Analysis: the Campions’ “Holy Smoke!”

Apart from promoting our services, PluribusOne™’s purpose in analyzing books, films, and paintings, is to draw attention to new information derived from the use of our Noetitek™ system, and to subsequent insights that other analysts and critics have overlooked or misinterpreted. To effectively showcase the efficacy of our system, we generally focus on works that are not recent. For example, most artworks that we have analyzed are hundreds of years old, some older, and all well known. Almost all of the movies are popular and at least five years old; most are more than ten, and some are thirty or older. Our goal is to identify what other reviewers have missed over all that time. 

Holy Smoke!, a kind of romantic-comedy-drama, written by Jane and Anna Campion and directed by Jane—starring Harvey Keitel and Kate Winslet—is a prize-winning but underrated Australian film marketed worldwide beginning in 1999. On the surface, the story is about an Australian woman named Ruth Barron (Winslet) who is unexpectedly spiritually awakened by a guru while traveling with a female friend in India. When the friend informs Ruth’s family of Ruth’s intention to devote herself to this guru and remain in India, the family lures Ruth home and hires deprogrammer P. J. Waters (Keitel) to return her to her senses. The deprogramming turns into a sexual power struggle. 

This film has been mischaracterized by critics as a “feminist parable;” “about the battle between men and women;” “quirky but unsuccessful;” and “heavy-handedly ideological beneath its outward whimsy.” Even the wider appraisal that the film is “about family, relationships, sexual politics, spiritual questing, faith, and obsession,” is superficial and misses its finely-tuned engine. One of Roger Ebert’s comments was among the most dense and offensive: “Holy Smoke suggests that everyone in Australia falls somewhere in the spectrum between goofy and eccentric…” He gave it two-and-a-half stars. 

To the extent that leading critics represent western culture, their third-eye-blindness helps explain the pervasiveness of our spiritual impoverishment. One blind, bland, and blathering American critic said the movie has “…the mentality, for better or worse, of an encounter group,” which is like saying War of the Worlds is, for better or worse, a combat story. By contrast, we see Holy Smoke! as representing an unrecognized, unofficial, and unlabeled genre that surfaced in the last century and includes others such as 3 Women, The Locusts, and A Serious Man (see our post: “Analysis: Altman’s ‘3 Women’”). The genre cannot accurately be called “feminist” because it deals with forces larger than socio-political agendas. In our philosophy and scientific theorizing, we see the impetus for such screenplays as rooted in the first two dimensions of Omniverse. 

Some of our perceptions include recognition that Ruth was only indirectly spiritually seduced by Baba, the guru, because Baba was first seduced by the Goddess. Baba merely connected Ruth to the goddess Lakshmi who, among other roles, is a source of strength even to the Supreme Being: Vishnu (male). We see Ruth Barron as a reflection of the biblical Ruth, although she is ruthless (i.e., the biblical Ruth barren of kindness), especially with men, until she encounters P. J. Waters who challenges her to be kind. The self-sacrifice of his ego opens her up to her true self: a kind and loving person concerned with his well-being. So, she won—and he succeeded in transforming her. 

Overall, we see the movie’s message as directed to both overbearing self-serving men and high-powered selfish women as they encounter not only each other but, more importantly, as they encounter the reemergence of the Divine Feminine in this Aquarian Age. The film’s message to women is: “Be Kind” because the awesome powers of Goddess are correspondent not only with the constructive cornucopia of Life but also its destructive and ego-erasing counterpart.

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