Thursday, 4 March 2010
Christine and her Mouth
Christine Brown is insecure about her past. She is worried about her class status and her weight. This is what drives her. This is what makes her hungry for promotion.
The first we see of her is her mouth in the rear-view mirror of her car as she practises her vowels, attempting to mask her farm-girl upbringing:
"Good sounds abound when the mouth is round"
From the outset, Christine's mouth is symbolic of her neuroses, of how her self-regarding nature develops into selfishness and how, in wanting to better herself and expunge her shame, she falls victim to greed.
When she is being haunted by Mrs. Ganush and the Lamia, her mouth is the locus of her troubles. A veritable feast of objects go into, and come out of, it: flies, blood, maggots, a handkerchief, embalming fluid, brains and a whole arm. Plenty go into and out of other people's mouths too: a ruler, a dead cat, an envelope, an evil spirit.
The mouth is the seat of undigested shame and greed, a pit not unalike the maw of hell itself. Christine's boss Jim Jacks is afraid he will be infected by this curse ('Did I get any in my mouth', blood that is) and Mrs. Ganush attempts to strangle the life out of her, to stop up that entrance.
When the end comes, she is no longer worried about how she looks or how she sees herself. She just wants to live, and it is too late.
* * *
Bringing God into the Equation
When Christine's boyfriend Clay challenges the medium Rham Jas, dismissing Carl Jung as "the New Agers favorite psychologist", Rham responds by saying "because he wasn't afraid to bring God into the equation".
I think, watching Drag Me To Hell, that Sam and Ted Raimi may be the ones afraid to bring God into the equation. When confronted with the Devil and his minions, and proof of the existence of the supernatural, would one not appeal to the one being who has the track record of conquering Evil? Would one not come beating at the doors of a church, if only in desperation, to plead with the Devil's opposite and analogue - God?
In Mrs. Ganush's flooded grave Christine is knocked unconscious by a crucifix. It is an aside, a throwaway gag on divine judgment. There can be only one inescapable conclusion: Sam Raimi cannot and will not bring God into the equation because, given that Christine's fate is set in stone, God would be bound to fail.
* * *
On the Train Station Platform
The end of Drag Me To Hell is notable for its ingenuity. A train station, more acutely on film, is a place to start a new journey. It is a place to start a new life, especially spiritually. It is a setting for amorous liaisons and for euphoric reunions.
It is also the place where people say goodbye.
Raimi mingles a pot pourri of cliche and expectation, tipping the dynamic of the scene one way and the other before wrenching it to a shuddering halt. Christine may have transformed her appearance and dressed herself in a new coat of middle-class respectability but she carries with her in perpetuity the baggage of her past - that little coin and those big words that it represents : not Liberty but Pride and Greed.
Posted by Stephen Russell-Gebbett at 16:48