The Macguffin Project

We would like to invite you to participate in an online group project investigating the MacGuffin – a cinematic plot device in the form of an object, used to drive forward the plot and motivations of the characters in a film, an object of desire or conquest usually; a bag of money, a diamond, a suitcase carrying glowing contents, a necklace, a nuclear weapon, etc.

monolith - 2001: A Space Odyssey

Around the object hangs a cloud of mystery; it carries an aura. It is ambiguous in nature. It can inspire love, desire, illusion, terror. However while it creates a whole host of actions and reactions within the film, the object itself is usually not on screen for very long, it enters and disappears whenever it pleases and in itself has no inherent value, other than that which the characters project onto it.

What is it about the MacGuffin? Not only does it cause mystery in the film, but outside of the cinema, the MacGuffin finds itself in the centre of huge debates about its true and hidden meanings!

This online project has been set up to look into and gather these interpretations of and psychological projections onto some of the more enigmatic MacGuffins, for example – the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey by Stanley Kubrick and the blue box in Mulholland Dr. by David Lynch. Please respond or add your own examples to the ones we have here, share your personal interpretations or others you’ve found elsewhere via the comment box or if you’re a member of Practice Development use the New Post function.

The idea is to gather as many as possible and then come together as a group at some point in the near future to workshop the material. One idea we would like to pursue, is finding a way to categorise the projections and interpretations into an encyclopaedia of sorts, with the focus being less on the object and instead looking for patterns of interpretation, desire and psychologies that MacGuffins inspire!