fantastic Cinema : solace mythological

The question of the mythology is crucial when it comes to anchor a narrative in the fantastic genre.

If the fantasy involves a progression of the protagonist in a strange world, flush with a series of events supernatural came over to shake his conception of reality, the story needs to ask a historical and cultural context pre-existing to the adventure experienced by the protagonist. The importance of treating this issue diégétique lies both in the need of likelihood as in the need to present a universe rich enough for that various elements come to play a crucial role in the progression of the plot, but they do appear out of nowhere – otherwise, the lazy mind of a screenwriter.


To understand clearly the mythology of a movie, we must ask an essential question : Who is fighting what…and more importantly, How ? Let’s take the example of a leading figure of the fantastic : the vampire. According to their culture, and their respective beliefs, the audience can imagine these creatures as members of a secret society working in the shadows for millennia, like the caste of the trilogy Blade… or the link directly to the name of Dracula, aristocrat transylvanien stripped of his humanity after an act of blasphemy in the middle ages.

However, if the lord of the tappers created by Bram Stoker has undoubtedly marked a century of cinema imprint on dental, some treatments of the character seem to me personally to be a misunderstanding as to the nature first of the vampire. For example, if Dracula is a vampire, in the historical sense, why is he afraid of the crucifix ? The vampires are at the origin of the undead from different cultures the slavs of eastern Europe, experiencing a huge growth in popular culture of this region of the continent after the fall of the roman Empire to the fifteenth century. Event which provoked not only a period of political instability, but also a weakening of christian influence. According to me, it is so absurd that a vampire could be afraid of a religious symbol such as the crucifix, since it is in essence an offshoot of pagan, defying with arrogance the faith and morals of christians.

The question then arises of weapons available to the protagonist of a fantastic account about a threat to supernatural, than either a vampire or any other figure, tangible or intangible. In the Face of an antagonist he had until then never thought to face in his daily life, and that most of the time shows to be immune to conventional weapons, cheques with lots of zeroes like the revolvers; and to what refuge cultural, what a comfort it is mythological character, can it move ?

The spirits cartesian are frequently roughed up by the fantastic cinema, because of their beliefs, scientists find themselves shaken by the irruption of phenomena that they cannot explain. In the long list of scientists losing their latin on the screen, there is a notable example of Dr. Jack Hughes in The Maker épouvantes of William Girdler. Supposed to pay for the surgery, the problem of physical and psychic Karen, the heroine, he is soon overtaken by the events, and this will finally be the psychic Harry Erskine and healer native american John Singing Rock to fight the spirit of the manitou who had taken possession of the body of Karen. By the means of those who customize these three doctrines, western medicine and modern opposed to spiritualism and animism, to finally bow before their authority over the plot.

In a way that is less violent, the conception of reality of Erin Bruner is changing due to paranormal events told in The Exorcism of Emily Rose de Scott Derrickson. The character of a lawyer, stating at the beginning of the film his skepticism about demonic possession, and saw a path schematic of the fantastic account, where it is for the protagonist to return to the path of faith, here, in the present instance, the catholic faith in which she was steeped culturally in his youth. In the case of the film of Derrickson, one should rather speak of a inclination of the most annoying, for the superstition.

A contrario from the film of Derrickson, where the antidote to the evil is to be sought in the foundations of christian culture and american; the approach of the filmmaker Robert Eggers on The VVitch may be called nihilistic, since the loss of the family of settlers seems to be as much the result of pagan practices as a kind of puritanism pushed to its paroxysm. Difficult to find a haven then, morale in the historical and cultural context of the story.


As we have seen earlier in the article with the example of a Maker of épouvantes, the comfort of the mythological lies not only in the practical christian and other traditions may come into play, depending on the geographical context and historical background of the film. In The Virgins of Satan of Terence Fisher, is the main protagonist, the Duke of Richlau, to be the guarantor of this cultural heritage and to enlighten the other characters on the pagan rites to perform in order to dispel evil, and those to be avoided not to worsen the situation. The wise and cultivated Richlau thus represents a hope for the contemporary world, with the comforting idea that in the face of an evil antediluvian that it cannot understand, there is a saving power just as old. In the face of the black magic, also powerful can it be, there is a remedy for that has been able to read and decrypt the books of spells of white magic.

