THE DARK NIGHT OF HER SOUL, Short Film Analysis ~ Director's Edition


(The Dark Night of Her Soul, official poster)

In the middle of nowhere, a young woman awakes after a mysterious assault. She travels to a nearby church for refuge only to be inexplicably wooed by a dark figure in this Gothic retelling of the spiritual odyssey, The Dark Night of The Soul by St. John of the Cross.

Firstly, I'd like to state the following: 
I'm not a person of faith nor an esteemed Catholic theologian. There's still much I don't comprehend even after wrapping this small production. I'm an artist, a filmmaker. I've spent over 2 years of my life from age 23 to 25 studying the phenomenon known as The Dark Night of The Soul, conceived by church doctor, St. John of the Cross in the 16th century. This short film is my intense interpretation of that very phenomeon, The Dark Night of The Soul. It's not the singularly correct interpretation nor is it the only truthful interpretation... but it is mine.


The Dark Night of The Soul is a rather frightening spiritual odyssey marked by the salvific and purifying transformative power of human suffering. It annihilates the dark night traveler's ego and severs their worldly attachments to better orient them towards God. It's experienced in solitude, a forced introspection, an isolation never before braced. The senses are quieted, opening the dark night traveler to the possibility of comprehending what exists far beyond the limited immediacy of the five senses. As Bishop Robert Barron beautifully put it, "By a really interesting instinct... when people pray, what's one of the physical things they most automatically do? They close their eyes." They darken their world.

Suffering is defined as any state of physical or emotional pain, loss, grief, hardship or negative valence. A dark night suffering can truly consist of any conceivable devastation and ranges in severity from life-threatening to merely internally wounding. Examples include, but are not limited to, struggling with homesickness, a public humiliation, parental abuse, a sobriety relapse, a heinous sexual assault at the hands of someone you trusted, a near fatal car crash, surviver's guilt or a tumultuous break-up. The suffering rips the ground beneath the dark night traveler asunder, almost reverting he or she back to the wobbliness and malleability of a child. 

As I can't yet profess a confident belief in a God, I'd like to pose a more secular argument in defining the value of prevailing the dark night. Perhaps if union with God is not achieved then secular rewards could be the following: purgation of uniformity, the unleashing of a constrained imagination, confrontation with the shadow-self and the shedding of false, contrived skin; a divine surgical hollowing of the soul to make room for substance.

There is no running away or getting out from underneath the dark night's insurmountable weight. There's only through. It's known as a sort of death before dying and forces you to quit seeking heaven on earth. 

{St. John of the Cross}


1 ~ "Delight in the suffering"

To delight in the suffering is a phase I've (hopefully successfully) depicted in The Dark Night of Her Soul's dance sequence. It means, rather than sedating or dwelling in victimization, dare to find romance in the suffering. Let it court you. Let it expose your shortcomings and disturbances, reveal profundities, entice your inner most monster so you're forced to wrangle with it, challenge your coping mechanisms, sway your faith-based belief system and put to death the weakest parts of yourself. The process of delighting in the suffering can result in lapses of sanity, whether long or momentary (mine were long). In my opinion, some insanity is a necessary component to actually living out the paradoxical advise of delighting in the very things human beings so flagrantly and vigilantly fight against; suffering. 

~ A personal story ~

How did I come up with this film's imagery? 

Late into the night during the Summer of 2021, I was alone, sitting on the floor, doing something creative in my mother's vanity room. The house my parents currently occupy sits at the tippy-top of a chilly mountain in Maryland. It's an old doctor's quarters and home, dated in it's floor-plan and creaky. I kept getting distracted by the passing car's headlights beaming through the two large schoolhouse-style windows (one located to my left and the other directly behind me). As this is a remote country road, cars rarely drove past. One traffic exception exists during the 'returning home buzzed from the bar' hours of midnight to three in the morning as there's a popular dive-bar a mile away. When the headlights would pierce through the plastic shutters, they would cast these gorgeous white-hot slits all around the room, moving to the speed of the car, racing in and out of my vision in seconds. I saw my blackened silhouette flash and contort along the walls. I stood up and watched my silhouette sway softly like I was blocking a movie projector. I danced around the vanity room, letting my long blonde locks criss-cross through my skinny fingers, spinning, whispering, playing with the hem of my silk pajamas. I began to imagine a dark figure with me, obscured in a black cloak, faceless, featureless. He didn't dance with me, but sort of chaperoned, loomed in a corner, watched with pleasure, inciting a fear in me, but not enough to flee. Eventually, he walked up to me, wrapping his decrepit arm around my side. His touch was painful... but thrilling like an addictive rush. I didn't know who or what this dark figure was yet... but I knew a significant vision had just taken permanent residence in my mind. It was my artistic reasonability to bring him to life and attach meaning. 

