Saturday, June 16, 2018

The Nun Trailer (2018)

At this moment, I am truly excited about this film. As you may recall, the first film, The Conjuring, was definitely pro-socialist, but then, the follow-up, Annabelle, was definitely pro-capitalist; then the biggest surprise came when The Conjuring II: The Enfield Poltergeist (made by the same writers and director as the first one) did a complete round-about and was pro-capitalist! There is always the possibility of making a mistake when I analyze a two-minute trailer from a two-hour film, so you and me need to keep that in mind, but I am excited and think this is going to be a really great film on several levels!
This is an interesting poster, most notably, the nun's face is cut in half by the boundary of the poster, and the eye that shows is yellow. When a character is presented in this situation, it demonstrates that there is a part of the character we are not seeing, a part of the character we can't see. Her eye is also yellow; as we know, yellow symbolizes our dignity so, as a nun, when she was alive, she was supposed to recognize the dignity of her calling in being a Bride of Christ, however, she failed to do that, so she became a demon instead. Also interesting is the visible eyebrow: we know that eyes symbolize our "sight," as in spiritual sight into ourselves/others, or even our ability to see things in a truthful light; the eyebrow, the hair above the eye, symbolizes our ability to think upon what it is our eyes have seen, so, when a character has "damaged eyebrows," or no eyebrows, that character lacks the ability to meditate upon the truth, which is the whole point of entering the religious life, to mediate upon God and the Truth He has passed onto us, and how we are called to manifest that Truth in the world.
We can also faintly see veins in the eye area, and this is a technique that has always impressed me (think, if you will, of the aged Louis [Brad Pitt] towards the end of Interview With the Vampire and how his pale face showed those same veins). The purpose of veins is to carry blood throughout the body and insure healthy circulation so there is a healthy body; when we see an emphasis on veins like this, it suggests the exact opposite: this is a "bloodless" person who doesn't have any healthy circulation, therefore, not a healthy body. When we examine a character's cheeks, we need to think of Matthew 5:39 when Christ tells us, whoever hits you on your right cheek, turn and offer them the left cheek as well. When a character has normal or fat cheeks, they tend to let things (like insults or harm against them) roll off, they don't hold a grudge; when we see characters with shard cheekbones, like Angelina Jolie's Maleficent, these are characters who hunger after revenge and don't let any insult or slight escape them, and it may prove to be true with the protruding cheekbones we see of Valak.
The face symbolizes our identity, because it's our face by which others identify us; the nose is the most prominent feature on our face, so our nose identifies our honor and whether or not we have an overall good or bad character; when we see a character who has something wrong with their nose, or something happens to the nose of a character, it's usually a sign that they have done something to disgrace or shame themselves. Below, I will discuss Valak's nun's habit (that's an entire subject in and of itself) however, this poster brings to light an interesting detail. Please note, if you will, the side of the face at her eye level and then to your left and the different "layers" of her head coverings: there is the layer closest to her face, then a slightly crinkled layer, then the outer layer of the heavier, black exterior head-dress (this has a proper name, and I am sorry I couldn't find what it's called). Note how that inner-layer is "crinkled," almost like it's shriveled, and because it's on her head, anything on the head is going to denote our thoughts or our thought processes, so something about the core of her thoughts is shriveled and distorted.
What about "The Nun" title? Obviously, the "T" in "The" is a cross, but what's the purpose of the cross? To fight the backwardness of the reversed "N" in "Nun." "Nun" is a palindrome--the same word spelled forwards or backwards--but with the "N" reversed the way it is, it's not just a palindrome, it's also a mirror-image, that is, if you held it up in a mirror, it would still spell "NUN" but with the first "N" reversed. This is going to be an important image for the film, for example, we know the nun who became possessed by the demon Valak killed herself, so it might be a commentary upon the way "death" is taken up by religious: when one becomes a monk or nun, they are called to "die to the world," but this particular nun died to God in killing herself, so she turned her vocations backwards. The same kind of device is at work at the beginning of the trailer when we see the painting of Valak which Ed Warren painted from his dream and then the lights go out and we still see the glowing eyes of the painting, the (photographic) negative, if you will.
