The Themes of Cosmopolis

15 Aug

The last article in our series on the film Cosmopolis

The film Cosmopolis opens in U.S. theaters on Friday August 17th, 2012. The seductive trailers and amazing cast is reason enough to go see this film. But throw in David Cronenberg and Don DeLillo and you are in for a mind altering experience out of this world. However, for those venturing into the theaters without having read the book or seen any of Cronenberg’s films, Linked in Hollywood has put together a cheat sheet in case you want to brush up before or after seeing the film. To give you fair warning  this material like the film is not for the PG-13 fairytale audience, instead it’s for the spirited audience, unafraid to confront the reality we live in. This article is a collaborative effort by the authors on LIH who did a wonderful job in defining (for our readers) how this film and text reflects our past and present. We hope you enjoy! 

 Cosmopolis: The Past Mirrors the Present

 By Parisienne

In the film protesters are taking over New York City. For the sake of not spoiling the film we selected a similar protest taking place today. In Zucotti Park in New York’s financial district was the place where the first Occupy Movement began on September, 17, 2011.  The people gathered to protest the greed of corporations, social inequality and the power of banks and corporations over the democratic process.  The Occupy Movement does not have a leadership structure which makes it difficult for any of the protesters to ask for aid from State Legislature and Congress.[1]

The Poetry in Cosmopolis

By Littlebells

Eric Packer loves poetry and recites part of this poem in the film. Zbiginiew Herbert, a renowned poet, was born on October 29, 1924 in Lvov, Poland (now the Ukraine).  With a Masters in Economics, from the University of Krakow, he spent most of the 1950s working low paying jobs because of his distaste and refusal to work within the Communist guidelines.  Herbert is well known for his poems, particularly Report from the Besieged City.  The poem is symbolic of the ethical issues his nation suffered under martial law. [2]

Reciting of Report from the Besieged City

Postmodern Art/Spencer Tunick

By Ozzie 20

Towards the end of the book Eric takes part in a large scale naked photo shoot (also known as human installation).[3] The artist is not mentioned but the best known artist of the genre in the world is Spencer Tunick.[4] His career in naked photo shoots began in the mid 90’s in New York. At first these events had to be secretive and quick in order to avoid the police (Spencer has been arrested five times) but now that his work is well known, he has a little more time to perfect his shoot.[5] His first large scale human installation was in 1994 with 28 naked people in front of the United Nations building in Manhattan. His largest to date took place in the main square (Zocalo) in Mexico City which featured about 18,000 naked people. Spencer’s aim is to highlight the contrasting nature between humans and their environment.[6] Often the location is important and has a symbolic meaning and enhances the contrast.[7]

Cosmopolis: Music in a Postmodern Era

By Comic Relief

In Jonathan D. Kramer’s “Postmodern Concepts of Musical Time” for the “Indiana Theory Review Vol. 17/2” he describes postmodern music as having one or more of the attributes listed below.  Like Postmodern art and literature, Postmodernist music may embrace modernist music as frequently as it rejects it.  For these reasons we may also have a recipe for all those attributes that would be a, by reverse definition, description of modernist music.  Kramer claims that music may be judged Postmodernist by these characteristics[8]

  • Is not simply a repudiation of modernism or its continuation, but has aspects of both;
  • Is, on some level and in some way, ironic;
  • Does not respect boundaries between sonorities and procedures of the past and of the present;
  • Seeks to break down barriers between “highbrow” and “lowbrow” styles;
  • Shows disdain for the often unquestioned value of structural unity;
  • Refuses to accept the distinction between elitist and populist values;
  • Avoids totalizing forms (e.g., does not allow an entire piece to be tonal or serial or cast in a prescribed formal mold);
  • Includes quotations of or references to music of many traditions and cultures;
  • Embraces contradictions;
  • Distrust binary oppositions;
  • includes fragmentations and discontinuities;
  • Encompasses pluralism and eclecticism;
  • present multiple meanings and multiple temporalities;
  • Locates meaning and even structure in listeners, more than in scores, performances, or composers. “

