On November 14, 2010, I critiqued the Argentine film, “Man Facing Southeast,” on a blog on the Atlanta-Journal Constitution, at the request of another poster. Below is my critique of that impacting and unorthodox film, which contains spiritual implications:
Hi. Hope you have had a nice weekend so far. I mentioned to you in my posting early last week that I would answer your inquiry of me about the Argentine film, “Man Facing Southeast” this weekend. (For those who may want to read the following art/religion/psychological analysis and have not seen “Man Facing Southeast,” it is similar in plot and theme to “K-Pax” with Kevin Stacey in the early 2000s.)
Yes, there is definitely the theme of Jesus as madman and the Christ in “Man Facing Southeast.” The film was very thought provoking, moreso than “K-Pax,” especially in its dialogue. Before I go further, I should tell you that I have recently been rereading a book that I first read years ago entitled “Love and Will” by Rollo May, the author of “Man’s Search for Himself,” published in 1969 by W.W. Norton and Company. May was a psychotherapist who began his studies in Vienna and had taught at Harvard and Princeton. I must quote a few lines from that book because the parallel thoughts in it and those in “Man Facing Southeast” are remarkable. Of course, they both entered the world stage within 15 years of one another.
From “Love and Will” pp. 21 – 27: “Both artist and neurotic speak and live from the subconscious and unconscious depths of their society. Art and neurosis both have a predictive function. Since art is communication springing from unconscious levels, it presents only in those members of the society who, by virtue of their own sensitized consciousness, live on the frontier of their society – live, as it were, with one foot in the future. The arts anticipate the future social and technological development by a generation when the change is more superficial, or by centuries when the change, as the discovery of mathematics, is profound. (May mentions that the water reeds and ibis legs painted in triangular designs on neolithic vases in ancient Egypt were the prediction of the later development of geometry and mathematics by which the Egyptians read the stars and measured the Nile, as one among many examples.) The neurotic and the artist – since both live out the unconscious of the race – reveal to us what is going to emerge endemically in the society later on.
Our patients predict the culture by living out consciously what the masses of people are able to keep unconscious for the time being. The person with psychological problems bears the burdens of the conflicts of the times in his blood, and is fated to predict in his actions and struggles the issues which will later erupt on all sides in the society. (Mays mentions that the poet W. H. Auden published his “Age of Anxiety” in 1947, as Camus and Kafka were creating works of the coming age of anxiety of the 1950s and 1960s.)
You may have read some of the earlier post exchanges between another poster and myself as related to the evolution of humankind. I could see the possibility that if behavior could change the course of human evolution by DNA process (as he shared through research he had discovered), that the choices we as a civilization might make now could determine what type of species we would become in the future. Thought always precedes action, or choices made manifest.
This is where Jesus’ thoughts and the character of Rantes comes into play in “Man Facing Southeast.” Rantes says that he has come to the mental hospital from outer space on a spaceship and he chose the mental hospital to convey his ideas from another realm in a mental hospital because no one “on the outside” would take his ideas seriously and they were so “far out” that he would end up in a mental hospital anyway. (A little dry humor!)
(Before I go further, let me say to those who are not particularly literary and who are reading this, that I do not think that Jesus was a madman. But I do think that this world is more often than not a “mad” world, so that Jesus’ teachings appear “mad” to those that are very worldly. Few, I am afraid, really believe in loving their enemies, in doing good to those who persecute then, and in turning the cheek over and over again. In fact, I believe that is why the “world” crucified Jesus. They (we) could not accept what he was saying to be profoundly true, especially that he was one with God.)
Rantes mentions that in this world people do not really care for one another. He faces southeast
daily in order to “receive and transmit” information (prayer). He says that we are robots; that we just do not know it yet. Dr. Hulio Dennis, his psychiatrist thinks that Rantes is either (1) certifiable or (2) a visitor from another planet. (You may remember this conversation between us started when I mentioned on this blog about the C. S. Lewis book, “Mere Christianity” for any atheists who may want to rethink their positions, as did Lewis. Lewis said in his book that he knew Jesus had to either have been a “madman or the Son of God” and he came to realize through logic, as written in the book, that Jesus was not a madman, but was, in fact, who He claimed to have been while on this Earth.)
Some scenes that had rather profound impact upon me from the movie were:
1. The poor mother with her hungry children in the restaurant at the long table for customers. Rantes, through mind control (miracle) pulled the steak from the man’s plate when he turned away and had the steak slide toward the mother and children. With his eyes, Rantes told the mother and children to eat it. (How many today would agree with taking from some to give to others?)
