The movie can be divided neatly into three parts. The background for the first part is Dede, and for the second part it is Angelica. Both Dede and Angelica are somewhat flawed individuals, possibly representing fragments of Joe's psyche. Patricia, on the other hand, is a very strong-willed and mature woman. (Meg Ryan once mentioned in an interview that the Patricia role was the hardest of the three to play because it was the most like herself.)
Patricia's mission is to take Joe to the island of Waponi Woo (and his apparent doom) aboard the Tweedle Dee, a gorgeous boat belonging to her father. She is at first unaware of the real object of her mission and is antagonistic to Joe because she thinks he is in the employment of her father, with whom she has a troubled relationship. There is a bit of self-hatred evident here, because actually Patricia herself is working for her father, who offered her the boat in exchange for taking Joe to the island. She finds out from Joe the real reason for the voyage, and the two inevitably fall in love, the realization of which occurs during a typhoon, in which Patricia is knocked overboard and the boat is destroyed by a lightning bolt.
Joe rescues her and ministers to the unconscious Patricia on a makeshift raft constructed from Joe's steamer trunks. During this time there is the 'gigantic moon' experience, in which Joe, near death, attains a perspective on the relative importance (or unimportance) of the individual with respect to the universe.
Adrift on the raft, at the mercy of the winds and the tides, Joe and Patricia come to the island, and after a parody of the Easter story, in which Joe, the savior, is treated rather badly (and Patricia is treated like a goddess) the time comes for him to make the ultimate sacrifice for the people. Patricia realizes that she cannot live without him, so she chooses to die with him if necessary. They jump into the volcano together and are ejected by a violent eruption. The story ends with them again adrift on the makeshift raft, at the complete mercy of nature--drifting 'away from the things of man'.
The 'away from the things of man' motif is first brought up by Patricia. She is partially responsible for Joe's recognition that conformity to the will of others (man) cannot lead to individual happiness. We are subject to the laws of nature, but not to those who would try to control nature (the Waponis) or exploit nature (the American Panascope Corporation) for their own advantage.
Saturday, March 28, 1998