Sunday, March 22, 2009

Slumdog & Other Dumas Gates

Slumdog Millionaire reopened in American theaters on March 20, 2009. It's time to take a look at one thread in the film and where it leads us. An intriguing undermentioned synchromystic element of the award-winning film Slumdog Millionaire is its references throughout to The Three Musketeers (Les Trois Mousquetaires, 1844). The movie's hero Jamal refers to his brother Salim and himself as Athos and Porthos, and the female of his attention Latika as the third Musketeer. The book is shown in flashbacks of the orphanage's classroom and in importance to the ending sequence regarding the last question asked on "So You Want To Be A Millionaire?" The Three Musketeers (Les Trois Mousquetaires) is a novel by Alexandre Dumas, père (French for "father", akin to 'Senior' in English). It recounts the adventures of a young man named d'Artagnan after he leaves home to become a musketeer. d'Artagnan is not one of the musketeers of the title; those are his friends Athos, Porthos, and Aramis—inseparable friends who live by the motto "one for all, all for one" ("un pour tous, tous pour un"). The director Danny Boyle does not really deal with the overt or covert appearance of the novel, in the movie or even in his interviews about the film. The New America Media interviewed Boyle, and he gave the following rather classic non-answer to the question of the book in his motion picture. +++ New America Media: But would slum kids in India really read "The Three Musketeers"? Danny Boyle: We had to work around that. We originally decided to do the whole film in English. But when I got there and started auditioning, it was clear that the little kids don't really speak English. I immediately thought, 'We have to do it in Hindi.' So the kids speak in Hindi in the beginning, and I remember ringing the studio, telling them, 'Oh, by the way, the beginning of the film is going to be in Hindi.' And they were just horrified. They thought subtitles. And all I said was, 'I promise you the subtitles will make the film even more exciting.' And they bought it, fortunately. It's true someone from his background would probably not have that much English but he's a smart kid, and he picks stuff up quickly and he remembers it. That makes his dream come true - the things he remembers. +++ Did you hear a clear response in any of that? Why didn't he answer this inquiry about The Three Musketeers? Perhaps Danny Boyle only likes to share visually? He, after all, was the director for two intriguing episodes of Inspector Morse ("Masonic Mysteries" and "Cherubim and Seraphim"). In "Masonic Mysteries," Morse himself becomes the prime suspect when his lady friend is murdered at a dress rehearsal of Mozart's The Magic Flute. By the time Boyle got to Slumdog, he would have already been quite familiar with the multiple layers of Masonic symbolism in literature, music, and art. The Three Musketeers is a tale of friendship by a Freemason. The author of The Three Musketeers was born Dumas Davy de la Pailleterie (July 24, 1802 – December 5, 1870) ~ known simply as Alexandre Dumas. He became known as a French writer, best known for his numerous historical novels of high adventure, which have made him one of the most widely read French authors in the world. Many of the Dumas novels, including The Count of Monte Cristo, The Three Musketeers, Twenty Years After, and The Vicomte de Bragelonne were serialized and this extended his popularity. His novels were simple but multilayered. For example, his The Knight of Sainte-Hermine, his last novel, was a swashbuckling tale containing a key scene of the Battle of Trafalgar, which explains the death of the British admiral Horatio Nelson. One of the background elements of some significance to Dumas was his Masonic twilight clues in his stories. Freemasonry is subtly written about by Freemason Brother Alexandre Dumas, père, within his books: The Count of Monte Cristo. "Edmond had become as skilled in navigating the coastal waters as he had once been on the open sea. He got to know all the smugglers around the Mediterranean and learned the Masonic signs that these semi-pirates used to recognize one another." Chap. xxii, p. 189. "But Andrea, turning around towards them, winked, put his tongue in his cheek and gave a clicking of the lips that meant a host of things to these bandits, who fell silent. These were masonic signs that Caderousse had shown him, and the hooligans recognized one of their own." Chap. cvii, p. 994. "'More or less. We sailors are like freemasons, we recognize one another by certain signs.'" Chap. xxxi, p. 266. Penguin Classics Edition, 1103 pages, translated by Robin Buss (c) 1996, ISBN 0-14-044615-X The Countess de Charny. A chapter describes the advancement of three freemasons into the Illuminati of Cagliostro. [AQC xciii 4] Philadelphia : T. B. Peterson, [1858.]. 