Work has been absolutely crazy, please, please exclude another long delay in getting posts up, however, I hope this will excite you as much as it does myself! The first trailer for The Nun has been released, and it's loaded with material for us to discuss. The Nun is a part of The Conjuring universe based upon the real-life journals of paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren. The third film in the series (after The Conjuring then Annabelle) was The Conjuring 2: The Enfield Poltergeist, and it was in the opening sequence that viewers were first introduced to the malefic but ambiguous figure of the demon Valak inhabiting the body of a Catholic nun (when Lorraine goes into the basement at the Amityville house they are investigating). Now, in The Enfield Poltergeist, I interpreted Valak/the nun as a temptation for Lorraine Warren that she should have done something different with her life rather than marry Ed, specifically, that Valak was tempting her to think that God wanted her to become a nun rather than marry Ed (please see The Conjuring 2 for more); that interpretation still holds because that is what the film makers decided to do with it in that film, however, we now have a significantly expanded body of information from which to draw (the trailer warns you to watch it until the end, however, after the release date is given, there is nothing else to see):
By the way, the woman portraying the young nun is Taissa Farmiga, the sister of Vera, who portrays Lorraine Warren in the other films (and, in The Nun 2, we are being promised that the stories of the nun will be linked to Lorraine and why she experienced Valak in The Enfield Poltergeist). Now, here are the two official synopsis-es providing us with some additional information the trailer has not yet provided:

In 1952 Romania, a nun, a Catholic priest and a novice, sent by the Vatican, investigate the mysterious suicidal death of a nun at the Cârța Monastery. (Wikipedia, The Nun)

When a young nun at a cloistered abbey in Romania takes her own life, a priest with a haunted past and a novitiate on the threshold of her final vows are sent by the Vatican to investigate. Together they uncover the order's unholy secret. Risking not only their lives but their faith and their very souls, they confront a malevolent force in the form of the same demonic nun that first terrorized audiences in 'The Conjuring 2,' as the abbey becomes a horrific battleground between the living and the damned.  (Written by Warner Bros., Internet Movie Database)
This is what remains today of Carta Monastery in Romania where much of the film's events take place; does it look somehow familiar? It reminds me of the monastery opening the first scene of last year's The Mummy with Tom Cruise. Both Carta Monastery (pictured above) and Waverley Abbey in The Mummy are Cistercian--emphasizing self-sufficiency through labor--so the similar aesthetic would have been applied to the construction of both holy houses. By linking up with The Mummy through visual and locational clues, The Nun--in effect--wants to "quote" The Mummy and remind audiences of what they saw in The Mummy so The Nun can join-in on that same dialogue. Another important link-up (although many films do this, it's not unique to The Nun) is provide us with a specific date of something taking place in a religious house (and, by the way, neither monastery nor abbey are still in use today): The Mummy opens in 1157 and The Nun takes place in 1952, which actions of those dedicated to the service of God had taken leading to the events being depicted in the film. 
Let's start with 1952 and Romania.
What was happening in Romania in 1952? Like the rest of Europe, Romania attempted to recover from the ravages of World War II, however, under the Paris Peace Conference of 1947, Romania fell to the Soviet Union and became communist (if you examine this brief but painful history of Romania post-WWII, you can see all the trade-marks of the brutal communist regime at work). In 1952, Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej solidified his power and leadership of Romania as General Secretary of the Romanian Communist Party through his party purge (getting rid of his rivals) making Romania the most loyal satellite of the USSR: this lead to the re-distribution of valuable Romanian resources to the USSR and the furthering of the communist agenda throughout the world. All of this, I am certain, is important for the understanding of this film (please see the caption below for more explanation). Now, let's turn our attention to the reason Sister Irene and Father Burke (Damian Bichir) go to Carta Monastery.