However, this archetype of fighter of occult forces is not intended to be systematically opposed to the man of science fell into disgrace. The knowledge and skills areas can perfectly be combined, as shown by the nemesis of Dracula, professor Abraham Van Helsing. Doctor of business as it is presented to us in the adaptation of Francis Ford Coppola, Van Helsing began to cultivate himself to complete his scientific knowledge of gentleman Dutch, knowledge in vampirism, and in religious rites. The indestructible doctor can be considered both as a father of wisdom, and as a warrior backed by an unwavering faith in his mission. And thus it may appear also powerful thanks to its two statutes are complementary, and claim to be the only real opponent of Dracula, it is thanks to his open-mindedness towards the different philosophical beliefs, religious or scientific. Quality that allows him to become fully aware of the supernatural danger, when the other characters around him still refuse to question their conception of reality.

If this worthy fighter of the paranormal can assume the role of protagonist in the story, one could also cite in this category John Constantine, hero of the eponymous film by Francis Lawrence ; it may in other cases be of a character auxiliary to which the victim or witness to paranormal phenomena, comes to acquire the special knowledge. You can also meet several of these characters auxiliaries in the same story.

In to hell from Sam Raimi, the heroine of Christine’s request, and of the help, not to just one medium, but two, because of the persecution she has suffered from Lamia, a goat evil from the folklore of the gypsies, are so violent that Rham is the first medium that it consults, admits to being powerless. The latter thus passes the baton to Shaun San Dena, a priestess with psychic powers the largest and who has already fought Lamia in the past. That said, as powerful and wise seems to be Shaun San Dena, she will pay with his life for his fight against Lamia, but have failed to put an end to his persecution. Because, yes, the presence of a sorcerer or a démonologiste seasoned on the screen may provide comfort to a time for victims as much as the spectators, it does not imply, however, a victory assured in the face of the threat, nor a happy end.


Although a need for consistency in the work would require that the character of the auxiliary called belongs to the culture that has been able to name and identify the evil operating in this story, there are times when a writer blurs the tracks and to involve different cultures in the same film. And in The Exorcist of William Friedkin, when Chris MacNeil’s daughter Regan is possessed by a demonic spirit, she relies on the skills of the father Karras and father Merrin, both of which are members of the catholic clergy. After consulting with doctors and psychiatrists, Chris, neither a believer nor practitioner of any religion, considers catholicism as a last resort, because this religion has a protocol ritual in cases of demonic possession. However, this protocol is to hunt the devil of the body which it has invested, in other words, Satan as the figure of catholicism ; however, the introduction of the film, located in Iraq, leaves us rather to think that the evil that the father Merrin must face is in fact Pazuzu, king of demons in mesopotamian mythology.

Therefore, it is difficult to know if the rite practiced in The Exorcist is a confusion between the various mythologies, or mix assumed by these authors from all forms of beliefs, because the dread and the discomfort aroused by the film, Friedkin is based precisely on this uncertainty. No matter what name we give him, the evil would be before all the trouble, would operate everywhere on Earth its power of nuisance, and could be well represented by a statuette mesopotamian that under the features distorted from a child’s point of martyrdom.

But when it comes to involving multiple crops within the same narrative, the writers do not choose necessarily the bokeh of the Exorcist; I would take it back and the example of a Maker of épouvantes. Here the passage from one culture to another is clearly stated, and even constitutes a decisive turn in the plot. Harry Erskine, presented more as a crook than as a true medium at the beginning of the film, a practice in town cartomancy with all the decorum folk in order to convince its clientele that it is effectively masters the art of divination in the south of Europe. When the evil that hit his girlfriend Karen is identified as being a manitou, the evil spirit of the native american culture, Harry joins logically its forces to that of a guarantor of this heritage, John Singing Rock.

Case even more striking in this concept of cultural cross-fertilization, that of The Prophecy by Gregory Widen, where there are also elements of amerindian mythology, from interfering in a universe based on any other belief. The protagonist Thomas Daggett is a former catholic priest-turned-police inspector in Los Angeles, uncovering the bend of a survey that the angels described in the three major abrahamic religions really exist. To prevent the angel Gabriel to start a war divine on Earth, Thomas travels to Arizona where is Mary, a girl whose role could be decisive in this war. And the denouement of the film lies not in an emblematic place of the angéologie, but in a sanctuary of native where hope is placed in the rites of the shamanic.


