Hollywood Gothique
The Vault

Friday Cat Blogging: Constantine

“Cats are good. Half in, half out anyway.”

Modern culture evinces an ambivalent attitude toward cats. On the one hand, we know them as friendly house pets with a pleasantly soothing purr. On the other hand, we remember the myths that depict them as omens of bad luck and familiars of evil beings. The ambivalence is perfectly reflected in CONSTANTINE, a high-tech, effects-filled extravaganza with a clever story about the eternal battle between Good and Evil.

The film presents a Manichean view of a universe divided into angels and demons, who are not permitted to intervene directly in the affairs of men (although they are allowed to influence human behavior). Free-lance exorcist John Constantine makes a living sending back those demons who break the truce. Midway through, for the benefit of distraught police woman Angela Dodson (Rachel Weisz), Constantine searches through Hell to find the soul of her twin sister, Isabel (also Weisz), who committed suicide. To connect with Isabel’s soul across the great gulf of the Beyond, Constantine needs only two things: a pan of water (a “universal conductor” that lubricates the transition between this world and the next), and an object that belonged to Isabel. Bypassing numerous inanimate trinkets, he opts for Isabel’s cat, named Duck, because felines are already “half in, half out” of the Afterlife.

Duck (despite his odd name) is clearly an ordinary house cat, cute and friendly, with no special claim to supernatural powers. Nevertheless, while Constantine prepares to make his jump into the Nether World, Duck returns his gaze with a hellish, hypnotic stare, his face suddenly taking on an almost demonic aspect, enhanced by protruding eye-teeth. The ambiguous implication is that both our views of cats are true: they are the lovable pets we know in reality and the supernatural beings we imagine in myth.