BOOK: Going deeper into the major global protest in Cosmopolis

Cosmopolis filming was in studio today but we had a few tweets that gave us a signal about what was being shot.

With hints of the protest scene being announced, one can assume Samantha Morton (Vija Kinski, chief of theory) was in the house! er….limo. 😉 It’s an intense scene and we can’t wait to see how this interpreted on camera.

Book excerpt after the cut! *spoilers*

From Don DeLillo’s Cosmopolis:

There were people approaching the car. Who were they? They were protesters, anarchists, whoever they were, a form of street theater, or adepts of sheer rampage. The car was hemmed in, of course, enveloped by paralysis, with vehicles on three sides and the ticket booths on the fourth. He saw Torval confront a man carrying a brick. He dropped him cold with a right cross. Eric decided to admire this.

Then Torval looked up at him. A kid on a skateboard flew past, bouncing off the windshield of a police cruiser. It was clear what his chief of security wanted him to do. The two men stared balefully at each other for a long moment. Then Eric lowered himself into the body of the car and eased the sunroof shut.
It made more sense on TV. He poured two vodkas and they watched, trusting what they saw. It was a protest all right and they were smashing the windows of chain stores and loosing
battalions of rats in restaurants and hotel lobbies. Masked figures roamed the area on the tops of cars, tossing smoke bombs at the cops. He could hear the chant more clearly now, channeled through the dish antennas of TV trucks and extracted from the rolling clamor of sirens and car alarms.

A specter is haunting the world, they cried. He was enjoying this. Teenagers on skateboards sprayed graffiti at advertising displays on the sides of buses. The styrofoam rat was toppled now and there were police in tight formation advancing behind riot shields, helmeted men who moved with a totalistic grimness that made Kinski seem to sigh.

Protesters were rocking the car. He looked at her and smiled. There were close-ups on TV of faces scorched by pepper gas. The zoom lens caught a man in a parachute dropping from the top of a tower nearby. Chute and man were striped in anarchist red-and-black and his penis was exposed, likewise logotyped. They were knocking the car back and forth. Projectiles came popping from tear-gas launchers and cops free-lanced in the crowd, wearing masks with twin filtration chambers out of some lethal cartoon.

“You know what capitalism produces. According to Marx and Engels.”

“Its own grave-diggers,” he said.

“But these are not the grave-diggers. This is the free market itself. These people are a fantasy generated by the market. They don’t exist outside the market. There is nowhere they can go to be on the outside. There is no outside.”

“The market culture is total. It breeds these men and women. They are necessary to the system they despise. They give it energy and definition. They are marketdriven. They are traded on the markets of the world. This is why they exist, to invigorate and perpetuate the system.”

He watched the vodka slosh in her glass as the car bounced back and forth. There were people banging on the windows and hood. He saw Torval and the bodyguards sweep them off the chassis. He thought briefly about the partition behind the driver. It had a cedar frame with an inlaid fragment of ornamental Kufic script on parchment, late tenth century, Baghdad, priceless.

She tightened her seat belt. “You have to understand.”

He said, “What?”

“The more visionary the idea, the more people it leaves behind. This is what the protest is all about. Visions of technology and wealth. The force of cyber-capital that will send people into the gutter to retch and die. What is the flaw of human rationality?”

He said, “What?”

“It pretends not to see the horror and death at the end of the schemes it builds. This is a protest against the future. They want to hold off the future. They want to normalize it, keep it from overwhelming the present.”

There were cars burning in the street, metal hissing and spitting, and stunned figures in slow motion, in tides of smoke, wandering through the mass of vehicles and bodies, and others everywhere running, and a cop down, genuflected, outside a fast food shop.

“The future is always a wholeness, a sameness. We’re all tall and happy there,” she said. “This is why the future fails. It always fails. It can never be the cruel happy place we want to make it.”

Someone flung a trash can at the rear window. Kinski flinched but barely. To the immediate west, just across Broadway, the protesters created barricades of burning tires. All along there’d seemed a scheme, a destination. Police fired rubber bullets through the smoke, which began to drift high above the billboards. Other police stood a few feet away, helping Eric’s security detail protect the car. He didn’t know how he felt about this.

“How will we know when the global era officially ends?” He waited.

“When stretch limousines begin to disappear from the streets of Manhattan.”

Men were urinating on the car. Women pitched sandfilled soda bottles. “This is controlled anger, I would say. But what would happen if they knew that the head of Packer Capital was in the car?” She said this evilly, eyes alight.

