This November 18th, in this year 2011, has had an additional flavor to it besides being for me the anniversary of a major spiritual experience: this time, it was also the day when would be shown in the theaters worldwide the fourth film of the ‘Twilight’ Saga: ‘Breaking Dawn’.
I know, I know, the ‘Twilight’ books by Stephenie Meyer and the films made from them aren’t supposed to be anything worth the attention of anyone past teen-age. So say in a deafening chorus all the professional, usually cynical book and film critics. Also in the general public, many people have been discouraged and disgusted by the crowds of hysterical teen girls who fill up the theaters with their screams as soon as their favorite ‘Twilight’ male actor, either Robert Pattinson or Taylor Lautner, appears on the screen.
I personally never had to endure that ordeal because I have known those films only in the quietude of my own living-room, as DVDs, so I have been able to watch them and form my opinion about them in a fairer manner.
As surprising as it may seem, these films, and that story as a whole, not only are very interesting, but are even totally relevant for the kind of research I do in the framework of the ‘Laboratory of Evolution’, posting the results of it on this blog.
I didn’t see ‘Breaking Dawn yet, I don’t know when it will come to this area of India, but I am glad to share with you today, through excerpts of a full Essay of mine, how I have discovered the ‘Twilight’ story:
‘TWILIGHT’, by Stephenie Meyer – An appraising essay by Bhaga, researcher in Auroville
(June-July 2010, Auroville)
PART I: INTRODUCTION AND GENERAL APPRECIATION
I am not interested at all in horror movies – horror in whatever form, stories, novels, plays, comics… whatever is purposely scary and horrifying.
Many other human beings, I am well aware of that, relish horror stuff – that’s even how some newspapers strive, specializing on horror stuff. But that’s too bad for them all, I would say… everyone is free of course to choose to have that, if it is what they want.
The world, I personally feel, is full enough of scary situations and horrifying moments coming down on you by surprise, without deliberately looking for more scare and horror in the virtual worlds of books and movies too, which should be used on the contrary to add more beauty, not ugliness, to the world we live in.
Long ago, when I was a young adult, loathing myself for being so childlike and vulnerable even to imaginary frightening scenes, I forced myself to go see the film that was then the craze: the supposedly light and funny movie, ‘Le Bal des Vampires’.
The story was indeed humorous, so I did laugh quite a few times during the two hours that the movie lasted; but during those two hours I found myself nevertheless constantly tense, and during the two months that followed I had vampire nightmares which made me bitterly regret having ever seen that ‘funny’ film.
So when a month ago my closest friend and collaborator – a French lady like me but much younger, and still very close to the contemporary generation of youth to which her two sons belong – started telling me hesitatingly (she knows me well…) about a great film called ‘Twilight’, that was apparently the new craze after the ‘Harry Potter’ series, and when she pronounced the word ‘vampires’, I cringed and kind of shut off automatically. Only through a considerable effort did I go on listening to her explanations of why she herself found that story interesting.
We are both researchers at ‘The Laboratory of Evolution’, a unique Center for Research and Documentation in Auroville that studies everything having to do with Evolution, seen not only as the past huge earthly process that has resulted in us, the glorious human beings, but also very much as the present huge earthly process that is starting now to transform us, the after all not so glorious human beings, into something so wonderfully better that those discovering what is to come and trying to imagine it, find it almost unbelievable that such is our future, and the future of the Earth.
There are indeed already many humble beginnings revealing to the observant eye this gradual transformation of the human species (along with all the other aspects of life on this planet; nothing is left unaffected). Studying all these encouraging signs planetary wise is the passion both my friend and I share: we are all the time looking eagerly in all areas of life for new forms of behavior, and in human life particularly, we keep looking for new concepts, new trends of thought appearing, that manifest a change of the human collective mentality and consciousness in the right direction.
In that way I introduced my friend several years ago to ‘The Lord of the Rings’ (the recent films and also my beloved old books), she reciprocated with ‘Matrix’ and then later ‘Harry Potter’; I discovered with awe and then shared with her the incredible, beautifully inspired old gems of the 80s, ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’; but I didn’t expect her to present me now with what?!? A vampire story, of all things!!! I was shrinking away in disgust.
Still I couldn’t imagine she would have selected something entirely worthless, so I listened with caution, careful not to allow myself to be caught in some horrifying tale I would never be able to take away from my inner world later on.
Only half-listening, I heard distinctly and remembered clearly afterward only a few words of what she said that day, which, quoted loosely, was something like this: “it was nice and an interesting idea that even vampires could evolve.” That rang a bell indeed in me, right away. But still I said nothing.
Before going from my home, she left on the table in front of the sofa where we were sitting a DVD of the film recently made from the first book of the series. It was the French version, bought while she was in France a few months earlier. She was hoping I would have a look at it.
For the next two weeks the DVD sat on that table, untouched, except for being turned face down, so as not to be a constant reminder of vampires when I wasn’t ready at all yet to give that story and that film a try: there were already enough problems and downright harsh challenges in my own real life, without adding to it all some dark tale and terrifying images of bloodsucking entities disguised as humans!!!
My friend didn’t insist, and just waited.
Then finally one afternoon when I was alone and my other work for the day was more or less done, I felt up to it, and decided I would take the risk, purely for the sake of research and for honoring the wish of my friend, to watch that movie.
Well, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into: I looked at it not just one time, but immediately a second time too, eager to understand better all the details of the story which I felt I probably had missed the first time. I had already fallen head over heels in love with the two main characters, Bella and Edward, with the whole ‘family’ of idealistic, ‘vegetarian’ vampires, the Cullens, that Edward is part of, and with the entire situation, totally gripping, described with much talent and considerable beauty in that film.
When my friend came again as planned, she had the second film, ‘New Moon’, in her hand, and after looking at the first film one more time (in the original English form that now I had procured for myself), we watched also ‘New Moon’ together that very same afternoon.
In a parallel and complementary hunger, the next few days I devoured, one after the other, all I could find on Stephenie’s website of other appetizing bites from the following books in the ‘Twilight’ series, with even extra passages not in the books, written from the perspective not of Bella as usual, but of various other characters; all was remarkably interesting, although only in draft form yet.
I loved particularly the wonderful first 260 pages of what was to be yet another full book, ‘Midnight Sun’, telling the beginning of the story from Edward’s point of view. I am really sad that, because of the trauma of that draft being leaked out and put on the net without her knowledge or authorization, Stephenie lost her enthusiasm for it and decided not to finish it.
I still hope that she will some day, but at least she chose for the time being to put that half-draft online herself for all her loyal fans to read straight on her own website without having to go to the unauthorized sites.
Well, I am especially grateful to her about that!…
For it is through reading that unfinished draft of ‘Midnight Sun’ put online by her, that I felt in full force and was able to identify exactly what I appreciated so much in the whole story of the ‘Twilight’ series. Having since then read fully only the first book and the last one, I don’t know yet all the details of how the story develops, and I will have probably more to say later on; but I know already for sure that much, which sets this story apart and somehow above the similar ones that may come to our mind – of course, first, all the ordinary tales of ordinary vampires (totally worthless in my eyes), but also, on the other end of the spectrum, the love-stories considered usually sublime and supreme.
(About that I will post later on another part of my essay, as it is true love we are talking about, and that deserves special attention).
The persons who like only ‘action’ films, and so find the more introspective parts of those films too slow, could learn from the very characters in the ‘Twilight’ series: if those persons like challenge, why don’t they take up the most interesting challenge of changing in themselves that which they don’t approve of but which is usually getting the better of them!… This is exactly what a Carlisle has done, and what Edward learns to do, and Bella too, who used to be the weakest and the one needing protection most, and who ends up as strong in her own way as she dreamed to be, able to protect all her loved ones (and they are many and varied!) from those who would destroy them.
Let’s warn the potential readers: the ‘Twilight’ books cannot be reduced to one easily recognisable genre. As Stephenie herself says in the first of the following few extracts from the Wikipedia article on the series (pictures added by me), she doesn’t like being asked to categorize her books :
« I have a hard time with that. Because if I say to someone, ‘You know, it’s about vampires,’ then immediately they have this mental image of what the book is like. And it’s so not like the other vampire books out there–Anne Rice’s and the few that I’ve read. It isn’t that kind of dark and dreary and blood-thirsty world. Then when you say, ‘It’s set in high school,’ a lot of people immediately put it in another pool. It’s easy to pigeonhole with different descriptions. »
And the Wikipedia article goes on, with more answers from Stephenie on questions she is often asked about :
‘Twilight vampires differ in a number of particulars from the general vampire lore:
« It wasn’t until I knew that Twilight would be published that I began to think about whether my vampires were too much the same or too much different from the others. Of course, I was far too invested in my characters at that point to be making changes… so I didn’t cut out fangs and coffins and so forth as a way to distinguish my vampires; that’s just how they came to me. »
For Stephenie Meyer says the idea for the whole thing came to her in a dream on June 2, 2003. The dream was about a human girl, and a vampire who was in love with her but thirsted for her blood. Based on this dream, Meyer wrote the transcript of what is now chapter 13 of the book. Despite having very little writing experience, in a matter of three months she had transformed that dream into a completed novel.
According to her, her books are “about life, not death” and “love, not lust”. Each book in the series was inspired by and loosely based on a different literary classic: Twilight on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, New Moon on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Eclipse on Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, and Breaking Dawn on a second Shakespeare play, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Meyer also states that Orson Scott Card and L. M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables series are a big influence on her writing.
Other major themes of the series include choice and free will: Meyer says that the books are centered around Bella’s choice to choose her life on her own, and the Cullens’ choices to abstain from killing rather than follow their temptations: “I really think that’s the underlying metaphor of my vampires. It doesn’t matter where you’re stuck in life or what you think you have to do; you can always choose something else. There’s always a different path.”
Meyer, a Mormon, acknowledges that her faith has influenced her work. In particular, she says that her characters “tend to think more about where they came from, and where they are going, than might be typical.” Meyer also steers her work from subjects such as sex, despite the romantic nature of the novels. Meyer says that she does not consciously intend her novels to be Mormon-influenced, or to promote the virtues of sexual abstinence and spiritual purity, but admits that her writing is shaped by her values, saying, “I don’t think my books are going to be really graphic or dark, because of who I am. There’s always going to be a lot of light in my stories. (end of extract from Wikipedia)
Well, I am myself no Mormon and I have no intention of becoming one, but I do appreciate the values they seem to have, at least from what those values seem to be as exemplified in the books… although with a quite significant difference regarding sexual matters and other pleasures in life: her good vampires do enjoy an especially abundant and robust sex life once they have found their mate!!! They may limit it to night time (that is, full night, as they don’t need to sleep), but only in order to keep the days for enjoying what all of their other perfected senses do offer them to enjoy too!… One must keep a balance between all that is to be enjoyed…
I don’t know if Stephenie fully realized it, but her description of vampire life, as Bella starts experiencing it once the excruciating pain of the transformation is over, makes that other kind of existence sound actually much better in many respects than normal human life: while not losing her human qualities, Bella acquires superhuman capacities that humans have been longing for since ever, eternal youth and immortality in the first place. And while all the others in the Cullen ‘family’ didn’t deliberately change from human to vampire existence, Bella does make that choice quite deliberately; not just for being able to be with Edward for ever, but also because she always felt out of place among ordinary human beings, and only when with the Cullens felt totally at home.
Paradoxically, then, some human readers or movie-goers may, after ‘Twilight’, end up with a longing to be transformed too into these beautiful, superhuman creatures, some of whom on top of it aren’t devilish any longer, but good, compassionate and admirable beings. Let those Bella-like unsatisfied human beings take heart: when we know that our evolution is still going on, there is not only hope, but a certainty that a whole array of new developments now deemed impossible will indeed take place gradually, and our presently so limited human condition will progressively give way to our secret divine potential… Perhaps it is from this future of our own species that Stephenie Meyer received the inspiration for the qualities of her astonishing ‘good vampires’ !… This is how evolution works: a certain new idea comes down at first seemingly out of the blue, and then it makes its way into our collective mind, books and films being the best media for that…