Acting-Out Politics

Weblog opens discussion about the psychology of Bushmerican style of behavior.

Machoistic/Stardom And Queeness/Stardom-Complexes As Objects Of Fassbinder’s Psychotherapy Through Film-Directing

Radu Gabrea

Eva Mattes (Fassbinder) and Lisa Kreuzer (Gudrun)
Eva Mattes (Fassbinder) and Lisa Kreuzer (Gudrun)

Gudrun and Walter (Werner Stocker), exemplary couple not only inside Eva/Fassbinder’s film within Radu Gabrea’s film, but in their love inside “Man Like Eva”

Fassbinder (Eva Mattes) sexually caught between Gudrun and Walter, is trying to cool off his head

Fassbinder has decided to dive into a relationship with Walter, but is he motivated more by his pedagogical/psychotherapeutic tasks or is it rather his sexual obsession?

Fassbinder’s seduction of Walter is trickily ambiguous – sexual games are impregnated with political reasoning and psychotherapeutic intentions

Eva-Fassbinder is playing with Walter’s daughter while visiting Walter’s home and family. Viewers who have grown up on accented/embelished reprersentation of human everyday emotions in Hollywood or commercial films in general, will be “disappointed” with the “dry and rigid” emotional coloration of the scene referred to in this still. The task of the director (Gabrea) here is to point to the fact that Fassbinder can be playful and interested in such innocent games, not to entertain the viewers by the “colorful” representation of it.


Radu Gabrea’ film is so semantically eccentric and so extreme in its implications, that it needs, it seems, some socio-psychological introduction. Even in a country proud of its democratic legacy, like US, people live in an atmosphere where killing human beings is not only widespread but considered sad-but-c’est la vie-fact of life. The question here is not only an overwhelming quantity of guns in private ownership, the quantity of people victimized by violent crimes and the readiness of the cops to fatally shoot unarmed civilians, but the orientation of the decision-makers on using killing to solve global problems on international scene. If we look at the American and European TV serials choked by crime stories and Hollywood productions over-saturated with high-tech weapons of extermination and destruction (praised by primitive megalomania and righteousness), we’ll not be surprised that people are adapted to hot violence and take it not only as an inevitability but as a healthily rough-tough entertaining fun. But Fassbinder cannot see it as normal – he disagrees with this reedition of Third Reich mentality. He doesn’t want us to live in a universe where there is nothing more matter-of-factly than lethal violence towards other people, a violence not only factual but psychologically deeply rooted – felt as natural as bed pillow.

The violence in today’s American culture is as widespread as fight between schoolboys in the schoolyard or in domestic situation (in the families and in personal relationships). For many people violent scenes produced by jealousy are taken as proof of the “real love” – as a sign of its genuineness and intensity. “The Lady Of the Camelias” by Alexander Dumas was the literary basis for the film, which Fassbinder as a character in Radu Gabrea’s film, makes inside it. In “Man Like Eva” Eva is the nickname Gabrea gave to Fassbinder (using E.V.A. abbreviation as a semantic mediation).

Being semantically extreme, Gabrea’s film is stylistically surrealistic – the director emphasizes the frightening, even repulsive impression that Fassbinder’s life can have on the international breed of as innocent as hateful and obedient (conservative) philistines. According to Gabrea, Fassbinder is a creator and practitioner of what can be called psychosexual therapy directed at healing human megalomania (psychological trunk of violent reactions) – psychological queen-ness complex in women and bravado-machoism in men. In Gabrea’s film Eva-Fassbinder (Eva Mattes) is using the situation of making film not only to artistically register his criticism of conventional love and marriage and psychology behind it, but to “model” his critical intentions through psychotherapeutic working with the actors.

In Fassbinder’s method of working with the actors (and in his films addressing not only the human behavior but the deep layers of human nature), the difference between the characters and actors becomes much less obvious than it is usually the case. On a certain deep level of acting: of the psychological penetration of the actor into character’s identity and personality, this difference between the two becomes much more problematized. In the depth of their nature actors have a very similar psychological complexes as the characters they impersonates (if they go into their characters deeply enough). The commercial – psychologically easy acting is completely different from the acting when the actor is not putting himself/herself in the circumstances of the character (as Stanislavsky suggested he/she should), but instead – into the character’s psychological container as developed from childhood. This miraculous blending between actor and character is acted itself not only in front of the audience but in front of creation and it is necessary in order to communicate to the viewers the possibility or impossibility of psychological transformation of machoistic (in men) or princess/queen-like (in women) psychology to a really human one – free from megalomania and based on de-self-narcissization, humility and wisdom. Fassbinder’s films are not about curious circumstances playing with human destiny, but about deepest human complexes, which are similar in different people.

The place where Fassbinder shoots the film becomes a place where he applies his psychotherapeutic concept to the actors and, therefore, to the characters and the viewers themselves (the actors become not so much impersonators of the characters but more character than the character – not even character’s psychological skeleton, but its psychological heart).

Gabrea depicts the place, where the film based on the motifs of Duma’s novel is in a process of being made, stylistically negatively. He made it look almost like a cave, with low ceilings (in order to create this impression he puts the camera in a position of, as if, stretching horizontal view, as if, flattening and belittling the real height of the ceilings). He makes space look like a den isolated from the external world, like a hole in the human sociality, where, as if, bizarre and sinister rituals are taking place. By, as if, parodying the philistines’ existential taste in human intimacy (according to which everything unconventional and non-trivial is suspicious) and their phobic perception of Fassbinder’s ideas and life style, Gabrea creates the fundament to say the truth about Fassbinder‘s directorial project and cultural pedagogy not only objectively but through its negative perception on part of many people. It gives him the opportunity to create the clash between Fassbinder’s and the philistine’s worldviews and to try to use his own therapy with the viewers – to make them feel how Fassbinder’s aesthetically arranged psychotherapy perceived by regular people as bizarre and even revolting, grows inside their very rejection/refutation of his life as an exotic orchid in a wild forest. It is the “monstrous” process of the very possibility of psychologically alchemical transformation of a human being is hidden in this place where E.V.A. makes a film based on Duma’s novel. It is from curing our private relationships, that rejuvenation of human nature in social and international relations can take place, according to Fassbinder and Gabrea.

