Several people have visited the site after Googling something along the lines of "What's the deal with the janitor in Another Earth?"  

(For the full inquiry about the film, click here.)  

My Assessment:
The janitor, Purdeep, is involved with six scenes, but makes appearances in only five.  Notice the progression. 

Scene 1:  Rhoda enters the janitors' room.  Purdeep sits at a desk, fiddling with a spray bottle that's labeled "ammonia".  Nothing is said.  

Scene 2:  Rhoda and Purdeep sit in an empty classroom together, eating their lunches.  Nothing is said.

Scene 3:  Rhoda is cleaning in the hall, hears tapping, looks.  Purdeep is moving along the hallway, toward Rhoda (but not at Rhoda), using a broom as a blind man does a cane.  Nothing is said.

Scene 4:  Rhoda and Purdeep are cleaning the hallway.  Purdeep is sweeping, struggling at sweeping because he can't really see that well, so Rhoda tries to help him, guides the broom.  Purdeep touches her.  He speaks.  "Listen to me, keep your mind clear, and that's it.  You will have peace of mind.  My dear, don't worry, learn to adjust yourself."  Rhoda stares at him, mouth agape.

Scene 5:  Rhoda enters the janitors' room.  Purdeep isn't there.  Another janitor is, a younger man:  Federico.  Rhoda asks where Purdeep is.  "Checked out," is Federico's response.  When's he coming back, Rhoda asks.  

"I don't think he is.  He poured bleach in his ears."
"Why would he do that?"
"Look, I don't know.  Why would he pour bleach in his eyes?"
Rhoda says, "He blinded himself??"  
"You didn't know?  He said he was tired of seeing himself everywhere."  

Scene 6:  Rhoda goes to the hospital.  The nurse informs her that Purdeep can't see or hear.  She puts a hand on Purdeep's shoulder.  "Rhoda," he says.  She curls up next to him.  "You are wondering why."  She doesn't respond.  "No.  No.  No.  You know why."  Rhoda takes Purdeep's hand. She traces in the palm.  First the letter "F".  Then, in this order.  "O" "R" "G" "I" "V" "E".  FORGIVE.  Purdeep cries.  

And that's the last we see of Purdeep.

What's the point?

As I see it, the key to understanding the importance of the character, thematically, is in Scene 5.  He poured bleach in his eyes because he was "tired of seeing himself everywhere."  This kind of action in a movie with voice-overs that discuss the philosophical implications of meeting yourself.  In a movie where the main character is disgusted with herself and doesn't know what to do with her life because she doesn't think she deserves to do anything with her life (which is why she strips her bedroom and makes it look like a jail cell, why she tries to commit suicide in the snow, why she is working as a janitor to begin with).  

Can you hate yourself so much that the mere sight of yourself causes you to blind yourself?

We see Purdeep silent three times.  Then he finally speaks, for the first time as far as we're concerned (and maybe for the first time Rhoda's heard, because she looks amazed (though you can argue she was amazed that he touched her and spoke such prolific words)).  Then he deafens himself.  

Maybe his reason for deafening himself is different than his reason for blinding himself.  But in the logical realm of story structure, we can only assume the reason is the same:  he was tired of hearing himself.  Which explains why he didn't speak before.  He waited and waited and waited as long as he could, but Rhoda wasn't getting better, and he wanted to help her.  Then he poured the bleach in his ears (tired of hearing himself).  We can look at his words as a sacrifice.  

Rhoda and Purdeep both suffer from acute self-loathing.  Rhoda for the car accident.  Purdeep for unexplained reasons.  Both are working as janitors.  We can make a case that Purdeep is a sort of Ghost of Christmas Future.  If Rhoda can't forgive herself, if she can't clear her head, if she can't find the redemption she refuses to seek:  she'll end up as Purdeep--a person who hates himself so completely he eradicates his own voice and image.

When Rhoda writes in Purdeep's hand the message "Forgive", Purdeep cries because he has never been able to forgive himself, and Rhoda understands this.  The advice Purdeep gave Rhoda, to "keep your mind clear", was not a means of healing but a way to avoid the confrontation of self that is necessary for redemption, for forgiveness.  There's a huge difference between keeping your mind clear and clearing your mind.  One implies avoidance, the other cleaning.  

Another Earth is showing us people who do not want to deal with their problems:  Rhoda with her guilt, John Burroughs with what he's lost (what Rhoda has taken from him), and Purdeep with who he is.  If Rhoda and John represent Offender and Victim, respectively, then Purdeep represents, thanks to his lack of backstory, the Every-Loather. It doesn't matter WHY he loathes himself, just that he does.  And if any of us who self-loath allow this to go on for so long, we will self-destruct like Purdeep.  Maybe not in such a calculated way.  Instead, a casual mental, emotional, and physical decay.  Which is what we're seeing with Rhoda and John, before they begin to save one another.  

