Bullet Time: a review (part 2 of 2)

(This is the second half of my review of the film Bullet Time. For part one, click here. For an overview of what the film is and why it is relevant to the Sandy Hook shooting, click here.)

Picking up where we left off, Micah Duczyk and Jan Kossakowski have just celebrated New Years Eve, and declared 2009 the “Year of the Rat.” The date of their planned massacre is drawing near.

Geared Up

It is daytime, and the guys are driving again. Kossakowski films from the passenger seat. They have big news: guns.

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Micah announces with glee that they’ve indeed acquired firearms, the main implement with which they plan to teach the world a lesson. His phrasing “we have the damn guns, we have shooters, yes sir!” is likely a nod to the Columbine killers, whose journals document the lead-up to their real-life massacre; on 22 November 1998, Eric Harris recorded the date they finally got their hands on firearms:

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Well folks, today was a very important day in the history of [Eric] today, along with [Dylan] and someone else who I won’t name, we went downtown and purchased the following: a double barrel 12 ga. Shotgun, a pump action 12 ga. Shotgun, a 9mm carbine, 250 9mm rounds, 15 12 ga slugs, 40 shotgun shells, 2 switch blade knives, and a total of 4 10-round clips for the carbine. We …….. have …… GUNS! we fucking got them you sons of bitches! HA! HA HA HA! Neener! Booga Booga. Heh. It’s all over now. This capped it off, the point of no return.

Gaining possession of guns is also felt as a “point of no return” for the guys:

MICAH: Now you can kiss the foreman’s royal butt. The end. It’s over. You had a chance – the greatest – to stop this. You had it. And now what? Now nothing. Now, unless we do something majorly stupid, and we won’t-

KOSSAKOWSKI: We won’t.

MICAH: -then… No one… Then no one can stop us.

The placing of guilt on the future-victims of their massacre, with the claim “You had a chance – the greatest – to stop this. And now what? Now nothing. ” also recalls the manifesto of the Virginia Tech shooter, who wrote “You had a hundred billion chances and ways to have avoided today, but you decided to spill my blood. You forced me into a corner and gave me only one option. The decision was yours.”

Anticipating how the shooting will unfold, they foreshadow the student who was interviewed at the beginning of the film, who recalled surviving the massacre behind a locked door, the handle of which was jiggled by one of the shooters:

KOSSAKOWSKI: Perhaps you won’t do me the favor and line up.

MICAH: Too bad.

KOSSAKOWSKI: Too bad indeed, but…well… for a man to get some exercise…

MICAH: They’ll keep cowering under the desks, frozen with fear.

KOSSAKOWSKI: Yup… That would be the best option.

MICAH: That’s how it’ll be. Just as long as the shitheads don’t lock themselves in the damn room.

KOSSAKOWSKI: Maybe it’s for the best, actually, because if… If the game is too easy then it loses its pleasure factor.

They then get more specific about the timing of their planned massacre, as Micah observes “Right now, we’ve got six weeks left at most.”

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The Game

Kossakowski films Micah over the shoulder, as he plays a PC game called “Office Rampage II.”

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They mock that talking heads in the media will accuse them of “practicing” on a video game, even while admitting that they are indeed doing so.

Micah narrates his simulated rampage, offering tips such as “If you’re doing a school shooting, it’s worthwhile to take a look around, [to see] whether or not someone’s standing behind the corner” and “it pays to have two firearms…
And reload them when there’s nobody around.” and finally “do not spare the wounded.

When confronted with a room without any living victims, Micah observes that “if you’re left with a few bullets, you can fool around. You can destroy something” and then shoots a computer monitor.

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This is itself reminiscent of a real-life office rampage, that committed by Richard Farley in 1988, when Farley continued stalking the halls of his former employer after his killings were done, firing at random computer hardware. A Lifetime Movie based on the shooting, Stalking Laura, was released in 1993.

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A scene from Stalking Laura

Adam Lanza had a particular fixation on Richard Farley’s office rampage, and indeed even recommended this same TV movie on the SCMRPG discussion forum on 30 December 2009, in the thread “Lifetime Movie About Lauren Townsend’s Mother”:

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The best movie I’ve seen about a mass shooting was from Lifetime. Other than the issue of portraying Richard Farley as a cute engineer instead of a creepy technician, its immense amount of accurate details warrants its “based on a true story” status.

The video-game demonstration is concluded with one final bit of advice: “Don’t let yourselves get caught with the last round in the chamber. Always reload your weapon.”

