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  • Writer's pictureKarey Pohn

Take One

During the opening credits, Mary Poppins is seated, floating on a cloud, a brief allusion to the imaginal realm, a Neptunian world of dreams, magic, and fantasy, outside of normal space-time reality. Grof’s First Basic Perinatal matrix, BPM I, the womb before the onset of physical birth, comes to mind where all needs are met, and it seems like heaven. Mary sits weightlessly waiting, above the river Thames.  Indeed, Mary Poppins defies gravity from the beginning.  Bert, in a spontaneous amorphous reverie, foretells “Wind's in the east, mist coming in, like something is brewing about to begin.”  After finishing his comical routine by slamming himself in the face with a cymbal, Bert then brings us to Cherry Tree Lane, where it seems heavy weather is brewing.

Cherry Tree Lane is where the Banks family lives and we hear screaming as we approach. Katie Nanna, the latest in a long line of nannies has quit, and the family then arrives home separately.  Winifred and George Banks are both quite occupied outside the home and have no time for their children.  Winifred is a revolutionary for the suffragette cause, and arrives singing a song of the moment.  George Banks appropriately enough works for a bank and he values order and structure above all else.  With the departure of Katie Nanna, his precious order and routine have been disturbed and as the movie progresses, George becomes more and more disturbed.  The children, having "run off" again from Katie Nanna, for the fourth time in the last week, arrive home with a broken kite.  They are alienated, because their parents pay little attention to them, leaving their care to hired help.  This ruptured condition is like the womb at the onset of physical birth, BPM II. 

Everyone is separated, the household is broken like the kite, and something needs to change.  George Banks is the epitome of a Saturnian disciplinarian, focused only on tasks, order, and routine, with little care for relationships and not much movement.  After deciding to hire the next nanny himself, he "goes about it in a proper fashion," by placing an advertisement in the paper, which he dictates to his wife.  The children come down to share their own advertisement, and they are belittled, ridiculed, and dismissed by their father, who rips up their paper and throws it away in the fireplace.

The wind has changed as Mary arrives. Her arrival throws George Banks into even more confusion and Mary continues to upset the previous “order” of the household through her magical ways, as she takes the children on all sorts of outings while she teaches them important lessons. We are in liminal spaces and places for most of the movie.  The movie is actually a liminal mandala as we will see.  Grof’s BPM III, the death-rebirth struggle through the birth canal, with its associated liminal Plutonic overtones, characterizes the action, chaotic fireworks, and all!  George Banks does not like change, and change is afoot.  George has been in a state of confusion and worse since Mary Poppins arrived and when George has finally had enough and decides to fire Mary Poppins, she turns the tables on him, tricking George into taking the children to the bank where the ultimate chaos ensues—a bank run, started by Michael’s tuppence. 

Bert finds Jane and Michael running scared through the backstreets of London and brings the children back home for one last, slightly chaotic adventure with the chimney sweeps, on the rooftops of London.  The struggle between George’s almost obsessive orderliness and the light-hearted, high-spirited, playful adventures of Mary, Bert, and the children is just one of the many sets of opposing forces acting in this movie.  The rigidity and materiality of the bankers oppose the compassion and love of the Birdwoman. Many other opposites abound throughout this liminal mandala. [Link]

Although George Banks is discharged because of the chaotic bank run, as he is being dressed-down, George has an epiphany and suddenly “gets” the lessons that Mary Poppins has been teaching the children through her fun and games.  The next morning, George comes up from the basement singing with the mended kite in hand.  The family is reunited and they go fly a kite in the park together, where George gets his job back with a promotion.  Mary’s job is done, having awakened the parents to the importance of spending time with their children: "Only after the beneficent influence of Mary Poppins has worked its wonders, both parents wakened to their proper role in family life" (Vogel, 2003, p. 234). Brode (2004) puts it this way, Mary's "job was to initiate Mr. Banks's metamorphosis, and, having achieved that, this merry prankster leaves to do the same for someone else who needs to recapture that element of childhood which does not necessarily have to pass" (p. 94).

Umbrella in hand, Mary leaves as Bert bids her farewell, and she soars over liminal London as the ending credits roll.  We can see in this last scene and “Let’s Go Fly a Kite,” many elements of Grof’s fourth perinatal matrix BPM IV, the death-rebirth experience, emerging from the womb and being reunited with the mother.  

These last scenes have a Uranian feel, characterized by sudden breakthroughs, feelings of freedom, illuminative experiences, emerging from darkness and struggle into light, brotherly and humanitarian feelings, complete with the beautifully colored kites and the heavenly blue sky. 


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