Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Insects and Religion

When you think about Guillermo del Toro’s Mimc, the last thing that should come to mind is religion. Maybe cockroaches, sewers, giant insects and subways but not religion. However, if you pay close attention to the film you’ll notice that there are religious symbolism and aesthetics hard at work; hidden deep within the film’s plot and special effects lies something very religious. There several scenes that take place in cathedral-looking buildings and some of the major events take place within a condemned church. I think that Guillermo was trying to get at something with and I believe it has something to do with how science has sort of backstabbed what popular religion has taught people. In turn, by tampering with nature through scientific means we have created something that we aren’t able to control.

For starters, the name of the new breed sent to destroy the disease-carrying cockroaches was the Judas Breed. For those of you who know about religious, Judas was one of the 12 disciples of Christ who, for the price of 30 pieces of silver, turned him over to the High Priest Caiaphas who then turned him over to Pontius Pilate’s soldiers. Eventually, Jesus’ capture led to his inevitable crucifixion and death. Judas was known for betraying Christ and committed suicide by hanging himself. The Judas Breed (a combination of cockroach, termite and mantis) works very similar to the way the story of Christ’s betrayal played out only with bugs instead of people and eradication instead of crucifixion. The Judas insect will work its way into the cockroach tunnels, seemingly undetected and untouched by the cockroaches, and would secrete an enzyme that attracts the roaches. Thinking everything is okay, the roaches begin to eat the enzyme, which speeds up their metabolism and kills them. The Judas Breed effectively gained the trust of the roaches only to kill them.

As the story progresses, the Judas insect begins to evolve to resemble a human but still maintains its insect qualities and hunting strategies. By seeing humans as the invading species, the insect turns against us to use us as food and to eliminate competition. Again, the theme of betrayal and backstabbing is played out. It’s also interesting to note that when the Judas insect becomes a fully evolved adult, with it’s sharpened forelegs and long wings, it resembles death itself… the grim reaper in insect form. This may not have anything to do with religion but many religions see the Grim Reaper as a symbolic representation of death.

There are several cathedral-like buildings; there is a library with a giant stained glass window that resembles a cathedral, the sewers are large and open like cathedrals and even bare architectural similarities. One of the ways to get to the Judas insect hive is through a church where a priest was pushed off a building by a Judas insect. Aside from the library, it seems like an area with a mere resemblance of a church has bad things happen in it. A young boy, who later gets kidnapped by a Judas insect, is told by his father that the church across their apartment is a bad place. The church is run-down, musty, deserted and has broken statues of Christ and his followers. I see the church as a representation of an old “idea” dying and a new “idea” (religion) becoming the dominant practice. People have turned their backs against the church and now look to science for guidance. In the end, nature has the final call and we were betrayed by it or so the movie has proclaimed.

Manny, the young boy’s shoe-shining father is seen as a caring but very independent Christian who carries around a cross with him everywhere he goes. Spoiler: it’s sad that he was brutally attacked and killed by a Judas insect but I think the fact that his cross, shown as a protector, failed to so do in the eyes of science’s greatest invention. The only religious person in the whole movie was literally backstabbed by an abomination of science; the relationship between religion and science couldn’t have been shown better.

I’m absolutely positive there is more to the story than what I could uncover. As offbeat as Mimic may seem, it’s a pretty well made movie that dives into the battle between modern science and popular religion. Though any allusion towards religion isn’t spoon-fed to us, it’s not that hard to see once you notice the beginning and how the camera tries to focus on the flickering neon cross. Some people might pass this off as being a passable Guillermo del Toro film but I think he was trying to say something here. I do want to close this article by saying something that always fascinated me about insects work; they don’t have any remorse, they’re hard-working and they aren’t governed by laws or gods… they do what needs to be done to protect their colony.

The massive stained glass window in the library.


Louis said...

I haven't actually seen the film but based from that review, I think it's a really good movie. I like how you associated religion and insects. Thanks.

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