My mother always is telling me not to make my paintings so "dark"-and that probably I would $ell more if they were "happier". I always tell her that it's important for culture to become fully aware of all the dimensions of being, and that the good cannot exist without the bad. Plotinus might not completely agree, but the intricacies of Neo-Platonic Metaphysics notwithstanding, I feel that it's a matter of personal and cultural responsibility to look into the Darkness and become aware of the full scope of humanness. When we lose touch with the reality of our situation, and prefer to dither in the palliative mindspace of eternal sunshine, we exercise an optimism that is reckless and immature. Apparently this is a lesson that mainstream culture is beginning to take hold of:
IN "THE WAY WE ARE," a concise, razor-sharp book of existential musings, philosopher Allen Wheelis describes the "margin of terror." Just beyond the agreed-upon scheme of things, like the raw desert and wild places at the edge of the paved city, it's the territory where pain and grief and mystery are too much to reconcile. "We look away, pretend it does not exist, is of no importance, a deviation, a neurosis perhaps."
That self-deception, Wheelis contends, is the essence of the social pact, a matter of survival. You don't gaze directly at Medusa -- and, as a rule, you certainly don't do it in summer movies, those mega-escapist mass entertainments. But as a quick scan of current big-screen protagonists attests, mainstream filmmakers are not always playing by that rule anymore; not only are they not looking away from the margin of terror, they're sometimes setting up camp there. Even cartoon characters and those based on comic books are gazing straight into the abyss.
Darkness has rarely been the central subject of large-scale fare -- it might surface as a tone or stance or an intermittent generator of shock. To temper and defuse the horror, filmmakers -- ardently independent ones as well as those working for studios -- often have adopted a twisted, winking jokiness, the punch line à la Quentin Tarantino or the Coens having become all but obligatory. But to varying degrees, 2008's summer tent-pole titles are forgoing irony as they walk quite purposefully into the darker realms of storytelling, and critics are embracing that darkness, whether it's an undercurrent (" Iron Man") or a defining principle (a certain Batman movie).
In the 38 reviews of " The Dark Knight" by Rotten Tomatoes' "top critics," 90% of which are favorable, readers will find 40 references to the film's darkness, most of them admiring. Reviewers speak of the feature's "dark vision" (Christopher Orr, the New Republic) and the way it "turns pulp into dark poetry" (Richard Corliss, Time). In this paper, Kenneth Turan praised the film for its "darker-than-usual themes that have implications for the way we live now." Manohla Dargis of the New York Times observed that "Knight" "goes darker and deeper than any Hollywood movie of its comic-book kind," and Newsday critic Rafer Guzman called it "a dark and highly complex drama [with] more brains than any other movie this summer."
Sheri Linden for the LA Times