In Gabrea’s film we see Fassbinder’s radical challenge to psychological conservatism of human bonds. But what are the achievements of Fassbinder’s sexual therapy? Gudrun who is amorously and sexually involved with Eva-Fassbinder but indirectly encouraged by him “to fall in love” with her partner (actor playing the main character from Duma’s novel, who is mutually in love with Gudrun’s), cannot accept that Fassbinder suddenly intervened in her love relations with Walter – amorous energies of the actors and characters become mixed into an incredible – explosive cocktail.

Fassbinder was successful in blocking Walter’s megalomaniacal machoism by his homosexual seduction, but it is Gudrun who is not able to accept the resulting “pedagogical” triangle (she, Walter, Eva-Fassbinder). She forces herself not only to lose her acting partner (when she demonstratively tried to quit her role), but her beloved (Eva-Fassbinder) and her lover (Walter), when later she returned to continue with her role, but finished with both – her acting partner and her lover in one fatal action. Heterosexual bio-predatoriness at the bottom of the feminine psyche needs male machoism as vulva needs erection, as orgasm needs to meet orgasm.

Gudrun’s amorous/sexual organization is characterized by Gabrea following Dumas as even more conservative than famous (in its self-sacrificially challenging the world) stubbornness of male machoism. If the conservative (machoistic) male will fight a rival to death, transform him into the ultimate enemy and make his domination over him the goal of life, the conservative female will never forgive her beloved for trying to ontologically leave her.

Gudrun loved Fassbinder, but became obsessed with Walter. Eva-Fassbinder’s intense pantomime of homosexual seduction of Walter, where he makes him accept the anal intercourse (proposal which for Walter was like the sky falling into the ocean and eruption of the ocean into the sky), is a unique by the intensity of its psychological elaboration scene, never attempted in serious cinema before. This scene which is supposed to be seen as unimaginably nightmarish by many viewers, paradoxically establishes the moral contrast with the moral fallen-ness and madness of murder of Walter by an impeccable and beautiful woman Gudrun. Of course, the issue here is not what is more monstrous – homosexual love or heterosexual murder, but this sudden reversal of what is traditionally seen as monstrous and what is seen by Radu Gabrea as “toughly beautiful” is, it seems, a therapeutic psychodrama which the director Gabrea does with the audience. Gudrun’s passions show its criminal underside, while Fassbinder is remembered as innocently playing with Walter’s daughter – giving her ride around the rooms on his back, and as horrified when during shooting a scene he from behind the camera suddenly understood Gudrun’s intentions, jumped to save Walter, but it was already too late. Seemingly violent homosexual seduction is shown like a tough sexual foreplay, while impeccable romantic love carries the seeds of intolerance and murder.

Radu Gabrea makes us conscious that Fassbinder’s films are not the only art that he is able to share with the public. His personal dedication to the psychotherapy of machoistic (in men) and princess/queen (in women) complexes, which colors his style of directing the actors, is no less meaningful. That makes Gabrea’s film an addition not only to Fassbinder’s cinema, but to his scholarship, which promotes farther understanding of RWF’s position in life and his films.

“Hour of the Wolf” is the story of a talented and famous painter Johan Borg who is losing the ability to control his inner objects which in his case of a creator of the works of art are his figurative images as the creative instruments for his work as an artist. But Bergman wouldn’t be Bergman if it could be all that he was pursuing in this film. While working on the material he discerns in the psychological depth of his exceptional characters the ordinary people who are losing their environment and stability, and also our culture in general which is going berserk in the midst of anomie, precarity and chaos and then create in people justified and irrational fears and by this arouses in them impulsive, risky and marginal behavior we see in Johan Borg, and all sorts of addictive obsessions and violent outbursts and reactions. While watching the film we start to understand that the usual and comfortable perception of Bergman as a dark eccentric of an artist constructing horror movies out of imagination dressed in everyday reality, doesn’t correspond to the truth.

The phantoms which began to dominate Johan Borg‘s psyche, populate the unconscious of today’s Americans – it is this type of internal demons drive people to buy one high-tech machine-gun after another, make government conjure up one war after another to secure domination over the world and allow people with criminal record and mentally deranged to own dangerous arms, and it is the same phantoms fixate people on consumerism and entertainment instead of thinking soberly about human life and the world and demanding help and guidance from serious education. The film depicts Johan Borg’s desperate fight with his demonic internal objects projecting and incarnating themselves into real people.

Bergman shows us how Johan step by step started to lose the feeling that his wife is an actual alive person and not incarnation of demonic essence as his neighbors – the inhabitants of Baron von Merkens’ castle. In this film we observe two types of intimate love – one with human being as a whole personality, as a psychological wholeness (Johan’s wife Alma), not shattered into partial impulses and fragmentary desires as ghosts-vampires of the castle (personifications of Johan Borg’s internal objects and, simultaneously, real people suffering from depersonalization and impersonalization, as Johan Borg himself is), and obsessive love when to love means losing of one’s personality – letting it become emptied and soon after taken over by the ontologically hungry ghosts (as a Johan’s wavering mistress – irresistible Veronica Vogler).

The most horrifying scene in the film is the one where Johan Borg kills his son whom he started to perceive as a demonic figure (the same catastrophic degradation of perception takes place in his son, the adolescent boy who in a certain moment starts to perceive father as a creature outside human bonds – as an object of suspicion and hate). Similar thing happens when people perceive others not as friends, collaborators and rational opponents or as other human beings (as human as we are – just with interests which can be not identical with ours), but instead – as enemies from whom we expect everything bad and whom we target with lethal intentions – when fighting to death and war to the end are the only option – the posture which today once again becomes the dominant principle of international politics. The scene of sudden transformation of innocent family fishing trip into a nightmarish situation of shattering of the relations between the father and his child – again, something similar we see today in a phenomenon of domestic violence and when children run away from their homes and live on the streets, is the most unbearable scene of the film.

