Change or Die but I did not Change (so I must have Died) ('Saw III' (2006) dir. Darren Lynn Bousman)

I love the character of Amanda Young. I feel like before everything with the reverse bear-trap happened, she viewed her life as mostly made up of consequences, but satisfactory. Like, in quotation marks: its a consequence of prison that im a drug addict, and that is fine for me at the moment. Its the not seeing the evil because the teeth are in your own mouth type of thing. The reverse-bear trap is, for me (despite waking up in unfamiliar bathrooms and the shock-show of a razor-wire maze), the first trap in the franchise. Because it pulls you on side!

Its what the detectives would call the method in the madness. Its Johns motive to change people he views as inadequately using their life. And youre sitting watching Amanda give testimony in the police station, following it up with her he helped me, like some sort of wild religious sermon, thinking about how John is playing god, but to Amanda, he probably is god. (Sidebar: I love that Lawrence sits and watches Amandas statement and you originally think that he thinks shes crazy, but then you realise he subscribed to the exact same magazine and basically became THE jigsaw apprentice. He literally viewed a free trial of fucked up and was like this better not awaken anything in me.)

Amanda has now realised that she has the capacity to be whole, to be new, without drugs. Shes had social workers, police officers, prison workers, rehab specialists- all with no joy, until John. That is finding god. That is finding something to believe in. That is baptism. And like old-testament god, all he wants in return is mind body and soul. Still, with an opportunity youve never before been able to take shocked into your skin like cold water female hysteria therapy, wouldnt you fully embrace it?

So, all you have to do is put on a pig mask, kidnap a few people, drug them, attend church, workshop these traps. 100%. Because Amanda is healed and owes it all to John, so shes giving it all back. Its rough at first- shes crying when she pulls Adam into that bathtub, but maybe shes thinking that hell change like she changed. Its the type of crying when you have to turn off the ventilator even though you know its for the best.

Im not an idiot, and I know that Amanda was only intoduced as Johns apprentice in Saw II as an addendum, but to me thats great, because it gives everyone a lot of lee-way to theorise what she was doing in the runtime of the first movie. Lets say for the sake of argument that she saw the whole of the bathroom play out on little monitors at the meat-packing plant. This is looking in the mirror and seeing the teeth. When it happens to you, it has already happened, but to see it play out on somebody else, interstellar-like behind the bookshelves, you get a much bigger picture, bigger corkboard, bigger pins and bigger bits of twine connecting everything crudely to say that its probably not great. This is now baptism. This is change and for the worst. Still, it worked for me, right? Right guys?

Thats why I think Amanda goes back to kill Adam. The choice she was given was change or die. I think she has it so clear in her head that she has changed that she has to eradicate all mirror images that prove the contrary. Or maybe she knows subconsciously already that there is no real change, and that she would have been better off dead than in this place a preacher, apprentice, and a changed woman. She thinks shes saving him. Its funny to imagine an alternate timleine where reverse-bear trapped Amanda sits still and does nothing while the timer ticks away, as a big fuck you to the powers that be in that situation. Whats wild and whacky is that John wants het to take her life into her own hands- had she done nothing she would have been fully in control. She acted and now her life is in his hands.

But oh no! The guilt of killing a fan favourite. Seeing Leigh Whannel cameos in your dreams. Starting to realise youre a cog in the machine and not, in fact, the one operating the lever. Shes thinking so much and shes thinking hard. Guilt, the kind of what was any of this even for guilt. Lets go self-harm, lets go! Going back and forth between the self-harm as a way to feel autonomy once again, or as a way to replicate the pain of that baptism and regain the feeling of renewal. Im thinking maybe a bit of both.

Heres a question- if you put 100% of your trust in your god, do you think god should trust you 100% back? Because John sure doesnt trust Amanda, and its a hill I will die one. Sometime before the events of Saw II, he realises shes started self-mutilating, which makes him pissed because he hates the mentally ill. At this point I think he and Hoffman are setting up nerve gas house, and Amanda has some clue of whats going on (blah blah, something about Eric Matthews), but not the full picture. I fully, and with my whole heart believe that with nerve gas house, Amanda was not in on the joke, and that this was Johns idea of a baptism 2.0 for her. A question of can I trust you, can you be the person I made you.

I believe that her reaction upon waking up is genuine! She doesnt want to be back here and she is devastated that John doesnt trust her. (As another sidebar, I love the minor detail of her grabbing at her head as soon as she wakes up to check that she hasnt been reverse bear-trapped. Again, a little sliver of subconscious action saying that wasnt renewal, that was a nightmare, and my first waking moments will be to check that I have dragged myself out of said ordeal). Of course everyone is in nerve gas house for their own individual reasons, but I feel like the overarching test is for Amanda to anticipate what John wants her to do, and to survive another life-or-death situation.

Also, it truly is life-or-death. I agree with the dominant theory that Amanda has already been immunised to the nerve gas pre-trap, but she's still in a situation where if people found out who she was, they would kill her. Another thing about why this whole house is geared to remind Amanda of her oathe to religion- All the individual traps relate to her in some way. Xaviers needle-pit trap, the wristcutter box, and even Obis test pointing out that the residents cant trust each other and that any one of them could be conspiring with the guy behind it all.

So she undertakes a religious pilgrimage through acid-washed corridors and delivers Daniel Matthews to John. Shes done it, and shes probably asking: you trust me now, right? She doesnt want to hear the answer, because shes already decided that no matter what she does, he wont trust her. In essence, she is still the same thing she was pre bear-trap. What was all this even for, did I even change at all? Shes questioning her control over the her life and realising shes running around Johns maze with no exit. There is no control, there is no change. So, even more damagingly, she thinks: why should anyone else change? They wont.

Bang, Eric Matthews beaten close to death, and all for insulting her about something she knows half believes to be true anyway: shes not Jigsaw, shell never be Jigsaw, shes nothing. In the same gospel, she kills Troy and Allison Kerry. Jeffs test is set up. John is now completely dependent on his disciples due to his decline in health, but Amanda still holds dependency on him. She questions whether Hoffman will go through the same rigourous trust-testing that she has done, resentful that he has not.

The end of Saw III my beloved: blackmail leads Amandas righteous fury to be directed at Lynn Denlon, who has also been helping keep John alive. Has she not proven herself enough. She questions Johns methods and the truth comes out. She has not changed, no one does. She kills all the cross her path because she believes that like her, even if they pass their tests, they would be better off dead. For Lynn she harbours a special type of hate- why should anyone have control over me anymore? The end of Amandas character arc is so great because in defying god, in betraying John, shes finally taking control and holding her own life in her hands. She knows what is true even if its painful. She knows that John is wrong and the time she has spent in his orchestra has been for nothing. She kills Lynn. Obviously, this seals her fate. Bad for her, great from a character arc sense.

What I find so great about Amanda is that her whole three film arc (plus additions in further films) runs parallel to Johns dogma, proving and disproving it in some places. Its about misplaced faith and living your life for someone else, as well as goth gitl cunt and sexy female villainy. Her life is so awful, and it ends awfully, but I like that in spite and in death, you can still prove a point, the final point. Even if your life ends, if you wreck and disprove everything in life that you hated, isnt it worth it?