Please evaluate the following music samples from the Cosmopolis soundtrack through a lens of these characteristics. Do you believe these music examples pass the test and if not do they at least describe scenes or concerns from the book in a musical manner?  If you think so you would probably be appreciating the work of David Cronenberg and the attributed musicians. Though not always similar to Kramer’s list Howe Records described most of the music this way, it is: “an atmospheric, urban soundscape of analog synths and layered guitars featuring the hypnotic vocals of METRIC lead singer Emily Haines.[9]”  Indiewire provided the creator to product attributions.[10]

Cosmopolis (2012) – Long to Live by Metric

Cosmopolis (2012) – White Limos by Howard Shore

Cosmopolis (2012) – Benno by Howard Shore

In terms of music the book only discussed two characters that were music industry participants: Kosmo Thomas and Brother Fez.  The former was a producer and the other was a rapper, you should decide whether you think one or the other has a factual or completely fictional correlation in the real world.  To confuse that issue Don DeLillo actually contributes lyrics for rapper K’naan’s vocal performance for the album, METRIC accompanies instrumentally.  Do you believe this K’naan performance meets Kramer’s or your own definition of a postmodern music?

Cosmopolis (2012) Mecca by K’naan & Don DeLillo

Please join us for a discussion Thursday 8/16/2012@7pmE


76 Responses to “The Themes of Cosmopolis”

  1. Comic Relief August 15, 2012 at 10:38 AM #

    Man, this is a lot to stuff. To read the book, I never felt overwhelmed yet some times I did have to remind myself to be patient.

    I can’t wait to see the film.

  2. littlebells August 15, 2012 at 12:01 PM #

    Daaaaaang this article is impressisve!!! 🙂

  3. Comic Relief August 15, 2012 at 12:54 PM #

    From what I have read, though technically not on the film soundtrack, the band “Nine inch nails” did produce this song in relation to the film.

    • Open Book August 15, 2012 at 1:10 PM #

      CR- I like 9″ nails & Mecca the best.

      • Comic Relief August 16, 2012 at 8:46 PM #

        I think I agree. Duh, you can hear the “Nine inch Nails’ song in the trailer. 🙂

  4. Comic Relief August 15, 2012 at 12:54 PM #

    From what I have read, though technically not on the film soundtrack, the band “Proxima” did produce this song and video in relation to the film also.

    • Open Book August 16, 2012 at 8:48 PM #

      I like this one too! This should be my theme song. hahahaha!

  5. Open Book August 15, 2012 at 1:06 PM #

    CR & LB-

    Yes! This material is quite overwhelming, which can also be said about the world we live in. It definitely requires an open mind and eyes to fully recognize and appreciate this films integrity.

  6. Open Book August 15, 2012 at 1:13 PM #

    Paris, LB, Ozzie and CR very, very, impressive. This is my favorite article so far!

  7. Open Book August 16, 2012 at 7:13 PM #

    Hi Everyone,

    Welcome to our discussion tonight.

    • ozzie20 August 16, 2012 at 7:23 PM #

      Hi Everyone! 🙂

      • Open Book August 16, 2012 at 7:29 PM #

        Hi Ozzie!

        • Comic Relief August 16, 2012 at 7:33 PM #

          Hi Ozzie and OB.

          • ozzie20 August 16, 2012 at 7:37 PM #

            Hello OB and CR!

  8. Open Book August 16, 2012 at 7:17 PM #

    Ozzie, CR, LB & Paris,

    Did any of u know anything about the topic u wrote about prior to reading about it in Cosmo? Also, did u learn anything more (about the topic) but did not include in your submission?

    • ozzie20 August 16, 2012 at 7:32 PM #

      I had seen photos before but I didn’t know any of the details like who it was by and what they were trying to express. All I knew was it was art! I pretty much included everything I learned into my part. The things I left out was “filler” like how he met his wife or little anecdotes about friends and colleagues etc.

      • Comic Relief August 16, 2012 at 7:37 PM #


        I’m still learning stuff. The book is incredibly rich and fortunately he chose to collaborate with contributors that were exceptional for this venture. I will attempt to be more specific later.

        • Open Book August 16, 2012 at 7:46 PM #

          Actually I do notice similar styles in Postmodern music and literature. In this way DeLillo really stimulates all your senses with this story.

