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Vanilla Sky

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  • lady_caritas
    Pursuant to a recent recommendation from a good friend, I finally got around to seeing the film, _Vanilla Sky_, on cable yesterday. Has anyone else seen this
    Message 1 of 5 , Aug 4, 2003
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      Pursuant to a recent recommendation from a good friend, I finally got
      around to seeing the film, _Vanilla Sky_, on cable yesterday. Has
      anyone else seen this movie? I thought it was quite full of Gnostic
      imagery and myth. I saw a gradual progression through hylic, psychic
      stages to a spiritual awakening for the protagonist, David Aames.

      David's friend, Julie Gianni, seems to represent the hylic nature,
      especially with her obsession with the material--preoccupation with
      sex, jealousy, and her feeling that the "body makes promises."
      Interesting though that from the very beginning of the movie, we see
      recurring motifs, offering pneumatic glimpses of things to come, such
      as the alarm clock programmed to say, "Open your eyes," a phrase
      repeated later... and the recurring theme of duality spoken through
      various characters, "the sweet is never as sweet without the sour."
      There are other interesting ideas to explore, for instance, the name
      David gives the Board, "The Seven Dwarfs," David's relationship with
      his friend, Brian, and much more that others here may want to comment
      on.

      After Julie's suicidal car accident, which leaves her passenger,
      David, disfigured, we see the impermanent, corruptible side of the
      material body. We begin to see David's anguish when forced to face
      what is real, the "sour" as well as the "sweet." Earlier, before the
      accident, at his birthday party, David has nonchalantly commented
      that he is "livin' the dream." Yes, he is at that
      point "asleep." ;) At the party he also meets Sofia, who becomes a
      pivotal savior (soter/healer) figure. She believes in David, and he
      believes he "actually deserved it." When he is with Sofia, he
      appears healed, no longer disfigured.

      David's "dream" world then begins to turn more nightmarish,
      especially after the accident. He wears a prosthetic mask,
      ostensibly to aid in his healing, which provides a false "face" to
      the world of appearances. His relationship with Sofia grows
      stronger, but then takes a turn when his state of mind becomes
      fragile and Sofia turns into Julie and then vice versa, ending in the
      disturbed David killing Sofia, mistaking her for Julie, in the heat
      of passion.

      I was reminded of a passage from _The Gospel of Truth_:
      "Thus they were unacquainted with the father, since it was he whom
      they did not see. Inasmuch as he was the object of fear and
      disturbance and instability and indecisiveness and division, there
      was much futility at work among them on his account, and (much) empty
      ignorance—as when one falls sound asleep and finds oneself in the
      midst of nightmares: running toward somewhere—powerless to get away
      while being pursued—in hand-to-hand combat—being beaten—falling from
      a height—being blown upward by the air, but without any wings;
      sometimes, too, it seems that one is being murdered, though nobody is
      giving chase—or killing one's neighbors, with whose blood one is
      smeared: until, having gone through all these dreams, one awakens.
      Those in the midst of all these troubles see nothing, for such things
      are (in fact) nothing."

      After being arrested, David recounts his story to a psychologist,
      Curtis McCabe. He becomes a "father" image. Curtis at one point
      says, "Show me your face. Help me open the door." But even this
      relationship is eventually shown to be a psychic imagining, a
      father "image." The psychic Curtis does not enter the pneumatic
      awakening with David.

      We are introduced to Edmund Ventura, the "tech support," who aids
      David in his rediscovery of what is real. He encourages David to
      calm down and gain control. David looking inside of himself
      encounters a bit of solipsism in his path. But he soon discovers
      that there is something greater than his own mind. There is
      a "cryogenic" outfit that Edmund works for that has arranged
      this "dream" life because David has really already "physically"
      died. The company, LE ("Life Extension") makes "lucid
      dreams," "living dreams"; they are involved in "revolution of the
      mind." Of course, David's dreams have become nightmares, and, being
      in a somewhat suspended state, he is ready to make a decision.
      Should he go back to his dreamworld or go forward and conquer his
      fear of heights?