Before the collapse of his psyche, Johan Borg was rather a modernist painter who preferred not to ignore and not to beautify reality but address it in his work critically. He had a democratic, not a traditional – idealizing or phobic concepts of the world. The sad similarity between Borg’s predicament (who ends by trying to kill his wife and infanticide) and our own country’s degradation into weapon-worshiping, growing statistics of mass murders and development of war-and austerity-ideology is very hard to ignore.

Disintegration and degradation of human psyche goes together with losing of our society’s soul. Bergman helps us to go through the film by adding to our grief of observing the truth – the grace of understanding, the spirituality of meaning.

Alma is helpless in trying to understand what torments her husband, why can’t he live as one with the world, as one with his life.

That’s how Alma looks at Johan – as an astonished life itself ready to tremble in front of a mad (exaggerated and twisted) sensitivity of a creative person

Not to abandon Johan during his horrifying night hours of sleeplessness, Alma is trying to stay awake with him.

Baroness von Merkens, the first, Johan (behind her) and Alma look astoundingly at Johan’s portrait of Veronica Vogler. What is it about the portrait that attracts Corinne von Merkens? Is it the fact that Veronica with a masochistic pride was bragging in front of Johan about being physically hurt by her other, besides Johan, lover?

Johan exhausted by his internal battles with the personages of his art which going out of his creative control, unconsciously invokes the demonic Veronica Vogler as a consolation

Veronica Vogler’s apocalyptic warnings ties Johan to her even stronger. The power of compulsive love in the area of private relations and of despotic totalitarian leaders in the public realm cannot realize itself and be successful in manipulating people if their souls aren’t broken by fears and helplessness.

The demonic phantoms are praising the genius of the artist as American movie-viewers – their super-stars.

When Johan and Alma were returning home after the dinner party at the castle, they lost their togetherness – they kept only a common direction – a conscious orientation on their marital ties. Their destiny is in the hands of the sunset.

By mobilizing the logic of visual images, Bergman explains the reason, why Johan’s son became irritated with his father’s fishing and tried to make him to leave earlier – by children’s sexual curiosity mixed with envy. The fishing pole, the very procedure of fishing and, finally, getting the fish have, according to Bergman, a concrete unconscious sexual meaning. The son wants to understand, “how does the father do it?” It is interesting that the prototypical sexual situation triggering the boy’s curiosity is not the “primal scene” of sexual intercourse between the parents, but rather a masturbatory situation. The boy’s curiosity is typically colored by the emotional rage against the father’s social and sexual status and confidence connected to it. Sexual curiosity itself is not the problem, of course, but the inability of the adults to rationally handle its existence is. And the destruction of human psychological wholeness by the people’s existential frustrations contributes to a growing level of mass anxiety.

The son attacks the father with the intention to subdue and dominate him

While defending himself the father instead of containing and neutralizing the son’s aggression, introjects and intensifies it – the summation of their two hates and aggressions leads to escalation. The father starts to view his son as a demonic figure, a persecuting object. That’s how we, humans, come to wars.

Lindhorst (the bird-man Baron’s archivist) – has a privilege of coup de grace – of striking Borg with the final blow.

Posted on Sep 23, 2015 –   Ingmar Bergman’s “Hour of the Wolf/Vargtimmen” (1968) – When People Cannot Differentiate Between Internal and External Worlds And Then Take One For Another by Acting-Out Politics

The Earth is trembling because it can no longer tolerate injustice between people. The whole Creation can tremble when some people harshly mistreat others. Will those who see how people are abused, how abuse of others is a part of “normal life” – intervene in the face of injustice? This is the very nerve, the very pulse of Visconti’s film radiated by love for people regardless of their nation, religion and social and financial status.

With the alliterative echoing between the words “terra” and “trema” Visconti “naturalizes” the connection between the Being of earth and ability to take to the heart the moral side of things and poetically “proves” the ability of our planet to feel moral indignation. With each scene, with every angle of the camera and with montage of visual images and narrative motifs Visconti expresses his care and concern for life of those who are born human and for this very reason deserve humane treatment.

The film is dedicated to the humanity of working poor – Sicilian fishermen exploited by the wholesalers who have the financial leverage to manipulate them and keep them in poverty and dependence. Visconti emphasizes that in spite of being artificially pauperized, the fishermen in the film are not less but even more human in their sensitivity and common sense. It looks that the truth of pauperized people’s ontological equality with people above them in the social hierarchy needs to be repeated with each human generation. Visconti’s film did it for his time and also is doing it for us – for those in the beginning the 21st century.

One of the discoveries of the film is how expressively real (without any affectation and propaganda points) the fishermen are playing the characters – themselves. Before Antonioni’s “Il Grido” and Pasolini’s early films dedicated to the assertion of simple people’s humanity, and much before the genre of fictionalized documentary stories started to appear on TV in recent years, Visconti depicts the humanity of the common people in a complicated (without commercial simplifications and propagandist over-generalizations) cinematic language. We see on the screen the visual poetry of human psychological disinterestedness and feel that the material and technological progress by the price of losing the human nature’s common sense and humanism is aberration for which we all will pay.

For a very brief period when Ntoni tried to establish himself as a really free worker- entrepreneur, the fishermen families are preparing their fish for free trade. They don’t know that in Western economy real free market is not allowed to exist with the help of exactly the rhetoric of free market.

When the fishermen bring their freshly caught good to the market, the wholesalers are effectively organizing price-downing and force fishermen to surrender to the artificial price

Periodically, the wholesalers organize festive propaganda events where they represent themselves as the heroes of the poor and benefactors of people’s needs.

The local girl from fishermen community, playing a small role in the film , is obviously fascinated with the young Visconti.

