Never On Sunday (1960) – The Allegory

The discussions henceforth would hurt the feelings of many. Though they are personal, but controversial, to put it mildly. I am being bold, due to the low traffic in the site, else probably it would have been too daring. 

Moving along the way that I have selected, I will try to analyse the characters, at least as I see them. Some individually, some as a group.

First is the most complex character, Illya. She is theoretically a prostitute, but she is one who would force a redefinition of the term itself. I am not going into the details of the terminology, but she is one who could redefine the term.

She isn’t ordinarily what one could call a prostitute, except that she makes love and takes money for it. But in this case, making love is making love, not just sex. She selects her partner and clearly loves what follows. How does it differ from any other normal woman, except that she changes partners frequently, in fact too frequently? Her taking money is like any other person, where some might take cash (wives in past, even husbands today) and others kind (girlfriends/ boyfriend depending on economics). She isn’t for sale, since she goes by choice, with the chosen and isn’t putting herself on auction to be picked by the highest bidder.

There was another beautiful movie Sylvia (1965) – though not highly rated by IMDb. There the girl, Sylvia was a prostitute, but that was under certain circumstances and she strives to get out of it (and does it too). The heroine, Carrol Baker (reprising the role of Sylvia) was another of beautiful and talented heroines destroyed by the Hollywood system, she could have been an asset, if properly handled. But anyway, she isn’t the only one whom the puppeteers had destroyed.

In this movie, a detective (incidentally hero) is commissioned to investigate her past. During one of the episodes, linking the chains of event, he comes across a priest (Jay Novello) in Mexico. The Priest too asks this basic question, though in a slightly different context. The gist of it was “How does a prostitute differ from any other person, who does the work they do, without enjoying it?”  Is it only due to sexual act? In fact, on that angle we would say that almost all of us are earning money through the work which we don’t really enjoy, and hence are on the same boat as Sylvia, only our labour are of different, and many different, kinds. Why that kind too couldn’t be one of the enlarged set? If she is, so are we, most of us.

On this same context, though in an almost exactly opposite situation, the question arises whether we can classify Illya as a prostitute? She is earning money, but in a job that she is enjoying. She is able to make her own choice about whether she would work, relax, or go to a Greek Tragedy (as two Russian Sailors found). If she did go out, it would be she who would decide the person. The respect she commanded in the society (at least in her own), doesn’t indicate she is ever looked down by them, except by Homer of course. There are some other incidents too, and that defines her personality. When Toni was with her for the first time, he was intimidated, and probably felt sacrilegious. At that time, she could be observed to have become a mother ase well as a tender lover to break his diffidence. That’s not what prostitutes do, they are not supposed to have empathy. The payment and the booking was already done, now if the contract isn’t carried forward, the fault won’t have been her.

Another aspect of her character was that, she could see silver in even the darkest cloud. Oedipus could be a bad man but he loved his mother most dearly. Medea of course was an excellent loving wife and she did what she had to, to protect her husband and children from that scheming bad blonde princess. And despite all the misgivings, she even sent her a gift (that it was poisoned, Illya didn’t believe). In her opinion all weren’t good. There was at least one bad person, in fact so dark that even Illya couldn’t see silver in it. That was Aristotle, even whose name she couldn’t stand. For this of course I don’t blame her, nor anyone could. He could be logical in other aspects, but not in the matters of women. In his world (theory) the position of women are as in the practiced Islam just above slaves (in Islam the equivalent would be Kafirs).

Illya was undoubtedly most complex and profound person in the tale, all other are much more simpler and straightforward.

The next in the list is obviously much simpler to understand Homer Thrace. He has a fixed and inflexible concept of what is proper and good and what is improper, immoral and bad. He has to educate these immoral persons and bring back to the society. Only way he knew, would be to educate them, break their misconceived ideas, let them know what is truth and what is falsehood. Expose them to all things good and they would automatically fall in line.

The third important factor is of course Mr Noface. He is the quintessential dictator. He wanted to be the owner of all that he saw, in fact even those he couldn’t as far as he knew of their existence. These people are ruthless in their goal and to achieve this end, they would do anything, use any one as a tool to achieve their end. People like Homer are sitting duck in their hand, since they could use their ego, their sense of propriety, to act in their favour.

The fourth and last important factor are all the rest, Toni included. They love and adore Illya. They too could go to any extent, but not for any selfish motive, only for her sake. They would do that, despite being aware that she mightn’t be bestowing her favours for it or even putting some additional merit points against their name. They are all her lovers, but not in ordinary sense of love. As far as she is concerned, she reciprocates it, again not in a carnal sense, but by bringing bliss in their life by her presence and her life force and gaiety.

After the analysis of the characters, I will try to place them in some other roles and try to find the similarities.

