Man the Seeker, Woman the Anima

Man the Seeker, Woman the Anima

Posted on Oct 15th, 2008 by Marmalade : Gaia Explorer Marmalade

At work tonight, I was reading the book Secret Cinema: Gnostic Vision in Film by Eric G. Wilson.  The author is insightful and this book has more depth than most books about movies.  He talks about many of my favorite movies.  One of them is Altered States and it got me thinking.  There are some other movies with very similar themes: The Fountain, What Dreams May Come, and The Mothman Prophecies.

The most general similarity is that the protagonists are men in a position of authority but a specific kind of authority.  They are men of knowledge and in 3 of the movies its scientific knowledge.  These characters are heroes but not the traditional hero type. 

These movies are balanced by female characters who are of central importance to the protagonists’s motivation.  The women add conflict, but they also offer the protagonist an alternative.  They are obvious anima figures that represent potential balance.

Another similarity is that these movies are about the supernatural.  The main aspect of this involves themes of life and death.  In 3 of the movies, its the leading female’s death that inspires the protagonist’s obsessive seeking.  The women represent a different way of dealing with life and death.  Related to life and death, there is strong use of plants as symbols.  In 3 of the movies, tree symbolism is central.  In 2 of the movies, the protagonist is studying a plant chemical.

There is one other important character type.  The protagonist has some person who acts as a mentor/friend.  This person helps the main character in his transformation or otherwise acts as a balancing force.  This person might even go part way with the protagonist on his journey, even act as a guide.  In some ways, this character bridges the distance between the protagonist and his anima figure.  This character has something to teach the protagonist.  He/she knows something about the supernatural or at least has some spiritual insight.

In Altered States, the mentor and friend are separate characters.  The friend is completely rational, but it is a shaman who offers the protagonist his first insight to that which is beyond the rational.  So, the closest to a mentor is a threshold guardian.  There is also a shaman-like character in The Fountain who is a threshold guardian  Both of these are guardians of the sacred plant.

There is a final element I’ll bring up.  These movies are about dualities: male/female, life/death, supernatural/science, rational/non-rational, human/non-human, primitive/civilized, willpower/acceptance, etc.  All of these dualites are closely connected. 

The protagonist represents one end of the dualities.  He is a man playing an important role of civilization: doctor, scientist, researcher, journalist.  He is fighting against death and trying to rationally make sense of the supernatural.  He is unwilling to give up and accept defeat.  So, this leaves the other end of the dualities outside of him.  The women character is the most opposite to the protagonist, but in some ways she represents a less clear distinction between the dualities.  The whole dualistic viewpoint is that of the protagonist.  His either/or thinking is his central conflict.

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This blog has been started as two different threads:
Community Film Picks (zFilms) Group
God Pod or Life, the Universe and Everything
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Access_public Access: Public 5 Comments Print // Post this!views (271)  

Nicole : wakingdreamer

about 6 hours later

Nicole said

I’ve only seen What Dreams May Come, but I keep hearing about the Fountain. These patterns interest me very much. Now, in What Dreams may come, he is united at the end with his wife and yet chooses to go on to seek her anew in another life rather than remain with her and the children indefinitely. This is presented as a positive and exciting thing but in the framework you have described, is he really “getting” it? In the Fountain, he keeps traveling, doesn’t he? So it’s an endless seeking, is there growth?

starlight : StarLight Dancing

about 6 hours later

starlight said

hey Ben…i’m waiting for your screenplay…i sense that it would be pretty awesome…i’ve seen all but mothman prophecies; that’s an interesting analysis my friend…hey sweet Nicole…much love and joy to you both…*

Marmalade : Gaia Child

about 10 hours later

Marmalade said

Nicole, you ask about whether the WDMC protagonist really “getting” it.  I don’t know.  It is strange that after finding eachother again that they chose to be reborn which will cause them to forget eachother.  The message seems to be that the opportunity to discover love anew is more important than holding onto the love you already know.  Besides, they’re soulmates.  How can anything go wrong?  :)

Starlight. screenplay?  I’ll be happy to get anything published eventually.  I’d never thought about a screenplay, but that is a possibility.  I’m sure I couldn’t write a worse screenplay than some of what gets made into movies.  lol

Marmalade : Gaia Child

about 12 hours later

Marmalade said

I like how the tree symbolism is used.  In WDMC and Fountain, the tree symbolism is used very obviously.  In Mothman Prophecies and Altered States, its not used as directly.

In Fountain, the tree is the Tree of LIfe, ie the Fountain of Youth.  It is a ressurection symbol archetypally related to the Christian cross.  The protagonist even in a sense dies on the tree in imitation of the Mayan resurrection deity  Also, the tree is seemingly representative of the anima character.  He is seeking to save the tree/woman and be saved himself in the process.

