Question “‘you make a distinction in your audio commentary of “The Golden Age” between mysticism and melodrama (one being a product of the East and the other of the West). I wonder if you might elaborate on this for me’
Mythology are the stories that are buried deep inside ourselves, that struggle to connect our finite imagination to to that which seems or is infinite. Till science came along with logical reasons for lightening and clouds, they were part of our Myths (and often still are) with Gods letting forth a series of lightening strikes and roaring in anger. However all cultures in their struggle to comprehend infinite questions like the nature of the universe, the reason for our here, the miracles of birth , of death, of falling in love, betrayal and even possibilities of afterlife, have developed mythologies/stories to explain these. Often these migrate from Mythology into faith.
What differs between the West and the East is the openness of expression of such Mythic events. For example in the West you are taught to be silent and not to cry when someone dies, while in India we have ‘rudali’s’ that come to encourage to openly sob and express you grief. In this age of reason Western filmakers (for example) are often shy of expressing human reaction to such mythic events, calling it Melodrama – while films in the east tend to more expressive and accepting about ‘Mythic’ events and therefore the ‘Melodramatic’ nature of the presentation, the story and the performances. That sense of Myth then permeates all aspects of filmaking – the design, the costumes, the lighting and the shots. And of course the story telling.
In both Elizabeth and it’s sequel the Golden Age I realized that we were dealing with times before ‘the age of reason’ or the age of ’scientific temper’ had set into England. The Industrial revolution had yet to come, as had the proliferation of the British Empire. Arrogance of the mind and ego, led by conquest of the seas and manufacture had yet to set in. The tudor period therefore was to me what film critics call ‘melodramatic’ and I saw a culture largely in synch with it’s inherent mythic nature. After all Elizabeth herself was constantly relying on astrological predictions and had used ‘virginity’ as a mythic idea beyond the realms of the loss of the hymen.
So I brought my inherent Mythic sense to a film genre’ that was considered to be more much about Costumes, Royal and Court politics and (most of all) wit. And turned it around to look at it from it’s own melodramatic point of view. After all with intrigue and death always around the corner , and when life expectancy in the court was about 27, .how could you not be superstitious or mythic in your thinking ?
In Elizabeth it seemed to completely in synch with the writing performance etc. It was a woman moving from youth, love and childhood, to power, ruthlessness, monarchy but most importantly Divinity. Declaring yourself a virgin an then walking through the court, seperating yourself from the human form forever, and declaring your self Divine – in India she would have been called a Devi and still happens everyday. How mythic/melodramatic is that ?
The second one – The Golden Age – ran into difficulty. To my mind Elizabeth was now Divine,even if only in her own mid. How did she now comprehend herself falling n love ? being jealous ? Having sexual desire ? How does all of that affect your sense of Divinity ? Did she see her enemy Phillip as divine too ? All pretty mythic stuff – or you can call it melodramatic if you are a pure historian. And that’s where the film did not reach the expectations the first one had set up. There was an ongoing tussle between normalcy of a man/woman love story, as against the need to see it from a Divine perspective, Also between History and Mythology, which a lot of critics called Melodrama.
What I would say though is that any culture that is not in day to day touch with it’s own mythology, is a culture that will build tension and be open to exploitation – such as the rise of dangerous cults and creation of mythic evil figures to satisfy their need for connecting with their sense of mythology.
As I write this the news flashed that the next film in the Twilight series (Eclipse) has grossed an all time record of $ 30m in one night ! Now I would say a love story between a a young girl and a sexy vampire is pretty Melodramatic – or would you call it Mythic ?