27 Aug 2014
“Nathalie Granger” is an aesthetico-philosophical opus-film. The strictest logic of its visual images step by step moves us, the viewers, to the feeling that we, while observing the still and harmonious life in a quiet and prosperous household, never expected to get – of the incompatibility between traditional (over-worldly) spirituality (as it exists and flowers in religious and/or ideological beliefs) and… children’s psychological needs. It is the one of the miracles of this film that the concept of traditional (above-worldly) spirituality is not defined but is impersonated by two profoundly intelligent actresses: Jeanne Moreau and Lucia Bose.
Nathalie, a girl of pre-adolescent age who is being cared for and loved by two extraordinary women – the mother and the “aunt”, unexpectedly started to express stubborn resistance to the very atmosphere of sublime spiritual calmness that characterized their household. At school she started to express animosity towards other kids. What’s happened to this seemingly gentle child in spite of her caregivers’ always positive and patient efforts?
The film answers this question in a provocative yet solidly articulated way mobilizing the power of cinematic medium to make the point gently but irreversibly. The film doesn’t look like a philosophical argument, although it certainly is, and it influences our cognition through a psychodrama that approaches the viewers’ mind through their feelings and their consciousness through their intuitions.
To watch “Nathalie Granger” is challenging but stimulating and rewarding experience for all those who in their life and thinking don’t follow authoritarian clichés and seductive songs of entertaining ads but are prone to try to make their own minds about life and the world.
23 Aug 2014
“Il Grido” is not, as many like to say, a film glorifying eternal love, but, plainly and simply, a critical film, in which the hero is neither weak nor impotent, but merely alienated. “Il Grido” is a film about the alienation of the feelings… It is perfectly normal that this film should at first appear to be a film about love… This film forces us to reflect on our concepts of love: our madly-in-loves, our passionate loves, our sentimental loves, etc.
Aldo has lived for ten years with Irma, whose husband has gone to Australia. Irma, who is no longer in love with Aldo, hears of her husband’s death and decides to make a new life for herself with another man. She announces this decision to her lover. Aldo tries to keep her, and then ends by beating her in front of the assembled village. With his love shattered, he sets off along the highway, abandoning his job, and taking with him his daughter by Irma, Rosina. He intends to make a new life for himself with another woman and has a number of adventures, but still pursued by the memory of Irma, he finally returns to the village. There he sees Irma happy, with a new child. Aldo climbs the tower of the refinery where he once worked. As Irma rushes up to the tower after him, he tumbles into the empty air.
Pierre Leprohon, “Michelangelo Antonioni”, Simon and Schuster, 1963, p. 190
The internal power of this film is almost never expressed dramatically, but rather through the symphonic character of the film’s construction and through the close unity between the characters and their physical surrounding. This construction has a musical form, with its melodic line, its parallel motifs, and its restatement of themes.
Pierre Leprohon, Ibid, p. 55
The emotion in “Il Grido” does not derive from events but rather our comprehension of the drama through which the hero lives… The emotion lies within the character and not in the actions he performs or the incidents in which he is involved. In “Il Grido”, emotion takes hold when the action is suspended.
Pierre Leprohon, Ibid, p. 50
Living conditions have certainly improved the point of view of revenue, nutrition, freedom and the possibility of traveling abroad. But the price of this improvement has been desertification of daily life, the hyper-acceleration of rhythms, the extreme individualization of biographies, and work precariousness which also means unbridled competition… The intensification of the rhythm of work, the desertification of the landscape and the virtualization of the emotional life are converging to create a level of loneliness and despair that is difficult to consciously deny… Suicide can be considered the ultimate mark of the anthropological mutation linked to digital transformation and precarization.
Franco Bifo Berardi
When your own country becomes a stranger to you, when it turns to you with an unknown, alien face… Irma (Alida Valli) is represented on this poster with her “eyes slanted upwards” – in reality Irma‘s eyes are not like this. The point here is that when Aldo (Irma’s husband) found out that she is having an affair, even her face is slightly changed in his perception. As a motif of the film, Irma is quite semantically loaded character – she refers simultaneously to the woman with this name and to Italy and even to the European culture as a whole which in a period of intense economic development after WWII started to treat people in a new – alienated, indifferent, seductive and corrupting way. Pseudo-prosperity took the place of poverty, life started to lose stability (although this loss was “compensated” with vain consumerism). Today, in the beginning of the 21st century, we the Europeans and Americans find ourselves abandoned and even betrayed by democracy even in a more obvious way – not only by “austerity”, pauperization, and conservative attacks on Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare, etc., but by culture which entertains us instead of preparing us to meet the challenges of our epoch.
Aldo is a gentle soul. He is not a brute to dictate Irma what to do and how to behave. He is rather intimidated by her “betrayal”, than feeling resentment and indignation. May be, for this reason later, after their separation, he is not able to “successfully” adapt to the despotic circumstances. It is this gentleness of a simple person as a main hero (who doesn’t belong to the Middle Class and is without humanistic/liberal education) represented without sentimental accents, makes “Il Grido” the film that opened perspective for P.P. Pasolini with his films about the highly gifted people with the low social position (Like “Accatone” – 1961 and “Mamma Roma” – 1962). Appreciate the composition of this shot showing Irma and Aldo’s daughter right between them but separated from their problems by the transparent door of her helpless curiosity.
Incited by his mother who was trying to “help him” and invoked traditional authoritarian values impregnated with misogyny – with a man’s obligation to control woman as underdeveloped human being, Aldo temporarily lost his natural humility and dignity and slapped Irma publicly several times.
A desperate Aldo is trying to give Irma a “manly lesson” when “truth” and “justice” assert themselves through “proper” violence considered as adequate tool of imposition of morality on the amoral femininity.
Forced to leave Irma after his “public defense” of family values Aldo starts his wanderings in search of love and job. Here we see him emotionally split between Alvia (Betsy Blair) – to the left, and her younger sister Edera.
Aldo and Virginia (with Virginia Aldo is going through the third phase of de-privatization of human intimacy, which, according to the logic of the film’s images, Western culture is imposing on the working people). Mass culture and economic games need not only human brains and muscles but the whole human being (for this reason in today’s culture we have incredible development of manipulative strategies of transformation of archaic modalities of love and sex into ways of self-assertion, fight for domination and consumption).
Aldo’s daughter Rosina who feels neglected in Virginia roadside house near gas-station she owns, has befriended the old Virginia’s father, who feels lonely and not needed and also likes to spend some time with her. We see two marginalized creatures in the society of business and labor – the child and the elderly (today the situation is even worse – in the 21st century Western globally oriented business less and less needs even adults of working age).
Visual beauty of Antonioni’s constructions of space are never mute, are always semantically articulate – here we see how human life looks when people are not only somewhere else than their life (in their dreams of stable prosperity and of a more consumerist fun) but when people are not available for each other’s souls, when their inner world is out of reach for their neighbors and co-workers. The fog of nature becomes the fog of a civilization of labor and entertainment, when life as such is boring and like existential waste.