Mythology

The first similarity that comes to mind is the mythological story of Eden Gardens, (not of Kolkata, but the one that existed a few thousand or may be tens of thousands as some interpret) years ago.

Being the only female of the species, at least the important one, Illya is obviously the only candidate who would match the ultimate lover and mother, Eve.

Who is Adam then? I will place all the men and her adorers in that group. She is their lover as well as mother and they too treat her that way. Their relation transcends the sexual nature, it is one of friendship, camaraderie, companionship and reverence. They are her lover as well as children. If I go for the Freudian psychology, that is clearly the way the child looks at his mother. Naturally given the chance (more than one child)., all mothers have their favourite. Our Eve has Tonio. The mother might be a bit more lenient and empathetic to him, but that doesn’t mean that she would neglect her other children. She had point blank refused to desert her other children, or even the marital home (Piraeus) for his sake. 

There is one major difference from the biblical description here, the woman is on top. She isn’t the ‘Helper’ to the man, but she is the queen of the hive. The situation is as if Adam(s) have been carved out of her breast. However, if I look closely at human psychology, the relative psychological strengths of the two genders, probably this is the right interpretation, even though scripturally wrong. Eternally (except modern) women are mothers to their lovers, children and even own father, whereas men are the wayward children, to be pampered, indulged, scolded or punished, all with love and tolerance. Our Eve, Illya, personified that.

With two of the main protagonists fixed in, we have only two more left. On these two there could be some sort of controversy, but that could be in earlier two too, at least on the Adam. In fact I thought of placing Homer here in the beginning, but within moments I found him to be unfit for the honour.

I propose Mr NoFace as the Serpent. His job is to keep himself hidden, only talk in whispers. His only wish is to disturb the tranquillity and become the Lord of All.

The serpent earlier might have made attempts but had failed to sway Eve from her path. Now finally he has found a way, and works to his plan. While the Adam(s) are away, he brings Eve and the Apple of Knowledge, Homer together.

Homer, the Apple, is knowledge (or as he interprets the knowledge to be). He thinks he knows what is right and what is wrong, what is moral and what is immoral and strives to put the values in Eve. The result of it, whoever has read Bible (or even not read it) is aware. The fig-leave episode is brought out beautifully when Illya goes inside the changing room even to take out her dress for the swim. By the way, she didn’t undress earlier too in public. She had a full dress on, and inside it is the bikini. Earlier she would take off the dress on the pier and jump in water. Now demurely she walks in changing room to do the same act. 

We all know what was next to come once the knowledge and wisdom arrived. The Eden Garden was Hidden for ever from the human race. The same thing happened here too. All the carefree gaiety and bliss disappeared, replaced by gloom and care and of course the serpent having won, the sin and exploitation reigned.

Culture-Shock

This is the second probable interpretation, when we expand the definition into a plural sense.

Illya is now not a woman per se, she is, what we call as the Prakriti, the nature (of people). The men of the port, her lovers, are a particular society, say a village, untouched by the external influence.

They don’t know what is moral or what is immoral. They only do, as their nature, their conscience, Illya, guides them to. Of small things, even grievous ones, they find something they can be happy about and so the misery and unhappiness might touch them but only momentarily.

Are they mired in sin and depravity? They don’t think so. Are they harming others? None think so.

In this happy and blissful village an external person arrives, and observing the sin reigning there, takes it unto himself to bring them to “Light”. The best example of this are the missionaries, who had been doing it for ages. They find the natives living in darkness and practicing all the things that are dark and sinful, instead of one Lord, having so many devilish deities that they bow to.

It has to change, the missionary (Homer) decides and to change them, obviously they have to change their nature (Illya). So, he takes it unto himself to educate her and let her know what is good and what is bad.

After some time, we have a nice enlightened community who knows what is sin and what isn’t. Of courses that doesn’t mean that they don’t sin (the NoFace’s women haven’t gone out of business). One thing now they know is how to be unhappy and dissatisfied and what they have forgotten is how to be natural and be happy and satisfied at whatever they received from nature.

Did the education and instilment of moral values do any good? That would depend on what we consider education and moral values.

Something that is moral or sinful for me, need not be so to someone else. These are all relative and situational term. In certain case even the murder or an attempt to murder isn’t sin (ask any Judge pronouncing Capital Sentence). It is through the prism, my coloured glass, that I am defining it. For another person, with a different glass, it might be entirely. I am looking at the picture from my perspective and then correcting the colours accordingly. In this exercise, I might (and almost invariably do), spoil the picture and its balance altogether.

On what moral grounds can we put our style of morality on others? The American Indians used to scalp their enemies, between them and us the difference is only the scalping aspect. Otherwise we too kill our enemies, with much less effort, in infinitely larger scale and with much less provocation. We have firearms and very often our fingers are on the trigger (or the doomsday button), they didn’t. I don’t know this is teaching them the right thing or taking the right thing away.

