Friday, December 16, 2011

The Identity of Shadows: Young Sherlock Holmes

Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows opens everywhere this week so, in anticipation of that and as a part of my Christmas film series, I would like to discuss Steven Spielberg's 1985 suspense thriller Young Sherlock Holmes. Ritchie's release this week and Young Sherlock Holmes both pay homage to an important aspect of the Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce Sherlock Holmes adventure series: the use of shadows. The video below is the first part of the film which sets the pace for the rest of the events. Please pay particular attention at 2:14 to the sound and what it is we are hearing:
As I noted, the Basil Rathbone character of Sherlock Holmes had opening credits with the shadows of Rathbone and Bruce (Holmes and Watson) walking over the cobblestones of London streets, which is what we see as the primary credits roll by, however, it is the figure of evil which has replaced the figure of good in Young Sherlock Holmes. It is also the first glimpse we see of the "evil figure" emerging from other shadows as Mr. Bobster emerges from his home onto the street and is followed.
Why does the shadow work? How does it communicate to us something evil? In and of itself, a shadow isn't evil; consider, for example, Peter Pan and his losing his shadow. When a person is good, the casting of their shadow means they are "standing in the sun" and all may see them and what it is they do; when a person is bad, it means they are hiding their evil deeds "within shadows" so they become a shadow their self and thereby lose their primary identity. With Rathbone and Bruce, in their series, their shadows were cast over the darkness all ready existing in London, so we can deduce that the shadow of the hero (his anonymity in doing good works) is greater than the darkness of evil trying to bring him down.
One of the many installments of Basil Rathbone's portrayal as Sherlock Holmes with his profile acting as backdrop for the title and ending credits, in addition to the famous walking over the cobblestones of London intro with Dr. Watson in all their episodes.
When Mr. Bobster walks to a restaurant, and the hooded figure prepares to shoot a poisoned dart into his neck, what is he doing? Looking into a window; how does he die? He throws himself out a window. At the restaurant, he's glancing over a menu which, symbolically, translates to his "reflection" on his "appetites" and, since it is at the moment he reflects on his appetites when he is stuck with the poisoned dart (if he had just walked in and ordered instead of lingering at the window), he wouldn't be in a position to be shot at, so this is image of him is directly tied to why he is being "targeted" by the dart shooter for retribution. As we have noted before, birds are the particular symbols of the Holy Spirit, and it is a pheasant which he hallucinates coming to life and attacking him instead of him eating the bird.
The reason Watson is a good companion for Holmes is because it makes Holmes be charitable and kind; if Holmes only ever put up with himself, he would be intolerable. In the scene when Holmes is about to kiss Elizabeth in the library, and Watson falls from the top of the ladder, Holmes doesn't go ahead and kiss Elizabeth and then tend to Watson, he stops his own pursuit to see to his new friend's well-being and this is a sign that Watson will help Holmes in his patience so he can become the genius he's destined to become, in more ways than one.
This signifies the way he has "destroyed the presence of the Spirit within himself" so he would be open to these attacks, instead of being able to refrain from committing sins in the first place (there is a second reference to this a little later). Additionally, what is it we hear around 2:14? "Tidings of Comfort," a popular Christmas hymn from the song God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (lyrics here).Why is this important? It is a cult of Osiris worshipers from Egypt who commit these terrible killings and it is their pagan cult which Holmes must defeat; the "Merry Gentlemen" of the song refer to those Christian brotherhood who are filled with the joy of God and hope in His protection and Salvation, the exact opposite of the Ramatep cult and it is with the virtues of Christianity that the pagan cult will be overcome.
There are numerous similarities between Sherlock Holmes by Guy Ritchie and Spielberg's Young Sherlock Holmes, including the sacrificing of young women in cultic rituals. Why? The perfect symbol of reason, the character of Holmes offers a reasonable face to the life of faith, and the reasonableness that not everyone is reasonable, thereby, we should be faithful and use our reasonableness for the good of society. In this interesting poster for Game of Shadows, the shadow on the right wall could mistakenly be that of Watson but Watson has his arm extended, so we may deduce that the shadow is someone sinister, either Moriarty or Colonel Sebastian Moran.