2 ~ "Desolation is a file, and the endurance of darkness is preparation for great light - St. John of the Cross"

You cannot rebuild without first destroying. You cannot receive without first being emptied. The darkness endured is a product of suffering. The greatest heroes descend into the most depraved caverns of human injustice - this is often what births philanthropy, non-profits and human rights movements. These heroes possess the courage to face the darkness, to stare into it, to ponder it and to understand how it gestates and propagates. The great light can come in the form of revelations, dawning new gifts or vocations, discoveries, truths, love, wholeness, divinity and ultimately, in the eyes of God, saintliness.

The word "file" has absolutely stumped me. "Desolation is a file." "File" can have many meanings: to place in a particular order for easy reference, dossier, annals or arrange in a convenient order. Yet, I'm unsure how "file" applies to the noun, "desolation" in this quote? I have a suspicion that as time passes and I continue to age, it's meaning will slowly reveal itself to me. 


The dark night location:

This unidentified land cannot be geographically pinpointed. It exists outside of time, maybe somewhere between purgatory and where nightmares are borne. It remains unchanging and forever endures. A peninsula unreachable by common civilization and only able to be charted upon by direct invitation; a less than sought after invitation to embark into the dark night. The dark figure presides over this land. It belongs to him, and him alone. 

(The Dark Night of Her Soul, church entrance ~ coloring not final)

The opening shot & the drag marks in the forest floor:

Intended to mislead the audience, the opening shot is easily interpretable as a deceased young woman who's been assaulted and discarded in a remote forest by a villainous predator of sorts. This is far from the truth. The young, nameless woman is not deceased, but has been rendered unconscious, possibly even concussed, by a tragic life circumstance. This tragic life circumstance remains unknown to the audience as we have no information about her background, upbringing, socio-economic or marital status, education level, etc. Life has metaphorically dragged her to this desolate forest to endure the dark night. Life can be extremely unpredictable and unforgiving at times. It can drag you into the great unknown in the blink of any eye, barefoot, shaking and underdressed with no exit in sight and with no prior warning. Lost. The young woman awakes in a fog, distracted by the physical pain of her cuts, bruises and scapes. These are all externalizations of indescribable internal suffering experienced during the dark night. She turns to see a path of drag marks violently gouged into the earth, spanning as far as the eyes can see, ending exactly where her body lays. Life itself is the predator.

(The Dark Night of Her Soul opening shot ~ coloring not final)

The mirror:

The mirror is a pivotal, though quieter, set piece. It serves as the young woman's humbling place of self-assessment and mortification. She studies the severity of her wounds, the purpled color of her bruisings, the deepness of her cuts, the strangulation marks around her neck, the burning of her scrapes. *What's happened to me?* Her visage is unrecognizable. It's like she's discovering the blueness of her irises and the paleness of her complexion for the first time. She becomes child-like, not comprehending how the miraculous properties of glass work, not comprehending who's staring back at her from within the dirtied glass. 

~ A detail ~ 

Did you notice the layers of matted, dirtied fingerprints all over the mirror's edges and frame? They signify the troves of dark night traveler's over the course of many centuries who have come to study their visage in this same mirror, touching the glass as they once leaned in closer... and closer. 

(The Dark Night of Her Soul, mirror scene ~ coloring not final)

(The Dark Night of Her Soul, ruby red earrings ~ coloring not final)

The tintype & the ruby red earrings:

These items are the discarded or lost belongings left behind by dark night travelers of the past. We don't know who left behind the tintype or the earrings, and we never will. One has to wonder what relationship a previous dark night traveler had with those twin victorian girls immortalized in the tintype or what distinguished beauty was gifted those ruby red chandler earrings? The young woman is captivated by the beauty of these earrings. Attempting to rectify some dignity back into her disheveled appearance, she puts them on as if primping for a date. It's ideal the young woman looks her best (or at least, the best she can in this situation).

She is being subliminally courted by the dark figure after all...