Micah’s address

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Kossakowski has twice already confided in the viewer about his motives and emotions; playing the Dylan Klebold role, he is the more sensitive one, more prone to guilt and introspection.

This is Micah’s turn.

Friggin’ 1am. Now I had to feel like confiding.

I know that one of the main questions that most of you will be asking is – why, what for, what was the cause, what was it about?

You know… there’s this old, old, old, old game that citizen Socrates used to play. That is he walked around Athens and asked various people he came across: “Why? Why? What for? What’s the cause of that?”

And that is… that is quite a particular game which I recommend you try and play once in a while.

If anyone states one’s view, or an opinion, or says that one will do something, then often… then you can easily ask him or her: “what for?”

Then he or she will say something.

Then you continue asking – what for is…? This.

One will state a cause.

And why is it important, you ask.

If you keep on asking long enough, then finally it will turn out that after… the question is whether or not someone is intelligent; if one is intelligent, then after thirty successive questions (if one is of little intelligence, then after a few) then at some point…the guy…whatever… the gal…won’t know what to say. Will lose self-assurance.

It will turn out that there is no cause. After the first, third or tenth question it will turn out that something is simply because “I want.”

You know what?

The joke… the underlying joke is that people act rationally, but only within a certain scope. The basic desires, the basic stimuli, the basic urges, the basic actions, always are baseless, truthfully, from the logical point of view.

One always arrives at a point where, if one wants to speak the truth, one must say “well, yeah, I did it because I wanted to.”

And why?

“Eh, I don’t know. I just felt like it, it was pleasurable for me, I wanted to do it.”

And that is… that is the basic…the primary issue – I’m not afraid to say it, that I’m doing this because I want to. Simply, this is the final resort, the primary axiom. Because I want to.

Probably, you’ll probably ask me in a moment, why… why don’t I want the same thing that everyone else does. Why don’t I want to play the game known colloquially… continued, glorious, wonderful life.

That means…

Should I tell you? I’ll put it this way: if I got my bearings straight quick, then in a year I’m writing my MA. I’d have written my master’s thesis a year from now. Then doctorate studies. The doctoral thesis and good day, we’re staying at the university.

And what then? Well, nothing.

I’d start earning money on an even keel, I’d buy myself a…[???] you know. The… The whole lot – an apartment, a wife, kids… a house with a garden, a dog, a cat… Retirement. The third pier and other such nonsense.

And you know what?

And I don’t want a wife, kids, a house with a garden, a dog or a cat.

I don’t intend to fool around with such things. I don’t want to. I want to… I want to start as I’ve already started, do what I’ve already done. You know, I don’t worry about anything that already has been. I’m not ashamed of anything, I regret nothing.

I intend to end it in such a way…That… I… such a way that I will finish it in. You know what? There, at the department, gun in hand, it’s I who’ll do it. I will pick the moment I die. Time… and place. And in what way I will do it.

Yes. Some of course will come at me, that… that “suicide is cowardice.” It’s such an old folk tale.

You know, take a look at that who we usually call heroes. And so, heroes, as a rule… you call people who wanted to do something, didn’t succeed, they’ve let themselves get killed… and that’s it.

Take a look at this. What kind of a hero is Roland from “The Song of Roland?” God help us… or, I don’t know… Pulaski, who’s let himself get killed by the English at Savvanah?

Or the Warsaw insurgents who’ve let their asses get kicked by the Germans.

You know what? Heroes you usually call people who’ve had too little… who were too stupid, had too little intelligence. Or had too little ability to survive. They’ve just let themselves get killed.

Someone who wanted to achieve something, didn’t achieve it and let himself get killed is a hero?

And somebody who wants to – by himself! –  choose the time of death, and to inflict it upon himself by himself, and that’s what he wants to achieve…Then what? Then he’s a coward?

It all makes no sense. It’s all one big pile of drivel. The world… The world… The world is as it is. I’ll put it this way…the world has, dear citizens…  the world has gotten into my bad book. And now that I have a gun, then I have the ability to kick its ass. And that’s what I’m gonna do.

And you, at best… will be able to watch a live media feed from the place where the event takes place.

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True to psychopathy, Micah’s attempt at introspection is just a critique of society. Looking inward, he finds little but his hate for the world reflecting back, and so in explaining his motives, he says almost nothing about himself. In keeping with the Klebold/Harris dichotomy, Micah’s monologue is much more menacing and disturbing, despite Kossakowski (Klebold) trying so much harder to appear a remorseless psychopath. Micah doesn’t need to perform; he’s the real deal.

