Both inspired by and afraid of her ineffable power to rise again and again, ever stronger, and pierce the essence of everything, he doesn’t know what he feels. She is wonderful. She is terrifying. She gives the impression that she is slightly aware of it, but not in a conceited way. In a playful way. In a way that makes you see the world as wonderful and terrifying. She is wild. She can’t be tamed. She has a rich, specific belief system, and yet she never wastes an opportunity to explore and gain new insights. It’s a rare occurrence for her to consistently dream about another person, but when she does, it can get pretty intense. And it must mean the other person is wonderful too. And yet she doesn’t want another person to become her world. Her world is thrilling, mostly safe but occasionally dangerous, fluctuating between periods of unpredictability and order. She is not necessarily a thrill-seeker, but a hunter of good feelings and of the sublime, the marvellous, the ethereal, with a relentless desire to feel alive. She likes being in control and having freedom. Her resplendent mind transcends boundaries. Her defining characteristics are creativity and a natural inclination towards divergent thinking. As we know, there are both advantages and disadvantages to this, just like everything else. Whilst brainstorming, coming up with a myriad of ideas and generating stimulating thoughts is highly desirable, her tendencies also make it difficult to have a structure in life, to focus on one thing at a time. A successful project requires you to eventually switch to convergent thinking, to stick to a strategy. Her inner life is a film with a non-linear narrative. He is different, in this sense, there is a promising duality between them. Since they play in different films, there is no way to tell if their narratives can harmoniously intertwine. Time will tell.
“Not I”, Samuel Beckett, 1972.
The character from “Not I”, Mouth, is a fragmentary woman whose neurotic speech is rapid, incoherent, and disruptive. She tells us about her loveless, emotionless past, reminiscing about how she led a dull uneventful life until a significant moment in April. This is one of the few moments in the play when there seems to be a glimmer of hope for her, a way to define her identity. If we think of T. S. Eliott’s “The Waste Land”, April is a month of regeneration- “breeding lilacs out of the dead land, mixing memory and desire.” Mouth had lived her entire life in a wintry state of silence, anhedonia, and inertia and this special, obscure moment in April generated her uncharacteristic discourse. There are many possible interpretations for the play- Absurdists tend to only create the flame to encourage us to find our own way in the darkness. The spectator can speculate on her state as being a bleak conception of the afterlife- She seems to be in a purgatorial state, awaiting her judgment. The character- referred to as Mouth- can also be seen as an actress with an identity crisis. Some elements are reminiscent of Ingmar Bergman’s film, Persona (1966), which also deals with bleakness, neurosis, and death.
The writer of the Theatre of the Absurd is usually someone entrapped in their own inner world, trying to express existential anxieties in a congruent form. The plays move away from mirroring society personas toward portraying the nonsensical nature of human existence. Whilst existentialists approach the same theme in a philosophical, logical, and complex way, absurdists believe that the devaluation of language is essential to depict the absurdity of life. Words are insufficient and sometimes unnecessary, which is one of the reasons why Beckett often preferred silence to conversation, in his interactions with James Joyce in Paris: “They engaged in conversations which consisted often in silence directed towards each other, both suffused with sadness, Beckett mostly for the world, Joyce mostly for himself.” The two artists share the same existential anguish and that Baudelairean view of the modern world as an age of the ephemeral and the contingent.
Haunted by Ophelia’s phantom,
enraptured by vernal murmurs,
she succumbs to dreaminess
lost in the stream
carried away by Woolf’s whispers
and echoes of myth from
a scent of white Narcissus-
fluid nostalgia in full bloom-
she remembers her touch
before the plunge;
the sacred memory shatters
her pale skin resurfaces-
she is beaming;
her alter ego withers
an act of self-love.
