June 15, 2013 7 Comments
The reboot of Bond with Casino Royale in 2006 marked a new era for the now second biggest film legacy in history (now surpassed by Harry Potter). Bond was revamped in a new, slick way, beginning with the first of Ian Fleming’s stories, Casino Royale. The film differs slightly from the novel, but only in details. However, the esoteric associations and “conspiratorial” elements have changed, coming more into line with an overall archetypal narrative that is evident in the three newest Bonds. Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, and Skyfall, are replete with alchemical and death-burial-resurrection motifs. This differs from the novels, which are more simplistic, although the novel Casino Royale does mention Manichaean dualism.
Casino Royale is about Bond’s transformation from a standard agent into a heartless killer. The film begins with a flashback to Bond attaining “00″ status, meaning he has killed twice. In a way, the entrance into Bond’s full-fledged assassin status functions as his initiation. Indeed, the three films function as a process of Bond’s own psyche being alchemically “purified” to let go of all his attachments, attaining what might be called in the Greek ascetic tradition, apatheia. The dross of Bond’s desire for a woman to complete him is his weakness in Casino Royale. Bond has killed twice and made “00,” but he still desires emotional fulfillment in the opposite sex. But in M’s mind, Bond must learn a crucial lesson: he cannot trust anyone, not even her.
Thus, Bond’s “00″ status was attained through the ritual sacrifice of two criminals, leading to the confrontation of Bond’s own internal weakness: his shade, embodied in LeChiffre, and ultimately in Vesper Lynd. In this way, we see yet another link between the world of secret intelligence work and the religio-mystical-esoteric as has often been mentioned in my essays: Not only do both traffic in hermetic information, both are structured hierarchically to include grades and degrees that one ascends after various tests, trials, and sacrifices. Just as a hierophant was once a neophyte, so too must Bond ascend from the role of agent to “00,” reporting to his “Mum,” the enigmatic and matronly M, played by Dame Judi Dench. If anyone doubts this, recall that Ian Fleming was steeped in esoterism and comparative religion, as well as running numerous intelligence operati0ns for the British Naval Psy Op division. Ian MacIntyre in For Your Eyes Only and Philip Gardiner in The Bond Code delve into these issue in more depth for those interested.
Following the introductory montage of Bond and a lot of playing cards, LeChiffre is shown funding “freedom fighters” in Uganda. Presumably these are communistic freedom fighters, as the history of such movements in Africa and Latin America were associated with Soviet support. This does fit with the novel’s picture of LeChiffre, since LeChiffre worked for SMERSH, the Soviet anti-spy agency. I wrote concerning LeChiffre in my Casino Royale novel analysis:
“In the beginning, however, Bond is not after SMERSH, but a wealthy, disfigured rogue who stuck out on his own and created a “fifth column” from SMERSH, named LeChiffre. LeChiffre translates as “the cypher,” letting us know more is at work here. LeChiffre, according to Bond writer Ian MacIntyre, was based on British Satanist/occultist Aleister Crowley. Read more of this post