Sweet dreams are made of this: analysis of „Prospect” (2018)

The distant, remote moon, lush-yet-lethal primeval forest, and the mysterious, precious gems. A laconic, unyielding girl and a cunning, loquacious brigand.

This place is not our world; it’s not our planet.

The line between reality and dream blurs in this alien realm.

„Prospect”, the debut motion picture from DUST and the extended version of 14-minute short from 2014, at first didn’t draw my attention. I watched it one November evening and I didn’t think much about it afterwards. Or I at least I thought I don’t, because, ever and again, this movie was coming to my mind and I had no idea why. It’s a good sci-fi movie, I was telling myself. One of the best and favorites I saw in 2020, I would add. But I couldn’t get rid of this feeling I missed something. And it led me to the point I re-watched it and –

oh god.

I knew why I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

As a writer, I was always tremendously fascinated by the human psyche, the workings of it and the symbolism. I always want to dig deeper and there’s nothing that enthrals me more than dreams. Therefore, the unofficial direction of my self-guided studies is écriture féminine and onirisim.

„Prospect” by all means is a coming out of age story; nevertheless, my fundamental error was to assume what I see on the screen is real – when the dream-like reality should have been the clue from the start. I wrongly assumed everything was what it seemed, when in fact, nothing – the movie itself, the characters, plot – was not what it seemed. When I realised my mistake „Prospect” became not only one of my favourite 2020 movies but one of the best symbolically-psychological movies I’ve ever watched.

This is, in a way or another, just a pile of thoughts, reflections, I decided to write down.  This composition-quasi research paper is my attempt of trying to systematising my reflections. It’s not spoiler-free. In addition, I am no expert, I have no degree in philosophy, psychology either. I’m just a passionate reader and there’s a great possibility my intellectualizing is fallacious. But to her is human and we learn from our mistakes, don’t we?

Cee and her father, Damon, travel to Bakhroma Green also known as the Green Moon – an alien moon covered with exotic lush forests. Yet this fertile, rampantly abundant world is dangerous for humans:  the air, while breathable, is heavily laden with dust and spores and inhalation of the spores will lead to death.

The reason why Cee and her father travel to this planet is Aurelac – the gold of this alien world, the gems growing beneath the planet’s forests and the object of the desire of the prospectors. Aurelac is the reason why Cee and her father come here, risking their lives. Not without reason „Prospect” was called space western – there’s Aurelac rush, the Green Moon is a lawless space of ambiguity of Wild West. Aurelac is the chance for a better life, it offers a new prospect.

You can ask me, hey, so what do you see then? What is your point? Are you going anywhere with this?

So, okay, my point is, in fact, „Prospect” should be interpreted as a dream – and not as any dream, but a dream of the main character, Cee.

Most of my reflections are based on the work of Carl Jung. Long story short, Jung was an influential early psychiatrist and founder of analytical psychology. His works included the occult and mystical practices – and some refer to him as a ‚shaman’ or even ‚cult leader’. Jung, like Freud, was interested in conscious and unconscious, however, he stated that dreams were crucial to understanding the mind of a person and a person’s dreams were the clearest manifestations of an individual’s persona. Jung also presented the certain archetypes that appeared the most frequently in dreams that occurred at decisive ages in our lives. Those dreams – „big dreams”, „grand dreams” – could be transformative and help a person to achieve unity of a self if a dream was interpreted correctly.

Therefore, I presume „Prospect” can be analysed as a „grand dream” of Cee. By all means, it is a coming out of age story – a noetic journey to the very subconscious of the main character. Therefore, having assumed that, Cee is our dreamer and everything that happens is her dream. But then…

… what does it all mean?

Cee travels to Green Moon with her father, Damon. Jung saw the moon as a potent alchemical symbol. He believed the moon, a symbol of the archetype known as the syzygy, is an archetypal union of the male and the female.

The moon reflects light from the sun. Like the unconscious is a symbolic reflection of the consciousness. In that way, moon dreams can be read as a gamut of symbols of the unconscious.

Therefore, I risk saying the Green Moon is Cee’s unconscious mind. But we can ask why this beautiful, lush world is so lethal? Why Cee digs up those gems, weirdly growing up in tiny root-wombs? Why does she share the air chord with the man who killed her father? Why do strangers want to force her to become the „mother”? Oh, so many questions, so many!