Aldo is going through the fourth phase of de-privatization of intimacy when personal love cannot sustain itself anymore – when concerns for money and appearance of propriety occupy the whole human being – fill the hole the human internal world has been transformed into.
Aldo accepted that it is impossible for him to live searching for temporary jobs and fragmented intimacy. Mythological construction that he can return to Goriano and somehow regain his previous life replaces the reality that he doesn’t have any chance to succeed there, in the same place where Irma lives with her new husband, their newborn baby and Rosina, that he will not be able to stay out of their life. Is Aldo returning to die?
The scream of Irma watching Aldo’s fatal fall from the tower of his dream (to her feet) is that of the Western civilization abandoning its people. This Irma’s cry expresses Western civilization’s horror of being aware that it is losing its humanity.
Aldo somnambulistically comes to the place of his previous work, from where he was able to see the house he lived with Irma and Rosina, while at work. The luxury of unity of love and work in a relative stability of life is not available anymore. Why is Aldo going to the tower, to a place where once he, confident and happy, felt himself over his own world?
Irma looks at Aldo on top of the tower. Aldo sees her and starts to feel dizzy. He cannot stand anymore. He loses his balance… and falls down. Aldo’s fall is the end of industrial labor’s self-respect, when industrial labor is pushed aside by technological development, when dreams about humane treatment of workers are superseded by a “further economic and technical progress”. The tragic loss of amorous intimacy, of the ability for feeling love because of de-privatization of love is not limited to industrial workers, of course, and impacts everyone who works including money- and the decision-makers.
Witnessing the end – the death of its children, Western civilization is on the verge of self-annihilation. Apocalypse, according to Antonioni of “Il Grido” is not just about death of people – in wars, by environmental catastrophes, from poisoned air and water, from human violence against other humans, but from the death of love between them.
Intense economic development and socio-cultural modernization in Europe and US after WWII creates uncertainties and anomic stresses – migration producing amorous instability, separation of sex from amour, financial and amorous insecurity and fragmentation of psyche as a result of pluralization of consumption (including mass-cultural pleasures). Intensification of economic and technological development with its anarchic waves and cultural innovations and entertainment proves itself to be a challenge to “human personal life”. This is the basic theme of Antonioni’s film.
The situation is not that economic instability itself necessarily and automatically leads to destabilization of amorous relationships, but that cultural atmosphere of higher expectations in economic realm stimulates growth of expectations in other areas including personal relations – it widens scope of what is possible to imagine in terms of lifestyle. Orientation on personal and financial success exhausts the human existential imagination and sometimes dries up the human interest in and the ability for profound intimacy in amorous relationships. While material conditions of life become better, it also takes much more effort to provide for oneself and one’s family. In the process of adapting to the opening economic and cultural potentials, to their own unleashed hopes and dreams, people appear in danger of losing the feeling of their immanent worth and unconditional ontological value.
But split between the two main characters Irma and Aldo started not with economic difficulties and uncertainties – it started with Irma’s love affair with a man younger than Aldo. “Il Grido” is not obviously a political film. And Antonioni is not directly a political analyst of the reality. He acts through his visually aesthetic metaphors. He thinks through honest beauty. His stories and images appeal to our intuition and able to create emotional responses in those whose souls are not yet hardened by fighting for survival, material prosperity and pleasures of economic self-assertion and consumerist self-realization.
Irma is a mature woman – her femininity subsumes and emotionally envelops her sexuality that cannot be recognized in its separateness from her personality. When Aldo learned about change in Irma’s feelings for him, he perceived this severance of personal bonds between them as a cosmic catastrophe, as something like an ontological rupture in the very structure of spiritual universe. Irma’s love is so crucial for Aldo that the end of their relationship made him lose all vitality and hope. Alida Valli who plays the role of Irma – plays not only the woman who decides to leave the father of her daughter and the person she lived with for years, but the personification of Being caught in a condition of Western modernity, the Being that cannot care about its sons anymore. It is from this task to play “abstraction”– a special density of Valli’s emotional power and her gate in this film – rapid, heavy and soft at once. She is the very modern life in front of our eyes, as if, goal-oriented and decisive, but a goal in itself and at the same time clouded by anguish. She is life itself, but because this modern life betrays her sons they must learn how to live without relying on life as wholeness, as a mother. They have to learn how to become the fathers in life, not life’s sons. But it is exactly, what the very psychological atmosphere of modernity prevents them from becoming. Sons, who are betrayed by mothers, cannot become fathers of life – only destroyers of life and themselves in it.
Through depiction of five love relationships (Aldo – Irma, Aldo – Alvia, Aldo – Edera, Aldo – Virginia, and Aldo – Andreina) Antonioni shows how mass-cultural and economic processes intervene, destabilize, shatter and finally replace the sensitive and delicate organism of personal love. Before, the very organism of Western culture could balance the quality of personal relations with orientation on material prosperity and the need for mass-cultural entertainment. But after the WWII, personal love between people was losing its solidity and started to waver (Irma’s worries that her relations with Aldo were losing vitality and were kept going only because of his needs in habitual emotional environment). Irma fell in love with another man, like modern culture abandoned human beings by giving preference to “economic development” and consumerism over human emotional happiness, and to production of technical gadgets/toys while neglecting the condition of human soul and quality of personal love.
Aldo‘s life after Irma is sketches of the destiny of a human being losing his emotional spirituality without which personal love is impossible and which only business calculation and pleasure- and fun-making don’t need. Aldo, like more and more people in the West, was not able to go through the ordeal – in his case of Irma‘s “disloyalty”. Antonioni gives us the opportunity to observe Aldo’s wanders in search of love and job. With each new affair and each temporary job Aldo becomes more desperate, frustrated and less sensitive. He took his daughter with himself, but he became less and less emotionally able to care for her. She had to return to her mother. The degradation of personal ties is immediately reflected in the flattening and vulgarization of social bonds. If the personal relations are such that another person is not treated with spontaneous reverie, in the social realm people will not treat each other with respect and positive attention – with deterioration of private relationships public relations deteriorate as well.
The place of Aldo’s memories about happiness with Irma is a small city permanently impregnated with, rather poetic fog, separating people visually and making human beings ghosts lost between life and not-life. The meaning of this fog as an image (that functions as aesthetic-semantic device) is that in modern life people are less and less available for each other for serious relationships – they can be gregarious or can glue together by sharing identities. But they are not really interested in one another – they are for spending pleasant time together or for enjoying loosing themselves in group enthusiasms. Their individual human souls are less and less discernible for other human souls.