Let your mind paint a rainy cityscape. A girl dressed in black, with a mask and noisy heels steps on the sidewalk. Her tears merge with the raindrops. Each tear encapsulates an entire mini-universe, lingering on her cheeks, like undetectable tokens of fluid vulnerability. A stranger passes her by, closely. His slightly curious, slightly worried gaze briefly meets hers. That’s when she remembers she’s in a public space: Maybe the distress in her eyes was visible, after all. His face doesn’t show pity, which is fortunate, for she hates pity – she’s always been too proud for it. But maybe she misinterpreted his facial expression and it wasn’t really concern. Maybe he misinterpreted her expression as something else too. He reminds her of someone – someone kind, sweet, wise, and very dear to her. Someone who knew how to unleash her vulnerable and dreamy side simply by being himself. The rare realness of this person was always rewarded with the privilege of meeting all the facets of her personality.
What her expression conveyed was grief. All-consuming grief, manifested as an affliction of the mind and the body. The inner chaos-intense, the body-tense, during the painful procession. Towards the funeral of the distilled dreams of being. Still alive are the hopes to resurrect the dreams the next day. Another dream, of inner peace, is born. She is wondering when it will materialise. Meanwhile, sweet echoes fill the mind as background music, sung by the Light Beings, ‘Talent. Creativity. Intelligence. Beauty. Resilience. Strength. Kindness’ This is not your typical funeral song. This is one of those days when the melodic discourse is played like a mantra to assuage the mind, to overpower the inner wailing from the funeral rite, to self-induce good vibes, in order to help her keep putting one foot in front of the other foot instead of collapsing. Like an incantation, to banish other toxic thoughts. It’s one of those days when other aspects resonate too strongly, sucking the power out of the good ones, and releasing dark energy. These other forces are not as clear. The noise they express themselves in is a sort of gibberish, a chaotic, harmful nonsense, inducing a heaviness of the heart.
There are rooms she doesn’t unlock in her mind, because she doesn’t want to let the poison out. She wants to stay pure. Untainted. One room contains dusty effigies of blacklisted figures. They’re not distinctive or intelligible, they’re merged into each other, shape-shifting embodiments of damaging thoughts. They are all locked away together in a claustrophobic space, drenched in darkness. Poison drips from their mouth as they breathe in the poisonous atmosphere like zombies. Meanwhile, The Light Beings roam in their perfumed, elegantly decorated chambers inside the mind, as companions and guardians. The Light Beings are personified thoughts, but also real-life people including her parents, close friends, and her therapist. When she dissociates, it’s probably so as to stay away from the poisonous atmosphere when the forbidden door malfunctions. That poison rarely affects anyone else, besides her self, it is confined within her being.
Do you believe in soulmates?
I believe there are people with whom you can share a strong, profound, mutually fulfilling, loving bond (not exclusively of a romantic nature), and that this type of connection has the potential to enhance the lives of those involved by enriching their perspectives in life, as well as helping them feel inner peace and become better versions of their authentic selves. This requires mutual transparency, vulnerability, and, implicitly, trust. You can explore the depths of your souls (or minds, if you prefer) and find delight and substantial meaning in your explorations. I believe in serendipity. I acknowledge the importance and influence of brain chemistry and mental configuration in experiencing soul connections, the ontological subjectivity that requires us to design and give meaning to everything, to every encounter, every thought about others, every experience. I believe that when it comes to profound connections, this design really fluctuates from person to person, because of both nature and nurture (literature, philosophy, exposure, upbringing, family models, attachment theory), but that we can all find relatable ways to describe these intimate experiences, although language is ultimately limiting. I believe in passion. And I believe that sometimes passion can be a fleeting thing, and it can also be associated or confused with obsession (limerence) or infatuation.