When Mr. Bobster sits at the table and his meal has been brought to him, it's the distorted reflection created by the silver serving dish which lets us see him as he really is, distorted. When the bird attacks him, and he then leaves the restaurant, returning home, he does two things: he goes up the stairs and he drops his coat. Going up the stairs, of course, means entering into a higher plane of thought but dropping his coat is also good because he's stripping himself of layers which could be hiding what he doesn't want seen. While he does lock the door, we can take that to be a commitment to not letting himself out before he has come to terms with what he has done. Taking off his hat means that he's not going to "reason through this," rather, he's going to call upon his Baptismal grace (his pouring water into the basin and washing his face).
Elizabeth, the love interest of Sherlock Holmes. It's important to note, her parents died a few years previously and so she's living with her uncle who is a retired school master of an all-boys' school. Her interest in Holmes' rival, Dudley, shows that she has to be careful about marriage prospects because she herself won't have a dowry.
Washing his face is a great sign for two reasons:  one, it's a sign that he realizes he has done something wrong so he has to be cleansed of it and, two, he specifically realizes his identity is at stake so he washes his face so he won't become a shadow like the hooded figure which attacked him (even though he didn't see it). The hallucinations, on the other hand, won't let him make an act of faith, and that's why the hat "comes back on." Please note, additionally, that Mr. Bobster never says a word of dialogue, only grunts and screams, and this--his lack of articulated speech--provides an invaluable glimpse at his soul: he has digressed to the sate of an animal in his appetites and that's why his eleventh hour seeking out of Baptismal Grace isn't sufficient to help him, because he hasn't run the race and prepared himself for this moment beforehand.
One of the important aspects of young Sherlock Holmes' soul is his lack of meekness (meekness is the ability to use one's power for God and not for yourself). When Holmes sees Dudley talking to Elizabeth, showing off his stylish new timepiece, it's really Holmes showing himself to be a "fraud" and not the timepiece because Holmes lacks humility and his pride will have to be overcome if he is to become the legendary hero of London.
When Mr. Bobster returns the hat to the cloak stand, the hat falls off again and what happens? Serpent-like coils reach out for him, indicating Original Sin (like the serpent who tempted Eve) and that the wounds of Original Sin are stronger in him tan the effects of Baptismal Grace (because he hasn't fostered Grace in his soul; also the double-serpent is the symbol of the Ramatep). The fire in the room, then, leads us to a choice because it is a choice for Mr. Bobster: the fire could be the fire of purgation (penance for sins so that he can become stronger) or the fire of damnation (because he despairs and loses Christian hope of overcoming his sins). Throwing himself out the window means that he has turned to despair: reflection, which the bedroom window symbolizes, should be used for self-creation (we build ourselves up and come to accurately know ourselves when we reflect/meditate) instead, he jumps out of the window in a fit of despair using "reflection" for self-destruction.
Watson is bound to become a doctor but, as Holmes points out, he has a fondness for custard tarts, not good if he's going to become a doctor so we know this is Watson's wound of Original Sin (this is emphasized in the cemetery when the tarts attack).
When Watson and Holmes first meet, Holmes is trying to "make music," and that's a good sign of his virtue because the soul is supposed to "sing praises" to God. I know, you probably think this is quite a bit of a stretch, however, Holmes is the "hero" and it's the story itself which has introduced a pagan evil as Holmes' adversary and the only way to battle pagan evil is with Christian virtue and that was made clear at 2:14 in the clip above with God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen and the fact that this is taking place in December, close to Christmas, i.e., the birth of Christ. It is important that Holmes' "music" is screeching and scratching because that's a sign that he has to grow, but that's why he has this battle, so he can grow. His good but not wholly accurate deduction about John Watson allows us to see what is young about Young Sherlock Holmes.
When we first see her, she's knocking on the window during Holmes' chemistry class because she and Holmes "have chemistry" but as she talks with him, after Dudley's exit, Watson, climbing up a library ladder (this is also a form of reflection, especially in the library amongst books, the great symbol of knowledge) hears the tingling of the charms which we heard when Mr. Bobster was getting shot by the hooded figure. Why here and now? To some degree, Elizabeth is Holmes' poison which can distract him from what he should be doing (becoming the great figure of genius he's destined to become) because she can lead him to lesser, animal tendencies, including jealousy. Watson symbolically "takes the fall" because Holmes himself could fall because of Elizabeth.
