Acting-Out Politics

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

A Grandma And Her Grandchildren Are So Different In Their Critical Sensitivity Towards High-tech Weapons And Contamination Of The Earth, Nature And Life In Comparison With The Elegant Or Crude Philistines In Kurosawa’s “Rhapsody in August”


And the boy a rose did see,
a rose standing in the field
blossoming in innocence,
awed by the color it did yield.
A never ending fascination
for the crimson color
of the rose standing in the field.

From Franz Schubert’s song written to the poem of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Kurosawa, human life and the living planet


Kurosawa (to the left) with Hisashi Igawa and Richard Gere (both to the right)


“The most memorable sections of the film are those that remain ‘unexplained’. The most powerful of these occurs during the memorial service for the atom-bomb victims. Clark and the little Shinichiro are listening to the sutras being chanted, when little boy is distracted by the sight of a line of ants purposefully progressing into the woods.” (Donald Richie, “The Films of Akira Kurosawa”, p. 225)


“It is a breathtaking moment…in the film… it is as though a window has been suddenly opened… It was one of Kurosawa’s most difficult to film sequences… We follow the ants deeper and deeper into the forest… (Donald Richie, Ibid, p. 225)


The ants meet the rose – Kurosawa made it part of his visual imagination in “Rhapsody in August”


“We follow the ants into nature itself and then watch them climb higher and higher… It is a wonderful moment…” (Donald Richie, Ibid)


“Any meaning is linked to a central concern, but the approach is entirely indirect and there are no words.” (Donald Richie, Ibid)


“Into the frame comes one crimson petal, then another. It is a rose that the ants are climbing on…” (Donald Richie. Ibid)


“It is a full-blown brilliantly red rose, while on the sound track the sutra still plays out… This moment is not arbitrary. It is linked to one of the major structural themes of the film, namely, Schubert’s song ‘Heidenroselein’. The first music we hear in the film is this melody being picked out on an out-of-tune harmonium.” (Donald Richie, Ibid, p. 225)

Grandma Kane’s independent and full of initiatives grandchildren – goodhearted, kind, but naïve and so far only slightly corrupted


Schubert wrote this short song “Heidenroselein” (“Wild rose”) for Goethe‘s poem and eventually became a German folk song. This poem is a kind of ode to the rose. In this shot with which the film starts we see how grandma Kane’s older grandson Tateo plays Schubert’s song on out-of-tune piano which he intends to repair. Goethe in his poem and Schubert in his song make the rose a metaphoric incarnation of the beauty of life which adds to human survival the disinterested – spiritual meaning. Kurosawa in his film adds to beauty and secular spirituality of disinterested contemplation as a precious asset of human culture the necessity to scrupulously care about not only human life but the living planet, the precious living nature abused by human militancy, pride and megalomania. Kurosawa’s “Rhapsody in August” completes Goethe and Schubert’s inspirations and makes his film the last part of a unique in history trilogy of humanistic (democratic) culture.


Grandchildren are happy because of the prospect of meeting their American relatives for the first time, people who’re rich and positive and ready for passionate friendship.


Here is a photograph of the American relatives of the Japanese leading characters of the film. Clark (Richard Gere) – to the right, son of the grandma Kane’s brother, the owner of a pineapple plantation in Hawaii. Clark has promised to visit soon his old aunt in Japan whom he has never met. In the center we see Tadao (Hisashi Igawa), grandma Kane’s son who with his sister visiting their relatives for the first time. This photo allows us to compare the two groups of relatives, American and Japanese. What are their psychological similarities and differences?


Clark (Richard Gere) during his visit to Japan is enjoying the sea, waterfall and the waves together with his nephews and nieces who were impatiently dreaming about this meeting


The Moment children were waiting for – grandma Kane (Sachiko Murase) and Clark met each other – the Japanese woman suffered through Nagasaki Explosion and her semi-Japanese-semi-American nephew – US and Japan came closer.

Omens and children’s ability to focus on them under grandma’s indirect influence


From grandma (who, because of her new-discovered relatives in US became focused on the memories of the past) her grandchildren started to learn the feelings which contradicted their usual moods oriented on cheerful dreams and promising expectations. Here we see them around their grandma – as if “learning from the moon” contemplative melancholy and meditative silence.


Kurosawa’s drawing of a horrified and horrifying eye of nature, as if, seen by people right after the blast of the nuclear bomb in Nagasaki.


