Theme and Meta-Theme in Coco
In Pixar’s movie Coco, one of my favorite lines is by Ernesto de la Cruz. Ernesto is a famous singer and performer, who is shown playing a priest in one of his films. After a woman in the film exclaims “Oh, but padre, he will never listen,” Ernesto de la Cruz responds,
“He will listen to music!”
Here Pixar has put a movie within a movie, and the theme of this sub-movie happens to be the exact same theme of the overarching film Coco.
Not only is this a great line to explain the motivations of the priest, but it is also a line that applies to Ernesto, and Miguel, the protagonist who looks to emulate him.
It’s a very meta moment. A movie within a movie. A segment that is delivered in an over the top way, almost comical, manner in the film within the film, has also the function of perfectly calling out the theme of the larger story. And the beauty is that Pixar does all this without ever using a single metaphor. The meta qualities of ite film allow it to remove layers, and spell things out for us calling things for what they are.
The closer the story within the story is to the actual story encompassing it, in terms of story plot, the closer the thematic references can be made. If the plot matches, the themes can be expressed with little to no obfuscation. No metaphors, no allegories.
All that mumbo-jumbo, plus the fact that Ernesto de la Cruz’s charms are unquestionable.