Why is Professor Waxflatter a good mentor for Holmes?
Well, if we compare the bird that Mr. Bobster was going to eat, to the "bird" that Waxflatter is trying to fly, we can see that, by flying the bird, he does land it in the tree, in the heights, so he's spiritually inspired to seek after wisdom (the Holy Spirit) (the author of 27 books means that "2" stands for unity and "7" is the sacramental number, so he has attained his destiny in fulfilling his soul's knowledge, he has learned so he can teach what he has learned to Holmes). Waxflatter, however, has come to his endeavors too late to be able to fight the evil which is threatening civilization now. The tree (the Tree of the Cross) is the dead tree of the Crucifixion and is not bearing fruit so he can do no more in guiding Holmes.
Waxflatter in the tree. It's important that we see Holmes getting the iconic phrase ,"Elementary, my dear Holmes," from his mentor because that shows us that he's following in a wise man's footsteps. When Waxflatter determines the cause of the machine's failure, "an inferior material," and that he will rebuild the entire machine. But the wings being made of inferior material illustrates that Waxflatter hasn't been as strong and faithful as he needs to be, but that is possibly because it has been reserved for Holmes.
When Waxflatter sees the strange man at the window, again, it's the window of self-reflection regarding Waxflatter's role in the Egyptian hotel; Holmes glancing down to see the newspaper lets us know that the newspaper is dated December 12, the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the feast of the Virgin Mary stepping on the head of Satan. It's also important to note that Bobster "committed suicide," because, ultimately, every single sin we commit is a suicide, we kill the soul for the sake of the flesh. Lastly, a chain for gears lies upon the paper, inviting us to create "links" between all the events because that's exactly what Holmes is doing, linking events and people because that is what the Egyptian cult has done.
Rathe, Holmes' fencing instructor in more ways than one...
When we first meet Rathe in fencing class, the first contender "falls" and sprains his ankle, translating, that his weaker will makes him unable to fight. When Holmes steps up to duel, he nearly wins but, according to Rathe, he doesn't because "His emotions took over. Never mistake Emotions with discipline." Rathe, however, is wrong. There is being in control of your emotions, and then there is just not having any emotions. Because Holmes is a good person (and this is important) his emotions are good; he is young in this film, but, as the last shot of him testifies, he's growing up in this adventure, and he will fight evil precisely because he can.
Saying the blessing at dinner.
As the young men eat their dinner, they discuss what they are going to become, and subsequently, whether they will make any money at their endeavors. Watson says, "I want to be a doctor," to which Dudley replies, "Nobody asked you." Poor Watson, huh? But this is important because it demonstrates how good Holmes is to take the outsider under his wing and befriend him. You could say that Holmes himself is a bit of an outsider, yet Dudley, who was shown up by Holmes in front of Elizabeth, inquires of Holmes what he wants to be, so even though Dudley detests Holmes for personal reasons, he respects him. One might also make the argument that Holmes only befriends Watson because Holmes doesn't want to be alone, but he has charm and he also has Elizabeth, so the point is, Holmes shows what a kind soul he has in befriending Watson whom all others consider to be a drip.
The school masters at dinner.
So why does Holmes say, in response to Dudley's inquiry, "I don't want to be alone"?
Two reasons: first, he's showing his wisdom above the others that he knows there's more to life than just occupation, there is also vocation. Secondly, it shows us how dearly he holds Elizabeth to his heart and what losing her will mean to him. But her loss will mean that he can be prepared, interiorly, to receive something much greater. It's always difficult, when we lose someone close to us; yet Holmes will become more of who he is destined to become and, being "fully himself," will actually never be alone.
After we see the young men dining and Holmes watching Elizabeth through the window, again, that's a sign of his reflecting on what Elizabeth means to him. As the others eat dinner, and "take in" what they are going to become, Holmes is "taking in" what he is going to become by making Elizabeth his food (in a spiritual sense). When Uncas hears the tinkling of the hooded figure's charms, he runs the hooded figure off. What's the purpose of this? Death surrounds Elizabeth, and she literally does not have long to live because she really can't be much use to Holmes. Feminist critics would lambast me for this, however, I really don't care. Elizabeth doesn't have any excellence or virtue, and it really symbolizes for us all, that there are "beautiful things" in the world that we think are good, but are not the "greatest good" we should be seeking. Why does Watson end up with Uncas at the end? Uncas means fox, and foxes are associated with cleverness, and Watson will develop his own cleverness throughout this trial.