However, I’m not fatalistic, I don’t really believe in destiny; I don’t believe or agree with the view that you are incomplete and need to seek your other spiritual half – even though some people function better and grow within a (healthy) relationship. Self-development and awareness can be achieved outside a conventional romantic formula, and outside the parameters of romance altogether (through art, spirituality, hobbies, your career path, etc). I would also deem a mentor, an academic tutor, a friend, or a family member as my soulmates, depending on how well we connect and how inspired or close to my authentic self I feel when I’m around them. I also don’t believe strong, meaningful bonds need to persist throughout time or be lifelong in order to be valid, impactful, or life-changing. What I do believe is that each human being ultimately creates their own meaning and narrative in life, and for many people, the concept of soulmates makes a lot of sense in the way they construct their world, as they’re more likely to reach their potential that way; and poetic, dreamy souls may attribute otherworldly or cosmic connotations to this connection. There is always the other side of the coin- some people tend to ‘lose themselves’ in a relationship, in which case it’s better to nurture your soul first in other ways. Personally, for the majority of my life, I have found myself on a paradox-resembling spectrum, between a dominant rational view on this subject & a poetic one, with a tinge of romance and magical realism and sprinkles of “je ne sais quoi”. Ultimately, in my case, intellect tends to rule over my feelings, and even my feelings seem to go through the filter of my intellect first. What I aspire towards is love in a wide sense, as a state of being and seeing and relating to the world. It would be amazing if love surpassed fear as the driving force in the world, if people were not maneuvered by their shadows and emotional baggage. The first step is acknowledging this aspect. And then, the harder part, is re-structuring the mind in your favour, to form beneficial patterns. To get back to the topic of romance, whenever I think about or try to describe my thoughts vis-à-vis romantic connections, my discourse comes across as ambiguous, even contradictory, and that’s because of that area of “je ne sais quoi”- I find this hard to describe. It’s one of those things where I tend to know it when I see it or live it; where a new experience might shape a different answer, or my perspective might shift when I enter a different chapter of my life in which this aspect will be re-contextualised.
Belladonna of Sadness (1973), dir. Eiichi Yamamoto, is an unsettling hallucinatory Japanese animated film made up of Expressionistic and Symbolist moving paintings, with a variety of artistic influences. The captivating story of Jeanne unfolds through a succession of stunningly ethereal and luridly nightmarish tableaux featuring symbolic yet disturbing depictions of rape, violence, suffering, decomposition, and witch trials. The visceral, expressionistic paintings of sexual violence convey the emotions behind the unsettling experience of rape with transfixing intensity. Matching the trope of the witch, Jeanne is a formerly pure, now sexually awakened, corrupted young woman who acquires magical powers through a pact with the devil. She uses her powers to heal the village people infected with the plague, then hosts surreal orgy rituals in the wilderness and challenges the oppressive forces of the patriarchal state. Threatened by her influence, the rulers try to make a pact with her “to find a path to lead the people to happiness” in exchange for the secret of her cure for the plague, but Jeanne is unsatisfied with their offers, demanding instead to rule the entire world – a desire which is severely punished. This haunting cinematic tale represents a metaphoric portrayal of women’s liberation and universal liberation. Besides the Jeanne d’Arc historical reference, there is also a historical connection with the women’s liberation movement in Japan from 1970.
The Hourglass Sanatorium / Sanatorium pod Klepsydra (1973) is a mesmerising, hallucinatory Polish film directed by Wojciech Has, unfolding like a dream with a playful narrative and poetic contemplation on life, time, and feelings of déjà-vu. Once he enters the peculiar, decaying setting of the sanatorium to search for his father, the protagonist goes on a transformative journey through a chaotic mix of dreamscapes in a surreal world where dreams merge with memories and fantasies- a world that is inhabited by uncanny figures.
Valerie and Her Week of Wonders / Valerie a týden divu (1970) is a Czechoslovakian surrealist horror/ fantasy film directed by Jaromil Jireš. The sometimes ethereal and dreamlike, at other times uncanny and nightmarish whimsical fairy tale of death, religion, and lurid sexuality, subversively depicts the adventures of Valerie, a young girl passing through mesmerising, disorienting episodes featuring vampires, a particular frightening, demonic figure somewhat reminiscent of Nosferatu, priests, nuns, and perversions. The moments unfold like symbolic manifestations of the unconscious, the Freudian subtext being Valerie’s sexual awakening.
