12 Monkeys - I Want the Future to be Unknown

Transcript: 12 Monkeys, "I want the future to be unknown"

Railly: Uh, you were standing there looking up at the moon, you were splashing through the water looking at the moon, then what? 

Cole: I thought I was in prison again. 

Railly: Just like that? You were in prison? 

Cole: No, not really. Like you said, it was all in my mind. 

Railly: You disappeared! Okay, one minute you were there. The next minute you were gone. Did you run through the woods? 

Cole: I don't know -- don't remember. 

Railly: The boy in the well. How did you know that was just a hoax? 

Cole: It was? I didn't, didn't know. 

Railly: You said he was hiding in the barn! 

Cole:  I think I maybe saw a TV show about that when I was a kid. Where a boy... 

Railly: It wasn't a TV show! It was real!

Cole: Well, maybe this boy saw the same TV show I did and he copied it. Look, you were right, I am mentally ill. I imagined all of these things, these people. I know they're not real. I can trick them, I can make them do what I want. I worked on them a little bit and I got back here. I can get better. I can stay here.

Railly: What does this mean to you? 

Cole: I think I had a dream about this. 

Railly: You had a bullet from World War One in your leg, James! How did it get there? 

Cole: You said I had delusions -- that I created a world -- you said you could explain everything... 

Railly: Well, I can't. ... I mean...I'm trying to. I can't believe that everything we do or say has already happened, that we can't change what's going to happen, that five billion people are going to die. 

Cole: I want the future to be unknown. I want to become a whole person again.
I want this to be the present. I want to stay here this time, with you.


Railly (a condensed form of the word reality or a skewed form of the word really?) has become more confused about the intersection between the past and the future. She has herself skewed the future's understanding of the past by spray-painting questions about the source of the virus along with the figure of five billion casualties. Up to this point, Railly has rejected the possibility that Cole is traveling in time. Instead, she's believed he is delusional, crazy. Whereas Cole has held together the various timelines and held onto the importance of competing his mission, finding the source of the virus and stopping it for the good of the future.

But in this scene, Railly accepts that the craziest answer is most likely true. Cole really is from another time. She tries to more clearly understand Cole and his predicament as he tries to push it away, grasping for more rational answers to his predicament. Cole is ready to believe Railly's earlier psychoanalysis, that he created a world, imagined it all.

What Cole and Railly are wrestling with through the metaphor of time travel, of pasts, presents, and the doom to come, is that no matter who or what was involved in one's lived past, all of it exists only in the individual subject's mind. Whatever bad or good actors may have led to one's current mental state, the individual is responsible now for interpreting it, for taking responsibility, because the present dictates the future.

Cole wants to believe that his present can dictate his future. He is nearly broken from trying to hold all the various temporal threads together and has found peace in the eye of the storm in Railly. But Cole is a tragic figure, because the present that he so desperately wants is not his present.

Railly is similarly disoriented. Since Cole is temporally unstable, his relationship to her is not a present relationship--it is a future inflection point on the past. Her attempts to psychoanalyze Cole are futile because therapy was devised to consider how one's past should be oriented with the present. No therapy exists to consider how one's lived future, one's lived future traumas, should be oriented with the present.

Cole's "I want the future to be unknown," reflects a trauma survivor's wish that the past could be forgotten. It never can be so.

-End Transmission-