Francis Coppola’s ‘Apocalypse Now’ (1 December 1979)’s foundation text was Joseph Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness’ novella of 1902. Many poems have inspired The Fugitive Stag but in a real sense its foundation consists of a half a millennia old German or Belgian stag carving and a late C.19th painting by the Norwegian artist Edvard Munch, entitled ‘Madonna’ (1894/95), also entitled ‘ ‘The Lady,’ ‘Loving Woman.’

Munch’s Madonna is one of the most spectacular Madonna’s of the modern era – a sexualized Madonna. This is Madonna as Munch’s redefinition of femininity projected onto the realm of the divine – the very opposite of a patriarchal longing for a return to the idealization of womanhood.

One of the most important and best-known motifs of Munch’s oeuvre, ‘Madonna’ was at the centre of his “Frieze of Life” series. The motif exists in several versions and originally bore the title ‘Woman making Love’. The painting was first displayed in a frame decorated with sperm cells and a foetus.

Who would have thought that a carving depicting a Christian saint’s conversion – his name was St Hubert – would join one of the most iconic ‘Goddess’ paintings of the late nineteenth century, in providing the foundation for an epic adventure story in the early 21st century!

Munch’s painting provides the central motif or thread that runs through the ‘fugitive stag’ – the flesh, the hair, the Look or Gaze, sensuality, femininity etc, uniting in herself the different faces of Goddess, the Eternal Feminine.

‘Munch’s Madonna’ (1894/95)

St Hubert stag carving c 1500

A graphic novel …

Since the adventure of ‘The Fugitive Stag’ emerged and developed in my psyche as a series of living, dynamic scenes, I have also ‘seen’ it as a graphic novel. In fact, it is a story that also cries out … screams at times … for that format.

It would be in the style of Will Eisner’s ‘A Contract with God.’ An exciting possibility. And musing on graphic novels, I imagine another Will, William Blake (who died not far off 200 years ago) applying for a job to illustrate a modern graphic novel in 2019. He’d probably bring a few of these, from his portfolio, to the interview …

Illustrations for a work of Dante’s Comedy
Blake’s ideas for a work on John Milton
Will Blake 1757 – 1827
Will Eisner 1917 – 2005

Trial by fire?

Self-portrait 2011

Rilke: After the Fire (1908)

Early autumn morning hesitated,
Shying at newness, an emptiness behind
Scorched linden trees still crowding in around
The moorland house, now just one more wallstead

Where youngsters in a pack from god knows where
Went rip-roaring wild and yelled and wrecked.
Yet all of them fell silent when he appeared,
The son of the place, and with a long forked stick

Dragged an out of shape old can or kettle
From under hot, charred, half-consumed house-beams;
And then, like one with a doubtful tale to tell,
Turned to the others present, at great pains

To make them realise what had stood so.
For now that it was gone, it all seemed
Far stranger: more fantastical than Pharaoh.
And he was changed: as from a far-off land.

(tr. Seamus Heaney 2006)

The End of the World?

Leonor Fini (1907 – 1996) staged woman as an alternative path to the world destroyed by man. In a 1993 interview, Fini said of the woman who confronts the viewer with a steady gaze:

“She is woman, symbol of beauty and deep knowledge, the essential element of life, the primeval material, because she knows how to survive the cataclysm.”

The End of the World (1948)
Leonor Fini in Arcachon, France, in 1940  (She “was a bit of a goth before goth”)

“Beauty, no doubt …

does not make revolutions. But a day will come when revolutions will have need of beauty.” Albert Camus, ‘the Rebel: on Man in Revolt’ (1951)

Our Western society badly needs ‘beauty’ at the moment. Everything is becoming uglier …

In terms of the arts and culture, I have ‘ the beauty’ and need a top director and producer to collaborate with on my project.

“I want – I should like –

to create images which radiate deep meaning, meaning beyond what they show on their faces, but still ground in the visible, as if the object or fact presented on the screen were the ‘sign’ of a psychic movement, of an impulse, of an inspiration, the sign by which man recognizes himself” …Sergei Eistenstein

Love the sentiments

Sergei Eisenstein 1898-1948 .Photo by Mary Evans Grant from the Ronald Grant archives.

An ancient shamanic experience? …

The mares that carry me as far as longing can reach rode on, once they had come and fetched me onto the legendary road of divinity that carries the man who knows through the vast and dark unknown. And on I was carried as the mares, aware just where to go, kept carrying me straining the chariot; and young women led the way …

And the goddess (Persephone) welcomed me kindly, and took my right hand in hers and spoke these words as she addressed me: ‘Welcome young man, partnered by immortal charioteers, reaching our home with the mares that carry you. Parmenides b. 515 BC

Parmenides of Elea


Surviving ‘the Waste Land’…

I never imagined that back in the 1980s, the discovery, and subsequent theft, of half-a-millennia old Northern European ‘stag carvings,’ would become a core event in my personal story over many decades.

‘My’ fugitive stag took me on a quest that led to Goddess, or what Goethe calls the ‘Eternal Feminine.’ Together, ‘she’ and I toured European culture, past and present, exploring social, cultural, theological and philosophical ideas within my spiritual heritage.

Much of what I saw was a ‘Waste Land’. I even thought at one point that I would be stuck in “rats’ alley.”

Poetry helped save me. Beauty became my redemptrix.

And much to my surprise, the record of my adventure ended up not as a prose poem but a screenplay. A film flirting with the world of arthouse and high concept films!

But only flirting.

The ‘Fugitive Stag’ is an exciting adventure story with broad audience appeal. And a tagline supplied by one of the greatest writers of all time, the Russian Dostoevsky – “Beauty will save the world.”