The protesters’ eyes were blazing between the red-and-black bandannas they wore across their heads and faces. Did he envy them? The shatterproof windows showed hairline fractures and maybe he thought he’d like to be out there, mangling and smashing.

“They are working with you, these people. They are acting on your terms,” she said. “And if they kill you, it’s only because you permit it, in your sweet sufferance, as a way to re-emphasize the idea we all live under.”

“What idea?”

The rocking became worse and he watched her follow her glass from side to side before she was able to take a sip.

“Destruction,” she said.

“You know what anarchists have always believed.”


“Tell me,” she said.

“The urge to destroy is a creative urge.”

“This is also the hallmark of capitalist thought. Enforced destruction. Old industries have to be harshly eliminated. New markets have to be forcibly claimed. Old markets have to be re-exploited. Destroy the past, make the future.”

Her smile was private, as always, and a minor muscle twitched at a corner of her mouth. She was not in the habit of revealing sympathies or disaffections. She had no capacity for either, he’d thought, but wondered now if he’d been wrong about that.

They were spray-painting the car, doing adagios on their skateboards. Across the avenue the men dangling from belayed ropes were trying to kick in windows. The tower carried the name of a major investment bank, the lettering modestly sized beneath a sprawling map of the world, and the stock prices danced through the fading light.

There were many arrests, people from forty countries, heads bloodied, ski masks in hand. They did not want to relinquish their masks. He saw a woman take off her mask, pull it off cursing, a cop prodding her ribs with his baton, and she swung the mask backhand, swatting his visored helmet as they passed out of camera range, and all the screens tossed to the heaving of the car.

His own image caught his eye, live on the oval screen beneath the spycam. Some seconds passed. He saw himself recoil in shock. More time passed. He felt suspended, waiting. Then there was a detonation, loud and deep, near enough to consume all the information around him. He recoiled in shock. Everyone did. The phrase was part of the gesture, the familiar expression, embodied in the motion of the head and limbs. He recoiled in shock. The phrase reverberated in the body. The car stopped rocking. There was a general sense of contemplation. They were all of them out there bonded now in a second level of engagement. The bomb had been set off just outside the investment bank. He saw shadowy footage on another screen, figures running at digital speed down a corridor, stutter-running, with readouts of tenths of seconds. It was surveillance coverage from cameras in the tower. The protesters were storming the building, busting through the crumpled entrance and commanding the elevators and hallways. The struggle resumed outside with the police turning fire hoses on the burning barricades and the protesters chanting anew, alive, restored to fearlessness and moral force. But they seemed to be done with his car at last. They sat quietly for a moment.

He said, “Did you see that?”

“Yes, I did. What was it?”

He said, “I’m sitting. We’re talking. I look at the screen. Then suddenly.”

“You recoil in shock.”


“Then the blast.”


“Has this happened, I wonder, before?”

“Yes. I had our computer security tested.”

“Nothing amiss.”

“No. Not that anyone, anyway, could produce such an effect. Could anticipate such a thing.”

“You recoiled in shock.”


“Then the blast. And then.”

“Recoiled for real,” he said. “Whatever that might possibly mean.”

She worked her mole. She fingered the mole on her cheek, twisting it as she thought. He sat and waited.

“This is the thing about genius,” she said. “Genius alters the terms of its habitat.” He liked that but wanted more. “Think of it this way. There are rare minds operating, a few, here and there, the polymath, the true futurist. A consciousness such as yours, hypermaniacal, may have contact points beyond the general perception.”

He waited.

“Technology is crucial to civilization why? Because it helps us make our fate. We don’t need God or miracles or the flight of the bumblebee. But it is also crouched and undecidable. It can go either way.”

The tickers went dark on the face of the tower under assault.

“You’ve been talking about the future being impatient. Pressing upon us.”

“That was theory. I deal in theory,” she said sharply.

He turned away from her and watched the screens. The top tier of the electronic display across the avenue showed this message now: A SPECTER IS HAUNTING THE WORLD THE SPECTER OF CAPITALISM

He recognized the variation on the famous first sentence of The Communist Manifesto in which Europe is haunted by the specter of communism, circa 1850. They were confused and wrongheaded. But his respect for the protesters’ ingenuity grew more certain.

He slid open the sunroof and poked his head into the smoke and gas, with burning rubber thick in the air, and he thought he was an astronaut come upon a planet of pure flatus. It was bracing. A figure in a motorcycle helmet mounted the hood and began crawling across the roof of the car. Torval reached up and scraped him off. He tossed him to the ground, where the bodyguards took over. They had to use a stun gun to subdue him and the voltage delivered the man to another dimension.