We can then transition the conversation into "how" to forgive.  And that's the question Another Earth attempts to answer through the characters Rhoda and John.  

 


Comments

12/30/2011 18:30

Thank you! I had some similar thoughts but couldn't quite put it all together as you've done. Makes for a nice added touch to the message of the movie.

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Modigliani
01/01/2012 22:34

Thanks Dora!

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Karen s
01/01/2012 03:36

Just watched Another Earth and googled what Rhoda wrote on Purdeep's palm. I couldn't tell if it was FORGIVE or FORGIVEN. Just wanted to chime in on your take of his quote "keep a clear mind". Could the director have inferred the saying of "hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil" as this pertains to his character. The cleansing process, the bleach, to eradicate his loathing but the ultimate eraser, the self-forgiveness is what ultimately

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Karen s
01/01/2012 03:40

Broke Purdeep free from his life of self loathing? Also, she touches his lifeline on his palm, a long and deeply calloused well, before spelling out her prayer. Together they share that ability to move forwardIt was my favorite scene, the most moving, by far.

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Modigliani
01/01/2012 22:48

Karen,

It's very quiet (no pun), very brief, and quite powerful. I like your point about the life line.

"hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil". I could see Purdeep thinking this is the answer. We could make the case that if you're self-loathing, you could eventually come to think of yourself as evil. And boom, boom, boom. No sight, no hearing. But he speaks when Rhoda visits him. Probably because he can't hear himself. I guess he's not speaking evil, so he's free to speak... I'm not sure. I can't conclusively argue for or against this. But I think it's fun to think about and discuss.

I know that in regards to the film (a point I'm bringing up just because I think it should be addressed) the phrase is obsolete because Cahill and Marling are quite aware that "evil" can sometimes be a mere mistake, a misstep, one moment of stupidity in a good life. And it's something that you can learn from, attempt to make amends for. That you can move beyond. So it isn't "hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil" but "meet with evil, live with evil, overcome evil"

Thanks for the discussion

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K. Rose
01/16/2012 23:09

Thank you for posting your thoughts on the film. I watched it last night for the first time, and I was very moved. I think your comments about the janitor are very interesting, and they helped me understand what went on. I will bookmark your blog!

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Modigliani
02/01/2012 03:10

K.

My pleasure. If you ever have specific questions about a film, use the "submit an inquiry" page! We'll do our best to find you an answer.

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03/24/2012 16:54

Great info, thx

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David M
03/29/2012 10:23

A plus!

It's easy to dismiss Brit as a mopey depressive. Brit has said in interviews that her intent was to portray Rhoda as a strong woman who is dealing with her heartache. I think it does come out, but you have to pay attention. A lot of her character progression is symbolized by her clothing, especially her shoes. The Purdeep character, and his interaction with Rhoda, is likewise very subtle. Pay attention.

There are a lot of Jungian themes in this film, most likely subconsciously written in based on how accurate and powerful they are. People tend to confuse Purdeep with the wise old man. Just remember, the overwhelmingly predominant symbol in this film is the mirror. You nailed it. Let the NYT eat cake.

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Modigliani
03/29/2012 13:03

Hey, thanks David.

I agree about the need to pay attention and the misconstrued perceptions of characters by viewers. "Another Earth" is a thoughtful movie. Like good poetry, like good literature, it makes demands of those who interact with it. A surface level reading doesn't do it justice.

I don't know if you saw the initial piece on the film: http://modigmovie.weebly.com/1/post/2011/9/inquiry-30-another-earth-and-fight-club.html

Glad you enjoyed the piece. If you ever want us to address a specific film: modigmovie@gmail.com

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05/09/2012 07:53

why it really is viewed as an essential addition, it is usually for the function and luxury.

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06/01/2012 02:31

THX for info

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Issay
06/28/2013 13:03

Purdeep poses as a pivotal sector of 'Another Earth' he scarcely is symbolic? No sight, no sound - he is free from making mistakes. Purdeep blinded himself merely on account of seeing himself, seeing what he has created due to his unexplained mistakes. In addition no sound means that Purdeep can not see, therefore he can not approach plausible mistakes. Purdeep is solely sending out a message. He is a metaphor for our mistakes? Could it mean ignorance that he can not see and hear?

Furthermore, we understand that Rhoda and Purdeep have landed into the same positions, of being a janitor. Purdeep is the metaphor of what could happen to Rhoda. Purdeep strongly hates himself.

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Adam
11/21/2013 16:14

Brilliant commentary on here. I wanted to find out what he wrote. But yes you said it all very well.

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