Shocked Beyond Belief

We now come to the scene that is probably most directly linked to Adam Lanza: Kossakowski’s endorsement of the SCMRPG discussion forum for aspiring school shooters.

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Jan is sitting at a computer desk, with the “Super Columbine Massacre RPG Discussion Forum” open in a window over his shoulder.

This scene shows the forum exactly how it looked when Adam Lanza was an active member, under the username Smiggles, rather than the “Shocked Beyond Belief” format that would later host his writings, by which point he was no longer an active user.

Even in recommending the forum, Jan has some tips on how the aspiring shooter should mask his or her intentions:

You are not yourselves. This is the Internet. Anonymity reigns, so… Log yourselves through a proxy, install a firewall…And create a new persona for yourselves.

He then points out that, if the shooter is going to ask incriminating questions, they should only do so after establishing a benign presence on the boards beforehand, burying the suspicious postings in a haystack of meaningless interactions.

If you absolutely have to ask questions about… Let’s call it the technical aspect of the shooting… then don’t drop it on people suddenly, like some bomb.

First work a bit…the people on the forum. Get them used to your existence, and then post this question as, let’s say, the fourth out of five totally random questions, more or less related to the subject. So that it doesn’t stand out.

Alright. The same applies to pretty much…the rule of the medium. That is, we said that you rather shouldn’t do it, but if someone absolutely wants to leave his mark on the Internet, then really, don’t make a super-flashy, hooray for the 20th of April, or something of the sort, cause…of course they’ll eat you alive again.

This method of posting uninteresting threads to the SCMRPG forum in order to blunt the impact of the user’s actual area of inquiry is perhaps reflected in Lanza’s posting history; of his surviving posts, most (especially those early in the timeline) are basically fluff. He posts about hamsters and Disney movies and 80’s music, then sneaks in a suspiciously knowledgeable post about Kimveer Gill or Jared Loughner. At first glance it may seem that he was only superficially interested in mass violence at this point, and was not yet planning his own massacre, but when viewed in the context of Bullet Time (which he almost certainly watched before registering the Smiggles profile) it seems likely that the bulk of his posts were probably just an attempt at hiding his tracks.

Jan then turns to the subject of acquiring official documents associated with mass shootings (a very popular activity on the board):

If someone wants to, for example, download the memoirs of Dylan, Harris, or any sort of notes by any of the shooters, then, well…Yes. People, check if it’s on Rapidshare first. Really. I know that for some Rapidshare is a labyrinth/fortress and if you don’t get bearing for a particular file, then… it simply isn’t there for you, but… seriously, there are search engines for those things.

Rapidshare was a very popular file-sharing website at the time, before lawsuits forced its operators to change the site’s policies in 2010, effectively killing it. On 24 February 2012, in one of his last posts, Adam Lanza references this turn of events in the thread “Topic for all Columbine-related movies/tv shows” when he mentions “Anyway, since Megaupload is gone, here’s Mad_Bomber’s list” before providing a link to a list of films in line with the thread’s topic. So, Adam Lanza was definitely a user of the service, for apparently the same purposes as the characters in this film, on the same forum depicted in the film.

Lanza also made use of another file sharing site, MediaFire, which advertises itself as “a simple to use free service for that lets you put all your photos, documents, music, and video in a single place so you can access them anywhere and share them everywhere.” In the official Sandy Hook report, investigators detail that they discovered his account, and deleted it with the permission of Adam’s father, Peter.

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There’s no suggestion of what exactly was found there, but the phrasing “based on the content found under Adam Lanza’s MediaFire account, investigators concluded that it was best to have the account removed” suggests to me that it went beyond just images or videos of previous shootings. It may even have been the “Images of the shooter holding a rifle to his head” described elsewhere in the official report, although this is just a guess on my part (and it would certainly beg the question of who exactly Lanza was sharing the images with.)

Close Calls

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Kossakowski and Micah film a brief scene in the Psych building. This again shows the locations where the shootings will occur.

A conversation takes place between Micah and a girl who must be one of the shooting victims being interviewed at the beginning of the film; her face is never shown during this exchange, but the conversation is roughly similar to what one of the girls had described.

In an interview with their school newspaper just before the release of Bullet Time, the filmmakers claimed that one of the actresses left the production after the Finland school shooting (which occurred during production) made her uncomfortable about the subject matter; maybe that actress was supposed to be in this scene, and so they fudged what should have been a more significant on-screen meeting. Who knows. At any rate, their conversation is overheard while the camera films a class schedule on the wall.

