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Thursday, 19 August 2010

Bending the elements to suit ourselves

Yesterday Coran and I went to see a film entitled The Last Airbender. We had been waiting to see this film for quite some time, having heard about it through the grapevine, via friends in the United States. It was an interesting concept that to me at least warrants further discussion.

The film is based on the first season of an animated TV series Avatar: The Last Airbender, and was adpated into a film by M Night Shyamalan, who produced The Sixth Sense and The Village, among others. The Last Airbender is the first of a planned trilogy, and is influenced by Asian Art, (so-called) mythology - for I strongly believe that myths are often rooted in fact, however far back in pre-history they go, and the martial arts, with strong cinematic effects.

The film is baseda around the theory that the Planet that we inhabit, is governed by a complex interweaving of four basic elements - earth, air, fire and water, which must remain in perfect balance. The balance is maintained by The Avatar, who has the ability to bend or manipulate all four of these elements, while ordinary mortals (at least some) can bend just one - the element of the tribe that they were born into. The Last Avatar, who was born into the air element, hence the title of the film, disappeared 100 years ago.

The film begins with a young female water bender named Katara, and her older brother, a warrior named Sokka, who live with with the Southern Water Tribe. One day they are out hunting for seals, when Katara detects a movement under the ice. Proceeding to unfreeze the iceberg, she releases a young boy named Aang, and his flying bison Appa, whom it transpires have been trapped for over 100 years. You can probably guess the identity of Aang.

This attracts the attention of Zuko, Prince of the Fire Nation who was exiled by his father until he can find the Avatar, whom the fire nation regard as a threat to their dominance. The rest of the film, without wishing to cut a long story short, details Aang's attempts to restore balance, escape from Zuko's clutches and master the other elements.

Like I say, it was an interesting concept, but one which for me at least was ruined by the American accents. However, as Coran pointed out, in order for people to understand these concepts, they must be couched in a language and a style that people can understand. To me to least (and while I realise this may sound like a generalisation), American is the least evolved spiritually of all nations on Earth, so the film had to shown in a way that would appeal to them, no matter how irritating it was to others, and I found it very much so. The language seemed to be almost child's talk, very basic in the amount of words used and the way they were expressed. I have observed from my own experiences, on both real life and television, that many Americans talk very much like.

Personally I would have liked to have seen much more emphasis on the qualities of the four different elements, which were barely touched upon at all. All that was said was the idea that water is connected to the emotions. This is true, but when you come to think of it there is much more to water than just this - water mirrors the state of not just the Planet but also our own bodies, with three quarters of both being ocmposed of this element.

I felt that this film has strong Atlantean overtones, many of which were echoed in my own work, Genesis of Man (I would urge you to read this book if you ae interested to know more). Atlantis had not four, but seven Royal families representing the four main elements, plus three others - love, spirit and evolution (change), elements which are less well known and less easily defined. In the film each of the elements had a northern and southern kingdom, with their own Royal families who were responsible for maintaining balance and order, just as in Atlantis.

I cannot help wondering if the film harkens back to what took place there, with the Fire element reigning supreme and wishing to be in control. Of course no one can ever be in control, for balance must always be maintained, just as we must express 'moderation in all things'. The balance is delicate but it must be maintained and that I suppose is the danger that we face now all over again.

Maybe that is also a message from nature, for there has certainly been an increase in natural disasters in recent years - the Boxing Day Tsunami (water), various volcanos (fire), earthquakes (earth), and sand storms in the Middle East (air). Earlier this year we saw major disruption to air traffic caused by the Icelandic volcano, which shows us how at least two of these elements are interconnecte. With the rise in volcanic and seismic activity, should the ice caps begin to melt, we will see how all four are connected in a much more dramatic way that could affect us all.

The message for me then of this film is that what we do does very much affect the planet on which we live, and we must learn to respect and work with mother nature as our ancestors once did, and not manipulate for our own sake, simply because we can, as the fire tribe does in the film. For if we persist in this way, the earth will no longer support, nourish and sustain us and that delicate balance will be gone forever, leaving us with no means to support and nourish ourselves. The choice is ours to make.

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