      I'll admit that when the cryogenic theme first appeared early in the
      movie (via Sofia), I was somewhat taken aback at the introduction of
      what would literally be considered to be a material extension of
      life, but then at the end I viewed this as simply a symbolic avenue,
      partly because of a question the tech support asked David, "What is
      happiness to you, David?"

      Now, David had been asked this very same question before by his hylic
      friend, Julie, and the psychic "father image," the psychologist,
      Curtis. But in both the earlier instances, they hadn't waited for an
      answer from David, that I recall anyway (although I may be mistaken),
      before expounding their own views. Edmund, on the other hand, waited
      for David's answer, which was, "I want to live a real life." David
      had remembered another recurring phrase, "In every passing minute is
      a chance to turn it around."

      He leaps from the tall building housing "LE" and gains his freedom,
      now "dying" to both the physical and psychic bonds.

      To quote further from the passage from _The Gospel of Truth_ above,
      "Such are those who have cast off lack of acquaintance from
      themselves like sleep, considering it to be nothing. Neither do they
      consider its other products to be real things. Rather, they put them
      away like a dream in the night, and deem acquaintance with the father
      to be the light. That is how each person acted while being without
      acquaintance: as though asleep. And the person who has acquaintance
      is like one who has awakened. And good for the person who returns
      and awakens! And blessed is the one who has opened the eyes of the
      blind!

      "And the quick spirit hastened after that person when the person had
      awakened; having helped the one who lay prostrate on the ground, it
      made that one strong enough to stand up; for that person had not yet
      arisen."

      The movie ends, showing David's eye, and we hear the familiar voice
      of Sofia saying, "Open your eyes." The "quick spirit" of Sofia has
      helped the prostrate David once again? Are we seeing the lower or
      the higher Sofia here?

      Oh, I have gone on here, haven't I... LOL

      I'll stop for now, and let others agree/disagree with me and/or share
      some insightful ideas....


      Cari
    • Gerry
      ... got ... Gnostic ... psychic ... Yes, I did see the film one time straight through (and portions of it on two other occasions,) and was quite struck by the
      Message 2 of 5 , Aug 7, 2003
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        --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, lady_caritas <no_reply@y...>
        wrote:
        > Pursuant to a recent recommendation from a good friend, I finally
        got
        > around to seeing the film, _Vanilla Sky_, on cable yesterday. Has
        > anyone else seen this movie? I thought it was quite full of
        Gnostic
        > imagery and myth. I saw a gradual progression through hylic,
        psychic
        > stages to a spiritual awakening for the protagonist, David Aames....



        Yes, I did see the film one time straight through (and portions of it
        on two other occasions,) and was quite struck by the Gnostic themes.
        Ahhh, and how I DID love the voice of Sofía (via Penélope Cruz)!
        That gentle yet persistent prodding is something I'd like to program
        into my own alarm clock, but certainly not simply to avoid being late
        for work. ;-)

        I like how you noticed the progression of three states, but I found
        it quite difficult, myself, to keep up with the jumps in time. I was
        actually heartened to learn that in the original Spanish release,
        _Abre Los Ojos_, director Alejandro Amenábar also had reservations
        about the disjointed sequences. In the end, he agreed with co-writer
        Mateo Gil and opted for the more complicated presentation, instead of
        a linear approach, in order to avoid three separate stories that
        lacked cohesion. I gather he was merely talking about sub-plots
        there, but it works even better, IMO, when considering the three
        aspects of our nature.

        Having looked at what comments I could find from the writers and
        directors of both films, I'm not really convinced that the story was
        intended to be Gnostic, rather than simply an exercise in
        introspection and the quest for the nature of true love. Perhaps
        it's a matter of our being left somewhat in the dark since, all too
        often, directors are reluctant to spell out exactly what they feel is
        their inspiration (and intent) with a given film. From what I've
        seen, for instance, the Wachowski Brothers gave a downright cryptic
        response when asked directly about Gnostic influences in _The
        Matrix_. I guess no one wants to alienate other groups who relate to
        a film on their own terms.

