“Do You Come from a Land Down Under?” – Men in the Underworld(s)


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Filozofski fakultet

Odsjek za anglistiku; II ciklus studija


“Do You Come from a Land Down Under?” – Men in the Underworld(s)

Summary: The aim of the present research is to analyze the space and time of the underworlds in “Orpheus and Eurydice” and The Time Machine and in two films which foreground the Underworld, Cocteau’s Orphée and Tarkovsky’s Solaris. The research focuses on the relations of the dimensions of these underworlds to what is perceived by the protagonists as ‘home’, as ‘house’ – as a time and place of intimacy. The underlying assumption is that, immersed in the Underworld, one tries to define its limits and its structure in spatial and temporal units that are characteristic for the ‘natural’ human surrounding, in order to demystify it and to create and illusion of power in regard to the challenges of the Underworld.

Keywords: literature, film, Underworld, time, space, travel, “passing”, identity, familiarity, nativity, presence / absence.

1. Introduction

“There are really four dimensions, three which we call the three planes of Space, and a fourth, Time” (Wells, p. 3), claims Wells’ Time Traveller and goes on to clarify that the unreal distinction which humans tend to draw between space and time, stems from the fact that the human conscious-ness “moves intermittently in one direction along the latter from the beginning to the end of our lives” (Wells, p. 4). What the Time Traveller asserts here is that our lifetime, i.e. our life time, one that we perceive as “our own time” (Wells, p. 102), is constant in its change, or – to be more precise – in its passing. Besides, movement in the temporal dimension is unidirectional, while the one concerning space is multidirectional, i.e. gives the possibility of returning to the same place more than once. Therefore, if time is – to the human consciousness – a far greater constant, albeit its ceaseless motion, we must now raise the question of the human definition and stability within the former of the two aforementioned dimensions, space.

On that matter, Bachelard (1969) writes that “we think we know ourselves in time, when all we know is a sequence of fixations in the spaces of the being’s stability” (p. 8) and that “localization in the spaces of our intimacy is more urgent than determination of dates” (p. 9), at least to the purpose of – according to Bachelard – a knowledge of intimacy. All this, however, refers to a concept of the ‘world’ which mankind is accustomed to; one in which we live and act, i.e. perform particular functions, and which can be defined as being limited by, and organized according to certain schemas and prescribed certainties; such as time and space. On the other hand, rarely do we reflect upon the temporal and spatial consistency of ‘other worlds’ and the consistency of being(s) in these worlds. For example, the meaning of the word ‘underworld’, as defined by most dictionaries, is “the part of society that is en-gaged in and organized for the purpose of crime and vice”1, where the word assumes a metaphorical value and is used as a collective term which describes people engaged in a certain activity. The second listed meaning of ‘underworld’ is “the world of the dead in various religious traditions, located below the world of the living; a region, realm, or dwelling place conceived to be below the surface of the earth”2. In this sense, the dimensions of the Underworld are reduced to one single indication: ‘below’. Moreover, the emphasis – corresponding to the religious sense of the word – is put on the particular state which this ‘world’ represents, a state not restricted by temporal or spatial limits. In the context of art, the idea of the Underworld is slightly different. The Underworld, as represented in most artistic works, is a particular space, i.e. place in space, which is regarded as being strange, dark and unnatural; as being uncanny. The focus of my research is to analyze the space and time of the underworlds in Ovid’s “Orpheus and Eurydice” and H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine, as well as in two films which fore-ground the Underworld: Cocteau’s Orphée and Tarkovsky’s Solaris.

In all four works, the protagonist gets into contact with the underworld, whose objective spatial and temporal coordinates are fairly easy to describe: Orpheus descends into the Underworld, the Time Traveller enters it primarily after traveling in time, and later after descending under the ground. In the films, Kris Kelvin’s underworld is a space station orbiting a distant planet (in other words, Kelvin flew up into the space in order to reach it) and Orphée – the lead character of the eponymous film – can get inside it through his own house, with no further dimensional references or specifications. What shall be specifically analyzed in this paper is the (un)familiarity of the spatial and temporal dimensions of the Underworld, i.e. the various terms used to denominate the Underworld, relations of the dimensions of these underworlds to what is perceived by the protagonists, the travelers to the underworlds, as ‘home’, as ‘house’ and generally as a time and place of intimacy.