Grandchildren have reproduced in their imagination “the apocalyptic gaze of nature”, which grandma described explaining that many people saw it in the sky as a result of the monstrous light effects right after the nuclear blast. Gaze of nature is a mythological image, but when technical knowledge – “the science of the atomic bomb” produces “destructive effects” of a catastrophic proportions it’s the truth of human soul which deserves to have a moral precedence. Humanistic truth in this situation becomes more important than technical truth. It’s one of the lessons we learn from Kurosawa’s film.


Tateo (Hidetaka Yoshioka) and Tami (Tomoko Ohtakara) who are cousins suddenly remembered their adolescent passion for one another and the legend which came to both of them then – about lovers who under pressure of their families’ moral indignation decided to commit suicide rather than to agree to separate from each other. Some stories were coming from grandma not for the purpose of frightening her grandkids or giving them “sensation of horror” – the entertaining achievement of horror movie, but to remind them about the existence of another side of things and teach them about the seamy side of human life.


Even the youngest grandchild – Shinjiro (Mitsunori Isaki) tried to impersonate the “water imp” – the fairytale creature in order to help his older sister and cousins to overcome their childish fears and also to overcome his own irrational fears in the process.

Grandma Kane as an alternative and a paradoxical role model


Because of grandma’s strange – ambiguous reaction on the kids’ idea to invite their American relatives and later visit them in Hawaii, her four grandkids started to learn to think – not in a sense how to get things they like to have or entertaining items they dreamed about but – independently of what they want or what will amuse them. They started to learn – how to think life- and world-centeredly, without cathecting their empirical presence as the very focus of thinking. And they learned how to look at themselves from the side.


Clark who felt guilty for not even knowing that his aunts’ husband was killed by the A-bomb dropped on Nagasaki, is listening to a collective prayers of those who suffered from the disaster.


Look at grandma’s (surrounded by her grandkids) facial expression. She, as if, belongs to somewhere else. And look how children follow, as if, excluding themselves from everyday life. They already learned of a thinking-centered thinking. They stopped thinking in the categories of everyday life’s interests. Their minds stopped focusing on their future social success or material prosperity. The children are beginning to understand that real courage and prowess is not about how to fight and survive high-tech wars or how to achieve high-tech career, but how to prevent wars and inhumanity to nature, how to develop alternative sensibility which could prevent what hurts life.

Apotheosis: will we be capable of saving ourselves from our very instinct of seeking domination over others?


The family worries about grandma’s sudden disappearance. The house by encircled by the vast fields. She should be somewhere there. All of a sudden storm strikes and the ground is covered by the strong rain.


It must be she, under the crazy rainstorm


Grandma’s family is afraid that she has become senile – why else would she be running right into the storm?


Father and mother jump out running under the rain without knowing the exact direction where to run


Is grandma (Sachiko Murase) going to the storm or to Nagasaki right into the danger of being hit by nuclear bomb?


The youngest – Chinjiro desperately rushing through the gates to save his grandmother


Father Tadao never ran so fast in his life. But he is running ahead faster and faster


The mother is desperately trying not to be behind


Granma Kane keeps her ripped umbrella as a banner


Chinjiro is ahead of everybody else – he feels that it’s still possible to save his grandma from the storm, as if it is to save today’s world from the new nuclear catastrophe


The mother falls but is struggling, she…


… will be able to get back up and continue to reach the old woman


But grandma is victorious in front of the storm and the lightning – she wants to save the world from the new nuclear catastrophe


Tateo is following Chinjiro – he wants to save the world from the menace of advanced high-tech disaster, from high-tech greed, from high-tech megalomania


The old woman still keeps her banner-umbrella, which the storm transformed into an outworn broom. The storm makes her look like a witch with a broom. In her mind the storm around her is a kind of a prelude to new nuclear disaster


And even Chinjiro is losing balance


Is grandma confronting the lightning or is she fearlessly defying new nuclear blast?


Chinjiro is knocked down by the storm, but he’ll be back up on his legs and endure


Grandma Kane is continuing to move on ahead of time, ahead of the world, ahead of human stupidity and cruelty. She wants to help the future of human race
_________

Is “Rhapsody in August” a film about the unspeakable event in Nagasaki which was proudly and confidently made happened on August 9, 1945 or is it about the future nuclear blast or blasts, let’s say in some place and time in the 21st century? Is Kurosawa’s film an elaboration of his opinion about the condition of the human psyche not only in the middle of the 20th, but today, after his death, in the 21st century? Japanese imperial regime attacked Pearl Harbor, but there is some evidence that the American Central command knew about the Japanese intention to do so (American specialists were able to break the Japanese military code).

