You are on page 1of 13

2000 WORD CONTEXT

ESSAY
Odette Brown
14/03/19
“HOW CAN BONG JOON-HO’S
SNOWPIECER BE A CRITICISM OF
KARL MARX’S THEORY OF THE
PROLETARIAN REVOLUTION?”
INTRODUCTION

KARL MARX
PROLETARIAN REVOLUTION
SUMMARIZE SNOWPIERCER
TRAIN
HIGH CLASS/ WILFRED
LOWER CLASS/ CURTIS
THE MEETING
CONCLUSION
KARL MARX

Is one of the the creators of Marxism, a theory that looks at and analyses class
struggle and inequality in Western society, theorizing how it can be overthrown
to support the repressed class, the lower class. The theory supports a
Communist society, in which the division of labour and property is equal
amongst communities, so wealth is shared equally and not according to status or
rank, unlike Capitalism.

He was born Karl Heinrich Marx in Trier, Prussia, 1818 and received a degree in
Philosophy in 1841 at the University of Jena but moved to France with his wife
in 1843 where he became a revolutionary communist and met Friedrich Engle's,
a man whom he would write and publish the Communist Manifesto with in 1848.

Marx and Engels wrote the Communist Manifesto during the Industrial Revolution,
which spanned between 1720-(1820)-1840. It was a period where large,
industrialized cities where expanding, meaning more people were able to leave
the rural country side and find work, but this lead to a rise in class divisions as a
lot of the workers ended up living in abject poverty compared to their employers,
Marx discovered this when he moved to Paris and his understanding of the class
divisions as well as the large scale poverty is what lead him to write the
Communist Manifesto, as well as..

“formulated his theory of history, which he saw as a complex series of


class struggles that would lead unavoidably to the overthrow of the
bourgeoisie (the ruling class) by the proletariat (the working classes)”.
(Marx, 1848)

Fig 01, Karl Marx, (1883)


PROLETARIAN REVOLUTION
“The history of all hitherto is existing society is the history of class
struggles…” (Marx, 1848, 01)

The Communist Manifesto was originally a pamphlet printed in 1848, that


contained Karl Marx and Frederick Engle's thoughts on the Capitalist regime and
how Communism and the over throw of the Higher class (Bourgeoisie) could free
the lower class (Proletariat) of their oppression in society.

The Proletarian revolution is an idea coined in the Communist Manifesto to


overthrow the higher class through the lower class working together and
revolting against them, Marx doesn’t explain how the revolution will occur, he
only states it will involve the bourgeoisie turning against each other, while the
lower class band together to take down the other classes so only they can remain.
“Marx identified the working class as key to challenging the rule of the
exploiters; and moreover, establishing a society where the wealth that’s
produced collectively would be enjoyed collectively.” (McCabe, 2010)

For the revolution to occur, the Proletariat must be exploited to the point that
they become aware of their own exploitation, banning together to stop work will
affect the Bourgeoisie. “Marx's entire theory of working-class revolution is
built around the centrality of struggle--and in all the forms that struggle
takes, from the class struggle at the base of historical development to the
countless ways that it is expressed in conflicts, protests and rebellions
around every kind of issue. (Maass, 2010)

The theory is a Marxist one and so supports the idea of a Communist society over
a Capitalist society meaning the end goal of the Proletarian revolution is to
destroy the class system all together, leaving a Communist society where all
division of labour and pay is equal, this is what Marx thinks will help end poverty
and save the lower classes.

Fig 02, Communist Manifesto, (2014)


SUMMARY

Snowpiercer is a 2014 film directed by Bong Joon-Ho


and is based of the French graph novel Le
Transperceneige by Jacques Lob, Benjamin Legrand and
Jean-Marc Rochette.
It takes place in 2031, where the earth has been frozen
over from global warming so the last of humanity
resides on a train which travels endlessly around the
earth.
It follows Curtis, a lower class resident of the train
who lives in the crowded tail section, as he leads a
small group of other lower class residents up the train
in hopes to seize control of its engine and free the rest
of his people.

Fig 03, Snowpiercer, (2014)


LOCATION- TRAIN
“You can have anything you want”
“Anything in the whole, wide train” (Snowpiercer, 2014)
The train is the world for the characters within the film, its the basis for the
films society and social structure and how the conflict within the film is
constructed.
According to Marx, Capitalism is a repressive system the lower class, but
benefits the higher class - so the lower class makes the means of production for
the higher class, but don’t get the right pay for it compared to the higher class,
so its a system created by the higher class for the higher class. “each step in the
development of the bourgeoisie was accompanied by a corresponding
political advance of that class.. an oppressed class under the sway of the
out dated nobility” (Marx, 1848, 05)
Snowpiercer doesn’t have the lower class work for the higher class, but the trains
layout does benefit the higher class by having the lower class be blocked into the
tail end of the train, by the prison quarters and the guards that constantly enter
the carriage and harass them. The Higher Class reside in the top quarters along
with Wilford the creator which is how Snowpiecers' story unfolds.
In this way the train is a visual representation of Marx’s idea of Capitalism, with
the lower class being crushed by the higher class, and the journey they must take
to climb up the tower of wealth to overthrow the Higher Class. Marx imagined
Capitalism like a tower, with the Lower class at the bottom and the higher class
at the top, Snowpiercer converts this idea into a train but still retains the
repressive undertones and the tough journey they must take to revolt against it.

Fig 04-07,Big Trains in the Snow:


From Transarctica to Snowpiercer,
(2018)
HIGH CLASS- WILFRED
“We control the engine, we control the world..”
(Snowpiercer, 2014)

The higher class are presented in bold colors in the film, their behavior is more
animated and cold, especially contrasted against the repressed lower class.

“the bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionizing the


instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production and with
them the whole relations of society" (Marx, 1848, 07)

Marx doesn’t sympathize with the Higher Class because the Capitalism system
supports them, and Snowpiercer supports this as the story mainly follows the lower
class group as they move up the train. "the bourgeoisie has stripped of its halo
every occupation hitherto and looked up to with reverent awe...It has
converted the physician, the lawyer, the priest, the poet, the man of science
Fig 08, Wilford, (2014) into its paid-wage labourer's" (Marx, 1848, 06)

The character of Wilfred is treated very god like within the films context, as we don’t
see him until the end, we the audience only hear about him through the higher class
propaganda that the lower class are tormented with throughout the film, as part of
the Capitalist repression from the other higher class residents. He also owns the
train, which within the context of Capitalism means he owns the means of
production (the facilities and rescues for producing goods) within the world and
therefore the lower class of the train.

Because he owns so much means of production within the world, it can be argued
that instead of being a character, Wilfred can be seen as a representative for
Capitalism and how it controls the world of Snowpiercer "It [Capitalism] has it
established new classes, new conditions of oppression, new forms of struggle
Fig 09-11, Snowpiercer: A in place of the old ones" (Marx, 1848,04)
Cognitive Map of
(Globalized) Capitalism,
(2017)
LOWER CLASS- CURTIS
“Know your place, keep your place, be a shoe!”
(Snowpiercer, 2014)