2. Dr. Dennis says to Rantes: “My brain is like yours and everyone else’s.” Rantes answers, “Then how is it you wear a doctor’s uniform and I wear a crazy man’s?” (We play our varying roles in this world, but, in reality, we are all more alike than we care to admit – because under our various job titles, and our various masks, we all have similar souls connected to the One soul, and thereby our overriding commonality.)
3. Rantes says to the doctor, “God is within you, but everyday you are killing God. He (Rantes) has come to rescue the “innocent.” “Who are the innocent?” the doctor asks. Rantes answers, “They are the ones trampeled by the great march of progress (insensitivity to those who are weaker and more vulnerable); those ravished by horror (holocaust, child abuse, etc.); those whose last hope is gone on Earth (the insane, the pathetically poor, etc.); and the ones that no one sees (The black man in the book “Black Like Me,” the homeless on the streets.) Rantes says, “You see them dying and you let them die. You see them begging you for a little help and you brush them aside. You see them starving and you give them nothing to eat. Their only crime is sadness and yet you lock them in a prison. What sort of person adopts such behavior? Who can work among these victims as if they weren’t there and doesn’t care? It might be those who go to church, who dress well, who pays his taxes, and yet he remains a sick human being. Your reality is a nightmare,” says Rantes. “Stop lying to yourself and you might see where the ____ (could not hear word) truly lies and you might stop taking out your guilt on those who truly depend on you, by those trampeled by society, the poor in spirit, who can’t buy this b – – – – – – – your’ve been selling anymore than I can.” The doctor says that Rantes has developed anger. Jesus had anger at times – but not often.
4. The powers-that-be, above Dr. Dennis in the hospital, decide to give Rantes more medicine and stronger medicine in order to prevent his getting worse. (Rantes had gone to a musical concert with the doctor and the doctor’s young children and he had enjoyed the event so much that he appealed to the conductor for the baton. The conductor gave it graciously to Rantes. Rantes had such joy and love in his heart that came out through the music that all the people began dancing at the concert in sublime joy. Rantes had connected with the music of the heavens and everyone there was captured by its beauty and the spirit of love, for all, to such an extent that the happening made headlines in the papers that the “insane man from the mental institution took over the concert.” The head of the mental institution was worried that his reputation would be in danger, so Rantes was medicated to a state of stupor and he soon died and was buried. I thought of the line “trampeled by the great march of progress.” And I thought of “Disgusted’s” revelations on Friday of how the educational hierarchy had misplaced his talents by looking only at logic and by not “seeing” into his soul as a young student and what his heart desired, and how that had adversely effected him.
Jesus taught us simply that God is love and that “though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. Love never fails.” 13 Corinthians.
We, in this world, say those words in our places of worship, but we do not live them fully day to day because Jesus’ words are too radical for us accept fully. Does that make him the madman or us? How will we evolve as a species? What behavioral choices will we make today that will determine who our progeny will be? We have choices to make. I think our best choices will be made with our hearts rather than with our heads.
This is what I took from “Man Facing Southeast.” Thank you for telling me about it.
Addendum to my thoughts, above, posted on the same blog on November 15, 2010:
In citing the examples from the film “Man Facing Southeast,” I
overlooked tying this film more closely to Rollo May’s outstanding
book, “Love and Will.” Here is what I had been thinking but overlooked
stating outright yesterday:
If the birth of Jesus on our planet 2000 years ago was the
manifestation of the Mind of God, present in human subconscious at that
time, and ready to be made manifest at that point in history as an
emerging God more of love than of judgment, then in today’s world if
Jesus’ words of love have been germinating in our collective
subconscious for 2000 years, and His loving concepts want to emerge
into reality through us, and if we do not follow those words but choose
instead inordinate self-interest, then our world may collapse upon
itself with anxieties, violence, and wars because what is whole and
spiritually healthy in our subsconscious has been blocked by our egos
in finding manifestation on the world’s stage.
In other words, we are pulled in two directions today because the words
of a loving Jesus remain inside us, in our collective subconscious
wanting expression, but the “madmen” and “madwomen” that we become
through our will to inordinate self-interest, makes us (and our
society) more anxious and more violent because we block the soul of
this loving subconscious Jesus from blooming, through us, on the world’s
If we learn this lesson in time, our thoughts, which are energy, can
change the course of our spiritual evolution and the course of history
for the better. I am praying that we learn this critical lesson in time
and turn the “mad” into the sane through love.
For any who may be interested in seeing “Man Facing Southeast, and possibly in comparing it with the American film “K-Pax,” a less penetrating film based on the same theme, here is a link: