12.10.2008

Shine: A Critical Commentary Part I

See other posts in the "Chris Dane Owens" series.

First of all, a big thank you to Mr. Beers for his brief gloss on Shine. It ought to serve as a fitting introduction to anyone unfamiliar with Chris Dane Owens' oeuvre. As someone who is both heavily emotionally invested in Mr. Owens' work and semi-professionally employed in the industry of criticism, I would like to offer my own reading, as it were, of Shine. I will offer a fairly comprehensive interpretation of Shine, and follow it up with potential critical problems for which I still need solutions. This is intended to be, ultimately, a blog-wide effort.

Addendum: I will not be regarding the lyrics as being in any way related to the imagery of the music video. If you can find some way to reconcile the two in any meaningful way, you deserve the utmost admiration of us all. Additionally, this is only Part I of the analysis - Parts II and III will be along shortly.

To begin with, Chris Dane Owens presents us with deliberate Dickensian echoes: "A Time of Darkness" and "A Time of Light," paired devastatingly next to one another. I think quite a bit of the critical confusion that this video occasions is a result of Owens' fascination with paradox. "Who are the good guys?" and "Who are the bad guys?" are not always operative questions in a universe as complex as that of Owens. At the same time, as if to taunt the would-be critic, Owens posits a "crusade," which denotes an undertaking inspired by a particular cause, thus inviting the viewer to engage in very sort of binary thinking already having been rejected.

Several gorgeous shots of natural beauty follow, and we soon encounter our ostensible hero, played by none other than Owens himself (with a mustache, so as to not confuse him with the singer himself, though I will, for convenience's sake, refer to him as Chris). Chris, delicately prancing about in a babbling brook, encounters Virtuous Babe, who finds herself enraptured with Chris after he performs a stunt involving his horse leaping over a log. In a scene establishing the rather medieval gender politics of our setting, Chris then chivalrously seats Virtuous Babe on his steed, and leads them daintily through the stream.

Importantly, note the brief shot of the schooner around this point - this temporal aberration is known as "foreshadowing" for those of us in the business of literary criticism. Underscoring the ominous tone is the diptych that follows:

The image is literally riven in two - an inauspicious sign to say the least, pointing unmistakably at a future separation. After more prancing, the romance is boldly subverted: Chris is braving a volley of ice-comets with only a shield to protect him, three threatening women approach bearing blades, and a masked villain confronts Chris and Virtuous Babe in the magical wood. I will return to the ice-comets later, but I want to first discuss the Three Witches, as I will call them.
Part of Mr. Owens' project, I would argue, is a feminist reevaluation of Tolkein. The stances and costumes of the Three Witches here undeniably mimic those of the Black Riders in Peter Jackson's films. But the Witches have an almost unfathomably long genealogy: the Weird Sisters of Shakespeare's Macbeth, the Fates of Greek mythology, the Norns of Norse legend, the list goes on and on. What tethers these various trios together is the power of foresight, often coupled with an ability to manipulate fate. Keep this in mind.

Exhibiting an almost obsessive fondness for medieval aesthetics, Owens then employs a triptych framework for his next shot:

On the left, our masked villain, shrouded in flames. In the middle, the foremost of the Witches. To the right, an unknown figure, but one who bears an unmistakable resemblance to Chris. The key here is that the face is superimposed over a graveyard. The sepulchral imagery once again gestures towards a gruesome foreshadowing. The Witch, appropriately then, is situated quite literally "beyond good and evil."

After a rather unsatisfying fight scene with Masked Villain (he is defeated with a mere punch), yet another mysterious figure it thrust at us through yet another triptych: the angel. Her positioning on the far right, so as to be opposite Virtuous Babe, suggests potential discord between the two. The implication is that they both may be vying for Chris' love and affection. Further complicating things is the following shot:

A mirror image of the Three Witches, it is absolutely critical to note that THESE ARE NOT THE THREE WITCHES. These are an entirely different set of beings with entirely different intentions and priorities. We are certainly urged to consider their relationship to the Three Witches (about which I will have more to say), but do not confuse the two. Anyway, the Masked Villain having been temporarily vanquished, Chris and Virtuous Babe are free to smooch in the wood and jog through the snow once more...though dragons are on the horizon.....

With that, I will conclude Part I. I'd appreciate any thoughts you have thus far, but otherwise, make sure to check out Part II, which I will post tomorrow.

Remember, LOVE HAS ENEMIES.



2 comments:

Andy said...

Matt, your effort to both summarize the plot and offer analysis is herculean to say the least. If you can sustain this level of analysis throughout the entire story -- well I will buy you a beer, as you'll have done something for humanity. Not unlike unlocking the human genome. Otherwise you owe me a beer for getting my hopes up.

Leaves n' Leavin' said...

I am at a loss for words.

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