You have no way of knowing this about me, dear reader, but I used to be quite the history buff. Ancient Rome sparked my interest in particular. So, as I was watching Gladiator for the millionth time, I mused over the fact that Romans managed to popularize two seemingly unrelated human inventions: the bathroom and theatre.
Now little did the people of antiquity know that their favorite place of relaxation and socializing would one day be introduced as an important set to the great grandchild of theatre – the moving pictures.
Why the history lesson? Because everything in life and the arts is connected. When it comes to revolutionary ideas, bathrooms, these intimate household sanctuaries, have the power to alter the way we perceive the art of filmmaking via a single delicately shot scene. Let me explain.
You may think of it as a cliché, and you might be right, but given the historical context and the scene’s legacy in terms of cinema language, it simply has to be mentioned first. Personally, I find it more shocking than most contemporary slaughter scenes precisely because of its background.
Alfred Hitchcock, the master of suspense, didn’t just break taboos, he broke the mold of cinematic conventions altogether. The way he kills off his leading role is masterful half-way through is masterful. Close-ups, for instance, make it very personal in a very personal space. The shower. You feel safe there, relaxed. Until a crossdressing lunatic with a split personality disorder and mommy issues decides you’ve used up enough water.
Revving up the tension with violins. Stabbing a melon to get the eerie effects right. Scaring the actress to make it realer. Sneaking nudity passed the censors of the time. All these things are brilliant in their own right, but to me, the pervasive influence Psycho has had on pop culture is incredibly fascinating. Besides the obvious references, this bathroom scene opened the door to an entirely new dimension of TV monsters. The scariest ones of all – humans.
I love origin movies. Wolverine, Batman Begins, Iron Man, Joker, The Godfather: Part II, etc. Basically, any storyline that follows the ‘evolution’ of a famous character is something I’d always consider watching with great interest.
Being a huge James Bond fan, I got very excited when Casino Royal was announced in 2006. And it just so happens that half of the opening scene featuring the politically incorrect playboy spy takes place in a bathroom. But why include it in my top three? Simple: Because it reveals the start of 007’s path to infamy.
Shot in black and white, to remind us it’s happening in the past, Bond confronts a villain in an office. As typical Bond-style banter ensues between the two nemeses, a parallel sequence presents viewers with the MI6 agent fighting another baddie in a bathroom. It’s raw, almost amateur, and exceptionally violent. At the end, the antagonist in the office says, “You needn’t worry, the second is…” Hinting at the apparent truth that taking a life gets easier with practice. Before he can finish his thought, Bond shoots him, adding, “Yes, considerably”. Fantastic!
To answer that question: Both, but with emphasis on the latter. It can get lonely at the top, and Al Pacino’s portrayal of the ruthless cocaine kingpin Tony Montana is a classic example of how riches, especially gained by dodgy means, can lead to the impoverishment of one’s soul.
In this scene, we see Tony lounging in a colossal bathtub, soaking up his success, so to speak, while having a heated row with his business partner and concubine. His perverted vision of the American Dream had come true, yet Tony’s closest personal relationships seem to be crumbling around him. To me, seeing the gangster left alone in his ridiculously luxurious gilded bathroom sums up every work of art ever created that depicts the inevitable outcome of greed. One bathroom, one Cuban and his cigar, one timeless message.
Bathroom Empire is a first of its kind online magazine that merges the bathroom industry with storytelling – from humorous parenting stories to heartfelt wellness articles, not to mention books/films/pop culture and so much more.