Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Abominable Snowman

One of the joys of BBC I Player is the 'film category' where all kinds of material pops forth that you would not necessarily go in search of. One form of this is the occasional 'Hammer' film from that fertile factory of the fantastic. Today it was 'The Abominable Snowman' with the wonderful Peter Cushing.

One of the great features of popular culture is that it can explore ideas that if baldly stated in the 'mainstream' factory of idea production (what is rooted in what is currently perceived to be the case) would probably not get a look in and yet enclosed in the comforting word 'fantasy' can be happily explored.

In this case, Cushing is a botanist on an expedition to the Himalayas staying at a Buddhist monastery. So far, so innocent, but he harbours a belief in the existence of the 'Abominable snowman' or yeti and aims to link up with an American expedition that is seeking it. This aim neither accords with the monks nor with Cushing's wife (though for different reasons).

The American expedition appears and Cushing, allaying his wife's fears and dissembling with the monks, sets off with them into immediate conflict. Cushing is a scientist who wants to confirm the yeti's existence, the expedition wants to capture one, ostensibly to further human curiosity but as a reflection of a fundamentally commercial mindset.

Meanwhile, the dissembling is moot because the lamas have the power of telepathy and know that what will unfold will do so according to the quality of the consciousness of the participants.

In the end, the yeti (who do exist) thwart both aspirations - of the commercial expedition by (restrained) violence through exacerbating the desires of their pursuers to the point where they fold under their own harmfulness (of derangement, fear or greed) and of the scientist by persuading him of their higher moral purpose. A persuasion that is only possible because of the inherent receptivity of the scientist and the quality of his conscience.

In this latter case, they, a third branch of evolution, have taken shelter in the Himalayas curious of what humanity will make of itself (and the verdict is out) such that if they fail, they may be able to step in and take the objectives of the creation forward, humanity having failed (cue references to the prospect of nuclear annihilation and ecological degradation - the film was made in the 1957). The yeti are portrayed as superior beings (guarded in their existence by the monks) and we are meant to consider, as the film unfolds, both their implicit criticism of our daily existence and the hope that, in spite of what we do or fail to do, an evolutionary impulse towards a greater reality will continue. The responsibility of any and every conscious being is caring the world into a greater fullness of being, fail that responsibility and life will find a new path forward.

All of this wrapped in the coating of a 'standard' melodrama, replete with anguished wives, necessarily devious lamas, avalanches and suspenseful glimpses of the yeti (who only fully appear when they transfer their thoughts and secure their secrecy with Cushing's scientist). Yet it is only a film factory produced 'horror' film...


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