        Still, the imagery is there. One scene I really enjoyed was actually
        hated by one of the reviewers I read. At the birthday party, Sofía
        is almost playfully passing her hand back and forth through a
        holographic image of John Coltrane. I'm not sure if the critic
        thought it was disrespectful or simply gratuitous, but when
        considering the character as Sophia, it seemed to me quite
        appropriate that she should be testing the "reality" of the jazz
        musician's "apparent" image.

        Among the observations you made during the film, did you notice more
        than one instance of a character asking, "Do you believe in God?" I
        know Julie asked David while they were in the car, but it also seems
        like David repeated the same question at a later time (I vaguely
        recall that from one of those groggy previews I had, but I forgot to
        pay attention for a recurrence when I finally saw the film in its
        entirety). I may have to watch it again just to see if the context
        of that reiteration (if it happened) has changed as well, in which
        case Julie's notion might have been more in line with the Demiurge,
        while David's might have been of a more transcendent deity.

        Overall, I quite enjoyed it, Cari. I'm already wondering about the
        themes to be found in _Pleasantville_. That will probably be next on
        my list, at least, as soon as it makes the rounds on digital cable.

        Gerry
      • pmcvflag
        Ok, my turn *lol*. I had seen this movie some time ago, but after Lady Cari s report I was forced to take a second look. This time, however, I cheated. I
        Message 3 of 5 , Aug 7, 2003
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          Ok, my turn *lol*. I had seen this movie some time ago, but after
          Lady Cari's report I was forced to take a second look. This time,
          however, I cheated. I watched it once straight through, then once
          with the director/screenwriter's comentary. My take.....

          My previous impression of the film had been to write it off as just
          another solipsist movie (a pet peave of mine), but I have rethought
          that... I do see some Gnostic elements. There is, most definately,
          the notion of awakening to an absolute reality that I had missed
          before (well, it was very late after a long party *cough*). I do not
          think that the writer intended any Gnostic elements, but that is
          sometimes the beauty of pop art.

          In fact, I use the term "pop art" very intentionally. Something I
          completely missed, even on this recent watching, until the director
          pointed it out in his comentary, was just how soaked with popular
          iconography this movie was. Many scenes in the movie were taken from
          other movies, album covers, song lyrics, etc. (for instance, once
          scene with Aames and Sofia walking together was actually a Bob Dylan
          cover). The director intended this to tie in with the very first
          scene of the movie in which Aames rund out into Times Square NY with
          no company but advertisements on the buildings... popular images. The
          director states that he is fascinated with the effect of popular
          culture on the psyche.

          I point this out because of how elements from Gnosticism can pop up
          in themes where none is intended by the artist. Is it a matter of us
          writing more into a plot than really exists? OR!!! Could it be that
          some elements have simply not died from western thought, and thus
          have a tendency to find exploration through mediums via distant,
          vague, or even subconcious influence of things that are rattling
          around in popular western thought to this very day.

          I was not able to pick out the movement through the three human
          states, the way Lady Cari did... I remain oblivious (nothing new
          there *lol*). I could however pick out the basic two elements of
          illusion vs truth. From the directors perspective the first part of
          the movie was truth, which then melded with the illusion that Cruz
          bought from the cryogenic company, which in turn opened back up into
          the truth of Aames waking up again at the very end of the movie.
          However, the waking up at the end of the movie, once again to a
          female voice (which, the director is careful to state, is a third
          voice not yet known to Aames... a nurse at the cryogenic company)
          stating much the same thing as the voice at the beginning of the
          movie, begs the question of whether we are starting over with the
          same kind of dream... I hope not *lol*.

