After seeing the rather heavy-handed and one-dimensional use of symbolism in The Fountain last night, I thought of how it could be done differently, and also what type of stories I am more drawn to.
Mainly, they tend to be multi-layered, functioning at many different levels, the way mythology and many fairy tales do. One the surface level, they are adventures, exciting enough in themselves to hold people’s attention and interest even if the adventure level is all they are aware of. At another level, they symbolize our path through life, our relationships with others, ourselves and various life situations. They also represent dynamics within our psyche, for instance the drama between persona and shadow. And finally, the most interesting of them also represent the spiritual journey through to awakening.
More specifically, it would be interesting to see contemporary stories that dramatize the path of individualization and awakening: (a) the field of seeing and seen, (b) filtering itself through a sense of I and Other, (c) identifying in a conventional way with a human self, going about its daily life, (d) breaking out of the trance, recognizing the trance, (e) struggling with the dynamics of persona and shadow, peeling of new layers of the shadow, including (f) finding itself also as energy, soul and the formless, (g) and then die to a sense of I and any identity whatsoever, awakening as the field of seeing and seen, absent of I anywhere.
And this is, of course, the Matrix Trilogy: multi-layered, offering something for everyone, representing the hero’s journey to individualization and finally full awakening.
Neo starts out living a conventional life, as a drone in a corporate office (c). He is kicked out of the trance through circumstances beyond his control (d), and awakens to himself as far more than he had imagined. He starts embracing the positive (immediately desirable) aspects of his shadow (through the training), and is also forced to face and eventually embrace the negative (apparently undesirable) aspects of his shadow (Agent Smith et al) (e). At the end of the first movie, he also finds himself as more than just a human of flesh and blood, but also as energy and consciousness (f). Finally, through the face-off between the final remains of what appears as I and Other, he dies as what he takes himself to be, and awakens to a new life.
As traditional mythology shows us, there is no end of variations on this story, and no end of aspects of it to be explored more in detail, so there is lots of room for many more movies exploring this, even after The Matrix. Especially if they are a little more sophisticated about it than The Fountain (a good attempt, but does not quite make it.)