Friday, April 08, 2022

Cold Wars and Colors Out of Space

OK, something extremely strange and powerful is coming towards us. I only have pieces of the puzzle so far. A lot of them, mind you, but not enough to pull the whole thing together. But a disproportionate number of clues emerge out of two Tarkovsky films, as well as their American adaptions.

And two other puzzle pieces are emerging out of the Sibyl's new project - Sun's Signature - which was announced just hours before Russia declared war on Ukraine, and then popped up again yesterday all over the 'Net (the EP will be released June 18).

It's a beautiful piece, very much a reflection of the Sibyl's love of old-school Genesis (the band, not the Bible). The Sibyl loves Genesis so much that the tune even has Steve Hackett on guitar. But it's a sprawling, five-and-a-half minute prog-rock suite that only kicks in fifth gear at the three-minute mark, a time when most singles start to wind down, if not in fact end. 

It reminds me quite a lot of Yes' Tales from Topographic Oceans, by which I mean it's an odd choice for a leadoff single in 2022. 

The video pulls it altogether: the visuals take you on a tour of the planet in a very 2001: A Space Odyssey Stargate kind of way. The imagery is incredibly powerful and entirely consonant with a lot of the things I've been talking about vis a vis Nature these past few years. It also appears to be embedded with both blatant and semi-subliminal symbols, so get to work. 

I'd go far as to say the song and the visuals are co-dependent: together they are more than the sum of their parts. So much so that I burst into tears of joy the first three times I watched it, on account of being a little crybaby bitch.

But there was something else bugging me, something I wasn't getting. 

Then it hit me like a bullet train: this is the Shimmer we're looking at. All those beauty shots of the Aurora Borealis: they shimmer

In fact, the whole thing reminds me of a literal Color out of Space transforming the environment, which is expressed through the various filters and effects on all the trees and flowers and so on.

And it could be argued that the Aurorae are the "sun's signature," created by solar winds exciting subatomic particles in the upper atmosphere.

It's also a bit unsettling to see so much of the Aurora Borealis, given that the Sibyl sings about it in "Pale Clouded White," an enigmatic - and I suspect a rather dire - prophecy that was premiered on a television news broadcast in Columbus, Ohio, the same day of the cataclysmic 1985 Mexico City earthquake. 

Then there's the whole name-game with Aurora, which we should get to at some point. 

But there's an incredible loop at work here: we recently looked at the teaser for Alex Garland's new film and touched on the fact that the scenes in which the team in Annihilation enter the Shimmer were filmed in the same exact location as the 'Pearly Dew Drops' video. 

Given that Garland (Garland! ) chose to revisit that video for another key frame in his new film, the odds of that being a coincidence are... no, there are no odds. Let's be real.

Garland (Garland!)  coined the term "the Shimmer" for the film - and you all know what I think he had in mind when did - and was so loose with his adaption of the original novel that author Jeff VanderMeer was reportedly less than thrilled with the end result. 

Garland said his adaptation is "a memory of the book", rather than book-referenced screenwriting, with the intention of capturing the "dreamlike nature" and tone of his experience reading VanderMeer's novel. 
Rather than trying to directly adapt the book, Garland deliberately took the story in his own direction, with VanderMeer's permission. 

Now here's where it gets weird again. 

The you-know-who's music is not only most commonly described as "shimmering," their record cover art can usually be described that way as well. Nigel Grierson and Vaughn Oliver set the template for that kind of amorphous, glowing imagery, and got their original inspiration from a very interesting source:

That key scene would be this:

What would the significance of this be, you ask? Back to the wiki on Annihilation :

Some critics have noted the film has similarities with the science-fiction novel Roadside Picnic and its 1979 movie adaptation, Stalker. While Nerdist Industries' Kyle Anderson noted even stronger resemblance with the 1927 short story "The Colour Out of Space" by H. P. Lovecraft (also adapted for the screen on several occasions, including as Color Out of Space in 2019), about a meteorite that lands in a swamp and unleashes a mutagenic plague.

So we have this thematic connection between Stalker/Roadside Picnic to Head Over Heels, then this connection via the Shimmer between Stalker, Annihilation and 'Pearly Dewdrops Drop' (which also has a connection to Ezra Miller).

Why is this so troubling to me? 

Well, if you remember the timeline, you'll remember what came between Head Over Heels and 'Pearly Dewdrops Drop': Sunburst and Snowblind. 

Remembering that Sun's Signature - again, the Sibyl's new project - was announced hours before World War Three essentially began, please note that Sunburst and Snowblind was released the very same day Able Archer kicked off. 

What was Able Archer?

Why, it was the military exercise that nearly sparked total war between the US and USSR. 

Cold War nerves were similarly frayed two months earlier when the Russians shot down Korean Airlines Flight 007. The same day a little ditty you may have heard a thing or two about around here was released.

And lo and behold, here we are again, nearly 40 years later. Awesome.

Hey, remember back in 2017 when I started ranting about the Apocalypse and everyone said I was going insane? Good times.

In keeping with the Sun symbolism we keep seeing, let's not forget Solaris, which Tarkovsky intended as a direct riposte to Stanley Kubrick and 2001: A Space Odyssey, a film the Russian director thought was anti-human.

Solaris and Stalker are in many ways companion pieces, mining many of the same ideas. They're very wet films: water is everywhere, as if prophesying the impending liquidity of reality which they both depict. 

They also are essentially based around the notion of dream reality invading and colonizing consensus reality, an idea we've discussed quite a lot here over the past 15 years, haven't we?

Aaaaand the remakes of both films - de jure or de facto - are both riddled with Twins. Steven Soderbergh's Solaris pushed the theme a lot more than Tarkovsky seemed to, and Garland rides the Twins train harder than the novel or Stalker does. Soderbergh's Solaris also seems to be rather shimmery, in fact.

Significantly, both Solaris and Annihilation end the same way: with the alien-recreated Twins of the film's protagonists rediscovering and acknowledging each other.

The Cold War heating up, annihilation, Twins, dream reality, water, contagions from space: those themes just keep popping up with this thing.

Two thoughts spring to mind: in our conversations before her passing, Tracy Twyman told me that she believed that the planet was destroyed right on schedule in 2012 and we were all copied and pasted into an inferior simulacrum of reality, which she believed was our Hell. Can't vouch for that myself, but there you go.

Second, while all these stories center on alien influences, I have a different take on it: what the Shimmer actually is is the Earth, which we are all so unfamiliar with today it might as well be alien. 

What this dream reality invading our own reality - the Shimmer, the Color Out of Space, the Zone, etc - may well be is us waking up from a rather horrible nightmare implanted in our heads by Naturalism, which may be the biggest oxymoron on record. 

We - well, some of us - are shaking off the robotic programming and are beginning to experience reality the way other creatures and intelligences do. It's wonderful - as in full of wonders - but also kind of weird and disorienting. A lot of people can't seem to handle it at all. 

Hence, 2022.