          BTW, Gerry... I loved Pleasantville. It appeals to my Carpocratian
          tendencies ;)

          PMCV

          --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, "Gerry" <gerryhsp@y...> wrote:
          > --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, lady_caritas <no_reply@y...>
          > wrote:
          > > Pursuant to a recent recommendation from a good friend, I finally
          > got
          > > around to seeing the film, _Vanilla Sky_, on cable yesterday.
          Has
          > > anyone else seen this movie? I thought it was quite full of
          > Gnostic
          > > imagery and myth. I saw a gradual progression through hylic,
          > psychic
          > > stages to a spiritual awakening for the protagonist, David
          Aames....
          >
          >
          >
          > Yes, I did see the film one time straight through (and portions of
          it
          > on two other occasions,) and was quite struck by the Gnostic
          themes.
          > Ahhh, and how I DID love the voice of Sofía (via Penélope Cruz)!
          > That gentle yet persistent prodding is something I'd like to
          program
          > into my own alarm clock, but certainly not simply to avoid being
          late
          > for work. ;-)
          >
          > I like how you noticed the progression of three states, but I found
          > it quite difficult, myself, to keep up with the jumps in time. I
          was
          > actually heartened to learn that in the original Spanish release,
          > _Abre Los Ojos_, director Alejandro Amenábar also had reservations
          > about the disjointed sequences. In the end, he agreed with co-
          writer
          > Mateo Gil and opted for the more complicated presentation, instead
          of
          > a linear approach, in order to avoid three separate stories that
          > lacked cohesion. I gather he was merely talking about sub-plots
          > there, but it works even better, IMO, when considering the three
          > aspects of our nature.
          >
          > Having looked at what comments I could find from the writers and
          > directors of both films, I'm not really convinced that the story
          was
          > intended to be Gnostic, rather than simply an exercise in
          > introspection and the quest for the nature of true love. Perhaps
          > it's a matter of our being left somewhat in the dark since, all too
          > often, directors are reluctant to spell out exactly what they feel
          is
          > their inspiration (and intent) with a given film. From what I've
          > seen, for instance, the Wachowski Brothers gave a downright cryptic
          > response when asked directly about Gnostic influences in _The
          > Matrix_. I guess no one wants to alienate other groups who relate
          to
          > a film on their own terms.
          >
          > Still, the imagery is there. One scene I really enjoyed was
          actually
          > hated by one of the reviewers I read. At the birthday party, Sofía
          > is almost playfully passing her hand back and forth through a
          > holographic image of John Coltrane. I'm not sure if the critic
          > thought it was disrespectful or simply gratuitous, but when
          > considering the character as Sophia, it seemed to me quite
          > appropriate that she should be testing the "reality" of the jazz
          > musician's "apparent" image.
          >
          > Among the observations you made during the film, did you notice
          more
          > than one instance of a character asking, "Do you believe in God?"
          I
          > know Julie asked David while they were in the car, but it also
          seems
          > like David repeated the same question at a later time (I vaguely
          > recall that from one of those groggy previews I had, but I forgot
          to
          > pay attention for a recurrence when I finally saw the film in its
          > entirety). I may have to watch it again just to see if the context
          > of that reiteration (if it happened) has changed as well, in which
          > case Julie's notion might have been more in line with the Demiurge,
          > while David's might have been of a more transcendent deity.
          >
          > Overall, I quite enjoyed it, Cari. I'm already wondering about the
          > themes to be found in _Pleasantville_. That will probably be next
          on
          > my list, at least, as soon as it makes the rounds on digital cable.
          >
          > Gerry
        • Gerry
          ... not ... from ... Dylan ... Especially with Cameron Crowe s interpretation would we expect to find the immense infusion of pop-culture references (certainly
          Message 4 of 5 , Aug 8, 2003
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            --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, pmcvflag <no_reply@y...> wrote:
            > Ok, my turn *lol*. I had seen this movie some time ago, but after
            > Lady Cari's report I was forced to take a second look. This time,
            > however, I cheated. I watched it once straight through, then once
            > with the director/screenwriter's comentary. My take.....
            >
            > My previous impression of the film had been to write it off as just
            > another solipsist movie (a pet peave of mine), but I have rethought
            > that... I do see some Gnostic elements. There is, most definately,
            > the notion of awakening to an absolute reality that I had missed
            > before (well, it was very late after a long party *cough*). I do
            not
            > think that the writer intended any Gnostic elements, but that is
            > sometimes the beauty of pop art.
            >
            > In fact, I use the term "pop art" very intentionally. Something I
            > completely missed, even on this recent watching, until the director
            > pointed it out in his comentary, was just how soaked with popular
            > iconography this movie was. Many scenes in the movie were taken
            from
            > other movies, album covers, song lyrics, etc. (for instance, once
            > scene with Aames and Sofia walking together was actually a Bob
            Dylan
            > cover)....


