|2000 - Sunset in my kitchen, black and white film|
Dracula, Maxim De Winter, Faust, Dr. Jekyll, Shylock, Heathcliff, Batman: what do all these characters have in common?
Substantially, we can say, they're all good and extremely sensitive men.
Yes, Dracula indeed. Shylock, too; and Heathcliff, wasn't he a nice and romantic boy once? What happened then?
Just like all of us, they had a strong dark side to which they surrendered during a crucial moment of their life.
Of course, we real people do not bite men's and women's necks and feed ourselves with their blood (well, sometimes we do); that is pure fiction. But how many times have we looked back to our past and found a most reproachable action, one we're still ashamed of; one we still find it difficult to believe it was us acting so? Have you ever felt like it wasn't really you committing a blameworthy deed, one that you or someone else later decried as morally unacceptable?
In a sense, you're not too far from the truth: it wasn't really you.
Let me rephrase this: it was you, but under the influence of an unconscious - thus, uncontrolled - "tempestuous energy"; the same that populates the dark, undetected and unknown realms of the psyche, that is kept repressed, hidden, and that springs forth in the many Walpurgis Nights of our soul.
Be careful how you interpret! It would be very easy to justify our bad deeds by saying that we simply couldn't help it. True, at times we can't prevent ourselves from acting in a certain way, or from giving vent to extreme pronouncements. You just have to think of your own personal history to find a great number of examples; also certain patterns in the history of humanity seem to validate this theory.
Yet, it is the responsibility of each individual person to acknowledge the presence of a dark side - what C.G. Jung named Shadow - as an active part of our psyche. It is our personal responsibility to come to terms with it, and bring it to a healthy balance with the rest of our personality.
I think this concept - the dark side of our soul taking over us, inducing confusion - is very well depicted by Lars Von Trier in his movie The Antichrist. One scene in particular presents it with ghastly symbolism: Willem Defoe is walking in the undergrowth of woods. Suddenly, as he reaches a patch of high ferns, he sees a fox lying in it. The animal is all wet and intent in tearing bites off of its own intestines. Willem Defoe, paralyzed and caught by sheer terror, observes the scene until the fox utters with a cavernous and threatening human voice the words, "Chaos reigns".
How many inner contradictions the human soul is exposed to!
Yet, it is their presence that make us human, fallible and as imperfect as we are.
It is the portrayal of the obscure half of the soul that gives fictional characters psychic and psychological depth; contradictions give characters a dual nature and make them more believable, more interesting, more human and, as such, a reader or an audience can better identify with them.
How can anybody be empathic with, say, Superman! He's all good, all perfect, all pure, all gentle. You can only explain those unaltered qualities with his alien nature. Too easy being a hero that way! No inner conflicts, no traumas, no ghosts to struggle with.
I'd rather play Batman!
Who's the most contradictory, darkest, yet all in all good fictional character you have encountered so far?