Saturday, January 28, 2017

Symbol Analysis: King Arthur Legend Of the Sword Teaser

Well, well, well,... This is one tough looking villain. Clearly, this is a demon, a devil, a spirit of pure evil; why is this important? Because we live in a time when such a villain is called for. Ten years ago, it would not have been so practical of a film pitch to have a demon at the axis of a political drama--which is what King Arthur: Legend Of the Sword really is, because Arthur was the political king who lightened the darkness in the Dark Ages--but it is appropriate today: not only because of the nightmarish public revelations of "leaders" like Hillary Clinton and high-ranking members of Congress in relation to the occult and child sex circles, and not only because of public schools in the US allowing "After School Satan" programs, but also because of the very Americans who voted for Hillary how demonic they have behaved in the proliferation  of sin and immoral behavior. (If you haven't seen the full-length trailer, or need to watch it again, it's at the very end of this post). So, what is the most striking feature of this demon above? Perhaps the fiery cape. A cape is a part of the back, so capes act as metaphors of the load a person is carrying or willing to carry: for example, heroes like Superman and Thor have red capes because they love humanity and are willing to carry humanity on their super-strong backs. Fire symbolizes, on the other hand, either the fire of damnation or the fire of purgation; the figure above is clearly demonic, so he carries the burden of spreading damnation across the earth (we will compare this to Vortigern's cape below). There is also the notable feature that there are no eyes to this demon, which makes perfect sense, because eyes are the windows of the soul (the soul houses the body the way the body houses the soul) and demons give up their souls to darkness and depravity, losing the ability to "see" reality accurately. Arthur, on the other hand, with his striking blue eyes, has a greater ability to see than do most: at the moment he pulls the sword, he "sees" the consequences and what is going to happen because he has pulled the sword (this will be compared to Guinevere, who is a magician/wizard in the film and has her own "sight" because she has yellow eyes). At one point in the full-length trailer, Vortigern says, "I know what kind of man you are," and what he's basically saying is, "I can see what drives you and what demons haunt you, and I see how to use that against you for my own ends." When Arthur sets in Vortigern's prison, and Arthur asks, "What happens now?" Arthur confesses he can't see what is going to happen next, even though Vortigern insists, "You know what happens now," you die at my hands because I am a tyrant and that's what I do. So, "sight" and who can see what, will be an important part of power in the film. 
One of the great qualities of Guy Ritchie films is his ability to take a story we are quite familiar with and, some how, actually make it better than the original: Sherlock Holmes, The Man From UNCLE and now King Arthur Legend Of the Sword. Ritchie's newest epic to hit theaters must be good, because it was moved from a lackluster opened in March, to Mother's Day weekend in May, so the studio has had its expectations surpassed with this one. For us film-goers, even though we are going to have to wait longer to see the 3D film, it validates the building anticipation that this is definitely one to look forward to. This isn't much of a trailer, only about 0:45 seconds, however, we do get a better look at some things we have all ready seen, and this provides an opportunity to discuss some of the details we didn't in our post on the full-length trailer. (For those who are new to this blog, I would like to mention for the sake of the discussion below, that I am female, but I have never, not for one single minute, ever, ever been a feminist):
At least to some degree, we can all ready see Ritchie using demarcations: the divine and the earthly, the rich and the poor, the fated and the usurper. These demarcations are radically important political signposts; how? Once upon a time, in an era when women burned bras and men sang folk songs, "minorities" (those who identified themselves as suffering from the inherent racism of America) got a hold of Jacques Derrida's work and decided that Western civilization's tendency to create binary oppositions--man and woman, black and white, rich and poor, right and wrong, straight and queer--meant one side of the opposition was always all ready in a losing position (woman, black, poor, wrong, queer), while the other side was always all ready in a winning position (man, white, rich, right, straight); what we are beginning to see slowly re-emerge (e.g., in Marvel films, especially those directed by the Russo brothers) is the re-introduction into public discourse of these binaries; why? Because people now realize how foolish we were to let the Left censor us (political correctness) into abandoning them in favor of some fuzzy gray area which gives them all the power and robs us of our own freedom of speech and expression. SO, how does this relate to King Arthur Legend Of the Sword?
