I finally watched “The Number 23.” I think it demonstrates a couple of important points about superstition and the human imagination.
First, we interpret. From religious texts to emails to light conversation over coffee, we filter everything through our necessarily limited sensory perception. Aldous Huxley’s book “The Doors of Perception” is a great illustration of the idea that humans must screen out almost all of the infinite amount of sensory stimulation coming at us at every second and focus on just the few details that have developed a particularly important meaning for us. Being animals, we are programmed to watch for the glimpse of a tiger out of the corner of our eye and then spring into action. Since there aren’t many tigers around in our modern world, perhaps we sometimes subconsciously invent danger signs, like superstitions, to give our systems a chance to rush with adrenaline.
Thus, having an infinite amount of material to filter through, we can always find what we are looking for, such as the number 23.
The other point the movie brought up at its conclusion, although stylistically I did not care for the end much, was the main character’s emphasis on choice. We can choose our interpretation as well as our reaction to the meaning we have found. Though we are animals and must deal with all our physical/instinctual programming, as humans we also have the right and responsibility to decide for ourselves.
I cannot argue with its star-and-a-half rating, but it was definitely an entertaining flick.