The Crow (1994) & Becoming Crow

So, revenge. It’s been on my mind, as you may well know. And in that moment of lucidity where I was thinking about the prevalence of revenge narratives, I recalled 1994’s The Crow. I was a big fan of what is now a cult movie – I had the t-shirt, the soundtrack and of course, a copy of the graphic novel.

It’s a strange sensation when you get that moment of realisation, the clarity that something really must have lodged itself deep in your head during your formative years. It clearly influenced me subconsciously in some certain, fatalistic sense, and it was almost certainly a foundational element that gave birth to the character of my alter ego.

For that we have to spin back a good twenty years…….

(Hard to believe it’s been so long)

The story goes that I once met a young woman who I fell madly in love with. In my dizzying elation I neglected that fact that it was a doomed love, because what made it magical was also its temporary nature. Our situation was that we were both outside of the normal affairs of daily life, but we would both have to return to them eventually.

Thing was, my hopes were that it would be possible to carry on the relationship as I was going to America, and she was returning to America. Yet her life and my life were in different spheres by that time and after a series of surreal dreams we spoke on the phone.

Walking back from that call, I remember the emptiness.

And perhaps it was in this void that Crow was soon to be born – not explicitly, but more in embryo.

I was now into my studies at the University of New Mexico and had been required to pick some electives. Along with my fellow exchange student Sam, we thought we’d do a unit about Celtic mythology and goddesses.

Big mistake. This wasn’t an academic course. It was pure, unadulterated, woo that was lead by a total mad woman. There was no science in it, no comparative mythology, no examination of gender or power relations, not even an attempt to contextualise myth to archaeology.

Oh no! This was all about finding your “inner goddess”.

And oh how the lecturer (I use that word loosely) came to hate us. We were insolent, and of course envied as we came from those mighty isles of legend (a mistaken conflation of England, Wales and Ireland at work there). We were incredulous at the mad performance of the lecturer’s friend as Cerridwen! We were scientists dammit!

Then it came to the mask making. I think you can guess what mask I made – as if in that tumultuous and painful time he just rose up and started to take form.

Part of the cosmic joke here was when I accidentally printed out Shelley’s Ozymandias and Hamlet’s monologue on the back of my short written explanation for my work:

I have of late, (but wherefore I know not) lost all my mirth, forgone all custom of exercises; and indeed, it goes so heavily with my disposition; that this goodly frame the earth, seems to me a sterile promontory; this most excellent canopy the air, look you, this brave o’er hanging firmament, this majestical roof, fretted with golden fire: why, it appeareth no other thing to me, than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours. What a piece of work is man, How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty, In form and moving how express and admirable, In action how like an Angel, In apprehension how like a god, The beauty of the world, The paragon of animals. And yet to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me; no, nor Woman neither

It would be the only piece of work that I got a good mark for under her tutelage – laughable!

For our final piece we were tasked with writing a personal creation myth. It was not well received as I framed it as an interview, and then at the end indicated that my words were a transcript from a patient in an asylum.

So you see, Crow was already at work, perhaps taking his revenge in that way that he does when he writes.

Anyhew, winding down the other day, I came full circle and watched the movie again. It’s not a great piece of cinema, but cult movies aren’t always about being perfectly made. It has clunky dialogue, and one continuity shot that always bugs me. But it has a vibe and some great one liners. It also has genuine tragedy tied to it when Brandon Lee died near the end of its production.

Nor would I call it one of my favourite movies, but as I watched it I felt it had been something that shaped the geography of my life in the past, something that new events and new growth had caused to disappear into the landscape of my every day life; perhaps it was that rocky protrusion rising out of the hillside that had been worn down by the rain and sun and wind, something half buried and smoothed by the passing years.

Or like Ozymandias’ stone remains, simply jutting out of the desert sand as it stretched away…..

Above it, Crow now perches like a chthonic spirit born out of half forgotten histories. He smiles sardonically, winks and says, “well, you were asked to write a creation myth.”

DJC


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