“Horrible things happening to people is inextricably linked to people thinking horrible things might happen to them.”
Here we go then, once more into the breach, or the beginning of the end if you will.
Series three-“Infernal, The Denouement”-Dark Art Emporium 2021. And I know it seems a ways off, but when you measure your hours in drying paint, months can suddenly collide into years.
You can’t see yet, but this one is going to be about the plague-not the black death you understand, but a disease equally as deadly. The disease of what dear old Hitch described as something that ‘infects us in our most basic integrity” and that is monotheistic, messianic religion, or at least in its modern incarnation of white, right wing evangelicalism.
Someone who understands this contextually is Ari Aster. His film ‘Midsommar’ on current release is a revelation. Coming off like a kind of bastard offspring that comprises Holy Mountain meets the Wicker Man, Aster is being deceptive when he refers to it as a “break up movie”.. A break up of what exactly? It’s no accident that the female protagonist Dani’s surname is Ardor and her boyfriends name Christian.
A film redolent with runic rituals and traditions of the Nordic Thule, Aster is clearly aware of its unsavory Nazi antecedents, peppering one of the early scenes with book titles that are a masterclass in Blavatskian thru lines.
In fact it’s a movie lush not just with sumptuous imagery, but a spectacle of clues and pictographs. Art peers down from every corner, echoing, lampooning,or predicting scenes, in what are a myriad of illusionary incantations.
But it’s in the character of Ruben, the grotesquely deformed and disabled child, who is the oracle, seen at the end sitting on a cotton wool cloud, smearing paint abstractly on the pages of the communes sacred book for the priesthood to decipher, where the true dark heart of the story lies. It’s the mass delusion concocted from archaic ritual madness. The assimilation of a community willing to participate in terrible acts, following an insane edict, for the sake of prosperity and genetic immaculacy.
And Ruben is it’s Godhead, avowed as pure and divine-but an an inbred progeny regardless- whose inflated lips seem to caricature the unmistakable, pneumatic sphincter like pout of a former reality tv host. It’s an eviscerating parody that at its core references eugenics and white supremacy-and as such is one of the most profound statements for the times we live in. What on the surface seems like a contemporary folk horror tale- is in fact an indictment of the pernicious cult of racism and religion.
Having already seen it twice now, I can attest that it is a movie that demands repeated viewings, if only because of how rich it is symbolically, but it is also deeply affecting, beautiful, compelling cinematic work.
It makes me spurred on by my own direction, having ploughed a similar furrow artistically with my piece “The Death Eaters”.
It’s a welcome reminder that as dark and bleak as this era is, there are still seeds of extraordinary artistic expression able to inspire and flourish.