These two stills are seen in the trailer above when Sister Irene looks down a hallway and is then followed by the nun with the blacked out face (top image), followed by an attack from another nun (bottom image). We have no idea where in the story this scene takes place, but we can still make some important deductions about it. Sister Irene walks down a hallway, and this image hearkens us back to The Conjuring II: The Enfield Poltergeist when Valak appears to Lorraine Warren in Lorraine's home at the end of her hallway. Hallways--as we have seen in both Spectre and John Wick Chapter 2--have the same symbolic significance of a bridge, that is, the hallway/bridge shows a progression, something has changed or is about to change; whereas bridges are exterior to the character (symbolizing things which are likely beyond the control of the character) hallways are interior thereby communicating to the audience that a progression takes place within the character and their free will is at play, i.e., they are about to make an important decision which will effect their own outcome. Without the sub-titles on, it's impossible to hear/understand (an excellent strategy of "noise," that is, the interference with our ability to hear because the noise serves a purpose, for example, Sister Irene has a calling to fulfill, she can hear the calling, but we can't, and the "noise" of what the nun behind her says puts us in our place and why Sister Irene has been called); so, what does the nun tell to Sister Irene? "Sister, please, this way," and when Sister Irene begins to question her instead of going down that way, the other nun side-swipes her to force Sister Irene's will.
A word about Sister Irene: she's a novice, which means she has not yet made her final vows to become a nun, she's in the "courtship" stage and discerning whether or not the life of a nun is actually her calling. We saw Valak challenge both Ed and Lorraine regarding their calling to matrimony is The Conjuring II, and now Valak challenges Sister Irene about her calling as well (what was right for Ed and Lorraine is different compared to what is right for Sister Irene because of the individuality and gifts each have been blessed with by God; our vocations in life is how God wants us to use our gifts to glorify Him and gain salvation for our souls as well as, hopefully, the souls of others, so one cannot simply state that the religious life is absolutely the greatest good, nor the married life the greatest good; rather, the greatest good is for the one being called to a particular state to answer that call so their gifts can be maximized and their full individuality revealed: a woman might become a nun out of fear for not finding a husband, for example, and so her gift of faith is undermined by fear, while a woman who was called to become a wife might become a nun instead so she doesn't have to take care of a husband; this is what "discerning" is, not only understanding what God is calling you to do, but understanding your motivations for wanting or not wanting to do something). The name "Irene" means "peace," and we see her holding the lantern--the light symbolizes the inner "illumination" of her spirit, but also the light of illumination of her calling to be a nun and carry the light of hope to others. We see Sister Irene walking down this hallway, and we also see her looking down a hallway but not going down it; this might be a manifestation of a choice she has made or will have to make in the narrative. After she decides not to go down that hallway (what she is looking for--and this should be taken on a deeper level--isn't down that "path" the hallway represents) then the blacked face nun appears behind her, suggesting that Irene has made the right choice, so now evil has to come in and tempt her or, more likely, frighten her from taking the right path she has decided upon (the nun coming out from another hallway she didn't check). It's not a coincidence that the "tactic" the demon(s) use is reminiscent of Jurassic Park: the raptors, if you recall, hunt in groups of two, so one raptor acts as a decoy to draw the attention and focus of the desired prey, while the second raptor hunts the prey ("Clever girl"). What's the point of quoting this scene? So that we understand that, just like the raptors, these demons are hunters, and we are the hunted.
Now, what about the black-faced nun? I would like to suggest that this is an example of "erasure," that is, something is stricken out to show that far more is being implied than what is being seen, because what the artist/film maker wants to say, is impossible to say, but some means must be employed to achieve at least a partial understanding of what the artist/film maker needs to communicate (please see Sous rature for more, as well as scrolling down to the image of the Zero Dark Thirty poster in my post for The Man From UNCLE where I discuss "under erasure" extensively). So, to try and clear-up this muddled mess, the nun's face is blacked-out because the importance and true-nature of her presence, her being, cannot be communicated, so it's "erased" to show that she is an agent of evil, and we might even add, that Sister Irene herself is at risk for losing her identity if she makes the wrong decision (the "face" symbolizes the seat of our identity, it's how others identify who we are, which is why blacking-out the nun's face is such a serious concern, it means that her devotion to evil has completely over-taken her entire being; for more on this topic, please see the first caption under the mask of Michael Myers in Lessons From Horror Films: Why People Do Stupid Things). The nun with the blacked-out face "distracts" Sister Irene while another nun out-flanks her and pins her against the wall; this is the part I think will relate to Romania in 1952, and to the rest of the world today. Romania, like Sister Irene, were going down their path, when they themselves were distracted by Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej's rise to power and his purges, and--like the nun who out-flanks Sister Irene--the Soviet Union moved in Romania and took them by total surprise, pinning them down into a position from which they couldn't escape; similarly, we can interpret the nun with the blacked-out face to the distraction of identity politics throughout recent international elections (the face is the seat of identity) so that the real socialist-thrust of the movement could side-swipe us and pin us against a wall (for more on the role of identity politics in recent elections, please see this excellent article at The Intercept).