Aldo (Steve Cochran), worked for years at the sugar refinery and could see from the tower of the factory the place he lived with Irma and Rosina. This Antonioni’s symbolic construction (when place of work and home can be enveloped by a single visual perspective) expresses nostalgically idealized pre-modern unity of work and personal life. The loss of this harmony was traumatizing not only for Aldo, but for most Italians caught in economic miracle demanding sacrifices and ready to compensate people with jobs without stability, extra money, with sex free from love, with potato chips and processed meats with beer instead of home cooking and with entertaining movies and sports events instead of healthy and quiet life. Aldo’s every private relationship that follows the previous one, becomes, as if, more transparent, loses its mystery, its unique quality, its superior importance in the life of the protagonists.
Aldo knew that Alvia (Betsy Blair, the legendary American actress) is in love with him, but in her place he met Edera, Alvia’s younger sister. In agreement with the times when sexual freedom is rated higher than love and dedication he allowed himself to fall for Edera under the same roof where Alvia lived, and tormented by shame he left early morning without even saying good bye to either of them. Of course, Aldo and Edera were both a bit drunk, if to try to find alibi for their one nightstand. In the togetherness between Irma and Aldo the factor of their sexual attraction to each other was not separated from their emotional closeness and existential dedication. It was a part of the wholeness of their relations. Situation of Aldo’s confusion between Alvia and Edera emphasizes a division inside Aldo between the sensual part of his personality and the dedication of his soul and heart. He loves Alvia, but he wants Edera. After Irma the wholeness of the world of intimacy is shattered. He has lost the ability to dissolve sex in love and started to feel sexual desire with the sharpness of an independent motivation.
Another Antonioni’s accent is the parallelism between economic and erotic nomadism. With Irma Aldo was erotically sedentary, and so was his socio-economic situation. His love for her provided him with the feeling of ontological security and centrality – the fact that he was able to see his house from the place of his work made his gaze the master of his existential space. Aldo, in spite of their modest means felt himself as a king of his kingdom. Ontological decentralization (compensated with money for vain consumption) introduced by the economic and technological development, was a challenge that had to be met by a humanistically educated human intelligence able to develop spiritually – able to lose the narcissistic pseudo-centrality of the traditional way of life and to develop the self, capable for rebirth and rejuvenation in new circumstances. It demands a special psychological training that Western societies refuse to finance. This is exactly the spot of Aldo’s and endless others’ victimization.
After his experience with Alvia/Edera Aldo’s path crossed with that of Virginia, the owner and attendant of a 24 hrs. roadside gas-station who has to be ready to serve the customers anytime somebody on the road stops to fill-up a tank. In a night she has to be out of bed many times. Aldo is the representative man with confident manners, and Virginia offered him a job which he had to take – Rosina was with him. But when during their weekend picnic in the city, during walk through the construction sites, Rosina spotted her father and Virginia in intimate moment that frightened her, Aldo who demanded from himself to be an impeccable father, became irritated at himself and felt that he has to leave. His belief that it’s possible, in his situation to find a place where Rosina could have normal life collapsed under his self-recriminations. His attempt to live with Virginia had failed – it is impossible to love while being forced to jump out whenever you hear a signaling car in need of gas. It is like to be a corporate salesman in a time of global economy, when you have to “travel” all the time and have to communicate with your wife and children through e-mail and skype.
Aldo’s next landing was a little shack on the outskirt of a tiny provincial city where Andreina, a youthful semi-prostitute, gave him place, food and human warmth. He accepted it for a while, but eventually he started to feel so deprived and guilty that he left… to return back to the place where he felt so happy with Irma and Rosina. This fourth phase of de-privatization of intimacy (after the first, that we can call crack in intimacy as ontological universe [with Irma]; the second – split between love and sexual attraction [with Alvia and Edera]; the third – when love must compete with dictates of work [with Virginia]); we can call the situation when the subject of love has to compete or co-exist with his partner’s business clients.
Today, fifty seven years later after the first public screening of the film, we observe on daily basis desperate people, shattered by chronic unemployment (or fear of it) and humiliation connected with it (for them unemployment is not only “economic problem”, but the question of their personal value – of being somebody or nobody). When upon his return to Goriano, Aldo came to the place of his old work and looked around – he saw Irma (who minutes before seen him looking at her window and run after him, in order to prevent what, she felt, might happen). Seeing Irma made him dizzy, and he fell down from the tower where he worked for years, right in front of Irma. It is the scream of Irma in the very moment of Aldo’s fall what made the title of the film. This impossible scream transcends any scream human being can produce. It is the scream of the Western culture witnessing the victims of economic and technological modernization and ‘cultural development”. But what is sacrificed here even before human lives is human love, too human, too ordinarily human to compete with passion for money-profit and the need for cheap entertainment. The scream Irma produced is the scream of a culture that is losing its humanity.
May be, human beings can live without money, but they cannot live without love. Also, something is wrong is with Aldo’s concept of love. His love is too symbiotic – he gets his own being through love and stability of life around it. It is not that Aldo is not individualistic enough but that his individuality is not existentially spiritual enough. It is, as if, archaic way of life mixed with forced modernization catches people off-guard, unable to react on the new socio-economic problems and cultural gimmicks in sober and adequate way. Today’s people don’t have enough humanistic education (psychology, sociology, anthropology, philosophy, serious arts, etc.) to learn how to become effective non-conformists instead of becoming victims of a system that becomes more and more sophisticated in manipulating people. Aldo’s death is not inevitable if he, the person of pre-modern ways, could be less narcissistic. Then the anomie created by the wealthy entrepreneurs and financial decision-makers’ irrational need for profit couldn’t throw him and most others out of balance.
Socio-economic and erotic nomadism described by Antonioni, have two relatives, two similar expressions of the nomadic impulse as attempts to adapt to economic-technological modernization (without being either destroyed by it or transformed into its slaves/robots). Almost in all Antonioni’s films the leading male characters are slightly caricature versions of a nomad in love (amorous nomads with vain peculiarities of their amorous style). It is, as if, the chaotic, anomic and entropic modernity stroke at the very heart of their emotional and ontological stability. Behind all the reasons for amorous wandering lies a destroyed psychological matrix corresponding to the inability to love inside intimate relationship with spiritual refinement. But Antonioni, as if, suggests the existence of a still another kind of existential and amorous nomadism – without a compensatory quality, the one of self-delivery and self-realization. Antonioni depicts this planetary nomadism in two forms – identity nomadism: the human beings’ attempt to change their identity (this topic is directly elaborated in his “Passenger” – 1975), and Antonioni’s own stylistic orientation to make the cinematographic space of his films meaningful regardless of the plot and capable to carry a substantial symbolic weight of sense and beauty (the aesthetics of the cinematic space then becomes the metaphor of human ability for spiritual experience which, as if, nomadically leaves psychologically traumatized heroes and becomes incarnated into pure visuality or dense symbolism). Endless shifts from narration to authorial contemplations are a form of nomadic search to find new and better incarnations for spiritual potentials of human intimacy in aesthetic and philosophical images.
The very scream of Irma at the end of “Il Grido” is such an image Antonioni’s artistic-philosophical intuition found to go ahead of the dead end in his heroes’ attempts to resolve their problems.