            Especially with Cameron Crowe's interpretation would we expect to
            find the immense infusion of pop-culture references (certainly with
            the music), but since I still haven't seen the Spanish version, I'm
            not sure of the authors' original goal in that regard.

            Still, take a look at what Crowe's production designer planned for
            fleshing out David's character through his surroundings:

            "To that end, Hardwicke adorned the walls with reproductions of
            classic works by Balthus, Rothko and Matisse, as well as some
            evocative canvasses by local Los Angeles artists. Quirky personal
            items also accented the rooms, such as a hand-painted Jason Lee
            original skateboard, emblazoned with the image of David Bowie; a huge
            surfboard sculpture from Hardwicke's own collection; and an homage to
            Crowe's rock & roll past in the form of several guitars, including a
            smashed one, lovingly framed behind glass.

            "Tom and Cameron emphasized that they wanted to convey David Aames'
            vitality," Hardwicke says, "so we used sports equipment in a
            decorative way like this amazing, dreamlike painting of the side of a
            car by Robert Russell. The piece is just so indicative of everything
            that happens in the film, in terms of cars and driving, and I thought
            it kicked ass."

            http://www.cameroncroweonline.com/films/vanillasky/productionnotes.htm

            Well, between Bob Dylan and David Bowie, you once again can find
            lyrical themes that resonate with Gnosticism, and in the case of the
            latter, a musician who actually professes an affinity toward Gnostic
            thought. Was the skateboard chosen because it was sporty and "kicked
            ass," or to patronize fellow actor/artist Jason Lee, or were there
            unseen forces at work influencing people's choices without their
            being aware?

            The decision to include archetypal images is certainly deliberate,
            but one wonders if it's often in merely a psychoanalytical context to
            give a film's characters greater depth. You can easily find that
            introspective element in a movie like _Fight Club_, but for a film
            that's often referred to as "Gnostic," it seems to be quite lacking
            with regard to the mythos, as in something like _The Truman Show_.

            As for _Pleasantville_ then, I'm looking forward to seeing it,
            especially after learning that it all started with a red apple. ;-)

            Gerry
          • lady_caritas
            Thanks, Gerry and PMCV, for viewing the film again and offering some wonderful insights. I ll admit I didn t take the time to research or listen to
            Message 5 of 5 , Aug 8, 2003
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              Thanks, Gerry and PMCV, for viewing the film again and offering some
              wonderful insights. I'll admit I didn't take the time to research or
              listen to behind-the-scenes comments, partly because I initially
              wanted to see what impression the movie made on me with only my
              preconceptions before adding those of others. LOL

              It will probably be easier if I just copy and paste relevant pieces
              of your posts to respond to.

              Gerry (#8124) ~
              "I like how you noticed the progression of three states, but I found
              it quite difficult, myself, to keep up with the jumps in time. I was
              actually heartened to learn that in the original Spanish release,
              _Abre Los Ojos_, director Alejandro Amenábar also had reservations
              about the disjointed sequences. In the end, he agreed with co-writer
              Mateo Gil and opted for the more complicated presentation, instead of
              a linear approach, in order to avoid three separate stories that
              lacked cohesion. I gather he was merely talking about sub-plots
              there, but it works even better, IMO, when considering the three
              aspects of our nature."

              Yes, following the jumps in time requires a lot of concentration, and
              honestly, I didn't immediately unscramble a linear progression of
              three states, so much as I observed them in hindsight. Near the end,
              scattered pieces tended to fall together. I'll admit that although I
              interpreted the "subplots" as "three aspects of our nature," I'd
              agree with PMCV that it is not at all apparent that this was the
              writer/director's intention. And, even though a movie might contain
              Gnostic motifs doesn't mean it necessarily should be categorized as
              a "Gnostic" movie. As you say, Gerry ~

              "Perhaps it's a matter of our being left somewhat in the dark since,
              all too often, directors are reluctant to spell out exactly what they
              feel is their inspiration (and intent) with a given film. From what
              I've seen, for instance, the Wachowski Brothers gave a downright
              cryptic response when asked directly about Gnostic influences in _The
              Matrix_. I guess no one wants to alienate other groups who relate to
              a film on their own terms."

