The Employer is an excellent film that is the closest thing to No Exit that I’ve seen. Not only does it have a similar set-up and some of the same ideas in it, it actually is superior in plot and has more ideas and intellectual depth that No Exit lacks. First what it has in common which is fairly obvious. Several people stuck in a room not of their own choosing (though one knows it’s going to happen) and forced to interact with those whose psychologies and personalities conflict with theirs by design. Also that the film contrasts acting morally or believing in a kind of right-of-action for utility, that is for the individual’s own sake; and morally “as it is” or rather ethics that is based on Consequentialism where everyone benefits rather than the rational self-interest that an Ayn Rand or a Max Stirner would preach.
It could also be deemed a criticism of Virtue Ethics, because although the characters all have certain skills and abilities, they all but one (though a few are questionable, and I would say that actually the strong man is indeed a wholly moral and virtuous character asides from his rage and slight lack of intelligence) fail to possess a moral psychology that is necessary in many situations to produce truly right-action rather than action that is only beneficial for the party involved or his or her interests or desires. It is true that this moral impulse is something that Aristotle, the main proponent of Virtue Ethics talks about (when he says that friendship is by definition valuing a person for who they are and not what they can do for you and the ramifications of this for example) but simply because a trait exists doesn’t mean that contradicting traits exist that could guide one’s reason. However, a moral-act that is done outside of the consideration of conflicting biological and psychological traits, applying universal reason instead that is, would not allow these moral trespasses to take place or be excused; though of course they would not prevent moral trespasses from happening in minds where said reason did not exist. The Virtue Ethicist could argue that a society has a certain laws or mores (e.g. Capitalism, Christianity, Totalitarianism etc.) and that for one’s own sake and perhaps for the short-term benefit of many others (making a Hobbsian argument of preserving order and not allowing the chaos and uncertainties that may arguably unfold from overthrowing a, at-least in part, unjust regime) they practice the Virtues of the given society and situation and ignore universal morality or morality “in itself.”
This can also be used to show a potential schism between Virtue Ethics and Cynicism; the Cynics of course believe that morality comes entirely from nature and all artificial moral constructions are either detrimental (as they usually are), meaningless traditions that are harmful in the sense that they both are enforced and are treated as a moral staple forcing people to have an inaccurate view of ethics in the process, or truthful but not having anything to do with the society that constructs them and contains truth regardless of whether society acknowledges it or not – much like Plato’s wise argument that the Gods may know what the right-of-action is, but they themselves are not the arbiters of it, to make such a case would be to argue for a kind of moral relativism and Nihilism found in the Abrahamic faiths. However, the Virtue Ethicist may argue that civil society is the constructor of arête in moral potential – being biological creatures that must be raised and instructed in a certain way rather than coming into this world with fully functional reasoning faculties and no psychological traits that dissuade or motivate one apart from reason – and therefore the social mores of civil society must be respected and utilized in order to bring about a more just society. This is much-like a Marxist method of using the State to dismantle the state and use violence to bring an end to it. For of course like Marx, Aristotle would not take the Hobbsian route of excusing the laws of a State just because having some order is preferable to having none at-all. The Cynic however views all cooperation or association with moral ills, even if they are supposedly for moral ends, as corrupting and immoral regardless of justification or rationalization. The Cynical and Anarchist view that social mores are only valid if they are moral in-themselves and cannot be used as a rationalization for allowing evils that produce good ends; Anarchists being against taxation in-principle is a prime example of this.
A major contrast ‘tween the film and No Exit is that instead of it being for eternity as punishment, it is for a relatively brief amount of time with the prospect of reward based on immoral action. This reminds one and presents itself in sharp contrast to Plato’s Republic, where one is monitored by the Guardians and Philosopher Kings to see if one acts ignobly in a situation one thinks is happening “naturally,” that is without design or people monitoring and is rather happening by pure happenstance. In this scenario, they are being monitored, they know it almost immediately and the rules of the game are incredibly straight-forward with only the competitors to have deception be brought into play.
My only major complaint with the film is that it’s all too neat. Each character has only a certain amount of traits that either has us not like them or constructs the spines that will become extended to puncture the fellow “prisoner” who hits them at the exact right spot to have the quills become erect. In No Exit it makes perfect sense because they’re designed to torture each other forever; but in this film it’s almost as if the three contestants who were first to die were just fodder destined to die and the only real unknown factor and “choice” that is an action outside of one’s nature that anyone had to make is the sole survivor killing the sociopathic bitch. I can’t recall names so I’ll be referring to all prisoners by their identifying traits.