The underlying assumption is that, immersed in the Underworld and its uncanny nature, one tries to define its limits and its structure in familiar terms; i.e. in spatial and temporal units that are characteristic for the ‘natural’ human surrounding, in order to demystify it and to create and illusion of power in regard to the challenges of the Underworld. In this way, the Underworld is no longer the Unknown, the Other world; but rather a sort of a “house with cosmic roots” (Bachelard, 1969, p. 22), inside which the hero might be able to construct a specific form of reality3. Certainly, this ‘human element’ in the discussed underworlds is to be analyzed in connection with the context mentioned before, of time, space and familiarity, i.e. stability within them. In their passage, their travel to the un-derworlds, the protagonists are taken out of their habitual, familiar dimensional context, and inserted into a new world which is not necessarily governed by these same laws.

2. The axes of reality: measures of time and space

On the matters of space, what preoccupies the Time Traveller most in his travels is the “possi-bility of my finding some substance in the space which I, or the machine, occupied” (Wells, p. 30), for it seems physically impossible – by laws governing the human world – to have two bodies occupy the same space at the same time. Thus, Time Traveller’s stability and, we can assert, his existence, rest upon the condition that he, at a given moment in time, be the only one to occupy a certain point in space. Orpheus’ concerns regarding space are of a slightly different kind; the task he has to carry out in order to get Eurydice, his wife, back to the world of the living is not to turn around and look at her until they pass “the edge of the bright world” (Ovid, x. 55). In other words, Orpheus’ relation to space consists in mastering its limits and the restrictions these bring about, namely, the fact that Eurydice is defined “by the places she does not and cannot inhabit” (Offen, 2011, p. 55). His (and Eurydice’s) border, with respect to the outer world, is thus this intangible dividing line between the two. In the opposite direction, towards the perceived center of the Underworld, Orpheus is likewise faced with certain restrictions: “Eurydice is the furthest that art can reach”, Blanchot (1982, p. 171) points out, whereby art is seen as Orpheus’ tool and power for entering in the night, i.e. the Underworld. Hence, Orpheus is not able to penetrate into the essence of the night because the furthest he can reach into the center of the night is, in fact, Eurydice. For this reason, in the instant he turns around to her, this border becomes real, Orpheus’ room for maneuver seems to narrow down and he is forced to leave this space – in which Eurydice no longer lives – and return to the light of day, in which Eurydice no longer exists. While, in Ovid’s work, Orpheus’ limits towards the essence of the night, the center of the Underworld, only become clear after his act of turning around, in Cocteau’s Orphée we witness this dialogue between the poet and Heurtebise: “I would follow her to hell!” – says Orphée, to which Heu-rtebise responds “You needn’t go that far” (Orphée 55:30). Therefore, in the film, Eurydice is located in a place which is somewhere between the outer world and hell, where hell is perceived as the center of the Underworld.


2 http://www.thefreedictionary.com/underworld

3 Bachelard’s phrase is here used to put further emphasis on the idea of the Underworld as being in opposition to the ‘real’, living, human world. That is, the meaning of ‘house’ here stands for the protagonist’s attempt to recapture the element of familiarity, normality, routine and order in a world which has ‘cosmic roots’; i.e. in a world which does not seem to be sus-ceptible to laws governing human world.

