Updated: Feb 18
As with all movies on this website, our goal is not to provide a complete synopsis of the movie, but rather to document how the movie relates to the meaning of life. With that said, be forewarned, there are still spoilers below.
Suture is a movie written and directed by Scott McGehee and David Siegel. The movie was released in 1993 starring Dennis Haysbert as Clay Arlington/Vincent Towers and Michael Harris as Vincent Towers.
Two factors are really striking about the movie. First, the movie was filmed in black and white. Second, Dennis Haysbert and Michael Harris play characters that are brothers... who supposedly look almost identical. In fact, no one in the film can tell them apart. Yet, anyone watching can clearly see the discrepancy. There a few times in the film when you think one of the characters is going to point out this discrepancy, and yet... nothing. In fact, Dr. Renee Descartes, played by Mel Harris, talks about Clay's Greco-Roman features (although the character is African American) and long hair.
The movie opens with the following long, but important quote, which sets the stage for the entire film.
How is that we know who we are? We might wake up in the night disoriented, and wonder where we are; we may have forgotten where the window or the door or the bathroom is, or who is sleeping beside us. We may think perhaps that we have lived through what we just dreamed of, or we may wonder if we are now still dreaming. But we never wonder who we are. However confused we might be about every other particular of our existence we always know that it is “us,” that we are now who we have always been. We never wake up and wonder, “who am I,” because our knowledge of who we are is mediated by what we doctors of the mind ourselves call schemata—the richest, most stable and most complex memory structures we have. They are the structures, which connect us to our past and allow us to imagine our futures. To lose those connections would be a sign of pathology, a pathology called amnesia. But it makes no sense to begin this story here without its history, its past. So, let me take you back to a proper beginning, to a time before identity has been confused.
Clay Arlington happens to be poor, while Vincent Towers happens to be unimaginably rich. Vincent invites Clay over and tells him that he is leaving for a business trip. He requests that Clay drive him to the airport and that he'll be back the next day. While Clay is in the shower Vincent switches IDs with him. None the wiser, Clay drives Vincent to the airport. Vincent calls Clay on the car phone while at the airport and apologizes for what is about to happen... the car blows up with Clay inside.
Surprisingly, Clay is physically okay but needs plastic surgery to his face. Mentally however, Clay has retrograde amensia. Since Vincent has switched the IDs previously, everyone assumes that Clay is actually Vincent. Thus, Clay becomes Vincent. He doesn't have personality traits of Vincent, but he does assume his identity.
We find out later in the movie that Vincent likely killed his and Clay's father. Why he did it, we don't know. But to cut to the chase, Clay and Vincent eventually confront each other in the end. With both men pointing guns at each other, the original Vincent is shot by Clay. His face blown off makes his body unidentifiable. Thus completing the cycle and allowing Clay to fully assume the identity of Vincent Towers with no traces to his former past.
The film ends with the following line about Clay becoming Vincent.
He is not Vincent Tower; he is Clay Arlington. He may dress in Vincent's fine clothes, drive Vincent's expensive car, play golf at Vincent's country club, or use Vincent's box at the opera. But this will not make him Vincent Towers. He can never be Vincent Towers, simply because he is not. Nothing can change this, not the material comforts his life may afford him, nor the love Renee may provide. And if by some chance over the cries of his true ego, he is able to achieve happiness, it will be false, empty. For he has buried the wrong life, the wrong past, buried his soul. He has lost all that makes life worth living. Of this we can be completely certain.
It seems to me that the writers are attempting to state that what gives life value is its connect to our memories. If we discard these memories or our past, we have "lost all that makes life worth living." With that said, I don't completely agree with the writers if this is the point. I think all of us in Clay's shoes would have assumed the identity of Vincent Towers. Clay's memories came back, and he made the conscious choice to assume that identity. However, his personality did not change and the only difference appears to be that he gained money. So I would disagree that his happiness is false. If he had become the full embodiment of Vincent, it would be different. But Clay is still Clay, only in a different environment, a suit, and a different name.
The film has striking visuals and the crew did a great job and highlighting contrasts capturing the nature of dualism. With that said, besides the opening/closing lines and the visuals, there is much more to the movie. It would have been great to have deeper lines throughout the film.
We rate the movie as follows:
Overall - 5
Meaning of Life Relevance - 3
Uniqueness – 5
What did we miss? Do you agree with the writers that life's worth is tied to our memories, our past?