10 Cloverfield Lane is a psychlogical thriller embedded in a science fiction context that follows the narrative of a young woman trapped in an underground bomb-shelter with two men who subscribe to the possibility of Earth attacked by aliens and that it has now become inhospitable for life on the surface.
The narrative begins with Michelle – a young woman, who angrily and tearfully leaves her home, and runs away – driving alone and wildly in the middle of the night through a lonely highway in Louisana. The radio channels talk about continuous blackouts across major cities, and as she drives through darkness, she has an accident.
She wakes up in a cellar with a broken leg, and finds herself chained to a wall – her captor Howard, an old fat avuncular man with a cold gaze, talks about a gruesome attack on the surface of the earth, and how he intends to keep her alive in this underground bunker. He offers her food and drink and introduces her, later to a younger man – Emmett, who claims to be a witness to the attack, and who has taken shelter in Howard’s bunker.
The movie is compellingly gripping and is wholly focused on this triad of characters with twists and turns towards a climactic end that questions the nature of our fears. It portays a darkness and evil within the human mind, as Michelle makes a quest to break free from her captors and more importantly the demons in her mind.
This blog is not a spoiler for the prospective viewer and I intend to use Michelle’s narrative to explore and examine one of the many journeys within of a Victim who heroically transforms into a Warrior.
Coincidentally, I write this blog while I partner with many men and women in the annual Sumedhas Summer Program at Hyderabad 2016 – a space where we build communities and groups to heal, to mourn, to celebrate, to reflect, and to transform individuals and systems.
Discerning Victimhood: Am I or Am I not?
Michelle meanders through many a threshold in the first part of the movie, as she heals her broken leg, and engages in many a play with the two men. Each threshold is constructed around her deeply held belief:
- … that she is safe, and she is in really good hands and that her captor really desires and wishes to protect her from herself and external dangers,
- … that it is her deep ingratitude towards him or that she is insulting him when she wishes to protest or fight back,
- … that she cannot trust her own choices for she is incapable of these, and she must respect the choices made for her by her friend / captor
- … that she deserves punitive punishment if she rebels, and
- … that she cannot be a Victim…
Michelle represents that part of all of us who reject the notion of Victimhood – not because it seems unreal, but because it destroys a precious notion of mankind embedded in our psyche – that we are essentially good people with souls, that there is a part of God in each of us, that every human being has a past hurt to justify his or her oppression, and that every human being searches for redemption.
Discerning ‘victimization’ without shame, without self reproach, and without the fear of exclusion is the first threshold for many of us who are silent sufferers of oppression and abuse by our loved ones, by our families, and by our elders.
Michelle in her narrative, fights back with an energy that comes from her memories of her abuse by her father, trusting her instincts and by acknowledging that she is the victim and that she needs ‘HELP’.
Many of us do not accept this – we remain ambivalent towards discerning our oppressors and abusers – we construct defenses, excuses, rationale, and judgments to blind ourselves to the Victim’s world. We immobilize ourselves and turn to stone.
Trusting the SURVIVOR within … An Impulse to Move
There is no police or military that comes to Michelle’s rescue – Slowly, over the months, it dawns onto her that she has to trust the Survivor within – the survivor who can transform the gift of the resilience of the victim, and with rage, create immense strength to oneself.
The Survivor in Michelle manifests as her leg heals and she begins to move on her own and without crutches – this transition is critical for most victims feel petrified and immobile in their contexts. Interestingly, Michelle, in a maintenance task of the bunker, crawls through a long duct – a symbol of re-birth, as she discovers new strength and mobility.
The survivor manifests when:
- I, he or she wishes to acknowledge my strength and resilience in the drama of oppression and victimisation – it is my resiliance to receive hurt, torment, pain, and shame that is the strength of the survivor.
- I, he or she wishes to get in touch with rage – the rage of forsaking myself when I needed to be strong, the rage against the violator and the abuser, and the rage of movement.
- I, he or she learns to be vigilant and gain an understanding of the mind of the Oppressor. It is this vigilance that fuels my ability to anticipate and to discover the chinks in the armor and the weaknesses of my confinement.
It takes an eternity for Michelle to trust her Survivor within – she fought back her memories and judgments to herself when she ran away from every drama of abuse. Her narrative invites all of us to look at and to trust our Survivor within.
Trusting the GUARDIAN within – but for how long?
Every Survivor is filled with self-doubt – was my ability and intent to survive the oppressor and escape victimization a fortunate act – a solo heroic moment amidst weakness and blindness fueling my self-destructiveness.
In the movie, Michelle encounters this question immediately as she emerges from her underground bunker – she has no time to get seduced by self-doubt – she has to act and look at herself beyond the Survivor and fight the world as a Guardian.
The transition from a Survivor to a Guardiam implies the following shift:
- I am forever vigilant and use my rage as resource to thwart all threats. There is not a moment where I let go of my guard and my defences. My shield and my sword are forever propped up by my side even when I sleep.
- There is no one that I can trust except myself – I am my only resource. I build a home that has the highest wall around it and there are very few who can cross the moat. I determine who can enter and who cannot.
- I hide my vulnerability and detest my weakness – I react against all that wish to discern it or attack it.
But for how long?
The Guardian both protects and insulates us – the guardian knows how to become the new CAPTOR – except that this captor is more akin to our needs and wants.
The Guardian never allows and lets our guard own and serves to imprison us and our human-ness.
The Guardian blinds us to new possibilities. In my encounters – I have seen how the Guardian is actually the shadow of the Oppressor and immortalises the victimhood.
The Guardian is often the Ronin or the Mercenary that dupes us into fighting wars and battles that do not belong to us, sustaining scars and wounds that we do not need.
Michelle’s narrative is powerful as she deploys the guardian but comes across the final threshold that ends up defining who she wishes to become.
Defining the Cause of the Warrior
Michelle’s narrative accelerates her to the final dilemma – what is the cause that she wishes to commit to as she discovers newfound strengths and powers within her – a cause that is beyond her survival and her own guardian.
The movie poignantly ends in her making a active choice for herself for the first time – so far she has been only responding to triggers and being acted upon.
I believe that the Guardian can be self-limiting and narcissistic unless:
- The Guardian finds a cause that includes others
- That in pursuit of this larger than oneself cause, one is prepared to be a Warrior
- And that in this cause, one defines a Dharma of the Warrior (the code of the Warrior) – the dharma invites others to join in.
- In India, the warrior identity comes from the Saint-Soldier identity.
Over the years, in process work and counselling, I have found that the worlds of the Victim, the Survivor, the Guardian and the Warrior are not discerned well enough – and that the Warrior identity is loosely configured and offered. It creates confusion in the mind of the recipient and does not allow for a narrative to unfold.
I have met many a warriors who have gone beyond a Survivor and a Guardian – who have discovered a dharma and a cause to live and fight for – a gift to themselves that makes life worthwhile.
10 Cloverfield Lane is a lovely narrative that depicts this transformation … there are other such equally gripping narratives of course. But each of these narratives builds a complexity within the 2nd Prince identity that is often denied and overlooked.
The journey from Victim to Survivor to Guardian to Warrior does not run one-way – the possibilities of regression are many and slippery. Self awareness helps one discern where one is getting stuck and entrenched in.
Do critique and comment on this journey painted in this blog…