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Back at the apartment, Micah then relates a story about how his father had borrowed his car to go grocery shopping, and almost discovered the recently-acquired shotgun he was stashing in the trunk.

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This event recalls a close call that the Columbine killers experienced, when one of their fathers received a phone call from a gun store, informing him “your clips are in.” He simply replied “I didn’t order any clips,” not realizing that the call was actually for his son.

Micah eases his father’s suspicious by telling him that the gun was just an airsoft paintball gun. He admits to us here that it was a bad cover story, but it worked: “Well, my father has a load of trust for me. He’ll regret it.”

Micah’s second address

Micah is again alone, addressing the camera. And again, a calendar hangs ominously over his shoulder, reminding us that we headed toward a scheduled event, and one that we already know was successfully executed.

In this brief speech, Micah refers to “the world out the window” just as Kossakowski did near the beginning of the film. But, while Kossakowski expressed exhaustion and envy with the happiness out the window, Micah’s take is much different.  It’s apparent by this point that both of the shooters mimic each other when together, but retreat to their opposite ends of the psychological spectrum when alone: while Micah is playful and sarcastic around his friend, when he has the stage to himself, he is pure malice.

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 I’m not doing this because of hatred. Meaning, I know very well that most people, who wanted to do something like this, did it exactly because of hatred.

I wanted to say that I don’t love this world outside the window. I don’t love these people, contrary to popular belief. On the contrary even – a whole lot of them I extraordinarily despise. However, this is not… H… hatred is not an adequate reason to do something like this.

And I did have moments in life, when I really…really hated. How many times in middle-school did I lie on the steps, bloodied? I’ve been… kicked.  Beaten. Called a fag, and a Jew, and…

But I didn’t want back then to do all this. Really. Foregoing the fact that I’d have a problem with buying weapons, finding stuff, but I did not want to. Pure and simple. That has been a wise decision because… to do a shooting is… To make this decision you need, from a certain perspective, to look at the deal from a certain perspective. Somewhat impersonal. See beyond your own feelings. You need to see… to see in all this an aesthetical depth, which is there.

And you need to… need to recognize the consequences. Know what you’re doing. One needs to be able to tell oneself that… Live through twenty… The twenty-odd years the way you have lived it, is a lot better than to live Sixty, seventy, eighty years drifting downstream like some trash…

This sentiment, of old age being a waste for the aspiring shooter, is eerie given it’s timing. This video was posted on April 6th, 2009. At this same time, George Sodini, the “Collier Township/LA Fitness” shooter, was sharing his own philosophies on his blog, which documented his preparations for a mass shooting that unfolded just four months later:

April 24, 2009:

I predict I won’t survive the next layoff. That is when there is no point to continue. Right now, life is bearable and I can get by indefinitely. Something bad must happen. The paycheck is all I have left. The future holds nothing for me.

Twenty five years of nothing fun. I never even spent one weekend with a girl in my life, even at my own place. Also unlikely to find another similar job. I guess then is when I take care of things. I don’t have kids, close friends or anything. Just me here. If you have nothing, you have nothing to lose.

We know that Adam Lanza read this journal, just as we know that he watched Bullet Time with great attention. And both served as an impetus for the emergence of one of his online identities: Sodini’s website was the topic that first brought Kaynbred to wikipedia, while Bullet Time finally brought Smiggles to the SCMRPG forum.

King Kong

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Micah sits on a desk, as Kossakowski films. Micah announces that they will be showing off their arsenal now, and it proceeds in ascending order of firepower.

First, the top drawer of the desk, which Micah says is the “Little Terrorist Set.”

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Micah emphasizes that “everything found in this drawer 100% legal. For this, you can kiss my ass, not put it in jail.” Though the only bomb ingredient specifically mentioned is sulfur.

They move one drawer down, to more “serious matters.” Then Micah starts producing several duct-tape covered “pipe bombs” from their hiding spot.

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They go over the ingredients used to make a pipe bomb (first of all a pipe, naturally) and conclude with the explosive compound, noting “we use good-old black powder.”

It’s interesting that Adam Lanza stashed the small pile of black powder he had extracted from shotgun shells also in the bottom drawer of his desk…

SHL-shotgunpellets1…but I’m hesitant to read much into this similarity (where else was he going to put it?)

They continue discussing their bomb-making process for awhile, advising which store departments sell which ingredient, before heading to the balcony to test out a fuse.