In WDMC, the tree also represents the woman.  The picture of the tree is part of a series of paintings by the woman that represents the place the couple met.  The place is a sort of Eden and its the place he re-creates in his afterlife.  The tree also signals how strong the bond is between them, defying even death.  Here is what Wikipedia has to say:

…Annie, distraught at the loss of her family, takes poison and dies. Albert breaks the news to Chris, whose initial relief that her suffering is over, quickly becomes anger when he learns that suicides are sent to hell. Albert claims no judgment has been made against her; it is simply the nature of suicides. This is a reference to Dante‘s Inferno, where the seventh level of Hell is reserved for sins of violence – including violence against oneself.

In Mothman Prophecies, trees are shown in relationship to the Mothman.  People often see the Mothman near a tree.  Its near a tree that his wife saw the Mothman and this is what caused her death.  The character who was most effected by his vision of the Mothman dies leaning against a tree. 

Christmas trees also play a role, but of a different sort.  They represent the human world of normalacy and happiness.  The whole movie occurs during the Christmas season.  Christmas is the time of year most resurrection deities are born and the Christmas tree represents eternal life.  But before resurrection must come death.  The whole bridge collapse seems like some supernatural mass sacrifice.  The implication is that its fated to happen.  The Christmas gifts float in the river as if offerings.

In Altered States, there was less tree imagery.  There was plenty of mixing of indigenous and Catholic imagery which included a tree of life.  From TV Tropes:

Heavy biblical imagery from Genesis and Revelations abounds in the hallucinatory sequences. At one point Adam and Eve are rendered as Indian cave art, pictured with a giant mushroom with a serpent coiled around it- an obvious reference to the “Tree of Knowledge.” William Hurt spends time flying around on a flaming crucifix wearing a mutant, 7-eyed, four-horned goat’s head.

Nicole : wakingdreamer

1 day later

Nicole said

I’m glad you added this about the tree symbolism. See my reply in the God Pod.

Right, that was the message I was getting from WDMC – they are soulmates and all will be well. SIgh :)

  Nicole : wakingdreamer  

Re: Blog About Films: Man the Seeker, Woman the Anima

Nicole said Oct 16, 2008, 11:03 AM:

  This is a great blog, thanks for cross-posting it here.

The tree archetype is a powerful one, transcending many religions and thoughts including the Norse mythology with Odin on the tree. Guy Gavriel Kay used it in his The Fionavar Tapestry, especially in part one of  three parts: The Summer Tree (1984)

Love,

Nicole

Spinner
  Marmalade : Gaia Child  

Re: Blog About Films: Man the Seeker, Woman the Anima

Marmalade said Oct 16, 2008, 12:08 PM:

  I originally hadn’t thought about cross-posting it.  But I figured that since its about the supernatural/spiritual that maybe somebody in the God Pod might enjoy it.

If you like mythology about trees, then I’d think you’d love The Fountain.  As long as you can handle a bit of non-linear narration.  The whole movie revolves around two visual symbols: trees and tunnels.

I hadn’t heard of those books or the author.  Is he one of your favorite authors?  I do like the Arthurian mythology which the Wikipedia article says he draws upon.
Marmalade

Spinner
  Nicole : wakingdreamer  

Re: Blog About Films: Man the Seeker, Woman the Anima

Nicole said Oct 16, 2008, 12:19 PM:

  Yes, he is one of my favourites. One of the books I have re-read many times by him is Tigana

I am looking forward to watching the Fountain. Thanks again for the reminder. Oh yes, I’m fine with non-linear.

Love,

Nicole

  1Vector3 : "Relentless Wisdom"  

Re: Man the Seeker, Woman the Anima

1Vector3 said Oct 15, 2008, 7:55 PM:

  A fabuously rich and insightful addition here, Marmalade. Worth studying !!!

Does The Fisher King fit this pattern? I don’t remember it that well…..

Is that the one where he is a doctor of elderly? handicapped?  No, that was another Robin Williams role…..

Just trying to come up with other examples of the pattern…

Blessings, OM Bastet

Spinner
  Marmalade : Gaia Explorer  

Re: Man the Seeker, Woman the Anima

Marmalade said Oct 16, 2008, 1:35 AM:

  I’m sure Robin Williams has played a doctor role in more than one movie.  I’m not sure which one you’re thinking of.

There are probably other examples of the pattern.  But at the moment I can’t think of any.

Two of these movies (Altered States and The Fountain) are about mad scientist types.  The difference with The Fountain is that he is obsessed with science because of his love for his wife.  Altered States fits the more typical mad scientist.  There are plenty of movies about mad scientists.

The basic theme of these movies is the relationship (and conflict) between knowledge and love.  In MBTI terms, this mostly has to do with the functions of Thinking and Feeling… especially considering the gender angle.  So, going by that basic theme, many more similar movies could be included.

Marmalade

Spinner
  Nicole : wakingdreamer  

Re: Man the Seeker, Woman the Anima

Nicole said Oct 16, 2008, 12:27 PM:

  Robin Williams was also a doctor in Patch Adams

I didn’t see it, but I seem to remember it was very popular and well enjoyed at the time.

Love,

Nicole

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