Kiki’s Delivery Service – To Sell Ones Soul

Thoughts On: Kiki’s Delivery Service (魔女の宅急便, 1989)

After coming of age, a young witch ventures to find her place in a new city.

Kiki’s Delivery Service is a simple, yet heart-warming tale from Studio Ghibli that was the first to be distributed in partnership with Disney. The aesthetic approach taken in this film is predominantly a showcase of classical near-realist animation that is similar to that seen in Castle In The Sky (especially with the capturing of European landscape and architecture) and so may have been recognisable to Western audiences as a product of the ‘Japanese Disney’ (which Studio Ghibli is so much more than). There is nonetheless a strong sense of the elements – especially the wind and the weight of gravity – throughout Kiki’s Delivery Service that clearly mark this as a uniquely Ghibli film. Furthermore, there are common tropes of Japanese anime, such as the mahō shōjo, the magic girl, integrated into this story that are strongly bound to the film’s cultural context. So though, aesthetically and commercially, Kiki’s Delivery Service feels somewhat Disney-esque, this has an overt Ghibli stamp of quality and character.

Looking at the narrative of Kiki’s Delivery Service, we can see one of the most prominent Ghibli tropes executed in almost iconic fashion: the strong female protagonist. In many ways, this film is aimed almost solely towards young girls as a tale of independence and growth. And we see this articulated through numerous female figures, female-centric themes of freedom and meaning and, as attached to this, symbols of femininity such as pregnancy, birds and flight.

Superseding almost everything concerning femininity and drama in this film, however, is subtlety. In iconic female, or feminist, films, for example, Thelma and Louise, physical conflict is emphasised as to comment on the strengths of women in juxtaposition to the portrayal of the strong man; he who can fight off a 100 bad guys at once. This is a trope that is becoming increasing more familiar when we look to modern American blockbusters such as Avengers, Logan, Star Wars and Mad Max: Fury Road that sell the idea that ‘women can kick ass too’. Contrasting Kiki’s Delivery Service to these male films with females carved into them leaves Miyazaki’s narrative with an overwhelming sense of genuity that the mentioned films (and many of those alike) lack. And this sentiment is true of the multiple levels of Kiki’s Delivery Service, from the formal to the aesthetic to the narrative to the subtextual. Manifested at each of these levels of analysis is a natural and genuine sense of femininity and conflict. And it is this that lies at the heart of this narrative’s affecting abilities; there is no sense of manipulation, only story.

The story that is told with this wonderfully natural tone is one of discovering how to become a unified, functional adult. In such, this narrative sees Kiki go out into the world and act as the best person she can possibly be; she sacrifices her time and energy for others and in turn finds a place in a new community – and this point is made with contrast to the many ‘stuck up’ girls Kiki encounters. Kiki’s journey to sustain this higher being is detailed through the founding of her Delivery Service with her witchcraft seemingly representing naivety. We can come to understand Kiki’s powers as deriving from childishness because of the joy they represent and the imagination that they project; consider flying as a joyous act and talking to her cat as almost having an imaginary friend. But, what we see as Kiki’s powers become a functional job is her abilities beginning to wane. In such, she not only loses the ability to fly, but her talking cat becomes a normal cat.

At this point the her three mentors, one young, one middle-aged and one old, become more significant. In such, Onso, the pregnant baker, comes to represent responsibility and her job; Ursula, the young artist, comes to represent self-discovery and independence; and Madame, the elderly lady, selflessness and compassion. These are three traits that Kiki bares from the start of the narrative, but once she finds her stable job, she becomes fatigued in these respects. These three figures then teach her how to be taken care of – Onso looks after the sick Kiki – how to desire – Ursula and Onso seemingly spark Kiki’s interest in Tombo – and how to accept payment for ones work – not only is Kiki payed by her mentors, but she gains friendship and care.

Having learned these things, of the social push and pull, give and take, of her core personality traits, Kiki’s fatigue begins to wear away. However, she can only again fly when she has to save Tombo. This act of accepting another’s compassion, of following ones own moral compass and risking oneself signify Kiki’s growth and unification as an individual because she realises that who she is is not trapped within the domain of her own body and mind. What Kiki learns by the end of her story is that, to become an adult, one needs to split their being into other people and thus live with their community, friends and family as horcruxes, or soul containers, of their true being.

