An Essay About The Making Of The Kingdom Of Shadows
By Daniel Fawcett & Clara Pais
Part 1. The House
When you invite a stranger into your house it becomes their house too. Cinema is a house filled with strangers, we invite you to make our films your home. Please feel welcome to eat our food and explore the rooms.
Houses contain many secrets, hidden in the cracks of the walls one can find the spirits of their ancestors lurking. They sleep, in time you will sleep this sleep too, but these spirits are easily awoken. The Kingdom Of Shadows is a place where ancestors wake and the fire that was lit in the time before time still burns.
Some secrets should never be revealed. There is a hidden room in every house set aside for such things. But over time some signs of neglect can occur and some of the mysteries, if not properly cared for, may creep out. The Kingdom Of Shadows is a room where rogue secrets have been set free beyond control.
The spirit of the house has deep roots that reach far into the past, when we put our ears to the walls we can still hear our ancestors singing. How do you feel about their songs? Some like to listen while others cower in fear, blocking their ears and numbing their senses. And then there are those that join in with the song, adding their own voice and new harmonies to this eternal chorus.
The doors speak of all who have passed through them, the stairs speak of ascent and descent, the walls of the great weight which they hold upon their shoulders, and of the cold wind which claws at their backs. As the house speaks, we listen, we are not afraid to hear its words. What angels, saints and shadows live in the house of your dreams? Are the rooms, cupboards and drawers populated by creatures of shadow or light? The Kingdom Of Shadows is a realm where light moves into darkness and the darkness folds itself around you and sings in pitch black luminosity.
The first house was built from the first tree at the centre of the world. Within this maternal shelter we were nourished but the time came when the doors and windows were flung open and the wildness of the open plain and the mysteries of the forest called to us. When we hear the call we must go without hesitation, without a thought of fears of what will be lost or what we may gain, but no matter where you go or how far you travel, you will always find the door that only you can recognise, the threshold to The Kingdom Of Shadows, a place we all have been and to which we will return.
The house boils your body until you sweat out your ancestors, they bubble up from deep within you and erupt out from the surface of your skin like a pulsating cyst. It boils you further still until you become a tree and your family past drop from your branches like over-ripe fruit. This horror is the blackening from which your soul will be born. The Kingdom Of Shadows is a retort in which your essence is cooked.
The House imagines us as much as we imagine it. It becomes our body and the arena of our dreams, and we become its fleeting thoughts and a witness to itself. Cinema too dreams us into being but what children lay dormant between the frames, hidden from the view of the camera’s eye? The Kingdom Of Shadows is a film in search of these unborn creatures, those mutant children not yet brought out into the light.
Cinema is a body built of phantom limbs, the act of motion picture creation is to call forth these spectres to play out before us. We give them form, we let them speak through us. We all have within us a phantom-film, a life long motion-picture that only we can know. Every time we watch a film we feel the anticipation and awkward tension in our bodies as our inner-film tries to project itself out and possess the screen in front of us. Each act of viewing is a meeting between the ghosts of the screen that flicker in silver and gold.
The Cinema of home, of going home, is the cinema we all seek when we sit down to watch a film. But if all that you can see is recognisable, you are blind. The cinema of home is a place we’ll never reach if we stay in the safe-zone, familiar corridors lead only to dead ends. The genuine cinema-home can only be reached by going out beyond the perimeters of the known land, far beyond the garden wall, beyond the forest, to a place beyond sight, on the other side of light. This place is known as The Kingdom Of Shadows and it is here that we meet ourselves, a world between worlds where dreams end and cinema begins.
Part 2. The Wasteland
Nothing grows in the wasteland, life can not be sustained here. If you find yourself a wanderer then you have been cast out from life, you must tread the path of exile and accept your fate. To struggle is to lose, like falling into quicksand, the more you fight the faster you sink and the longer you remain stuck in the quagmire. The exiled one must learn to surrender, to shed the skin of the world and lose all hope of return, only then, when all is lost may he receive the wisdom of being saved.