The lower class are presented in very dark, cramped conditions, with us first
being introduced to them being lined up and then sit down one by one by
armed guards.
Marx argues that a violent class revolution is the only way the lower class
can be free from their oppression and Snowpiercer supports this through
Curtis progression up the train as they dismantle and attack the higher ups
with hand held weapons. “up to the point where that war breaks out
into an open revolution, and where the violent overthrow of the
Fig 12, Curtis, (2014) bourgeoisie lays the foundation for the sway of the proletariat” (Marx,
1848, 19)
In contrast to Wilfred, the character Curtis can be argued to be a
representation of the proletariat as a whole, as he is the character that hates
Wilfred (Capitalism) the most and the one who has been most affected by
his rule on the train, he’s also the leader of the group, so is controlling the
revolution throughout the film and how it should occur. He is an example of
how the proletarian revolution can come about.
The film angles itself to sympathies with the lower class, which also
supports Marx, as his whole theory is based around appealing to the
working class and exposing them to their exploitation from the higher
classes. We the audience travel up the train with the lower class, see them
Fig 13, Snowpiercer, (2016) get punished and abused by the higher class residents and also see the
Fig 14, Snowpiercer and These different levels of the train, so we the audience feel apart of the lower class
Final Hours continue community and feel supportive of them over throwing the higher classes.
apocalyptic film tradition, “Of all the classes that stand face to face with the bourgeoisie today,
(2014) the proletariat alone is a really revolutionary class" (Marx, 1848, 17)
THE MEETING
“We must each of us occupy our
preordained particular position”
(Snowpiercer, 2014)
According to Marx, the only way the Proletarian’s can overcome their class
oppression is by overthrowing the Bourgeoisie. “the proletarian have nothing
to lose but their chains. They have a world to win” (Marx, 1848, 52)
But in Snowpiercer presents the ending of the revolution not with a final battle, but
with a conversation from the Capitalist side, presenting the reason why
Capitalism exists and why it works.
Marx argues that by overthrowing the Bourgeoise, the Proletarian can be free
from the inequality, he presents it as a simple solution and an easy ending, "In
place of the old bourgeoisie society with its classes and class antagonisms,
we shall have an association in which the free development of each is the
condition for the free development of all" (Marx, 1848, 34)
But the ending of Snowpiercer presents the idea that the destruction of the
Capitalist system would have a more devastating effect on the society as a whole,
as the whole train runs on the Capitalist system put in place, so by destroying the
capitalist system, it would end up killing the engine and stopping the train, killing
the remaining citizens onboard.
Snowpiercer also presents the ideas that the Higher Class might have more control
over the lower class than originally intended, and that a lot more aspects of their
lives might be controlled under the Capitalist regime.
Fig 15, Analysis of Snowpiercer Part III: Gilliam, Wilford, and
the Brilliance of Casting Chris Evans, (2015) “This goes completely against traditional Marxist doxa, for which the class
struggle must lead, dialectically, to an eventual collapse of the exploiting
and idle hyper-class, and triumph of the working class—the proletariat,
leading to a happy end to history, a society with no more class distinction,
and all the social injustice contained in the latter”. (Szaniawski, 2015)
CONCLUSION
Karl Marx’s theory of the Proletariat Revolution, using Snowpiecers
plot doesn’t hold up because Marx presumes the overthrow of the
higher class would resolve the repressive issues and that it
wouldn't have any repercussions on the society afterworlds, it
presumes that the overthrow of the Bourgeoisie would free the
Proletariat and that Capitalism is an easy construct to destroy,
when it would actually have longer lasting and more devastating
consequences.
Snowpiercer demonstrates this though the lower classes violent
actions to reach the top, getting the audience to sympathize with
them throughout, but unlike Marx, Snowpiecer allows the higher
class to explain the system and why its in place, giving the
audience time to ponder on whether its worth destroying. The
film weighs up the consequences, unlike Marx, whom presumes a
Communist society is the only way forwards.
➤ Fig 01, Karl Marx, (1883), [Online Image], URL: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karl_Marx, (Accessed: 07/03/19)
➤ Fig 02, Communist Manifesto, (2014), [Online Image], URL: https://www.amazon.com/Communist-Manifesto-Karl-
Marx/dp/0717802418, (Accessed: 07/03/19)
➤ Fig 03, Snowpiercer, (2014), [Film Poster], URL:
➤ Fig 04-07,Big Trains in the Snow: From Transarctica to Snowpiercer, (2018), [Concept Art], URL:
http://neverwasmag.com/2018/04/big-trains-in-the-snow-from-transarctica-to-snowpiercer/, (Accessed: 07/03/19)
➤ Fig 08, Wilford, (2014), [Online Image}, URL: https://villains.fandom.com/wiki/Wilford, (Accessed: 07/03/19)
➤ Fig 09-11, Snowpiercer: A Cognitive Map of (Globalized) Capitalism, (2017), [Online Image], URL:
https://www.yourfilmprofessor.com/snowpiercer-cognitive-map-globalized-capitalism/, (Accessed: 07/03/19)
➤ Fig 12, Curtis, (2014), [Online Image], URL: https://www.charactour.com/hub/characters/view/Curtis-
Everett.Snowpiercer, (Accessed: 07/03/19)
➤ Fig 13, Snowpiercer, (2016), [Online Image], URL: http://qwerenetyuiop.blogspot.com/2016/06/snowpiercer_28.html,
(Accessed: 07/03/19)
➤ Fig 14, Snowpiercer and These Final Hours continue apocalyptic film tradition, (2014), [Online Image], URL:
https://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/archived/finalcut/snowpiercer-and-these-final-hours-continue-
apocalyptic-tradition/5635856, (Accessed: 07/03/19)
➤ Fig 15, Analysis of Snowpiercer Part III: Gilliam, Wilford, and the Brilliance of Casting Chris Evans, (2015), [Online
Image], URL: https://thedinglehopper.wordpress.com/2015/01/10/analysis-of-snowpiercer-part-iii-gilliam-wilford-and-
the-brilliance-of-casting-chris-evans/, (Accessed: 07/03/19)
➤ Marx, Karl, (1848), Communist Manifesto, [Book], Shelfmark: 8276.s.10, URL:
http://www.bl.uk/learning/timeline/item106572.html, British Library (Accessed:
07/03/19)
➤ Marx, Karl, (1848), Communist Manifesto, London, Penguin Group.

➤ Szaniawski, J, (2015), “Snowpiercer” may not be what it seems. Is it really


progressive cinema criticizing capitalism?,
URL:http://screenprism.com/insights/article/snowpiercer-may-not-be-what-it-
seems.-while-an-allegory-criticizing-capital, (Accessed: 06/03/19)

➤ (McCabe, E, 2018, Karl Marx’s theory of class struggle: the working class &
revolution, URL: http://socialistparty.ie/2018/05/karl-marxs-theory-class-struggle-
working-class-revolution/, (Accessed: 06/03/18)
➤ Maass, A, 2010, MARX’S THEORY OF WORKING-CLASS REVOLUTION, URL:
https://socialistworker.org/2010/10/14/marxs-theory-of-working-class-revolution,
(Accessed: 06/03/19)