Of course, Japanese leadership is guilty for planning and executing the attack, but American High Command didn’t use the situation of their knowing about what’s coming through trying to negotiate in order to prevent the strike or at least to radically prepare in advance our troops. The reaction of American leadership is typical for military times when question of winning is prevalent over the issue of saving human life. Caring much about peace during the war can shatter the belligerent psyche’s ontological wholeness – if the fist is clenched it would be a shameful sacrilege to open right in front of your enemy your palm again – the fatal sign of weakness.

Real fighters – conquistadors – chained to their pride have to be tough – not needing compromises, they prefer to winning wars – putting enemies to their knees, not to negotiate peace. If Americans could try to sincerely negotiate before Pearl Harbor everybody on the planet including Australian kangaroos and African Rhinoceros could think they are sissies. For real soldier only victory (which is “unconditional, immediate and total”) can be the way to peace (paraphrasing James Baker talking about the issue of Iraqis troop’s withdrawal from Kuwait). In other words for any country involved into geopolitical calculation, having an interest to organize global configurations of nations according to their taste and interests and oriented on global domination, especially with population with democratic orientation on free speech, which is supposed to be persuaded to go to war, the energetic military action is always preferable to real, on equal negotiations (without blackmail or bribe).

In essence Kurosawa’s film is not only about a concrete city with a civilian population, which was chosen for destruction by nuclear weapon or about a future nuclear war, but also about the feverish tendency in today’s “leading societies” to act to achieve financial and military superiority over other, less technically developed countries. But the potential for serious spiritual concerns able to turn off our need for domination over other countries are shattered by incessant consumerism and entertainment forming our very reflexes from our childhood. The parents of grandma Kane’s grandchildren are so excited by the existence of their rich American relatives and they always were activating in their own kids unconditional orientation on innocent joys from consuming, having fun and being entertained – that in their kids’ perception the sudden appearance of these relatives of high social status meant that their whole life is handled once and forever. This “philistinization” of children’s minds and hearts is unforgivable not only because it indirectly connected with their emotional forgetfulness about Nagasaki terror (on which they became concentrated only because their grandma started to think that something is wrong in their fixation on their “American relatives archetype” itself). But it’s typical for today’s mentality – of putting aside everything except pragmatic interests in growing private prosperity and by this passively supporting their country’s orientation on various combinations of power and money worship.

This concentration of the postmodern mentality on a shattered reality of chicken-shit pleasures, on conformist interest in profit-making and social and international self-empowerment is, it seems, the main critical focus of Kurosawa in “Rhapsody in August”. This mentality is a psychological frame of predatory position towards the world, which philistines of different sizes project into the international posture of their countries.

Consumerist and entertainment gluttony, obesity and addiction create indifference towards everything outside the fixation on and regression to the objects of basic admiration – money, glamour, guns, power and glory. Strict social hierarchy – result of intense process of social stratification is internalized into the human soul, and another human beings are perceived not as equals – as partners in love and friendship, but as seniors or juniors in comparison with the subject, as decision-makers or followers.

It’s in this sense of shattered nature of human sociality, of fragmented meanings of human life Kurosawa’s “Rhapsody in August” is a deeply troubling and a tragic film. Tragedy is not only that civilians were hit with supernaturally strong weapon (so strong that it connotes inequality between strong and weak, superhuman and human or superhuman and subhuman, but that today’s public in masse is not interested in suffering of people they cannot identify with (whom they cannot put under the umbrella of common identity). In Kurosawa’s film only one person – and that is the old woman of deep existential spirituality (triggered in her by the intensity of personal suffering) understands that human race is irrecoverably losing its chance to seriously address the real problems confronting humankind – high-tech militarism and contamination of nature and human bodies and souls. People’s scattered minds of psychological fragments corresponding to our petty everyday obsessions create cognitive chaos pompously defined as democratic pluralism of our life.