              Most certainly.

              (In an interview I skimmed ~
              http://www.warnervideo.com/matrixevents/wachowski.html
              The Wachowski Brothers admitted to being influenced by some Buddhist
              ideas in making the film, but when asked, "Have you ever been told
              that the Matrix has Gnostic overtones?"--their response was, "Do you
              consider that to be a good thing?" Ha! Gotta watch out for a
              backlash from those who might not consider Gnostic overtones to be
              acceptable if they are considered *heretical*!)

              Heh, sometimes I wonder if writers/directors even fully know wherein
              their inspiration lies. As you say, Gerry, maybe _Vanilla Sky_, is
              about the "quest for the nature of true love." This has been a theme
              in so much literature throughout the ages. Might this love include a
              spiritual component? Our unconscious nonrational side is not always
              so easily rationalized, especially if one considers possible
              archetypal motifs transcending time that PMCV addresses below. This
              would go beyond even conscious archetypal images deliberately used,
              as you suggest, Ger. The writer's/director's own psyches could be
              explored, too, regarding choices (for instance, the "nurse" I'll
              discuss later). ~

              PMCV (#8125):
              "The director states that he is fascinated with the effect of popular
              culture on the psyche.

              "I point this out because of how elements from Gnosticism can pop up
              in themes where none is intended by the artist. Is it a matter of us
              writing more into a plot than really exists? OR!!! Could it be that
              some elements have simply not died from western thought, and thus
              have a tendency to find exploration through mediums via distant,
              vague, or even subconcious influence of things that are rattling
              around in popular western thought to this very day."

              Ah, yes, and considering Gerry's comments about beliefs in God
              (#8124), I'm reminded of David being wheeled into surgery,
              singing, "What if God was one of us?..."

              PMCV, you had the benefit of listening to director comments (#8125) ~
              "From the directors perspective the first part of the movie was
              truth, which then melded with the illusion that Cruz bought from the
              cryogenic company, which in turn opened back up into the truth of
              Aames waking up again at the very end of the movie. However, the
              waking up at the end of the movie, once again to a female voice
              (which, the director is careful to state, is a third voice not yet
              known to Aames... a nurse at the cryogenic company) stating much the
              same thing as the voice at the beginning of the movie, begs the
              question of whether we are starting over with the same kind of
              dream... I hope not *lol*."

              I would hope not, too, PMCV. Is the director really listening to his
              own words? If David is "waking up again" to "truth" (as exemplified
              in the beginning of the movie), why is he waking up to the voice of a
              nurse at the cryogenic company? How on earth is the uninformed
              viewer supposed to even surmise that at the end without more
              background researching of source material or his directorial notes
              here? LOL Gosh, after just seeing the Sofia image in the last
              scene, my mind must have been playing tricks on me because the voice
              sounded so much like hers. But then I only saw the movie one
              time. ;-) I suppose I'd better review it, too. Nonetheless I am
              also struck by the idea that a *nurse*, a healer, was chosen to tell
              David to open his eyes, instead of the recorded voice by hylic
              Julia. Did the director have any further comments as to why this
              nurse was chosen? I wonder if we're possibly seeing an unconscious
              (soter) motif emerge or am I really stretching here. :-) A Gnostic
              interpretation would view the first part of the movie as reality, but
              not the only reality. A materialist would see a return to the
              material; however, a Gnostic version might include a spiritual
              reality at the end. And, as you say, PMVC, if not, are we
              only "starting over with the same kind of dream"? Is David in some
              kind of vicious cycle? A rather depressing thought, eh? David
              expressed that he wanted to "live a real life." I suppose a viewer's
              sense of reality might play a large role in reading that final scene.

              "Pleasantville"? I, like Gerry, will have to see this one,
              too. "Carpocratian tendencies," PMCV? Incorrigible you
              remain.... ;->


              Cari
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