*Economico-political term “privatization” is the opposite of “socialization” and in the beginning of the 21st century, especially in US, it carries a positive connotation of taking the basic services the democratic government provides to citizens of democracy and putting it in private hands of the profit-makers. Psychological term – “de-privatization” doesn’t have any semantic proximity to the concept of “privatization”. It has a very strong negative connotation as designating the loss of privacy, intimacy, uniqueness of private relationships, mainly, amorous ones. De-privatization as a socio-psychological phenomenon has nothing to do with “socialization”. It means the loss of the ability for having a refined, rich and unique emotional relationship between amorous partners. De-privatization of amorous bonds is flattening and trivializing human love in an epoch when all the energies of human beings have to be mobilized by the necessity to succeed in an economically adversary socio-political environment and under the monarchy of mass-cultural patterns of perception of the world, which has made consumption of things, services and entertainment the basic human occupation and by this has radically closed the possibility for human relations with disinterested education and factual truths.
15 Aug 2014
Posted by victor as Discussion and Mind-Probing, Socio-political Dreams In Relation To Socio-political Realities (The Russian Communist Future And Totalitarian Present, German Aryan Superiority and The Third Reich,...), Sociological essays
The Russian mind invented a quasi-religious belief in a Communist future, and a totalitarian reality. The German mind invented Aryan superiority and the Third Reich. The American mind invented democracy and obsession with profit.
Political idealism takes us away from the reality of life. We want to be better than we are. The idealized image of humanity (our own idealized self-images) pushes us ahead, and we forget ourselves, our real condition. We forget about our limitations. We become vehicles of our own wishful thinking. We become too full of our own goodness. So, we start to promote our socio-political dreams, as if, it is we ourselves. We start to impose them on others, on the whole world. We start to violate the world with our goodness, with its superiority, with our exceptionalism. We become a weapon in the hands of our super-goodness – we become the badness of our goodness, Evil of ourselves as Good. That’s how the Russian communist dream became inseparable from Soviet totalitarianism. Or, that’s how the German narcissistic self-image dream about Aryan genetic superiority has rooted itself in the bombastic idea of the Third Reich. But what about the American messianic democracy, the torch in the world, the star of the earth, which is for Americans what for Russians was communism? Human proclivity for idealized self-image, for aggrandizing ourselves through this imaginary self-idealization makes us more existentially confident, able to act in the world. Self-aggrandizement, megalomaniacal feeling is a kind of psychological weapon with which our social nature allows us to step into the world of otherness (which we take for adversity) with the belief in ourselves.
It is, as if, we need to think about ourselves as being better than we are in reality, in order to be able to be ourselves. In other words, if we want to be as bad as we are we have to think that we are much better. To have the right to be as bad as we really are we have to misperceive ourselves as being much better than we are. We have to misrecognize ourselves in our embellished self-image to behave as criminally as we want. In this sense, the American idea of itself as the democracy was necessary to cover up the American unconscious dream (metastasized in endless conscious calculations) of giving itself to profit-making by any price, which we ourselves, our enemies and our planetary house will pay for. This our need to see ourselves better than we are in order to be able to act in the world can be our homage to our god – the necessity to fool him/our super-ego so that we can be what we really are in our ego, in order to get his (our god/super-ego’s) permission to act.
Soviet totalitarianism is the existential structure under the pole with communist banner on it, like the Third Reich – a cruiser-womb for Aryan superiority, like American democracy – a flag of wage slavery and globalist aggressions with the mandate to save other countries and nations from being themselves. We, humans, cannot be straight with ourselves because of our polarized psychological nature. Our self-consciousness is depersonalized on sky/idealized dreams and the earth/reality of our practical environment. When we are crushing somebody’s skull we have to imagine that we have been sent to do this by god of our ideological, financial, military and moral superiority. In the 21st century we have already become so smart that we don’t need to imagine it – we simply imply it matter-of-factly – we put it to the logic of the official statements about our always best intentions possible to imagine. Our godliness is inside our righteousness and our determination and will – our very existence, our breath, sweat and blood, our adrenaline of endurance and our victorious American testosterone.
In semantic oppositions between our idealizing imaginary and our reality needs – communism and totalitarianism (Soviet Union), our superiority and our mighty country (Nazi Germany), and democracy and the need for profit (US) we see not only contradiction between “goal” and “means” to achieve it. In our Russian example, communism and totalitarianism have similar orientation on the commune and a common psychological accent on one identity for multiplicity of people – a common worldview, lifestyle and even tastes. The difference between the imaginary communist commune and real totalitarian one is the degree of commune’s sublimated – benign, and de-sublimated – violent character. Unification of a totalitarian commune by violent means is considered natural – practical and effective, while the communist commune is imagined as the idealized and aestheticized. It is thought as “voluntary” and happily accepted and enjoyed.
Similar situation is with “our” superiority and our strong country (in our German example). Reich is not only capable of imposing “our” superiority on other countries – if the natural metaphor for “our” superiority is “pure shining of our glory” over the world (like sun over earth), metaphor of a strong country “promoting” our superiority is its ability for effective violence – political, military and financial (this last type of violence – the ability to buy allies and loyalists, was still underdeveloped under the German Nazis and found its full realization in US globalist maneuverings of the 21st century).
Relations between the ability to develop democracy (means) and ability for making larger and larger profits (goal) in US is more complicated than that between imaginary and real in the previous (Russian and German) examples although still similar enough. Right wing financial entrepreneurs in US more and more identify democracy with their profits. In their minds the democracy is democracy for them – the unrestricted freedom to make unlimited profits on the taxpayers’ money (through reduction of their taxes, and loopholes in taxation), austerity for and pauperization of the populations. Here also relations between “goal” (money/profit) and “tools” (politico-economic structure making possible to achieve it) repeat that between communism and totalitarianism (Soviet Russia) or “our superiority” and our country realizing and proving it by military means (Nazi Germany). But the difference between Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany on the one hand, and democracy on the other is that the very concept of perfection (corresponding to a collective ideal in comparison with the factual reality) is not ideal organization of society (Russian communism) or about “our” unconditional superiority over others (German racial superiority) but – the money alchemically compressed into a special substance – profit (money infinitely multiplying itself and able, finally, provide its holder with equivalent of immortality). The unconscious of the wealthy worshippers of money builds a magical bridge between lack and plenty, plenty and plenitude, and plenitude and immortality and elevated this “construction” into an absolute point of ultimate achievement. The Russian idea of communist superiority, Nazi idea of racial superiority and American idea of money/weapon superiority invoke each other as a repercussion of one another as, basically, functionally identical mythological constructs.
If to joke about it, it’s possible to say that profit for American financial magnates is like communism for the Soviet leading communists and Nazi racial superiority for the Nazis. Like for communists communism is over-idealized future and for the Nazis – their over-idealized self-image, for today’s financial elite their profit occupies the imaginary point of absolute invulnerability from human condition. It is the sun over the planets, gold over stone and immortality over illness and death. The problem for the American financial elitists is something like how to be transformed into money, how to become money – more exactly – how to become their own profit (a substance capable to provide them with eternity in their pockets). With developing technology they probably will eventually achieve even that. And this will be the great progress in comparison with the previous (Soviet and German) attempts to play Baron Munchausen – to pull themselves out of the swamp of banal human condition by their own hair.
