Secret motifs on the Screen: Part1
Hidden Symbols: Water
There’s a hidden symbolism that storytellers use to add to the subliminal power of the story. Most of us have noticed them, but whether we acknowledge them or not, they work, And enrich our experience. L:et’s look at water first.
Water, in mythology, has usually symbolized purification. In religion, it’s ablution or baptism. Hindus take a dip in sacred rivers to cleanse themselves of their sins.
Water stands for cleansing and the resultant change.
Violent changes are depicted by gushing water from fire hydrants, geysers, fountains and similar props. In many Indian movies, the hero, who minded his own business until he was provoked beyond breaking point, fights and defeats the villain. In the background, we usually see a burst hydrant shooting forth. Freud will have something to say about hydrants and the macho man, surely, eh, Dr Freud?
Rain is romantic change or changing times. Depends upon whether we see a couple in the rain, or the entire landscape washed by rain. When it’s just the hero, it means he is changing, transforming from underdog to superhero. Remember the rain in the Matrix after Neo decides to take the plunge? That rain also, obviously, resembled the green lines of the matrix.
Falling into water, also denotes a time of transformation. Maria and the kids do that, in ‘The Sound of Music,’ don’t they? And, in an earlier scene, it rains and pours, causing the scared kids to surrender to the heroine. “Raindrops on roses…”
Water bodies, like rivers, streams and the sea, denote travel that leads to transformation, usually. Harry Potter and the new scholars cross the lake in boats. And just as in the Sound of Music, there is rain when Harry realizes that he is a wizard and not an ordinary boy.
Next time you see water used in a story, note how the storyteller has made it stand for something. And tell us.
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