Updated: Nov 21, 2019
The Innocent stage and archetype is the final and the most ‘not-of-this-world’ step of the story. It is usually a couple of scenes or a single scene that sums up and elevates the whole film in such a way that, from this elevated perspective, everything can be connected into one singularity. It represents the undeniable proof of the film’s premise that can be seen, felt and understood as the final truth and the new order of this world that is being born in front of our very eyes. What is the archetypal meaning behind THE END of every film?
The Innocent is closely connected to the human soul. It speaks its delicate but wise language and can hear that hidden and soft yearning for love, connection, bliss, and innocence that we all have, but that, unfortunately, can only be reached in rare moments, when the ego is humbled and “on its knees,” usually at the very end of the life (story) or after.
The goal of this stage of the story is the hero’s transition and elevation into the purest emotional realm where, on the soul level, everyone and everything is the same and therefore connected. The ultimate resolutions of all conflicts and separations are now possible.
With the new hero’s psyche that has now been restored/rewired/renewed after the Destroyer phase, the rules of this new world are being set differently.
Don’t forget that the hero is the world, and every story is an evolutionary leap in this kaleidoscope of life that we are participating in. After everything that the hero (and the audience) have gone through, we are rewarded with wisdom, a glimpse of not just what is, but also what can be: a brighter future that we can all now be part of.
Basically, for the hero’s soul, the Innocent is a stairway to heaven, but it should be also said that even when heaven is not reachable (like in tragedies, where the end of the story is the proof of undeniable hell, which we are never going to escape from) the hero is definitely either proved to be innocent, like in Chinatown or dead and therefore also innocent, like in the show Breaking Bad.
The humbling experience that we, as the audience, have at the end of the film comes from two different directions.
The first is caused by an emotional transfer between the hero and the audience. We connect with the hero who was beaten as we were, who was suffering as we were, who was fighting as we were. The way we identify with the hero is stronger than ever, especially because the hero’s ego is like a wall that separates him from other people in the story, but that also separates the hero from us as the audience, is no longer in the game anymore. With the hero’s emotions now fully exposed, he/she is pure and “naked;” like a child, innocent, with every single part of his heart and soul revealed to us, so as a result, we feel compassion for him. Once we have our hearts fully open, we can turn that beam of light towards ourselves – we can forgive ourselves for not being good, brave or more loving, as we are a part of humanity.
It is pure magic how the audience is always on the side of the hero who is humbled by suffering, but also ready to integrate his shadow.
Like in Joker, once we witness suffering of the soul that only evil can cause, once we admit this evil is a part of us, we can decide: I am part of this or that side, and with this decision, we can become stronger than ever, we can now fight for good with pure heart. (Just for the record, being aware of evil and not doing anything about it, is suspiciously close to evil). If on the other hand, at the end of the film, we are aware that the world we live in is never going to change for the better, KNOWING THAT SHOCKING TRUTH can at least set us free.
This is the redemption that every end of every story can promise, the very mechanism behind every cathartic experience.
With the purification of the emotions of pity and fear, our view is clearer and we literally feel more powerful, and more hopeful. It is not just that the hero is the part of the world, we are also the part of the hero and he is the part of us.
The humbling experience that we, as the audience, have at the end of a film is also
caused by the structural transfer.
Because it is the archetype that can elevate us and connect with our soul, the Innocent is the stage where we can also detach from reality and finally see the truth (after life) in its totality.
And the truth is that the meaning of life, or the God, universe or the higher intelligence… whatever you want to call it, actually does exist. Suddenly we can, in that one story, see the essence of life, and the causality of the story itself, the structure of the story is now showing us that there is causality in life as well, there is structure in life.
Why this is important?
Well, the core of the existential fear that we as humans have, is that our lives are without purpose, that the world we live in is uncontrollable chaos, and that everything that we are part of is limited and ephemeral. The order that we witness at the very end of every film has that calming effect on us, even if it is just subconsciously, the story connects us with the inner knowledge we possess, that actually there is an order to life and therefore there is good.
The Innocent has that power to transform every illusion into something tangible, maybe not rationally but emotionally explained.
The most intimate experience a person can have with the world is gaining an insight into the world. Learning something about human nature and existence is, without a doubt, the pure treasure that we can have, and we inevitably keep it close to our hearts, and it’s possible that we are even not willing to share it with anyone, because we are afraid that if we put it into words, it will lose its magic. But the fact that we nevertheless share this knowledge connects us with the rest of the world. Joseph Campbell calls this stage: Return with Elixir.
Film endings are miracles that share those insights, but at the same time, those insights turn miracles into existence. The ending is the part of the film where we not only become aware of the truth, but the truth becomes a part of our being – and being one with the truth or life is our highest purpose and the purpose of every story.
That can also mean that in that one moment – we transcend mortality because only the truth can carry us into eternity. In the previous stage, the hero is resurrected, but this moment is the real birth canal from where he can start innocently again.
The cherry on top of all this is the opposite archetype on the wheel: the Ruler or, the ruler of the structures. Unlike at the Midpoint, when the hero is climbing the false mountain (shadow Ruler because of an illusion of the ego (shadow Innocent), here the hero is properly wired up, vertically and he can now rule his world, which is exactly the way to transcend from an unconscious to a conscious human being. From this point on the true mountain, an emotional and spiritual one – the outside world can now be properly seen. The way to rule the outside is by first ruling the inside.
The formula of the Innocent--> Ruler stage on the Hero’s wheel is:
After the resurrection that comes with compassion and forgiveness, the hero becomes the ruler of his own world. The new order is coming into being now. When the heart is innocent, pure love is possible.
The biggest ruling force of the universe is unconditional love, knowing that we are all one.
Let me conclude with film examples that I have continuously mentioned in this blog, so that we can continue to follow the plot, characters and their development on the wheel.
Through understanding herself, Mia understands her mother’s life and choices and can finally forgive her. They have their little dance, a ritual that brings them back together. She is saying a loving goodbye to her sister, as she leaves with the young guy… and a balloon flying into the sky symbolizes this new beginning. Innocence is restored, a new order is being born.
Melanie is the winner. She has shown her strength while fighting the birds. So, as she and Mitch leave the house and get into the car, even though she is all beaten up, Melanie is finally the new ruler, replacing Mitch’s mother. A new order is being born.
After Majid’s son comes to Georges, who is now accusing him of possibly having something to do with what happened, he is waiting for Georges’ son in front of his school. This ending was always very interesting to me. The kids in front of the school are already forming that new mixed-up world on the foundations left by their far from innocent parents.
Also, one of the best and most intriguing film endings: to give her husband a second chance, Ebba stages a skiing injury. So, while her husband helps her, their relationship can be restored. And we see exactly this in the following bus scene where all of the passengers think their lives are in danger… as Tomas is now acting as the head of the family. The thing is we know it is Ebba, the real ruler from the background.
In Some like it hot, the ending is that famous scene where “masks” are finally down and since ‘no one is perfect,’ the lovers can be accepted for what they are and united in innocent love that knows no rules and prejudice.
With this, we have explained the whole archetypal wheel and every emotional/structural stage of the Hero’s journey from the archetypal perspective.
In the next post I am going to give you the final Intuitive Screenwriting stage outline and I am going to write about:
How we can break the wheel down into fractals.
Why the wheel/consciousness actually works like a spiral?
Why this can be useful for understanding the feature film structure?
Let me just give you a teaser:
If we were to spin the wheel one more time immediately after the Innocent-->Ruler, where the old hero dies so that the new one can be born, we would see that we have the Warrior or the Hero stage on the wheel next. So, is that stage the first or the last one on the wheel? What do you think?