This conception of one’s self as fragmented amongst others is a profound and classical idea that mirrors the notion that true social living is about sacrificial acts forming a network of exchange; if we give our time and energy to deliver someone’s mail, we nurture an environment in which everyone, in a way and to varying degrees of intensity and distance, takes care of one another. What adds greater depth to this assertion of Kiki’s Delivery Service’s narrative is the fact that a symbol of naivety – flight – is returned to Kiki once she has learned this whilst she remains deaf to her talking cat. What this suggests is that naivety is a gift and a reprieve that we must earn by sacrificing ourselves to preserve someone else’s naivety whilst an over-active imagination is a kind of childishness that will not support a practical (non-artistic) person. After all, the complete opposite of naivety is hyper-awareness, or over-imagining, which leads to anxiety, dread and stagnation. Such an idea is referenced through Kiki losing her powers; she is overwhelmed by the reality she perceives as a new adult and stumbles into an artistic or spiritual block. This is because she hasn’t yet fully accepted the give of the ‘give and take’ societal structure around her and so only sees the demands of society, not its charity.

Once Kiki naively blocks the looming existential vacuum that is being (which can be defined as consciously and slowly dying once we pass our prime or enter adulthood), she not only realises greater meaning in life as attached to friends and family, but can enjoy being. And such is one of the greatest tricks our minds play; we forget the dangers and potential disasters of being itself and manage to live fulfilling, joyous lives (when we don’t stop for a moment with fear, depression and anxiety).

In capturing and articulating this beautiful and melancholic truth, Kiki’s Delivery Service transcends the average coming-of-age film by not focusing on the winding path that a pre-adult must walk, but the ultimate goal before their eyes. Moreover, this narrative transforms the idea of being a witch, almost as Dreyer does with Day Of Wrath, giving new meaning to ‘selling your soul’. If you have not seen this film, I then wholeheartedly recommend it. If you have, what are your thoughts on all we’ve talked about?

 

 

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Who Is Cinema For?

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Who Is Cinema For?

Thoughts On: Cinema & Its Audiences

Today we will be looking at ourselves as those who consume film.

Who Is Cinema For? This is a question I’ve been asking myself quite a bit recently, and whilst there is one definite and obvious answer (everyone), this question opens up many avenues of thought which ultimately have us turn to the century-old question: what is cinema?

The invention of moving images is for everyone as a consequence of it being a commercial, mass produced art of engineering born out of an industrialised age. However, whilst cinema was born as a commercial trick and a feat and tool of scientific interest, it became an art. But, in becoming an art, cinema did not, and could not (for films are too expensive to make), become an entity for the privileged few. The cinema of common definition – the films that could be seen in theatres or at festivals – has then always bore a tension between art and entertainment. And thus cinema has conservatively evolved, by virtue of its capitalist features, as a somewhat democratised art, fuelled and funded by audiences, culture, studios and artists. This does not mean that all audiences see all kinds of films, however. Rather, a person’s view of what cinema is is often defined by genre preferences and marketing; we seek out the films that we think we will like and we watch the films we are put into contact with. This may leave the average person having seen all of the films they thought to be interesting on Netflix or in the theatre whilst they are in a constant search for the next cult horror film. (‘Cult horror’ can be replaced with any niche genre that people who have an interest in films form an affinity for).

If this rings true, if people only look for specific films they like and watch what is put in front of their faces, the cinematic diet of the average person who loves, or just likes, film is a microwave meal with a weird concoction of their own design on the side. So, if cinema is for everyone, and most people see cinema through such a lens, what is, speaking generally, cinema?

It would be pointless to try and construct a specific definition whilst we are speaking so generally, but it seems quite evident that cinema is defined by pleasure and attraction. In such, the democratic answer to what is cinema? would fall somewhere along the lines of: cinema is moving pictures of various genres, but mainly the ones you like, starring the actors you know and like, that form stories that transport your imagination or rattle your senses a little. This is the kind of cinema that you will see reviewed across the internet, on television, in magazines, newspapers, etc. As we all could recognise though consuming this content, films are judged on their predictability, actors and how they make us feel. There are probably a few more specifications – many reviewers will delve into direction and aesthetics also – but these are what most reviews hit upon. This implies that cinema is generally judged and perceived as basic entertainment that can sometimes strike you with whispers of profundity, but is mainly centred around ideas of celebrity and sensory manipulation.