  9. Open Book August 16, 2012 at 7:31 PM #


    Have u ever seen any of ST Art work in person?

    • ozzie20 August 16, 2012 at 7:34 PM #

      No. Just in books, magazines and the internet. I did find out he did one in my region though!

      • Comic Relief August 16, 2012 at 7:40 PM #

        I knew about the artist yet I become more impressed with him every time I seem him. It’s hard not to get involved with the novelty or titilation end of the work when you first see it.

      • Open Book August 16, 2012 at 7:42 PM #

        Hi CR!

        Ozzie & CR-What genre of Visual Art do u prefer? Modern or Post Modern?

        • Comic Relief August 16, 2012 at 7:44 PM #


          • Open Book August 16, 2012 at 7:56 PM #


            I’m a POMO too. Of course!!

            • Comic Relief August 16, 2012 at 8:07 PM #

              It’s the era we live in. I learn the most from the work.

  10. Comic Relief August 16, 2012 at 7:43 PM #

    I had a general question….

    Since this is DeLillo’s first feature film contribution it’s difficult to define either expectations or inconsistencies for him in film development. Ozzie did an excellent job of defining what we might expect of post-modern literature, so does anyone see similarities in Cosmopolis and other films we will be seeing in the Cineplex’s in the near future?

    • Open Book August 16, 2012 at 7:49 PM #

      Great Q CR! I certainly hope it sets a trend in mainstream films of having substantial and poetic dialogue. This is my dream!

  11. Open Book August 16, 2012 at 7:55 PM #


    This may be a question for LB but given u did a wonderful article on Postmodern Literature maybe u can answer this one for me. What differences and similarities are there between postmodern poetry and literature?

    • ozzie20 August 16, 2012 at 8:49 PM #

      Sorry, computer problems. It’s still being bad!

      When I was researching that article, I did come across postmodern poetry but I didn’t look at it, lol! I was going to but then I thought although it does come under literature, it was a different sub section to stories. So I made the decision to stick to to just stories to stop it from being over whelming for anyone who reads it. I would of thought it would be a similar format to stories though.

      • Open Book August 16, 2012 at 8:59 PM #

        Thanks Oz! I actually love postmodern poetry and I find them (at least the ones I love) to use a lot of dark humor, irony and historical fiction elements to them.

        • Open Book August 16, 2012 at 9:01 PM #

          Ozzie! I found your research spot on and it really bleeds into other arts as well.

          • ozzie20 August 16, 2012 at 9:11 PM #

            Woo hoo! 🙂

  12. Comic Relief August 16, 2012 at 7:55 PM #


    Two part question:
    When you started the series you were very bold to begin tying Cosmopolis to a lot of events in contemporary politics. Even Cronenberg appears to be cagey or possibly elusive about some of those associations. Can you define an ARTISTIC reason he sometimes may have appeared that way in interviews.

    Robert Pattinson & David Cronenberg

    • Open Book August 16, 2012 at 8:06 PM #

      Well I would not say DC is elusive but perhaps that’s what it appears like to some.However, like most Artist u do the work and u want audiences to participate and interact with your work. In other words u want them to express what your work means to them on a personal level. So most Artist don’t like to put u or their work in a box or put limitations on it because people are complex just like this material DC & DeLillo have created. Does that make sense?

      • Comic Relief August 16, 2012 at 8:26 PM #

        Well I don’t believe he is elusive in that clip. She doesn’t even ask about the political influences, yet I’m sure you have seen interviews (maybe written ones) where he doesn’t really volunteer the Occupy movement references. I’ll agree with you he doesn’t deny them either and in many ways I think I could hear him embrace them. In some of the interviews I think he appears to suggest that these concerns just happen to get expressed simultaneously.


        Regardless, in some of the movies like “Crash”, “Eastern Promises,” and “A Dangerous Method” he is demonstrates an almost peerless dedication to detail when addressing historical material.

        • Comic Relief August 16, 2012 at 8:28 PM #

          I was hoping you might speculate on what you think, as a director, Cronenberg might be considering regardless of his personal beliefs, and business concerns given his incredible career.

          • Open Book August 16, 2012 at 8:33 PM #

            LOL! Me Speculate and Assume? hahahaha! I’m allergic to those words CR!