In the final part of the film grandma Kane’s (Sachiko Murase) children and grand-children are trying to find her, who suddenly disappeared in the middle of the storm. When they detect her tiny figure at the distance they all started to run after her, but to reach her was not easy because of the storm and stubborn, almost supernatural power of the old woman. At first it looked like the grandchildren were trying to catch up with her to save her from death, but the connotation here is that they’re trying to reach her unique understanding of how we have to live, what we have to do in our lives instead of what we’re doing. Step by step we, the viewers get, that the children are running after their grandmother because they don’t want to be without her, don’t want to be abandoned by her, that the goal of her life becomes what her grandkids want for themselves also. In other words, they‘re running into a new world that their grandma wants to found, a world of other human sensibility and another existential norms and morals, a world without competitions (with inevitable winners or losers), envy, hate, righteous torture, murder and vanity. Kids run towards her because they don’t want to be left behind and don’t want to appear again in a senile meaninglessness of our philistine life.

Will we reach her and save ourselves or will we lose her and lose our lives amidst an ecological ruin of a destroyed natural world and our ravaged humane potentials?

Has the grandmother gone mad to go to the very nucleus of the storm to save the humankind? Probably, in a way, yes. But today it looks like, that the only way to stop the madness of human fight for international, global domination is to become radically different from our mass occupation with our vanity armed with high-tech weaponry and start to live as human beings were meant to – learning how to love, at least – how to respect and be interested in, and at least – how to tolerate human dissimilarity and otherness and how to become more spiritual in a secular sense of the word. We have to be able to talk, to discuss and to negotiate with other people on equal.

We have to treat others like Goethe-the poet, Schubert-the composer and Kurosawa-the film director treat the rose of life.


And the boy a rose did see,
a rose standing in the field
blossoming in innocence,
awed by the color it did yield.
A never ending fascination
for the crimson color
of the rose standing in the field.


Marcel Duchamp, “Fresh Widow” 1, (1920)


Marcel Duchamp, “Fresh Widow” 2, (1920)

The innocently ironic syntagma “fresh widow” includes contradiction and even controversy. It’s at least tactless to call a widow who just lost her husband a freshly widowed woman. The grief connected with a fact of finding oneself deprived of the spouse conventionally demands respect. But a widow is also a human being for whom the matter of living in spite of her grief can be not only important but ontologically prioritized.

The point here is the channels through which this prioritization of life over death is understood. Here we come to the necessity to “bifurcate” the intentionality of the widow of Duchamp’s “Fresh Widow” on two possibilities signified by the color with which the artist depicts the window of the woman who has lost her husband. Of course, the very interior of the widow’s suffering is black in both versions, but in “Fresh Widow”1 the color of the window-frame is pale blue, while in “Fresh Widow”2 the color is rather greenish. Why is Duchamp characterizing the variations of feelings behind his “fresh windows” by using different colors?

The widow behind the pale blue window is after the death of her husband is rather in a traditionally religious (piously mournful) mood. Her feelings are, as if, colored by the sky which is covered by the pale veil of her tears. But the widow behind the bright greenish colored window is rather in a pagan modality of feelings (if not to project into the greenish window frame any hints of moral judge-mentalism). Even “fresh widows” are entitled to dream about a future husbands (as soon as it’s only a patient dream, of course). Let’s not be excessively puritanical. Greenish dreams are springy – they’re about shining fresh leafs, trembling, if they are of the birch tree by the caressing spring wind.

Of course, in “Fresh Widow”1 the contrast between the blackness of the windows and the color of the window frames is not too drastic – more, it’s rather repercussion, a resonance between “dark” grief and pale-blue heavens. But in “Fresh Widow”2 blackness and freshly green color of the window frames are, indeed, in extreme controversy. In both works the outside neatness of the window (as if it is after the aromatic bath) contradicts to the darkness of the black color behind the glasses, which, as if, is hiding the inside of the house. Doesn’t, according to Duchamp, the neatness of the cleanliness/purity of the widow’s window contradict the very idea of the grief?

If so, we here, may be, are close to seeing what is behind Duchamp-the artist’s aggressively sarcastic style in general, in his another works. Can it be the artist’s tormenting grief as his reaction on the psychological condition of humankind and vicious modernization through technologization of people’s sensibility, when technology is just an instruments of the financial and power elite’s total domination over populations?