There are two key problems with this definition of cinema. The first concerns scope. For most people, all the films they see are pretty familiar; almost all will come from Hollywood and/or their own country of origin. But, when cinema is allowed to be defined by often one culture, for example, American culture – more specifically, American culture as filtered through Hollywood studios – it becomes very easy to see it as one specific entity. And in regards to the prevalence and influence of American culture on cinema, with cinema as a Hollywood product, there is no wonder why most people see it as just plain entertainment. Though this isn’t universally true, the American film industry has always operated as an entertainment business. Great art has come from American cinema, but often under the guise of being entertainment. For example, we could look to the films of Disney and Pixar – which we have delved into in almost exhaustive depth with the Disney series. Though there is depth in the stories that are told by these companies, these films are generally considered family movies that entertain. At most, people will know of ‘hidden meanings’ in these films (as well as a plethora of other Hollywood classics), but, the idea of a ‘hidden meaning’ in a film is itself a mere novelty – at least, this is how its presented and consumed. When cinema is defined by one culture and its perception of film – as is the case in the modern day with Hollywood largely defining what cinema is – the idea of cinema, film or movies becomes watered down to a useless dogma.

The problem with familiar film consumption is then that, simply put, the potential of cinema is not demonstrated or realised. If you then put a Russian silent film, a 50s Swedish picture, a Bollywood and a Nollywood movie in front of a cult horror purist, their idea of cinema would be challenged greatly. This is because they’d see a kind of cinema defined by vastly different individuals, cultures and time periods than that which they’d be use to. Resultantly, they’d have to alter the way in which they watch these movies and so would also have to alter the way in which they see cinema. If anything, questioning cinema in such a way would provide the opportunity for a more genuine general definition of cinema to be formed, one that would ultimately reflect the potentials of cinema, not just our expectations. And this itself (if the average audience member saw film with more scope) is so important because we would give cinema and filmmakers the opportunity to evolve and expand within the ever evolving definitions of cinema; we’d, in all hope, get films born of a much more vast set of rules and conventions: unfamiliar and new films.

There is nonetheless another problem with the way in which cinema is perceived. Whilst the virtues of widening the scope of cinema are limited to an idea of greater freedom and potential in cinema, seeing greater depth in moving pictures would transform the whole art (as we consume it, not necessarily as it is created) into something far more profound. As a result, we’d not just get new films, but see film to be so much more than entertainment; we’d see cinema for what it truly is and can be.

Art, if we were to squeeze out as simple, yet accurate, of a definition as we could, is communication that requires some kind of window or frame to occur. For many arts, such as dance, opera, theatre and stand-up comedy, this frame is a stage and a crowd of sorts. Other plastic arts, such as painting, sculpture, architecture and film, need specific materials like stone, wood, canvas, celluloid or a virtual version of these things manifested with a computer. With these tools or environments as frames for communication between and artist and their audience, we can understand art to merely be an exchange of ideas. When we come to cinema and consider that this communication is mainly perceived as the exchange of fun stories or stories that emotionally effect you or liven your imagination, we can see little meaning attributed to the communication. In such, the art, the communication, of cinema is only defined be its ability to waste time. However, by changing the way in which we see the depths of cinema, we can see the art to fill time with more than emotional experiences, but genuine and articulate experiences of meaning.

To see cinema as a medium of storytelling in which the communication is meaningful heightens the importance of the form. And, through this, films would not be judged by their ability to waste time or fill it with various forms of emotional masturbation, but actually say something of worth; not something we think needs to be said or would like to hear, but something that is determined and given worth by the film’s artist, culture and temporal context.

Before we go into unnecessary depth, it should be simply stated that there is a problem with the way we generally see cinema as entertainment that comes out of Hollywood. It is because we don’t see cinema with some understanding of its genuine scope through seeing films from different cultures, time periods and of different or experimental forms, that cinema is defined as basic entertainment. And it is because we do not see depth and importance in cinema’s ability to tell stories that this entertainment is primarily reduced to meaningless emotional manipulation. However, why, if cinema is so vapid and masturbatory and we – people in general – are not so simple-minded, should so much money and time be spent on its consumption?