House / Hausu (1977), dir. Nobuhiko Ôbayashi, is a Japanese lurid surreal comedy horror film characterised by a vivid colour palette, disorienting images, and supernatural events conveyed through peculiar editing and special effects. The atmosphere summoned up by a captivating mix of magical shots provides a wild cinematic experience, evoking dream states. Inspired by unconscious fears of a strange playful nature, featuring disembodied fingers playing a carnivorous piano, an antagonistic cat, and a mischievous flying, severed, biting head, the strange narrative follows a girl called Gorgeous and her classmates as they get caught up in chaotic phenomena inside the haunted house of the protagonist’s aunt. The line between fantasy and reality, as well as the one between the sinister and the playful become blurred.
I have always wondered what other people’s inner lives are like. Some of my greatest strengths are my perceptiveness and empathy, so I can quite easily figure out what someone is feeling, how they are likely to react, or what I should say in order to make them respond a certain way. Then again, maybe that is delusional, or surface-level stuff. Ultimately, you don’t really get to know what other people’s inner voices and discourses sound like and how they piece together their narrative. (Don’t even get me started about the unfathomable unconscious)
My external life isn’t something I tend to write about, in any direct way, as it seems quite uneventful. My inner life has always been complex. One thing I used to dream about was eternal life, as a sci-fi narrative (i.e. uploading our consciousness into an eternal body or merging with AI), rather than in a religious sense. This is a polarising subject: some are horrified by this, others see the positive side of living forever, in whatever way. Since I always felt that those unafraid of – even at peace with – death were made of a different substance from myself, I used to be part of the latter category, thinking it would be amazing to find a way to preserve my consciousness, what makes me who I am, somehow. Yet I had never viscerally contemplated how the elusiveness of this ontological concept can work against such futuristic dreams, turning them into frightening dystopias.
There have been a few shifts in my inner world. One was spiritual, taking me on a path of Enlightenment. It gave me a distinctive sense of control and harmony. Unfortunately, it was a transient feeling, experienced whilst reading a book on a relevant subject; yet it offered me a glimpse of another perspective, another lens to see and feel the world through – one that was free of worries and other negative attachments. As opposed to the mental state of an emotionally detached person to whom you could also attribute the previous description, what I am referring to is on a different wave length; it’s not emotional distancing or numbness. It’s acceptance, surrender, experiencing the lightness of being, and the sense of inner peace and control arising from that state. It must be amazing to live your whole life that way, as people who fully dedicate their life to esoteric knowledge, practices, and meditation do. Although in my case it was ephemeral, recalling the experience, knowing that it is possible to view life through that filter still marked a long-term shift in my world view, albeit less impressive than the actual experience. Similar life-changing shifts have been experienced by people on prescribed pills such as anti-depressants. A second, poetic shift happened after watching a film that constituted an uncanny experience which temporarily projected me into a derealised world. The same type of experience was repeated at a later point, in other, rather peculiar circumstances, which I will not elaborate on in this.
I look at neighbouring houses and sometimes see unknown, pensive faces behind windows. Thoughts and narratives about their inner lives form and dissolve. Enlightened masters say We are One, but our egos (in Eckhart Tolle’s use of the word, his view of ego as the self that’s stuck with negative attachments and patterns rather than the psychoanalytic use of the word) separate us. E. Tolle says true compassion for and deep understanding of other human beings are based on the acknowledgement of the duality of our ephemeral-eternal nature. I don’t know if I believe in eternity in a spiritual sense. It seems likely, though, that if we manage to transcend life and our egos, we will supposedly be at peace with everything.
Three Colours: Blue is the first film from Krzysztof Kieślowski’s atmospheric, intriguing, evocative Three Colours trilogy. The enigmatic arthouse masterpieces explore different facets of the human condition with a refined sensibility and aesthetic elegance. The three films have been interpreted as an anti-tragedy, an anti-comedy, and an anti-romance by Roger Ebert. The symbolism behind Three Colours: Blue, White, and Red refers to the French flag and the values associated with each colour- liberté, égalité, fraternité- the national motto of France. Each colour is also significantly connected to the mood and mental state of the characters.