With reference to temporal dimension, Death in Orphée says: “This is the first time I have almost understood the notion of time. Waiting must be frightful for men. I no longer remember” (Orphée 1:24:50), from which we may conclude that the notion of time does not exist in the Underworld, as presented in the film. Nevertheless, the film concludes with Heurtebise taking Orphée back in time: “What has been must no longer be” (Orphée 1:29:21), orders Death, from which we can deduce that Orphée’s existence, albeit in the underworld in which time does not exist, is still governed by laws of the human world and is affected by changes of time and space. More precisely, Orphée is the only one actually able to seize this opportunity of going, i.e. being taken, back in time, because he is the only one to still be affected and controlled by the laws of the human world – not of the Underworld. Discussing the notion of travel time, Curtis and Pajaczkowska (1994) affirm that travel in itself is “a place where time is condensed and diffused. Or, travel functions to delay or interrupt the otherwise irrevocable passage of time” (p. 201)4. Applying this to travels to the Underground, and bearing in mind that “there is, in travel, a fusion of the two fundamental axes of reality, those of time and space” (Curtis & Pajaczkowska, 1994, p. 200), we may state that in traveling to the Underworld, only travelers themselves are susceptible to the passing of time, while the natives, or at least ‘residents’, of the Under-world do not seem to be dependent upon time for biological processes (in Solaris, Hari does not need sleep, nor do Death, Heurtebise and other ‘Underworlders’ in Orphée; the Time Traveller cannot guess the approximate age of the Eloi people) and do not seem to notice its passing. The only exception here is the existent distinction between day and night in The Time Machine. However, these two periods are not distinguishable – for the Eloi and the Morlocks – for their length in measures of time, but for the consequences they bring about. More precisely, what is crucial for the balance of power between the Eloi and the Morlocks are the presence and absence of light. Therefore, the importance of the two notions, day and night, lies not in the division of day into hours, minutes and seconds, i.e. in the passing of time, but rather in the position – in space – of the Sun with respect to the Earth and the result of that position – light and darkness. This dichotomy between day and night is otherwise used to symbolize the ‘world’ (day) and the Underworld (night)5 and it is not uncommon to come across phrases like: “the instant when the essence of the night approaches” (Blanchot, 1982, p. 171), in reference to Eury-dice, where a unit of time is connected to an indication of spatial movement, so as to stress this fusion of the axes of reality, discussed by Curtis and Pajaczkowska.

Similarly, Bachelard (1969) claims that “space contains compressed time” and that it is “what space is for” (p. 8).

With all this said, it is interesting to note how Wells’ Time Traveller – upon returning from the future – suddenly remarks that the whole adventure is “too much for my memory. Did I ever make a Time Machine, or a model of a Time Machine? Or is it all only a dream? They say life is a dream, a precious poor dream at times” (Wells, p. 142). The fact that the Time Traveller, in another time and an unrecognizable space, starts to question the reality of his travel may originate precisely from his displacement in time and space, the two fundamental axes on which this reality rests upon. Vice versa, while being on the space station orbiting Solaris, Kris Kelvin says that night “somehow reminds me of Earth” (Solaris 1:26:17), which means that a traveler (Kelvin) seems to ‘recover’ his origin, his default time and place, by finding traces of these dimensions that – in some way and to some extent – resem-ble those that govern the ‘original’ world. Time and space are both measureable, hence they may be characterized as stable and fixed, unlike dreams in Time Traveller’s statement cited above. So, if the Underworld does not rest upon the axes of earthly time and space, it might be considered – in terms of its dimensions – a sort of Thirdspace, the space where all places are, capable of being seen from every angle, each standing clear; but also a secret and conjectured object, filled with illusions and allusions, a space that is common to all of us yet never able to be completely seen and understood […] Everything comes together in Thirdspace: subjectivity and objectivity, the abstract and the concrete, the real and the imagined, the knowable and the unimaginable, the repetitive and the differential, structure and agency, mind and body, consciousness and the unconscious, the disciplined and the transdisciplinary, everyday life and unending history. Anything which fragments Thirdspace […] destroys its meaning and openness. (Soja, 1996, pp. 56-57)

This parallel between Thirdplace and Underworld, applies particularly to Orpheus’ experience; he is the one who, by gazing into the essence of the night, tried to fragment this very essence, which immediately led to the confinement and destruction of its openness. The openness of the Underworld is embodied in the character of Eurydice, i.e. her return from the Underworld and the sole moment of her ‘passing’, which would have – in theory – occurred, hadn’t Orpheus looked back. Of course, having now discussed the spatiotemporal aspects of the Underworld and the attitudes of the protagonists towards (and because of) the times and spaces of these underworlds, it is time to introduce the question of ‘home’, as related to the Underworld.

