Baggage Reclaim

By | March 9, 2012

Day 5 of our photo blog

'Claiming baggage is also a psychological diagnosis of sorts; it is something we say when we seek to displace accountability: “He has a lot of baggage.”

This trope was famously literalized in the opening credit scenes of Mike Nichols’s 1967 film The Graduate. In many ways, the entire fi m is anticipated by Dustin Hoffman’s arrival in LAX, with an ingenious cut from the character Benjamin Braddock on a moving walkway, to the eerily symmetrical image of Benjamin’s suitcase progressing along the baggage conveyor.

Dustin Hoffman

Dustin Hoffman2
Figures 9.3 and 9.4 Stills from The Graduate (© 1967 Embassy Pictures Corp.)

During this scene, Simon and Garfunkel’s song “The Sound of Silence” is overlaid on top of the ambient sounds of a moving walkway and the passive overhead interpellations of the baggage claim: “PLEASE HOLD HANDRAIL AND STAND TO THE RIGHT” . . . “PLEASE MAKE YOUR CLAIM CHECK AVAILABLE TO SECURITY. . . .” As Benjamin’s suitcase is deposited onto the carousel, a sign calls for passengers to double-check that the bag tags square with their checked-baggage stubs; a sign flashes by asking, “Do they match?” By this move, the recent college graduate and promising “track star” is suddenly equated with mere generic luggage. This juxtaposition anticipates the alienation of Dustin Hoffman’s character throughout the film: he feels increasingly like an accessory without human agency. The LAX baggage claim scene makes the space—and takes the time—for this textually re-marked correspondence.'

– The above is an extract from our book, The Textual Life of Airports by Christopher Schaberg – now available to buy. You can exclusively read the introduction and first chapter of the book here.

Jenny Tighe

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