The more uncatchable the communism seemed, the more totalitarian totalitarianism becomes, like the more difficult it becomes to prove “our” superiority, the more desperate “our country” must try to prove it, and the more profit we need to achieve a closeness to real immortality (invulnerability to death) the more desperate we will try to transform life into profit and human balls into wealth. To try harder and harder means to perfect our strategies of reaching desired results. The German example is Holocaust – “the more difficult it became for Nazis to win the war the more they needed the Jews to realize their desperate will for destruction”. The Russian examples are Stalinist repressions of the late thirties and at the end of 20th century the transformation of traditional totalitarianism into a financial one (what usually called in the West the “collapse of communism”). European and American example is taking the course on austerity and pauperization of populations and new massive and messy wars, which will allow the profit-men to feel as rich as they want to be in comparison with the rest of the people. Pauperization of the masses of population is just another side of self-enrichment when minority of profit-worshippers’ yearning for profits irrationally, exaggeratedly turns into a fairy-tale/mythological type of obsession.
10 Aug 2014
Truth is an intellectual integrity issue…, an ethical issue. We should be teaching our children how to determine what is true.
Harold Kroto, 1996 Nobel Prize Laureate in Chemistry
Fascism as the impossibility of truth – when fake (aggrandized) self-image, contempt and hate for otherness and artificial (fraudulent) goals (of self/group enrichment and despotic control over others) transform life into idolatry.
In 1936 Garcia Lorca was arrested by Franquist soldiers, and on the 17th or 18th of August, after a few days in jail soldiers took him to “visit” his brother-in-law, the socialist ex-mayor of Grenade whom the soldiers had murdered several days before and dragged his corpse through the street. When they arrived at the cemetery, the soldiers forced Garcia Lorca from the car. They struck him with the butts of their rifles and riddled his body with bullets. His books were burned in Granada’s Plaza del Carmen and were banned from Franco’s Spain.
In the sky there is nobody asleep.
The creatures of the moon sniff and prowl about their cabins.
Nobody is asleep on earth.
graveyard far off there is a corpse
who has moaned for three years
because of a dry countryside on his knee;
and that boy they buried this morning cried so much
it was necessary to call out the dogs to keep him quiet.
Life is not a dream.
We fall down the stairs in order to eat the moist earth
or we climb to the knife edge of the snow with the voices of the dead dahlias. But forgetfulness does not exist, dreams do not exist;
flesh exists. Kisses tie our mouths
in a thicket of new veins,
and whoever his pain pains will feel that pain forever and whoever is afraid of death will carry it on his shoulders.
the horses will live in the saloons
and the enraged ants
will throw themselves on the yellow skies that take refuge in the eyes of cows.
The men who still have marks of the claw and the thunderstorm,
or that dead man who possesses now only his head and a shoe, we must carry them to the wall where the iguanas and the snakes are waiting, where the mummified hand of the boy is waiting, and the hair of the camel stands on end with a violent blue shudder.
Nobody is sleeping in the sky.
If someone does close his eyes,
a whip, boys, a whip!
Let there be a landscape of open eyes
and bitter wounds on fire.
is sleeping in the world.
I have said it before.
No one is sleeping.
But if someone grows too much moss on his temples during the night, open the stage trapdoors so he can see in the moonlight
the lying goblets, and the poison, and the skull of the theaters.
By Federico Garcia Lorca
In three lines starting the poem Lorca describes three types of people with whom he populates the world he creates in his poem. These types, through intricate metaphoric chains suppose to refer to the people of Spain in a period around Civil war that puts the fascists and their leader General Franco as the rulers of the new, post-democratic Spain. These types are – the sky settlers, “the creatures of the moon” (“who sniff and prowl about their cabins”), and the earth settlers. The creatures of the moon are characterized by Lorca purely behaviorally, the sky settlers – only indirectly, and the earth settlers are those with whom Lorca identifies (by using in the line 10 pronoun “we”). Lorca puts “us” who are prone to destroy one another – so intense “our” fear and hate of life, on a kind of eternal vigil to make “us” able to be witnesses of our own violence. Even gods (sky settlers) are forbidden by the poet to rest and close eyes. But the creatures of the moon, it seems, are the prosperous or the poor philistines who try to live without personal participation in clashes of human history – who just want to survive and live without endangering themselves and their comforts by any action that may put them at risk. Creatures of the moon are not without moral maxims, but these principles became mute, lost articulation, became morbidly de-cathected. The earth settlers, on the other hand, consist of two categories – murderers and victims. Both of these categories of people are moved by social passions and striking (murderers) or shining (victims) verbalities. Murderers need language to make themselves ferocious, victims – to talk with their destinies.
From the line 4 to line 8 (“In a graveyard far off there is a corpse/ Who has moaned for three years/ because of a dry countryside on his knee; / and the boy they buried this morning cried so much/ it was necessary to call out the dogs to keep him quiet.”) Lorca draws a world where the living and the dead are co-present and co-exist in a kind of a bizarre and horrible togetherness struck by a common existential trauma, in a sort of a surreal community where both sides try to find a common language they didn’t know before when they lived on earth not yet destroyed by hate, crime and wars (even if these times exist only in their unconscious as a nostalgic dream). Lorca’s images display the exuberance of horror which he extends into virtuoso imagery which tries to dispel the pain through the consoling aesthetic touch. His poetic art embraces terror of life in the name of the dead and the maimed who need first and foremost the truth, not compassion.
Lines 9 /11addresses the fact that we, the creatures of pre-apocalypse (who are preparing its coming without understanding) are not able to differentiate between living and dreaming and transform life into a place for acting out our dreams, with disastrous consequences for humanity’s present and future (“eating the moist earth while hearing voices of the dead dahlias“– victims’ reincarnated souls that died again).
In lines 12 –14 we learn that in a world where violence is a norm as gulp of air we inhale, memories are dreams of the flesh – distortion of and distraction from the truth, when kisses become predatory like jaws that also hold the keys to the future. In a fascist periods flesh becomes mind, kisses – bites, and aggression and destruction – the only future.
And lines 15 –16 deliver Lorca’s condemnations of human inability to sustain life (to refrain from violent feelings and actions). He punishes humans for the inability to perceive the truth of human impossible suffering with religiously stylized condemnation (“whoever his pain pains will feel that pain forever and whoever is afraid of death will carry it on his shoulders.”)
