Q: What is actually getting annihilated in the movie Annihilation?
A: The distinction between mind and matter.
Something from space hits the ground and violates the very fabric of reality. Reality is cracked open, and the impact area is filled up with a “fluid reality” instead, giving rise to impossible creations and phenomena.
Flower tree people mimic the visual shapes of their former bodies. The bear thing mimics the death cry of its victim. The antler flowers mimic flowering trees. Perceptions are mixed up with organic structures. The Shimmer creates via association like an imaginative mind, and chaotically so, like a sheer creative force.
What’s showing up in the zone, one could argue, is a brute, raw exposure of the Imaginal. The Imaginal is thought to be the psychoid superreality behind reality; the maternal medium of both its split-of domains, mind and matter. But if this hidden nexus is forced to the surface, a “psychotic” reality occurs, where material things behave like mental objects, and the mental intermingles with the material.
This is reminiscent of the way psychological trauma rips open its victims, and how that impacts their reality. The undermined separation between mind and matter translates into a vanishing boundary between self and world here. The inside becomes endangered of getting consumed by the outside, and the outside gets flooded with material from within. Hence the need to develop an impenetrable shell to keep oneself afloat.
Are films like Annihilation and Stalker, and their respective novels, thus mere illustrations of mental disaster, and the upside-down reality it creates?
Well, there are reported “zones,” where reality seems to be upside-down to a higher degree than in your favorite suburbia. And by now it has even become a “Hot Spot” story trope to suggest that some crying violation of morality, nature, or spiritual etiquette might have been the door opener for the phenomenon that haunts the area.
Can you traumatize a landscape?
I don’t know.
But Annihilation gives a decent depiction of an imaginal intrusion, and in a biological dressing that is quite fitting. Don’t miss the disturbing qualities; they are a good match for lots of what is said and written as well.
And, who knows, maybe part of what occurs in Hot Spot areas is due to some kind of coping mechanism.