Posted on Aug, 19, 2015 –   Luchino Visconti’s “La Terra trema/The Earth Trembles” (1948) – Repression of Small Business By Corporate Power by Acting-Out Politics

Barbarians With High-tech Arms And With Humanistic Spokesmen On Their Behalf

Most of the toughers are born in conservative families in an atmosphere of “strict discipline”, and are rather psychologically repressed from childhood. Many of them were corporeally punished by their despotic fathers who as if, were constantly implying to be something like the Guardians of Creation. The toughers are in an articulate posture of fighting with other people (whom they perceive as full of wrongs and imperfections). Toughers are antagonistic to others not out of pragmatic reasons, but, so to speak, a metaphysical one – to people of other ideas, worldviews and life styles – to dissimilar others. For example, they irrationally resist competition in business – they prefer monopoly, full domination over the market and through propagandist (seducing) advertisement – over consumers. And, of course, they are afraid of saying the truth – that they are like the Soviet communists who were similarly afraid of the free market because they were afraid of losing their power of decision-making over the population. Toughers’ belligerent posture is irrational – it is built on beliefs, phobias and animosity – positions beyond the necessity to prove anything. Another feature of the toughers is the personal megalomania of putting themselves as a measure of all things – of course, megalomaniacal personality is not easy to see because it’s always camouflaged by loads of heavy duty authorities – gods, prophets, saints, great and established leaders, billionaire role models, in whose shadows megalomania of ordinary people hides like a military unit under the trees, bushes and camouflage.

Intolerance towards the otherness of others is a direct indicator of megalomania, like the primacy of the function of believing over that of thinking is an indirect indicator of it. Religious wars are clash of Gods (of absolute beliefs), and so in a substantial degree colonial, economic and global wars – the poor belong to their metaphysical idols as millionaires to their millions (rich unconsciously project on secular object: money-profit, metaphysico-theological aura, and this transforms them into idol-worshipers with all behavioral irrationality it implies). Even in the case of purely economic rivalry and the need for profit – the flags of wars are never empty of, as if, disinterested feelings justifying hate, anger and exterminating fury that are rooted in megalomaniacal sensitivity (intolerance to otherness’ very existence is now incarnated in the super-power of high-tech weaponry).

Psychological repression (destroying in the child the potential for initiatives and taste for alternatives to what is) simultaneously creates megalomaniacal compensation and psychological defense in a form of proclivity to be afraid of and suspicious towards the dissimilar others and expecting them to be hateful and dangerous to “us” (from here comes the tendency to be hyper-sensitive to any criticism of “us” – to see it as an act of animosity and even aggression). In short, toughers (permanently expecting to be attacked) become more and more aggressive individuals with more and more belligerent behavioral style. For example, the American neocons today think that only world domination will guarantee their peace of mind – a vain hope: master is never relaxed, and neither the slave.

On the other hand, most of the gentlers were psychologically much less repressed from childhood. As a rule, their parents were not authoritarian and were able to transfer to their children an interest for and openness to thinking about the world (while conservative style of perceiving the world is just intuitive guesses which come to mind ready-made from standardized intuitions). Gentlers’ thinking is allowing unbiased observation. They have their intuition but they don’t stop there and continue to think, not only to express what intuition told them. The ability to be dedicated to thinking as such gives a person the chance to assess his/her own thinking and tolerate one’s mistakes without feeling psychologically traumatized (while toughers are prone to blindly defend their mistakes). Without identification with despotic fathers the gentlers don’t have megalomania as developed as toughers’ and its attributes – over-passionate believes (idolatry of concrete worldviews) and proneness to authoritarian speech patterns – commands, orders, “preaching” and labeling and condemnation of opponents. Gentlers can be dedicated to humanistic education because it is study of human matters – history, society, patterns of social mutuality and conflicts and individual and social psychology where they feel at home. Humanistic education is psychologically very difficult – the toughers can’t tolerate it because they are too vulnerable in front of human otherness and very quickly become defensive.

Humanistic education teaches how to understand human behavior, not to judge it. It provides bridges between various human behaviors, prepares humans to perceive ideas about life regardless of who produce them and to learn the ability to change your views without feeling shame. It also teaches us to take into consideration the logic of inferring and coming to conclusion and by this collaborate with other thinkers instead of clashing with opposite ideas and people who state them. Gentlers are not belligerent and are able to negotiate and to develop “diplomatic” mediation between opposing views and beliefs. Because they in their childhood were much less psychologically repressed they have this precious ability not to be afraid of their own desires and to understand them better – they are not afraid of themselves (for example, their sexual curiosity – the ontogenetic heart of future creative ability), their own otherness. By knowing their own “other self” they are not phobic about dissimilarity of other people – the psychological fundament of democratic way of life.

Still, the problem of the gentlers who mainly come from liberal families (some from conservative ones but there they instinctively applied radical [schizoid] psychological defense – de-cathexis of not only identification with father’s despotism but mutiny against it), is that they didn’t have the experience that toughers had in a traumatizing excess – Oedipus type of psychological fight with the parents during childhood. Male-toughers typically are simultaneously conformist to and hateful of rational authority (they can identify only with irrational authority – with despots like their fathers were). But gentlers… cannot psychologically fight at all. Of course, it is good that they aren’t like toughers – scandalous, disrespectful, loutish, vengeful and nasty. But gentlers cannot stand their ideological ground, cannot defend humanistic ideas, cannot protect democracy against assaults from inside it. It is good that their liberal fathers didn’t teach them to hate otherness and, conversely, taught them how to respect different ideas. But respect for opinions contrary to your own doesn’t mean not to be able to openly criticize them, to publicly explain their anti-democratic essence and to refuse them in concrete political circumstances. Unable to fight hatefully and nastily many gentlers also cannot fight rationally, without hating, to defend issues they stand for, and attack politely but intensely what they consider harmful to our country and American people.

Democracy is very young. The Gentlers today are perhaps the second or third generation that came from a full-fledged liberal families, although amidst a cultural climate based on consumerism and taste for manipulating the world. In this atmosphere it is very difficult to be a decent person fighting for democratic cause. Democracy under democrats should have a strong military force but for defense purposes and not for manipulating, subduing and policing the world. It is the destiny of democrats by sensibility and not only by affiliation to be toughly reasonable and toughly rational in toughers’ world of emotional impulsivity and mean calculations, and be able to fight with the toughers’ twisted and morbid infantilism for democratic democracy not in the gentler’s (not in the gentle) but in gentleman’s manner.