The next scene is one of the coolest that has ever reached film.
As Reverend Nesbitt lights candles inside a church, he hears the jingling of the chimes which signals that the hooded figure is near. Okay, you are saying, here is a religious figure who lives in a church, and he is lighting candles, the sign of inner-illumination; what can be sinful about him that he can't withstand this battle against evil like Bobster the accountant? This is another reference to a window, a stained glass window, and in his self-reflection, Nesbitt still has "stains."
As we learn later on, it was French troops first driven out of Egypt that paved the way for the six business partners to build the hotel, and then it was English troops who moved in, killed some villagers and burned down the village in which Ehtar's parents lived. Nesbitt never repented of those sins and we can see that in, first, the knight (a soldier) comes to take him (the knight first kills a bishop, which would be the reference to Catholic France being driven out of Egypt) and then, with blood all ready on his sword, he comes for Nesbitt.
This is the importance of the "building a hotel," because (again, like in The Shining)  a home is a symbol for the soul because a home houses a body the way a body houses a soul, so the hotel--like the Overlook Hotel--is a temporary dwelling, or an earthly dwelling for an eternal soul. Nesbitt was "investing" in the earthly instead of the eternal, and that it's a team of horses which tramples him, we know the hotel was what was "driving him" to become successful; although he retired, the church never completely replaced his hopes for a hotel and even though he was lighting candles, Nesbitt was never truly illuminated about the differences between the temporal and eternal.
The Contest.
It's not just a contest, it's self-fulfillment and the call of destiny. How can I say that? Rathe, his fencing instructor and also the man against whom he will battle at the end of the film, wagers a guinea that Holmes finds the trophy, meaning that even Rathe knows how keen Holmes is and that makes their do-or-die duel in the end that much greater. But why would the headmaster compare Holmes to a chimpanzee? Call this a mating ritual, because you know that the real "trophy" Dudley and Holmes are contesting isn't the fencing trophy, but their "verbal fencing" over Elizabeth. This is why the contest, narratively, is important: the film's meaning, like the trophy, is encased in something, symbols and hidden meanings, and like Holmes busting the vase to find the trophy, we, too, will find a trophy when we smash apart the symbols hiding the truth.
It's important that Holmes going to Lestrade follows Waxflatter's seriously failed attempt at flying, because crashing is exactly what Holmes will do in this situation; but this is the important lesson he has learned from Waxflatter, no matter how "flattened" you become, do not let failure imprint itself upon you like "wax," rather, keep trying at the attempt and you will eventually succeed. This seamlessly leads us into the next scene of Dudley's forgery which maliciously frames Holmes for cheating: just as Dudley forged the crockery in which the trophy was hidden so he forged Holmes' handwriting with the answers to the exam. This provides us with another example of Rathe: his knowledge of how intelligent Holmes is, and Holmes emotional attachment to his master who favors him, especially in his hour of need.
Hard on the heels of success is failure.
Detective Lestrade. It's from Lestrade's moaning that Holmes has stopped by that we learn Holmes reads case books, murder reports and stays up-to-date on all the police work in London, i.e., that Holmes has chosen his path in life and that Holmes wants to fight evil and he has no second thoughts about it, but wants to devote all his gifts and skills to overcoming crime and what it does to ourselves and society. In Young Sherlock Holmes, that just happens to be a pagan cult.
"The last duel" isn't the last duel; rather like the Last Supper, it's the first of all the rest suppers which Christians will eat for the rest of time. This is truly the first duel between Holmes (no longer a student) and Rathe, because Holmes will spend the rest of his life battling Rathe/Moriarty. Why is it a ring which blinds Holmes momentarily? The ring of the enemy is an interesting symbol picked up in Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes (the ring Lord Blackwood steals from his father Sir Thomas). Regarding Young Sherlock Holmes, a ring is a sign of commitment, but far from being committed to a marriage or some higher good, Rathe is committed to revenge. This duel foreshadows the "scar" that will be left upon Holmes when he's illuminated by the knowledge of what his beloved patron and friend really is: a fiend.