Eric barely noticed the crackling sound and the arced charge of current that jumped the gap between electrodes. He was watching the second ticker begin to operate, words racing north to south. A RAT BECAME THE UNIT OF CURRENCY

It took him a moment to absorb the words and identify the line. He knew the line of course. It was out of a poem he’d been reading lately, one of the few longer poems he’d chosen to investigate, a line, half a line from the chronicle of a city under siege.

It was exhilarating, his head in the fumes, to see the struggle and ruin around him, the gassed men and women in their defiance, waving looted Nasdaq T-shirts, and to realize they’d been reading the same poetry he’d been reading.
He sat down long enough to take a web phone out of a slot and execute an order for more yen. He borrowed yen in dumbfounding amounts. He wanted all the yen there was.
Then he put his head outside again to watch the words leap repeatedly across the shiny gray facade. The police launched a counter-assault on the tower, led by a special unit. He liked special units. They wore bullet helmets and dark slickers, men with automatic weapons that were skeleton guns, all framework and no body.

Something else was happening. There was a shift, a break in space. Again he wasn’t sure what he was seeing, only thirty yards away but unreliable, delusional, where a man sat on the sidewalk with legs crossed, trembling in a length of braided flame.

He was close enough to see that the man wore glasses. There was a man on fire. People turned away crouching or stood with hands to faces, spun and crouched and went to their knees, or walked past unaware, ran past in the shuffle and smoke without noticing, or watched spell-struck, bodies going slack, faces round and dumb. When the wind blew, gusting suddenly, the flames dipped and flattened but the man remained rigid, his face unobscured, and they saw his glasses melt into his eyes.

He was young or not. He’d made the judgment out of lucid conviction. They wanted him to be young and driven by conviction. Eric believed even the police wanted this. No one wanted a deranged man. It dishonored their action, their risk, all the work they’d done together. He was not a transient in a narrow room who suffers episodes of this or that, hearing voices in his head. Eric wanted to imagine the man’s pain, his choice, the abysmal will he’d had to summon.

He tried to imagine him in bed, this morning, staring sideways at a wall, thinking his way toward the moment. Did he have to go to a store and buy a box of matches? He imagined a phone call to someone far away, a mother or lover.

The cameramen moved in now, abandoning the special unit that was retaking the tower across the street. They came running to the corner, broad men in haunchy sprints, cameras bouncing on their shoulders, and they closer in tight on the burning man.
He lowered himself into the car and sat in the jump seat, facing Vija Kinski.

Even with the beatings and gassings, the jolt of explosives, even in the assault on the investment bank, he thought there was something theatrical about the protest, ingratiating, even, in the parachutes and skateboards, the styrofoam rat, in the tactical coup of reprogramming the stock tickers with poetry and Karl Marx. He thought Kinski was right when she said this was a market fantasy. There was a shadow of transaction between the demonstrators and the state. The protest was a form of systemic hygiene, purging and lubricating. It attested again, for the ten thousandth time, to the market culture’s innovative brilliance, its ability to shape itself to its own flexible ends, absorbing everything around it.

Now look. A man in flames. Behind Eric all the screens were pulsing with it. And all action was at a pause, the protesters and riot police milling about and only the cameras jostling. What did this change? Everything, he thought. Kinski had been wrong. The market was not total. It could not claim this man or assimilate his act. Not such starkness and horror. This was a thing outside its reach.

He could see the coverage in her face. She was downcast. The interior of the car tapered toward the rear, lending authority to the seat she was in, normally his of course, and he knew how much she liked to sit in the glove-leather chair and glide through the city day or night speaking ex cathedra. But she was dejected now and did not look at him.

“It’s not original,” she said finally.

“Hey. What’s original? He did it, didn’t he?”

“It’s an appropriation.”

“He poured the gasoline and lit the match.”

“All those Vietnamese monks, one after another, in all their lotus positions.”

“Imagine the pain. Sit there and feel it.”

“Immolating themselves endlessly”

“To say something. To make people think.”

“It’s not original,” she said.

“Does he have to be a Buddhist to be taken seriously? He did a serious thing. He took his life. Isn’t this what you have to do to show them that you’re serious?”