3. Home in the Underworld: nativity vs. familiarization

Madan Sarup (1994) speaks of a sense of place, or belonging that “gives a person stability” (p. 94); which implies in a certain way that this sense of belonging providing stability – which we could identify as a sense of “being home” – comes from being in a certain place, i.e. space. Shirley Mallet, however, in her essay Understanding home (2004), says that home and home ownership “can also pro-vide a sense of place and belonging” (p. 66), which would mean that home and the sense of stability may be taken as the origin, not the consequence, of place and the sense of belonging that one relates to this particular place. She goes on to add that place is, in fact, “constituted by the particular social relations that occur in a specific location, the social effects that arise in this interaction” (Mallet, 2004, p. 70). This means that places, particular points in space, are made out of networks of social relations and that the subjective value and category we assign to places depends on the kind and quality of these relations. The most obvious examples of this are Time Traveller’s thoughts on how Weena “gave my return to the neighborhood of the White Sphinx almost the feeling of coming home” (Wells, p. 69), which means it was his closeness to Weena that gave him a sense of home, in contrast to “this artificial Underworld” (Wells, p. 77), as he defines what happens under the surface of this ‘future Earth’. Be-sides labeling this underworld as artificial, the Time Traveller names its inhabitants “these unpleasant creatures from below” (Wells, p. 82), therefore defining them by their level, i.e. position in a certain space. This is even more interesting if compared with the expression the Time Traveller uses to define the Eloi, creatures of the Upperworld, which he calls “my little hosts” (Wells, p. 43). In other words, the Time Traveller identifies the Eloi as ‘hosts’, a term closely connected to ‘house’ and ‘home’, while the Morlocks are characterized as the ones ‘below’, i.e. the space in which they are collocated does not have anything to do with ‘house’ and ‘home’, but is described vaguely as being ‘below’.

See Blanchot, 1982, p. 171.

Other than just being at a lower level or position than someone/something else, the words ‘from below’ suggest something different – a definition of persons by their origins which is, indeed, often done even at the level of everyday interactions and conversations. This matter of origins is important in as much as – in Bachelard’s words – it is “the human being’s first world” so that this being “begins enclosed, protected, all warm in the bosom of the house” (1969, p. 7). Considering this important role of the origin and the ‘original’ home, it does not surprise one to find several references to these in the works analyzed in this paper. For example, Kris Kelvin at a certain point remembers his origins and the house related to it: “It’s so pleasant here. This house reminds me of my grandfather’s house. I really liked it” (Solaris 9:30). Here, the mention, i.e. the remembrance of grandfather’s house is an affirma-tion of the importance of Kelvin’s origins and the value of stability that this house entails. The meaning of this reflection on grandfather’s house can be supported by both Bachelard’s idea that “the house we were born in has engraved within us the hierarchy of the various functions of inhabiting […] and all other houses are but variations on a fundamental theme” (1969, p. 15) and Trinh T. Minh-ha’s claim that “the ‘original’ home cannot be recaptured, nor can its presence/absence be entirely banished in the ‘re-made’ home” (1994, pp. 14-15). So, Kris Kelvin, as well as the Time Traveller, Orpheus and Or-phée – cannot completely recapture their original homes; all of their ‘worldly’ and underworld houses and homes are but variations of this first one. Hence, if places are made of particular social relations – as cited earlier in this essay – this would mean that, in an attempt to bring back the feeling of the original home, one would have to reconstruct the social relations which home was comprised of. It is exactly what happens in Tarkovsky’s film: Kris Kelvin starts seeing his dead wife Hari. Her appearance triggers a chain of questions about the meaning and value of origins and home: “You understand that I don’t know where I came from” (Solaris 1:50:49), says Hari to Kris Kelvin, not ‘I don’t know who I am’. Hari uses this expression to accentuate her condition of displacement, the deprivation of this ‘original home’ to which she could both trace and relate her present state.

The episode with Hari poses another question, related to origin: the issue of nativity. As Iain Chambers (1994) claims, there is “an increasing number of people who are making a home in home-lessness” (p. 246), which means that, in the lack of an original home, one bases his/her world on its absence, i.e. the lack of home: its presence is in the absence. Speaking about nativity in the context of the Underworld, we must consider two things: its meaning from the point of view of the inhabitants of the underworld and from the point of view of the travelers that happen to enter it. In the four works analyzed, the best example of native ‘underworlders’ would be Morlocks, the ‘creatures from below’, and Eloi which – as cited above – the Time Traveller calls his ‘hosts’. However, even in Solaris, in which humans refer to the creatures they see as to ‘ghosts’, the neutrinos that make up their structure “seem to be stabilized by Solaris’ force field” (Solaris 1:36:19), which means that the force field of this planet provides stability to these creatures and, just as it is hypothesized that “Earth has somehow become adjusted to people like you” (Solaris 31:03), we may state that this same logic applies to Solaris and the creatures on it: even if these creatures are not ‘native’ to this planet/underworld, but are merely its creation or perhaps its ‘guests’, its force field still offers them stability, making it their home.

