Skip to main content

A Pinch of Abatement


PUBLISHED: November 19, 2008

“Quantum of Solace,” the new Bond flick, has been described variously by reviewers as noisy, tumultuous, violent, angry, devoid of suavity, and packed full of “glum anhedonia.” (This last line belongs to Dana Stevens of Slate, and bravo to her; it’s not often one works the word “anhedonia” into the pages of a major magazine, and rarer still that one does so with such offhanded panache.) But what to make of the title itself? It seems at first like willful obfuscation. There is no verb; we encounter only the blunt edges of those heavy nouns, one scientific and the other quasi-psychological. We imagine the quantum of solace to be an ugly weapon, fat and silvery, possibly nuclear, and probably hand-held. Will Daniel Craig’s Bond get there in time?

The answer, I can report, having seen the film yesterday, is yes—007 does eventually arrive at a quantum of solace, and quickly enough to save not only the globe but also his own inner world. For the titular “solace,” it turns out, is not a pistol, or even a car, but a respite from violence, and the attainment of inner peace. Bond, wracked over the death of his lover, Vesper Lynd, dodges from explosion to explosion, searching for revenge, and then that thing that comes after revenge, which we understand, vaguely, to be a truce. (For a real spy and soldier, which Bond is, there is no such thing as lasting quiet – only the space between wars.) The movie provides little of that, of course. The bullet shells are many; the bedroom scenes are short-lived; Bond is a cocked gun, waiting for someone to pull the trigger.

All of which proves the title, in the end, to be a lovely and well-crafted thing. Consider the other options a writer might have employed: “Modicum of Assuagement”; “Bit of Consolation”; “Dash of Alleviation”; a “Pinch of Abatement”; or, to flip the thing grammatically and contextually on its head, “Relaxation, in Small Pieces.” As Daniel Craig told the BBC earlier this year, there’s something poetic about the idea of a quantum of solace. (The dictionary definition of “quantum”: “The smallest amount of a physical quantity that can exist independently, especially a discrete quantity of electromagnetic radiation.”) When [relationships] go wrong,” Craig explained, “when there’s nothing left, when the spark has gone, when the fire’s gone out, there’s no quantum of solace.”

2 Comments

Elizabeth Westmark's picture
Perhaps a “soupcon of snoring?” Actually, I was enjoying the movie until my significant other literally began to snore. I poked him in the arm until he woke up and fed him peppermints to keep him awake so I could continue watching. Walking out, he said, “Well, I didn’t get much out of that. They need to go back to the basics with that franchise.” “Not even a good nap?” I replied. p.s. I’m still trying to find a way to add a cedilla to the “c” in soupcon in a blog comment form…
+1
-37
-1
Sanjeev's picture
I think Anthony Lane in the New Yorker got what the movie was about. http://www.newyorker.com/arts/reviews/film/quantum_of_solace_forster That said, I would have loved to hear at least the Bond theme music during the movie a few times. A different brooding Bond (not so-suave, not quite the macho man) and without all the gadets and bedroom scenes (notwithstanding one cursory scene thrown in; the movie could have done without which!) is something I can appreciate… but it IS in the end a Bond movie, isn’t it? Why do away with the Bond theme too - except for the credits at the start!
+1
-37
-1

Recommended Reading