8o. Joseph Balsamo, or the Memoirs of a Physician. Also deals with Cagliostro. [AQC xciii 4; xxxii 94] London : Ward, Locke & Co., London, [1846-48]. 340p : ill ; 28cm In 1848, Alexander Dumas wrote his The Count Of Monte Cristo. The Count is the Jesuit General. Monte=Mount, Cristo=Christ. The Count of the Mount of Christ. Alexander Dumas was talking about the Jesuit General getting vengeance when the Jesuits were suppressed, and many of them were consigned to an island, three hours sailing, West, off the coast of Portugal. And so, when the Jesuits finally regained their power, they punished all of the monarchs of Europe who had suppressed them, drove them from their thrones, including the Knights of Malta from Malta, using Napoleon. And Alexander Dumas, who fought for the Italian patriots in 1848, to free Rome from the temporal power of the Pope, wrote many books and one of the books was to expose this, and that was The Count Of Monte Cristo. Little remembered today, Dumas was discriminated against due to his race. Dumas is included in the 2002 book by Joseph Cox, Great Black Men of Masonry. Despite Alexandre Dumas' success, despite his Freemasonry and aristocratic connections, his being of mixed-race would affect him all his life. In 1843 he wrote a short novel, Georges, that addressed some of the issues of race and the effects of colonialism. He once remarked to a man who insulted him about his mixed-race background: "My father was a mulatto, my grandfather was a Negro, and my great grandfather a monkey. You see, Sir, my family starts where yours ends." Buried where he had been born, Alexandre Dumas remained in the cemetery at Villers-Cotterêts until November 30, 2002. Under orders of the French President, Jacques Chirac, his body was exhumed, and in a televised ceremony his new coffin, draped in a blue-velvet cloth, and flanked by four Republican Guards (costumed as the Musketeers - Athos, Porthos, Aramis, and D'Artagnan) was transported in a solemn procession to the Panthéon of Paris, the great mausoleum, where French luminaries are interred. In his speech President Chirac said: "With you, we were D'Artagnan, Monte Cristo, or Balsamo, riding along the roads of France, touring battlefields, visiting palaces and castles — with you, we dream." In that speech President Chirac acknowledged the racism that had existed, saying that a wrong had now been righted, with Alexandre Dumas enshrined alongside fellow authors Victor Hugo and Emile Zola. The underlying theme of Freemasonry, so part of The Three Musketeers ("three" is one of the most powerful of numbers in Masonic symbolism), is seeded into Slumdog Millionaire. Salman Rushdie, in his essay on film adaptations, "A Fine Pickle," argues that the plot of Swarup's novel, Q & A, is "a patently ridiculous conceit, the kind of fantasy writing that gives fantasy writing a bad name. It is a plot device faithfully preserved by the film-makers, and lies at the heart of the weirdly renamed Slumdog Millionaire. As a result the film, too, beggars belief." Rushdie also questions director Danny Boyle's admission that he made the film in part because he was unfamiliar with India, asking, "I imagined an Indian film director making a movie about New York low-life and saying that he had done so because he knew nothing about New York and had indeed never been there. He would have been torn limb from limb by critical opinion. But for a first world director to say that about the third world is considered praiseworthy, an indication of his artistic daring. The double standards of post-colonial attitudes have not yet wholly faded away." “The movie piles impossibility on impossibility,” the famous novelist Salman Rushdie said in a lecture Sunday, February 22, 2009 evening at Emory University (the night that Slumdog Millionaire won so many Oscar at the Academy Awards). (Perhaps it is his enormous ego, but, frankly, sometimes Rushdie seems rather out of touch and misses the bigger picture to make his sociopolitical point, don't you think?) "The literary motif lurking here is that of the three musketeers, a book the boys fail to study properly at school, and the only book we ever see them look at. Even so, Jamal doesn’t know, when asked on the (television show) "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?", who the third musketeer is. He manages to guess right, a move which in turn prefigures the happy ending, but also hides part of its pathos. All too often there are only two musketeers, and we can’t save the third. Indeed, this cruel logic appears to apply even when we can save the third," wrote Michael Wood in the London Review of Books, At the Movies. India, Freemasonry, and films are old friends, and here again "The Three Musketeers" serves as an entry point for a peek. There is one version of "The Three Musketeers" that is a story by Rudyard Kipling. The tale introduces his three fictional