David and I finally got to watch Mad Max: Fury Road because it came out for digital purchase last week and we knew we wanted to own it. As many others did, we both loved the movie and are super excited to watch it again.
One of the things that I personally found fascinating about the movie was the religious elements that were presented. In a post-apocalyptic society it makes sense that the standard religions and organizations would have dissolved or melded into something new. This is very much the case with the War Boys of Immortan Joe and can be seen in a variety ways throughout the movie. The other piece is that the language and act of worship by the War Boys makes complete sense for the time and place and shows an example of how religion can change based on the society’s circumstances. In this society where resources are scarce and people are dying they are simply looking for hope of something better.
Melding of Religions
There are elements of religion from all over the world. The re-incarnation of eastern religions presenting the idea that we die and then are reborn with new life. The war cry of Norse Mythology where the warriors die in glorious battle and are met with glory in Valhalla. The prayers upon the alter that can be found in many churches across the globe. All of these elements are present in some way in Mad Max: Fury Road. The other element is actually Fury Road itself seen as almost a pilgrimage to be taken to take yourself closer to the glory.
While we can see the origins of many of these concepts it is like what can happen to a word at the end of a game of telephone. The word started in one place and as time goes on it becomes twisted and misused. At the same time in a world that has been desolated the hope that these religious acts create helps to keep people going in a world where there is not much else.
The entire movie acts as a sort of pilgrimage. For Furiosa and the women it is the trek to the holy land where they will be truly free. For the War Boys the road itself serves as a place of worship where they can find glory in battle. The thing that makes both of these acts the same is that they both bring hope. One is hoping to find the Green Place, an oasis in a land of desert. The other wants to die on their own terms believing that “we live, we die, we live again”. It seems that many of the War Boys are already dying and the idea is that if you go out in a blaze of glory you will come back again shiny and new. They also hope to become something more than what they currently are.
The actions of the War Boys are incredibly ritualistic and reminiscent of a monastery or something similar. Immortan Joe is their leader and surrogate father as they worship the Cult of the V8. The sign that they make with their hands is one of an engine and when they are called out to war they go to the alter of steering wheels to pray and pick their steed.
Then as they are out on the road searching for glorious battle they almost try and find ways that they can die in glory. When they believe that they have found that moment they yell for others to witness as they are about to enter the gates of Valhalla and become shiny and chrome. Then they spray chrome into their mouths and teeth, like a grill on a car, as they head towards their supposed glory. It is all a path to find more than they have in their life currently. Most of the followers are ones who are dying anyway and do not want to go with the slow death.
All of these religious elements are presented perfectly in this specific time and place. This is a land that is dead and dying with very few resources. The only hope for something more is found in somewhat religious context. Whether it is the myth of the Green Place where there is abundance and freedom or the life after death that is only found in battle? Both of these elements serve one purpose and that is to offer hope.
Now some like Immortan Joe abuse the hope that people are seeking to make himself akin to a god, but the faith that people have throughout the movie is real. They still have faith in something beyond themselves that keeps them going.