"Revenge is best when it's served up cold," is actually the way Rathe and Mrs. Dribb are thinking about when they kill Waxflatter. Now is a good time to talk about the symbolisms of how the poison works. As I mentioned, when we commit a sin we are committing suicide because we are killing the soul with sin instead of giving the soul life-giving Grace; the poison which is used accurately describes the process of sin, because when we are committing a sin, we don't see it as sin, we don't see it as something which will destroy us, rather, as something pleasurable and agreeable, we see that we can (mistakenly) gain some good from it and that's the importance of the hallucinations: the men are actually seeing their sins as they truly are, and as something evil and life-taking.
Now for Holmes' revenge on Dudley: Holmes removes the color from Dudley's pigment until summertime the same as Dudley has removed Holmes from the school; learning, Holmes' great joy and distinction, is as much a part of his color and warmth, his personality as skin tone and hair is to Dudley, so it's an apt revenge but, again, it's a sign that Holmes lacks meekness (knowing how to use his power for a greater good instead of revenge).
She's writing on a window...
How does Waxflatter die?
He's in an antique store, and the same man calling out for hot chestnuts can be heard on the street as when Bobster was walking to the restaurant, linking the two. Waxflatter has the same appetite for antiques which Bobster has for food. Importantly, when Waxflatter is trying to get the gargoyles off himself, the antique dealer standing in the background stands in front of a panel of Egyptian hieroglyphs, clearly telling us that it's Waxflatter's involvement with the Egyptian which has brought on this curse. Through the window, the hooded figure watches Waxflatter stab himself to death, thinking instead, that he stabs the gargoyle. Two important things happen in this scene: first, Watson is the one to pick up the dropped blow-pipe and, secondly, Waxflatter tells Holmes, "Ehtar," backwards, of course, for "Rathe," or, a "mirror image," which lets us know that, once again, the device of windows and glass is being used to transmit to us the importance of reflection.
Why is it Watson to pick up the pipe?
First of all, it transmits to us Holmes' emotional involvement with Waxflatter that Holmes has broken his concentration and that, daft as Watson sometimes seems to be, he genuinely aids Holmes in his adventures. Another reason is, this is their second encounter with the hooded figure, the first was in the library when Holmes was about to kiss Elizabeth and Watson heard the noise of the chimes. Just as in that case Holmes was involved with Elizabeth, so now Holmes is involved with Waxflatter; Watson's bumbling quality, however, also serves the purpose that, just as Holmes tried to give Dudley the fallen paper back in the exam, Holmes might have made a greater attempt to give the blow-pipe back to the hooded figure and unknowingly given up an important clue.
After Waxflatter's funeral, Holmes meets Watson and Elizabeth in the attic (the highest region of thought within us) and it is here that Holmes conclusively reveals that these were murders, not suicides, in the criminal sense. It's where, also that Holmes gets his trademark hat from Waxflatter, and symbolically, this means that an important step for "young" Sherlock Holmes to becoming legendary Sherlock Holmes has been taken because now his thoughts are going to be governed by truly solving crimes and not just reading about them.
Why is the "smoking pipe" emblematic of Holmes, and why doesn't it suit Watson? Well, the Victorian Era was also the Industrial Revolutionary Era, and the "smoking pipe" rather invokes the "smoking stacks" of industries, meaning, that when we see Holmes smoking his pipe, he is being industrious in his thinking and that's why it doesn't suit Watson: he doesn't produce nearly as much as Holmes, but that doesn't mean he's not valuable.
Why is the "vital clue" a piece of fabric from the hooded figure?
The "fabric of the soul" is what will identify us on the Day of Judgment, the make up of our eternal identity; Holmes is able to detect the threads of the hooded figure's origins from some "paraffin wax" just like Wax-flatter who had something imprinted upon his soul which eventually leads Holmes to discovering the secrets. We can be assured of this interpretation because, in the next scene is a religious ceremony (not unlike the one from the earlier Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom) and it is the conflict and clashing of their religious views with the views of Christian London which Holmes must prevent. In medieval times, the signet (a ring) was a guarantee that a letter or document had come from a particular person and that no one else had read it, it was a person's very identity; in Young Sherlock Holmes, the wax is the identity and whatever we align ourselves to makes us theirs, in other words, if Satan imprints the wax of our soul with his mark, we belong to him, so let us hope that we are imprinted with God's mark.