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Using his cell-phone to time the rate at which the fuse burns, Micah observes that “it burns faster than I thought. We’ll have to make corresponding adjustments to… Our fun.”

They then head back inside and write on some of the pipe-bombs with Sharpies.

SHL-BT3-04During the graffiti session on the pipe bombs, Micah’s cell-phone chimes. Apparently, it’s a girl. Kossakowski is surprised to learn that “Magda” is still in touch with him.

This touches off a brief moment of tension between the two. Without really saying so, Kossakowski stammers about how he thought Micah’s relationship with Magda was done with, so that Micah would dedicate himself to the mass-murder/suicide pact he had formed with Kossakowski.

Here there’s  a hint of homosexual undertones, as Micah professes that he has chosen Jan (death) over Magda (life).

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This is not without precedent in the world of Columbine-inspired film. Gus Van Sant’s 2003 film Elephant apparently (disclosure: I haven’t seen it) portrays a fictionalized version of the Columbine killers, engaged in an overtly sexual relationship.

Adam Lanza alluded to this film on 21 September, 2011, in the thread “Origin of the name ‘Nixon’ on the tape?” (the title of the thread refers to the label on a videotape left behind by the Columbine killers.) In the thread, another user is mocking author David Cullen’s book Columbine (this was arguably the most popular activity on the forum) and especially how it analyzed the Basement Tapes via transcript rather than first-hand viewing:

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Are you implying that you believe the Elephant interpretation of their relationship?

Kossakowski’s third address

Fresh from his quarrel with Micah, Kossakowski confides in the camera while listening to loud, droning music (Theater of Tragedy – To These Words I Beheld No Tongue.) He once again claims that “it’s not worth it” to record his thoughts, while recording his thoughts, in true Kleboldian melodramatic fashion. He then goes on to explain why he will not be leaving any writings to explain his motives, despite the video is currently making; the point of all of it is to satisfy himself, and not society.

Because I haven’t recorded anything in quite a while, I kept thinking, what interesting things could I say? But, I came to the conclusion that it’s not worth it, you know?

Yes… We make references, we do parodies, we comment this or that. But, in reality… well, I don’t know about Duczyk. But I’m doing this for myself, not for you. And I mean basically that… alright, maybe differently…

Before we started doing this, we’ve read through a lot of material on our our predecessors. Dear Lord… I never thought people like that can write such voluminous tomes. One could think Dostoyevsky taught them how to hold a gun.

But… I don’t intend to do anything like that. I don’t intend to write down my thoughts, my whatever, because it’s not worth it.

I don’t even really care whether or not you’ll be h-…will you find it to your liking. Because, I won’t be here by then. And I simply mean, that one of the underlying themes, of any such party, is have fun. Enjoy yourself. But it doesn’t apply to you, it applies to me. Us. Duczyk and I.

And that’s what I intend to stick to. And that’s why I don’t care about satisfying you to any larger degree. This party will be a real blow-out, but… we’ll be the ones doing the out-blowing, and remember that.

There will be Colorado

The next scene opens with an in-joke buried in the subtitles, as Micah is shown reading a comic book, and the English subtitles (written by the filmmakers) riff on the trope that the media consumed by shooters (video games, music, etc) brainwashes them into committing their violent acts.

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They then announce that it is March 31st, 2008. And now that the planned day of Judgement draws near, they can confirm it to their viewers: “Tomorrow.  At the department. Tomorrow, on the 1st of April, there will be…There will be Colorado, ladies and gentlemen.”

They then laugh and joke about finishing their Psychology homework, and generally engage in gallows humor.

MICAH: Listen, this is the main advantage: tomorrow I won’t have to worry about doing the dishes.

KOSSAKOWSKI: *scoffs*

MICAH: The problem with falling asleep and getting up will finally be resolved.

KOSSAKOWSKI: Yup.

MICAH: That… That has its advantages, despite everything.

KOSSAKOWSKI: All existential woes shall disappear.

Before signing off for the night, Jan takes one last glance out the window, and films an overcast sky. He remarks that he had “planned to document the last sunset I’d seen in my life, but, as you can see, life has denied me eve this tiny pleasure. Alight, life… I’ll peck out some ‘due pleasure’ from you by myself tomorrow.”

Due Pleasure

The lads meet up again just after midnight, as it is now the calendar day of their planned massacre. Kossakowski mentions that the day, April 1st, is also the biblical figure Judas’s birthday. To this, Micah expresses exasperation.