British soldiers serving in India in the later nineteenth century: Privates Mulvaney, Ortheris and Learoyd. These appear in many early stories; Kipling's second collection is called Soldiers Three (1888). "The Three Musketeers" was first published in the Civil and Military Gazette on March 11, 1887, and in book form in Plain Tales from the Hills, 1888. The ability to answer the question, "Who is the Third Musketeer?" is an element of the plot of Kipling's story, just as it was in Slumdog Millionaire. Kipling was a very overt Freemason, and his story "The Man Who Would Be King" (1888) is a tale of other fellow Freemasons. It is about two British adventurers in British India, who become kings of Kafiristan, a remote part of Afghanistan. The greatest Masonic film of all time is the adaption of this book. "In the pantheon of Masonic films, there can only be one king - and this is it," wrote Mr. Black. I could not agree more. Director John Huston made this feature film in 1975, The Man Who Would Be King, starring Sean Connery and Michael Caine as the protagonists and Christopher Plummer as Kipling. The book and the movie share a plot also involving Alexander the Great, forms of Masonic ritual, images of Masonic symbols, and knowledge of Masonic secrets that serve as keys to the initial success of Kipling's Masonic heroes. One film that has been made, full of synchromystic symbolism that is entwined with "The Three Musketeers," even though they never are overtly merged, is The Ninth Gate. It is a 1999 film based on the novel The Club Dumas by Arturo Pérez-Reverte. Spanning several genres, The Ninth Gate is a mix of Satanic mystery, iconic thriller, and neo-noir, and additionally portrays facets of the rare book business. The film was co-written and directed by Roman Polanski (Rosemary's Baby), and stars Johnny Depp as Dean Corso, a rare-book dealer hired by a book collector (Frank Langella) to validate a copy of The Nine Gates of the Kingdom of Shadows, a book by 17th century author Aristide Torchia. Johnny Depp, I consider, so linked to so many twilight language movies, the list overwhelms. But what is so incredible about this specific movie is how rich it is but how very ignored it has been. One of the biggest elements little known to casual viewers of this film is that The Three Musketeers was originally part of this story. The source novel The Club Dumas contains numerous literary references and a subplot concerning Corso’s investigation into the original manuscript for a chapter of The Three Musketeers. Polanski and Brownjohn jettisoned these elements and focused on one particular plot line: Corso’s pursuit of the authentic copy of The Nine Gates to make it more of a Lucifer-friendly movie, in the tradition of Rosemary's Baby. The symbolism or complex nature of The Three Musketeers appears to have been lost on Polanski. There is one date in The Ninth Gate that seems unmentioned but serves as a background temporal pivotal point of attention. The Nine Gates of the Kingdom of Shadows, a book by 17th century author Aristide Torchia is said to have developed a cult that annually recalls the anniversary of the burning at the stake of Torchia. In this created fiction, that date is given (in the book, but not noted in the movie) as February 17, 1666. Aristide Torchia is a fictional character from The Club Dumas, the 1993 novel by Arturo Pérez-Reverte. But Torchia is clearly based on the real life of Giordano Bruno, burned as a heretic on February 17, 1600. Giordano Bruno was an Italian philosopher best-known as a proponent of the infinity of the universe. In addition to his cosmological writings, he also wrote extensive works on the art of memory, a loosely-organized group of mnemonic techniques and principles. He is often considered an early martyr for modern scientific ideas, in part because he was burned at the stake as a heretic by the Roman Inquisition. Frances Yates's books suggest that Bruno was deeply influenced by magical views of the universe inherited from Arab astrological magic, Neoplatonism and Renaissance Hermeticism. Other recent studies of Bruno have focused on his qualitative approach to mathematics and his application of the spatial paradigms of geometry to language. Under Bruno's view of the universe, the Sun was simply one more star, and the stars all suns, each with its own planets. Bruno saw a solar system of a sun/star with planets as the fundamental unit of the universe. His view was holistic before it was cool to be holistic. Symbolism was more overt in films like The Man Who Would Be King in 1975 and The Ninth Gate in 1999, of course. But that doesn't mean that iconic imagery is still not to be found in those of the 21st Century. Sometimes you have to look harder at what is hidden in plain sight. Slumdog Millionaire is merely one point along the circle, which you can begin to measure anywhere. 