Torval wanted to talk to him. The door was dented and bent and it took Torval a moment to work it open. Eric moved in a crouch to exit the car, passing near Kinski as he did, but she would not look at him. The members of an ambulance crew moved slowly through the crowd, using their gurney to clear the way. Sirens were blowing in the cross streets.

The body had stopped burning by now and was still rigidly set in a seated position, leaking vapors and haze. The stink came and went with the wind. The wind was stronger now, storm-bearing, and there was thunder in the distance.

At the side of the car the two men were in a state of formal avoidance, looking past each other. The car sat stunned. It was slathered in red-and-black spray paint. There were dozens of
bruises and punctures, long burrowing scrape marks, swaths of impact and discolor. There were places where splashes of urine were preserved in pentimento stainage beneath the flourish of graffiti.

Torval said, “Just now.”


“Report from the complex. Concerns your safety.”

“Little late, are they?”

“This is specific and categorical.”

“There’s been a threat then.”

“Assessment, credible red. Highest order of urgency. This means an incursion is already in progress.”

“Now we know”

“And now we have to act on what we know.”

“But we still want what we want,” Eric said.

Torval adjusted his point of view. He looked at Eric. It seemed a massive transgression, violating the logic of coded glances, vocal tones and other gestural parameters of their particular terms of reference. It was the first time he’d studied Eric in such an open manner. He looked and nodded, pursuing some somber course of thought.

“We want a haircut,” Eric told him.

Phew….DeLillo really takes you there doesn’t he? I can’t wait to see what Cronenberg does with this.

Our friends at Cosmopolis Film Blog started a Don DeLillo series over a week ago. Click HERE to read part 1 and HERE to read part 2. They are diving into the author’s brain, exploring the text and giving some insight on their findings.

What did you think of this scene?

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  • MPV

    O.O ……. is that a pic of rob at set today? during the filming of the riot??? how did you get it??

    you are in everything girls!!!

    • lol no no…its from the night shoot on June 9th. i cropped it. gotta do what u can with whats given, ya know?

      • MPV

        oh but it looks great that way! for a moment I thought is was from today filming the riot 😉

  • Susan

    This is going to be so intense. I even expect some hand held action in there just to take you inside the limo a bit.

    It’s interesting timing that the viable threat to Eric is realized right after this scene. LIke THIS wasn’t… It made me nervous!

  • Dalva

    Absolutely can’t wait for this movie!!! And the picture fits the mood of the part perfectly, great job! Also, hope you don’t mind a small contribution to book discussion, looked up the poem Eric was reading, the epigraph to the book itself, could be kinda interesting in terms of DeLillo’s inspiration for the character :…I’m not trying to sound like some smart-ass, just thought it’s really appropriate for the riot part, nervousness, anxiety, last man standing and all that… 🙂

  • KL

    You guys seriously rock!!! Cosmo updates are so fun to get…♥ And the parts of book you’re sharing, TY!!!

  • This site keeps getting better and better. And as far the book excerpt, “They are working with you, these people. They are acting on your terms,” she said. “And if they kill you, it’s only because you permit it, in your sweet sufferance, as a way to re-emphasize the idea we all live under.” I suppose this reveals what he must do to be free.

  • Jane

    This scene is scary and mesmerizing. Can’t wait to see this film. I know Rob will be spectacular.

  • The first time I had good thought about the excerpt, I couldn’t log in to post. I don’t think I know what I’m doing anymore logging in and out.

    • Tink or anybody… can someone give thought to this excerpt? I would appreciate it. Any takers?

      “This is the thing about genius,” she said. “Genius alters the terms of its habitat.” He liked that but wanted more. “Think of it this way. There are rare minds operating, a few, here and there, the polymath, the true futurist. A consciousness such as yours, hypermaniacal, may have contact points beyond the general perception.”

      • Dalva

        Let me give it a try….how I interpreted this to myself is that Eric being so obsessive about predicting stuff such as the rise/fall of the yen and having a “hypermaniacal consciousness”, meaning I guess observing,noticing, registering everything, everywhere, all the time kinda brought himself to having flashes from the future.
        His genius forms a sort of calculations based on whatever he sees about what will happen and then it materializes to him, in glimpses, so not even he is certain whether what he sees is true or not, altering habitat = the realm of reality is widened.
        It’s like sort of superior technology processing of info, but I also saw it as him becoming too robocop-like (hm, Rob-o-cop, I spent too much time on this site today it seems… ;), too detached from what’s real, like emotions real…..hope this isn’t too confusing, English isn’t my native tongue so sorry if I sound incoherent, I tend to elaborate too much 🙂

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