Some jungy notes on dark city...
Memory is the mother of the Muses (creativity, active imagination, Art = the perception of the divine within us, the province of the soul). The Strangers as a split-off collective consciousness: they are looking for their lost soul, their connection with Nature. (If not soul, then Bruno's 'spirit' fx, mayhaps?) Without it, they perceive that their race of telepathic materialists can no longer exist (i.e. continue in time & space? Or better, have a meaning?) They study a stolen cross-section of humans, in a place where they can stop time (‘shut it down’; they do this with their collective will, the ‘tuning’, just as they can direct material things) and control all the variables of human existence, hoping to isolate that essential human quality that they have lost: Soul.
Soul equated with individuality. Love lasting beyond the ‘personality’= Platonic soul mate. God, I love it when Murdoch shatters the glass with his will and kisses her (a kiss, after all, is to join their life’s breath at its font, and we all know breath = soul), and the trance he is in with this realization of his deepest identity: the way he looks at her as they drag him off her.
"They needed an artist," the doc says in reference to himself and the work he does for the Strangers, i.e. the personalities/life stories he concocts for the human experimental victims. Artist = Creator and, as the Kabbalah advises, "Imitate the Creator" = a link with the scintilla, the glimmer of the divine within each of us (again, the soul).
The Strangers as our collective shadow: a soulless, dissociated collective: ‘Mr Quick’ dies, the quality lost for the whole? ‘Mr Book’ reading the ‘lives’ they ‘create’; the purpose of switching the memories/personalities is to define the variables and separate them out to find the essence of the human. A circle without closure (the Strangers) vs the (human) Jungian Self as ‘an intelligent sphere whose center is everywhere and circumference nowhere’. No light, no sun, no sea, in the dark city. The renegades question the Doc in the boat: "Where did we come from?" and he answers that he has forgotten. No one remembers. Our story, too.
So it falls to the individual to save the whole - with some help from the Artist-Scientist wizard (the Doc). And the individual has enough of his center left to do it. The final dark city is a city of light. It looks like the Dantean Rose of Light in space (just like the first pic on Hereward Tilton’s web page). When this Murdoch-Dante emerges from the Dark hellish wood, he finds his Beatrice/soul mate looking out on a bright sea like a river of light. Like the Clapton song, she ‘knows him in heaven’ (and this is the ‘heaven’ from the Thomas Gospels: ‘the kingdom of god is spread upon the face of the earth and men do not see it’. Well, some DO see it - and if you don’t see it here, you’ll never see it) even though she thinks they have never met. As he tells his shadow before he leaves the dark city, the specifics of the personality in the human are not what matters in each of us. It is what is in the heart.
Dark City: Reviewed by Maureen Roberts
I revelled in and am very impressed with this film, which deals in immense complexity - and with delightful artistic force - with science fiction’s two foremost issues: what is real, and what does it mean to be human? The film, which concerns a city’s induced amnesia by a parasitic bunch of dark aliens called ‘Strangers’, is undoubtedly destined to be slotted into the ‘film noir’ genre, along with Blade Runner and other ‘dark art as social comment’ movies. Dark City is a deft hybridization of a surrealist dreamscape and the kind of gloomy atmospheric consistency that made Blade Runner similarly impact and resonate on the mythic plane. Like Blade Runner, it’s also about human empathy and soul versus individual and collective soul loss.
In Dark City the central theme is (pre-Jungian i.e.) Platonic: the ‘loss of memory’ that we all suffer in having forgotten our original home and ground of being, in this case appropriately symbolized by the ocean. The challenge of the human characters is thus Platonic ‘anamnesis’ - the recovery of memory, or ‘re-collection’ as reconnection to lost soul. In this sense, one of the film’s opening, then recurring metaphors is perhaps the key: a goldfish bowl, belonging to the ‘hero’ figure, John, is accidentally shattered and we see the floundering fish gasping for air amid broken glass, then John carefully rescuing it and putting it in his abandoned bath of water.
The soul-robbing aliens, in a vain effort to discover what makes humans tick, are meanwhile busy erasing and replacing everyone’s memories, and dissolving and reforming the City at midnight to fit the swapped identities. John, an imaginative type, and his alter ego, another artistic guy who’s been driven mad by knowing what’s going on, are two of only three humans who know what the aliens are up to. Here, then, is a comment on firstly, the fine line between creativity and madness - its ablity to push the individual either way - secondly on the awesome burden placed on ‘those few who see what’s really going on’ (= ‘visionaries’, such as genuine artists)’: John survives and grows stronger, in other words, but his victimized alter commits suicide.
John keeps searching for his home, called (not surprisingly) ‘Shell Beach’. Again not surprisingly, no-one seems to remember where it is. John asks the advice of one ‘Uncle Carl’ (could this be an allusion to Jung?), a friendly old guy who lives in a fish-filled place called (wait for it!) Neptune’s Castle, but it proves to be a red herring (sorry, couldn’t resist the pun). All John can find is advertising boards, facades, saying, ‘Welcome to Shell Beach’. (Interestingly, another written sign that keeps reappearing is ‘Book of Dreams’). A fascinating figure - and the other of three humans who know that something fishy is afoot (double pun!) - is a limping, half-blind psychiatrist, a Hephaestus figure who is at first aiding the aliens, but later goes over to the human camp (again, another comment on the needed fate of psychiatry?)
Uncle Carl’s nasty alter ego is the cold old chief alien, whom John ends up battling with telepathically. John wins and is able to imagine (‘tune’) back into reality his home, Shell Beach, the sunlight which has been absent throughout the entire film, and his lost wife. (Again, there’s a visual and mythic resonance here with Blade Runner, which is similarly set in a ‘dark city’ void of sunlight; only at the end of the film do Decard and Rachel escape the dark clutches into sun-filled Nature, hence in both films the male-female union is inextricably melded with a reunion with Nature and with an escape from urban soul loss and dehumanization).
The Strangers revamp the familiar science fiction theme of the ‘soulless and dying alien collective’, a motif which films such as ‘War of the Worlds’, ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’, and ‘Village of the Damned’ deal with. A key statement at the end of Dark City is John’s comment to the last remaining alien on the Strangers’ failure to discover what makes us human: "You were searching on the wrong level" (here he points to his head). The Strangers have missed the human centrality of heart, soul and individuality, as is reflected in some of their names, ‘Hand’, ‘Brain’, ‘Book’.
In summary, owing to its rich tapestry of archetypal themes, Dark City is one film that would definitely reward repeated viewing by those who are intrigued by the role which science fiction plays as contemporary myth.
Blessings & Goldfish from the Event Horizon
As for Dark City, there was a complete absence of female Strangers, and I think that was the point. Classically, the Anima - soul - was always feminine (Jung borrowed this existing terminology). Part of the concept, then. And no opposites = no energy potential: the Strangers are doomed. (Metaphor, here, boys and girls.) Clearly, they have no understanding about the need to get in touch with their female side! But ultimately it is love that saves the dark city, and the female counterpart of John Murdoch is conceptually essential. So no, it wasn’t just Jane folding Tarzan’s socks, though she didn’t go head to head with Mr Hand.
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