Three Colours: Blue is a moving cinematic tale about death, grief, rebirth, and (emotional) freedom, conveyed through gripping, poetic cinematography and a hypnotising, frisson-inducing soundtrack by Zbigniew Preisner. The film starts on a grim note, within a bleak landscape. Julie, one of Binoche’s most powerful and profound performances, is a strangely compelling character who goes through a life-changing traumatic event, which projects her into a perpetually solipsistic state. The story is an exploration of the psychological metamorphosis a young widow goes through as a trauma response. Although she seems derealised, absent-minded, and in a trance, there is something about Juliette Binoche’s performance that entrances viewers, allowing us to form an emotional connection to an emotionally disconnected character.
The cold colour palette of the film matches the veils of numbness and depression the protagonist initially wraps herself in whilst suppressing her sorrow in a period of mourning. Both present and absent, alive yet emotionally unresponsive, Julie seems to inhabit an uncanny emotional landscape, which is reflected through soul-stirring cinematography. The soft, ethereal blue lights Julie’s face is often bathed in are used to explore and evoke her feelings and memories. In an attempt to set herself free from the dark clouds she is surrounded by, to escape the heavy burden of grief, the despondent protagonist decides to sell her house and all her possessions, make financial arrangements for her mother and her staff, burn her dead husband’s musical compositions, and start a new life. Whilst she initially seeks a superficial sense of freedom emerging from breaking ties with her past, with everything and everyone in it, and from the anonymity of moving to a new place in Paris, she eventually reconnects to the lightness of being.
Netflix’s The OA, created by Brit Marling & Zal Batmanglij, is an intriguing, engrossing fantasy show centred around Prairie (played by Brit), a young vanishing woman who resurfaces 7 years after her bizarre disappearance, to the happiness and bewilderment of her adoptive parents. After her peculiar return, she refers to herself as the OA and focuses on her mission to save other captives. The OA enrols a group of school misfits and their teacher on a mystical mission, meeting them at night in an empty house in a cult-like gathering. The narrative of her unusual life and disappearance unfolds, a fragment per night, through her spellbinding storytelling. Starting from her fairy tale-like description of her Russian roots, her story features near-death experiences, travels within memories, dreams, and across parallel realities, celestial guardians, a scientist with an unrelenting obsession and thirst for knowledge, a group of special people trapped in a glass cage and bound by uncanny experiences, a soulmate connection, and transcendental ritualistic movements that open up invisible portals to different worlds.
The show takes us on an enchanting journey with striking surreal visuals, endearing characters, and evocative meditations on life, connection, identity, fear, entrapment, and freedom. Supernatural motifs are interlaced with sci-fi theories of parallel worlds, as the show stimulates our minds to contemplate the concept of multiple realities whilst grasping the design and nature of the complex OA world in rapture and being immersed into fantasy. The OA, born Nina Azarova, the daughter of a Russian oligarch, spends the first years of her childhood with her father in a lonely mansion on Russian land, where she is often plagued by vivid nightmares- some of which turn out to be premonitions. One of her foreshadowing dreams is that of being submerged in a huge aquarium, where her senses are heightened and she is drowning, unable to get out. In order to help get her rid of the nightmare, her father teaches her a lesson about bravery, taking her to a frozen lake where she submerges her body into the ice-cold water, to conquer her fear. Water is an evocative element in the story, connected to memories, dreams, and visions; it’s also a way through which parallel worlds echo each other. It evokes the fluidity of passing through worlds, through selves. Water also symbolises duality – creation and apocalypse, death and rebirth. This is relevant to the series- there are many striking scenes in which water is associated with the sinister, with something beautiful, as well as with the uncanny. Nina’s underwater dream prepares her for the traumatic turning point in her life, her near-death experience, that propels her into a celestial plane of existence. She awakens in a surreal diaphanous setting, where she meets the archetypal wise old woman for the first time- the one associated with choices, sacrifice, and cryptic discourses about the OA’s life trajectory. Nina wakes up blind and a series of events quickly follows- she is relocated to America, her father dies, she is adopted by the elderly couple. Many years later, unconvinced that her biological father is dead, Nina, now known as Prairie, spends her days playing the beautifully transfixing violin song from her childhood in a place where she thinks he might hear it, in hopes of a reunion. “The biggest mistake I made was thinking that if I cast a beautiful net I’d catch only beautiful things.”, she says. Instead of her father, another man is lured by her tune- her captor, Hap, whom she initially views as a father figure,as being “strong, smart, uncompromised”, following him blindly right into his trap. This marks the beginning of the experience that was going to re-shape her life.