The lines 17 – 20 are inspired by Lorca’s desperate futurological insight. Today, in the 21st century we see how “the horses live in the saloons” (louts who carry the logic of personal enrichment by any price to dominate or crush the world), how “the enraged ants throw themselves on the yellow skies” (conservative politicians and propagandists use god and sacred symbols in order to scapegoat those who think differently), and how “yellow skies take refuge in the eyes of cows” (how beauty and positivity of life pushed by hate and violence to retreat into the eyes of cows who are signifying the universal tribe of conformist and indifferent philistines, these survivors on the crumbs of the wealthy/powerful elites).
Lines 21 – 25 (developing the topic of lines 4 – 8) concentrate on the unbearable truth of the inevitable violent death – on further decaying of the bodies of the dead and wounded, when already mummified parts of the corpse want to disappear completely, to get themselves out of the torment of dying into absolute non-being. Lorca wants us not only see the physical death inflicted on the living and those who are already dead but not completely decomposed, but to feel the violent death not in the terms of its victims, but on the conditions of death including bodily decomposition – as a torture, as an apocalyptic violence against life and death. “To have a mark of thunderstorm” then means to be deadly bitten by an enraged nature, and “iguanas and snakes” then are the reincarnated souls of murderers who even after their death continue to practice their immortal craft, while “mummified hand of the boy” is a nightmarish signifier of a victim transformed into a predator (Lorca’s surrealistic parody on the ideological dream about historical progress).
Lines 26 – 32 include iconoclastic motif in Lorca’s scope of poetic experiences. He is including gods, deities and angels in those who need redemption. He demands from the gods an eternal vigil. He forbids them to turn away from earthly violence. The poet condemns not only the earth- and moon-settlers but the sky settlers as well to uninterruptedly look at the earthly violence and its consequences. He demands from them a better understanding of what’s happening with the world. He demands “a landscape of open eyes” and “bitter wounds on fire” – he invokes stars as cosmic eyes of the Creation, when stars see and burn. He post-apocalyptically invokes a cosmic analogy with earthly suffering. Stars/suns are dying by giving us life. Lorca appeals to the cosmic womb to understand the human suffering as a result of eternal return and repetition of fascist periods throughout human history as a result of human a vicious intimacy with inflicting violence.
Lines 33 – 36 provide the apotheosis of the poem. Oh, how well do we understand today, after invented wars of greed and the massive bailouts of petty criminals with big money appropriated through taxation of the illiterate poor, Lorca’s image of “growing too much moss on the temples”! The last lines mark the destruction of serious art in the totalitarian (in traditional or mass-cultural sense) episodes of human history, when theaters are transformed into skeletons and skulls, and solemn ideological goblets poison human reason with fraudulent jingoistic pathos.
07 Aug 2014
We entered a phase of art history in which beauty is of less importance to artists than the meaning they might convey through a work of art… works of art are embodied meanings.
Arthur C. Danto, Art News, p. 58, Sept, 2013
Left-wing parties won most votes at the elections and set up a Spanish Republic to replace the old monarchy… When the Republicans win again at the 1936 elections, General Franco and the section of the Spanish army decide to take military action against the Republic. On 18 July 1936, they launch a coup d’état, starting three long years of bloody civil war.
Alain Serres, “And Picasso Painted Guernica”, Allen&Unwin, p. 17
Bombing of Guernica occurred on April 26, 1937, during the Spanish Civil War… Guernica (is) the cultural capital of the Basque people… The all-out air attack had been ordered on Franco’s behalf to break off Basque resistance to Nationalist forces. Guernica had served as the testing ground for a new Nazi military tactic – blanket bombing of civilian population to demoralize the enemy. The Germans bombed Guernica with no military target in mind, just for the sake of eradication of the population. In 1935, Nazi general Erich Ludendorff had published “The Total war’ (Die Totale Krieg) in which he argued that modern war was all encompassing and that no- one could or should be spared by the military. He argued that civilians were combatants and should be treated accordingly. The German bombers appeared in the skies over Guernica in the late afternoon… It was a market day. For over three hours twenty five or more of Germany’s best equipped bombers, accompanied by at least twenty more Messerschmitt and Fiat Fighters, dumped one hundred thousand pounds of high explosive and incendiary bombs. Those trying to escape were cut down by the strafing machine-guns of the fighter planes.
In four semantic segments symbolizing four monumental achievements of worldly civilization, Picasso registers the destruction of the meaning of civilized life by the megalomaniacal barbarity of war-making. If the military destruction of civil population is tragic enough especially as it reaches genocidal proportions, the terror of massive destruction of life’s cultural symbolism is even more horrifying as the destruction of the very code of human culture and the future of humankind. It transforms not only the civilization but its “genetic code” – the human culture, into rubble, and the human potentials and meaning of life into entropic inorganic mass.
In the very right segment of the painting we see not only agony and death of a person who was resting/relaxing after a working day, but death of human moments of benign solitude as a prerequisite of human contemplative ability, of freedom to think independently from the world around, of looking at the world with a renewed, rejuvenated gaze, when “existential everydayness” (taking a bath) is combined with the ability to contemplate about life while being alone with oneself.
In the second segment (to the left from the first one just mentioned) we see two women, perhaps, two sisters or a mother and daughter, who during panic provoked by the bombing, are trying to search for the victims and salvation. Let’s pay attention to the details and see how the artist depicts the human reactions on terror. The both women, as if, got additional eyes – the eyes of horror located in between the reality in the process of being blown and the “archaic” human eyes. These additional eyes are tiny and, as if, are, rather obstacle for seeing clearly than helping vision. We see the upper woman’s left hand (the right, stretched one is with candle) under her head in between her two breasts with nipples transformed into stings. Similar transformation we see with the nipples of the woman beneath. But why Picasso makes her feet so big and heavy? Is it because each step can be road to death or to salvation, to finding the dear ones alive or dead, and her feet for her in this moment are as important as her whole destiny? This segment shows how women’s mind, under the sway of panic is ripped off from women as psychological wholeness, as beings with existential thinking, perceiving life not through technical – manipulative intentionality, but through emotional wings of human soul. Here, Picasso already is not only addressing especially inhumane military operation but alluding to the predatorily over-intense technologico-economic modernization transforming women in their pursuit of socio-economic success into an imitation of men with instrumental minds cut from existential/humanistic aspect of reality. The loss of feminine (holistic) thinking is an important factor of militarism and technological development as a profit making enterprise.
