From the Dark

Before Hollywood moguls will have a chance to take Lovecraft moviedom from obscurity to glamor, Italian filmmaker Ivan Zuccon will have another celluloidal shot at the Lovecraft corpus, this time obviously at The Colour out of Space. Rather than exploiting the story’s hyper-realist explicitness (and note the occurence of the there is no need to speak– paradox here) –

There is no need to speak too exactly of what they found.

Merwin and Zenas were both there, in part, though the vestiges were mainly skeletal. There were also a small deer and a large dog in about the same state, and a number of bones of small animals. The ooze and slime at the bottom seemed inexplicably porous and bubbling, and a man who descended on hand-holds with a long pole found that he could sink the wooden shaft to any depth in the mud of the floor without meeting any solid obstruction.

– into a Gordonesk splatter parade, Zuccon’s new movie Colour from the Dark seems to use the symbol (from space – in Lovecraft’s story the eponymous color drops from the sky, representative in its formless-ness of all his alien horrors from the sky) to explore the horrors of history. To quote the Meath Chronicle, see the link above

Director Zuccon has set his version of the story in Italy, in the 1940s, during World War II.The central characters in the film are members of a rural farm family who accidentally disturb some supernatural force that had been buried in a well on their farm. The movie follows how the married couple and the sister of the wife on the farm are affected by the water from this well where they have disturbed the spirit, and the inexplicable events that happen around the farm.

And –

Shanahan plays their neighbour, Giovanni, who lives next door with his granddaughter, and who tries to save the family from the destruction and havoc being wreaked on them by the evil force. He is also harbouring a Jewish girl in one of barns, as she hides from the Nazis in wartime Italy.

Interesting – the thought that Lovecraft’s code of horror symbols can be politicized, seriously (or so the preview seems to imply) made to work in a political context. That adds to the only apparent conjecture that his work must be a-political, simply because his politics were so ridiculously gestured and unreflected (at one time or another, and even at several times – post 1922 and 1933 – he applauded and clapped to the honor of Mussolini and Hitler, but swung back, more sensibly, to an embracement of FDR when it was about the politics back at home). Lovecraft’s fiction, and that movie that rises from it with it, makes the case for the Gothic as a social force, or rather, as an effective mediator of social forces.

And where would you ever need it as such if not in Lovecraft’s prose output. In a letter dated November 22, 1934 (no. 741 in the fifth of the five-volume Selected Letters) he writes –

Thus the Nazis in Germany want to get rid of every trace of Jewish blood, while other groups believe that the highest intellectual qualities in all races come through prehistoric & forgotten infusions of Semitic blood! Amidst such a confusion of objects, what single policy could ever gain an effective ascendancy? However – this is not to say that eugenics will remain utterly neglected. There are, of course, certain lines of action where virtual unanimity exists; & along those lines considerable progress may be expected. It is, for example, agreed that hereditary physical disease & mental inferiority ought not to be transmitted – hence within the next half-century the sterilisation of certain biologically defective types will probably become universal throughout the western world, thus cutting down the prevalence of idiocy, epilepsy, haemophilia, & kindred inherited plagues. The Nazis have already put such a policy into effect.

The curse of the apocalyptist: unity (“virtual unanimity”) will only be achieved in annihilation and destruction, – until then, the call of the day goes out for observation, study, scrutiny. The other will be contained and thus eradicated by scientific means, whose most convinving raison d’être is their efficiency: they actually work, and that is more than can be said about other parts of modern 1930s life.

Lovecraft’s politics are most productive in his fiction. That is not to deny weight to all the nonsensical charlatan politics in the letters – just because he didn’t have a swastika sown to his lapels, his politics are not unreal – they may be stifled, thwarted, but nevertheless historical and own to the context in which he chose to be a racist dick – but still it’s his fiction where his politics are realized. It is here they become open to interpretation, that they lose their unambiguousness – here that they must be interpreteted, because they are fused into ambiguous symbols of race and ethnicity. In interpreting them and in reading symbols like the shoggoth we do not necessarily enter into a state of complicity with the author, but rather we come to see the symbols as actively working and engaged and functional in a context. They are creative of meaning (the formless-sprawling shoggoth maybe more than other members of the man’s teratology) and dive right into history, violently – rather than trying to stand apart at a convenient breathing distance from where it is possible to lecture on and advocate the benefits of eugenics.


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