What Commodification And Consumerism Are For Art, Environmental And Economic Disasters And Wars Are For Human Race

Wenders went to Portugal to help Raul Ruiz who was making his film “The Territory” (1981), with film stock. Wenders hired much of the cast and crew for making “The State of Things”. After completing the filming in Portugal, Wenders flew to Los Angeles to shoot the final scenes before continuing work on his “Hammett”.

The director of the film inside “The State of Things” Friedrich Munro (Patrick Bauchau), on the right, the cameraman Joe (Samuel Fuller), on the left, and the screenwriter Dennis (Paul Getty), right behind them, work on the film about a small group of survivors after an ecological catastrophe destroying life on Earth. Pay attention to Bauchau’s directorial gestures – with his right hand the director is encouraging his actors to express meaning rather than vitality, thoughtfulness rather than self-projection. Bauchau’s left hand is in the pocket of his vest – as if he is saying to actors – don’t sentimentalize, keep your emotions enveloped.

When they ran out of film and work stopped, the crew started to concentrate on their personal situations, the actors – Anna (Isabelle Weingarten) and Mark (Jeffrey Kime) decided to use forced vocation to advance their personal relationship. Look at the composition of the shot – it is as if Mark was trying to stop Anna from leaving their bed while still trying to keep his already hurt pride.

Robert (Geoffrey Carey) went to the city to modestly entertain himself

Friedrich who is trying to find the producer Gordon in Los-Angeles, visit his cameraman who left Portugal earlier because of the sudden death of his wife. Colleagues and friends exchange their thoughts about the changing nature of cinematic art in a world where money managed to marginalize the artistic motivations of the filmmakers. Pay attention to the composition of the shot: two competent filmmaking professionals with interest in artistic sublime and human truth are sitting on the side of the high-tech road to the future (metaphorized by the high voltage electric lines and the giant metal tower). They themselves aren’t necessarily side-roaded on the highway to a technocratic future (the system “generously“ gives them a choice – either to correspond to the general trend it itself set up, or resist and become miscarriages), but their thinking and dedication is with humanistic culture and responsible art.

With a really detective-like perseverance Friedrich finds Gordon (Allen Garfield) who has lost money on his Lisbon film and now he is trying to escape from the creditors in his motor-home.

After listening to Gordon’s story all accusations of the film director abandoned by his producer, got stuck in Friedrich’s throat. The fact that Gordon let them even to start shooting the film about destruction of environment and life on Earth (the topic meant to be represented without any mythological lubrication) was already such an idealism on his part, that fiasco was inevitable. Friedrich never felt so bad in his life – he felt as if he was born into a wrong life. Not just a mask of entertainer is needed in order to be able to continue to function as an artist in commercialized (oriented on mass consumerism) environment – but the very identity of organic, visceral entertainer.

Shots from the passing car, Gordon is killed, and Friedrich is trying not only to get the license plate number of the cars on film but he is ready to die together with his producer and his movie. This pathetic – romantic gesture is all that is left for an artist if he is refusing to be transformed into the breed of an entrapped entrepreneur-entertainer.

Friedrich looks like a mad person to the people of business and the philistines – the people without “eccentric and foolish” need for responsible art. The very idea expressed in this shot – that serious art is a sublime weapon (killing the ghosts of non-freedom, corruption and conformism) becomes more and more outdated with each day.

In these moments in Friedrich’s soul his own film about the possible self-annihilation of human race, the film which is shot dead in the middle of production, and Wim Wenders’ film (carrying the first inside itself,) about strangulation of responsible cinematic art by a world of commercialized entertainment are perceived as one living organism victimized by brutalization of human life into a permanent state of war, work on any conditions, consumption (without quality), and life in which there is no place for the sublime, for the (critical) truth and for freedom from despotic necessities.


“The State of Things” is about the danger of annihilation of the human race amidst an environmental destruction (that humans themselves created with naiveté of fig tree from the Evangelical parable or with the blind despair of a scorpion killing itself with deadly stinging prick on his tale). But the film is actually even more about the destruction of serious culture personified here by the cinematic art (which doesn’t make substantial compromises with non-truth and is not servile to the orientation on entertainment).

On the level of the plot, the film is about making a film which depicts the agonizing death of human race as a result of environmental collapse. The crew suddenly faces the situation when the financing of the film suddenly stops without any explanation. The director has to go from Portugal (the place of shooting), to Los-Angeles to find the disappeared producer; and the members of the crew, in the expectation of his return with the good news and money give themselves to their humanity and personalities, giving us the chance to appreciate their gentleness, sensitivity and sophistication.

When the director of the film inside Wenders’ film (Patric Bauchau) eventually finds the producer, he learned that Gordon (Allen Garfield) is a rare idealist among the Hollywood movie-industry entrepreneurial tribe, a person who really wanted to make this film exactly because it is dedicated to the truth about the human situation in the modern world, but to make film like this is in total contradiction with the very logic of Hollywood filmmaking, with the very taste of Hollywood hamburger or oysters.

Friedrich, who was trying to find Gordon so as to reproach him for not following their contract, etc., suddenly felt guilty and swallowed his accusations. Their conversation on the wheels was a fiesta of sad truths with bitter drinks of despair. It was exchange of those who resisted to sacrifice art and were forced, by the very rules of financial game, out of table.

When Gordon was shot dead right in front of Friedrich – the unexpected and overwhelming finale of the film took place when Patrick Bauchau tried to use his movie-camera not so much to catch on film who could kill Gordon amidst the light of the day but to leave a trace of the truth about the assassination of art in a dying world, both suffocated by human money-idolatry.

Such ending of the film was perceived in the beginning of eighties as “too much” – as objectively not-motivated over-generalization, but today, in thirty three years later the film is gaining relevancy and looks penetratingly realistic. Super-blockbusters meticulously demonstrate the futuristic weapon systems, with robotic heroes personifying American supermen-saviors amidst the fallen world in need of being saved, the endless police dramas where detectives are represented as role models, or the comedies where viewers are given the chance to laugh at others and themselves and through this laughter, stay the same, never change – can, as if, illustrate Wenders and Friedrich Munro/Patrick Bauchau’s two films, but entertainers, mobilizing their craft make consumers enjoy their psychological dying, enjoy the poison which will eventually kill them.