Looking through the eyes of the statue symbolizes that they are "seeing" the animal instincts in full swing, but because this way of life is so foreign to them, they have to literally be shown what it is that is occurring because they wouldn't believe it otherwise.
(Note that the warehouse they enter has some rats [like in Indiana Jones and Raiders of the Lost Ark and the still to come Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade] which symbolically indicates for us "plague" which was brought to England by rats and this religious ceremony means that, just as the plague destroyed a large portion of England, so, too, will the plague of this cult). The chanting of the ceremony is important because it joins all the voices together in ascent of committing the murder of this young girl; Holmes' screaming out is the "voice of dissent" which does not belong to the assembly. In this way, Holmes proves that he is "still alive" because he has a conscience and he is willing to put the life of another who cannot help herself before his own life. The importance of the next sequence, the cemetery scene wherein Holmes falls prey to the hallucinations, is important because it shows us what is weak and holding him back.
Note, please, that this female sacrifice is very similar to (not only The Temple of Doom) but Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes with the satanic ritual that Lord Blackwood performs in the beginning of the film. Why? As young women are "entranced" and not fully cognizant of what it is they are doing, they can be easily manipulated to do evil works and, falling into a stupor, can be led astray in their souls to lose their identity as a faceless mummy. We know this is going to happen to Elizabeth, not because it will make great drama, but because she looks so much like Elizabeth that she will be led to this same end.
As Watson, Elizabeth and Holmes try to escape the Ramatep, they are hit with the poisoned thorns and run into the London Cemetery for an escape; but this is not random accident, they are entering into a state of death for themselves, because death is a very individualizing event, as Martin Heidegger points out rather pointlessly, "No one can die for you" and "no one can take your death for themselves" (except, of course, Christ).
This adds an interesting "layer" to Holmes: note, please, that he still wears his school scarf (he considers himself a student) and no coat, ever. Unlike Watson who is very concerned with his level of comfort, Holmes is not, the scarf is more in line with his pride that he attends the prestigious Brompton school than a matter of his comfort, but this is also a sign maybe of humility, that he hasn't really solved any cases yet and is so still a student.
The cemetery scene, however, acts as a mirror to show us how each of the characters is "dead in their own souls" and what it is they must overcome if they are to overcome the evil facing England (you can't fight externally what you have not overcome internally). For Elizabeth, falling into a grave and being "buried alive" by her uncle, reveals to us that she's afraid of the social death of being destitute that her parents' deaths and uncle's means for her, and of herself (like the young girl she just saw mummified in wax) suffering an early death).
When Watson begins his hallucination, he first sees an angel which smiles at him. This indicates that at first all sin "seems good and harmless" and we want to give our appetites what they desire. The link of sausages tying his legs means that his "will" is being taken over by that which he craves (just like in Gulliver's Travels or  Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde) and will, ultimately, effect his "standing in society" because he will "fall." It's not a matter of weight gain or cholesterol, rather, a matter of Watson exercising control over himself which he doesn't do. 
Earlier, back at the temple, Holmes says he wants to have a closer look and tries to find a way in; Watson sees a door and tells Elizabeth, "Funny, Holmes missing a door," but now, in his most intimate self, he finds the door he must go through: the door of his own mind. The candlesticks offer us the illumination and the spiderwebs tell us it's both the web of deception that Holmes figured out and that this is a very old memory within his soul. The curious thing is: this might be real. We don't know if he really did spy on his father, but it might not relate to his biological father and mother, rather, to who he all ready suspects on school grounds of being the culprit of the murders: his father-figure Rathe and motherland England and Holmes' suspicions that he might need to pull out of this.
The vital clue.