I will go into some detail of the plot but not much because I find much of it to be something that any commentary would be superfluous. It becomes obvious quickly that the Catholic character plays the sociopathic role that is manipulating the strong man to both give him justification for taking down the most worthy adversary physically and to gain leverage in-terms of sympathy or trust from the other three. However his overall mean spiritedness makes this largely transparent and ineffective even if it wasn’t. Whether he really is a Catholic or he uses religious as an easy prop to manipulate people much-like the Con Man preacher in Night of the Hunter is something worth arguing. We’re led to believe that all the confessions that the prisoners make to Malcolm McDowell are truthful otherwise they would be next to meaningless. In his interview, he confesses he would do the immoral thing but rationalize it by giving half the money to the Church. Supposedly making a black mark on his moral slate a white one by giving money to a religious organization that he identifies with moral correctness but history shows to be almost the precise opposite. But when asked what he would do if told that the money belongs to the Church so he would only be giving back half of the money that was theirs (from manipulating stupid and desperate people, such the nature of religious profiteering is.) in entirety he says that he would do the same and that his moral actions are between him and his god.
This to me identifies a very significant and potentially sickly element in the religious psyche. To the believer, morality is not a code of conduct that fundamentally is deemed valid by the rightness of our intercourse with others who are “moral agents” worth considering for their own sake; but rather that their god is the primary being of consideration, and if one can someone rationalize their actions either as something that God will forgive, tolerate, condone or even be command of (the Bible and other works giving much material of validation or rather rationalization for this type of warped view) then anything is excusable. This is one of the reasons why we see more religious people commit crimes than Atheists. Atheists must believe in a moral theory that doesn’t contain the fluid of religions allowing misdeeds by either being forgiven by God or God condoning these things. While the very psychology of the religious involves rationalization for what does not exist and what is not excusable (or saying something is inexcusable when it clearly is either a minor moral offense or not a slight on ethics in the slightest) the nature of the Atheist is to apprehend the “thing in itself” both in-terms of scientific study, philosophic wisdom and acceptance of life’s brutality and fundamental injustice and a code of ethics that is ethics “as it is” rather than ethics that are merely useful to one’s self or the tribe one belongs to; which we see largely in religion via spreading the love of supposed salvation through the murder and degradation of being and self in all ways possible of millions.
The strong man seems to be one who is not immoral but plagued with violent impulses which make him seem immoral to the stupid and a target of condemnation for the wicked. And this is essentially the short role he plays throughout the film he clearly is kind-hearted and caring for others while sensitive himself completing the caricature of the “gentle giant.” There isn’t much there is to say on this character or at-least I personally can’t find much.
The college student provides an interesting account of someone who could be killing either for moral or amoral and self-serving reasons. In the interview she says she despises liars (at-least on the surface a moral statement considering to dislike at-least in part those who possess an immoral quality or make an immoral action seems to be rational and perhaps even consequentially necessary of both a moral psychology and even possessing an ethic in society at-all. If we held no moral judgments towards anyone how could such a thing such as morality mean anything outside of intellectual abstraction?) but also that she would be willing to do anything necessary to further her position within the company and having researched into them possesses a relatively good idea of what that would entail. Honestly I was somewhat under the suspicion that this character would play the idealistic college student whose idealism is crushed and would have continued believing this if it weren’t obvious that it was the “nice guy” with the glasses who clearly was the main character, would be the sole survivor and would have to make the final moral choice for his “soul” (that is for the continuation of his moral psychology and doing right-action for the sole reason that it is right) or for his life. But she doesn’t show much contempt at-all for Malcolm McDowell or his businesses’ practices. Though the plot is well-constructed it being predictable is another complaint I think is well founded.
However when she kills the Catholic character she shows only the need to rationalize what she’d done to others (which is understandable considering the situation, but also shows not an urge to express moral sentiment but to be held in good favors and high regards with those who ultimately whether willingly or not will decide her fate.) though she was correct in every rationalization she made. The sentiment of her saying she would do anything for the corporation with her rough knowledge of what that could entail is of course damning but also her damnation of liars in the precise words she gave I believe is damning to her character of a completely self-centered person as well. For her exact words when prodded by McDowell was not “I hate liars,” but rather, “I hate being lied to,” which is a very different sentiment. Essentially she hates someone that would attempt to con or manipulate her assumingly for their own benefit and very-likely her downfall. It is the masquerade of moral sentiment and a desire for honesty when in-effect all the person cares about is that they are treated ideally. We see this in millions of self-centered and apathetic individuals but particularly in authority figures. One of the key elements of authority being the need for double-standards and the psychotic desire to not just be treated ideally but held as admirable while one is doing incredibly loathsome and ignoble things. The religion or Government that condemns all who speak ill of it (specifically or of its nature) and expects the most proper of treatment when they themselves scourge the world with its foul doings systemized and epitomized in the use of force and the creation and sustaining of ignorance, stupidity and apathy. She is also frankly a bitch when the strong man seemed given all the evidence presented an all-around nice guy. This isn’t the worst of moral condemnations and it is almost considered moral in contrast to the two sociopathic characters in the story. She may be a cunt, but at-least she’s an honest cunt.