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This leads to an extended exchange between the two shooters, riffing on their motives for the shooting and the expected aftermath. Their personalities here start to mesh: not quite Kossakowski, and not quite Duczyk. The formula that produced the shooting came from the combination of these two doomed lives, and that combination speaks almost as one voice in this scene.

JAN: We don’t consider ourselves heroes. We do consider ourselves, however – and we consider to have a good reason to consider ourselves – the worst…nightmare…of every…student. Yes, dear students. Unfortunately for you, there shall be no other end of the world.

MICAH: It is us who shall be your apocalypse.

JAN: Yes. That apocalypse, it will be a sort of… deliverance.

MICAH: It is I, who will choose the moment, when I’ll deliver the world from Micha Duczyk.

JAN: Yes. Tomorrow the world shall become a better place.

MICAH: Yes. Because today…today the contemporary world, contemporary civilization, society… slowly, gradually take away our creativity, individuality and humanity. There is no place left for anything. Pure functions. Pure forms. Zero content. We’re turning, slowly, into soulless automations. Uniforms. Live Turing machines.

You know what’s worst? The worst is that it’s an avalanche that can no longer be stopped. I’m a victim. We are victims. You…You… You’re victims of it all as well. What can be done now?

Right now, one can only rebel. We can have our revenge. The only logical solution, the only way of keeping a human identity, is a categorical disagreement with being. If the last human thing that can be done is killing, then I shall go and I shall kill.

From kitsch, there’s only a single means of escape. Death.

JAN: Yea. Speaking of kitsch, here is a bit of advice for various police psychologists and other such types, who’ll analyze these recordings from some weird point of view: don’t… You will be looking for something linking us to the potential victims, or those who’ve somehow managed to survive.

I know you won’t listen, but some good advice: give it a rest, save yourselves the time. You won’t find anything like that there. It’s not that we grab our guns and go shoot at an ex-girlfriend, to some mean professor, who we consider unfair, or to the bureaucratized Ms. Ania from behind the desk in the secretariat.

No. We go to shoot at random people. If, at the department, I run into someone I know…Tough.

MICAH: That’s not what we’re about. Jah and I are simply going to get up and go. And you, dear titans of kitsch, shall continue to twirl around in your hell of pure form.

But, at least, perhaps at least for a moment, you’ll tear yourselves away, rub your eyes and see. You’ll see that your dear, beautiful, wonderful, orderly world. [Is held] only on tape and glue. And that the truth is, that you’re alive only because every day, someone has decided not to kill you.

That is the truth. The truth will hurt you. It will hurt you a lot. And you’ll want to kick our asses for that. But you know what? We won’t be here by then.

Vogue

The lads then engage in a photo shoot – propaganda, really, as they note it’s “purely for the media.”

Kossakowski strikes a pose, at Micah’s prompting to “do the Korean.”

SHL-BT3-10“The Korean” is reference to the Virginia Tech shooter, who left behind photos of himself posing with the two handguns he used in his campus rampage.

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Micah then takes a moment to explain the benefits of wearing a glove when committing a school shooting.

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“This is a common glove. The kind like, you know, for bicycle riding. Can be bought in every store. Does it look silly? Let it look silly. It’s supposed to work.”

SHL-BT3-13Exhibit 833B: A fingerless “toesox” glove worn by Adam Lanza at Sandy Hook. The manufacturer recommends this glove for “Pilates, yoga, kettlebells, trapeze, rowing, or cycling.”

Goodbye

After bragging to the camera about their prowess as killers, the guys abruptly shift tone, and record a message for their loved ones.

MICAH: Hi Mom. Hi Dad. Listen…How should I break this to you? There’s only hours left till the apocalypse and I wanted to say goodbye to you. You’ve been extraordinarily cool parents. I’m sorry for causing all that crap to you.

Because…But there’s no… There’s no other way. I know you’ll take hits for this and I feel stupid because of that.

KOSSAKOWSKI: Maybe I should apologize as well, but, in all honesty, I wonder if it will accomplish anything. After all, people who by me are to become screwed… Well, maybe not directly, but because of what we’re pulling here in a moment, they’ll have enough on their plate as it is and nothing I’ll say now will particularly change that fact.

Well, I am sorry, but… The sad end to a sad life.

MICAH: This is…now then, yes…Pawelku, if you’re watching this, then know that you can have that Fallout, and you can have that Oyster Head you’ve borrowed from me.

No problem. If you’d want anything from my room, when it comes to games or music, then report to my parents.