When Rathe "finds" Holmes in the attic, he really didn't "find" him at all: just as Holmes discovers the Ramatep in the "attic" of the warehouse, Rathe discovers Holmes in the attic of the school. As Holmes departs, Rathe tells him,"Remember what I always taught you, control your emotions or they will be your downfall." But Rathe isn't one to take his own advice: having sworn revenge, he always tells Holmes (regarding Waxflatter's things) that the past should be left in the past; that should include the Ramatep cult and his own parents' deaths, but he is certainly going ahead with those plans. For Watson and Holmes locked in the room, note that they escape through a window (after Watson gloomily predicts the end of his medical career) they knock on Elizabeth's window and then they escape through the top of the window over the door: every step of the way they are reflecting, because reflecting is what the murdered men failed to do.
Why does Lestade save Holmes from Cragwitch?
Lestrade has benefited from Holmes' aid in the past and so it is benefiting that Holmes should benefit from Lestrade. As the secret of the mystery is revealed to Holmes and Watson, the identity of the murders is revealed to Elizabeth who is taken by Mrs. Dribb. Why is Mrs. Dribb bald? Because she has been exposed for what she really is; her pretty and sweet demeanor previously highlights how unnatural she is now in her murderous tendencies. Whereas she was the school nurse (meant to preserve life and offer aid and comfort) now she is a devious cult member who takes life.
Using his ring to hypnotize Elizabeth.
Why can't Watson figure out the riddle with the bear?
By its very nature, Watson cant figure it out because bears symbolize our fear (that which can destroy us and against which we have no protection) so we cover our fears in the symbol of a bear so we don't have to reflect on it. The bear passes a window (self-reflection) and it is in the sun (the light of truth and illumination) so what color does the light mean that the bear is? Watson, going through all the other colors, is searching for something he doesn't know, like in Waxflatter's attic before he finds the drawing of the men. When Watson happens to light upon the bear being white (white, in this case means "death" because a corpse turns white in decay) Watson's using the riddle to distract him from the real threat of death around him, the mystery of the Ramatep.The importance of "reflection" in this riddle is spelled out for us when we realize that by reflecting, Watson solves the puzzle of who Ehtar is.
Why does Holmes take Waxflatter's flying machine to the Rametep temple?
Its not because that's the only way to get there, it's because he can.
Holmes will give her a taste of her own poison. Everything Mrs. Dribb does in this scene works to the opposite effect of what she really is: she puts medicine on Holmes' wound, when she puts poison in person's bodies, she gives a kiss to him for affection, when she is the kiss of death, and she speaks sweetly when she really has a terrifying screech of pagan chants.
As I have said, the murdered men did not have the training in the spirit to defeat the evil working against them, but Holmes has, so the flying machine will work for him because "he's not weighed down by sin." This is a sign of the Holy Spirit who will symbolically carry Holmes to where he needs to be to defeat the evil. Watson, before boarding the contraption, puts his hat on backwards because he has to be thinking in terms of faith, not practicality. The validation of this lies in the shadow which we see of the "flying machine" over the houses (Holmes is able to cast a shadow even in darkness because he's standing with the sun at all times) and we see them again in the window reflection of a store shop window.
Why does the contraption land on the ice and sink?
Everything serves a purpose and now, the flying machine has served its, but it also foreshadows what will happen to Rathe. The water symbolizes baptismal grace which got Holmes and Watson there and will protect them during the upcoming battle; Watson falling on the ice before he reaches the staircase reveals to us that his "courage is falling" and he's not quite as up to this battle as Holmes is, but Watson isn't as invested in this ordeal as Holmes which keeps Holmes on his feet.
Why are the princesses important?
The Egyptian princesses which had been "taken" from Egypt when they were digging for the hotel symbolizes the royal birth line (women give birth) and the end of Egypt's glory; taking English girls is an act of revenge because, in disposing of the beloved of Sherlock Holmes, he won't be able to reproduce and thereby he will become impotent as Egypt has been rendered impotent in being able to create a dynasty. But it's not just Sherlock Holmes (this is also reflected in Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes) but by leading English women astray, the whole English society will be undermined and eroded because women are the keepers of tradition: rob a country of women, and you rob it of its traditions. Don't believe me? Rathe, in trying to shoot Holmes, shoots Elizabeth in the stomach (the womb), thereby robbing Holmes both of her and any future children.
How can Sherlock Holmes possibly be atop the chandelier while all this is going on?
