Leonardo DiCaprio in the movie Aviator

Martin Scorsese talent had yet another chance to shine, back in 2004 in the movie The Aviator. Together with John Logan, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Beckinsale, Cate Blanchett, and many other amazing Hollywood artists, Scorsese created an enchanting homage to one of the greatest modern inventors. The Aviator is the movie that can charm anyone, with its attention-grabbing plot, breathtaking cinematography, great costumes, and the amazing performance of the talented actors and actresses. However, this movie can be especially entertaining to those who are interested in aviation, engineering, and technology in general. The movie takes you into the world of Hollywood glamour, the frightening depths of mental illness, and the hardships of the corporate world, but it also takes you deep into the kingdom of early technological progress. The Aviator gives you a unique glance into the world of aviation and into the mind of a successful inventor.

As we know, Howard Hughes came into this world with a bright mind and an excellent talent for engineering that he restlessly improved and perfected over the years. This talent of his had a chance to amaze the whole world so many times due to years of dedicated, hard work. However, the Aviator shows us that the life of a successful inventor doesn’t revolve solely around blueprints, physics, workshops, machines, and tests. Life is complicated, the world is complicated, and difficulties have a talent for getting into every pore of one’s passion and interests.

A passionate inventor cannot live isolated, secure, in a bubble made of machines, engines, pipes, blueprints, and mechanical wings. Those who recognize one’s talent often see it as competition. A successful person can’t be left alone, and Hughes is about to find this out very soon. As his inventions get better, his life gets more crowded, and at one point, overcrowded for Hughes’ tender mental abilities. No striving is left unpunished — the Aviator uncovers this truth step by step, right to the emotional and chilling closing scene.

Flying for Business and Pleasure

The movie depicts Hughes’ progress through mental illness and the deterioration of his emotional state. However, these weaknesses shouldn’t fool anyone — Hughes is a competent, cunning, and difficult opponent in the business world. His wit and intelligence make him a rival that no one wants to have — Hughes is bright and brave. Also, he has one quality that makes him a particularly dangerous business rival — he has a dream and works out of passion. This attitude towards business is what makes Hughes more of an inventor than an entrepreneur, and that’s why he is such a dangerous one.

Movie Aviator with Leonardo DiCaprio

One of the things that are most charming in the movie is Hughes’ passion that resembles the one of an artist. It seems that at some point, a scientist and an artist can start to resemble each other — if they put enough heart into their work. The Aviator depicts this idea perfectly. Hughes is shown as an engineer with the heart of an artist, and DiCaprio illustrated such a soul with the precision of an engineer. Hughes is not a person that flies and builds aircraft just for money — he doesn’t even do it just for success or recognition. Flying is Hughes’ philosophy; it’s the way he sees the world; it’s his method of understanding and grasping life. The world makes sense to him when he is up in the air. Because of this deep love and obsession towards flying, Hughes is a feared rival, respected inventor, and a charming character.

“He Owns Pan-Am. He Owns Congress. He Owns the Civil Aeronautics Board. But He Does Not Own the Sky.”

DiCaprio had a chance to say many amazing and memorable lines in this movie, but hardly any of those lines can compete with words the following words: “but he doesn’t own the sky.” This line strikes in the essence of Hughes’ character. It shows why he was as successful as he was; it shows the right attitude towards business. This line is something that everyone who wants to be a businessman, an entrepreneur, artist, or an inventor needs to remember. Those Hughes’ words reveal a great truth — in the business world, there is enough room for your success — if you were aware of that fact, of course. Many businessmen miss this point and don’t realize this truth. They tend to think that a certain branch is already overcrowded, so they can’t succeed. Hughes doesn’t suffer from this misconception — he knows that he aims for the sky and doesn’t care about the competition on the ground.

Of course, this legendary line uncovers more things than just how Hughes understands the competition. It depicts how he sees his passion, his ambition, and the entire pointlessness of short-term conflicts. His place is in the air, both literary and ideally. However, the business world is never a pleasant place — it’s boiling with envy, rivalry, hardships, and even hate. As much as Hughes has a good sense for business, his soul of an artist cost him his mental health.

The Competition, Envy, and the Troubled Mind

Many remember the Aviator as an emotional tale about a troubled mind. Hughes’ OCD worsens as the movie progresses, and at one point, we see a broken man standing before us. His illness has roots deep in his childhood, but one can be fairly certain that Hughes would never have suffered as much as he did if there was less stress in his life.

The movie uncovers to us that Hughes’ mental state gets worse as he is faced with more difficulties that just don’t speak to his talented soul. Even though he is a dangerous business rival and a brave person, he also strives towards beauty. There is one crucial difference between Howard and some successful businessmen of the time — Howard is not cruel by nature; he doesn’t want to be a part of business fights; he doesn’t enjoy confrontations. Howard withstands them successfully, but he does that because he has to, not because he gets joy out of them. When one has to put up with difficulties, things that they don’t enjoy, stress, and their weakness swims to the surface.

One could say that Hughes’ mind crumbled because he had OCD as a child. One could say that, but they would be wrong. Hughes’ OCD worsened because he was taken deep into the world that he didn’t like. He wanted to fly, but he was often captured by rivals, others’ envy, and fierce enemies. We can see that he didn’t enjoy the difficulties of the cruel business realm — he always tried to clean himself from its filth.

