Sunday, 26 August 2007

The Golden Compass

I spotted this trailer before a showing of Potter 5. The poster, seen on the way in to the theatre, had also intrigued me; not for its quotidian AD&D imagery, but its strap-line: 'There are worlds beyond our own- The compass will show the way.' Invisibible dimensions and masonic symbols: seemed too good a convergence to ignore.

I didn't realise at the time- due to a regrettable name change, a la Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone- that The Golden Compass is the first in the His Dark Materials trilogy, based on the works of Philip Pullman. (Strangely, perhaps, given the popularity of the source material, the trailer doesn't mention this fact either.)

Now Pullman, as we all know, is the bearer of some controversial opinions- more so (inevitably) in North America than in his native Great Britain, where we tend to get less heated about matters of religion. And so we can expect a Potteresque debate to surface regarding the pernicious influence of what we can broadly predict will be hugely successful films. Interestingly, Pullman's major influences include the works of William Blake, and, most importantly, John Milton's Paradise Lost, from which the trilogy derives its title as well as many of its basic ideas; and draws considerably from Gnosticism. According to Wikipedia, the trilogy could be regarded as 'the antithesis of The Chronicles of Narnia', though the author himself has eschewed any such connection.

Wikipedia adds that elements of the trilogy- it doesn't say which ones- may have been borrowed by the writer of Doctor Who, Russell T Davies, for the 'Series 2' episode, Doomsday. This particular fiction has been brought to our attention before: as marking the on-screen debut of the Torchwood Institute, the cabal-in-residence of the massive Canary Wharf obelisk. (The venue for a shoot-out between the Daleks and the Cybermen.) Canary Wharf- or Torchwood Tower as it is known in the series- is the male antagonist of the Greenwich dome it overshadows; together comprising an unconscious pictogram of 'The Sons of Darkness and the Sons of Light' as recorded in the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Of great interest was the fact that Doomsday was originally broadcast on July 8 2006: a year and a day following the 7/7 bombings in London and its connective fabric of the global Live 8 concerts and the G8 summit in Gleneagles. (In 2007, that fabric was strengthened with the addition of Live Earth, the staged terror plots which greeted Gordon Brown's ascension to the premiership, the Tour de France and the stunning East Field crop circle amongst others. Oddly enough, July 7 2008 is the date that certain conspiracists- including Steven Willner- give for the launch of the semi-mythical Project Lucifer, when a secret government of NASA scientists intend crashing 'a Cassini spacecraft observer carrying twice the payload of plutonium... directly through the hexagonal formation of the north pole of Saturn.' See here for more.)

So Doomsday, then, establishes the proud association between the 7/7 rituals, deep terror... and the City of London and its close relatives, eg Greenwich in SE10. (A tradition since continued by doom-laden movies such as Reign of Fire, Children of Men and the recent Flood, all set in and around the vicinity.) And so it came as no surprise to note that The Golden Compass- upon whose plot Doomsday was apparently modelled- also references that auspicious borough. Have a look at the trailer below; and the twin-domed building through which, at 01.08 mins, Nicole Kidman is seen walking. That, give or take a little CGI, is the Royal Naval College (now the National Maritime Museum) at Greenwich, the product of three of the finest architectural minds of the eighteenth century.

Of mild spooky resonance considering all of the above, is what Kidman is asked by her associate. 'Are you familar with the prophecies of the witches?' (Evoking consternation across her pointed features.) I expect that she is; but on the off-chance that she's not, you couldn't ask for a better place in which to get up to speed.

7 comments:

hoi polloi said...

I can't wait for this movie! The books are so eye opening. Not the best writing, but in terms of what they are probably telling us about advances in science...wow.

Anonymous said...

Have you heard of this?

Giant robotic spy blimp creeps forward

http://blog.wired.com/defense/2007/08/imagine-a-blimp.html

Steven said...

Looks like a fantastic film.. Love how the girl's quest is the northern polar region! I just saw 'Stardust' beautiful and love inspired flick..
No doubt we are to see more of this before the great shift arrives (Earth birthday celebration!) and our feet literally lift off the ground.

FilmNoir23 said...

Should be worth a look. I recall visiting their website about 3 or 4 months ago...it's VERY interesting (and quite well done).

Also, the film stars both Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig, who currently appear together in "The Invasion"...

FilmNoir23 said...

Your speculation about Kid-man (I too felt that line of her's stuck out like a well placed sore thumb) intrigues me as well.

Since her split with Cruise, her tastes seem to have moved more towards the supernatural, have you noticed?

News out this week that Tom/Kat sleep in separate rooms because he snores...Oh right. me thinks all those rumors are more than rumors...and that dear Kate is no more than a vessel.

BTB said...

I read that, Todd... Very interesting. Katie is certainly a vessel- or, to put it another way, a grail- but for what exactly? Any thoughts?

I'm watching Cruise closely at the moment. The film Rubicon- release date 08/08/08- interests me; as do any all things Scientological. Check out Hoi Polloi's latest, if you haven't done so already:

Link.

As for the spy blimp, yes, I've heard about it. Hadn't connected the two, though, so thank you.

Something I forgot to add in the article is the all-pervasive, perennial theme of all-out war. We're almost losing count of the number of seasonal epics ramming this message down our throats. Harry Potter, obviously, The Lord of the Rings... And now this.

Because the big themes are eternal, and make for great cinema? Or predictive programming at its most blatant?



Cheers
Ben

FilmNoir23 said...

Sorry it took me so long to get back to this thread...

My thoughts on Katie as Grail? Well, could be several things...bloodline continuation (selective breeding), the creation of a "Starchilde" through sex magick or they are looking for something...a lost child (perhaps?) which they hope will be reborn so to speak (a'la Rosemary's Baby).

The other thing that links these films (and I agree totally with your perpection of them)is that a child (or children) is (are) ALWAYS central. A rite of passage story, the children are the future OR is there something else at work...that would be my question to you.