Hap (Jason Isaacs), the mad scientist of the series, is initially obsessed with studying near-death experiences, seeking to revolutionise science- to pierce the deeper truth by examining paradigm-shifting phenomena through inhumane experiments. At first he exhibits a conscience and feelings of guilt, remorse, and attachment, as well as making rather hollow claims that he thinks of his captives as collaborators; however, his already faint moral compass dissipates by the end. He remains fond of the OA throughout the whole series, hoping that in the next world she will forget his horrible acts, but his nature never changes. As the OA repeatedly points out, his gruesome secret inevitably projects him into a life of loneliness, his version of power being built upon violence, imprisonment, and dread. He has one other scientist “friend” he can bring up the subject of his experiments to and, during their talk, Hap turns out to be more human compared to his cold-blooded conversation partner. The latter is psychopathically at peace with his ruthless macabre ways, saying “Here’s the terrible, beautiful truth. No one cares. There is no line between good and evil. There is only what a man can stand.” Their motivations also diverge: whereas his rival is driven by financial greed, Hap wants to figure out the truth for himself more than anything, “God, I want to taste the truth. I just wanna walk out of the dark.” In the second season, Hap’s interests evolve- he finds a grotesque method to build a map of the multiverse as a way to break limits and pick the destination of his future inter-dimensional travels rather than making risky leaps into the unknown.
The soul connection between the OA and her fellow inmate Homer is the most touching aspect of the series, holding the story together. They have been through a traumatic experience together for 7 years, confined within a glass prison with only some plants and a stream to touch and frequent encounters with death. When the OA/ Prairie arrives there, she is blind. He helps her acclimate, survive, and stay sane. When she describes her strange inter-dimensional excursions and unfathomable escape plan, giving him seemingly absurd instructions, he believes in her. They share their travels in death, their discoveries, and the arcane knowledge they gather from other dimensions. Both persevere in their mission and lift each other’s spirit. They dream of moving to another realm where they can finally be free and live together. Hap tries to pull them apart, by planting seeds of doubt about Homer and their plans- “You’ll always be the girl willing to risk everything for the chance to achieve something extraordinary. I know you, Prairie. He will never understand that about you.” Prairie remains unwavering in her beliefs and feelings. In the second season, however, their connection is challenged as Homer’s consciousness appears to be absent in the new world. His initial self has seemingly got lost somewhere along the way; actually, his consciousness is dormant within the mind of his alter ego, namely a psychiatry resident who became a big fan of “Hap” (Known as Dr Percy in the second world) after reading his book, “Quantum Psychotic”. The OA / Nina Azarova, now his patient, tries to reawaken his memories of their previous life together, whereas he sees her through a psychiatric lens, as a delusional individual with dissociative identity disorder. Eventually there are a couple of moments and gestures that act as a catalyst to revive Homer’s consciousness. Another inter-dimensional traveller that the OA crosses paths with, Elodie, mentions that Homer and the OA have a powerful bond that transcends multiple dimensions, but that their paths are doomed to be closely interlinked with Hap’s. Elodie suggests that a part of the OA- probably an unconscious part- wants to travel with Hap too. Hap might mirror a part of her shadow self, perhaps a thirst for knowledge and hunger for the extraordinary, or it might simply be that he is a reflection of her intense parallel life experience. An attempt to escape the echo of this cosmic family would shatter their identities and the OA’s connection with Homer, as it increases the risk of amnesia after their jump. “You could find yourself inside a life completely unrecognisable to you. Not to mention you and Homer might not even know yourselves in a dimension outside an echo.” In fact, the second season gets wrapped up by a glimpse into a metafictional third dimension where everything seems different and they are far away from the initial versions of themselves, thanks to Hap who somehow holds the reins of the jump for both of them. Knowing this, the OA urges Homer to come and find her in their new life and resurrect her memories, her “true self”.