One last note about this brief scene: when Sister Irene is about to turn to look behind her and see the first nun, she switches the lantern from her left hand to the right hand; why? The left side is typically associated with evil (practicing witches, for example, refer to the path of witchcraft and Satan worship as the "Left Path") so Sister Irene, sensing she is about to face evil, switches the symbolic "light of illumination" from her weaker side--the left hand--to her stronger side, her right hand. She knows she is about to face something evil, and she's preparing herself. It's not just that God has given Irene the gift of vision to "see" the spiritual battle against Valak that must be waged; we, the audience, have also been given the gift to "see" what is happening in our country and in the world by the under-handed ploys of socialists trying to destroy the world and bring in their New World Order, and because we can "see" the evil they manifest, like Sister Irene, we, too, must fight this spiritual battle on all levels.
At the time of this posting, it's scarcely been two weeks since the high-profile suicides of fashion-designer Kate Spade and celebrity-chef Anthony Bourdain, and we now have the fictional suicide of a nun in a distant land and a distant time. What I am about to say does not reflect suicide in real-life: it's a horrible dilemma in which a person finds themselves, and I am in no way judging them, so please, remember these two troubled people in your prayers, as well as their loved ones, and everyone facing the temptation to end their life. Art, however, is a experience both connected to reality but beyond it, where the discussion of events are real, but the arena is entirely sealed-off in by its own rules and purpose, so, again, this is a total and absolute disclaimer that what I am about to say applies only to fictional narrative and not real individuals and their souls.
Father Burke (pictured left) is portrayed by Damian Bichir, who was an interesting choice for the role (we'll discuss that later after we discover what Father Burke's "haunted past" means). Just as Sister Irene's name means "peace," I don't think "Burke" was chosen without purpose. I will be the first to admit this is a stretch and not a likely possibility, however, Edmund Burke (pictured right) was a political philosopher and conservative politician who was a defender of the moral fabric of society and the Church; when I saw that Bichir's character was named "Burke," this was my first thought, although it's probably just a stretch of my imagination. It's also possible, though not likely, that his name refers to Archbishop Raymond Burke, a staunch conservative of the Catholic Church, and one of the first leaders Pope Francis "moved" to a symbolic role away from real policy making and power. Hopefully, when the second trailer drops, we will learn more of his role, in the meantime, we will just have to keep our options open.
At least at this point, we don't know why the unnamed nun kills herself, nor do we know the method she has employed to end her life. What we do know, however, is that this demon makes a habit of possession, which has been the theme since the very first Conjuring film. "Possession," in The Conjuring was a play on words, because when the Perron family moves into the "haunted house," they take possession of it, and in taking possession of the house, Carolyn Perron becomes possessed because Carolyn wanted that house (please see The Devil's Hour: The Conjuring for analysis on how the film is pro-socialist). In the following films, however, "possession" became a device to illustrate how socialism "takes over" people and a system, in effect, the demon is a parasite feeding off the person and wrecking everything in its path. This is how I think (after having seen two minutes of a two-hour film) the role of the nun's suicide is going to be reflected by Romania in 1952: Romania committed suicide in allowing themselves to become communist, and were then over-run by the USSR sucking up all their resources for their own country and projects. So, where does Sister Irene come into play?
