Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Take Shelter and Owen Barfield

I watched Take Shelter last night and was ambiguously blown away by its ambiguous ending. I saw some connections to good ol' Owen Barfield there and wanted to put them down, even though you shouldn't read this unless 1.) You've seen Take Shelter and 2.) You have read some of Owen Barfield, and you won't be reading this unless 3.) You read this blog. That number is infinitesimal. But I still want to record these thoughts. Spoilerphobes, stop reading now!

At the end, we don't see the storm at first. We see Hannah see it, and she signs it with the word we saw her learn near the beginning of the film: "storm." Then Curtis turns and sees it. Samantha steps out and we can see the reflection of the storm in the glass. It starts to rain oil and she and Curtis exchange glances in an amazingly evocative conversation without words. Samantha says "OK." Fade to black.

Note the role of the words in that sequence. The word "storm" (unspoken even) is the communication that whether in reality or in dreams, Hannah and Samantha have entered Curtis' world of perceptions. "Storm" has moved from Curtis' own private representation to become a collective representation. And Barfield would say that means it has become real. (Wherever two or three are gathered?) They are participating in the same reality.

It is completely ambiguous whether the three are seeing reality or a delusion. I would argue that it doesn't matter (for the purposes of the film). What does matter is that it is shared: that Hannah and Samantha have entered in to Curtis's world. It is their collective reality and it is, as Samantha says, "O.K."

What a unique and unsettling film. I can tell this one will stick with me for a while.

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