  13. Comic Relief August 16, 2012 at 7:59 PM #


    Second part of the question:

    Didn’t you feel you were taking a big risk,(with the political interpretation), given the reputation of the director and the popularity of the actor? 

    • Open Book August 16, 2012 at 8:14 PM #

      No I was compelled more by how observant DeLillo was of society/politics during the time he wrote Cosmo and how it parallels what’s happening today.

  14. Comic Relief August 16, 2012 at 8:02 PM #


    The range of his past movies is really dynamic yet I’m wondering what David Cronenberg is doing in the realistic drama department? In as much as he does fantasies “Naked Lunch” or “The Fly” he never really played by the rules. These stories were sometimes sexual, adult, and if you have a weak stomach a little disturbing.

    Naked Lunch:

    The Fly:

    The last few realistic drama’s I have seen him direct seem to be fairly straight forward “Eastern Promises”, “A Dangerous Method” and now “Cosmospolis.” Meaning they don’t seem to break any laws of realistic story telling….. except this performance doesn’t appear to be his style at all!!!! Sometimes called a master of the Cinema Extreme, can anyone name any distinct ways Cronenberg may have sustained his penchant for rule breaking?

    • Open Book August 16, 2012 at 8:17 PM #

      I think Naked Lunch & Cosmo are sorta similar. I mean they are both Dark Humor and adaptations.

      • Comic Relief August 16, 2012 at 8:32 PM #

        OB and or Ozzie,

        Are you saying Burroughs and DeLillo have a lot in common. Please explain.

        • Open Book August 16, 2012 at 8:42 PM #

          Let me see? Burroughs is more surreal and very absurd. I think Cosmo has some dream like qualities especially at the end of the book. So that’s why I find the two to be fairly similar.

          Paris-Have u seen Naked Lunch or read this book?

          • ozzie20 August 16, 2012 at 8:55 PM #

            I can’t really answer that. The only film I know I’ve seen definately is The Fly and to be honest, I still hid behind cusions! I may have see his other work and not known it was by him but I’m kind of scared to watch his other work. I am a highly squemish person, lol!

            • Open Book August 16, 2012 at 9:06 PM #

              Ah! Ozzie u are not alone. I’m not that big of a horror fan. But DC I can watch because his films are more psychological thrillers. I think Crash and Eastern Promises are more mainstream. Naked Lunch is really out right funny and out there crazy!

  15. Comic Relief August 16, 2012 at 8:04 PM #

    If any anyone has any thoughts I would love to hear them. By coincidence or not a lot of actors seem to define themselves within genres. I think of all of the science fiction that Sigourney Weaver has starred in. There is the wide range of comedy’s starring Jim Carrey. I can imagine people claiming Jennifer Aniston is the contemporary queen of Rom Coms.

    I haven’t seen all of his work yet Pattinson is clearly straying away from his fairly continuous (“Harry Potter”, “The Haunted Airmen”, “Twilight”) but not exclusive diet of fantasies to do Cosmopolis. Other than attempting to demonstrate range do you think there might be another message that he might be flirting with?

    The Haunted Airman:

    Harry Potter: The Goblet of Fire:

    Twilight: New Moon:

  16. Open Book August 16, 2012 at 8:29 PM #

    I think Rob especially with Cosmo the roles are very dense character driven studies. I mean the material alone like Mission Blacklist are more complex and packed with philosophical ideas. He has shown with Cosmo this is more his element.

    • Comic Relief August 16, 2012 at 8:42 PM #

      O.K. Hold the phone!!! Are you claiming he has political and phillosophical side we weren’t seeing in the previous movies?????

      • Open Book August 16, 2012 at 8:45 PM #

        LOL! CR! What the hell? Where did u get that idea from what I wrote?

        • Comic Relief August 16, 2012 at 8:47 PM #


          • Comic Relief August 16, 2012 at 8:49 PM #


            • ozzie20 August 16, 2012 at 9:01 PM #

              Another one I can’t answer! I’ve only seen 4 of his films! I can’t even say I’ve read every book adaptation he’s done either (2 I think), lol! Does knowing the full plot count?

  17. parisienne August 16, 2012 at 8:31 PM #

    Hi everyone!