In at least two ways.
Why, in the teaser above, do the letters slowly appear, in a seeming array of nonsense, like a puzzle on Wheel Of Fortune? Because the film is a puzzle. That is how the narrative will "come" to us. Just as one letter appears here, and another, seemingly unrelated letter appears over there, so, too, with events, characters and details of the narrative, until we can make sense of it; why? As usual, dear reader, there are at least two reasons. First, we know the story of Arthur, so we are the implied audience (we have the necessary background required to watch the film and know what is going on) as such, Ritchie needs to make sure we don't get bored with the film, so he has to use a creative editing technique--both narratively and visually--to keep us engaged with his story (an example of narrative editing is, in the main trailer, when Arthur asks the man questioning him about his nightmare if he's writing a book; we engage with that as viewers because we know lots of books about Arthur have been written; an example of visual editing is when Arthur is fighting and Ritchie rewinds the action when GooseFat Jack says, "Back up," and the events, literally, back up. We don't see that technique often--if at all--employed in film, yet it's visual enticement which will hold our interest). The second reason is because this method reflects life: we don't always have the whole answer before us, we only a part of what might be an answer, but we have to act anyway, by a leap of faith--and we have all ready seen plenty of those in the trailers--and that is what will be the basis of the film. Now, on an entirely different note, let's go back and add some additional commentary to the long explanation we have all ready gathered. As we stated previously, the idea of a "sword in the stone" is very much a phallic one: Uther Pendragon, the father of Arthur, lusted for the wife of another man, and so he planted his "hard phallus" within her; just before dying, Uther plants his sword into a stone realizing that, just as a sword does not belong in a stone, neither does a man's penis belong in the wife of another man. The long period of lawlessness and darkness reigning over the land during that time, was England paying the price for Uther's sin, as Israel paid the price for David lusting for Bathsheba. Making a film about knights and King Arthur is possibly the most masculine subject matter Guy Ritchie could have picked: is there anything more masculine than a knight, who was, by very definition, supposed to represent manhood? When colleges begin offering classes as "safe spaces" to discuss "toxic masculinity" there is a war against masculinity in general. King Arthur: Legend Of the Sword could instead be rightfully entitled, King Arthur: Legend of the White Man and His Manifold Accomplishments For Civilization. And that is a good thing! With King Arthur being brought into the public forum of discourse, Ritchie re-introduces three major topics for discussion: "Englishness," masculinity, and the law. First, is there any single person who embodies being English more so than King Arthur? Why is this important? Brexit. The English wish to remain English and not be swallowed up, either by the European Union or, even more so, the flood of immigrants surging throughout European countries and the US (which is caused by EU laws on immigration and Obama's policies on following the EU). Secondly, there is masculinity, and the order of chivalry which Arthur creates to embody masculinity and structure it so men have an ideal and standard by which to measure themselves. Thirdly, there is the law. The last eight years, in the world and especially the United States, has seen an unprecedented break-down in law enforcement: from the war crimes of people like Obama (remember, Egypt, Syria, Ukraine, Benghazi, and no telling where else), the heads of the Department of Justice Loretta Lynch and Eric Holder, the heads of the IRS, Hillary's constant lying and obstruction of justice, and crimes against law enforcement officers, there has never been less law in the civilized world than today. Why? Because "the law" is largely seen to be an extension of white male rule, not the "laws" of those identifying themselves as minorities. By committing crimes and getting away with it, the Left is slowly but surely undermining the law of the Founding Fathers and the rule of "logic" in the West in general. Ritchie, then, in being himself the man "who pulled sword from stone" by reminding audiences of what we all ready know, as it is, once again, "embodied" in King Arthur, is the man who wants to re-establish order
First, we see clear examples of such oppositions in play in these two trailers in spite of the "ban" by the Left; secondly, all the values which have suffered because of this "ban" are being highlighted by what we see in the trailers (the Divine, for example, as well as white men with big swords). The opening scene of the sword tip dragging across the floor is a perfect example: that sword tip is THE sword (I don't know if they will refer to the sword in the film as "Excalibur" or not, as we saw in the first trailer, Arthur is introduced with the words, "Behold, the man who who pulled sword from stone," not as the chosen of Excalibur or something like that,.. anyway). The sword is an instrument of the divine, because without the divine, Arthur would not have been able to pull out the sword from the stone, when every one else struggled but was unable to budge it. So the sword tip is the divine, and it's touching the mundane, the earth, the floor upon which Arthur walks, and this intersection of the divine and mundane illustrates one of the highest (if not THE highest) opposition which can exist: God and man.
