HYPNAGOGIA: Theological Reflections on a Serial Killer

When I read Father Robert Barron’s excellent book Catholicism: A Journey to the Heart of the Faith, I encountered the wonderfully bizarre story of the transverberation of St. Teresa of Ávila, along with this wonderful photo of Bernini’s “Ecstasy of St. Teresa”.

01It was during one of her many intense mystical experiences that St. Teresa had a vision of an angel descending from heaven and piercing her heart repeatedly with a flaming arrow.  Of course, the Freudian subtext need hardly be mentioned, and certainly it was not lost on St. Teresa either.  Western Catholic mysticism at the time, and especially within her own Carmelite order, was extremely sensual and bathed in bridal imagery which compared union with God through Christ to sexual union.  It even took on a slightly homoerotic spin when it fell into the hands of St. John of the Cross, a contemporary of St. Teresa’s and a fellow Carmelite.*  The image of union with God through pain was also very important to the spirituality of the time, and indeed remains important today since this concept is at the heart of almost all Christian asceticism.

The image, along with its deliciously decadent undertones, struck me immediately as pure cinema.  I tried three or four times to work out a story decent enough to film – all of them in some way a modern retelling of the ecstasy of St. Teresa.  But, as things go, none of these attempts bore any fruit.  The image was too small on which to hang a whole short film.  Also some time ago I became interested in lucid dreaming, which inevitably led to my discovery of this incredibly bizarre yet extremely common phenomenon called sleep paralysis.

6345395050_8264688d24_zSleep paralysis is the experience of waking up unable to move, usually accompanied by some sort of aural or visual “hallucination” – most commonly of a threatening presence which attacks the victim.  As far as anyone can tell, the phenomenon is perfectly harmless, but it does cause those who suffer from it great worry and distress.  It is supposedly incredibly frightening.  The attacker is usually described by sleep paralytics as a demon or “shadow people” and the like.  It has a long pedigree.  Almost every culture is familiar with it.  This too, has obvious cinematic implications, especially for a jaded post-Lynchian like me.  Too me, sleep paralysis evokes images of black shadows on the wall, strobe lights, high-pitched screams and whatnot.  It’s sensory overload at its best.

I worked on some sleep paralysis ideas for a while, but found it a tad abstract for my taste.  Months went by and I worked on other little projects hear and there, but eventually (as I have experienced many times) these two ideas began to merge into one story.  This of course does not happen all of a sudden or with any real decision point.  It just sort of happens organically.  You spend your energy trying to cut down two trees, but everything seems a lot easier when you realize you’re really looking at the same tree.

I had a creative boom back at the beginning of fall, and cranked a great little script in record time.  And so I’m very happy to announce 


We begin production this week, and am hoping all of you will join me in this adventure.  Updates on the film’s production and release, including video production diaries, can be found at our new website hypnagogiamovie.wordress.com.  Be sure to follow, share, subscribe, etc., and while you’re there don’t forget to like HYPNAGOGIA on Facebook.  Thanks in advance for all your support and encouragement!


Screen Shot 2014-11-28 at 3.34.25 PMWHAT SIGNIFIES A SWALLOW?

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One Response to HYPNAGOGIA: Theological Reflections on a Serial Killer

  1. billandgay@verizon.net says:

    Sounds like a huge project. Good luck and let me know the progress. Grandma

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