Is my style of education doing any good to them? These are something we could reflect upon. I do know they were happy and satisfied before we came. Are they still after our brainwashing?

The apple are the missionaries, who are changing the nature of the society. In my personal view, undoubtedly for worse, by placing their style and thoughts where it doesn’t fit. If they think they have fit, they may do a bit of rethinking and look at how many places, the original ‘Hedonistic’ ways still are followed, even though they attend the churches or call themselves Christians. It is a natural human tendency, and nothing to do with culture. They are brought up in nature and are still there (unless transplanted to cities and towns). While in nature they would still think of the things natural, as their uneducated ancients used to. Still there would be dark places at night, where they would be scared to go, though the fathers have told them there could be nothing. They still would revel in nature and its bounty.

Only difference will be, that with the additional information drilled in their mind, they would become confused and naturally unhappy. They could have been with ‘free relations’ and polygamous in nature, which we have told them is sin (though we do practice them in our sinful life). So now what they could have been doing freely and unashamedly, they would indulge in, in the dark of night, surreptitiously and since they know it is sin, criminally. There would be obviously back-lashes with other crimes taking place as offshoot of it. Did we do good for them? I wonder.

Who is ‘Noface’, the sponsor of the apple? They are who stand to gain by the ‘Education’ of these people. They are not churches, since they too are ‘Apples’ and putty in the hand of these NoFace.

These Missionaries or ‘Society Up-lifters’ are in a moral high ground like Homer, at least they think so. After all they are undergoing all these hardships for no personal gain. If they ever do think of the benefits ‘No-Face’ are getting, still they won’t bat an eyelid, since they know that it is their duty to show the lights to these people. It is their prime duty to uplift the sinner, even if in the process another sinner gets advantage. It would be alright, as far as they are not indulging in sin in the process or letting the taint touch Illya and bringing the flock of sheeps to the right stable.

Sometimes these ‘No-Face’ are rulers, who want to hold on the power or expand empire, as British and Mughals did in India and elsewhere. In current age, along with them, the modern rulers, the businessmen too have come in. They would aim to reap profits in terms of the native produce as well as try to sell their products to them, whether they need it or not. We may recall the American settlers selling trinkets to the natives and gaining footholds in their land in exchange. Today we might want them to have cellphones or computers at their home, to ‘Educate’ them. In some extreme cases there are pharma houses, who would use them as human guinea pigs for their molecule testing.

I am not against educating them, but against instilling values in them. Their values, which had not been harmful to them or others, why those need to be changed? Who am I to say they are wrong? My roles may be only limited to scientific part. I might note that polygamy is not unscientific, and the STD or AIDS need me, the carrier, to bring it to them. Still there could be some tinkering around on some aspects, which I could instil, without disturbing their society, mainly their nature. But for that I have to be empathetic to their way of life and look at where they are harming themselves, not in my view, but actually.

Though I had been talking of missionaries (they are anyway almost embodiment of this concept), but there could be non- (or) religious organisations, as far as their modus operandi is similar.

Civilisation

This is third angle from which I could look at the movie. It is in fact one of the most serious scourges affecting the civilisation especially during and post, World War-2.

In this case Illya is the system of governance of a particular area, usually country and the people are obviously the citizens of the country.

We have a NoFace, usually the think-tank of a bully (in most of the cases it is USA), who considers rightly or wrongly, that the governance in the other country isn’t morally right and sends its Homer (Marines) to change the governance.

They are, like Homer, indoctrinated to follow the order, and religiously do it. If unfortunately they are successful, Illya is converted. In most of such cases, it is after they have successfully killed all the people in governance, but they are not Illya, only a part of it. Illya in this concept isn’t a person but a system, which they convert by putting one more ‘friendly’, amenable to the overtures of NoFace. For example, Illya who was President Saddam Hussain and his people, now she is Haider al-Abadi and his government; or Colonel Muammar Gaddafi is now Fayez al-Sarraj and his people.

‘NoFace’ is now happy, with his hegemony extended, Homer was the puppet who had been put to uplift Illy and her people. But is now Illya happy? More so what is the condition of her lover-children now, vis-à-vis they were earlier? May be, she was a dictator and did unpredictable things, may be, she was even despotic (as claimed by No-face), but what is the condition of the people of Iraq Now? Libya? Afghanistan?

Each of these society, like the one in Piraeus had a particular system, which suited the situation. However, the No-Face and the Moralistic Homer thought to disturb it, bring it in their way, and we now see the situation. Probably No-Face is still less affected than others, but all around the fire is burning for which single-handedly No-Face was and is responsible for lighting the fuse. Has he learnt? Of course, no; if the rhetoric and activities in Syria is seen, which too they are trying to bring to the same state.

