Up Jung

I’m sure someone else has done a Jungian analysis of the movie Up, but mine is from an artist’s perspective.

In Jungian dream analysis, the house is a symbol of the self.  The main character, Carl (also Jung’s first name–what a coincidence, eh?), lives alone in his house, preserving it just as it was when he lived there with his wife–with whom, ironically, he shared a longing for life beyond mundane cares, for adventure and excitement.  He clings now to mundane cares, rejects any possibility of adventure or excitement.  Meanwhile, change goes on all around him.  He defends his mundane sameness with crankiness that leads to inappropriate anger, then he finally ties a million balloons to it and flies it away to Paradise Falls.  I won’t go into the possible references of that name (Milton, Freud, etc.).

I will mention here that the house is steered by the weathervane on the roof–a rooster.  A flightless bird.

Russell, a little kid, ends up stuck on the ride, representing an inner child type figure, who just wants to be good and helpful and loved.  Carl keeps him at a distance.  But Russell accepts and loves everything he sees: Carl, Dug the dog, and the big, blue bird, Kevin.  A flightless bird.

Charles (an Anglicization of Carl–another coincidence!) represents Carl’s shadow, the part of Carl that he won’t accept because he fears it.  The part that went on all the great adventures, desires and received recognition but ended up alone for fear of judgement.  What Carl and Charles share in common is their airship selves and their fixation on preserving their stuff.  Carl’s stuff is his houseful of memorabilia from his marriage.  Charles’ stuff is “the best” of the fossils (skeletons!) he has collected during his travels.

Carl ignores the bird.  Charles covets it.

There is a parallel story going on with Dug and Alpha, who have the same relationship to the bird, just in case the Carl/Charles story didn’t make it clear enough.

Anyway, adventures ensue, and Carl ends up where he wanted: his house on Paradise Falls.  Thinking he’s succeeded, he looks through a scrap book his wife left behind, and on every page that she created in her childhood is a bird–drawings of birds, a stamp with a bird on it.  Carl doesn’t notice that, but finally sees a new part of the book Ellie made of photos of their life together.  Finally he understands that the adventure he longed for had been his all along.  But Russell runs away from him to recover Kevin from Charles’ custody, so now Carl has got to do something about it.  By now, enough balloons have popped that the house won’t float.  Carl decides to empty his house so he can save Russell and Kevin, which he does.  He finally embraces his shadow, lets go of his attachment to his old house and flies Charles’ giant airship (called the Spirit of Adventure, no less) home.

As a symbol, Kevin is the blue bird of happiness–flightless, grounded in contrast to the flying, moving houses of Carl and Charles.  She (Kevin is a she, which is funny and also suggestive of the ambiguous properties of what she represents) is embraced readily by Russell, sought after for reward by Charles, and at first ignored then embraced by Carl.  But Carl doesn’t take the bird home with him; he takes her back to her home in the forest to take care of her chicks.

So I propose to you that Kevin represents art.

In order to nurture it, you have to let it be its own thing, allow it to take care of its own.  But you can’t do that unless you’re willing to empty your self, embrace your inner child, and be open to change and growth.

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2 Responses to Up Jung

  1. Brody says:

    Very insightful. I was not a fan of the movie, but maybe if I’d looked at it from a viewpoint closer to this, I’d have seen more than I did.

    • amelianp says:

      Yep, sometimes art is hiding in the most unlikely places, but it’s also a matter of taste, what your inclinations are. Still, if you watch it again, let me know if you enjoy it more!

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