Magda. Awkward. It turned out rather awkward. It could’ve… It could’ve been different, but now… it’s… it’s a bit too late now. I want you not to worry with what will happen, cause…I die, as I wanted to die.

KOSSAKOWSKI: Oh well… Tomek, you don’t need to pay me that money back anymore.

What else… well… sorry that we won’t go out for a beer. The person I’m talking about knows who it is.

MICAH: Alright. Thanks to everyone who made my shitty life was for… At least for some time worth taking part in. Farewell.

Several of the notes struck here (the bizarre housekeeping over ownership of CDs in light of the gravity of the crime they are about to commit, the awkward  expressions of love for parents, etc.) are references to the same “goodbye” tape left by the Columbine killers (on the tape labeled “Nixon” that Smiggles referenced earlier) on the morning before their school shooting. For comparison:

Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold are once more in the family room of the Harris home. Eric is filming. Dylan is wearing a black baseball cap on backward, exposing a “B” embroidered in white on the back of the hat – the Boston Red Sox logo. He’s wearing a plaid shirt, either dark blue or black with white; the shirt’s untucked. He’s wearing black BDUs (military-style pants) tucked into military-style boots. There are several bags on the floor, including a large maroon one.

Eric: “Say it now.”

Dylan:Hey mom. Gotta go. It’s about a half an hour before our little judgment day.I just wanted to apologize to you guys for any crap this might instigate as far as (inaudible) or something. Just know I’m going to a better place. I didn’t like life too much and I know I’ll be happy wherever the fuck I go. So I’m gone. Good-bye. Reb…”

Dylan takes the camera then and begins filming Eric. Eric’s also wearing a plaid shirt that’s either dark blue or black with white, with a white t-shirt on underneath. His lower half can’t be seen.

Eric: “Yea… Everyone I love, I’m really sorry about all this. I know my mom and dad will be just like.. just fucking shocked beyond belief. I’m sorry, all right. I can’t help it.”

Dylan: (interrupts) “We did what we had to do.”

Eric:Morris, Nate, if you guys live, I want you guys to have whatever you want from my room and the computer room.”

Dylan adds that they can have his things as well.

Eric: “Susan, sorry. Under different circumstances it would’ve been a lot different. I want you to have that fly CD.”

Eric: (eventually) “That’s it. Sorry. Goodbye.”

Dylan: (sticks his face in the camera) “Goodbye.”

The Final Countdown

SHL-BT3-14

The guys swing by a postal box, and send out a “media package” to various news outlets, containing addresses and passwords to access their footage. (Probably the filmmakers are taking artistic liberties at this point, since presumable the “media package” would contain the very video file they are still recording to.)

SHL-BT3-15

They then return to their apartment for one last earthly chore: feeding the dog. Micah jokes that “the little apocalypse is no reason for the dog to go around parched.”

The guy then pack up their gear to take to the school. The larger bombs are concealed in a garment bag. The smaller fit in a messenger.

SHL-BT3-16

Leaving the apartment for the last time, they lock up and say goodbye, with the barking of their dog overheard as they descend the steps.

Getting in the car, Micah goes over their plan one last time: the bomb in the trunk of the car will go off one hour after they arrive at the campus. During that time, the bomb in the auditorium will have gone off, at the same time that they have begun indiscriminately shooting students. Like the Columbine killers had intended (but failed) to do, the coup de grace will be to wipe out the first-responders, well after the killers are already dead.

Jan confirms the plan. Micah starts the car.

Prepping the Scene

Arriving at the Psychology building, they quickly post a video to Youtube (it’s not clear what exactly they’re posting, since the title is in Polish and the monitor’s screen flickers, not being coordinated with the frame rate of the camera filming it.)

Clearly on a schedule, Kossakowski hurries into the auditorium, where he is filmed placing the large duffel-bag bomb; the imminent victims are oblivious to the  bag’s contents.

SHL-BT3-17Kossakowski plants the bomb among his fellow students.

Bullet Time

In the closing minutes of the film, we cut to an alcove in the pscych building’s hallways. Jan is filming Micah, who is reaching into his bag for his pistol, just about to kick off the shooting, when Jan’s cell-phone rings.

SHL-BT3-18

It’s a text; Jan tells Micah to wait as he checks it, and it turns out to be mass-email from the Catholic church, asking the receiver to “light a candle of memory and gratitude” on the third anniversary of Pope John Paul II’s death (the Pope indeed died on April 2nd, 2005, although whether this text message was made up for the film or not, I don’t know.)

