Please note that the poems and essays on this site are copyright and may not be reproduced without the author's permission.

Monday, 25 January 2010

The Headless Woman (Mistress of the Labyrinth)


File:Classical 7-Circuit Labyrinth.jpg

She runs over something in the road, perhaps a dog, or was it something else, a child?

A death is at the center of the labyrinth.

Persephone drives on, into the suddenly pelting rain.

At the center of the labyrinth, shocked, in a fog, in her car, becoming the mistress of the underworld. Her domain now the kingdom of ghosts.

"The house is full of the dead -- ignore them and they will leave," mumbles her demented mother, who is perhaps Demeter.

Argentine director Lucrecia Martel's film is a dream of disembodiment, drifting in and out of focus. Back and forth across the shadowland between death and life.

At Knossos, in Minoan Crete, Persephone, the mistress of the underworld, presided over the ritual enactment. A roofless dancing ground was spoken of as "the labyrinth".

A dry arroyo that is suddenly flooded with a confusion of memory.

To all the gods honey, reads a tablet inscription at the foot of a female figure at Knossos. To the mistress of the labyrinth, honey.

Karl Kerenyi tells us that to the Minoans, honey was equated with divine blood. The ritual gift.

I remembered the haunting images of this film as if viewing through a clouded glass scenes from another life.

File:Persephone Cnidus BM C483.jpg

Classical Seven-Circuit Labyrinth: image by James Jen, 2009
Persephone Cnidus
, c. 330 B.C., found at Baiae, Campania: photo by Jastrow, 2006 (British Museum, London)
Lucrecia Martel, director of The Headless Woman (La mujer sin cabeza): photo via The Auteurs, 2008



Thanks for this, which suggests (to me) what the ridge "drifting in and out of focus" ('view' might mean, how motion of shadowed wet green leaves in foreground are in the "shadowland between/ death and life."


grey whiteness of cloud against invisible
ridge, motion of shadowed leaf on branch
in foreground, sound of wave in channel

now show that this leads to
some motion, particle

a kind of centrifugal force,
motion and, therefore

grey white clouds reflected in channel,
wingspan of tern flapping toward point

u.v.ray. said...

Near where I live is a pub called the Headless Woman.

Legend has it that Cromwell's troops stopped by the house that was on the site at the time hunting royalists. Finding the house devoid of its owner the troops questioned the housekeeper. When she refused to reveal her master's whereabouts they beheaded her. Regular reports of her ghostly, headless torso roaming the area abound to this day.

u.v.ray. said...

Bloody link won't work. I'll try again:

TC said...


Many thanks.

Here's that link done up:

The Headless Woman

Ah, the good old days of the Cavaliers and the Roundheads.

john kusak said...

Found "BLUE" in University of Louisville Library. I really enjoyed reading it.....Yes, the perfect pass

TC said...

For those who'd care to learn more about this extremely inventive director and her work:

A Conversation with Lucrecia Martel by Daniel Kasman, from The Auteurs, 10/23/08

aditya said...

Heyy Tom

Been travelling a little on the road. Just came back. Very cold !! After reading this post this came to the numb fingers.

I haven't watched the movie you talk of. This post but triggers the onset of unsure emotions spliced into each other. Everthing coalesces into unknown lines curling up into further unknown streaks. A lot like a labyrinth. Labyrinths are different Tom. You know it when it is one.

While riding pillon at 100kph on a dusty mountain road, the smell of beer is exciting. Until you realize you are not the only one who is drunk. Then you are on the lookout for seemingly congruent curves more often. Peccadilloes on the tar beneath even more.

This post smells of this beer Tom.

TC said...

A very evocative account, Aditya.

The benumbed driver in the film, a professional person and plainly a character meant to be representative of the new Argentine bourgeoisie (keep in mind this is a country that before the past decade or two did not have a middle class, only the small upper and the large lower -- from which her victim comes), finds herself lost in a labyrinth of guilt, doubt, distraction and lies.

Had you, in your crazy mountain road beer labyrinth, been riding on her road, and run over by her, it would have been a curious collision of labyrinths.

Julia said...

With a bit of shame I have to admit that I haven't seen none of my compatriot films...
Though, this was no obstacle at all for enjoying your post very much!
You may like this children's short-story that has some connections... geometrical connections, with all this. Here