The rose petals:

A trail of wilted rose petals spans from the reservoir's clearing all the way to the church steps. They've been meticulously placed there by the dark figure; another subliminal message of their impending courtship to come...

The dark figure:

The dark figure is a personification of suffering & each and every loathsome human emotion it comprises. I see him as one of God's less desirable angels tasked with tending to the spiritual atrophy of dark night travelers. He decides which of God's children will be led directly into his wake and what tragedy they will endure. He delegates suffering.

Once the dark figure finally reveals himself to the dark night traveler, he or she will have two choices. They can either run away in avoidance or confront. If avoidance is chosen, and the dark night traveler flees, they'll find themselves in an infinite loop, the land repeating itself, unfolding infinitely. In other words, avoidance can't be chosen. The dark night traveler just weakens him or herself, prolonging the dark night.

There's ordinary suffering and then there's extraordinary suffering. The dark figure can only allot ordinary suffering. Ordinary suffering are types of suffering that are more-or-less natural and expected to inflict this mortal coil like illness, poverty, bullying, betrayal, rejection, deceit, heartache, existential dread, depression, marital deterioration, etc. Extraordinary suffering, however, are types of suffering too incomprehensible and horrific to be categorized in the lexicon of ordinary suffering like torture, murder, child molestation, gang-rape, sex trafficking, etc. 

It's controversial to segregate which forms of suffering are endurable and which aren't, which forms cause transcendence and which cause unremitting deterioration. I suppose this would be why mortals don't have the answers, but if you believe in an angelic hierarchy, perhaps they do...?

~ Pronouns ~

I refer to the dark figure with he/him pronouns, not because he's actually male, but because of his masculine attributes of stoicism and bulky stature. As the dark figure is an angelic being, he is genderless. 

(The Dark Night of Her Soul, dark figure courting scene ~ coloring not final)

The dance & the gramophone:

Why does the young woman dance? The dance is the dark figure's merciful gift of momentary detachment. He allows the dark night traveler to be swept away by a hypnotizing melody, escaping the unprecedented pain of their life falling to shambles. This is also known as the miraculous high of having nothing left to lose. Go a little mad and delight in the suffering. What song is playing you might wonder? Well, each dark night traveler has a customized song. It's created in real time and incorporates their own voice, echoes of their past and the sounds of their unexpressed anguish. The record is eternal, never needing to be changed or flipped. It simply rewrites over the previous song. The record won't play, the gramophone won't even show signs of mechanical function, until the dark figure decides otherwise...

(The Dark Night of Her Soul, gramophone scene ~ coloring not final)

(The Dark Night of Her Soul, dancing scene ~ coloring not final)

(The Dark Night of Her Soul, dancing scene ~ coloring not final)

The chalice: 

What's inside of the silver chalice? The fierce potency of reality in liquid form. Its taste is bitter and harsh enough to jolt the young woman out from her dancing delirium. It marks the end of the merciful high the dark figure has gifted and the resuming of reality.

The grave:

A symbol of death before dying. The dark night travelers' former identity is no more and so, it perishes with the past. A reckoning the dark night traveler must come to terms with on their own, to die along with it or to resurrect. 

(The Dark Night of Her Soul, wooden box at grave ~ coloring not final)

(The Dark Night of Her Soul, the note ~ coloring not final)

The wooden box & the note:

A small wooden box is buried inside of the shallow grave. Indicated by the crayon markings, stickers, scribbled initials and glitter, it once belonged to a child. More specifically, it once belonged to the young woman. I wanted to utilize the feeling of revisiting old childhood memorabilia stowed away underneath a bunkbed along with the forgotten company of dust bunnies and unwashed sneakers into the symbology of death before dyingThe torn out diary pages, homecoming photos, passed notes to cute schoolboys or schoolgirls, report cards, amusement park wristlets and so on all render as another life lived. When the young woman opens her own little, wooden childhood time-capsule, she doesn't find any of those items inside. She finds one aged and burnt note. It's never revealed what's written to the young woman... but it's the dark figure's final departing message to her before going off to prepare for his next dark night traveler. 

What do you think the dark figure's note says or rather... what do you think the dark figure's note would say to you?

(The Dark Night of Her Soul, the final shot ~ coloring not final)

Thank you for stopping by & do come again. 


Laurel Elizabeth Hasara

House of Hasara, LLC (2023) 


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