Today, we are much closer to apocalypse of our own making (than we were in the past century) because of the monopolistic: anti-free market practices (like fixation on fossil fuels with its deadly fracking/cracking earth) of the decision-making elite (of those who so loudly proclaim the sacredness of the free market). And today, we are already “survived” the very death of serious cinematic art.

The level of acting by even small role actors is encouragingly impressive – we understand that even those who are ready to act robotically and formulaically in Hollywood and Hollywood-like commercial movies are still keep the ability to act in a human way – portray their characters as free human beings who are not completely determined by the social situations, and that Hollywood’s canon of technical acting/starring is the price for the actors’ survival in a non-free market of mass production.

Wenders’ “The State of Things” will live as a monument of humane civilization which is in a process of being wiped-out on a daily basis by the profit- and entertainment-worshippers.

“The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant” (1972) by Rainer Werner Fassbinder (RWF)

From the first glance Fassbinder’s film looks like a personal drama of amorous passions and torments. But Fassbinder is a very “tricky” director who has a penchant for misleading the viewers – direct them to wrong interpretative paths in order to problematize their understanding of what they see on the screen – right in front of their own minds: to demonstrate to them their intellectual prejudices and clichés. By doing so Fassbinder tries to help the viewers to become disappointed in their ideas (not without grumbling at the director, of course), and capable to look at reality in new, less narcissistic/more realistic ways.

As we see, Fassbinder’s “trickiness” is nothing like that of the directors and stars of commercial movies whose task is to tie the viewers to the movie by the ropes of easy pleasures and sweet dreams. Fassbinder is not interested in being liked by moviegoers (in order to finally be able to give birth to a billion from his growing belly of money) – he is hooked on meaning – on the chance to understand something about life what he hadn’t before starting to work on a new film, and on expressing what he understood in an elegant semantic and visual generalizations and configurations. Fassbinder is an intellectual romantic. He doesn’t make cocktails of truth and money (where money always dissolves truth to the degree of its unrecognizability). For him money is something that is always delivered from the back entrance. He feels that it is necessary to critically problematize the expectations of the viewers to save the meaningfulness of human life and the spiritually intellectual function of human existential mind.

An intense affair between a successful designer of women’s clothing Petra and Karin, a young woman with a modelling ambitions, is in no way a melodrama but a social and psychological encounter impregnated by rivalry, possessiveness and unconscious lust for domination and embellishing itself with sentimental, erotic and sexual vignettes. Petra/Karin relationship includes worship of personal emotions, the presence of manipulative and controlling intentions and satisfactions, and anarchically creative spontaneity which both women identify with love. According to Fassbinder’s Petra, it is exactly the inequality in relationship plus mutual manipulation as part of the fight for control over beloved – that feed the sexual passion and amorous jealousy. But our heroines believe that love as such is free and independent from its determinations and motivations and is an ultimate weapon in their fight for superior status inside their relationship: being loved more than the beloved. In other words, the heroines’ love is strong, smart, emotionally melodious, risky and beautiful, although too tough of an experience.

The director and the actors’ virtuoso depiction of the human love’s complexity and contradictions emphasizes not only admirable genuineness of Petra/Karin’s amorous emotions and sexual impulsivity but the fact that human love deserves to be the object of critical introspection and psychoanalytic probing. Fassbinder’s position towards his heroines is not only that of astonishment and admiration but enlightened (not dogmatic) criticism.

Fassbinder and his quartet of actresses intend to help the lovers everywhere in the world to try to make their amorous and sexual emotions more refined and sophisticated, less blind and more humane without losing its sparkly vitality. Viewers can psychologically grow through their admiration of the film’s heroines, not only through criticism of them. In order to overcome our dense narcissism (with its megalomaniacal and phobic layers) and our organic tendency to protect and advance our amorous status inside the very relationship between the beloveds it is necessary to comprehend the degree of our spiritually hurt and underdeveloped condition – our emotions are too inert and self-defensive and are ready to entrench into a deep sulk and biting aggressiveness when the shadow of our critical self (our awareness of our “imperfections” behind our love’s façade) comes closer to the mind. That’s why Fassbinder made his “Bitter Tears” – to psychotherapeutically address those rare souls in the audience who are able to learn how to look at themselves critically – from the side – through cinematic screen.

The acting of Margit Carstensen (Petra), Hanna Shygulla (Karin), Irm Herrmann (Marlene) and Eva Mattes (Gaby/Gabrielle von Kant) is an emotional symphony of psychological meaning. It is simultaneously anarchic and analytical, spontaneous and philosophical. Fassbinder demonstrates his exceptionally talented and psychologically refined actresses’ ability to concentrate on the mysteries of human psyche with its readiness to boil with apocalyptic intensity, and on the triumphant gift of human soul for grasping the meaning of human emotional struggles.

Fassbinder’s intellectualism never expresses itself without rich stylistic elaboration. The meanings are always metaphorically delivered. Sometimes camera is, as if, dancing together with actresses’ pantomimes.

Experiencing “Bitter Tears” is a unique, simultaneously shocking and uplifting ordeal which can be in our memory our whole life. In thirty and forty years after watching the film for the first time, it is still possible to remember our feelings and thoughts after the first encounter with the film and the circumstances of our acquaintance with this exceptional work of cinematic art. The film stimulates to revisit our thoughts and impressions we got when we saw the film before, and develop them farther.

Petra and Marlene’s everyday life of a master and servant is, obviously, approved by Dionysus

Petra is sharing with Sidonie her traumatizing marital experience when amorous emotional spontaneity is discouraged because it contradicts the stability of intra-family relationships relying on obedience to conventional rules

By listening to Petra’s sad story about her marriage Marlene as if relieving everything again like watching again the play she knows so well and identify with.

Karin – a possible newcomer into Petra’s life, tunes her strings.