This is an interesting scene for at least two reasons: first, Vortigern (Jude Law) acts like he's blessing the people by extending his hand out over them; given that Vortigern has sold his soul to the devil to have power (this is my interpretation, we don't know this for sure, but it certainly looks like it), this isn't the act of blessing, it's cursing. The curse upon his soul which Vortigern has accepted in exchange for power will now be passed onto the people he rules over. Secondly, Vortigern acts as if he's in a position to bless, but as the voice over of the teaser demonstrates, it's Arthur who is actually in a position to bless: since we can never give that we have not first received, Arthur acknowledges that, in blessing Vortigern (for creating him, by being such an oppressive dictator that the people revolted and accepted Arthur, a basic street punk, as their king), Arthur, too, has been blessed, even with all the battles, problems and demons he has to face in the story. Vortigern, on the other hand, brings all the war, problems and demons upon the people, because Vortigern's power is a source of destruction for all the people of the kingdom. And now for something completely different: please notice Vortigern's cape: it's fur. This is an important comparison with the first image at the top (the demon with the fiery cape): as we said, the shoulders and back symbolize what burdens we carry, how we carry them and why; Vortigern has a cape made of white fur. White, we know, symbolizes the soul alive with faith, hope, charity, purity, innocence; white also symbolizes when the soul is dead to these virtues because a corpse--the house of the soul--turns white in decomposition. Animals and animal fur symbolizes the "animal appetites" within us: the lust for sex, opulence, gluttony, greed, power, any sin that erodes the dignity of our own soul and our ability to see the inherent dignity of others and reduces us to animals rather than elevating us as the children of God. So, knowing that Vortigern has likely sold his soul to the devil to gain power, Vortigern's white fur cape symbolizes the how the burden of his animal appetites has led to a loss of faith in him that he is now spreading throughout the kingdom. Arthur, on the other hand, will have to demonstrate incredible faith in order to overcome Vortigern.
This is terribly important because there is obviously a demon involved in this narrative, but we shouldn't be surprised: from Devil's Due, Ghostbusters, Independence Day, The Witch, The Circle and at least one other film I can't think of, the accusation about "devil worshiping" and the Left joining the devil to overcome and undo the Christian Right. So, we have the traditional opposition of "good and evil" as well (another way we will see the opposition of "good and evil" play out will probably be in the opposition of "light and darkness," which is noticeable as we watch the surrounding scenery of Arthur's feet as he walks). We know Arthur is on the side of good, not just because he drew the sword, but because of the wisdom he exhibits in the voice over of this teaser: "I bless you," he says, and then we see the startling words spelled out for us on the screen: FROM NOTHING COMES A KING. That is actually pretty awesome!