From the point of view of the travelers to the Underworld, they certainly cannot be classified as natives, even though some of them (e.g. Orphée, the Time Traveller) end up creating strong bonds with the Underworld, since “immigrant […] continues to be a migrant” (Blanchot, 1985, p. 66). So, if their original home is not the Underworld, according to the above mentioned theory, they can only attempt to recapture this original home by means of (re)creating social relations that resemble the ones present in their original home, in this case on the Earth. Naturally, one cannot ‘become native’, but this nativity “can be played with via transitional objects – souvenirs, acquired and then imported, […] objects that contain in themselves a transformational quality” (Curtis & Pajaczkowska, 1994, p. 204). One example of this are certainly the flowers which the Time Traveller brings from the future, but, we might also consider Eurydice as Orpheus’ ‘souvenir’ from the other world, which serves (or rather, ‘would serve’) to the affirmation of his own identity, an identity of one who actually descended into the Underworld and made it his own by taking a piece of it with him.

4. The (im)possibility of return and the circularity of travel

Orpheus did not manage to bring Eurydice back from the Underworld, just as the Time Traveller did not bring Weena back to his time and his home, but they themselves both returned from the Un-derworld. This moment of return from the Underworld, and generally a return ‘home’, is interesting be-cause of the changes that it may provoke in both the person who is returning and the place which he/ she is returning to. In Wells’ book, the Time Traveller describes the return to “this old familiar room” which makes the experience of travel and the death of Weena seem “like the sorrow of a dream than an actual loss” (Wells, p. 124). It is as if he perceives the room being suddenly unreal, in its difference to the reality of the events lived previously in the Underworld; or, on the contrary, as if the room were ‘too real’, too ordinary and familiar, in comparison to the extraordinary nature of the Underworld. Other than this change within the person who returns, the editors of Travellers’ Tales: Narratives of home and displacement claim, in the introduction of the book, that the “home we return to is never the home we left, and the baggage we bring back with us will – eventually – alter it forever” (Robertson et al. (Eds.), 1994, p. 5). This idea is present in the story of Orpheus and Eurydice, where Orpheus calls upon the deities saying: “‘Ye deities who rule the world below, / Whither we mortal creatures all return” (Ovid, x. 30-31), claiming therefore that humans not only ‘come’ to the Underworld after their death on Earth, but they ‘return’ to it. His use of the verb ‘return’ suggests that men come to life, i.e. their earthly life, from the Underworld, to which they return afterwards; this implies a circular dimension of the journey, not a linear one, in which the Underworld is both the origin and the destination. Other than that, it means that Orpheus, when he “longed, he begged, in vain to be allowed / To cross the stream of Styx a second time” (Ovid, x. 74-75), is in fact begging to cross the Styx a third time. It is also interesting to note how – when Orpheus says

“We linger; then we hasten, late or soon,

To one abode; here one road takes us all;

Here in the end is home; over humankind

Your kingdom keeps the longest sovereignty” (Ovid, x. 33-36),

he basically forms a hypothesis about the nature of home; the Underworld is an abode, a home, because it is a place with the longest sovereignty over human life. We may identify here two basic as-sumptions: that home is a ‘question’ of destination, of striving and becoming; not a matter of origins, of being. Secondly, that the temporal dimension of home is of a greater importance, compared to the spatial one. Home, in these verses, is the space – the kingdom, says Orpheus – which houses men the longest. In these terms, Death inviting Orphée to “make yourself at home” (Orphée 16:56) may not be an exhortation, but an invite to embrace his new home, since from that moment “you belong to the other world” (Orphée 50:05).