Karin is dancing to a music Petra is listening to – to the music of Petra’s life, to the art of Petra’s feelings

The philistines of Petra’s life (tolerated and secretly detested by her) – her mother (Valerie von Kant, on the left), marked here negatively by Dionysus in the background, and baroness Sidonie von Grasenabb

Fassbinder's women-Aprl'15
Margit Carstensen (Petra, on the right), Irm Hermann (Marlene) and Hanna Shygulla (on the left) at the celebration of the existence of Fassbinder’s film in the spring of 2015

Irm Hermann, Margit Carstensen (in the center) and Hanna Shygulla

Rainer Werner Fassbinder (RWF), the screenwriter and director of “The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant”

Posted on 8/20/2015 –   R. W. Fassbinder’s “The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant” (1972) – The Art And Science Of Amorous Domination (Feminine Touch In A World Of Masculine Competition) by Acting-Out Politics

Posted Mar/1/2009 –   Film Review of “Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant” (1972) by Rainer Werner Fassbinder by Acting-Out Politics 

Innocent Corruption – Being Served Through Being Entertained

Providing and consuming entertainment is seemingly the most innocent service in the world – to have people cathartically laugh and cry, pleasantly love and easily hate means to make them forget burdens of life with its pain, grief and boredom! To give the public an opportunity to be in Disney world and forget about demands, traumas and torments, and the indifference of the reality! Let them to have at least a little happiness and hope! Isn’t only a genius of kindness could create entertainment for helping people amidst a world of cruelty and indifference and sadness?

Mass cultural entertainment is a form of business – of selling-buying, of “surviving”, and a chance to succeed and, may be, even become future belle-onaire. From slightly another perspective entertainment is a form of production, employment and consumption. And, of course, it is also a form of interaction between producers and consumers – profitmaking on the one hand and seeking quick pleasure and satisfaction on the other.

The very need to be entertained is a particular psychological condition when a human being is ready to pay money for the right to be served – to be provided with easy consumption which will satisfy without expecting you to do anything difficult and unpleasant and in a context of relaxation of hypnotic type and the feeling of self-centrality and self-importance. Who can say anything against this kind of arrangement where one side is making living on helping the other to be able to tolerate life as it is – always hard and very seldom smiling at you?

It is this feeling of being the center of the world, a kind of a monarch is, it seems, the most precious “service” provided by the massage of a successful entertainment. People who are efficiently entertained forget that they are not on the top, that they are exploited and very often sacrificed for the interests of others. When entertainment touches them they start to breath deeper, and blood intensify its circulation in their bodies. They feel alive because they feel happy. Entertainment is as inseparable from megalomania as a blow job. Entertainment transforms entertained into an object of, as if, the amorous worship. You sit and listen and see – and emotions flow inside your soul easily and lightly, and you feel that you are not adult at all and simultaneously, more than the very privileged one. Entertainment is sexy, sensual and essential even when it is nothing to do with sexuality, sensuality and essence. It becomes intertwined with consumer’s soul and for this reason – body as a high-tech cream. Entertainment is an irresistible approach to exhausted human soul – less and less people can resist its seductive steps. It is like an eternity without threshold of death, eternity as a super-life, the ultimate recognition of ourselves by the world and by beyond.

Entertainment in the life of those who are subdued dissolves the human being by its gently paralyzing power. The everyday life of hassles, competing, achieving, fighting for (or having lost) a job leave the scene. It is like a magic pillow full of feathery hallucinations of one’ self-importance and the opportunity and freedom to laugh at others or fall in love without risk but madly, or hate others wholeheartedly and cruelly (as only possible through identification with righteous haters living on the movie-screen). Entertainment, in other words, is a land where you can treat others without rituals of politeness and discretion, as you really dream to do, but under pressure of civilization cannot. In this sense entertainment is a great liberation from constrains, a freedom-giver and therefore, much more democratic than moral don’ts. And people appreciate this and pay for the next round of entertaining consumption of entertainment which is for them like a land of brotherhood inside animosity or like a land of liberties in a world of necessity.

Entertainment provides us with transformation of what we fear into a joke, what we hate into fun (when we can kill without any ambivalence and responsibility – through identification with the murderer or the killer of the murderer). It can lend us for the couple of hours what we dream to have, and let it be with us forever. It can transform quick sex into an overwhelming romance without stopping it to be quick sex, a smile into marriage and romance into a lip-and-tongue episode. It makes up anything – for us, for our joy and satisfaction – “I am liberated from doing anything” but – full of life because of the tireless and dedicated efforts of entertainment entrepreneurs. Those who are addicted to entertainment – that is the majority of people on the Earth, keep their narcissistic megalomania masked by the entertainment’s populist aura and omnipresence.

Entertainment is a misleading and disorienting strategy typical for today’s successful business dealings – it is a kiss transformed into banknotes as a fairytale donkey’s pooh into jewelry. We need entertainment as the two maids from Jean Genet’s famous play need to impersonate their chamber lady, like slaves like to play the masters with one another, like some homeless become ultra-jingoistic and foreigner-hating, like the poor dream of becoming rich and are grateful to their country for giving them the right to keep this dream alive, like every soldier in the depth of his soul feels himself a general, like every boy in his wet dreams imagines himself a president.

We consume (mass cultural) entertainment (our psychological compensation for not corresponding to our ideal self-image as being on the top of the social hierarchy) without chewing – like billionaire his billions. We identify with Hollywood and pop-music superstars, with the power of our high-tech weapons and feel ourselves as a giant, like pauperized Soviet population under Stalin were identified with Communism and felt themselves super-powerful and prosperous and invincible to decay and death, like Americans surrounded by technical toys like butterflies feel themselves navigated directly into immortality.

People rejuvenated by consumption of entertainment feel closeness of Paradise. Love for being entertained is like a Turret syndrome. Entertainment is an example of how dangerous unleashed technology can be. It makes us frozen in a posture of a retarded unable to lose the comfortable feeling of being in the center of the world.

