Monday, September 25, 2017

Religion on Writers' Block (movie review)

Like many, I recently watched Mother!, a psychological thriller by Darren Aronofsky, still in theaters and already subject to a lot of religious interpretation. 

It's about a young woman who works on rebuilding a house, where she lives with a poet who's suffering from writers' block. Eventually he gets her pregnant and experiences a sudden breakthrough in his work, finally sending a new piece of writing to his publisher. After the book release, his fans start showing up at the house like the unstoppable waters of a flood. The woman passively watches her house starting to come apart as the crowd explodes into budding new cults in her husband's following. The time to deliver her baby arrives just as the madness turns into war zones. She manages to find safety upstairs and delivers her son: in the religious parallel, this baby is Jesus. 

The anticipated Lion King moment when the poet debuts his new son to the fanatic mobs downstairs is never shown to us (the audience), but the child is surely crowd-surfed to its death... and then to it's funeral... and then to the eating of its body and drinking of its blood. It's at this point that the woman -- allegedly representing mother nature or mother earth (hence the name Mother!) -- retaliates with violence. The poet (who is supposed to be God) typically reminds her of the importance of forgiving the people for their sins. 

How this film might strike as disagreeable to those with religious convictions may be obvious, but that's not necessary for dealing with the layers of disappointment stacked in its wake. From it's lack of resolve due to pure symbolism, its complete detachment from a storyline grounded in reality, to a deadpan performance by the lead actress, there are countless issues leaving audiences bewildered and skillful movie critics employed. In all the talk this work has generated, what offends me the most -- not so much as a movie goer, or even as a subscriber to any religion -- is the overconfidence communicated in understanding writers' block, a topic briefly explored in my last entry.   

As a writer, I find nothing more outrageous than the idea of God suffering from writers' block, a state that is barely understood in the context of the human condition. In Flare Guns for the Wordless, I attempt to describe it as a block partition on disk space where the filesystem behaves differently than at other parts of the brain. A subject initiates an action by interacting with targets in a system through a set of rules, and on writers' block the rules have changed, leaving the subject with less control over the data passing through working memory. 

An accurate description of writers' block can be found somewhere in the crosshairs of neuroscience and computer science, and only then can the system be hacked for better performance. But I must say, a filmmaker's ego maniacal perception of God's writing habits may seem interesting when considered against the last book sent by God in the form of the Holy Quran, which says in it's pages that it is the last of its kind and that no further books will be sent. 


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