Michael said...

A thought provoking post. "Who is the third Musketeer (rifleman)?" Reminds me of the JFK assassination and the confusion about who and how many killers.

Aramis became the "black pope", and I am curious what that might mean to a high ranking Freemason. Who is the (real) black pope?

Who is the third Mousketeer?

Cheers, Michael

Anonymous said...

Slumdog is an excellent film and deserves all the awards it won but it certainly struck me as odd. For starters the trailers give no clue to the widespread brutality: murders, torture, crime by and on children. If it wasn't so well done it could have been quite a haul.

I couldn't pin it down to anything specific but the whole thing struck me as something like a cross between a mythic Hero's Journey and some cultic initiation ceremony. There seem to be specific stages or trials to progress through life and the quiz. In fact for him to get the big reward he is hooded and led off for a further ordeal which he has to pass to win the million.

There is also a tangential Joker link - they fall into the grasp of a Fagin-style character who is a cripple-maker, like the comprachicos from The Man Who Laughs. Who I mentioned here before in connection to dwarves and jesters.

Anonymous said...

An excellent essay, what synthesis. I would like to know more about the Masonic three's? I thought the Jesuits were the Pope's henchmen? I have surmized that the freemasons have been at war with the ROMAN catholic church since or before De Molay. What does the THREE musketmen have in common with the Masons? All for one, one for all? What else? I am in solidarity with Mr Rushdies take on Slum Dog. Man o man I truly love essays like yours. I learn so very much, so many blanks filled in/connections made. Please keep shining forth. Dennis from Oregon.

Anonymous said...

I don't have anything on the Musketeers.Masonry link, but see also Philip Coppens' piece on the Ninth gate and Dumas.

The Three Musketeers is in the general "Romance" tradition - like the Grail stories but the main symbolism seems to be from the threes. After all there are four Musketeers. Three is big with Masons - from alt.freemasonry:

And non-Masons can shed light on our symbolism. A fascinating study by Katharine Thomson, called The Masonic Thread in Mozart, tells us that "the number three has a special significance in Freemasonry. Most of the songs are in three-part harmony.... Many songs are in triple time; threefold repetitions are frequent, and major triads are of particular importance.... In Mozart's music certain keys are specifically associated with Freemasonry, notably Eb major ... [with] the key signature of three flats."

There is a powerful resonance in trinities.

The Christian Trinity - it is interesting to note this was enshrined in doctrine at the First Council of Nicaea, which also added layers of mysticism drawn from other regional religions like Mithrasism and Zoroastrianism (and wide-ranging myths about the dying and resurrecting god - Jesus as Sun God). It isn't clear to me where the idea of the Trinity comes from but with a Trinity in place, along with the BVM and tiers of saints, you have effectively created a pantheon which can be syncretically assimilate other earlier beliefs. Also I saw this on the Trinity Wikipedia article: "The same Gospel suggests the equality and unity of Father and Son. But it also suggests a hierarchy ("The Father is greater than I"), a statement appealed to by Marcionism, Valentinianism, Arianism and others who denied the Trinity." So this concepts also leaves the door open for the incorporation of Gnostic ideas.

You have the same idea cropping up in Trimurti, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, and may be an ancient concept.

Also worth noting that DC Comics call Superman. Batman and Wonder Woman their Trinity and each having aspects of the hero.

There is also Trinity in the Matrix who brings Neo back to life.

We shouldn't forget the Trinity nuclear test area, apparently named from a suggestion by Oppenheimer based on the poem:

As West and East
In all flatt Maps—and I am one—are one,
So death doth touch the Resurrection

It was after witnessing the first explosion there that Oppenheimer said "I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds" - he had learned Sanskrit and read the original version of the Bhagavad Gita from which it came. It is said by Vishnu.

Is not the blue child (pictured above), they randomly bump into (jarringly consider the events at the time), Vishnu? That is certainly what I thought at the time and a look around suggests it is (I'd love to see what they say on the DVD commentary about this and other elements that seem to be parachuted in).

An examination of the fleur-de-lis could also come up trumps, it also leads back to the BVM and the Trinity (interestingly with roots in 14th Century France). There may also be Gnostic and Rosicrucian overtones to it, and a deeper occult symbolism. It crops up all over the place, like being linked with the Merovingian bee, the Baphomet of Mendes and in neo-Templars imagery (see also the earlier link for other Nazi symbolims):

"Lanz was disinterested in Listian oracular recreations of the German past, but he did have his own candidate for an ancient Aryan secret priesthood that supposedly had survivors in the modern era: the Knights Templar, a Catholic order suppressed for heresy in the 1300s. He founded his Ordo Novi Templi (Order of the New Temple) around 1907 in the medieval castle of Burg Werfenstein, which perched dramatically above the Danube with a swastika and fleur-de-lis flag over its tower. "

And that is just a bit of brainstorming - I'm sure there is more in there.

Anonymous said...

There is another interesting literary connection regarding threes: Macbeth. Setting aside the three witches, Banquo is murdered by three assassins (unworthy or not, who knows) in the Third scene of the Third Act of the play. The identity of two of the assassins is, I believe, revealed; the third, however, never is. Based on certain textual clues, some have speculated that it is Macbeth himself who is the third assassin.

Anonymous said...

I will know, many thanks for an explanation.