". . . methinks we are like people in a dream. There is no substance in the life which we are leading. It is such a dreary length of time since the white bull carried off my sister Europa, that I have quite forgotten how she looked, and the tones of her voice, and, indeed, almost doubt whether such a little girl ever lived in the world. And whether she once lived or no, I am convinced that she no longer survives, and that therefore it is the merest folly to waste our own lives and happiness in seeking her. . . ." (Nathaniel Hawthorne, Tanglewood Tales)
If there has been a lesson to be learned from these past few posts, it is that our reality forms the continual remembrance of the death of a girl, symbolizing the missing element of Grace. This can be traced through three Saoirse Ronan films.
THE LOVELY BONES
"What am I now? The dead girl? The lost girl? The missing girl? I'm nothing!"
The Lovely Bones is a chemical romance. At the start of the film, Ray Singh, known as the dark English Moor (a lover of Shakespeare--the alchemist being the one who works within the Black) proclaims his devotion to Susie Salmon (Ronan), the Salmon of Wisdom, immediately before her death (first Coniunctio--Fire Walk with Me).
Though these would-be lovers long to be together, Susie is raped and murdered by Mr. Harvey, a seeming personification of the Shadow. The empty cornfield hints at a vegetation sacrifice--Proserpine's primordial death at the foundation of the world. This is the first understanding of Separation and the end of the bliss of ignorance--Nigredo.
|"[S]he remained on high, weaving the order of celestials, was a nymph, as being undefiled; and in consequence of this connected with Jupiter"|
As with Mal and Dom, Susie created miniature worlds with her Father before falling into Generation and Death, ripping the Family apart.
Susie's murderer, on the other hand, is another False Father. He lives alone, building empty dollhouses for non-existent children.
The girl is locked in a safe in his basement (the Cellar Door), like the climactic safe in Inception within which Fischer finds the relic of his lost childhood.
|("Rosebud . . .")|
|Light and dark|
|An appeal for healing|
Stricken by her death (as is the Salmon family) the Moor instead starts dating the mysterious (and some may say crazy) black-haired girl, the dark anima within whom all secrets dwell.
Though Susie is dead in our fallen world (the Jerusalem Below), she lives in the Jerusalem Above. We are told that Susie is in "Heaven," but she's the only one there. This is, in a sense, the Gnostic Ogdoad where (the Salmon of) Wisdom dwells, beyond the seven veils (this has an esoteric meaning, beyond the literal life-after-death scenario, discussed in Julius Evola's The Hermetic Tradition). Here she meets an Asian girl--Spirit and Matter were both murdered by the same man.
From this other world she is able to maintain a sort of contact with our world, and thus covertly influences the course of events. We see a parallel here with Interstate 60, where the signs and symbols the protagonist meets are continuous reminders of his lost anima.
Meanwhile, the Father attempts to track down Susie's murderer. He becomes so consumed with his quest that his wife leaves him, a further reminder of the consciousness of Separation. The murderer, Mr. Harvey, is discovered by the supernatural appearance of black roses on his property--a clear reference to the sol niger of the alchemists--hearts of darkness. This, too, is Susie's doing.
It all comes down to the Secret Diary in the end, the Karmic record of the murderer's wrongdoings.
At the end of the film, the black-haired girl magically (that is, alchemically) transforms into Susie, as she left her archetypal imprint on her. This, indeed, is a form of closure for the Moor, as it is the restoration of what was lost, if only for a moment--they are finally able to kiss.
And yet we also witness Susie's body, still within the safe, thrown into a sinkhole--a reminder that, in this world, the Work is still unfinished. And this need for atonement brings us to the next film--
So let's compare with Atonement. Here, again, we find a hero who wishes to encounter the anima, but the Law intervenes to sentence him to prison. The only way out is to fight. Ronan's character, Briony Tallis, here takes on a directorial role in the Mystery Play in of the film.
-Now, Briony, what's your play about?
-Well, it's about how love is all very well, but you have to be sensible.
-I suppose you're going to be Arabella.
-Well, not necessarily.
-In that case, do you mind if I play her?
-Lola was in the school play.
-Do say yes. It'd be the first decent thing to happen to me in months.
-Well, yes, all right.
-I suppose we should start by reading it.
-If you're going to be Arabella, then I'll be the director, thank you very much.
|Adam tends the Garden State|
Here it is Cecilia, our Eve, who metaphorically "eats first," diving into the Fountain of the unconscious in order to retrieve the fragments of the broken Grail (the Apple of Initiation). The hapless Robbie, our Adam, having glimpsed the unveiling of her Mysteries, follows into the depths.
Briony, the Sophia Above who does not involve herself in human affairs, watches from afar. Unfortunately for Robbie, she demands purity--a purity that will condemn him to an expulsion from Paradise.
Briony throws the Lovers out of the Garden State shortly after the first Coniunctio in the library. Here Cecilia, as a type of the Cross, is found "nailed" against a wall of books (impending Karmic debt) by our Christ-resonating hero.
