A Road to Gnostic Salvation? The Ascension of the Soul in the Post-apocalyptic World of “Snowpiercer” (2013)
In the last 25 years ideas commonly linked with ancient Gnosticism have been noticed in many Hollywood films: “The Matrix” (1999), “The Truman Show” (1998), “The Thirteenth Floor” (1999), “Dark City” (1998) or “Vanilla Sky” (2001). All of them can be read through the concept of the Gnostic myth. It tells the story about Sophia’s fall, one of God’s emanations, which resulted in the creation of the illusory world built by a malicious being, Demiurge. He is a monstrous child of Sophia who entrapped human beings within his material realm.
My paper will be focused on the interpretation of “Snowpiercer” (2013) by Joon-ho Bong in the light of the Gnostic myth. Firstly, I will elaborate the characteristics of the myth by taking into account recent research outcomes in the field of Gnostic studies. Secondly, I will show how particular components of the myth relate to visual and narrative ideas depicted in the film, e.g. Demiurge, archons, cosmic spheres, etc. Thirdly, I shall explain in what ways the Gnostic myth was reinterpreted and transformed in “Snowpiercer” by putting main accent on the concept of gnosis which can be viewed as parallel to the idea of authenticity.
In my conclusion I will explain the possible reasons why the Gnostic myth serves as an attractive narrative pattern for contemporary cinematic stories in which one can find apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic themes.
A Taxonomy and a Few Interpretations of Superhero Comic Book Apocalypses
Apocalypses abound in American superhero comic books (hereafter SHCBs) of recent decades. Both Marvel and DC Comics have published numerous “events” (mini-series that cross over with regular titles) in which the world’s, universe’s, or multiverse’s existence is threatened. My paper’s first aim is to provide a taxonomy of SHCB apocalypses—whether these are averted, realized, or reversed—that will be useful for comparing their forms, themes, and messages. My plan is to present a four-quadrant chart, in which the vertical axis’s poles are labeled “Destruction” and “Gentrification,” and the horizontal’s poles “Benevolence” and “Malevolence.” The chart’s corners will also be labeled, with “Utopia” at bottom left (where maximal benevolence and gentrification converge), “Nirvana” at top left (where maximal destruction and benevolence meet), “Annihilation” at top right (destruction + malevolence), and “Dystopia” and/or “Totalitarianism” at bottom right (gentrification + malevolence). After indicating how SHCB apocalypses from the 1980s through today can be placed along these axes/in these quadrants, I will illustrate the taxonomy’s heuristic usefulness by comparing a subset of stories in terms of plot progression and outcome, superheroes’ roles and reactions, messages, and reception. I will especially highlight recent series such as DC’s “Convergence” and “Rebirth,” and Marvel’s “Ultimate End” and “Secret Wars” (all 2015-2016). These events—both of which feature walled remnants of lost multiverses co-existing uneasily on a single globe- or disc-shaped world before they are reconstituted, if partially and imperfectly, as independent cosmoses—will be interpreted in light of contemporary concerns over globalism, nativism/nationalism, and transcultural migration.