This question can be perceived as a rhetorical one that would grant the assumption that I think we should all spend our lives watching every film ever made and contemplating their infinite depths endlessly. This would be a rather pointless assertion to make as most people don’t watch that many movies and haven’t the time to study them. This makes it acceptable to a degree that people perceive cinema as entertainment. However, if it makes sense that cinema should not be defined so simply, we are left turning back to our initial question of: who is cinema for?

If cinema is more than basic entertainment, then is cinema just for the few who go to university or college to get a Phd in the subject? Is cinema only for those who have seen 100s of movies from all over the world? Is cinema only for those that have made films? Is cinema only for those who can write about its depths? Should there be tests put in place to question our film knowledge before we are allowed to see movies unsupervised?

These are all terrible questions. Cinema’s virtues are found in its ability to entertain and appeal to endless cultural and individual sensibilities. Cinema should not just be a form of intellectual and historical expression – at least, I wouldn’t be too interested in cinema if this is all that it was. Cinema, in my view, is the greatest art people have yet invented because it is one that is so naturally consumed, yet, with time, patience and attention, can also be incredibly profound and an effective educational tool. As a result, cinema can and should be for everybody. There is nonetheless the issue of ‘everybody’ defining cinema as a lesser than it is.

To see cinema as ‘just entertainment’ is like using the internet to just watch porn and fail videos, using fire just to destroy stuff or using wood just for toilet paper. Using the internet I assume that practically all people (whilst they watch the odd fail video or bit of porn) educate and better themselves – even if this is just Googling the definition of a word you didn’t know, finding a news article or reading a paragraph from a Wikipedia page. So, just like we use the internet as an multifaceted tool, just like we use wood to make books, buildings, furniture and a plethora of other constructs and just like we use fire to melt metals, cook food and create a myriad of other things, we should be using cinema as a tool to better and expand ourselves. People already do this in some way or another with documentaries and television shows that teach them something. However, generally speaking, TV and the internet – whilst they are moving picture machines and where we watch many of our documentaries – aren’t cinema. Cinema is a term we reserve for narrative and non-narrative moving pictures–films or movies–not singularly attached to the internet or TV (this means that TV moves and Netflix originals are still cinema – even if they are usually pretty bad examples of the form). Not utilising cinema – the things you see in a theatre – as you do the internet, wood or fire is the precise issue which I’m attempting to detail. In short, the ways in which we generally interact with cinematic stories is too simple. We often do not use cinema to better or broaden ourselves. This is because most see cinema as without much scope and with almost no depth.

To reverse this is simple. Almost no one uses libraries like Will from Good Will Hunting; we all have the resource, but fail to use it optimally. This is ok – we’re all only human. However, most still perceive, and maybe sometimes use, libraries as important tools; we see books as culturally and intellectually important artefacts. As a result, we think of books as things we can learn from – whether they are narrative or non-narrative, fiction or non-fiction. Why do we not see cinema in the same respect? Why do we not generally see cinema to have an inherently powerful capacity to teach and communicate before accepting its entertaining and more basic features as we do with books? Is it because films are so affecting and intoxicating to the point that all we consider them to be is pleasure things? If so, does it not then makes sense to again ask the question: Who is cinema for? Without wanting to say everyone and thus demean cinema, and without suggesting any laws or actions be put in place, shouldn’t cinema be for, and thus be defined by, those who make some attempt to see its wider scope and greater depth; who, even on the odd occasion, take it seriously and defy the demeaning definition of ‘just entertainment’?

Without wanting to meander on, I’ll leave this subject with you and your thoughts. Is there more to be seen in cinema than what is generally perceived? Can you, yourself, better use cinema as a tool that, whilst it entertains, also gives insight into history, culture and more general ideas of humanity?

 

 

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Finding Nemo – The Family Circle Of Trust: Dory

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Finding Nemo – The Family Circle Of Trust: Dory

Thoughts On: Finding Nemo (2003)

It has been a while since the last post, but today we continue our look at Finding Nemo.

