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Marion Woodman: Dancing in the Flames

Marion Woodman gets the idolatry treatment from Adam Reid Marion Woodman gets the idolatry treatment from Adam Reid

You may never have heard of Marion Woodman, but she’s a figure with something to say. Unfortunately, Adam Reid’s new documentary Marion Woodman: Dancing in the Flames isn’t the best vehicle to hear Woodman’s message. In fact, the Canadian film comes off as little more than idol worship, leaving viewers better off reading Woodman than watching this film.

First off, Reid seems to assume that his audience is intimate with and/or interested in his subject, and does little to entice us into Woodman’s world. Much of the film is Woodman in conversation with Andrew Harvey, who is presented as if he were a household name. He is called a mystic and seems to hold the status of guru, although his credentials are never clear. The filmmaker clearly reveres both figures and anticipates that the audience will share his enthusiasm simply because they are on the screen.

In fact, it turns out that Woodman is quite an interesting character with powerful insights into the nature of life and death on earth, and in particular human suffering. Some of her philosophy borders on the trite, but the Jungian thinker is clearly working with some of the great ideas in history, drawing from spiritual traditions as well as Jung himself.

Harvey, her counterpart for much of the film, comes off somewhat more pompous. His diagnosis of a world in crisis is vague, and the smugness with which he claims to have solutions to what ails humanity is grating. Pseudo-spiritual cure-alls are nothing new, after all.

Overall, Reid’s document could use a dose of skepticism. It would be much more powerful if it played to a neutral audience instead of the Marion Woodman fan club - that is, if it attempted to make a case for itself and Woodman instead of drooling over its subject.


As for Adam Reid’s Marion Woodman: Dancing in the Flames, its tagline says as much about the tone of the film as any review. The tag is this:  “A film about the greatest mystery of life, and the woman who understands it like no other.” The movie’s dearth of objectivity rings out in those words, but more laughable is the audacity to suggest that Woodman has unlocked the meaning of life that humans have sought for millennia. Woodman may have some interesting things to say, but if she’s not quite one of the most famous luminaries in human history, we ought not to be surprised.

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Last modified on Tuesday, 26 October 2010 19:37

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