The Cult of the Imperfect

Mythopoeia creates a cult and veneration precisely because it allows of what aesthetics would deem to be imperfections

In fact, many of the works we call cults are such precisely because they are basically ramshackle, or “unhinged,” so to speak.

In order to transform a work into a cult object, you must be able to take it to pieces, disassemble it, and unhinge it in such a way that only parts of it are remembered, regardless of their original relationship with the whole. In the case of a book, it is possible to disassemble it, so to speak, physically, reducing it to a series of excerpts. And so it happens that a book can give life to a cult phenomenon even if it is a masterpiece, especially if it is a complex masterpiece. Consider the Divine Comedy, which has given rise to many trivia games, or Dante cryptography, where what matters for the faithful is to recall certain memorable lines, without posing themselves the problem of the poem as a whole. This means that even a masterpiece, when it comes to haunt the collective memory, can be made ramshackle. But in other cases it becomes a cult object because it is fundamentally, radically ramshackle. This happens more easily with a film than a book. To give rise to a cult, a film must already be inherently ramshackle, shaky and disconnected in itself. A perfect film, given that we cannot reread it as we please, from the point we prefer, as with a book, remains imprinted in our memory as a whole, in the form of an idea or a principal emotion; but only a ramshackle film survives in a disjointed series of images and visual high points. It should show not one central idea, but many. It should not reveal a coherent “philosophy of composition,” but it should live on, and by virtue of, its magnificent instability.

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