19 August 2011 | chaos-rampant
At the day of writing this, the great Chilean filmmaker Raoul Ruiz passed away. This is dedicated to him - a film, I like to think, he would have loved.
This is an exceptional film that I will cherish for a number of reasons. It's the kind of film I'm looking for, that places consciousness within itself to give us actual in-sight of our place in the world of narratives.
For afar, it is a little like Jodorowsky; the heavy, symbolist system visualized inside a cacophony. But it ventures freely beyond the threshold where Jodorowsky (and most filmmakers) barely fumbled; it is a story about unconscious stories about the broader metaphysical narrative from which they flow and illustrate.
It begins with the promise of a journey, a common motif in early myth; a man's symbolic descent in the underworld in search of his father. But a little preamble.
The narrative of the understanding is one after you abstract. It has been fractured from the one into many, according to the provincial peculiarities of human experience, yet taken together each of the symbolic motifs or shadowy shapes that comprise it, insinuate the same fabric of the experienced world. The same images, the same narratives, seem to bubble forth in almost identical repetition, as though something in the soul calls out for them.
Two observations further elucidate this. In the places that ancient cities were built like temples, with clearly defined pattern that reflected above (usually in circles), denizens lived within the dimensions of their symbol. They were situated directly inside the blueprint of their cosmology, one they had constructed to reflect the cosmos.
The reverse of this is the mandala of the Buddhists, as sacred space for the concentration of the mind. The image was not the painted sum of its counterparts, but a way of passage. Meditations practiced on this symbol are directed from the symbolic world into the world at large; so that, outside the temple, the entire world becomes a support for meditation.
On a deeper level, both these describe the same thing; the spiritual effort of aligning a center inside with something outside, so that the cycles of life become one. Can we say this is the forgotten knowledge? Modern life is scattered in the chaos of ever-changing peripheries. We build - and live - in random.
So this is what the filmmaker does. Our man, having embarked on his inner journey, is constantly frustrated by the apparent randomness of the world he participates in. He turns for guidance to a child, an inner child who is his heir in the dreamlike underworld, holding a book filled with stamps about places - a book of names and forms that symbolically encompasses the totality of the catalogued world; but there is no answer there, meaning another world extends from our catalogue of it which cannot be fully accounted for.
From inside his limited perspective in the fictional world, the protagonist is baffled, exasperated for meaning. But we, observing from a vantage point, can recognize first pattern, and then that the protagonist, who seems to himself to be a hapless stooge, to be the one creating the narrative.
It is stunning stuff if you contemplate it a little. There are, of course, the notions about nested stories. The journey that transports across different levels of symbolic life; there is the place where history is a gallery of the pliable, lifeless mannequins of famous persons; elsewhere, language is shown to be the random teetering of birds.
Above all, there is the world, the space of human experience limited by reason; our symbolic translation in terms of a graven image, passage for meditation; our understanding of the image as applicable to both the personal and cosmic cycles (being-nonbeing, light-dark) and the meaning of those cycles within the larger cycle of sentience that observes them; and finally, the threshold once crossed and returned from, the unbound sentience now effortlessly understands all these things to be emanations of the one source.
Having aligned all these cycles, the film is - at every point - at the center of each and all. A beautiful thing.