The Symbolic Ending of Mad Max

Mad Max (1979)

The final scene in Mad Max communicates the cost that society must levy on the individual if it is to function smoothly. Max stands over Johnny the Boy. Johnny is handcuffed by the ankle to a wrecked car. Max sets up a symbolic test for Johnny, which will gauge the sincerity of Johnny’s protest that the crimes committed weren’t his fault. Max sets up the car’s dripping fuel into a time bomb that will explode shortly.

As he hands over a saw Max explains to Johnny that it will take him ten minutes to saw through the handcuffs, but only five to saw through his ankle. This gruesome test is symbolic for Johnny’s inclusion into society; he must amputate himself – remove his ability to function as an individual – to survive. Max offers him death or mutilation. Lawful society requires the individual to sacrifice their ability to function in isolation and Max sets up the symbolic test to examine if Johnny is able to submit to domination.

 

Max himself doesn’t survive this symbolic test unfazed; as the film ends we are given a symbolic image. The camera speeds along the white line in the middle of a road, Max is symbolically on the edge between two opposite lanes; Max is situated between madness and sanity, law and criminality.

Published by

A.R. Duckworth

South Yorkshire England

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