A Heart within Death
by Alejandro Irizarry
Please watch the accompanying video before reading this essay.
Mad Max: Fury Road, on its surface is a movie about death– the death of Max’s family, the death of Furiosa’s family, and the death of countless war boys most of all. With this essay I wanted to bring to light the deepest sadness within the film – the hidden emotion present in the war boys, and how this makes their willingness to die so easily more impactful than it may seem at first sight, the loss of potentially great and moral men.
War boys are the soldiers of Immortan Joe, the film’s diseased villain, forced to use white medicine powder to live, he makes his war boys done white paint an an act of reverence to Joe. They also revere cars, spraying chrome paint on their mouth any time they expect to make an especially important sacrifice and praying to the “V8”. The main war boy in the film – and the sense through which I will view the inner potential of the war boys – is Nux. The life span of all war boys is rather short due to various medical problems, – Nux himself has two tumors on his neck – which is one of the reasons they are so eager to sacrifice themselves for Joe’s cause, the other being to earn a place in their version of heaven “Valhalla”.
Nux is no different at the beginning, but his relationship with Max, Furiosa, and his partner Capable, he evolves. He learns to feel Love and sees the value in life, in the end sacrificing himself not for any leader or place in the afterlife, but to save his friends and the woman he loves.
The song playing throughout the trailer, “Visions of Gideon” by Sufjan Stevens used in Call Me By Your Name, contrasts the at many times harsh and jarring visuals of the film, bringing attention to the unspoken feelings displayed throughout the video. I wanted a song from Call Me By Your Name because of the film’s focus on self-discovery and growth, emphasizing how these ideas are intrinsically weaved into Nux’s character.
While Nux is the focus of the essay, he is again simply a lens. If he can embark on this journey of change, who is to say that the rest of the war boys cannot? Nux is not necessarily remarkable from them. The emotions unearthed from Nux could very well exist in each of the war boys.
Looking at Mad Max through this new viewpoint adds a layer of tragedy to the conflict. Take the harpoon shooters, their sentry positions are entirely open allowing one of them to be shot so easily, yet this doesn’t deter the gunners around. The death was merely an inevitability, therefore any sort of protection is useless to them, only making them less effective attackers. This is most easily seen in the war boy who jumps at the car with an explosive spear. He could have thrown it, but he was conditioned to hold so little self-worth that he never even considered it.
Nux’s former partner Slit – the war boy with the black halo around his forehead and eyes – provides a contrast to show how wholly Nux has changed. While Slit is jamming his car in-between two trucks in an effort to act as a living bomb of sorts, Nux is in the engine trying to keep the truck running. One man is trying to bring about death and destruction, the other trying to keep his friends alive and fix what’s been broken.
All these acts of suicide are lost opportunities. Each one of those war boys could have some sort of regular human emotion inside of them, but due to Immortan Joe’s indoctrination they view themselves as mere cannon fodder.
The depressing situation of the war boys makes the world of Mad Max even darker than it appears. What at first appear to be violent creatures focused solely on killing, are instead tortured slaves. Mentally enchained to Joe, a connection so strong that even when Nux broke it it was at the price of his life in the end.
- DUNKS, GLENN. “Post-Apocalypse Now: Australia as Cinema’s Dystopia.” Metro, no. 184, Mar. 2015, pp. 90-95.
- Hassler-Forest, Dan. “Mad Max: Between Apocalypse and Utopia.” Science Fiction Film & Television, vol. 10, no.3, Sept. 2017, pp. 301-306. doi:10.3828
- “VICE Talks Film: George Miller on ‘Mad Max: Fury Road” Online video clip. Youtube, May 17, 2015. Web. 14th of September 2018.