Micah bemoans that “Kitsch is haunting me even here.” Jan responds “It seems you’re doomed to kitsch.”

Micah draws his pistol, and announces “farewell to kitsch.”

Micah takes control of the camera. They proceed down the hallway, and their assault on the school begins in earnest.

They come across two students, who see them holding guns and ask what’s going on. After an awkward pause, Micah says “You know what? We’re just shooting like that” just as Jan lowers the barrel of his shotgun, and fires.

The camera drops, sparing us a bloody (and difficult to film on no budget) scene. Two more shotgun blasts ring out. Filming the floor, the camera records Micah’s boots as he paces over to the wounded girl, raises his pistol (again, out of frame) and fires.

SHL-BT3-19

Shock Protection

There is then an abrupt jump forward. Micah, still holding the camera, complains to his friend that the reverberations from the gunfire caused the camera to turn off (drop detection being meant to quickly power-down the camera before the impact of a drop can cause damage to its moving parts):

MICAH: Jahu, you know what? We’ve been cut. We’ve been cut by the drop detection. Fuck. I mean…The camera was shut off, probably, I don’t know, by some shock or a shot…A shot.

KOSSAKOWSKI: You know what? Fuck this. Turn it off.

Another jump forward. They’ve traded handling of the camera. The guys are strolling down a hallway, and seem to be almost in a trance. Police sirens grow in the background.

Micah pauses to take a drink of soda from a bottle abandoned by a fleeing student, in only last allusion to the Columbine killers.

SHL-BT3-20

Micah asks if they should “head downstairs” to continue their massacre. Jan declines. Appropriately, the psychopath wants to continue killing, while the depressive is in a hurry for suicide.

JAN: No, no. We’re done. We’re done.

MICAH: Enough?

JAN: Enough.

MICAH: The end?

JAN: Yea.

MICAH: This is the end…

JAN: It was nice while it lasted.

They settle on a spot in the hallway floor as he place to end it. Micah positions the camera on the sofa facing them to record their dual suicide. Micah places the gun in his own mouth, but Jan interrupts him. He’s unsatisfied with the staging for their exit scene.

SHL-BT3-21

Micah thinks it over for a second, then reluctantly says “okay, fuck it” and, just before turning the camera around to face a blank wall, tells his audience “Alright people. Good morning. Actually, goodbye. We won’t meet. Kitsch everything. Kitsch. Kitsch.”

As the camera is spun around, we hear Kossakowski shout “sit down.”

With the camera facing a blank hallway wall, there are a few moments of silence. Then a pistol shot.

Then another.

Credits play over the blank hallway wall.

SHL-BT3-22

And that is Bullet Time.

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About Reed Coleman

email: reedscoleman@gmail.com
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5 Responses to Bullet Time: a review (part 2 of 2)

  1. colga says:

    “And that the truth is, that you’re alive only because every day, someone has decided not to kill you.”

    I just wanted to point out that this quote is another reference to Eric Harris, who wrote this on one of his planners, I believe. It’s a reference to the lyrics of KMFDM’s Dogma.

    Also, thanks for the title of that Theatre of Tragedy song.

  2. CW Wade says:

    This review is excellent and I think there is no doubt the shooter supplanted reality with his own mass murder perception and expertise that ultimately manifested itself in the form of a deadly rampage. It seems he choose his influences carefully picking out what he determined to be best. He carried two pistols, because that was what those in his “world” did… yet he didnt even load one of them and couldnt hardly manage the other. He brought the Saiga, yet he could not manage that either. He formed up his plan and it was completely demonstrable of the fact he had slipped off the edge.

    Great expose.

  3. Pingback: Bullet Time: a review (part 2 of 2) | Newtown Post-Examiner

  4. Mike says:

    Great review, just a couple things to note you may or may not find interest in: the Nixon tape is an audio tape, not video, of Eric recorded, if I remember correctly, the day of, prior to the shooting, left on the kitchen counter of him saying something to the effect of “today I am going to become famous”. The goodbye video is a separate thing, although, of course, both are unavailable to the public. Oh and it was labeled Nixon after the first name of some asian man interviewed for some school project that was either recorded over completely or partially.

    • Reed Coleman says:

      That’s right, I had forgotten it was an audiotape/separate from the goodbye video. Thanks. I did know about the reason behind the Nixon label, it’s a pretty good example of how a small detail like that can seem so significant to investigators and then turn out to be nothing at all

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