Moby Dick Reviews
The story of Captain Ahab and his constant quest to hunt and kill the great white whale, Moby Dick.
A timeless tale on the irrationality, unproductiveness and futility of revenge.
Gregory Peck is excellent as Captain Ahab, and shows that he can act the villain. Excellent direction by John Huston - the pacing is perfect and the drama is built beautifully. Good special effects, for 1956.
The dialogue, especially Ahab's, is a bit overly melodramatic, but that would be the only flaw.
Here we have the theme of a traumatic monstrosity rupturing the coordinates of reality -- the whale, itself. First, by giving us the point of view of Ishmael, the naive and inexperienced sailor, we have the return to the sea represent a kind of primordial rebalancing. We know that Ishmael longs for a return to the ocean for the restorative processes it brings to him. The sea is imagined almost as counter-balance of land, part of some grand cosmic harmony, even. For him, the whale is certainly a stain -- like bleach -- on the otherwise comforting darkness of the ocean. Here we can see why the real encounter with Moby Dick is not just on the level of brute empirical experience. The whale distorts the very fabric of the reality around him in a paradoxical fashion: white, angelic birds reel above him; an envelope of deathly calm, like the eye of a hurricane, precedes him, etc. But, this is no less true for Ahab, himself. If the whale is the unspeakable, ineffable and shattering dimension which makes any harmony impossible, Ahab is, in a strange Lacanian way, the other side of this dimension -- but, this time, the excess of jouissance and speech. Huston underscores this point nicely: the first time the crew (and us as well) encounter Moby Dick, there is absolutely no music, only the diegetic sound of the whale's massive breathing and the violent breaking of the waves when he surfaces. It is as if the presence of the creature positively sucks even its dramatic musical representation from the film. Ahab, on the other hand, is the loquacious voice which continually bombards us with its grandiloquence. Is this not a sharp symbolization of the two sides of the truly disturbing and traumatic experiences in life: Silence and the Voice? As Starbuck points out, he does not fear Moby Dick, but Ahab. The captain remarks that the whale tore him in two, till his soul and body bled into the other, but what happened at the fantasmatic level is that Moby Dick and Ahab have effectively bled together. The whale is marked by Ahab's spears, and Ahab has been partially reconstructed with the bone of a sperm whale. Moby Dick is very much like a body in search of a voice, and in the grisly finale, they do finally come together, forming a grotesque, but rather appropriate, union.