as the story illustrates Eric’s relationship to the gun is one of the most disturbing depictions. Packer’s regard for the revolver is very similar to how he treats a stun gun introduced earlier in the book. Far into his own downward spiral both weapons offer him the kind a relief someone soon to be a deceased would crave.
- Meditation Cell: A means to better understand the people around him
- Information Screens or panels: His windows to constructing his empire
- Chanel J12 Wristwatch: His hacking apparatus
- Penthouse: With 48 rooms, the apartment informs strangers of his net worth
As dangerous as he is to himself, it really isn’t unlikely that he would be equally dangerous to the only person who he is attached to emotionally. Oddly affectionate every time they get together Eric eats part of his wife’s meal. Forecasting that he might one day steal something more significant. By the end of the book he has taken from her financially as well.
Mentioned earlier, the reason you could learn nothing original from most of the people in Packer’s environment was Eric was a genius at many things. One of which was converting these individuals into his representations. Products to augment a sterling yet impervious ego, his murder by one of the few people who could not be transformed may indicate how Eric could be an attractive yet entirely resistible force.
As a literary soon to be a film character, Erik Packer is an incredible study in contradictions no doubt leaving audiences scratching their heads in awe or dismay. An extremely complicated time in world history, one may understand this and that age better for embracing the contradictions in the dynamic characters and story within Cosmopolis.
Also see 2nd. article in the series; Cosmopolis: Lopsided Economics
Please join us for a discussion Thursday 7/26/2012@7pm/12UTC
 Postrell, Virginia. (2004). The Substance of Style. New York, Perennial. Pp.34
 Delilo, Don. (2003). Cosmopolis. New York, Simon and Shuster. Pp.88