Which of course brings me to the true sociopath in the film (asides from McDowell) which I suppose I’ll simply refer to either as the sociopathic character or the second-to-last survivor. She is far-more cunning and enterprising throughout than the Catholic character but this could be a distinction in knowledge rather than of character or intelligence. She after all is the only one who knows what will befall them and how these people are likely (far-too likely I’m afraid) to interact with each other. However where she does seem radically more sociopathic than the Catholic is where when the Catholic felt the need to rationalize his sociopathy through having some type of relationship with a moral god who he was in “good faith” with, she feels no urge to rationalize or justify her immorality in any way and condemns fairness (which is a major if not the major concept in ethics) as unseen in the world (or at-least not the major motive for action in the world), not practical and as preached by the idealistic and the incompetent. This of course largely mirrors Nietzsche’s refutation of conventional ethics as “slave morality” that is used only to curtail the strong and in doing so prevent the physical suffering of the weak in their service to the strong and their psychological suffering in their knowledge that they were born weak, stupid, ugly or otherwise “non-virtuous” in failing to have traits that are desired and therefore have lost the lottery of life while others have won it to varying degrees.
What Nietzsche and the immoralists fail to comprehend is that ultimately the lack of moral consideration and compassion makes the entirety of the human race poorer and is an element that will lead to our inevitable destruction. Though the weak should never be deemed equal to the strong (as some Christian and Liberal thinkers attempt to do in saying that we are all equal by some fundamental fact of humanity or being made by the same creator in supposedly his likeliness) and they should not be encouraged to procreate as Christians and other religious people often do, expressing a synthesis of compassion and contempt for weakness is the rational response to it. For even the greatest and most accomplished of men have flaws, and we must accept the flaw as both part of the person but also as something that remains a flaw; and of course because flaws are not of one’s own choosing but something that is a result of either determined physical law or of indeterminacy. Something that must be responded to with the attitude of healing rather than eradication but still with a sense of contempt for the fact that at the current moment the person possesses a flaw whether it be a sexual attraction to children or mental retardation. One can easily sense a weak mind that cannot comprehend the fulcrum of rational moral judgment when they condemn someone who is sexually attracted to children but has committed no crime – someone who was condemned by nature or circumstance – but view those who show any dislike or appreciation of the fact that the mentally retarded contain a serious flaw as heartless monsters likened to Nazis – although they too are the way they are entirely based on nature and not even the illusion of choice that follows us throughout our lives.
It is the view that morality is an illusionary or insignificant construction in everyday dealings that has allowed authority figures to condemn the human race to slavery and stupidity, and to suffering and inevitable suffocation. For if one’s actions hinged upon moral reason rather than Ego or some self-centered sentiment we would never have allowed religions to commit the countless crimes they have on humanity, Governments to wage countless wars for idiotic reasons based on the Ego of the king or warfare of limited resources of nationalities rather than seeing nations as arbitrary and the Earth as the commonwealth of us all, and Capitalists to destroy so many lives with poverty, the necessary sociological factors to keep the Capitalists in power and the immense and largely irreversible pollution they’ve manufactured all in the pursuits of market shares over morality.
The Nietzschean sentiment that morality is a artificial construction hinging solely on social perception – though he is right to condemn many of Man’s moralities as rationalizations of sentiments, ideologies or desires rather than a search for universal morality or morality “as it is” – is that which Capitalists have used to allow social action to be based on the market rather than reason and on the other end of the spectrum religions and Governments to insist on their indefinite existence lest we be subjected to the moral Nihilism inevitable when Man does not submit to God or is not bound to the social contract of Government that prevents wickedness to be perpetrated. All the while all three organizations, these hucksters conning Man of his absolute sovereignty and maximal potential, perpetrate the greatest moral crimes in human history while claiming that all social expectations, perceptions and values only have legitimacy through them. That they are the arbiters of meaning, morals and action and stave away the otherwise endless tide of meaningless when they are the perpetrators of Nihilism.
The final character clearly should have killed Malcolm McDowell and put a dent in the operation (though how large is debatable) that he runs; however this is a fable of morality not being necessary where survival and competition are involved. It’s Anti-Capitalism of portraying free-markets as utterly nihilistic and apathetic to human suffering or any moral concerns, that the suffering and failure of some (or rather many) for the prosperity of others as a essential element of the system and the type of psychologies that flourish in such an idealization is something that allows it to surpass No Exit which remains an interesting story that portrays no “real life” consequence by depicting three people who will suffer forever alone rather than five individuals whose actions will deeply influence four other people, their relations with the world and their “soul” while in No Exit their moral psychology has already been both condemned beyond the hope of redemption and made irrelevant.