Sunday, May 6, 2012

2001 analysis - part 52: Mann: The tension between containment and liberation


Above left: A view of Frank's car moving down a boulevard at night, from Michael Mann's Thief. (Frank is the name of the main character in Thief.) Note that the streetlights make the boulevard appear not unlike an airport runway at night. Mentioned in the analysis of Thief on this blog, are its several references to aircraft and flying - it is as if Mann is depicting Frank as some sort of 'metaphorical' jet pilot, one who never really 'takes off', i.e., one who remains earthbound. Also, in the comparison of Thief and Mann's Heat, in the Michael Mann analysis on this blog, it was observed that one thing being depicted via the symbolism in the two movies (taken together), is the tension each of us experiences between wanting to live a life free of restraints on the one hand, and yet at the same time desiring stability in our lives. Above right: Frank Poole listens to his parents' pre-recorded birthday message. Recall that Frank's father mentions that an administrative error in Frank's pay has been corrected, and that he should now start receiving his new higher salary. It is as if even while in outer space, at a great distance from Earth, Frank is still tied to 'earthbound' concerns. As an aside, Frank's 'skimpy' manner of dress in this scene is a hint from Kubrick, that Frank and Dave are having gay sex while aboard Discovery One.

From Man and His Symbols:

"We have been talking of wild birds as symbols of release or liberation. But today we could just as well speak of jet planes and space rockets, for they are the physical embodiment of the same transcendent principle, freeing us at least temporarily from gravity. In the same way the ancient symbols of containment, which once gave stability and protection, now appear in modern man's search for economic stability and social welfare.

"Any of us can see, of course, that there is a conflict in our lives between adventure and discipline, or evil and virtue, or freedom and security. But these are only phrases we use to describe an ambivalence that troubles us, and to which we never seem able to find an answer.

"There is an answer. There is a meeting point between containment and liberation, and we can find it in the rites of initiation that I have been discussing [The chapter author, Joseph L. Henderson, has been discussing the Eleusinian Mysteries and other ancient rites of initiation.] They can make it possible for individuals, or whole groups of people, to unite the opposing forces within themselves and achieve an equilibrium in their lives...

"Initiation is, essentially, a process that begins with a rite of submission, followed by a period of containment, and then by a further rite of liberation. In this way every individual can reconcile the conflicting elements of his personality: He can strike a balance that makes him truly human, and truly the master of himself."[a]

a. Man and His Symbols. Ed. with introduction Carl G. Jung. London: Aldus Books, 1964. p. 156.


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