There are two types of "nothing": there is, first of all, the "nothing" that is evil: evil is the absence of virtue, the swarming of vice. The reason "nothing" can be allied to evil is because evil cannot create anything (the act of creation is a role for God, and for those to whom He bestows creativity; likewise, "life" is a virtue which evil cannot mimic). But wait, says you, dear and wise reader, in the teaser above, Arthur himself says that Vortigern created him, so you are wrong.  It's not that Arthur is wrong, rather, it's that Arthur argues from his "nothing," (the second example of "nothing" we haven't yet spoken about). Think of evil as being a black hole that is a complete and total vacuum, and emits nothing (yes, I know black holes emit radiation, but take even that out of the equation of this metaphor, and don't think about wormholes, either, or event horizons, just a plain, basic... black... hole...). "Nothing," on the other hand, is quite different. The "nothing" from which Arthur, the king, comes, is the "nothing but virtue." Arthur will be reduced to nothing, all his sins will be purged from him (maybe not all of his sins, there is quite a bit of talk of a franchise with this film, so there will probably be some "leftover sins" that will populate future installments) but Arthur will be sufficiently purged to overcome Vortigern. How can we tell that this is a correct definition of "nothing" for both Vortigern and for Arthur? The darkness of the demon reveals the "nothingness" into which Vortigern has fallen, while the gold in the lettering (a sample in the image above) for Arthur: gold must be tried by fire to lose its impurities and the same will happen to Arthur, making him worthy to be king. Without this "nothingness" Arthur will undergo, it's impossible to become a good king. This is, essentially, why Arthur blesses Vortigern: had Vortigern not acted so unjustly in killing Arthur's parents and, later brother (I read the synopsis), Arthur most likely would not have gone down the path of righteousness, remaining, instead, on his own gently sloping, sinful path to hell. In other words, Arthur would have become like Vortigern had Vortigern not been an important element in bringing England to the brink of devastation.
What might be most memorable about this teaser visually is the scene of the man jumping the white horse across a dead-end bridge into the abyss (about 0:35). There appears to be quite a bit to the "abyss" from what we have seen: the two men who run off the cliff and jump into the water, men fighting on that extremely tall bridge and falling off, into the abyss below and even the "abyss" of nothingness from which Arthur will emerge, and bring England with him.  
As we said earlier, the sword in the stone is an instrument of the divine, and the opening of the teaser is where we see the divine (the sword) touching our mundane existence (the earth/floor). Bear with me, if you will, as we take a little trip. In Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Jyn wears a crystal around her neck that is used in making light sabers (which is very much like a sword). Jyn, however, dies, she does not go on in the story (she gives up her life in sacrifice to help save the universe, so she is a hero) but Jyn is a common vessel because the crystal she wears has not been refined. Princess Leia, on the other hand, is a light saber: her all white gown we see her wearing is the same color as the light saber which Obi Wan gives Luke a few scenes later. As Leia speaks to Darth Vader and then Grand Moff Tarkin, when they question her about the Rebel Alliance and base, she is unflinching in her bravery and her harsh words. Leia, then has been through the fire which Jyn would not have been able to pass through. Now, back to King Arthur: just as Leia is a light saber, so Arthur will become the sword,...or, at least he's meant to. No one is perfect, but this is Arthur's destiny, as it is the destiny of each of us. As Scripture tells us in 2 Timothy 2-22, there are vessels of gold and vessels of clay. We can see this in the image above: we see the sword, and to the right of the sword is a vessel: the vessel isn't as grand as the sword, but the vessel serves a purpose, just as you and I might not be president someday, but we serve a purpose still. 
Last point: why do we see a bleeding chess piece? Chess, as we know from Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows, is an important game for Ritchie, and the game will undoubtedly be important in King Arthur as well. The piece we see bleeding is the knight, so it's likely this foreshadows how the knights of Arthur will be called to sacrifice themselves for the kingdom and Arthur, which is what men have always been called upon to do. When, however, men fail in their duty, when they behave in ways which fail to earn them respect so that they even don't respect themselves (like sleeping around, getting women pregnant and then not helping to raise the child(ren), divorce, pornography, drugs, etc.) not only are men not happy, but they instead earn the scorn of all society and fall in the estimation of the people, as with what is happening today.
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner
Here is the link to the original post discussing the first trailer that was released and here is the original, full-length trailer: