–stepping beyond the themes and conventions of Film Noir
Certainly, there was a time of disillusionment following the Second World War, when waves of suspicion, cynicism, and despair swept across the continental philosophies like a great funereal shroud, sounding the death knell for both innocence and optimism regarding the elevated nature of man. Steeped in the bitter dregs of Darwinian struggles, Nietzschean nihilism, and Freudian psychosexual rationale, it is no wonder that continental philosophy turned to a darker shade of pessimism in an effort to embrace and explain the sinister side of human nature.
The philosophical revolt against the positivisms of the Enlightenment, along with the erosion of religious sentiments, reflected these horrific, damaging consequences on the cultural psyche of artists as well as intellectuals. Indeed, it was not only the modern academic philosophers of war-torn Europe who brought down the pessimistic, nihilistic, fatalistic curtains of the night—with such novels and plays as Nausea (Sartre), The Stranger (Camus), and No Exit (Sartre)—the darker shroud of existentialism was already seen advancing in the United States, as evidenced by the narrative forms of fiction and cinema that is known as American noir. From American hard-boiled crime fiction of the 1930’s to Hollywood film noir, this distinctively darker shade of existentialism gradually took root on American soil—while fear, despair, paranoia, mistrust, and loss-of-innocence motifs set-in as its dramatic means of expression—while lust, greed, corruption, and vice set-in as its attendant motivational conventions.
Cut to our postmodern times: to the great American frontier—to the post-Darwinian, post-Nietzschean, post-Freudian, post-Jungian, post-Einsteinian, post-Aldous Huxlean, post-Walt Disneyan, post-Bohemian, post-Derridean, post-beat, post-hip, post-war, post-graduate, post-perspicuous persona non grata that represents the inspired individual (i.e., the artist) in our Graceless Age of the Inner Dark. It is in this context that the intents and purposes of Konrad Ventana’s Post-Lux Trilogy (literally after the light) can best be understood and appreciated. It is only by understanding the insidious nature and progression of this “Inner Dark” more fully—as it exists and is manifested in our postmodern times—that we as individuals and as artists can possibly stand opposed to its bleak and dire consequences with an equal and opposite force.
Each individual novel of the Post-Lux Trilogy explores and exposes a distinctive aspect(s) of the “Inner Dark” as it is dramatically expressed in the purposeful, indelible terms of literary fiction:
For Wade, the outlaw biochemist in A Desperado’s Daily Bread (Book One), the “Inner Dark” is expressed symphonically as (i) the corruption of our academic institutions, (ii) nightmare hosts of the living dead (“…men and women and children—lepers all, with rotting flesh dissolving onto naked bone; some barely recognizable, barely human, with boils, ulcers, tumors, gangrenous, suppurating cankers, and vacant sarcophagean eyes.”), and (iii) the vile abuses of authority:
“The voice of lamentation carried over great distances—it carried with it the history of men and nations, it carried with it the terrible shame of abomination, it carried with it the inner darkness of all mankind, like a shadow creature crying pain, pain, pain—and the shrillness of its punctuated phrases did nothing to help Wade’s cause.”
For the gaggle of unfortunate characters dramatized in The Unbearable Sadness of Zilch, a Hollywood neo-noir, it would be the loss of artistic inspiration: “… it would take a special kind of nursing to restore a confidence so badly damaged, to coax a man’s flagging vigorousness back to life, to assuage the persistent insomnia of someone who has suddenly become terrified of his own inner dark.” Another aspect of the “Inner Dark” described in SadZilch is shown with dramatic visual special effects (VFX) in an outrageous Tech Noir: “Indeed there was bitterness, as in the bitterness of life and hope defeated, but the fear that was being created was not the fear of the high technology but the fear of what dark forces lie simmering within ourselves.” Finally, the “Inner Dark” in SadZilch-the novel is dramatized as the imp of the perverse:
“And now I find myself backed up into a dark corner, forced to examine the countervailing coercion of mankind—the imp of the perverse—that primal bestial instinct that betrays creative genius and plants the vile seeds of annihilation into the material and spiritual filaments of the cosmos.”
“How in the world could someone have ended the life of such a beautiful, such an innately glamorous creature? What vile malevolence could be responsible? What ‘imp of the perverse,’ dredged from the nethermost depths of Poe’s catacombs, has been unleashed upon us?”
At risk of overstepping the boundaries of this author’s literary Weblog, I suggest that there are many allegorical aspects of the “Inner Dark” to be explored and discovered in Questing for Uberjoy, the grand finale of the Post-Lux Trilogy—from the predatory nature of men and nations, to the evils of human trafficking and child soldiers; from the physical diseases we know as cancer (Weblog, The Scariest Campfire Scene Ever!!!), to the metaphysical demons of the Tibetan Book of the Dead. Suffice it for me to reveal, and to complete this composition, with two exemplary quotations from the heartsick hero who comes alive as drama, flesh, and blood:
“He was no longer blind to the desperate needs and pathos of the uncivilized world at large. In his rude awakening, Orion was forced to realize that there were still real monsters and dragons that needed to be hunted down and slain. Moreover, he was forced to realize that these lingering monsters, these internecine demons, were not external to the human condition and could no more be removed with the flight of an arrow or the stroke of a sword than the demons of envy, greed, lust, and predatory behavior could be banished from the human personality; no more than the monstrous ego itself could be removed from the labyrinth of the human psyche.”
“… As he began to question the value of all his previous values, he started to realize that he may be the only human being alive who was so unreasonably equipped and compelled—compelled by an inexplicable burden of passion and desire, fused with his rather extreme determination and capability—to make such a momentous and irrational decision. For Orion, the decision not to try and save his beloved Uberjoy would be a far greater tragedy.”
Indeed, for intellectuals and artists of the postmodern present, the decision not to try … to explore … to expose … and thereby to oppose the destructive tendencies of the “Inner Dark” with an equal and opposite force would be our greatest tragedy.
Cheers and Happy Trails from Konrad Ventana
Note: the hand-drawn images of the Boulder Flatirons, “Desperado” Chapter Frontispieces, were provided by the artful hand of Heather Colleen Gordon