What this invite and this statement also suggest is that the return from the present ‘home’ is not likely to happen. In other worlds, similar to the Time Traveller and Kris Kelvin, the poet is in a place from which he seems to be unable to move; from one familiar time and space, he is transported into a time and place which are unknown to him, but do exhibit a certain stability, especially in matters of time (i.e. the duration of the traveler’s stay in this particular place). In this sense, “relocation is consolidated by settling in a place” (Pollock, 1994, p. 70), the travelers are not tourists, nor visitors in the Underworld; there is a certain level of permanency in their sojourn there. The female figures in all four works, Eurydice, Princess / Death, Weena and Hari, are symbols of the desire of these heroes, the travelers to the Underworld, to bring permanently together the two worlds. Orphée, when discussing the (im)possibility of his relationship with Death, says that “all worlds are moved by lovers” (Orphée 1:09:41), thus expressing his desire to reconcile the two worlds or, more precisely, to find the point in which the two worlds converge. In none of the four works do the worlds move; the protagonists are all separated from the female figures. However, this moment of return which follows the separation is not clearly delineated. In fact, they return from being in presence of these female figures to being in their absence6. In other words, the Time Traveller remains in the same geographical place, but in a time in which Weena does not exist, while Orpheus leaves the space of the Underground – a place from which he has originated and to which he will return at a particular time – to be in one which Eurydice no longer inhabits. The other two travelers, Orphée and Kris Kelvin, remain in the same time and place in which they – by means of their relations to Death and Hari – came in contact with the Underworld, Kris Kelvin on the planet Solaris and Orphée in his house, a house in which Death was present and from which she is now absent.

5. Permeable borders: identities in interaction

Consequently, it may be suggested that the boundaries between the Underworld and what is outside and beyond it are unstable and that they include the presence and absence of the human element. As Mallett (2004) points out, the dividing lines “of place and/or home are permeable and unstable. Equally, places have no fixed or essential past. The identity and meaning of a place must be constructed and negotiated” (p. 70), which means that the identification of a place and of a time as the Underworld is negotiable too, and that the presence or absence of one of its constituting elements may change one’s perception of it7. The issue of permeable borders is best illustrated in scenes from Nora Offen (2011) stresses an interesting aspect of this dichotomy, in relation to “Orpheus and Eurydice”: “The prescript of the gods – that Orpheus not, at all costs, look behind him – amounts to an injunction for him to trust, fundamentally, that Eu-rydice exists as separate from him: a being capable of existing while he is not looking at her” (p. 71). This sentence provokes a question – can Eurydice indeed exist without Orpheus (looking)? Maurice Blanchot (1982), on the same topic, claims that “Orpheus has in fact never ceased to be turned toward Eurydice […] in that veiled presence which did not hide her absence, which was the presence of her infinite absence” (p. 172). This means that notions of presence and absence not merely marks of a position in space, but are intertwined with the psychological and existential dimension.

7 In relation to this, Bachelard (1969) claims that “the sheltered being gives perceptible limits to his shelter” (p. 5), which in this context means that it is not solely the spatial or the temporal dimension to determine the limits of the Underworld, that Orphée, in which mirrors in the poet’s house turn into doors to the Underworld: “Mirrors are the doors through which Death comes and goes” (Orphée 54:26). Thus, a familiar element located in the heart of the house, of a home, may at the same time become an entrance into the uncanny, the unknown. What is more, besides this transformational quality, Orphée is told “you will pass through mirrors as if they were water” (Orphée 56:48), which puts an additional emphasis on the permeability of this entrance to/exit from the Underworld. While doors – which are here in the function of mirrors – may be open and closed, i.e. have two possible ‘states’ (of which one, closure, implies a degree of solidity and unchangeableness), here the mirrors are equated with water, a liquid and ‘permeable’ element, an unstable boundary.