The Condition of Men and Women In A World Of Celebes Elephant – Of Permanent Wars And Regressive Trivialized Pleasures

Ernst used the image of an African corn bean he found in an English anthropological journal as a model of his “Elephant of the Celebes”
William Rubin, Editor, “Primitivism In 20th Century Art”, Vol. 2, Museum of Modern Art, New-York, p. 552

Celebes 1921 Max Ernst 1891-1976 Purchased 1975
Max Ernst, “Elephant of the Celebes” (1921)

Attentive view at the painting makes us notice the extremely contradictory nature of space it represents, which, on the one side, is, as if, an existential one – for life and activities of life, but on the other, it is full of details which make it anti-existential – where is impossible to live. Is this how Max Ernst sees our earthly life (saw it already back then, almost a hundred years ago)? First of all, the painting depicts man (men), woman (women), a giant robot (the “elephant”) and the office for its management – a small mini-submarine-like machine on the back of the mechanical “elephant”. The existential space has a perspective – the view of a landscape reminding of a desert with a chain of mountains on the horizon. Only step by step we understand that this space is actually the bottom of the sea (the ocean floor), as if the “elephant” and its “headquarter” on its back were intentionally hidden to camouflage it (with military connotation). We see under-water creatures swimming above. This underwater space where soldier-man and mannequin-woman are headless (as if, returned to the time when our zoological ancestors lived in the ocean before crawling to the land) and where life is reduced to basic pantomimes of war and crude sexuality, is the area which is completely artificial – a technocratic and technologically obsessed civilization in its essence. It looks like a construction site for building a giant military robot that stands, as if, on some kind of floor-desk, with some details suggesting the work of geometric thinking which makes the space inside the painting also mental – creation/construction and in this sense imaginary and futuristic.

But what is exactly Ernst’s Celebes Elephant? It is, it seems, not only a robot as a weapon system, but a robotic potential of the human mind, a purely technical and calculative thinking about life and the world, symbolized by high-tech, intimidating and destructive machine, the task of which is not only to destroy but to frighten and subdue even before being deployed in its full power. Ernst’s very painting, it seems, created the opportunity for the viewers-Ernst contemporaries to observe the horrifying robotic future of our specie – that is already partially realized in the very beginning of 21st century. Pay attention to the sadistic features of the “elephant”, like its horned trunk (its tusks seen on its other side), that is simultaneously a head and a tale. The absence of differentiation between the front side of the monster and its back suggests the identity between oral and anal functions, consumption and excretion.

Its crude sadistic appearance makes Celebes Elephant carry the connotation of being a torture machine. Was Ernst trying to warn his contemporaries about the future of human race? If so, he was right on target – we in the 21st century can be his witnesses. Ernst here is emphasizing not so much human civilization’s future destructiveness as its orientation on it – sadism of those who plan and order, construct and are happy about the destructive effectiveness of monstrous weapon systems, those for whom it is the favorite toys of human imagination and who will be happy to use them with cheerful pride.

The brains of the monster-robot is located at the end of its weapon-trunk or/and its weapon-tale. The construction on the back of the Celebes Elephant seems including software created by human brains in rapport with that of the Elephant. The face we see inside it is the face of the software – the standard face of all the soft-wares today, a face not without its cute expression – even destructive technical toys are childlike.

The “elephant” is underwater because it is supposed to be hidden, unseen by the “enemies” and the philistines of the world “until the proper time”. Masses of ordinary people just survived WWI, know nothing about Nazism in Germany and the coming of WWII and then immediately nuclear weapons, and they dream, as always, about prosperity and happiness under any political conditions. Is it for them that Ernst painted “Elephant of the Celebes”? Did he want to awaken them and us, their progeny, to the unbearable, impossible truth about human civilization committed to human sacrifices in wars and predatory consumption during the episodes of peace, to wars to become masters of the defeated? Did he want to change them to become more psychologically spiritual? If so, Ernst, certainly didn’t succeed much. Philistines today, in the 21st century are blinder and greedier than ever.

The semantic heart of the painting consists of the two figures – of man and woman, more exactly, it is in what has happened to these two halves of human race as a result of happy hate and belligerency in our culture. Man of the 20th century is personified by the mechanical figure of the male (to the right of the painting) assembled in nine parts, five model the basic human body parts, plus the one head (flat as a thin piece of plywood), one hand (the piece of wood) keeping on the imaginary shoulder a slat representing rifle, and other piece of wood painted in red, representing an erected penis joggling a little ball signifying the sperm sent to the world by the (soldier’s) gonads. The schematic representation of the soldier by Ernst characterizes only what is minimally necessary for being a soldier. That’s how soldiers are prepared for killing and being killed – human complications are not necessary. Ernst’s style here is realistic in its surrealism.

But soldiers need sex, and they need to love women. They are hungry for love, they need love for getting the feeling that they are loved by life. Who kills and is ready to be killed especially needs consolation and procreation – so as not to disappear traceless in a giant mass grave. Soldiers desperately look for immortality through their progeny. The head (flattened by jingoistic dogmatism helping psychologically to sustain war), the hand (to keep weapon), the rifle and the erected member are the four attributes Ernst adds to the five segments of the basic body of the soldier. Soldiers need symbiosis with women’s bodies (then they become, as if, more than their bodies vulnerable to enemy’s attack). Like soldiers, the females are also transformed by wars – into statuesque mannequins corresponding to the mechanical condition of the males. Women are transformed from human beings into bodies which men desperately need as a consolation for living in between life and death. Female bodies as instruments of men’s consolation became like a statuesque mannequins – robots of amorous pantomimes.

Ernst depicts in “Elephant of the Celebes” this pantomime of love modified by war times, by borrowing his inspiration from Hans Christian Andersen‘s short story “The Brave Tin Soldier” about a doomed love between a steadfast tin soldier and a gracious paper ballerina. Ernst has resourcefully developed Andersen’s concept into adult interpretation of the tragic impossibility of love crippled by war. In a world of perpetual war humankind habitually live in, woman provides her soldier the soft ball of orgasmic ejaculation, while both genders are similarly without human heads (which are flattened by military training and war time propaganda into a piece of plywood). So much for love between robot-soldier and mannequin-woman. In the painting there are no equivalents of the teary sentiments of Andersen’s story. The writer addressed the audience of children with hope for their future, but Ernst is courageously communicating to us in new century his horror and despair.

The soft ball the mannequin-ballerina passes to the soldier is a combined metaphor of his ejaculation and his orgasm. Ultimately, the painting is about a debased psychological condition of men and women in periods of war and preparation for and celebration of war.

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