From Kubrick to Lynch to Lasseter, hidden messages in movies (AKA subliminal media messages) have long been a source of fascination for critics, movie buffs, and conspiracy theorists alike. It's a universally accepted truth, however, that not all purposefully placed symbols are created equal. Some are sophisticated, ominous, and philosophical (as in Eyes Wide Shut), while others are lighthearted, sweet, and whimsical (as in The Little Mermaid).
In either case, the hunt for cinematic Easter eggs is often exciting, sometimes difficult, and always rewarding. Read on to find out what you may have missed through even-umpteenth viewings of some of your favorite films.
- Photo: Paramount Pictures
Author Roald Dahl was brilliantly witty, and no stranger to lewd humor. One of his most famous acts of ribaldry involved a plot detail from his adult novel My Uncle Oswald sneaking into 1971's Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (which was, of course, based on his equally beloved series of books). The film (and its literary namesake) existed a good eight years before Oswald came out, but as it turns out, "snozberries" always had a special place in the heart (and crotch) of Dahl's comedic vision. He just decided to use the term in two drastically different contexts. According to Cracked:
"Dahl decided to revisit snozzberries in his adult novel My Uncle Oswald. The witty and disgusting story revolves around Oswald Hendryks Cornelius, the titular uncle and 'greatest fornicator of all time.' Along with his sexy accomplice Yasmin Howcomely, he devises a complicated get-rich-quick scheme that involves Howcomely seducing Europe's most famous men and then selling used condoms full of their spent semen to women wishing to birth famous progeny."
The article then goes on to explain that the term 'snozzberry' comes up when Yasmin Howcomely recounts her (obviously fictional) experience with playwright George Bernard Shaw:
"'How did you manage to roll the old rubbery thing on him?'
'There's only one way when they get violent," Yasmin said. "I grabbed hold of his snozzberry and hung onto it like grim death and gave it a twist or two to make him hold still.'
'I'll bet it is.'"
So, it's "all there, in black and white, clear as crystal," as Wonka would say. During the scene in which the children lick the allegedly candy-flavored snozberry wallpaper in the chocolate factory, it was really flavored like an old Irish playwright's... well, you can figure it out.Did this hidden message surprise you?
Where to start with this one? Most of The Shining's deliberately embedded symbols are pretty much common knowledge among cinephiles at this point, and the film's many cryptic allusions have even inspired an award-winning documentary, Room 237. According to the Sundance blog, however, there are a few items that aren't discussed (quite) as often as some of the movie's more iconic mysteries:
“During the scene in which Jack telephones Wendy to tell her he’s got the job at the Overlook Hotel, a black curtain is seen covering the entrance, tucked behind a radiator … when the Torrances are first introduced to their quarters [at the Overlook], the living room curtain [separates] the living room from the bedroom ... as the black curtain scene is bookended by two scenes showing Danny talking to Tony in the bathroom mirror and immediately precedes Danny’s vision of the bloody elevator, it functions as an omen, once broken, that seals the occupant’s doom.”
There's also speculations about the film's many backwards running timepieces, all of which suggest that time has essentially stopped in the Overlook. The article also points out the significance of the number of the beast:
"At exactly 66 minutes and 6 seconds into the film, we cut from an image of the very devilish Lloyd the bartender to a shot of Jack taking his first drink, a drink he said he’d give his 'goddamn soul' for just a few minutes prior.”
Mission accomplished.Did this hidden message surprise you?
- Photo: Miramax Films
Quentin Tarantino is great at telling the powers (and unlikable villains) that be to fu*k off, but his Kill Bill series manages to find particularly ingenious ways of doing so. According to the Miramax website:
“[In one sequence], the camera captures the bottom of Uma Thurman's Onitsuka Tiger Tai Chi's as she struts her way across the House of Blue Leaves, just minutes before her epic battle against O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu) and her 'Crazy 88' army. Tarantino only pauses here for a few seconds, but it's just long enough to make out the appropriately belligerent 'FU*K U' message inscribed across the soles of Thurman's shoes.”
If you're going to kick ass, it definitely helps to leave a branding mark to boot.Did this hidden message surprise you?
- Photo: Fox Searchlight Pictures
Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan is known for both its harrowing portrayal of mental collapse and its occasionally satirical camp (to explore more brilliant cinematic satires, check this out). After all, who can forget Winona Ryder's hilariously overwrought performance, which puts even Dynasty-era Joan Collins to shame? One thing many critics and fans did manage to miss, however, was the intricacy and Hieronymus Bosch-esque sophistication of the film's subliminal images. According to Cracked, the bulk of them were inserted during the movie's club scene:
“The shots are too fast to see, but if you keep your finger firmly pressed on your pause button ... you can see weird stuff like Nina being stalked by the characters of the ballet, including the one she plays: or Nina dancing with the theater director, who isn't actually in the club at all.”
The montage then follows the viewer (and the characters) from the club into Nina's bedroom, where "suddenly everyone in the room is Nina ... she's basically surrounded by different versions of herself from other points in the movie.”
A slo-mo version of all of these images can be seen in this genuinely frightening user-uploaded YouTube clip ... which rather brilliantly utilizes nightmarish, Irreversible-like sound design that is arguably more effective than the music used in the actual scene.Did this hidden message surprise you?