The phases of The Moon symbolise the cycle of the mind; from the highest point of the psyche to the psyche’s subconscious. In alchemy, the moon is another androgynous symbol representing the King and Queen in their chemical wedding (note: the Aurelac site with especially valuable gems is called „Queen’s lair”).

Watching „Prospect” I couldn’t also stop thinking about how the Green seems to be a timeless space – using „cycles” as a measure of time can be a choice of making the movie futuristic. However, we can look at it through the lenses of women’s writing, especially Kristeva’s Women’s Time. Kristeva proposed that the female subjectivity goes between cyclical time and monumental time. These two ‚feminine’ types of time work to conceal the teleological historical ‚masculine’ time; the linear, but constantly rupturing, an ‚anguished’ one. Masculine time, as Kristeva states, has one barrier –  death. Moon has cycles, nature is a cycle and women are the mirror of it with their menses – if linearity is connected with masculinity, cyclicality is feminine.

What caught my attention was the look of the Aurelac. It does not only grows „subconsciously” – but it was a gold-like-nugget surrounded by a diamond-like structure. It could be a subtle nod to Aurleac being the „gold” as „Prospect” is a Space Western, yeah. But I couldn’t help of another symbolical manifestation of the unity of Sun and Moon, represented respectively by Gold and Silver, which also represents Brain and Heart. The moon also represents silver and because „the moon” (silver/brain) is illuminated by the sun (gold/heart) rays it is also considered feminine.

I also thought of citrinitas – „yellowning.” It is one of the four major stages of the alchemical magnum opus, The Great Work, to create the philosopher’s stone. It refers to „transmutation of silver into gold” or „yellowing of the lunar consciousness.” In alchemical philosophy, citrinitas meant the dawn of the „solar light” subsistent in one’s being, when the  „lunar or soul light” was no longer needed. There are other three alchemical stages of the magnum opus: nigredo (blacknening), albedo (whitenening), and rubedo (reddening).

Jung interpreted the alchemical process as analogical to modern-day psychoanalysis. According to Jungian archetypes, nigredo is the Shadow and it represents putrefaction and spiritual death; albedo – purification and the anima and animus (contrasexual soul images); citrinitas is the awakening and the wise old man/woman archetype; and rubedo is the Self archetype, the end of the magnum opus.

That’s why I wholly support the idea that Cee’s „dream” is one of the  „grand dreams”. It is her transformation from the girl into a woman in the world so alien and dangerous. She has no idea whom to trust, who she is.

„Green” is no place for a child. It was pointed out Green is a lawless space and Cee’s father bringing her here was unusual. Ezra even points that out: „Now this is something I’ve not seen in all my time in the Green. A little girl.” Cee is in this dream world, the world of such negative polarities – so rich, fertile, but lethal world (possible relation to a womb?), her father is killed; she faces possible future of becoming a matriarch, mother (another symbol of a womb?) – and she is forced to form an unlike alliance with the murderer of her father. Plus, why the man who killed her father seems to become her a new, more supportive father (figure) in the end?

Looking at the relationship between Cee and her father and Cee and Ezra, I was struck how Cee’s father was unsupportive of her – he is the one who brought her to the Green Moon, he is the one to try to teach her to properly harvest Aurelac. But he also finds Cee’s passion for writing problematic telling her she can’t do this because she shouldn’t waste her time. With him, and mostly for the whole movie, the dream we see Cee wearing a Persona – the social face the individual presented to the world—”a kind of mask, designed on the one hand to make a definite impression upon others, and on the other to conceal the true nature of the individual”. She is laconic because her father made her – she knows she can’t show her true self.

I would also love to point out that the characters’ helmets are similar to the religious iconographies, the halos around the Saints that inspired Jung’s archetypes. Although I would argue that the characters of the movie match Jungian dream archetypes perfectly, but they do share some of their characteristics – Cee is the „innocent orphaned child’, her father is the „magician” when Ezra is the „trickster/outlaw”. These archetypes are connected with such concepts as: the innocent – safety, the magician – power, the outlaw – liberation.

Jung included the „child” and the child hero in a list of archetypes that are the symbolic milestones in the individuation process. For Jung, „the child is potential future”, and the child archetype is a symbol of the developing personality, therefore I think it matches Cee. Jung also noted that there is a  possibility of identifying with persona, the social “mask” and that could turn a person into the archetype of expectations and ambition, „unchildlike and artificial”. The child archetype strengthens the individual’s connection to their past.

Additionally, the prospective role of the child archetype is to symbolise future potentialities and psychological maturation. It would match Cee’s noetic maturation.

