The sleep of reason breeds monsters
The breakdown of civilisation is the theme of this video. It starts with the biblical writing on the wall, a metaphoric warning of doom and the consequences of failure to heed the message. The next section of the video shows the outcome — barbarism in all its forms, murder, rape, looting and the destruction of entire cities.
This is followed by scenes from two legendary science fiction novels that describe what post apocalyptic societies could look like. A Canticle For Leibowitz, written by Walter M. Miller in 1959 and Riddley Walker written by Russell Hoban in 1980. Both books examine the myths and superstitions created about the downfall of their respective societies because previous knowledge is either lost or cannot be understood. An unforgiving natural world and lawlessness become the reality for survivors.
A Canticle For Leibowitz details the discovery of a blueprint in bunker that bears the name Leibowitz, an engineer who presumably designed circuits used in atomic warfare. The find is hailed as significant because the monk who found the document belongs to a monastery dedicated to Leibowitz and it becomes regarded as a holy relic despite the inability of the monks to understand its true purpose.
This section of the video shows a solitary figure walking through endless desert landscapes, a reference to the wandering pilgrim encountered by the monk, Brother Francis, who inexplicably throws a stone towards him that lands in a spot among some ruins that marks the concealed entrance to the bunker. Scholars have noted the similarity of the pilgrim to the myth of the Wandering Jew, he is witness to the cycles of destruction and rebuilding over a period of millennia.
Brother Francis makes a beautiful illuminated copy of the blueprint and together with the original he travels to New Rome, the seat of power for the church, to present both as gifts in an attempt to persuade the clergy to canonise Leibowitz. It is a perilous journey because the route is inhabited by the ‘misborn,’ violent bandits suffering from mutations caused by radioactive fallout and inevitably Francis encounters one who fancies the illuminated painting. We see this event represented in the video by a sinister menacing gunman.
Life for young Riddley Walker in post apocalypse England is possibly even worse than it is for Brother Francis. The ever present fear of being mauled by a wild dog pack, the relentless rain and life in a superstitious tribe where language has devolved into a crude and broken version of what it once was are the realities of his life.
Riddley narrates the cause of their miserable lot, the legend of Eusa, a contraction of of the name of St Eustace who had a religious epiphany when he had a vision of a deer with a cross lodged among its antlers. The Eusa of Riddley’s world sees a little shining man, a metaphor for the atom, instead of the cross and proceeds to tear it apart in his quest to understand its meaning, hence the splitting of the atom and the dire consequences that ensue.
Riddley’s dismal existence is depicted by his work on a gang salvaging iron for weapons and utensils, a rough and dangerous job that claims the life of his father, an event he describes without sentimentality, but superstitiously, “The hoal we ben working we ben on it 24 days. Which I never liket 12 its a judgd men number innit and this ben 2 of them.” A judged men number has decided his father’s fate.
Apart from the 3D modelled scenes, which I made myself, the majority of this video comprises processed archival footage sourced from archive.org.
The sources are:
Erotikon; Gustav Machaty
House By The River; Fritz Lang
Hellstorm; Kyle Hunt
The Plough That Broke The Plains; Pare Lorentz
Operation Cue; Federal Civil Defence Administration
Just a Spark; Jam Handy Organisation
A Day At Gebel Moya
The Sadist; James Landis
Music is by TKno BeurK, courtesy of Le Colibri Necrophile netlabel
The reading of W.B. Yeats’ The Second Coming is by Palewire
A Canticle For Leibowitz and Riddley Walker can be legitimately considered Science Fiction classics. Neither are easy to read, the former contains passages of Latin and religious references that will probably confound the secular reader and the latter is written through the voice of its protagonist, a style of language that can quite taxing to read. Both have a rich philosophic concept that is impossible to convey in this style video. The links below may provide some insight for viewers unfamiliar with the novels.
A Canticle For Leibowitz