12.14.2008

Shine: A Critical Commentary Part III

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

In many respects I wish I had been able to finish this critical commentary before the interview with CDO himself, because after these final entries there will be plenty of new, urgent questions. But alas, perhaps some mysteries were simply meant to exist as such, out of the purview of mere mortals.

What we do know is that Chris' rotting corpse has washed up on the shore, Shelley-esque, following the disaster at sea. Chris, at this point, is indisputably dead. We observe him entering the gates of heaven, and are treated to an image taken directly from the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel:
Owens' evocation of Michelangelo is playful, but also indicates Chris' imminent resurrection. The creation of Adam, a creature doomed to sinfulness, is thus reconfigured into a rebirth, which either hints at Mankind's ultimate salvation following the Last Judgment or posits Chris as Chirst (the similarity in names is too uncanny to be a fluke). Also worth noting is the arm of God, which is decidedly feminine. We have already observed Owens' fascination with images of feminine power, and this might be its ultimate expression in this particular video. The soul of Chris then exits his heavenly frame, assuming earthly form as the Angel (is this God?) looks on approvingly.

Following is the image, seemingly taken from a Friedrich painting, of a ghostly cemetery at night, complete with ethereal specters:

It is my contention that this image is, as is so much of this video, defiantly ambiguous. On one hand, Chris' work is not yet completed, so it is not absurd to assume that the Witches are involved in Chris' resurrection in some fashion. His body, presumably, was buried in a cemetery upon death, so it could be that the Witches are merely overseeing the process. However, judging from the hell that is about to descend upon this world, it is equally reasonable to see the Witches as engaged in some sort of occult ritual designed to awaken an ancient evil. In either instance I think it is a mistake to view the phantoms in the graveyard as anything more than arbitrary lost souls.

I think the former interpretation can find some support in the following shot, in which we see Chris literally baptized in fire. If the Witches are indeed somewhere between Good and Evil, it would make sense that Chris must pass through the flames of Hell in addition to the azure skies of Heaven in order to return to earth in corporeal form. We are then thrust back into the action, and witness numerous horrific acts being committed in the name of the Masked Villain. Most notably, a new enemy is introduced:

These thuggish fellows to the right owe something to the various ubiquitous villains of comics and cartoons: the Foot Soldier, the Putty, the masked and inept robbers of Batman. They exist, essentially, to be knocked about, never posing any particular threat but rather symbolizing a general disorder that isn't especially desirable. More effective is the montage sequence that follows - a horrific, rapid-fire vision of destruction on an epic scale. Threats include, but are not limited to: Dragons (I absolutely love that shot of their scaly silhouettes against the full moon), rabid dogs, skeletons with flaming ribcages, visibly irritated alligators, and possibly, just possibly, the Witches. They are represented in predictably unclear terms:

Riding away from the scene of carnage, their faces convey a confident stoicism. I think that ultimately they are indeed responsible for the surrounding conflagration, but it is, admittedly, a debatable point. The most fascinating aspect of all this is the following:

Given that Owens takes apparent delight in quoting iconic imagery, it seems quite clear that this is a clear homage to Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now. In a boldly revolutionary move, he recasts the Hueys as the indiscriminately destructive dragons: a veritable middle-finger to the U.S. military-industrial complex. Sandwiched among all the scenes of devastation is also a quick shot of Masked Villain carrying away an apparently unconscious Virtuous Babe. As I mentioned in an earlier post, part of the video's project is a somewhat reactionary (despite the leftist politics evident elsewhere) statement about the nature of love, which is figured in decidedly conservative terms. Here is another threat to the status quo, as Virtuous Babe is in danger of violating one of the terms of her appellation (Virtuous, not Babe). Chris cannot be made to love a "fallen woman," and thus the video becomes a race against time. Defeat Masked Villain before his love is deflowered by horrifyingly anonymous Masked Villain.

Before concluding Part III, I want to dwell for a moment on one more shot:

I don't know how many of you have lingered on this, but it clearly depicts a dragon hatchery - a breeding grounds of sorts. Incidentally, the vaulted Gothic arches may be the same interior space in which we first encounter The Captain. Will the assault on the hatchery be an inside job? Or were we merely peeking into the future? Additionally, the frozen hatchery ought to have us thinking about the ice comets again...

Don't you ever forget, LOVE HAS ENEMIES.

3 comments:

James said...

Sorry about jumping the gun on the dragons, Matt. I recognized the fleeting Nam imagery only for its sweetness, and did not even consider the deeper message that CDO was conveying. In the future, I'll try to leave these things to the pros.

Coaltrain said...

"defiantly ambiguous" -- that phrase pretty much sums up everything about C.D.O.

Quilliam said...

This is seriously blowing my mind

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