The trickster is, on the other hand, a figure that creates trouble. In a movie, Ezra and his partner attempt to rob Damon. That leads to the later murder of Cee’s father and Ezra’s partner, when Ezra is the one who remains untouched. The trickster often appears as a wise fool who may or may not have powers. He makes us question the status quo but can also trick us into doing the wrong thing. He may appear in a dream when we are uncertain about a decision we must make or when we are feeling vulnerable.

And, after some consideration, I would propose that Ezra does not only represents the trickster archetype but also represents the Shadow, which opposes the Persona (Cee). The Shadow represents the deeper elements of our psyche that we often deny and project onto others. It can appear in the dream as a bad or fearsome figure who threatens or betrays us. Encounters with it may reveal some of our deeper thoughts and fears. It is dark, unknown, wild, troubling, and perhaps disturbingly fascinating (and Ezra fits this description).

During the movie, we don’t know – like Cee – if we should trust him, however, there’s no other help. Cee never sees Ezra killing her father, even though Ezra was the one to shot him (arguably mercy shot) and he agrees, takes the blame, and later even pleads Cee to not blame herself. Cee and he are doomed to work together.

At first, Ezra seems like no partner, not to mention father figure –  he is a thief and a killer – he threatens and there’s a great possibility he can betray Cee (like the time when the settlers asked for Cee in exchange for the meds to treat the arm’s infection and after he says he wouldn’t and just then Cee helps him to amputate his arm that got infected with dust. I will just add that Cee amputates Ezra’s right arm – and in Jungian psychology, the right represents the conscious. In addition, if Ezra represents the Shadow, he is also nigredo -> and his character, the infected arm symbolises putrefaction, right? He talked to Cee about the tunnel rats and how they destroyed his ship and rats are usually assosicated with putrefaction, huh? You see, it’s all coming together!

But Ezra doesn’t betray Cee and I would argue if their unlikely friendship/bond, superbly acted by both Sophie Thatcher and Pedro Pascal, is not what makes this movie so fascinating. Underneath, the time spent in the Green is the time of transformation of them both – they act like unlike mirrors, a teen girl and middle-aged man, but in a way, they are foils of each other. Ezra also seems to be more supportive of the psychological needs of Cee, treating her, unlike Damon, like an equal and partner. He also says number two was more of a utility than a partner and it seems like Cee’s father treated her the same way. Cee is the one to open up to him, she talks about her love for writing. Cee never seemed so happy, the moment when she talks about her writing is the only time we see her genuinely happy and Ezra doesn’t dismiss her passion. Cee seems very stoic, she is laconic, but it feels it’s the mask she was forced to wear by her father. Cee wishes to belong. Her mother died, we know this, Cee wishes to come back home, but her father is driven by greed and brought her to the Green Moon. We learn she’s not truly “innocent” – she worked hard and was hardened by the life she had lived with her father. That’s why part of me asks myself if she ever wished to get rid of her father – and that’s why in her “dream” he dies, more, he is “accidentally” wounded, and then Ezra (The Shadow) delivers the coup de grâce and kills him – because only it’s the only way Cee could really liberate herself.

https://nickblaine.tumblr.com/post/190799374985/whats-that-book-you-carry-around-its-a-novel

At least to me, Ezra acts like the Shadow/trickster, someone who helps Cee in this journey. Besides, „Ezra” means „help, helper” in Hebrew and I don’t think it was accidental.  Meanwhile „Cee” – probably short for „Cecelia” – means „blind”. But what could be the reason for Cee’s „blindness” – her father? “Damon” comes from Greek “δαμαζω” – “to tame”. Maybe she’s blind, because she’s sleeping? And in the end, she was the one who helped Ezra, when he was stabbed (and I would love to point that another part of the alchemical-psychological magnum opus, rubedo can be represented as blood and it symbolises the ending of the four stages [the blood moon of the night before Cee and Ezra escape from the moon] the unity of ego and Self, which creates the new personality) and she took him with her to the pod, saving his life (by so, saving him from „masculine” death).

As Cee leaves the planet, she seems happy – she has the new possibilities, new perspective, and maybe a new father as well – the grand dream of „Green Moon” changed her, her whole life. This dream unravels the true nature of Cee; what she is made of, the dark side of her psyche, what she truly wants, and what she can do to achieve it. The movie, dream ends with Cee, our dreamer waking up, smiling. And Cee seems to know what she found underneath the lush forests of the Green Moon:

she found her true self.