In the third segment of the painting (third bloc of human civilization destroyed by military intervention) Picasso depicts the shattering of the very collaboration between man and nature (signified by the dying/petrifying rider and his horse). The human ability for writing – for registering human experiences in the alphabetical system of signs was one of the most significant steps humankind made towards meaning as such. Writing on papyrus and lotus and training animals (writing on the very alive bodies of nature) are about nature inside the human perception. Writing is transforming nature into human – more encompassing meaning, uniting nature and human reasoning in one cognitive embrace. Each accomplishment of human race with nature was a human achievement in collaboration with flora and fauna of the earth. But look at the wounded horse – wounded nature, wounded human cognition on the body of nature. Her body was hit and now is covered with drops of sweat as a sign of her panic and horror of dying. Her tongue, in response to the attack on the part of, as she perceives it – the whole world, produced fang, a futile self-defense against military technology. The horse is in a process of falling on her knees. Her body not only becomes a symbol of a murdered nature, but that of murdered history of collaboration between humankind and creatures of nature who in collaboration with humans participated in human and natural history. From the ability to write on the nature (to teach nature to collaborate – horse’s body as a carrier of human text) to the horror of dying (when writing is transformed into the sweat of the panic of dying) – here we have the “evolution” of a civilized life to death of a civilization. By the power of the impact of the bombs the rider was thrown to the ground. And his death (death of human ability to collaborate with nature and the beginning of pernicious destruction of the natural environment) transforms the human being into a stature – a memorial of him who having been part of nature capable of enriching it, registration of the moment when this unity between man and nature was radically shattered.* Picasso, as if, transformed the treacherous act of bombing of Guernica into the catastrophic moment in human history – he attributes this attack on civilians to military-industrial style of international behavior which is soon to produce the most extreme examples amongst the most extreme of human wars. The destruction of the alliance between rider and horse as a metonymy of the death of collaboration between humans and nature confirms the ever growing trend of total domination over nature in the cult of fossil fuel, Monsanto, various types of hydraulic mining, radiation from nuclear stations and high-tech weapons, chemical destruction of air, water and soil, etc.
In the fourth segment of the painting (at its left margin) Picasso represents the fourth aspect of destruction of civilized life by military-industrial sectors of various countries’ economy and technology. It is destruction of civilized bonds between men and women. The military power applied to life destroys women and children and brutalizes men (when they were able to survive) – it transforms them into metaphoric bulls. When women and children are killed or became physically or/and psychologically crippled, men are emotionally transformed into Minotaurs. Where women appeal to god for help, men become blind brutal power. Picasso depicts the bull’s tail as a volcanic fury.
In his “Guernica” Picasso has showed how military violence destroys the creative potentials of human aloneness, woman as the incarnation of psychological wholeness, the very relations between human beings and nature and human intimacy between men and women (we today are acquainted with all this by seeing so many injured, crippled American soldiers with PTSD unable, after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, to continue to live with their families and in their neighborhoods, in amorous and communal life).
We have to learn from Picasso’s comprehension that military solution to the problems between individuals, groups of people, and nations cannot be productive, it will always be barbaric, historically regressive and directed against future.
*The third segment of the painting brings also the image of cry of a killed bird, and that of a flower as a part of the very embrace between human hand and the handle of the sword. This visual semantic detail – a flower between a warrior and his weapon emphasizes the very incompatibility between a just and an unjust wars. The flower dies together with the sword, when the war is unjust – a strategy of conquering other countries for the purpose of one’s financial enrichment and ideological, political and military domination. This combination of sword and flower in the hand of the warrior is the ultimate symbol of just war (war of genuine, not fraudulent (preemptive strike) self-defense.
06 Aug 2014
“Oedipus Rex”examines the relationships between the young generations and systems of power at various periods of Western history. Taking the tragedy by Sophocles as a semantic skeleton of his film, Pasolini adds to the Greek play historical perspective – he assembles the scenes that took place in Ancient Greece with life during fascist period in Italy and with what happens to Oedipus during the post-WW2 Italian “economic miracle”. Pasolini emphasizes the historical universality of Oedipus’ predicaments. By doing this incredible semantic/stylistic equilibristic – tripartite concept of human history, Pasolini returns science-fictional paradigm of time-travel from being part of the content of art to where it belongs – to its form. From the epoch of Italian fascism the hero is “transferred” by the director to Ancient Greece and from there to Italian democratic post-modernity.
Pasolini dedicates the film to the analysis of how the youth in different epochs relates to the truth about societal life (how much or how little young people are able to understand about how the system functions and how they are mistreated at the hands of the elder generations), and with what tricks and tactics the systems of domination make it impossible for the young to understand what life and human relations in the society are really about. Through particular images and twists of the plot Pasolini enumerates five strategies of distorting truth by the system which makes it impossible for the youth to reach rational understanding of the social reality.
Truth without explanation and prediction without validation – the dogmatic (authoritarian) truths of the ancient oracles and prophets and today’s conservative propagandists alike explain reality through the expecting/forecasting crimes of victims of socio-political system,not through the crimes of those who rule over life. Oedipus is transformed into a criminal not only because he was abused by the hate of his father and not protected against this hate by his mother but also because how his predicaments were formulated by the systemic reason (ideologically functioning culture). According to Pasolini, condemnation of Oedipus by gods/destiny is the equivalent of being sacrificed by the system that understands crime as a personal transgression of Laws, taboos, and rules of idolized social hierarchy – not as internalization of system’s values of rivalry, competition, fight for self-enrichment and success, and also of greed, megalomania and belligerency.
Pasolini operates with different types of images depicting human reactions – for example, images registering not just reaction on circumstances but human reactions as that of people’s psychological wholeness (when reaction is semantically loaded and seems inadequate for simpleminded – based only on cause-effect connection, perception), or images with symbolic connotations making them archetypal, like that of Oedipus biting the back of his hand (his palm-his destiny) when he feels trapped in it, or that of the waves of blind fury in Oedipus are represented as moments of being blinded by the sun, as in his childhood he was, as if, blinded by the gaze of his father. Pasolini has a unique ability to root ideas in stylistic configurations and effects.
“Oedipus Rex” is stylistically and intellectually like a unique organism – there is no other film in the history of cinema (including Pasolini’s other films) like this. The style of the film is uniquely created for expressing the chronic abuse of younger generations in human history.
“Oedipus Rex” as a rare historical film (combining various historical periods in relation to the same character who in real life couldn’t be living in all of them). Pasolini represents fascism as a certain style of treating human beings which he defines as, tragically, the very cradle of human history. The film starts not with Ancient Greece, but with Mussolini’s Italy. The Greek – enlarged part of the film (based on Sophocles’ play), and then – our European post-modernity, follow. Fascism, according to the film, is for human history what human unconscious is for individual psyche.
That’s how Oedipus’ father Laos (a prototypical abuser of the male off-springs) looked in his old age, with eyes that are simultaneously frightened and frightening, the eyes of wary warrior which know how death looks.
Oedipus as a king, as if, trying to out-do and out-power his father through the tallness of his “crown” (symbolizing the phallic might as a signifier of an irrational drive to subdue, to kill, to rule – the modern equivalent of which for human psychology today is the destructive power of missiles to menace, intimidate and kill and money to seduce, corrupt, dictate and manipulate)
Oh, if only our peaceful intentions as we formulate them were enough to create and sustain peace. When we proclaim our goodness and peacefulness our noble statements always include conditions and additions which make wars inevitable.