Scorsese depicted Hughes’ OCD ingeniously — there is tragedy, there is emotion, there is humor, and there is a great metaphor. We can’t watch Howard losing his mind without feeling for his pain. Also, we can’t observe some of the OCD scenes without noticing the humor in them. In the famous one where Howard washes his hands and then his shirt in the bathroom, we see how Scorsese showed how a troubled mind could go so far away from reality and dignity. The gentle humor in this scene has a great purpose of showing us how low one can fall when being beaten down by irrationality of mental illness.

Surrounded by Beauty, Filled by Torment

Hughes wanted beauty; he wanted heights! He strived towards the sky, and he was enchanted by the beauties so great that they drifted above the ground. We don’t think here only about the glamour of Hollywood, the beauty of the arts, and the motion pictures. We also think of the beauties made of flesh and blood, the enchantresses Ava Gardner, Katharine Hepburn, and Jean Harlow. Female beauty was a significant part of Hughes’ life and another strong passion of his. It seems that his vibrant personality was so unpredictable like his mind and had many faces — the brave business rival, the weak person suffering from OCD that fears dirt and germs, and a great womanizer, all in one person.

Aviator poster Leonardo DiCaprioIn his time, Howard was known as quite a ladies’ man. He enjoyed the company of the greatest Hollywood queens and led quite a glamorous life. Ava, Katharine, and Jean, the true silver-screen goddesses, were all Hughes’ great lovers at some point. However, nothing uplifting and gorgeous in Hughes’ life could go without some hardships. His love life was often troubled, wounded by his mental weaknesses and his emotionally unsteady being. Even though he was surrounded by beauty, deep inside, his soul was a restless hail that never let him experience true joy.

We all remember the emotional scene with a delightful grain of humor where Ava visits Howard during his dark times and enters his home that becomes a temple of sickness — a work of an ill man’s mind. The charming actress walks down the corridors of a place that’s so loudly screaming that Howard had lost his mind and said, “I love what you’ve done with the place.”

All the beauties of the world weren’t enough to keep Howard’s mind in balance. As the years passed, it became something like a plane with unbalanced wings. The mind that started taking a terrible nosedive couldn’t be comforted even by the divine and gentle beings of his many lovers. However, we all get a strong impression that Hughes knew how to appreciate beauty — it was an essential part of his life. He was one of the pioneers in the motion picture industry, and he left a masterpiece, Hell’s Angels, in his legacy. His talent for movie making was quite extraordinary and one of the rare segments of his life where OCD was of some use.

Howard understood the beauty in arts similarly as he understood engineering — beauty, harmony, balance, and charm shine when everything is in line, mathematically correct, and sparkling clean. Hughes was infamous for his obsession with perfection — he would reshoot perfect scenes many times until he would get them to be exactly as he wanted. This sounds like an exaggerated inclination towards perfectionism, but in the movie-making industry, it can be quite a desirable trait. One can assume that, by a great deal, Howard’s “engineering” part, his perfectionism, was responsible for the massive success of his movies. After all, movies capture a moment — the medium of communication which depends on time, of a circumstance. Also, they tell a story only if all parts are working as one — visuals, sound, lines, music, acting. When one looks upon movie-making in this way, they can naturally assume that the movie industry was one of the rare things that welcomed Howard’s OCD. Of course, besides his main business of being one of the pioneers in making complex, flying machines that don’t forgive any mistake.

Before You Fly Away

If you are a person that’s interested in aviation, mechanics, and engineering, this movie has to be on your watchlist. Scorsese’s tale takes you deep into the mind of a genius inventor, inspiring engineer, and a historical figure worthy of admiration. Howard’s mental illness and his troubled emotional state don’t make him a weak person — they just make him human. All of his troubles of the mind speak of a gentle soul that started losing some battles with the world. However, that same soul won so many times when nobody thought he could. Howard was an eccentric and a very complex person. We can see this in the famous trial scene where a nervous Howard slowly becomes the Howard that dominates the courtroom. He gains confidence as he sees that he is making some progress, and soon, the man that couldn’t calm down when the hearing started, evolved into a man that made the whole courtroom laugh with his witty responses to the senator.

However, the movie is an emotional journey into the disturbing depths of mental illness. This movie shows what such an ailment is capable of doing to a man in such a short time. Howard, who was going with a beautiful actress to glamorous events, so soon became Howard that would lock himself in a room and urinate in empty bottles. Even when the movie shows us such a disturbing consequence of his illness, the feeling that we are looking at a lunatic never leaves us. On the contrary, the movie doesn’t leave us indifferent while we are watching a great human being tragically surrendering to his illness, overwhelmed with pressure and the hostility of life.

The Aviator is a biographical movie; it’s a film about human greatness, ingenuity, eccentricity, and mental weaknesses. However, one could say that it primarily strives to be a homage to a great inventor — to show how the mind of an aviator and an inventor works. Judging by the movie, that mind flies high, aims tall, sometimes crashes, but soon takes off again, a bit injured, but still able to amaze the world. The movie is a real treat for those who are interested in mechanics and aviation — they can see how Hughes worked, how he thought, how he designed. Also, it is historically accurate and takes you on a time-travel journey to the birth of aviation. The tale of steel and glory — the Aviator, follows Hughes’ life from the excitement of flying and movie making to blueprints, iron, fuel, danger, and the glamour of Hollywood starlets’ company.