If you will recall, in The Conjuring, the Annabelle doll (which is real and actually kept locked-up in the Warrens' personal museum to this day) was dramatically changed from the original "Raggedy Ann" type doll that was the original Annabelle from which they exorcised a demon (you can find the original and The Conjuring doll at this link, scroll down to the bottom of the page and you will see it) and they had every right to make that artistic change; we can see the same being done with the habit of the nun on the left, vs the real Cistercian habit pictured on the right; again, they have every right to do so, however, comparison with the original helps us to draw out the differences and understand what the film makers wish to communicate with the stylized changes. So, the demonic nun's habit is predominantly black. Black, as we know, always symbolizes death: the "good death" of the devout, spiritual religious is to die to things of the world so they can nourish the spiritual values that will be their treasure in heaven; the "bad death" is to die to things of the spirit, and nourish the worldly appetites (power, sex, money, addiction, etc.). Knowing this is a demonic nun, we know she is dead to things of the spirit; why? The white piece surrounding her head and extending to her shoulders tells us. The shoulders symbolize the burdens we carry, whether we willingly take them on or they are forced upon us (super heroes, like Thor, for example, wear a red cape because he takes the burden upon himself and he is willing to spill his blood for those he has vowed to protect). The nun's white shoulder covering should symbolize the burden of faith, which is what white symbolizes; so, she wasn't willing to carry the burden of faith, and because the piece also covers her head, it might be a sign that she rationalized away her faith in God, or she didn't have sufficient faith to get her through her trials and temptations. The black belt she wears is meant to be a sign of chastity and the resisting to temptations of the flesh; when we learn more about her, we will be able to comment upon this further, but for now, it's interesting that they did, in fact, keep the belt as part of the habit. Just as a note, when we first see Valak confronting Lorraine Warren in the Amityville basement, Valak wears a brown habit (I think it's a Franciscan or Carmelite habit) because brown denotes humility in its virtue; when Valak wears brown, however, it means "dirty," of the earth, because Lorraine is being accused of Valak for marrying Ed (and having sexual relations with him) rather than becoming the Bride of Christ; they have since changed Valak's habit to make it black, however, that doesn't negate the symbolic significance of when Lorraine first encounters him wearing the brown habit.
Her face, of course, is deathly white; why? Because of Western funeral practices today, we often don't experience this, however, when a body begins to decay in death, it turns white, and that symbolizes that the person's soul has died, and her face is, after all, the seat of her identity. Her eyes are blacked out (black make-up surrounds her eyes) because she cannot tell the difference between "good death" and "bad death" (recall our discussion of the "yellow eye" we see in the poster at the very top of this post, and please also look at the very last image montage of this post for examples of women with blacked-out eyes from other films). Her mouth is also blacked-out; why? The mouth symbolizes the appetites, so since it's black, she has an appetite for death, or things which cause death (sin). Her hands are the only other part of her body visible; hands symbolize our honor, because our hands do our deeds, and if we have done honorable deeds, our hands are clean; if we have done dirty deeds, our hands are dirty. Her hands have blackened nails and are shriveled and bony, because she's a corpse, but she's also one who has done the work of the devil, rather than the honorable work of God. This is just a superficial, general analysis, once again, when we learn more about the story-line, we can complete our understanding of why they have dressed her in this specific way. 
Sister Irene can see the nun, Valak, the same way Lorraine Warren can see spirits, that is why Sister Irene is chosen to go on the mission with Father Burke; however, I predict at this point, that it's also Sister Irene's ability to "see" (in the meditative, spiritual dimension) which is why God has granted her the visions so Irene can accept the mission, do battle and claim victory for her soul. We can't know what gifts God has given us until He sends us the test or battle to put those gifts to work. It's of critical importance that it's the Vatican which has sent Burke and Irene to the monastery because that demonstrates the authority of the Church, the Hand of God at work, the obedience of the two Catholics and not the whim and self-direction of two individuals who have decided what they want to do on their own.
Why is this important?
Finit hic, Deo, Latin translating roughly, "Here ends God." Now, we know that God is, literally, everywhere because nothing exists without God willing or allowing it: God is even "in hell" in the sense that it's His divine justice enacting the torments of the damned and not just some random, accidental chaos. It's not to say, "God ends here" and there is no one to protect you, rather, this is the section of the battle grounds, the testing arena where God is with you, but you will sink or swim on your own; God has allowed this evil to exist because, as Pope Saint Leo the Great wrote, "There is no great victory without great battles."
There is, however, a second meaning to "God ends here." Think of socialist/communist countries where God and religion are outlawed, such as Cuba, Vietnam, China, the former USSR and its satellites; God is still there in those countries, but God is illegal; why? The government tries fulfilling the role of God to the people, and the government doesn't like competition.