Merope, Oedipus’ adoptive – loving mother (Alida Walli) whose genuine desire for Oedipus’ happiness is helpless to protect him from his foretold destiny, as any mother’s love is powerless in front of aggressive intensity of the conditions of our life
Oedipus birth mother Jocasta (Silvana Mongano) cannot believe in the intensity of her husband’s (Oedipus’ father) desire to make love again and again. But his sexual tirelessness has nothing to do with love or even with sex. In fascist conditions of life it is the aggressive drive that activates sexual desire, the motivation to outperform competitors, to self-assert, to impose oneself on the world, to “mark and enlarge my territory’.
05 Aug 2014
“Salome’s Last Dance” depicts predatory (possessive and despotic) personal love as a phenomenon typical for many people in all the social strata in various historical epochs. By comparing the existential atmosphere in Ancient Judea under the Roman domination with the European modernity of the end of 19th century (where the film’s main action took place) and the end of the European post-WW2 democratic renaissance (when the film was made) Russell creates a universal picture of predatory love in its social and psychological aspects. “Salome’s Last Dance” is a comparative analysis of amorous encounter between two human beings (including princess Salome and John the Baptist, Herod and Herodias, and Lord Douglas/Bosie towards Oscar Wilde) as a fight for domination when even sexual desire becomes the instrument in this fight and even dependent position in love relations is used as a leverage to tie up and control another person.
Russell makes Oscar Wilde a character inside his film, in order to, it seems, open an additional historical perspective: scholarly versatilize Wilde’s play, and dramatize human personal encounters by showing its historical context and psychological universality. The director’s elaborate classification of the types of possessive love (all of them internalize and utilize the experience of social competitive fight by using amorous accent for its dramatic and psycho-dramatic intensification) quite applicable to our life in the 21st century is a serious achievement of this film.
Burlesque and tragedy mixed up on the screen, as it happens in life, defeating human imagination and moral idealism.
The acting is in the best tradition of English theater when actors not only articulate the characters’ emotions before the viewers but demonstrate their psychological roots. Glenda Jackson (Herodias and Lady Alice) and Stratford Johns (Herod and Alfred Taylor, the brothel keeper) gave in this film the sharpest performance of their long creative careers. Their mimic and intonational versatility are unique and memorable and transcend the code of commercial acting limited by the conformist orientation on the audience’s generic taste. Russell’s interesting analysis of the psychological peculiarities of homosexual love (based on love affair between Oscar Wilde and Lord Douglas/Bosie) is a part of his classification of types of personal love.
Watching the film is a challenge with a kind of creative and stimulating humiliation, especially for us, Americans today (formed by the consumption of mass cultural – degraded, products) who tend to think about themselves as cultural exception, somebody who live “after history”. Ken Russell puts us in our place by showing how in human history we are typical in our inflamed competitiveness, fight for higher place in social hierarchy and yearning to dominate over other people.
Herod and his wife Herodias. She is permanently scheming to psychologically pressure her husband in order to influence his decisions, but his main strategy with her is to play innocent. He knows that to let her feel that she is dominating him is the best way to keep himself in charge of everything.
Salome “handles” her stepfather’s guards through superficial seductiveness and glamorous manner, and it works because of her princess status. In short, guards agree to do whatever she wants them to because then they’ll feel godly rapport with emanation of her superiority. The more capriciously she behaves the more irresistible she becomes for them.
Salome with her decorative (artificial) phallus as a symbol of shining power manipulates her self-sacrificial admirer – the young Capitan of the Guards (who will later in the scene commit suicide right in front of his Princess) and simultaneously his admirer – the “golden page”.
Oscar Wilde as a character in the film (on the left) with two another characters – Alfred Taylor, the brothel-keeper and a theater enthusiast (who also plays King Herod in his own directorial debut on the stage of his brothel) and Lady Alice (who also plays Herodias), all three are exceedingly, overwhelmingly, Wildesquely witty.
Posted on Aug, 26 2011 – Ken Russell’s “Salome’s Last Dance” (1988) – Personal Love as an Idolatrous Association with Another Human Being Who Comes to Personify for the Subject Supreme Ontological Value by Acting-Out Politics
04 Aug 2014
Posted by victor as “Germany, Pale Mother” (1980) by Helma Sanders-Brahms, Discussion and Mind-Probing, Reviews of Films
“Germany, Pale Mother”examines the etiology of German Nazism and shows it in a way that it makes it relevant for countries that have never experienced a full blown systemic totalitarianism. Helma Sanders-Brahms (HSB) makes an accent not on Nazi ideology or politics and policies, but on its psychology. She represents German Nazism as a potential universal psychopathology that can afflict countries and nations with a self-image that may look incompatible with any type of fascism. HSB enriches her psychological analysis by emphasizing how human subjectivity is wounded by fascist environment and way of thinking and how a human being as an independent agency capable of making his/her own judgments about life and his/her moral decisions, is made crippled by fascist/totalitarian behavioral norms and values.
HSB as director and author of the screenplay makes the viewers living in today’s democracies to see in the mirror of Nazism… themselves, and the same with Germans who survived Nazism but didn’t understand what fascism is, didn’t share Nazi worldview and tried just to adapt and survive the “difficult times”. To experience the film is a spiritual ordeal which we, the film viewers today, regardless of what country we live in, must go through to be able to prevent our country from falling into a totalitarian abyss. The film’s plot is involving and interesting, but the film is full of intriguing and intellectually demanding visually symbolic images and their combinations, which enlarge the narrative into numerous philosophical allusions and psychological points. Of course, these images can be ignored by not too attentive and not very cognitively oriented viewers who still will surely be involved in the dramatic intensity of the psychological indulgences of the young Nazis, endurance of the apolitical philistines, people’s attempts to adapt to what contradicts not only human nobility but the sober logic of human commonsense, and in mass participation (in spite of people’s fears, doubts and despair) in the existential theater of the absurd just because “all are invited”.
We see how violence, carried out by political extremists is really a very effective way of repressing people’s conscience and how utopian passions unleashed by the megalomaniacal propagandists are even a more effective tool of making people solemnly mad and righteously cruel just from feeling that possessing of high-tech military technology and stupefying obsession with power and wealth will make it possible for one nation to rule over the world.
The film is an epos, a socio-psychological research, a personal romance of, in a way, beautiful people Lena and Hans, violently turned upside-down by a life transformed into hell, and, finally, a chronology of martyrdom as the apotheosis of existentially spiritual redemption.
Eva Mattes (Lena) and Ernst Jacobi’s (Hans) emotions are universally human, and so is their ability to be liberated from many-faced and many-headed demon of fascism. But it is their daughter, whom we see from her childhood is a real role model for those today who are willing to stand up for democracy against totalitarian tendencies within it.
Basic social rituals, like marriage and wedding ceremonies, continue after Nazis got power, and Lena and Hans want to keep at least their personal relationship intact from the surrounding barbarity. They nurture their love amidst total destruction.
Lena and her sister, and many other German women, while cleaning Berlin ruins after the war, are not only happy that war is over, but unconsciously and, often, consciously (but silently), enjoy that Nazis have been defeated.