When Robbie is falsely accused of the rape of Lola (the Fire to Briony's Light, played, suitably, by Juno Temple), he is subjected to the full force of the Curse of the Law and imprisoned (another frame job--it was the Shadow's doing, while he is innocent). We find that our characters are operating within Briony's mythological framework, as she writes--
Briony Tallis, aged 13: The princess was well aware of his remorseless wickedness. But that made it no easier to overcome the voluminous love she felt in her heart for Sir Romulus. The princess knew instinctively that the one with red hair was not to be trusted. As his young ward dived again and again into the depths of the lake, in search of the enchanted chalice, Sir Romulus twirled his luxuriant mustache. Sir Romulus rode with his two companions, northwards, drawing ever closer to an effulgent sea. So heroic in manner, he appeared so valiant in word... And no one could ever guess at the darkness lurking in the black heart of Sir Romulus Turnbull. He was the most dangerous man in the world.We do, indeed, find our protagonist diving again and again into the depths of the lake in search of a Grail--who is Briony herself. (Appropriate, for a "Salmon"!)
|Cut from a vision of Dead Girls to . . .|
In the book of The Lovely Bones, Susie Salmon is raped and dismembered, a clear reference, again, to the tikkun olam and Briony as the fragmented Grail, lost beneath the waters, in Atonement. And we do not have to reach far to suspect that there is something supernatural about Briony's character; Atonement directly compares her to God. It is she who is literally writing the story of our suffering protagonist from behind the veil, Stranger Than Fiction-style.
To continue with our narrative: Robbie has predictably fallen into the Dark Night of the Soul, and must fight his way out by going to war. He is kept alive by the dim promise of a better life ahead with Cecilia, who waits for him, but their prospects grow ever more dim. Robbie arrives at the beaches of Dunkirk, gasping, like the suffering savior, for water--but he drinks only the dregs of the cup of bitterness.
|Rubedo (a rosy cross)|
And here he would die, alone and miserable, swallowed up by the Abyss, if Briony were not now to intercede on his behalf and literally rewrite the story (reversing entropy) for the Albedo portion of our Mystery Play. As with Another Earth, she must atone for destroying the protagonist's life, offering herself in the services of purification.
|An ending rewritten|
Like Scott Pilgrim, he has an extra life. The only way to give them a happy ending was for her to alter reality.
"Come and find me."
In Hanna, our most recent film, we are treated to what is essentially Susie Salmon's resurrection.
Here, Hanna (Ronan) is quite literally the Homo Superior--she has super-DNA. She was born in a laboratory, i.e. another alchemical creation. Her Father (the Demiurge) adopted her and taught her everything he knows; she exceeds him in every way. They live at the North Pole, the capstone (Quorra). There is a Grimm's Fairy Tales motif throughout--Hanna is the Princess, the King's Daughter.
|The mouth of madness ("Grandmother, what big teeth you have . . .")|
Marissa (Cate Blanchett) is the Evil Queen of Maya, the Wicked Stepmother whose only goal is to enforce the Law. (We saw the red haired woman in black in the town of Morlaw in Interstate 60.) The Empire will not permit new information to enter the system (the Isos of Tron) and wants her dead. The Father was framed for the death of the Mother (Hanna looks just like her)--it was the Evil Queen again.
In the struggle between Grace and the Law, only one can live. The only way to kill her is to shoot her in the heart.
All of which, I think, shows that there is something peculiar about 14-year-old girls, and Ronan in particular.
Baby Grace is the victim
She was 14 years of age
And the wheels are turning, turning
For the finger points at me
But I have not been to Oxford Town
No I have not been to Oxford Town
Toll the bell
Pay the private eye
20th century dies
And the prison priests are decent
My attorney seems sincere
I fear my days are numbered
Lord get me out of here
But I have not been to Oxford Town
But I have not been to Oxford Town
Toll the bell
Pay the private eye
20th century dies
This is your shadow on my wall
This is my flesh and blood
This is what I could've been
And the wheels are turning and turning
As the 20th century dies
If I had not ripped the fabric
If time had not stood still
If I had not met Ramona
If I'd only paid my bill
At the farther extremity of this hall, approaching slowly towards him, Cadmus beheld a female figure, wonderfully beautiful, and adorned with a royal robe, and a crown of diamonds over her golden ringlets, and the richest necklace that ever a queen wore. His heart thrilled with delight. He fancied it his long-lost sister Europa, now grown to womanhood, coming to make him happy, and to repay him with her sweet sisterly affection, for all those weary wonderings in quest of her . . . for the heart-breakings that had made the whole world seem dismal to him over his dear mother's grave.
But, as Cadmus advanced to meet the beautiful stranger, he saw that her features were unknown to him, although, in the little time that it required to tread along the hall, he had already felt a sympathy betwixt himself and her.
"No, Cadmus," said the same voice that had spoken to him in the field of the armed men, "this is not that dear sister Europa whom you have sought so faithfully all over the wide world. This is Harmonia, a daughter of the sky, who is given you instead of sister, and brothers, and friend, and mother. You will find all those dear ones in her alone." (Hawthorne)
|Red Room (stepping out from beyond the Veil)|
There is a meta-narrative going on in Atonement, as we are introduced to the 18-year-old Briony, played by an actress who looks nothing at all like the younger Briony, with a scene where she comforts a dying soldier by pretending to be his long-lost lover. The film lies, and Briony lies. Another replacement for what was lost. Briony condemns our hero to death for reasons of purity; i.e. "the darkness lurking in the black heart of Sir Romulus Turnbull" (= "Robbie Turner"). But it is "his young ward," the seed of a new hero-consciousness, that actually attains the Grail. Thus the necessity of a division between old and new.
Kay Eiffel: Because it's a book about a man who doesn't know he's about to die. And then dies. But if a man does know he's about to die and dies anyway. Dies—dies willingly, knowing that he could stop it, then—I mean, isn't that the type of man who you want to keep alive?
“But . . . ” Harry raised his hand instinctively towards the lightning scar. It did not seem to be there. “But I should have died—I didn’t defend myself! I meant to let him kill me!”
“And that,” said Dumbledore, “will, I think, have made all the difference.”
|Don't look back|
-My God, we all thought you were dead.
-No, just in New Jersey.