Well, there was a great film made (completely panned by everyone but myself) called The Devil Inside about two young priests being trained by the Vatican to do exorcisms, but the two priests started doing exorcisms on their own, which means they were committing the sin of pride in thinking they knew better than the Vatican did; even though people make mistakes--including those in power--God allows these trials for us so that we can become like God (which was the promise the serpent made to Eve in the Garden in eating the forbidden fruit) but God wants us to become like Him in holy obedience because Jesus was obedient, even obedient to death on a cross.
This is an interesting scene for a couple of reasons. First, a "forbidden hallway," like we have above, is a passage (as discussed earlier) but one guarded by the cross. Now I don't think the director is Catholic, or has a Catholic background because to Catholics, two pieces of wood nailed together are just two pieces of wood nailed together; the reason it's a Cross and not just a cross is because Jesus died on it for our sins and paid the debt we could not, which is why Catholics always have a Crucifix, that is, a cross with a representation of the body of Christ upon it, that's where it's power to fight evil and protect us comes from. Be that as it may, this image looks a lot like the scene from Monster Squad when one of the kids has to go into a room that has been protected by crosses to guard the amulet so Dracula can't get it; the same kind of theory is used throughout the recent Tom Cruise version of The Mummy, when quicksilver guards the tomb of Ahmanet from being opened, and specifically, the four watchers statues surrounding her sarcophagus, but in terms of Christianity, it's at Waverly Abbey that the Knife of Set was kept in the reliquary (a statue containing one or more relics of saints to guard over the church and alter) and the Stone of Set being buried with the Crusader monk at the start of the film. What's important about this image is the validation that it's the visuals of Christianity which protect from evil and have power to keep evil from creeping out into the rest of the world, especially at a time when there is such a powerful, secular war being waged against Christianity and Christians.
On the last note, we should remember that "Valac/Valak," the name of the demon possessing the nun, and whose name was given in The Conjuring II, is "an angelically winged boy riding a two-headed dragon, attributed with the power of finding treasures." The "angelically winged boy" is the "good" that appears to people that allows Valak to deceive them: for example, becoming a nun is a good thing, however, it's not what God intended for Lorraine Warren, and that disobedience to God's will, or the lack of faith that God will direct your path and where you need to go, is the two-headed dragon, the doubt or indecision (the head is where our ability to think and reason comes from, so two heads means confusion and not able to make up the mind). The ability of Valak to "find treasure" is the demon's ability to see good, Christian people and the "treasure" they are storing in heaven, and steal it from them. Remember, we see the same treasure-thief in Smaug the dragon from The Hobbit, and it's up to little Bilbo Baggins to steal back that which was taken, specifically and symbolically, our relationship with God that was robbed from us with Original Sin. For our own world, we can see Valak as presenting himself to be some good, e.g., universal income, because you don't want people to suffer, do you? And then the two-headed dragon sweeping in of people not working at all and prices rising. So, at this point, I am very excited about this film, and I all ready can't wait for the second trailer! (I have also posted on the follow-up trailer, noted as the "Coffin Trailer" which you can find at this link here!).
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner
At the very top of this image we see Valak as painted by Ed Warren in The Conjuring II, and the same image which opens the trailer. Below that is Charlize Theron's character from Mad Max; next is Cate Blanchett from Thor: Ragnarok and, at the bottom is Katheryn Winnick as Lagertha in The Vikings. Besides being all females, each of these characters has their eyes blacked-out; why? The eyes symbolize our ability "to see" that not readily available to regular sight, it's our spiritual vision, our ability to look at ourselves and see our motivations, fears, hopes, dreams, sins and faults; we know that black symbolizes death, but none of these women are actually seeing "good death," (dying to themselves) rather, they have become the vision of death (quite literally for Cate Blachett who actually portrays Death, and of course the Valak-possessed nun). What's so eerie about these images is that woman symbolize life, women give birth, but not these women, they have become vehicles of death and death is what they see, but death is also what we see when we look at them. This is a fairly recent strategy in make-up (to black out women's eyes) as far as I know (if I am wrong, kindly drop me an email and let me know!!!) so what recent development regarding women can we say has given rise to this trend of painting their eyes out? Feminism. Feminism doesn't advocate women giving birth--rather, birth control and abortion--feminism doesn't advocate women looking at themselves and improving themselves, rather, looking at everyone else (especially white men) and blaming them for all their problems and demanding that everything be changed to accommodate them. There is a lot more to say about this, however, I am going to wait until the second trailer.