::: Robert Farrow
Despite appearances, it's Foucault’s philosophy that provides the dread that makes this film a horror classic. ::: Click here to read the full text.
A wonderfully apt reading of an underrated classic. What could be more unsettling than the realisation that we are really, truly alone? Both depicted ideologies are supported by an equal weight of rationality. They are meta-narratives; qualified and justified interpretations of the world- different, but equal. The religions cancel one another out, leaving an empty ideological abyss.
I think that it is interesting that, despite the equality inherent on such a level theological ‘playing field’, the film imposes such a politicised construction of ‘Woman’.
We are told that Summerisle is famous for its apples- “the forbidden fruit”. The use of such an allegory isolates Woman as the siren who lured Man onto the jagged rocks of Original Sin. She is reduced to ‘temptation object’ and held accountable for this reduction.
Throughout the film, it is predominantly the female characters that are depicted as deceivers; although the males offer their fair share of lies, generally they are faceless members of a crowd, or simply offer silence in response to the officer’s questions. The female characters cast complex webs of lies, often acting alone and hence deepening their shame.
It may be argued that The Wicker Man’s exploration of these themes is an exercise in satire; religion permeates real-world society, and in providing this caricature plays upon its values which, to some extent at least, ideologically consolidate the patriarchal order. Analysis of the filmic gaze, however, undermines this position and therefore finds the film to be guilty of the crimes it identifies and is, therefore, hypercritical.
The Wicker Man is therefore, on the whole, an insistence that we are the meaning-makers, that nothing is intrinsic or given. The relevance of the world around us is open to debate, and for any one idea to become dominant is down to assertion. A police-officer, a law ENFORCER, carrying with him the dominant values of the dominant regime, becomes the lesser party in a new power-relationship: all that he has stood for becomes meaningless, and he is vulnerable to the whims of the new force-wielders. Indeed, in their understanding of the world, the officer’s sacrifice is morally commendable- and in the absence of any significant opposition their unchallenged appraisal is the only appraisal.
The parallel with Laura Mulvey’s description of the naturalisation of the patriarchal order is clear: it is imposed by force and as such, could be overturned.
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