Seven best ayahuasca-related movies
(Those of you who are Friends with me on Facebook, can see the full list here)
As I was doing this, and thinking about the films that had impacted me most strongly – which was the main criteria for being on my list – I had the idea to write a blog entry about the seven best ayahuasca related movies.
These movies might be – actually hopefully will be – a surprise. I’m deliberately not including any of the ayahuasca documentaries which seem to be mushrooming at the moment nor other films with a more or less explicit focus on ayahuasca such as Jan Kounen’s two 2004 films ‘Blueberry/Renegade’ and ‘Other Worlds’ – nor related documentaries such as Mitch Schultz’s ‘DMT the Spirit Molecule’. All or part of these three films can be viewed on the links indicated in the previous sentence and are well worth seeing.
(Also, I do intend to stop writing in lists soon – they do seem, however, for better or worse, to generate blog traffic. Actually, I’m beginning to suspect that writing lists is part of a neo-liberal or Illuminati New World Order plot to dumb-down writing, get us to believe that everything can be quantified, and to think constantly in hierarchical categories.)
So, with no more ado and no further discursions into the ideological basis of lists, here is the list of films. Be warned – this list contains spoilers!
1. Andrei Rublev (1966)
If any film deserves to be authentically described as spiritual – a now much debased and over-used word – this is the one. It actually made my number one film of all time, and I’ve only ever seen it on DVD. The director of the film is the Russian Andrei Tarkovsky (132-1986) of whom Ingmar Bergman said:
“Tarkovsky for me is the greatest director, the one who invented a new language, true to the nature of film, as it captures life as a reflection, life as a dream.”
The film basically tells the story of the artistic and spiritual path of Andrei Rublev – a Russian icon painter in the 15th century. Without being overly-deterministic and spelling everything out, as a Hollywood film typically would, it shows how the events of his life formed him to create the radiant, spiritual masterpieces that were his icon paintings.
To me, it illustrates the path of a shaman. It shows the dedication needed (the years of apprenticeship spent cleaning his masters’ brushes), the many twists and turns of the path, the confrontation with darkness, and ultimately the need to be graced by God or Spirit to truly work in service of others.
The last point is made in an extraordinary sequence in which a young boy oversees the casting of a huge bell, knowing his life is at stake if the bell does not ring properly. He claims to have the knowledge to make the bell passed on to him by his late father – a renowned bell-maker – but when the bell is finally made, struck, and rings true, the boy collapses on the ground in tears saying he did not really know how to make it.
To the watching Andrei, who has stopped painting, this is an example of the power of faith. Breaking his vow of silence, he tells the boy they should go together.”You’ll cast bells. I’ll paint icons.”
2. The Truman Show (1998)
Normally, I have to confess that I can’t stand Jim Carrey. He seems to be constantly acting a caricature of himself. But in this film, and also in The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, he is brilliant.
This film uses the metaphor of a man whose whole life is unknowingly to him the basis of a reality show populated by actors to explore the way that our everyday reality is socially conditioned and constructed.
It’s essentially a film about ‘waking up’, which has been one of La Madre Ayahuasca’s principal teachings to me. ‘Waking up’ is also an initiation. In the film, as the character Truman Burbank grows to suspect the nature of the world that has been made for him, and, overcoming his fear of water, he embarks on a journey to the limits of this world where he finally meets and confronts, Christof, his creator. (As a piece of movie gossip, this part was originally offered to Dennis Hopper.)
Cristof attempts to persuade Truman to return to his artificial world arguing he will be more happy there. Truman’s response is to walk through the Exit Door. As Rumi wrote:
“Why do you stay in prison when the door is so wide open?”
3. The Matrix (1999)
This is a film that I was not so impressed with when it first came out – especially with all the hype surrounding its release. Two years into my relationship with La Madre Ayahuasca, I saw it again and got the point.
Like The Truman Show, but using a different metaphor – that of being plugged into machines – it shows that the world we typically take for granted is an illusion. Once we ‘wake up’ out of this world, in the case of The Matrix by taking the blue pill, there is no turning back.
Recent experiences with La Madre Ayahuasca are showing me that The Matrix really might be onto something. As I wrote in a previous post, in one ceremony, I had the realization that what I thought was this rather trashy, B-movie world of my subconscious that I had to avoid getting trapped in, was not just a personal realm, as most psychology would have us believe, but was rather a realm of social conditioning.
That realm, in my opinion, exercises much more power over us than we would like to believe. The interesting question is who controls that realm?
4. Groundhog Day (1993)
This is said to be His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama’s favorite film. Actually I just made that up – I suspect he prefers Pulp Fiction – after all, the guy has gotta relax some time. However, I did once see on a website the film described as the Buddhists’ favorite film of all time.
This film brilliantly shows the iterative, cyclical nature of thinking, of learning, of our current lives as a whole, and of our past and future lives. It points out the paradox that we are always the same and yet constantly changing.
For me, the strongest connection with ayahuasca is the loop-like nature of my thinking. La Madre Ayahuasca clearly shows me how my mind revolves in repetitive circles, and, as in the film, the only way out is through the connection with the heart.
5. Avatar (2009)
This film has the most obvious connection with La Madre Ayahuasca on the list. In fact, I was told at an ayahuasca retreat by one of my fellow participants that he had met movie special-effects technicians who had worked on this film at another retreat and they were regular drinkers of ayahuasca.
I’m sure that nearly all the readers of this blog don’t need me to spell out the plot or the ayahuasca connection. If you are reading this and have not seen the film, do go and see it.
The curious thing for me is that despite its critique of the brutal exploitation of natural resources and indigenous people and the over-dominance of the technological view of nature, the film is itself an example of that high technology world with its state-of-the-art 3D experience.
6. Solaris (1972)
I’m referring here to the original 1972 version here by Tarkovsky – the same director who made Andrei Rublev – not the Hollywood remake thirty years later, which actually was also good, notwithstanding the prime shots of George Clooney’s butt.
This film, like others on the list, explores how reality is constructed. The difference with this film, though, is that rather looking at how reality is externally imposed upon us, the film explores the way in which we each actively construct our own worlds.
This is done in the film through a group of astronauts in orbit around a strange planet that has the ability to make real whatever they are thinking and feeling, especially in relation to their repressed memories. Similarly, La Madre Ayahuasca is known for her ability to pull out of people past, often traumatic memories, but in her case as a way to help heal the wounds occasioned by the original traumas and perpetuated by the repressed memories..
Incidentally, in case this film sounds like a sci-fi version of the Law of Attraction, it has a beauty, subtlety and mystery completely lacking in the crass, spiritualized materialism of much of the stuff I have seen about the Law of Attraction.
7. Wings of Desire (1987)
In one of my very early encounters with La Madre Ayahuasca, I re-experienced my bodily incarnation into this life. One minute, I seemed to be floating in some distant, unknown realm, the next I felt myself drawn into a human body, and knew I was going to be a certain personality.
When I thought about this afterwards, I remembered Wim Wender’s haunting and beautiful film Wings of Desire, and the scene where the angel decides to be human in order to experience the sensory pleasures of life on earth and experience human love with a lonely trapeze artist.
When I saw the film again, and saw the sequence where the angel falls to earth to take on a human body, in which the color shifts from sepia-toned black and white to full technicolor, I thought it the most wonderful and ingenious cinematic representation of the incarnation process.
Wim Wenders made a sequel to this film called Faraway so Close, which is also very worth tracking down.
I’m sure there must be other films that readers of this blog would connect strongly to La Madre Ayahuasca. Please add them in the comments section and say something of what they mean to you.