Besides unstable boundaries, the perception of the Underworld is, as previously mentioned, somewhat influenced by the presence and absence of other beings. The binary opposition between hu-man and inhuman, the two presences that influence the traveler’s perception of himself in relation to the Underworld, is most obvious in The Time Machine. “I felt hopelessly cut off from my own kind – a strange animal in an unknown world” (Wells, p. 58), says the Time Traveller, referring to himself as an ‘animal’. Later in the narration, he refers to the Morlocks as “the white Things” (p. 99) and as “these inhuman sons of men” (p. 101), reporting that they looked “nauseatingly inhuman” (p. 90) and that he “loathed them” (p. 92). In contrast to this perception of inhumanity, the Time Traveller says that, at a certain point, Weena seemed “more human than she was, perhaps because her affection was so human” (p. 103). What can be deduced from these examples, combined with what has been previously said on the matter, is that the ‘human element’ is not only important in the perception of a time and space as an underworld (e.g. the Morlocks), but also in the perception of oneself as human. “The process of identification is first of all a process of spatialization […] discovering his or her identity is fram-ing the space of that identity” (Rancière, 1994, p. 33), which means that one both reflects that which is present in the space surrounding him and vice versa, that he acts as an agent, creating borders of his identity and of all that which is outside these borders. Therefore, the more ‘human’ the environment is perceived as and the more control one assumes in the Underworld, the more he starts to change the limits of that which he now perceives as the unknown, the Underworld – this refers to both narrowing the limits (the Eloi people and the space above ground as home; the Morlocks and the space under the ground as the Underworld) or removing them completely (Solaris as a permanent home).

Slightly different from the human-inhuman dichotomy in The Time Machine is the ‘becoming’ process illustrated in Tarkovsky’s film. Hari asserts: “I am becoming a human being. I can feel just as deeply as you” (Solaris 2:03:59), while – a few minutes after that – one of Kelvin’s colleagues says: “The more she’s with you, the more human she’ll become” (Solaris 2:16:02). So, unlike the rather firm boundaries in Wells’ book, Solaris offers a different approach, that of becoming, of limits that are liable to change. An approach like this, as “identity based on becoming rather than being” (Wollen, 1994, p. sees this very identity as “the expression of a trajectory, as accumulated through space and over time” (Wollen, 1994, p. 189); summed up, as something that is not given, but discovered, not fixed, but fluid. As Mouffe (1994) points out, identity is “the result of a multitude of interactions that take place inside a space whose outlines are not clearly defined” (p. 110), which is precisely the Underworld; the interactions which take place inside it form both the identity of the traveler, of the ones he encounters in this space (or it is merely his perception of them that changes) and, lastly, the Underworld itself. This last notion is important, if we accept the idea that “the concept of home seems to be tied in some way with the notion of identity” (Sarup, 1994, p. 95). What is also important to mention here is, as Jacques Rancière points out, the connection between the reasons for going to the Underworld and its link to the notion of identity:

This process of setting up boundaries is one which includes the human perception and interpretation. Of the works analyzed in this paper, this is most obvious in The Time Machine and Solaris, i.e. in the difference between the Time Traveller’s perception of the surface (the Eloi) as a ‘home’ and of the underground (the Morlocks) as the Underworld, which is conditioned by the nature of his personal relation and affection for the two species. In Solaris, the eponymous planet and the astronauts’ space station is perceived as an underground for as long as the planet – presented in the film as a sentient entity – keeps replicating persons from the astronauts’ lives. After the astronauts start broadcasting Kelvin’s brainwaves at the planet, this phenomenon stops. In other words, the Underworld may be located in a fixed time and space, but the perception of this time and space may depend on other factors, such as the element of control: the perception of a space as an underworld may be, in simple terms, considered to be inversely proportional to the degree of control the traveler has in and over it.

The descent into hell is not simply a pitiful visit to the land of the poor – it is also a way of making sense, a pro-cedure of meaning. […] Frightening as it might seem, it was still reassuring to envisage society as threatened by a power lying beneath it, in the underground. Because the main threat would lie in the discovery that society had no underground: no underground because it had no ground at all.” (Rancière, 1994, p. 34)

It is precisely in this last Rancière’s sentence that we can connect all that has been previously said; the moment of encounter, “the very encounter of self with the other – other than myself and, my other self” (Trinh T. Minhha, 1994, p. 23), and the encounter with the Underworld, are all moments which constitute meaning. In this context of meaning, time and space of the Underworld are merely tools in the broader perspective of making meaning.


A Print Sources

Bachelard, G. (1969). The Poetics of Space. (M. Jolas, Trans.). Boston, MA: Beacon. (Original work published 1958)

Blanchot, M. (1982). Orpheus’ Gaze. The Space of Literature (pp. 171-176). (A. Smock, Trans.). Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press. (Original work published 1955)

Blanchot, M. (1985). Vicious Circles. (P. Auster, Trans.). New York, NY: Station Hill Press. (Original work published 1951)

Chambers, I. (1994). “Leaky habitats and broken grammar.” In Robertson et al. (Eds.), pp. 245-249. Curtis, B., & Pajaczkowska, C. (1994). “‘Getting there’: travel, time and narrative.” In Robertson et al. (Eds.), pp. 199-215.

Mouffe, C. (1994). “For a politics of nomadic identity.” In Robertson et al. (Eds.), pp. 105-113. Ovid. (2004). “Orpheus and Eurydice.” Metamorphoses, Book Ten (pp. 22-228). (D.A. Raeburn,Trans.). London: Penguin Classics.

Pollock, G. (1994). “Territories of desire: reconsiderations of an African childhood.” In Robertson et al. (Eds.), pp. 63-92.

Rancière, J. (1994). “Discovering new worlds: politics of travel and metaphors.” In Robertson et al. (Eds.), pp. 29-37.

Robertson, G., Mash, M., Tickner, L., Bird, J., Curtis, B., & Putnam, T. (Eds.). (1994). Travellers’ Tales: Narravtives of Home and Displacement. London: Routledge.

Sarup, M. (1994). “Home and identity.” In Robertson et al. (Eds.), pp. 93-104.

Soja, E. W. (1996). Thirdspace. Journeys to Los Angeles and Other Real-and-Imagined Places. Oxford: Blackwell.

Trinh T. Minhha. (1994). “Other than myself/my other self.” In Robertson et al. (Eds.), pp. 9-28.

Wollen, P. (1994). “The cosmopolitan ideal in the arts.” In Robertson et al. (Eds.), pp. 187-198.

Internet Sources

Mallett, S. (2004). “Understanding home: a critical review of the literature.” The Sociological Review, 52.1., 62-89. Retrieved February 24, 2015 from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1467-954X.2004.00442.x/epdf

Offen, N. E. (2011). Eurydice without Orpheus: Senior Projects Spring 2011. Retrieved February 18, 2015 from Bard Digital Commons, http://digitalcommons.bard.edu/senproj_s2011/5/

Underworld. (n.d.). In The Free Dictionary. Retrieved March 1, 2015 from http://www.thefreedic-tionary.com/underworld

Wells, H. G. (n.d.). The Time Machine. Retrieved January 2, 2015 from http://www.planetpdf.com/planetpdf/pdfs/free_ebooks/The_Time_Machine_NT.pdf

C Motion Pictures

Paulvé, A. (Producer), & Cocteau, J. (Director). (1950). Orphée [Motion picture]. France: Films du Palais Royal.

Tarasov, V. (Producer), & Tarkovsky, A. (Director). (1972). Solaris [Motion picture]. Soviet Union: Kinostudija Mosfilm.

“Do You Come from a Land Down Under?” – Muškarci u podzemlju/ima

Sažetak: Cilj ovog istraživanja jest analizirati prostornu i vremensku dimenziju podzemljâ u Orfeju i Euridici (Orpheus and Eurydice) i Vremenskom putniku (The Time Machine), te u dva filma koja tematiziraju podzemlje, Orfej (Orphée) redatelja Jeana Cocteaua te Solaris redatelja Andreja Tarkovskog. Rad se posebno bavi odnosima dimenzija ovih podzemlja sa onim što protagonisti percipiraju ‘domom’, ‘kućom’ – mjestom intimnosti. Osnovna pretpostavka na kojoj počiva rad jest da, nalazeći se u podzemlju, protagonisti pokušavaju definirati njegove granice i strukturu u prostorno-vremenskim okvirima svojstvenima prirodnom ljudskom okruženju, kako bi na taj način demistificirali podzemlje i stekli prividnu moć pred izazovima koje ono postavlja.

Ključne riječi: književnost, film, podzemlje, vrijeme, prostor, putovanje, „prijelaz“, identitet, familijarnost, urođenost, prisutnost / odsutnost.

Izvor fotografije: filmlinc.org

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