To me, perhaps the most compelling plot arc of the entire movie is the Hollom arc. Not just because I find indecision such an interesting quality in any character I'm watching, or because when he finally does make a decision firmly, and carries the action through entirely, it's to kill himself. And not just because I find his seeming fascination with Warley (or the crew at large) so incredibly interesting, though those things are there, but because I think that the Hollom arc (which, incidentally, begins the movie to an extent) is so revelatory about the other characters, and the setting in which the movie takes place.
Hollom is, first and foremost, an outsider -- he doesn't fit into the little wooden world that has been constructed around him, because he's not a rank and file sailor (too well bred or well moneyed for that? I think there are some indications that he's well bred, but not, in fact well moneyed, actually -- or rather, not spectacularly well moneyed, and hey this parenthetical is totally out of control, isn't it?) and he doesn't have what it takes to be a leader. In many ways, I'd say he doesn't want to be a leader, that he's not entirely comfortable with the idea of so many lives being on his head. Contrast his behaviour with that of Aubrey, Maturin, Pulling and Callumy, or hell -- even wee Blakeney (also OHMYGOD BLAKENEY IS SO ADORABLE!!). His status as outsider, in such a closed society, is obviously going to cause friction, because it will be magnified, and it will tend to polarize the situation more, to an extent.
Witness Nagle's behaviour after Warley's death -- also, can we spare a moment for their gay love? Because, dudes. Nagle/Warley. Write me some. Now.
However, even before it reaches the point of polarization, Hollom's position tends to shed light on the characters of Callumy (first scene -- Hollom's indecision v. Callumy's quick and certain action), Blakeney, Maturin and Aubrey. Now, Callumy and Blakeney are just straight up comparison dealies; he's older, spent more time on a ship, and yet is obviously so much less comfortable with his position, his responsibilty, hell himself than those two are. Which is saying something, because they're both obviously right on the cusp of puberty, and God, who the hell is comfortable during puberty? Only aliens, my friends, only aliens.
With Aubrey and Maturin, however, it's a bit more complex. The scene I'm referencing in particular is the one where Hollom and the crew are all singing that song (Spanish Ladies or something -- whatever, it's branded into my consciousness as the song they sing in Jaws when they're bonding drunkenly). Stephen's all "Dude, boy's got pipes", and doesn't think twice about the way in which Hollom is fraternizing with his crew. And can I just say how much that scene breaks my heart? It's like Hollom's trying so damned *hard* to find himself a place there, and his song is a branch he's reaching out to the crew...they don't reject it, and he seems just...joyous because of that. Jack, on the other hand, quells the whole thing, though, because what he sees when he sees Hollom singing is a mixing of the ranks -- a disintegration of the chain of command.
We know that Stephen's not Navy and Jack is, but it would be very, very easy for us to either forget that, or not think about what that means if we didn't have scenes like this. It shows us the very basic differentiation in their worldviews -- and it's wonderful.
Now, later on, Hollom's situation during the whole Jonah thing (also, PS, I loved that like you wouldn't even believe -- or maybe you would seeing as I wrote fic about it) serves to do the same thing, but in a bigger way. The way Jack and Stephen come down on different sides of the Jonah issue makes clearer something that the movie has been attempting to show about these characters throughout, but that doesn't crystallize until this point -- that Jack is symbolic of the Romantic and Stephen is symbolic of Reason.
Jack's ability to believe in the superstition of the Jonah could be a bit of a shock -- an educated man who believes such foolishness during the age of Enlightenment? Well, here's the thing: Jack's a man who isn't, necessarily, in his time. What I mean to say is, he's a man of the sea, which is timeless, noble and mysterious (to go all fruity and pretentious on you). The sea is Romantic, like Jack is -- with a capital R. And the time period in which this movie takes place is one that is on the cusp of becoming a more 'scientific' age -- people are just beginning to really move toward all that Enlightenment, you know?
Witness Stephen, of course. The naturalist spy -- he's used to relying upon rationality and logic, and therefore the entire idea of the Jonah is an anathema to him. He doesn't believe in anything that cannot be codified, quantified, and catalogued. (I was trying to quote the X-Files there, but I have this sneaking suspicion I absolutely mangled the quote. Ahh, well.) He doesn't believe in the order of the ship, he finds it too backward and archaic, and disputes it -- he's a punk before his time, almost, but I won't go there, because I'm sure people will throw stones at me. *grins*
Anyway, the reason they're at loggerheads over Hollom is the same reason that they usually complement each other so well: they're opposites, ying and yang, all like that. Jack -- the Romantic, the feminine (in a classical sense, not a 'Hey, dude, you look like a lady!' kind of way), and Stephen -- Reason, the masculine.
More than that, though, on a more personalized, psychological level it shows us that Jack can't understand weakness. Hollom is weak -- or, perhaps just lacking in charisma and confidence. But Jack doesn't react well to it -- in some ways he reminds me here of Robert Graves' Augustus in I, Claudius. The scene between him and Hollom shows that Hollom does want to please, and that Jack just doesn't understand him and can't deal with someone he can't understand on some level. It's maybe a failing of compassion, or perhaps more one of time/energy -- he is captain, and the man does have a fuckload to do. You know, what with being captain at all. But it seems to me to be largely a failing of inclination -- he doesn't *care* to understand Hollom. Which to me is a flaw, but one that makes him more interesting to me, so that he's not just this gold-lined hero figure. He's a guy. A regular man, who also happens to be a captain.
And on top of illuminating all of this, the Hollom arc also serves to show a little something about the way a crew can become sullen/vicious in its own way. It shows a great deal about Nagle's inability to deal with his own guilt over Warley's death, and that anger is his first and foremost coping mechanism (well, anger and grog). It shows the respect given to an older sailor -- the guy who had the hands that said Hold Fast, I can't remember his name for the life of me -- even if he does have a bent coin in his brain, and is clearly partially brain damaged.
Also, it presents us with the troubling, troublesome Hollom. Who isn't comfortable being himself, but doesn't know how to be anything/anyone else.
Sometime soon I'm going to do a big post about how much I love Warley -- who gets like what, five minutes of screen time? *shakes head* I know. I'm a weird lady. If you've gotten this far into my lecture/rant/musings/thoughts? Go you! Here:
*dances like a monkey for your amusement*
...it's possible I'm a bit punchy.