In the previous post on Finding Nemo, we looked at the opening and its idea that, with freedom comes danger. And in recognising that this narrative is focused on building a family circle of trust, we see that the core conflict of this movie concerns the fact that the individuals that make up a family – for instance, children – need freedom to grow. This is why trust becomes pivotal in a family circle. However, as is questioned in the opening: What happens when tragedy strikes and a father’s ability to trust is eviscerated?

As we could imagine, a family circle is broken down and so needs reconstruction. And so this is what Finding Nemo explores. There are three major stages to Marlin’s quest in this respect; he must confront the loss of his wife, his lost sense of adventure and his lost son. What we will be doing today is exploring Marlin’s reconciliation with the anima, the female archetype: Dory.

A traditional, nuclear family is structured around a mother, father and, below them, children. In adhering to this idea, we find the opening of this story gives reason for this structure with the mother, Coral, being cautionary, warning Marlin of the dangers of freedom whilst he, the adventurer, embraces the danger. This equilibrium is shown to be the near-perfect equation for the family before the barracuda attacks. So, with Marlin embodying both Nemo’s mother and father as he raises him alone, he struggles to find a balance – as represented by his over-anxious (almost neurotic) nature. This disharmony – as we will explore in greater depth later on – leads to Nemo’s capture, and so has Marlin trail his way to…

… Dory. Dory is a classical device: the hero’s accomplice or guide. As in all adventures, Marlin has been called out of his known world and into the unknown. However, just like Frodo doesn’t go to Mordor alone, Marlin will search for Nemo with Dory. With Dory as the accomplice, her role isn’t just to provide help or impart wisdom – at least, not directly. Dory will test Marlin and, by fate (the hand of the writer), the two will grow together. So, in a way, Dory will help re-construct the family circle of trust by inadvertently re-assessing the roles of the anima and animus as the head of the family.

One of the most ingenious aspects of Dory’s character is then that she has short-term memory loss. To anyone who has followed the blog for a while or who has an interest in experimental filmmaking, the name Maya Deren will be familiar to you. Deren’s most famous film is Meshes Of The Afternoon.

Rife with symbolism, but wrought by a complex relationship between space and time, Meshes Of The Afternoon seemingly explores loss and confrontation in a relationship. One of the most expressive and unique aspects of this film is the manner in which it uses time as a formal device. Giving insight into this, Deren herself articulated her idea of female and male perceptions of time in the posthumous documentary, In the Mirror of Maya Deren.

What I do in my films is very distinctive. They are the films of a woman and I think that they’re characteristic time quality is the time quality of a woman. I think the strength of men is in their great sense of immediacy. They are a ‘now’ creature. A woman has strength to wait because she has had to wait. Time is built into her body in the sense of ‘becomingness’. She sees everything in terms of the stage of becoming

This quote (which can be heard heard in full here) explains her films as projecting a woman’s sense of time through waiting and through expanded time being compressed into a small frame. Deren goes on to imply that this sense of time that is unique to females may be inherent to them because of their biology (she references pregnancy later on), and so Deren’s statement on time is essentially that the anima, the female archetype, is defined – in a way – by a wider understanding of time than a man.

This idea speaks incredibly well to our concept of Coral as the cautionary maternal figure – she who has to think ahead of herself for the sake of her children – and Marlin as the adventure – he who concentrates on manipulating the now. With Marlin becoming a neurotic mother, he thinks too much about the future and entirely loses contact with his idea of ‘now’. But, when he meets Dory, he finds a female figure who is completely opposed to Deren’s conception of the female perspective; she has no grip of waiting and the future. This grip was lost because Dory lost her idea of the ‘now’ for so long (she has had short-term memory loss for so long) that she doesn’t have an idea of the long-term past. As a result, Dory has lost the male perspective of time (a projection of the animus – the ‘male’ attribute within females) for so long that she has also lost her female perspective. There is then both disharmony in Marlin, whose anima (as represented by his perception of time) is out of control and in Dory, who, because she is so bound to the now, doesn’t seem like a functional person. She then breaks all expectations of a female accomplice as she doesn’t remind the male of his hubris and stupidity like, for example, Hermione does throughout the Harry Potter series.

