Ritual and transcendence in popular American apocalyptic film.
Thesis DisciplineFilm Studies
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
This work will concern the treatment of the apocalypse in popular American film since 1970. The films are referred to by the generic classification "apocalyptic film", defined as any film which treats a cataclysmic event, originating outside earth (that is, an external threat, such as asteroids, aliens and Antichrists, but excluding nuclear war or accident, epidemic disease, or environmental disaster) affecting the world as a whole, threatening death or damnation of society's relationship to the individual. This study will examine the nature of the wisdom and philosophy communicated by apocalyptic film, particularly conceptions of society's relationship to the individual. There is a particular emphasis on Revelation as source material, as its apocalyptic images and general structure provide the framework for the genre. The protagonist is examined in terms of a ritual subject, moving through a liminal process of spiritual discovery in an apocalyptic landscape.
Fear of death and the chaos of human existence are the instigators of countless works of fiction and philosophy; they work to give urgency and credence to founding social myths and beliefs, the fears thereby working as a societal regulator. The apocalyptic film has an important place in our cultural understanding of death, and of ourselves. The apocalypse can be seen as a metaphor for a time of social crisis, and its avoidance represents a celebration of human agency over threatening forces originating both inside and outside society.