The wanderer walks the path of scorched earth over the skeletons of those who have perished before him, the bones that lay beneath his feet a reminder of his inevitable end. The wasteland is a place for those who have sinned, but what is a sin? Some say it is a crime against the gods but we say it is a crime against the self. Who can judge such a crime? To find yourself in the wasteland is to awaken to the judgement you have cast over yourself. You are the sinner, the victim, the judge and the jury. Wander further, events go as they must.
Cain is the killer, son of the first lovers, murderer of his own brother. From the moment of his crime, his soul fell into tatters and he was marked by a shadow that follows him for eternity. How can Cain be healed? Where does his redemption lay? Death lingers over him, with blood on his boots he circles the very thing he seeks to escape. He is the fool taken over by madness, who has seen his shadow dance with devils as it leads the way.
But let us not see the path of Cain as a wrong turn, it is the path that calls him and the path he must take. The great tragedy of Cain is that he could not heed the call, he could not go as himself and stand before the universe and scream yes to life. Out of fear he had to kill, out of fear of the beauty in himself he thrust his knife into his own virtue. The earth cries for him, for he hammers at the rocks when he should be above us sculpting in the stars.
Cain, do you really call yourself free now that you have shed the world? The one weight you carry is the largest of them all, the weight of sorrow, the weight of sadness. Let the great stone float off from your back and illuminate the way. When the lone star shines before you, wander home, wander into the arms of the creative spirit, she will become the song that guides your way as you move hand over hand through the waterways of exile.
Cain is the artist thrown into the icy breath of solitude, to be in exile is to walk the way of the creator. The wasteland lies at the heart of The Kingdom Of Shadows, it is here that the great work begins, in the darkness of the earth and in the blackest of dark waters where the soul is broken down.
Part 3. The Lovers
The bible tells us that Adam gave birth to Eve, she was moulded from his rib, so we must assume that before this moment Adam was not male but an hermaphrodite. Neither male nor female but both. This is our secret desire. The deep and ancient longing to reunite with oneself, to be whole again, to be both sexes, all genders contained within a single form. This is the paradise lost. This is the secret garden which we seek.
In Alchemy the Rebis is a figure of both sexes in a single body which represents the goal and end point of the great work. The union of opposites: masculine and feminine, light and dark, cold and hot, night and day. To seek this union is to seek the end of duality. It is to reach a place beyond divisions where the experience of being alive becomes fluid. Past and present cease to exist and reality folds in on an eternal present.
Our Lovers are not sinners, they are innocents cast into the consciousness of time. A consciousness of the separation between them and what they have lost. These archetypal figures wear the skin of our personal condition, they may not look like your Adam and your Eve but they grow from the same ground. The heart that beats within them and the breath of life which woke them is the same, only the skins that clothe them are different.
The 6th card of the Major Arcana of the Tarot de Marseille shows us three earth bound figures, these are the lovers; one male, one female and one who is neither or both. Above them, against the blazing sun, Cupid takes aim with his bow and arrow. As the creators of The Kingdom Of Shadows we became like Cupid. And our camera, like Cupid’s bow, feels nothing, it is indifferent and unloving, but the hands that hold it feel only compassion – every shot is a cupid’s arrow fired with love – pop pop pop!
Once cast from the garden, the Lovers longed to return but their destiny was to wander the wasteland. As they stood between the dimension of time and the dimension of eternity they saw two roads which they could take, one was the road of the impossible and this leads back, the other was the road of the possible and this leads forwards. In that moment they fell in love and in their union they found a secret third road, not a road of either/or but a road of the eternal yes.
The Kingdom Of Shadows is a film about origins, the beginning of all beginnings and the echoes that sound through time. We turn our gaze to the cultural beginnings that have shaped the society in which we live and also to the mythological beginnings which have become the lens through which we see the universe’s meaning. There is also the origins of our individual selves; our family history and the psychological knots which are passed on from one generation to the next. And then there is, of course, the origins of cinema; this magnificent medium which we use to express and explore all of these images and themes. But what is our ultimate aim? It is to heal. To liberate ourselves, to liberate those that watch the film and to liberate cinema itself. We are the lovers and we are the house and we are the wasteland also. The film is the sacred vessel in which we travel far and on the furthest and most exotic shores we will ultimately meet ourselves.
The Kingdom Of Shadows is available to order on DVD here.
And to watch on Vimeo On demand here.