Monday, July 28, 2008

The Dark Knight of Our Soul: Big Hurt/Little Comfort

Bravo. Here's a movie worth changing the background color of one's blog temporarily to match.
[48 hours later: I changed it back--the pale text against black background looks cool but it's too hard to read.]

This film does not back off from darkness and hurt, from saying, "It really is as bad as you think." The only comfort it offers is an antihero who can take it, on our behalf. (Which, of course, is not nothing.)
The movie asks, "Are people good or bad?" and it answers, "Yes."
Very dark, very conflicted, very satisfying.

(Momo posted the below poem as a song in the original Spanish: "En La Noche Oscura".)

From The Dark Night of the Soul

by Saint John of the Cross, 16th century, Spain

"Stanzas of the Soul"

One dark night,
fired with love's urgent longings
- ah, the sheer grace! -
I went out unseen,
my house being now all stilled.

In darkness, and secure,
by the secret ladder, disguised,
- ah, the sheer grace! -
in darkness and concealment,
my house being now all stilled.

On that glad night,
in secret, for no one saw me,
nor did I look at anything,
with no other light or guide
than the one that burned in my heart.

This guided me
more surely than the light of noon
to where he was awaiting me
- him I knew so well -
there in a place where no one appeared.

O guiding night!
O night more lovely than the dawn!
O night that has united
the Lover with his beloved,
transforming the beloved in her Lover.

Upon my flowering breast
which I kept wholly for him alone,
there he lay sleeping,
and I caressing him
there in a breeze from the fanning cedars.

When the breeze blew from the turret,
as I parted his hair,
it wounded my neck
with its gentle hand,
suspending all my senses.

I abandoned and forgot myself,
laying my face on my Beloved;
all things ceased; I went out from myself,
leaving my cares
forgotten among the lilies.

From THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ST. JOHN OF THE CROSS, translated by Kieran Kavanaugh and Otilio Rodriguez


Jennifer said...


I cannot tell you how much that poem has moved me. Truly, I can't. I've heard the song Loreena McKennitt made from it, but hadn't realized how lovely and erotic the original is.

TDK doesn't open here in wide release until the 9th, but there's a chance I might get to see it in limited release this weekend. I'll admit to being torn. Everyone I know and trust loves it, yet everyone also describes it as dark and unflinchingly harrowing about the human soul. Yet satisfying. I will be curious to see if I can appreciate that knife's-edge balance.

(I'm not going to have responses to this thread forwarded to me because remaining unspoiled has been a constant struggle and I'd hate to fail so close to actually seeing the movie!)

Rudyinparis said...

We saw it on Saturday night. I'm still blown away! It's so immense that I can't even think what to say about it except it was wildly wonderful.

fresca said...

Jen: Glad you liked the poem. (I'll e-mail this since you don't want to risk spoilers in comments.)

I see so many connections between modern media fanfic and Christian "fanfic"--this poem is basically slash, where St. John of the Cross imagines his soul as female and Christ as his lover, and in a very angsty way!

I should write an article myself, eh? But I'm satisfied with musing about it on my blog and e-mails. I think... (I have thought about looking into it more deeply though.)

I also wanted to say that this movie does not serve up Holocaust-level darkness, because, face it, you never forget it's a comic book.
So while the themes are real, the genre serves as some buffer, I find---which is one thing I like about sci-fi and comics, etc---they provide a way to approach horror, at a slant.

But it still blew me away, like R.

fresca said...

P.S. I mean, if someone had told me this was a dark-themed movie about Bosnia, I wouldn't have gone. But I knew I could take it in comic book style, and even enjoy the thrills of it, which are plenty.

The real-life horror that does underlie it is that Heath Ledger died soon after making it, and he's so, so good in it. And it seems so, so stupid that he died.

I haven't even seen "Brokeback Mountian" (I did read the terrific short story by Annie Proulx--there's a piece of writing!); I first liked Ledger in "The Four Feathers," which I watched when I was working on a book about Sudan (the story involves the Brits in Sudan in the 19th cent.).

Rudyinparis said...

Oh! It's about *Christ*. I'm a bit of a dumbbell when it comes to poetry. Did you ever watch the Sopranos? One episode has the son trying to write a high school paper on the Robert Frost poem, you know the one, "the woods are soft and snowy and deep... miles to go before I sleep" and he's totally baffled by it and his sister is like: Dude, it's about death. And he's completely confused. I'm like that.

And re: Batman, yes, it's enjoyable escapism, while a movie about Bosnia would be the opposite of both those things.

fresca said...

Hey, R:
You're no dumbbell, girl! There's no reason you would know this poem was about Christ, if you didn't already know St. John's work. It works as a poem of erotic longing without knowing its mystical side--I'm sure you got the main points!

Rudyinparis said...

It's a poem about erotic longing?!

I kid.