“The Night of Iguana” is describing what today, in a time of growing joblessness, pauperization and desperate need for any kind of work, can be seen less and less – when a person searching for meaning of life is able, for the sake of internal truth, to lose his job, career and a stable future as soon as all this contradicts his moral ideals and essential understanding. Reverend Lawrence Shannon (Richard Burton) found himself in this very situation and was punished for “deviating” from the prescribed “faith” when he tried to explain to his parishioners that their egoistic belief of philistines dreaming of personal salvation regardless of what is going on around them, is not the proper way to believe.

Losing his job and a stable future opened for Shannon a whole new perspective of following his spiritual transformation not in the traditional sense, like changing one religious affiliation or religion, but changing organized religion for spirituality of living. In spite of the dangerous moments appearing when a person having thrown away the old identity and values is trying to find a new meaning of living, Larry, with the spiritual help of two people he met by chance, is able to go through his ordeals.

We, the viewers, follow Shannon shifting his life from the pomposity of the churches and cathedrals, domes and steeples to a barely bearable existence on a miserable salary – to a world of beauty and tranquility of nature and, finally, to a world where a subjectively designed meaning is based on the uniqueness of human personality.

Debra Kerr, Ava Gardner and Richard Burton are at their best considering the not easy conditions of acting in Hollywood films (today the situation is even more difficult) when actors need to act “charismatically”, irradiate perfume of appeal to the public, worry about not being understood by the viewers with passive/lazy perception, and try in a talented/original way to imitate the clichés of emotional self-expression.

The film is based on Tennessee Williams’ play and carries his humorous classification of the types of women (in relation to the psychologically Adam-like figure, the most widespread type of man) – spouse, “bitch”, saint and harlot. The female saint in the film – Hannah Jelkes, is played by Deborah Kerr, and the “spouse” – Maxine Faulk – by Ava Gardner.

The film is about the ability of an exceptional human being to overcome the artificial life of spiritual pretentions which trapped him in exchange for social status, and to find existence in the immanent spirituality of a simple life with a simple but emotionally rich woman.

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Here we see three of the four female characters who influenced the defrocked reverend Lawrence Shannon’s spiritual transformation. On the left is Judith Fellows, a type of women widespread among today’s Republican women (who transformed the world into violator of Laws and play tireless detectives vis-a-vis the reality of other people’s lives. In the center is Hannah Jelkes, a person who is ready to help (and capable of doing so) those who are spiritually lost. And on the right is Maxine Faulk – Eva-like woman who, as if, waiting for her Adam to nurture him into living.

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When Lawrence Shannon (Richard Burton), a person prone to be too reactive to feminine beauty, found himself under Charlotte Goodal‘s heavy seductive attention it triggered in him, an ex-reverend, complex of a pernicious sinner.

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The old poet and his daughter, both believing in disinterested position towards life, help Lawrence Shannon to find an earthly but modest and a decent life.

Posted on 13 Apr 2012 –   Focus on American Intellectual Film-Classics. John Huston’s “The Night of Iguana” (1964) – Overcoming the Conformist and Belligerent Ego: Birth of a Human Internal World by Acting-Out Politics