It’s all about Walden
Early in the film, the protagonist (Amy Seimetz) copies sentences from Henry David Thoreau’s memoir of self-reliance. ”We are conscious of an animal in us,” Thoreau writes, and this instinct ”cannot be wholly expelled; like the worms which…occupy our bodies.” Shane Carruth’s film is literally about worms in people’s bodies. At first, the links between the book and film were coincidental. Then the director noticed that Thoreau’s writing about animals, nature, and sound eerily reflected an early draft of his script. ”It got weird,” he admits. As he revised, he says, ”we started playing it up.”
Pigs think, so hold the bacon!
The pigs in the film have experiences that seem to mirror the humans’ lives. Could Upstream be a plug for animal rights and vegetarianism? ”I hadn’t thought of that before!” says Carruth. ”But no.”
<p>Stephen Hawking gets it
In Upstream the lives of pigs, humans, and worms are all interconnected — a possible nod to the Theory of Everything in theoretical physics. But Carruth doesn’t want to boil his film down to any worldview. ”If I were to do that, I would be claiming I know some truth that I’m here to deliver,” he says. ”And I simply don’t think that’s the case.”