He's proving that he's "above the situation" in terms of his emotions and, being above it gives him the power to bring it all down. Watson, however, is not so capable, but we rather expect that. When Rathe punches Watson, it makes a nice mirror-image to the hand that has just come down upon Holmes: i.e. the Hand of God protects Holmes even while everyone else dies. While Rathe fancies himself a priest, he will be no match for Holmes who, symbolically, fights with a board (the Cross) and fire (the Fire of the Holy Spirit from Pentecost). Watson, meanwhile, has grown from being punched out (Rathe trying to efface him): taking the rope and hook (that which binds us like fish, Jesus is the Divine Fisherman) he's able to save both Holmes and aid Elizabeth.
Why does Holmes call him both "Ehtar" and a "fraud?"
Because it's the ultimate slam, even in Rathe's true, revealed identity, he's still nothing, a fraud, and that's the essence of him, the essence of shadows and evil: nothingness, nothingness that was once something and willingly became nothing on its own free will. It's too bad because, Holmes gives Watson, the doctor in training, his first patient in Elizabeth and there is nothing Watson can do to save her. Meanwhile, Holmes has all ready won the battle and he knows it, scratching Rathe on his face is just a taste of Rathe's realization that Holmes has beat him and Holmes knows it.
Why does this scene come down to a fight of paddle against paddle?
It's really a "ship of state" vs. another "ship of state": whose vision will control England and govern the world? This is never just a battle of wits or love, but of good and evil that will effect all people everywhere. The ice breaking up to reveal the icy water beneath, is icy only to the one who hasn't been baptized. It's fitting that the true Englishman, Holmes, destroys him who would destroy his own grandfather: Rathe was staying with his grandfather in England when he heard of the attack on his village; he traded in his own grandfather and father for his native motherland, but Holmes preserves the motherland by destroying his father-figure, Rathe.
How does the pagan die? Baptism.
Why does Elizabeth die? For Holmes to confirm to himself and the world that he believes "in another world, a much better world" where there will be life after death. Rathe, an Osiris worshiper, believed in the cult of death and life after death, but he didn't have the right belief of what life is supposed to be here, on earth, so he couldn't have an accurate understanding of what life is in the afterlife.
The saddest part of the whole film is not only when Elizabeth dies, but when, as Holmes is leaving the school, he looks up at the window where she stood and spelled out "I Love You" and he says he will spend his whole life alone. But next, something very important happens: Watson says, "Merry Christmas, Holmes" and gives Holmes the pipe. Watson can neither give Christmas greetings, nor Holmes accept them, if they do not believe in the Birth of Christ which also means the Birth of each of us as we are meant to exist in God's Divine Plan for our destiny. Now that Sherlock Holmes has the pipe, he is no longer "young," he has completely filled himself out. Note, please, that he is now wearing a coat, something he never did earlier, because now, we might say, he has nothing left to lose (having lost Elizabeth) but her loss means he has something to hide: the void of loneliness.
Why does Holmes keep Rathe's jacket? "The skin of the leopard" as Holmes calls it will remind Holmes of the animal appetites which lead Rathe astray in his life so Holmes won't make the same mistakes.
Watson, on the other hand, has solved the riddle, and it is now solved because Watson himself is solved: he knows what he is to become, so that which previously would have meant death and fear, now means adventure and courage; the bear is white because white, now, is the sign of faith, but it is a polar bear because, like the North Pole being removed from all society and cold, Watson realizes, also, that Holmes himself is the polar bear, the one who--living out the contemplative life, will be removed from all others and live in the cold of contemplation. The riddle Holmes gave to Watson was about Holmes himself all along, and who it is that Sherlock Holmes is.
Through the tundra, perhaps of Russia, Rathe goes on to a lodge and signs his name "Moriarity" in the guest book. The same characteristics which will make Holmes great will continue Rathe in terms of evil (cold, as in heartless, and barren like the desert of Egypt). Yes, Rathe did die in Baptism, but evil has no identity of its own, its only identity is that it tries to undermine what is good, so the face of evil can always be changing and morphing, disguising itself and leading people astray, but the face of the good will only become clearer and more easily recognized. There are countless Rathes and Moriartys but there is only one Sherlock Holmes.