Despair in Kiss Me Deadly
We easily conclude, just at the beginning, during a police investigation (if not in the first scenes where he meets Christina) our protagonist, Mike Hammer is an ambitious, self seeking, cunning and challenging person who looks like not afraiding from the authority. Throughout the story, he aspires only to solve the mystery that the story develops on. In that way, the story basicly consist of the ongoing encounters of Mike and a second person who has the little part of the information Mike needs. With these three aspects about the story and about the protagonist’s characteristics, one can easily expect Mike, everytime he encounters a conflict, to display massive strugglings to the last point, to try every way. However, Mike seems to be satisfied with the little information he gets, everytime. It is true that, he uses physical acts to force people to talk or threatens them but he never insists for more information or for more help. Many examples can be given as, when he meets the burned faced scientist, he does not insist for more information, eventhough he simply puts into words that he knows about what Christina hides; rather, Mike leaves the scientist’s house only with a name. Another example is that he does not questions the man who follows and attacks him with a knife, he just beats and gets rid of him. Finally, his reaction to the bag he finally reaches through the very end of the movie is the most extreme example. He simply leaves the bag where it is without questioning its nature. This unreactiveness of the protagonist consist with the hopeless nature of the film noir. Eventhough the protagonist’s aim is to solve the main conflict which the story develops on, we feel that there is the inevitable reality of failure.
This created sense of failure is assisted by another notion in the movie; the inevitable restrain of the protagonist. (This and the unreactiveness unites to create the sense of failure.) From the first scene that details about Mike are revealed by others; to the last where Pat reveals the secret, we are felt that the truth (which is the whole purpose to be achieved) can actually never be achieved. There are always the others knowing more. They are the ones possesing the power and ones that are using it. Whatever Mike does, we are felt that he is somehow, always passive. The scene where Mike solves the mystery of word ‘Remember me’ is very crucial for the movie and is supposed to be a success for Mike. However, in the scene there is the figure of a doctor (a higher being, an authority) that makes us feel that he had been there since the beginning, knowing what we were seeking. Now he is the one who posses the power – the key. It is true that Mike manages to get the key but only to give it to someone else. This notion is mostly felt in that scene where, Mike gives the key to Pat, where for the first time, he verbally admits his failure. It is even towards the very end of the movie and after the secret is revealed but still, Mike is shown as despairing.
For the audience, it is hardly possible to identify with the main character, Mike. Eventhough he is the charismatic hero, fighting with the authorities it is hardly possible to say that he is acting for the good will. ( When Pat asks him to let go the subject and leave it to the police department, he answers, ‘what is in it for me then?’.) He uses the people he loves for his own purposes, we can not see his true affiliation or anything very naive, beautiful or attracting about his personality is not shown. All these keeps us distant from him and so from the film. Also, despite his charisma, it is hard to see him as victorious because of the elements indicated above. His temporary victors mostly rely on his physical attacks or threats, and these victors lose their value with the ongoing conflicts. Through his quest Mike confronts with many failures, like the death of his friend or kidnap of his secretary/lover. Despite the fact that we see him more devestated on these times, these incidents do not affect the speed of his quest which again supports the notion of hopeless mood of the movie. Despite the ongoing action, it is as if, Mike, somehow is aware of the possibility of inevitable failure. There actually nothing exists to change the collapse at the end, it is even more miserable to hear Pat’s line; ‘nothing would change if you knew’.