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The Spirituality of Beheading: Numinous Experience in Headless

Adam Lovasz

PhD Student, Philosophy Department, Eötvös Lóránd University, Budapest. Email: adam.lovasz629@yahoo.com

Volume 9, Number 4, 2017 I Full Text PDF

DOI: 10.21659/rupkatha.v9n4.02

Received October 25, 2017; Revised November 17, 2017; Accepted November 30, 2017; Published December 09,  2017.

Abstract

In my article I seek to uncover the spiritual content underlying the 2015 slasher film, Headless. The film in question portrays a psychotic serial killer who beheads his female victims. Working through the disturbing content, I seek to unpack an “atheology”, to use Georges Bataille’s expression and argue that we must see beyond the graphic violence to understand the spirituality of the slasher film. Adapting Cleanth Brooks’ approach to poetics, I take the film itself as the object of my aesthetic study, as distinct from its broader environment. Objects are self-sufficient realities whose autonomy must be respected. Rudolf Otto’s notion of the “numinous” may be of some help in regard to outlining “beheaded” spirituality as it appears in Headless. Violence unveils the flesh, leading to unspeakable revelations that can only be transmitted through darkness and silence. For Otto, experience of the numinous cannot be put into words. Incommunicability pervades Headless, not only because of the unspeakable crimes perpetrated by the killer, but also because of his own muteness. When confronted with the numinous, we are rendered numb by the awe of this vision. This lack of communication serves to build up tension, until the final scene is unleashed upon the viewer. Using Lee Edelman’s theory of negative queerness, I make the case that the mute serial killer is a sinthomosexual, in that he disavows participation in heterosexual reproductive sexuality and indeed does all he can to deconstruct the heterosexual family.

Keywords: experience, numinous, queerness, sacrifice, transgression.

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