This representation of males and females in stories, whilst not a scientifically derived idea, resonates with the nuclear family because the female has her inadequacies and the male his, but, together, they form a functional union. When we look to the pairing of Dory and Marlin, we have two dysfunctional individuals who, speaking about Dory, have no grip on time and, looking to Marlin, tries to control time too much. Separated, they seem to be doomed to wander in an ocean of either timelessness or constant, deranging ticking. Together, however, it is implied that the two can maybe mute each other’s faults instead of emphasising them.

As a consequence of their abnormal perceptions of time, Marlin and Dory act in entirely exaggerated ways (considering their presence as the anima and animus of this story). This is realised almost immediately with their encounter with the trio of sharks.

Dory clearly has no concerns whilst Marlin is on the brink of an aneurysm. In a way here, Dory is infantalised and made out to be a naive child. This is so because her time-frame of being is so far in her past that it probably reaches into childhood. Marlin, too, is stuck in his past (the night in which his wife and children were taken from him), but this has expanded his view of time forward and kept him from seeing a brighter vision of the future with more naive eyes as Dory does. (The commentary on tragedy and misfortune here is that events of these kinds can radically shift your idea of space and time – which, itself, is quite profound). Because of their conception of time, the idea of the strange unknown that the two venture into is then exciting for Dory – vegan sharks seem like nice guys – but daunting for Marlin, so much so that he becomes a self-fulfilling prophet by triggering the fish-eating shark within Bruce.

What this emphasises is that Dory was, ultimately, correct in her ambivalence and that Marlin was wrong for attempting to control everything. As a result, Dory is already becoming the female accomplice who, like Hermione, teaches the males of their hubris and short-comings despite her initially seeming like the complete antithesis of this traditional archetype. As a result, what we see developing in this story is a strong relationship between the traditional (ideas of the nuclear family) and the non-traditional. Such is common in almost all Disney and Pixar films that see families comprised of unexpected individuals form. However, specific to this story, we are seeing Dory instil ‘male’ characteristics into her and Marlin’s relationship; she is the one who thinks on her feet and embraces the ‘now’ of adventure in this sequence, not Marlin.

This, again, happens in the next sequence in which Dory teaches Marlin how to “just keep swimming”. This allows them to venture into darkness and confront the monsters that loom below. However, this is where Marlin begins to evolve: he is becoming an adventurer again…

… and we see this perfectly with Marlin smiling in the face of death just as he found serenity staring into the endless ocean in the beginning of the film. The light that Marlin then sees by coming so close to death is then that he can wrestle with monsters in the unknown and come out alive – he, like Dory in the previous sequence – can think on his feet, lead and survive.

Let us not forget Dory in this sequence, however. As we learned previously, she can read. This is a rather questionable element of this story and, in some respects, a clear ex machina. But, Dory reading also reverses the idea that she is just naive. Though she is trapped in her past, she retains functionality and so manages to take what she learned in her past and bring it to her present. And to take a more poetic perspective, Dory being able to read is her being able to translate symbols of the past – writing that carves thoughts of the ‘now’ into material being that will, likely, outlast thought – into the present. With Dory reading whilst Marlin fights off the monster, we then see the roles of the previous sequence shift as the unknown becomes ever more (predictably so) dangerous. So, in parallel to the adventure of this story becoming more predictable, so does the relationship between Dory and Marlin; they assume more traditional roles. And, of course, the ultimate expression of this is Dory’s first character change; she begins to remember: P. Sherman 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney, P. Sherman 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney, P. Sherman 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney, P. Sherman 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney, P. Sherman 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney, P. Sherman 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney

This repetition of course gets on Marlin’s nerves, and so it is at this point that Marlin attempts to abandon Dory.

It is here that Marlin believes he has become a unified and self-sufficient; he believes he has grown and is not in need of help – especially from someone as faulted as Dory. However, this is where the pair encounter the moonfish…

If we cast our minds back to the previous post again, we’ll remember that Coral, Marlin’s wife, is thematically linked to the moon with this beautiful transition:

We would certainly be stretching the metaphor without good reason in suggesting that Coral is brought back to life in this sequence. However, the sympathy that the group of fish show towards Dory, and the manner in which they mock and guide Marlin whilst being male, speaks a lot about the femininity of the moon that we explored previously and the fact that Dory is there to help and, herself, guide Marlin. After consulting the moonfish, which Marlin initially believes he knows more than, Dory then has to chase after him with important information.

