Published: Jul 14, 2012 |Updated: Mar 10, 2023


‘9’ is a handmade burlap doll that springs to life at the start of the movie. We soon meet ‘1’ to ‘8’ as we see him discover a post-apocalyptic world ravaged by a war between mankind and machines.

He holds a small device that is the key to the salvation of mankind and we see him discover something that unites all the dolls as we witness them owning up to consequences (seen and unforeseen), whilst making sacrifices, experiencing resurrection and the birth of hope.

A great film that is rich in symbols and meaning – it will have something to say to you.

Genre Scifi
Production year 2009
Director Shane Acker
Male actors Elijah Wood, John C. Reilly, Crispin Glover

We are one...

1 to 9… Ego-states

In this movie the nine burlap dolls represent the ‘divided soul’ of the scientist. This is a wonderful allegory for the ego-state model of Watkins and Watkins. In each of us there are a number of different character traits that we can think of as ‘ingredients’ and these are mixed together into a number of different ‘recipes’ to meet different needs connected with various roles: e.g. one who is the father, another the husband and yet another the warrior – to give a few examples. Although the recipes are different the ingredients all come from the one source. Usually these are blended one with the other and flow seamlessly one to the other; much like in the ‘King Warrior Magician Lover’ model of Robert Moore. The dolls also model some of KWML archetypal behaviour (albeit sometimes in shadow pole): e.g. ‘1’ is the King who is too much the dictator living in fear and impotence (shadow pole) ‘2’ is the light-bearer and problem-solver and I see him as the Magician in golden polarity. The ego-state system represents the whole person and as is modelled in the film, there are parts we see straight away and others we come to know with time. Some spend time mostly in shadow polarity but still have the potential of the golden pole like ‘1’. Enjoy your journey as you get to know yourself.

Trauma & Dissociation

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In the movie it is the trauma of a war that leads to the creation of the dolls and this mirrors what can happen in people who experience extreme trauma. The ego fractures into dissociated ego-states (the dolls). In its most extreme form we can have Dissociative Identity Disorder (Previously known as Multiple Personality Disorder), where the parts exist as independent identities but it can be present in much subtler forms. Some level of dissociation is a natural function in all of us. This movie reminds us that when substantial trauma occurs we risk loosing our integrity (our one-ness). Whilst this may be initially adaptive I invite you to consider that a healthy response to this dissociation is ultimately to aim for reintegration.”That all may be one”.

The Machine and The Trickster

The Machine in this movie reminds me of Robert Johnson’s retelling of ‘The Handless Maiden’. In it he states, that the word mechanise comes from the Greek root mechane which means to trick and everything concerned with it has a dark character. This is a good fit for the machine in the story for we hear of it as a ‘machine of peace’ only to next see a headline declaring WAR. The machine appears here in keeping with ‘the devil’s bargain’ to get something for nothing – do what is easy – that we see in the Handless Maiden. Where in our lives have we taken the easy choices rather than honest hard graft? There is ALWAYS a price to pay.

Owning up to our errors and redeeming them

In this movie the most powerful theme for me was that of owning the consequences of my actions. For every action there is a consequence and these may be thought of as seen and unforeseen. In ‘9’ we see several redemptive acts by key characters in response to their unforeseen consequences: the scientist owns his error in creating a machine of pure intellect; without a soul – he withdraws his support from the corrupt regime and then creates the burlap dolls as an act of redemption. The dolls – who we now know are the divided soul of the scientist – do likewise: ‘1’ faces his fear and literally enacts his earlier statement, “sometimes ‘1’ must die for the good of many” and ‘9’ owns up to his error in re-activating the machine – it is only the grace of ‘1’s sacrifice that allows ‘9’ to survive. These brave actions allow ‘9’ to release the souls of the dolls who died and the film ends with rain and the hope of a new beginning: redemption.

Powerful ideas from 9

  1. Trauma may cause dissociation and fracturing of the ego - have you owned the good and the not-so-good parts of your identity? Aim for integrity in who you are. Be one with yourself. The book that the dolls look into for an explanation of their existence is by Paracelsus (Born 1493), who was credited with the first clinical/scientific mention of the unconscious. Try spending time with yourself and consider techniques such as 'voice dialogue' or 'active imagination' to assist you getting to know yourself more fully. If you have experienced substantial trauma consider talking to a therapist or other healer to facilitate this for you.
  2. You are not alone and were made for community. Those who are wounded in community are healed in community. How can you be a healer in your community?
  3. Is there something that you are failing to own, consequences you are trying not to face? Own your shadows - they are a part of you and once you own them you can address them.
  4. Remember '9' - he was the last 'part' of the scientist's soul. It took his arrival and his repeating the error of activating the machine, to provide the opportunity to face the lie and defeat it. He eventually took the right stand and defeated the trickster - then came resurrection, ascension and the birth of new life. What mistakes are you repeating and how can you make different choices the next time?
  5. An interesting little aside is related to the device that '9' plugs into the machine to re-animate it, which has a number of symbols on it. The ones on the front don't appear to be anything specific but the back of the device (A large circle with three smaller circles within) is actually the alchemical symbol called the Caput Mortuum - a Latin term whose literal meaning is "dead head" or "worthless remains". This made me think, how often is it that the thing we consider worthless, turns out to be a key part of the solution to our problem? An ancient theme, "The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone." or as a colleague of mine put it, 'from the wound comes the gift'.What are you in danger of thinking worthless?
  6. Please email me if you have any questions or want more information on any of the tools or therapeutic techniques mentioned

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