    Let me catch up!

    • Comic Relief August 16, 2012 at 8:34 PM #

      Hi Paris.

    • Open Book August 16, 2012 at 8:35 PM #

      Hi Paris!

      How are u?

      • ozzie20 August 16, 2012 at 9:02 PM #

        Hi Paris!

  18. parisienne August 16, 2012 at 8:48 PM #


    I am going to attempt to answer your question the best way I can. This is purely my opinion. I don’t think Rob is trying to give a message to the audience with the types of roles he is choosing.

    I know some of how Rob came to be an actor, started at Barnes Theater Company, was seen in a play there by an agent and started to get work. Now I don’t know if any of the films that Rob shot prior to GOF (Goblet of Fire) were non-union or union films. When an actor is first starting out in the industry, it is common to start with films that are non-union, which means that the actor is not represented by SAG/AFTRA but they are covered by a basic contract. Their pay is smaller as well so non-union actors are mostly chosen because they are still “learning the ropes” and need to have something to build a resume. Most directors won’t look at actors unless they have prior experience because they need to know that the actor can take direction easily and be able to help the director/producer/whomever to sell the best product they can. or THEY COME HIGHLY RECOMMENDED BY SOMEONE.

    Once an actor becomes unionized they can only work on union projects their door to non-union is closed.

    So when Rob started he did what came at him but now that everyone is seeing him for his work ethic and the fact that appears to be gracious, humble and can attract an audience (mainly women) like moths to a flame. He can choose what he wants to do but he has said in an interview (I forget which one) that he lost a project because the decision makers believed him to be “tainted by Twilight”.

    IMO, that’s why he’s been seen in one genre but is now branching into other genres as well. I hope this all made sense.

    • Open Book August 16, 2012 at 8:53 PM #


      Thank U! Take a bow!

      • parisienne August 16, 2012 at 8:58 PM #

        Do I get Nuggets and a coke with my bow? LOL

        • ozzie20 August 16, 2012 at 9:06 PM #

          Wow, that is very interesting Paris! Thanks for sharing it!

          • parisienne August 16, 2012 at 9:09 PM #

            Thanks Ozzie

            Just trying to pass along my knowledge to help people to understand how the industry works.

        • Open Book August 16, 2012 at 9:09 PM #


          Yes! U even get extra sweet & sour sauce.

          • parisienne August 16, 2012 at 9:10 PM #

            Thank you! 🙂

  19. Comic Relief August 16, 2012 at 8:52 PM #

    Unfortunately, I have to go. This was fun as usual. Thanks all. Phenomenal idea OB.

    • Open Book August 16, 2012 at 8:55 PM #

      Bye CR!

      Great questions and contribution to this article.

      • ozzie20 August 16, 2012 at 9:06 PM #

        Bye CR!

    • parisienne August 16, 2012 at 9:08 PM #

      Have a good night CR!

  20. Open Book August 16, 2012 at 9:12 PM #

    Paris & Ozzie-

    U did a wonderful job contributing research to this article. Of the topics covered which ones were u most fascinated by and why?

  21. parisienne August 16, 2012 at 9:17 PM #

    For me it was the Occupy Movement because it affects the nation and began to open the public’s eye to the greed that our economy is facing.

    • Open Book August 16, 2012 at 9:25 PM #

      ITA Paris- I ultimately believe social concerns influences art. At least it should anyway.

      • ozzie20 August 16, 2012 at 10:02 PM #

        The Occupy Movement for me too! That fact that Cosmopolis was written 10 + tears before the recession and it’s still an acurate picture of today is fasinating! You could swap the protesters in the book with the Occupy Movement and there would hardly be any difference between the two!

  22. Open Book August 16, 2012 at 9:22 PM #


    I have to go. I really learned a lot from this series . Everyones contribution was great and I hope our readers get an opportunity to enjoy the other articles in this series on Cosmo.


  23. parisienne August 16, 2012 at 9:24 PM #

    Good night!

  24. ozzie20 August 16, 2012 at 10:05 PM #

    I’ll go too. I think this article structure is very good! I’ve had fun with the discussion too (well inbetween my computer playing up)! 🙂

    Have a good night everyone!

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