Gothic influences

2020-02-19 @Arts

The realization crept up gradually, almost imperceptibly. But there’s no denying it. I’ve become drawn to the Gothic movement.

Perhaps of a greater influence served the anthology of Edgar Allan Poe’s tales, especially those of the darker, broodier undertones. I’m thinking of The Fall in the House of Usher, The Pit and the Pendulum, Premature Burial, The Tell-Tale heart, The Cask of Amontillado. This is the embodiment of the Gothic in some of the finest short-story format.

In the last month alone I’ve paid a visit to three cemeteries. One of these visits took place at night as part of the Santiago nighttime tour of the general cemetery. Chilling … the prospect of another tour; one from whose grasp you long to flee, but to no avail; the pitch darkness that reigns leaves you but to follow the heard.

The latest occasion involved the Cemetério São João Baptista here in Rio de Janeiro. Situated on a gradual incline, one follows a progression of beautiful tree-lined passages (not without the element of the Gothic), towards the mausoleums, past the cremation chambers up the slope, to lastly the spiderweb sprawled crypts in the upper portions - for those daring to enter (how can one resist?). And in character with the Rio architectural layout, surrounding the cemetery spreads the backdrop of a favela.

In general, cemeteries lying in Tropical wetland regions have evoked a stronger impression. But enough of cemeteries.

I’ve become more attentive to the (especially middle-age) church architecture. Churches, historically, have hardly drawn my curiosity. And now I’ve felt as far as a burning desire to occasionally enter. Talk about inopportune … where was that curiosity during my time in Spain?

Perhaps I’ve always felt drawn to the darker aspects without paying conscious tribute to the Gothic influences.

For a while I’ve entertained Post-Punk and Industrial music as an odd relaxation strategy. Groups such as Nine Inch Nails, Bauhaus, and even (I confess) Rammstein have found their way into my playlists. David Bowie’s 90’s album Outside also falls among the palate. As do Bach’s organ and harpsichord compositions.

In film land, classic film noir blends well with the Gothic. Some fine examples I recall from recent years include Hitchcock’s Jamaica Inn, The 39 steps, and (naturally) Psycho; Billy Wilder’s Sunset Blvd; or Orson Wells’s The Stranger to an extent.

Among the contemporary, my notable favorites have included The Crow, David Lynch’s Elephant Man, and Alex de la Iglesia’s Balada Triste de Trompeta.

While I’ve yet to read most classic Gothic literature (Ann Radcliffe, Horace Walpole, Mary Shelley, Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker, etc), I have read much of Dostoevsky, and have found the sinister element particularly captivating.

Crime and Punishment, while maybe not intentionally Gothic, does contain the ingredients: psychological degradation, dilapidated and claustrophobic settings, murderous fancy, unreliable narration.

Dostoevsky’s earlier work The Double (Двойник), too explores themes of duality, mental ineptitude, and eerie suspense - themes much inline with what Poe often leveraged in the Gothic writings.

Every Dickens work I’ve experienced, while not explicitly labeled as such, contains plenty of Gothic traces. Same for The Castle, my favorite full-length novel of Kafka.

For years, unclear to the seriousness of my claim, I’ve occasionally professed to take at least an intellectual curiosity in the darker arts: witchcraft, shamanism, voodoo, as practiced among varying cultures, tribes, indigenous groups. So far, the curiosity hasn’t evolved into a more tangible form. But don’t hold this narrator to any expectation.

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