Noface didn’t win everywhere, in fact in this movie he lost. At some places Illya and her people did score victory and Homer had to retreat shamefacedly. If we now look at the places where Noface lost, Vietnam and Cuba being main, vs. where he won, Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, we can see the stark contrast of the people, who retained Illya as of old.

The reason is very simple, trying to judge Illya and her people with my lens. I of course am liable to forget that not only my lens isn’t colourless, but it isn’t clean either, in fact probably it is much dirtier than Illya and her people’s clothes.

Hasn’t civilisation been passing all through the ages through suppression? Isn’t it still on, if not physically, on the mind of the people? If I look at our major NoFace, US, the self-professed self-righteous of the world and up-keeper of the values, it would be clear,

  • The brutal killing of the Amerindians over centuries or importing Africans and slaves and subsequent suppression. Let us not think that these are over, they still exist. Up to, a certain extent physical, and much more psychologically. For all those who wish to contradict, please explain the popularity of Western-Cowboy-Indian movies (even today), the folk hero status (even today) of characters like Buffallo Bill, Daniel Boone and others. The condition of the coloured skin is may be better, but certainly not equal, as the professor professes. Even now the concept of the 1948 movie Farmer’s Daughter (White, Male, Christian) exist in heart as in that movie.
  • If we talk about Fort Mims massacre (1813) by the American Indians, we should also talk of Boxer War aftermath in China after around hundred years (1900) where US and UK were parties (funnily along with their future foes, Japan, Russia, Italy and Germany) – “Allied soldiers beheaded already dead Chinese corpses, bayoneted or beheaded live Chinese civilians, and raped Chinese girls and women”. Probably we could forgive the Japanese, though Chinese normally won’t “It was reported that Japanese troops were astonished by other Alliance troops raping civilians. Japanese had brought their own regimental wives (prostitutes) to the front to keep their soldiers from raping Chinese civilians”. I am not sure that after the middle ages, of Huns and Chengiz Kahn, the human civilisation had ever fallen to this level.
  • As current as World War-2, what did our allies do? “There were also 1,336 reported rapes during the first 10 days of the occupation of Kanagawa prefecture after the Japanese surrender”. The estimates are that in this single district around 10,000 women were raped by Americans. Of course, that can’t be a war crime, they were after all Japanese, and hence no investigation or court martial was called for. I wonder all around people are calling for the apologies for the atrocities. Did US ever bothered to do for the extreme that they have done?  Obviously no, since their self-righteous cocoon, they don’t think or even imagine of ever doing anything wrong.
  • What about the nuclear bombing of Japan? Was it necessary? Obviously no, despite whatever Truman and Co tried to argue. Hitler and Mussolini were both were dead by the (and quite some time ago), Germany had surrendered. Justification is just a hogwash. The nuclear bombs don’t differentiate between army and civilians, and the two bombs were targeted in cities, where there was a substantial civilian population resided. Funnily when these were used, Japan was almost on the point of surrender. Probably it was done since US had the last chance to test the atomic weapons and its effects on humans, and they grabbed it, before Emperor Hirohito declared surrender. If they exploded as per plan, fantastic, operation successful. If they didn’t they could go back to drawing board and find where they went wrong, and may be use at a later war. To top it all, not only Obama, but there are people like a Talk-Man, who had the gumptions (or insanity to be proper term for it) to say Japan should apologise. Of course that is the mindset of his in general smug countrymen. A few of course had been quite clear on why America shouldn’t. The logic isn’t whether it is worth apology or not. It is simply because Americans don’t believe that Weapons were unjustified. So as their spokesmen, their President can’t. At a future date (the same commentary concludes) when the Americans come to realise, some future president might apologise. 
  • Use of napalms in Vietnam as well as Korean Wars. Of course, these are too well known now, due to media exposure about the brutal murder of innocent civilians.
  • As of date, we can’t really know the ‘efficacy’ of the Depleted Uranium bombs that had been regularly used by them in Gulf war, and in fact being used even now.
  • There are many such (including Annexation of Hawai, shielding of most wanted Nazi personnel)  etc, which clears the dark secrets and lies of NoFace. there would be many more, if they ever come to light. 

Nature:

This is another angle I found in which I can look at this story.

In this angle, Illya is Gaia, the mother nature and earth. Obviously she has to hold the mother-lover relationship with all her children, whichever genus and species they may belong.

The nature and its children lived and would have lived in harmony till the City People (Homer) arrived and were prodded by the drive for Industrialisation (NoFace). They started building factories (may be in barren lands initially), constructing Dams (again with good intentions, to irrigate and control floods), roads and all such things. It was all with good intentions on Homer’s part (though not necessarily for non-humans, but do we really bother about their wellbeing?) but the main beneficiary still was to be Noface, who was going to finance the development.