Spirituality: Enlightening Cinema

“Let me tell you why you’re here. You’re here because you know something. What you know, you can’t explain. But you feel it. You felt it all your life. That there’s something wrong with the world. You don’t know what it is, but it’s there.” Like a splinter in your mind, driving you crazy.” -Morpheus, Matrix

This is not a list of movie reviews and it is not complete. It’s just a few notes on some movies that I think are helpful in waking up and why, or aren’t and why not. With comprehension tools, bad is often better than good.

The main themes represented in this list seem to be these:


– Captive/Captor

– teacher – student

– Nature of the self/man

– Death/rebirth

– Cataclysm/Epiphany

– Lack of confidence in the mind/memories

The only thing I could do about movies and books is elevate the material to the level where it’s valuable to you. Orwell could have been writing an anti-communist manifesto, but Nineteen Eighty-Four is much more interesting seen as the struggle between man and his imprisonment. Apocalypse Now is about more than just Vietnam, How to Get Ahead In Advertising is about more than just rampant commercialism, etc.

::: American Beauty

“I feel like I’ve been in a coma in the past

twenty years. And I’m just waking up now.”

I’ve included American Beauty mainly because of what’s wrong with it. Lester’s big death/rebirth transition shows promise, but what does he transition to? Going back to the teenage crap, not moving forward in any way. A regression based on fear. Stupid car, stupid drugs, stupid vanity, stupid skirt chasing. Not redeemed at all when Lester sees his own insanity near the end or by some cheesy/sweet dead guy voiceover.

The film is slightly redeemed by the presence of the quasi-mystical neighbor boy and his video of a bag being blown by the wind:

“That was the day I realized there was a lifetime behind things, and this incredibly benevolent force that wanted me to know there was no reason to be afraid, ever.”

::: Apocalypse now

“In a war there are many moments for compassion and tender action. There are many moments for ruthless action, what is often called ruthless, which in many circumstances may just be clarity, seeing clearly what needs to be done and doing it.” , directly. , fast, awake, looking at it”.

You’d think Apocalypse Now Redux, the director’s cut, would be the version to watch, but everything that was cut correctly from the original was mistakenly replaced. (Raising the interesting point that directors and authors often don’t understand the higher applications of the stories they’re telling.) Stick with the original on Redux and Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.

Apocalypse Now is all about Horror. A journey of discovery, to the heart of darkness, arriving at this horror. What is the horror? How do you get there? Why would someone do such a thing? Should you do such a thing? Why or why not?

Note the powerful epiphanies that drive the film. The first murderer’s letter home (“Sell the house, sell the car, sell the kids…”), Dennis Hopper’s youthful exuberance, Kurtz’s diamond bullet, the “…I wasn’t even more in his army.” “

::: Being there

“Spring, summer, fall, winter… then spring again.”

A beautiful film ruined by a silly walking on water stunt added at the end. Without that nonsense, the viewer would be free to think, to decide, to wonder. Instead, the film closes with its clever little silly twist. Hit the stop button when Chauncey is straightening the sapling, before the ruinous denouement, and it’s a fun and charming movie.

::: Bounty hunter

“I’ve seen things you wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off Orion’s shoulder. I’ve seen C-beams glow in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time like tears in rain. It’s time to die.” .

Were you born five minutes ago? Of course not, and you have the memories to prove it. You’d know if they were artificial implants, because, uh…

::: Discard

“I couldn’t even kill myself the way I

wanted. She had no power over anything.”

If a man screams on a desert island and no one is there to hear him, does he make a sound? Is it enough for him to hear it himself? What if not? What is left when you take it all away?

Stripped car.

This film raises many intriguing questions about the essence of the self, or lack thereof, and includes a very Zen eulogy.

::: Dead Poets Society


::: Harold and Maude

“Vice, virtue. It is better not to be

too moral… Aim above morality.”

American Zen, master and disciple.

::: Harvey

“For years I was smart… I recommend nice.”

Elwood P. Dowd, wise fool. A sweet representation of a higher order of being misconstrued as a lower order of being. Would we know the Superior Man when we saw him?