Just like Dory lead Marlin into the darkness to find the mask, and just like she helped him escape the sharks, she wants to guide him through this trench here. But, Marlin’s confidence has been boosted since he defeated the shark – he has embraced his own animus – and so he chooses to ignore Dory; his ego pushes the anima to the side.

So, as with the sharks, Marlin’s over-anxious ego gets himself and Dory in trouble. However, Marlin is somewhat aware of this environment of the stinging jellyfish because he, himself, is a cautious clown fish that lives in an anemone. So, seemingly embracing the naive sense of adventure that Dory demonstrates, he then decides to make a game out of their escape.

Their adventure is becoming ever more dangerous, however. It then seems like this is the consequence – maybe the punishment – for Marlin ignoring Dory and not forming a relationship with the anima. And this is a recurrent idea; Marlin is constantly punished through others for his downfalls whether it be Nemo being captured or Dory being stung.

However, embodying the traditional hero, Marlin is willing to sacrifice himself to rectify his mistakes, and, for this, he is seemingly rewarded with a bit of luck.

So, after their encounter with Crush and their ride along the EAC, Marlin is confronted by the recent past. Dory wants to ask for directions, but Marlin refuses. After asking “what is up with men and asking for directions”, implying that the fault of the adventurer is that he thinks he can do things alone, Marlin decides to trust her – because, after all, this…

… along with the absence of his son, is the symbol of lack of trust (in turn, the dysfunctionality of a family circle without trust).

And so now, after Marlin lets Dory ask for directions, we have the archetypal sequence, the belly of the beast sequence, that we see in countless tales – the most obvious being Pinocchio. So, just like Pinocchio learns his lesson after visiting Pleasure Island, but nonetheless he has to enter the belly of the beast, so must Marlin. In such, he must not just gain a conceptual understanding from his mistakes, but act out the lesson he has learnt…

… and thus he actually has to let go and trust that things will be ok – or, rather, that he is capable enough to descend further into the belly of the beast and emerge by virtue of his newly unified being. And this unified being itself is represented by his reconciliation with the anima: Dory. What Marlin then learns here – what he integrates into his being – is that he can trust Dory’s intelligence, both her ability to miraculously read and talk to whales, as well as his ability to confront chaos; he does not understand these things, and neither do we, but with trust in each other and themselves, the two prevail. And thus, we get this image…

Again the moon motif emerges as Marlin realises that Dory is right; that she is his guide. The whale fluke below the moon then seemingly plays on the double meaning of fluke (meaning whale tail and lucky escape) by referencing the relationship between chaos and the heroic couple that is recurrent throughout this story; one is conquered by the other, the heroes overcome chaos, for example, they escape the belly of the whale, partly out of luck or destiny, but also because they are guided by something transcendent of themselves. This image implies that the transcendent being is the moon, possibly as a mandala symbolising Dory and Marlin’s union, but also an icon connoting the guiding anima.

Having come this far into chaos and danger, Marlin’s determination is unshakeable – he begins to independently become the adventure, leading Dory along the final stretch of their journey – and his reputation is allowed to precede him. So, just as he was granted a lucky pass after saving Dory from the jellyfish, he is also granted one here (as a consequence of his heroic actions with Dory, which, through story, have spread across the ocean) with his encounter with Nigel, who delivers him to Nemo….

It seemed that a new equilibrium had been reached; Marlin had reconciled with the anima and has by now seemingly conquered adventure by reaching Nemo, but, tragedy has struck again. In such, this equilibrium is destroyed; after being pushed out of the surgeons office, he leaves Dory despite the fact that she becomes a more complete person with him (she can remember things) and he a more complete person with her. But, without Nemo it seems like there is no point in sustaining the new circle of trust that Marlin has set the foundations for.

And it’s here where we will end things for today. We still need to explore the idea of adventure in greater depth and then look at Nemo’s role in this narrative, so look forward to more parts looking at this film. However, for now, what are your thoughts on Finding Nemo, especially in regards to all we’ve covered today concerning Dory.

 

 

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