I am a Melbourne based writer, primarily of speculative fiction. I find the writing process fascinating; the links below include examples of my work, fiction and non fiction, but also another story. How has a chapter evolved? How have places and the fictions of others informed and inspired my own. How do I research, develop ideas and turn them into narrative? Each page offers a different insight into the work and the story behind the work.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Death is only the beginning

am going to try something in this post that may not come off at all, or may not come off in some cases or may be Martian to some. I want to present three film clips that for me at least, dramatise an experience I cannot really define.
First some context.
Many will probably already be familiar with the idea of death and rebirth, or more specifically, facing death and being reborn, as a central mechanic in the evolution of an individual's character. It features in pretty much every spiritual tradition on the globe. For those not inclined to such notions, it also makes an appearance in some threads of psychology and also forms of therapy and undoubtedly elsewhere I am not aware of - I wouldn't be surprised if it is touched on in management training or workshops somewhere or other.
As far as I have ever been to figure it out, this idea sees us as unable to evolve, mature or recover from trauma or loss without reaching a point of letting go of past notions of who we are, which are preventing a fresh and more integrated and accepting self emerge.
Not that this is an easy process. The sort of villain in the piece (though also an essential part of the overall process), that must be overcome or transcended is usually identified as an 'ego-self'. This driving part of our psyche identifies with the aspects of our personality that are familiar, follow rules and are within our comfort zone. However lifeless and self servicing that persona may have become at a certain stage, the ego self feels as though it runs the entire show and does important work in keeping us safe from uncomfortable or destabilisation influences. It isn't keen on letting go of the reins and allowing some kind of new self emerge it does not know anything about and that deviates from the plan it knows and maintains.
And so death in the spiritual or self developmental sense, is not seen as something negative, but something essential to life, and in a sense not really death at all - our egos die, but we live on, in some way transformed and surpassing our past notions of identity. And then the ego starts to form around new experiences, traumas and tensions and the process goes on.
Many see this point of acceptance and death of the ego as something quite profound, an epiphany or moment of liberation or realisation. Some actually experience it as a deep and wonderful sense of transcendence.
Now back to my initial premise.
I feel as though that is something that has on occasion been dramatised in various ways in film, intentionally or otherwise.
Following are three clips from three of the finest science fiction films ever made - Jacob's Ladder, 12 Monkeys and Looper - that may, in different ways, dramatise this point of realisation or to me feel as though they invoke or touch on aspects of it.
All three clips and my brief comments are major spoilers for the films concerned, so if you haven't seen them, and want to enjoy the films as the makers intended, don't read on - come back later once you have had a chance to see them. Accordingly, I have left a bit o space between this section and the start of the three clips... 












Final Scene from Jacob's Ladder (1990)

A  Vietnam veteran (played by Tim Robbins) is plagued by visions of horror and demonic beings.  He gradually discovers that he and his comrades were subjected to experimental performance-enhancing combat drugs that have violent side effects. As the film progresses it becomes apparent that he may not actually be living his contemporary life but rather a kind of extended vision in the moments before his death in Vietnam. In this final scene he is essentially reaches the point of acceptance of that death.

 12 Monkeys (1995) Airport moment \ beginning

In 12 Monkey the main character (played by Bruce Willis), a time traveler from a plague ravished future, is sent back to find a pure source of the virus to enable a cure to be developed and repopulation of the planet to commence. I couldn't find the actual extended airport scene at the end of the film, but during the film he experiences a childhood memory which is the essential component of it. Basically as a child in the past he sees his future self die. There are philosophical conundrums versus what I am suggesting regard death and rebirth in relation to this, but I suspect that for some viewers, it still might invoke aspects of the experience of death and transcendence.


Looper (2012) First and Last Scene

Note: The clip begins with the opening scene of the movie... The scene I am discussing follows.

In this scene, we have both a young version of the protagonist (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and the future version (played by Bruce Willis) who has travelled back in time to prevent the death of his wife by killing a young boy who will grow up to be a ruthless personality with incredible ESP abilities. The younger self experiences an epiphany, realising that it is the actions of his elder self that will make the child become a monster and that unless he breaks the cycle the tragedy will plays out forever as a loop in time. Thus he kills himself.

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