::: How To Get Ahead In Advertising

“Everything I do now makes a lot of sense.”

An offer rejected by freedom. A failed attempt to overthrow Maya. She enjoys the madness of epiphany.

::: Joe against the volcano

“Nobody knows anything, Joe. We’ll take this leap, and

we’ll see. We will jump and see. That’s life, right?”

Death and Rebirth. Unlike American Beauty, it’s about moving forward, “getting away from the man stuff.”

::: Man Looking Southeast (Man Looking Southeast)

Keep an eye out especially for the visual poem of a man crumbling a human brain in a sink while searching for the soul.

::: Matrix

“Like everyone else, you were born into captivity, born inside a prison you can’t smell, taste or touch. A prison for your mind.”

Plato’s cave for the people. As allegorically lucid as Joe vs. Vocano, Pleasantville and Star Wars.

::: Life of Brian from Monty Python

“No, no! It is a sign that, like Him, we should think that

of the things of the body, but of the face and the head!”

Sacred cow tipping at its finest.

“Meaning of life” also belongs on this list.

::: 1984

“If you want a vision of the future, Winston,

imagine a boot stomping on a human face, forever.”

This film is unique in that it is as good as the book, which is an extremely intimate portrayal of the captor/captive, Mayan/man relationship. Compare this to Moby-Dick or One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, which are great books but useless movies.

::: One flew over the cuckoo’s nest

As with Moby-Dick, Hollywood castrated the book. They stripped it of its archetypal dimensions and reduced it to a pointless piss fight between McMurphy and Nurse Ratched. Great entertainment, but for meaningful perspective read the book.

::: Pleasant Villa

“There are some places where the path doesn’t go in a circle. There are some places where it continues.”

A joyous story of heresy in which no one is burned at the stake and the new paradigm is finally adopted by all.

::: Razor’s edge

“The dead man looks so terribly dead.”

The razor edge is what makes it interesting; seeing Larry teetering on the fine line between what he was and what he is becoming. He is walking on the border between two lives. Bill Murray’s version is a bit off the mark… stay with Tyrone Power or read the book.

Maugham allegedly used Ramana Maharshi as the model for the novel’s holy man.

::: Star Wars

“The force will be with you, always.”

The first, where Lucas makes the transition from flesh to spirit.

The hero’s journey.

::: The thin red line

“Perhaps all men have a great soul, that of all

Apart from, all the faces are the same man.”

A sublime inquiry into the spiritual nature of man. More of a sad/sweet song than a narrative film.

::: The Thirteenth Floor

“So what are you saying? You’re saying

that there is another world above this one?

Layer after layer. Turtles on top of turtles.

::: Vanilla Sky/Open Your Eyes

“Open your eyes.”

If you like Vanilla Sky, check out the original, the Spanish movie Abre Los Ojos (Open Your Eyes). These two movies may be the best of the bunch for our purposes; the closest thing to an allegory of enlightenment.

Of course, the interesting thing about lighting is getting there, not being there, and that’s what these movies are about; waking up from a false reality, opening your eyes. It’s not so much about what’s real as what’s not.

It is the story of the journey one takes to get to the place where anything, even jumping off a tall building, would be better than continuing to live a lie, even a beautiful and blissful lie.

Note the presence of the real guru, explaining in no uncertain terms why jumping off the building is the best thing to do and patiently waiting for it to be done.

::: Life awake

“They say that dreams are only real while

they last. Couldn’t you say the same about life?

Wide-ranging philosophical inquiry. Provocative. Fun. Potentially disruptive.

::: Wings of Desire

“When the child was a child, it was time for these questions: Why am I and why not you? Why am I here and why not there? When did time begin and where does space end?”

A beautiful, intelligent, thought-provoking film. Can the awakened being return to the dream state? Would you want to?

::: Others

Some other movies that reward thoughtful viewing are The Wizard of Oz, About Schmidt, What Dreams May Come, Total Recall, All the Mornings Of the World (Tous les Matins du Monde), and of course many more.

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