Friday, August 23, 2013

Kev Mequet's Response to "Elysium and the Death of God"

I am impressed with this take on the movie and appreciate the effort that went into it. I do think there's a missed opportunity to speak into a larger context. While it is of course undergirded by Christological correspondence, I think there is more at work.

Blomkamp is an atheist and this makes sense given his youthful upbringing in South Africa where he experienced first hand horrible disregard for human dignity -- let alone rights -- by the Afrikaaners against the native black population under the aegis of Apartheid. A rather blatant demonstration of abusive imperial colonialism -- both religious and political -- that he strongly critiques in his films.

It's shocking to me how vehemently people have derided Jodie Foster's portrayal of Delacourt. If you understand the dynamics that Blomkamp is drawing from then you have to acknowledge Foster adopted a mannered Afrikaaner dialect to deepen his political critique. In that I judge her performance successful. She was chillingly ruthless in her embodiment of entitled bureaucratic banality of evil. But I digress.

I think Max De Costa is more a future dystopic everyman Prometheus. Hear me out on this. Elysium and the Elysian Fields were the beatific paradise of the Greek gods that privileged and exclusive human beings were invited to visit and live with the gods in harmony, leisure and opulence. It was an idyll specifically separated from the filthy disharmony of earth and its mass of unruly humanity. Blomkamp deftly weaves these stands into his story.

Prometheus stole fire from the gods in Elysium and exiled himself to earth presenting humankind with the first technological tool: fire. The gods in their fury at this affront sentenced him to eternal torment to have vultures tear his abdomen open and devour his liver only to have his wounds healed over night for it to be repeated the next dawn. A creditable correspondence between Delacourt and Zeus is not out of line. Kruger is Delacourt's vulture ripping open Max's abdomen if you recall.

Kruger played as gleefully manic and deranged by Copley is the prefect vicious, unruly killing machine Delacourt needs -- on earth, never to be allowed upon the Elysian Fields at all costs.

The real opportunity here is to see Blomkamp's morality play as a lesson too in imperial colonialism that drew Promethean themes into expressing Christological orthodoxical formation in the 1st and 2nd centuries of the Common Era. Elysium is the Hellenistic antecedent of Christian heavenly tropes.

Max's unpardonable arc is his audacity to bring the technological fire of cybernetic healthcare from Elysium down to earth. But he doesn't do this out of some abstract ideology of either altruism or communism but as a act of absolution to the only thing he ever loved outside himself, Frey. But not a gift of life for himself once he realizes the impossibility of it, or to his love, but to the object of his love's love, Matilda.

'Tell Matilda I know why the hippopotamus did it.'

At this point I started to cry and I've seen it twice and it's happened both times. Blomkamp also ingeniously weaves African storyteller traditions too.

It's a truly beautiful film but you must look beyond the gratuitous popcorn violence and have an overflowing tool box of referential materials to decode it. It's worth the effort. Thanks, Keith, for posting this and inviting me to respond. 

Kev Mequet

Thank you so much for taking the time to write this profound response, Kev. I am not that familiar with Greek mythology and the Max as Prometheus makes complete sense. I am particularly fond of your line, "Elysium is the Hellenistic antecedent of Christian heavenly tropes." If anyone else wants to write a response, I want you to. 

No comments:

Post a Comment