The numbers 8 and 2 appear throughout the course of Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia (1999). But why?
** By the way, if you haven’t seen the film, go away, watch it and come back because this post contains some spoilers.**
If you aren’t familiar with Paul Thomas Anderson’s classic 1999 film, it is a drama about several characters who’s lives intersect in an area of the San Fernando Valley.
As Rene points out the 8 and 2 refers to the Biblical passage in Exodus 8:2 that is relevant to the film’s climax. But the film is riddled with many 8 and 2 references.
For example, here are all the main characters in the film and their relationships:
There are 10 characters, consisting of 8 children/relatives and 2 fathers (Jimmy and Earl), which is possibly significant given that their particular relationship is central to the film.
The IMDb trivia section for the film notes many other 8/2 references:
- The first weather forecast is 82% chance of rain.
- The gambler in the prologue needs a 2 in blackjack, but instead gets an 8.
- The coil of rope on the roof when Sydney commits suicide.
- One of the posters held up in the ‘What Do Kids Know’ audience.
- The movie poster at the bus stop on Magnolia Blvd.
- The placard on the third hanged convict.
- Jim Kurring’s box number at the date hot line.
- Sydney Barringer’s mother and father’s apartment number is 682.
- The forensic science convention starts at 8:20.
- Delmer Darion flips over a stack of cards to reveal the 8 through 2 of diamonds.
- Right after Jim Kurring sees Donnie Smith climbing up the building, you can see a flash of a sign on the side of the road that says “Exodus 8:2” (it’s visible again when the frogs fall and hit Kurring’s car)
- The number on the fire fighter’s plane.
- In Marcy’s mug shots, her criminal record number is 82082082082.
- In the Smiling Peanut bar, there is a chalkboard visible with two teams, the frogs and the clouds, and the score is 8 to 2.
- Spray painted on the cement as graffiti next to Dixon.
- The kids were two days away from entering their eighth week as champions.
- The first two numbers of the Seduce and Destroy Hotline (1-877-TAME-HER) are 82.
- At the police station in the beginning of the movie, the clock says 8:02.
- When Jim Kurring notices Quiz Kid Donnie Smith climbing on the Solomon & Solomon building he drives past a luminous sign saying “Exodus 8:2”.
PTA has said this about the flim’s climax:
It truly came from a slightly gimmicky and exciting place. I’d read about rains of frogs in the works of Charles Fort (His “Book of the Damned” is the genesis for the rain of frogs), who was a turn of the century writer who wrote mainly about odd phenomena.
So I just started writing it in to the script. It wasn’t until after I got through with the writing that I began to discover what it might mean, which is this: you get to a point in your life, and shit is happening, and everything’s out of your control, and suddenly, a rain of frogs just makes sense.
You’re staring at a doctor who is telling you something is wrong, and while we know what it is, we have no way of fixing it. And you just go: “So what you’re telling me, basically, is that it’s raining frogs from the sky.”
I’m not someone who’s ever had a special fascination with UFO’s or supernatural phenomena or anything but I guess I just found myself at a point in my life where I was going through some shitty stuff, and I was ready for some sort of weird religious experience, or as close as I could get to one.
So then I began to decipher things about frogs and history things like this notion that as far back as the Romans, people have been able to judge the health of a society by the health of its frogs: the health of a frog, the vibe of a frog, the texture of the frog, its looks, how much wetness is on it, everything.
The frogs are a barometer for who we are as a people. We’re polluting ourselves, we’re killing ourselves, and the frogs are telling us so, because they’re all getting sick and deformed. And I didn’t even know it was in the bible until Henry Gibson gave me a copy of it, bookmarked to the appropriate frog passage.
According to the excellent PTA fansite Cigarettes and Red Vines:
…it became a pasttime on set for Paul and the crew of Magnolia to hide as many references to the numbers 8 and 2 as they could in shots.
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