Saturday, July 19, 2014

"Snowpiercer" (2014)

Bong Joon Ho has given us an epic allegorical tale of another great flooding of the earth, but this time with snow instead of rain - and set-in-motion by man, not God.  The film seems significantly interested in deconstructing the White Savior Narrative with none other than Captain America himself (Chris Evans) bearing the wounds of Christ, rejecting the temptation of THE blue-eyed devil (Ed Harris-Truman Show), and sacrificing his arm to save an enslaved young black child.  It was the perfect contextual situation for a director like Edward Zwick (Glory, The Last Samurai, Blood Diamond), who seems to have found a unique vocation within white guilt fantasies.  Mr. Zwick's ending of this film would have surely included our Captain standing alongside the adolescent Yona and child Timmy, as they confront a world without technology.  Bong Joon Ho, however, doesn't give that grace to (Captain) Curtis.  He is not included in the new heaven & earth.  White guilt dies with him.  And with that, two false gods have been destroyed - (White) Power & Technology.  A new narrative has been constructed.  Only the most vulnerable remain.

(The character of Yona, who is clearly an addict, might seem excessively incapable of leading humanity into the new world since she has never touched soil.  But she is our only representative of spirituality in the film, being directly labeled clairvoyant - "a supernatural ability to perceive events in the future or beyond normal sensory contact".  At the very least, she is ideally prepared for the mysteries of life outside the train.  And her addiction with Kronol - industrial waste - is suggestive of our own addiction with industry, science, technology - all of which are exploited by the Wilford's "sacred" engine religion - but are obvious barriers to genuine spirituality.  The addiction ends with the train crash.  Life no longer needs to be tolerated or maintained, but actually lived.)

Getting off that circular train of brutal injustice & inequality (cloaked in images reminiscent of Oz, Willie Wonka, The Shining, Hunger Games) is obviously a form of liberation from that mobile concentration camp of cult religiosity.  But more than that, this freedom is defined by powerlessness & dependence - the necessary reality of the human condition that all Men of Power have tried to deny with wealth & politics & technology.  When Yona and Timmy look around their new environment, they encounter cold, snow, sunshine.  Off in the distance, they see a polar bear.  A sign of life.  But their survival is not guaranteed - and like any necessary "Into the Wild" experience - we cannot "know" until we deny one thing (power) and embrace another (vulnerability).  They must now confront the harshness of reality, like a bottomed-out addict beginning day one of recovery.

Decidedly creating this type of anarchist narrative may seem bleak, even harsh - but I see it as hopeful, as internally necessary. (Inner anarchy?)  Accepting the vulnerability of our own mortality (that science & technology cannot finally save us from), might actually give us capacity for being emotionally human, free from anxiety disorders, and able to be present to things unseen.  It may even give us the kind of sight that leads towards maturity - sometimes known as "Falling Upward".  Or at least it might make us aware of our evolving nomophobia (fear of being out of mobile phone contact), in which our phones have become sacred, and AT&T divine.


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