The refuge of the protagonists and the comfort of the spectators can therefore focus on the mythologies of well-known and representative of the diverse cultures of our world; but an author can also choose to compose its own mythology, like Ray Bradbury, writer of the Fair of The darkness. Will and Jim, the protagonists of the film, Jack Clayton are two children, braving the mysterious Mister Dark, who came to corrupt the inhabitants of a small american town. If the story does not take religious symbolism explicit, we can obviously consider the antagonist as an emissary of the devil, or an incarnation of the prince of darkness in person. The fact that Bradbury has located this story of initiation into a few days to Halloween and that he attaches so much importance to the atmosphere strangely poetic and twilight of this period of the year, helps us to understand his plan to create a pagan mythology made up of various baroque elements, made all the more impressive by the point of view of its young heroes : the parade of dwarfs and fairground, the witch, taciturn played by the icon of the afro-american Pam Grier, the arena that allows you to go back in time etc…

The strange events that come to disturb the quiet life of the protagonists seem to belong to a vast plan of cosmic, pre-defined by the pagan deities of which no one suspected that when the wind turns, that the coming of a dealer in lightning rods precedes that of the funfair in town, and that the announcement of grim omens. Tom Fury, the merchant of lightning rods almost as intriguing as Mister Dark, will prove to be at the outcome, the benevolent god capable of putting the opponent out of harm’s way. Clever twist storyline that helps compensate for the fact that it would have been implausible that Will and Jim, despite their courage and their goodness, can overcome such an opponent. Here is a comforting mythological in which the audience as the characters are aware that at the end of the story.

I could continue this reflection without mentioning the work of the british writer, Clive Barker, whose passionate relationship with the cinema was particularly successful in the early nineties. I must mention two movies that diagram narrative presents an interesting evolution of the comforting mythological : Cabal , adapted from the novel of the same name by the author himself, and Candyman directed by Bernard Rose. At the beginning of the Cabal, Aaron Boone, the protagonist dream frequently of a city named Midian, who frightens her as much as she fascinates because it ignores everything this place unreal, its history and its geographical location. As draw its trajectory existential, Aaron learns to find his place in the community of Midian, to become the leader at the end of the film. In Candyman, it follows Helen Lyle, a student of sociology in its investigation of the boogeyman, which gives its title to the film, urban legend legacy of the past segregated Chicago. A classic hit the fantastic cinema, Helen is therefore looking for trouble, and ends, of course, the find, to the point of becoming in the end an iconic part of the myth that she was studying, which is a shame for a sociologist.

Thus, we have two films that have a common concept of where what appeared initially as a threat to be overcome is, in the end, the fulfillment of existential protagonist. If Aaron and Helen are both facing their death, this ultimate sacrifice can be seen as the objective logic of their respective quests, and they eventually learn to overcome their weaknesses of mortals to become themselves an integral part of their own consolation mythological.

The concept of Barker has come full circle, then ? Not quite, because one can pursue the question of mythologies by extending it to the framework of franchises, a series of stories using a common universe. Therefore, the mythology nourishing the suites and the spin-off is not the result merely of the different cultural heritages from different periods and civilizations ; but by means of logic, it is also the first film of the saga. The authors of this first film pose in their story, references to a universe that is referred to as ” canonical “, and subsequently the talent of the writers and directors of opus, the following will be assess according to their ability to cope with these guns diégétiques, to prove that they have understood, assimilate, and that they can now propose changes and extensions to be consistent.

The most fun we is undoubtedly of the tetralogy Scream created by Wes Craven, into the abyss fun of the codes of the slasher, which begins with the first film where the character of Randy Meeks lays down explicitly the rules in order to survive in this type of story. As if she was aware of being the protagonist of a fiction, and Sidney Prescott watch in the third installment of the video will Randy, in order to remember this set of rules, that is, in the end, the comfort mythology, preventing it from admitting defeated in the face of the masked killer.

We can consider the saga Scream as the precursor of the current trend of ” meta “, where a movie, aware that it happens after a century of horror films and centuries of literature related to the genre, offers in the layering of his narrative, a discourse on the story. It can go the self-deprecating accomplice like in episode 3 surrealist of the tenth season of X-Files, on the question of the recurrence and the likelihood of the codes of the genre horror, thanks to what The Cabin in the woods from Drew Goddard reflects on the role of this kind of film in our societies. To the extent that our cultural heritage will be enriched by narratives, universes, and speech meta on these stories and these worlds, the possibilities of comfort of the mythological will therefore be mechanically multiplied.


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