The first season injects the idea of the unreliable delusional narrator towards the end, leaving us on a note of ambiguity, as there are no glimpses into another dimension beyond Prairie’s subjective recollections -contrary to our expectations throughout the show. The ending of this season might thus be perceived as anti-climactic. Although the journey is slow-paced, it works well as the OA (Original Angel) keeps you hypnotised like a modern ethereal Scheherazade. The second season- whilst still introducing the element of shared psychosis as it places the captives in a psychiatric clinic- is clearer about the nature of reality and the way it interprets the concept of multiverse in its world design. The second season is also more dynamic and dizzying, adding new layers of meaning, astral planes, and a variety of fantasy and sci-fi motifs to the story: the dream factory, where dreams are being recorded in order to detect patterns and collect premonitions, the haunted horror house re-interpreted within a sci-fi context, as a dangerous wormhole into parallel universes and timelines, the psychic, the mirror apparition, the spiritualist method of summoning someone from another dimension, the telepathic octopus, and the animist depiction of trees.
“Nina saw the whole world. But I saw underneath it.”
The second dimension is an alternative timeline in which Nina made a different choice during a key moment in her life, which propelled her to a completely different life path. She never got on the bus that crashed into water, which erased her previous thread of existence as she never went blind and regained her vision, never had a near-death experience; her other life being replaced with experiences that created another version of herself. This version has lived a luxurious, decadent, hedonistic existence with an abundance of privileges, money, drinks, earthly possessions, and boyfriends, away from hardship, and hasn’t acquired empirical experience of other worlds. She is a wealthy Russian heiress whose former partner runs a dream factory and created a VR game / puzzle for unethical crowdsourcing purposes, leading teenagers to a dangerous place in search of explanations for a peculiar phenomenon. When she finds out about what his project involves, they fight. Although the personalities and lives of Nina and Prairie are entirely different, they both gravitated towards the supernatural and the esoteric, to an enigmatic phenomenon, as parallel worlds leave echoes in others. When the OA enters her life, the discrepancy between the two of them is transparent; and the OA/Prairie doesn’t have access to Nina’s consciousness at first. When people travel to another world and inhabit a new body (with the same appearance), it seems they tend to either suppress the consciousness of their host (as most of the inter-dimensional travellers in the show do) or remain dormant if the consciousness of the body they entered does not seem to integrate the new consciousness. It’s not very clear why this happens – why Homer didn’t awaken from the beginning as his initial self and why the others did. The OA eventually frees Nina’s consciousness by facing her trauma- the moment that caused the split between the two parallel realities, generating the alternative timeline. It is implied that this process makes her integrate the consciousness of the other Nina and they merge into one.
There are a few questions that come to mind. The rules of inter-dimensional travels in the show are somewhat elusive and shifting. At first we are led to believe the characters have to become unconscious in order to travel somewhere else, but in the second season that doesn’t always seem to be necessary. How does that work and how does Elodie re-appear in the same timeline? What happened to her vessel? Why did the OA tell Homer to stay alive in that dimension to be able to jump?
On another note, when does Nina / Prairie (from the first dimension) become the OA? Has the OA been a dormant spirit within her; has it always been her fate? An entity/self, that she needed to unlock? In that case why has the other Nina not turned into the OA – as in another version of the OA at any point? Is it simply because she didn’t have a near-death experience, that would trigger that in her? Does the OA originate from that particular reality of season one, being exclusive to those specific circumstances, or are there other versions of the “birth” or awakening of the OA?
What would a process of merging consciousness be like? It’s an intricate, unfathomable concept. If you are like me and you’ve ever spent way too much time wondering what it would be like to expand beyond the limits of consciousness and see the world ‘through someone else’s eyes’ (mind), feel it through someone else’s senses, you probably contemplate the mechanism behind this merging and what it would entail, and realise it is problematic.
