Film & TV Reviews

The Mindscape of Alan Moore

The Mindscape of
Alan Moore
 
(2 disc DVD)
Shadowsnake Films, 2003

 

Iconoclastic magician, writer, and performer Alan Moore is the sort of artist whom Kierkegaard had in mind when he declared, “When you label me, you negate me.” Moore has a higher profile among comic geeks than among witches and magick folks, but this beautifully packaged DVD set from Shadowsnake Films may help in addressing that imbalance. (If you haven’t read Moore’s Promethea yet, get thee to a book store, and pick up one of the most informative and entertaining works on the history of Western magic you’ll find in print.)

The aim of Mindscape is to bring us into the alchemical space of the artist. Vylenz wisely makes Moore’s expressive face the center of the film, surrounding him with images of London and Northampton, and surreal-ist imagery, and the occasional brief vignette from his stories or art from his comics. What guides the shape of the narrative are the images of the Thoth tarot deck.

The first card laid is “The Universe,” a symbol of “the essence of question itself” and of synthesis. Moore begins with autobiographical details of his early years in Northampton, the birthplace which continues to inspire him.

Moore speaks with some acidity of the school master who hounded him from school. At that point, Northampton became, not a prison, but a key. That ability to transcend characterizes much of Moore’s work, whether it is in reinventing the superhero or conveying the history of Western magic in easy-to-digest episodes. What keeps the film from becoming a monumental ego-trip is Moore’s mordant humor, unflinching observation, and genuine thoughtfulness. The straightforward language allows Moore to slip easily between his discussion of comics and more esoteric topics.

The card of “the Fool” precedes his discussion of a life in comics; the card of “the Magus,” not too surprisingly, opens the section on magic. Moore briefly retells the much-repeated story of becoming a magician on his fortieth birthday (in lieu of a mid-life crisis), focusing on magic as “a science of language.” Moore conveys his experiences with magic and ritual vividly. “Art is magic,” he further explains, linking it to Dion Fortune’s famous description of both art and magic as the changing
of consciousness at will.

It’s fascinating to hear the polymathic Moore build a picture of both personal history and the changing world. The Tarot cards that lead us through the discussion link the disparate topics as if Moore is performing a reading for the viewer — or the world. The power of words and art to shape reality have seldom been conveyed more persuasively.

Vylenz and the folks at Shadowsnake have done a terrific job with the whole package. (Be sure to find the “easter egg” on the first disc to get a taste of Moore’s hypnotic performance style.) I look forward to more projects from Shadowsnake; I can’t wait to see who they profile next.

K. A. LAITY.

RATING: 5 Broomsticks


» Originally appeared in newWitch #17

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