There be dragons!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


This is a double post which I just put up on dooHickey as well.

I just saw this flick based on a student recommendation and loan (thanks, Thom). It's wicked good & cool. I would put it in the ranks of Blade Runner, Pi, The Sweet Hereafter, and Gattaca and other fly-under-the-radar earth shattering movies.

The basic premise is a simple gangster revenge movie, Statham playing an Irish tough just out of jail seeking revenge on Ray Liotta's gang boss. There's some sexuality, lots of graphic violence, and some video ramping and a wierd animated section (the point of which I really don't grasp) but these are all surmountable.

Guy Ritchie uses the genre, however, to create a very complex psychological tale, full of twists, turns and unique imagery, ultimately comprising an incredibly profound tale of redemption. I won't give away plot too much but the final premise of the movie is that the ultimate battle is not between the gangsters (and by extraction, not between humans) but between the gangster and his own self (and consequently between each man and his own consciousness). Thus the movie raises the remarkable proposition, however flawed perhaps it may be, that our whole spiritual structure is an attempt to grapple with the bitch of consciousness. What does it mean to be conscious; aware of our selves and aware that we are aware? Doesn't such awareness pose a problem, most immediate of which is that in order to contemplate anything we make it an other than ourselves - thus our perception of ourself is other than us and we risk schizophrenia of sorts or hypocrisy at best wherein our perception of ourselves is vastly superior to the reality of what we are? This gap or lacuna between observer and observed seems to be what we mean by the word "sin" - a nothing; a gap into which darkness pours like water.

My only disagreement with the film's philosophy is that the attempt to give word to the struggle of man with his consciousness is an attempt to reinvent the wheel; to give a language to some phenomenon that humans endure when there is already a language for just that... namely the language of religion. Religious language (whichever religion we are talking of) exists for precisely this reason, namely, to give language and thus sense to the confusing and difficult reality of our self-awareness. To try to give a new language of psychology or what have you is a bit like ignoring 2000+ years of scholarly attempt to do exactly this; like a man trying to invent the wheel while automobiles whizz past him.

In the end, perhaps, the movie assumes that the language provided by religion may not be any longer effective and perhaps this is so. As humans we have a tendency to take as real the model we create in order to understand the real; idolatry - the worship of the image and forgotting the imaged. Thus it is possible that modern religions, Christianity immediately, may not be able to discuss the issue any longer b/c their language is too concretized. But it may also be that in order to understand this phenomenon first we each have to master the language (or langauges) available for discussing the problem and to this Guy Ritchie has added a very important piece of the lexicon.

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