When the OA travels to the next dimension – if she didn’t succumb to amnesia, would she take Nina’s consciousness with her, since it is implied that by integrating with Nina she becomes, in some way, whole? That would mean that after a few trips into other dimensions, she would contain a collection of different layers of consciousness. Could she live in harmony under those conditions, reconciling the needs, feelings, and wishes of other versions of herself?
Some inspiring, evocative quotes giving a taste of the poetic discourse of the series:
“Captivity is a mentality. It’s a thing you carry with you.”
“Your book showed an openness to liminal thinking. To certain metaphysical secrets that could be glimpsed inside the pain of madness.”
“The process can sometimes help people to heal. Storytelling is cleansing. But I also wanna make sure that you control the narrative. And that you profit from it. The process of telling the story can somehow exorcise it.”
“I can tell you everything that I did wrong. I didn’t eat when I was hungry. Didn’t sleep when I was tired. Didn’t get warm when I was cold. It made me weak. But the biggest mistake I made was thinking that if I cast a beautiful net I’d catch only beautiful things.”
“The first time you fall asleep in prison, you forget. You wake up a free woman. And then you remember that you’re not. You lost your freedom many times before you finally believe it. Night slipped into day. Day into night. We were like the living dead. There’s nothing more isolating than not being able to feel time. To not feel the distance between hours, days.“
“I couldn’t feel pain. I couldn’t sense time. I couldn’t understand where I was. But I could see. The sudden rush of loss made me realise that for the second time in my life…I was dead.“
“You don’t wanna go there until your invisible self is more developed anyway. You know, your longings, the desires you don’t tell anyone about. You spend a lot of time on the visible you. It’s impressive. But she probably thinks the invisible you is missing.”
“I knew from the moment I woke up, that life was no longer the same. Khatun had fed me a mystery. I couldn’t understand it, but I could feel it inside me. A clue, a bomb, a Hail Mary. Oh, we’ve been going about this all wrong. We’ve been trying to get out. We have to try to get in. [into ourselves]”
“I’m telling you, when I swallowed that bird, I felt the whole thing flash through me in an instant. Like, a way to move through the world, through worlds. And if I don’t think about it, I know it. A self, like a…a me in there that doesn’t even belong to me and it wants to come out, it wants me to call it by name. But it’s…I feel like it’s waiting…To hear it in you, too. I don’t know, when I say it out loud, it all falls apart.”
“Are you a feminist?”
“I like symmetry. “
“I thought I was losing my mind.”
“You’re not. You’re just finding new rooms inside it. You’re just having trouble navigating the line between what’s real and what isn’t. Because you empathise so deeply with others. It’s your greatest strength…and your greatest weakness”
“There are all these dimensions, worlds, alternate realities, and they’re all right on top of each other. Every time you make a choice, a decision, it forks off into a new possibility. They’re all right here, but inaccessible. The NDEs were like a way to travel through them, but temporarily. We wanted choices, chances. The movements would allow us to travel to a dimension permanently. A new life…in a new world. To us, that was freedom.”
“What will it look like when we open the tunnel to the other dimensions?”
“All I know is that it would be invisible. The person leaving this dimension would experience a great acceleration of events, but no break in time-space. It’s like jumping into an invisible current that just carries you away to another realm, but we had to have all five movements and we had to do them with perfect feeling.“
“It’s not a game, it’s a puzzle. The designer wants the player to figure it out. It’s not a war…it’s a mystery. Ultimately, a puzzle is a conversation between the player and the maker. The puzzle maker is teaching you a new language. How to escape the limits of your own thinking and see things you didn’t know were there.”
“Cultures that have survived more loss, like harsh weather or earthquakes…they have more totems. Objects carry meaning in difficult times.”
“Well it’s not really a measure of mental health to be well-adjusted in a society that’s very sick. This dimension is crumbling to violence and pettiness and greed, and Steve is sensitive enough to feel it and he’s angry.”