This piece is for those who have seen Sebastián Silva’s “Crystal Fairy and the Magical Cactus.” Unless you’ve seen the film, this piece won’t much mean to you.
Crystal Fairy and the Magical Cactus is on my top-50 favorite films list. I’ve seen it multiple times and with multiple people. The end of the film has always left me with two contemplations that, for whatever reason, I found myself coming back to regularly over the past couple of weeks. One is rather simple, the other less so.
Jamie doesn’t get enough credit. I don’t know if this was by director
Sebastián Silva’s design or by chance, but the impression that the film generally leaves on people (in my experience) is that Jamie is the jerk and the Crystal Fairy is the lovable hero. Jamie has a growth experience and learns to empathize with the Fairy.
That’s all largely true, of course, but I think it’s only part of the story.
The thing is, Jamie is actually correct when they start their mescaline trip and he tells the Crystal Fairy to stop being so fake. He’d crude about it, but he’s right.
We (the audience) first saw how fake she was near the start of the film when she sneaks some chips and cola after going on and on about only eating healthy organic food.
What’s more is that, in his own direct, untactful manner, Jamie is expressing a sort of compassion in that moment. He’s letting her know that it isn’t her that he dislikes but rather the fact that she’s pretending to be somebody else.
In a way, it’s an invitation to the Crystal Fairy to let the façade down and join them as her real self.
I’m interested in compassion as both a philosophical stance and as a tool. I don’t think it’s accurate to say that compassion is always cute and cuddly. Sometimes compassion helps most when it has a hard edge — paradoxical, yes, but true.
Whether Silva or Michael Cera intended it, I think Jamie in that scene exercised a kind of instinctual compassion to jar the Fairy out of her act and settle in with the group as her authentic self.
That scene has always stuck in my craw because it gets written too easily off as simple being a case of Jamie being a jerk. Even if his tone is jerkish (and it is), there’s more going on there, in my opinion.
The closing scene where the Fairy is outside camp sketching has always hung in my psyche like the ending of one of Hemingway’s short stories — there’s something more than meets the eye in that deceptively simple image. Something deeply human and sad.
Yesterday, I realized what it is.
The reason that closing scene is so powerful is that it harks back to the Fairy’s story about her rape.
In the story of her assault, the Fairy talks about how she was pressed up against a window so that she could actually see the party still happening on the other side of the glass while she was trapped inside the boathouse with her attackers.
The truly tragic thing is that the Fairy never really left the room in that boathouse where she had her innocence stolen. She’s still there, all those years later, in her mind, in her soul, trapped outside of the party and yelling for help.
By the film’s final scene, she has successfully connected with Jamie and the other boys. She has become part of the crew, part of the family, yet that is precisely the moment she decides to escape.
The Crystal Fairy is continually making melodramatic cries for the world to unite in love because she can’t admit to the much simpler, but more vulnerable, need for someone to love her. Not in an abstract sense but in a real and simple one.
She has spent the whole film touting her hippie “all is one” philosophy, but the moment she actually gets close to Jamie and the boys, she vanishes. She’s back out on her own, unwilling or unable to continue into the harder parts of human connection — the hours after the honeymoon.
I’ve long wondered why she ran off like that, and yesterday I realized it was because of the fact that, even there on that beach, she was still trapped inside the boat house in the past, terrified, as she suffered her assault.
It’s a positively haunting thing to realize. It elevates what I already considered a great film into something even greater.
Terrible and sad, it leaves me feeling like the Crystal Fairy is an actual person still wandering out there somewhere in the boathouse world, screaming for help, hiding a terrible secret she never asked to be let in on.
I hope not. I hope she found her peace and her way out of the boathouse. That’s the ending I choose to give the film version that plays in my imagination, anyway.
Regardless, coming to understand the film has expanded my own sense of self, the world, and compassion. That’s art.
Crystal Fairy and the Magical Cactus is brilliant.