An Innocent, Almost Darwinian Roots of Philistinism


Balthazar Klossowski/Balthus’ “The Street”, 1933

Balthus’ “The Street” is a kind of a puppet theater separated by a blink of an eye from becoming tableau vivant which in the next moment – the puppet-master’s manipulative action – animates itself again and immediately after freezes again. Balthus’ painting, as if, hypnotizes us into this game – in one moment we see people in the action and in the next as static picture.

Why the painting can be seen as the puppet’s movements and why these movements in next moment become frozen and then another way around? It seems – the painter suggests that something is very particular or may be even wrong with these people on the street. They can be perceived either as puppets or as statuettes, they don’t have human status, and the street on which we see them is stylized as a decoration. What is all of this – a toy-city, a decorative street and wooden figures?

By making the street the focus of attention Balthus makes the social setting of human life the area of his analysis. Even personal life and personal bonds are represented as a part of social life and this fact by itself can mean that in this painting Balthus rather intentionally more than intuitively follows the sociological perspective on people’s lives. We understand that the personages of the painting are human but puppet- or animation cartoon-like characters. They are all incorrigibly and remarkably artificial.

People whom Balthus represents here can easily fit the universal category of philistines. The very dynamism of their life style is static. Their life is like the Freudian unconscious – beyond changes of time. Their living is posing – but their posing can include whatever life will put into them. That’s why the very movements of the figures in “Balthus street” are static. They’re inert even when they’re rushing. They are deadened even if they will jump up. Philistines are “immortal” but they don’t know it. Life lives them rather than they live life. In this sense they’re like the carriers of Darwin’s law of adaptation. In the Soviet Union they would be for communism, in US for money-making and consumerism. Puppet Theater and tableau vivant are two aspects of the life of philistines. They’re people of tautological existence – existence as a goal in itself. Conformism – taking life as it happens to be – is their modus operandi.

Let’s not delay much longer the pleasure of concentrating on the very personages of Balthus’ “The Street”. Let’s start with the “existential center” of the street – the worker dressed in white cloth (humorously idealized proletarian), crossing from one to another side of the street. He is carrying a wooden board which is simultaneously covering his face and, as if, cutting into his shoulder and back – it, as if, has become part of his body. Between the worker and the viewers we see a little girl with a face of an adult woman – she is playing with a small racket and ball. Her exaggeratedly adult face and giant (in comparison with her body) head in a combination with her ball-hitting (“spanking” the ball function of the racket) tells us that the girl is unconsciously playing mother – that she occupied with/imitating woman’s dominant role in child-raring. Farther we discern two women (seen from behind), both occupied with their business and feeling no necessity to show us their faces, one in a long dress-robe of colorful black and the other with black color skirt – holding a little child looking like a young sailor looking like a small child. The both women are, probably, affiliated with particular religious sects. Among the two teenagers of the painting, one is energetically “marching” right towards the viewers. His facial expression is demonstrating to pedestrians and the viewers his determination and dedication. His naïve face with fearlessly opened eyes is combination of thoughtless trust of the world and optimism – a typical expression of a conformist youth dreaming of his social success. He reminds us of the early screen characters of the American movie-star Mickey Rooney in his young age. Pay attention to the right hand of this boy that is slightly touching a place of a hidden pocket in his jacket, perhaps to show everybody that he got some money for his work. And finally we see a boy who is trying to have his way with a girl right amidst the day light. He is grabbing the girl with a greedy gesture which confirms his approximate but some knowledge of the girls’ anatomy. He doesn’t need to see the street – he is different from the marching boy – he is concentrating on his internal sensations. With the girl he is, obviously, on the right path. The girl is trying to run away, but at the same time she is not protecting herself with her arms-hands. The last personage of the painting is the young cook – standing or walking on pedestrian side, taking a break or attracting attention to the eatery he works for.

The street Balthus painted here is rue Bourbon le-Chateau in Paris, but it could be in many others European cities. The time represented is close to 1933. Herr Hitler is either already taken official power in Germany or very soon will. What it means for France? What can it mean for these people we see here? German occupation of France is looming. But why don’t we see worries or at least concerns on human faces? Many French, of course, still remember the WWI, when so many were killed and wounded, and many are crippled. But the people we see in Balthus’ painting are out of reality. Let’s not forget – philistines are creatures who are isolating themselves from everything unpleasant – that’s how they adapt and survive. But even philistines can be exterminated by wars and totalitarian despotism.

What Balthus demonstrating to us today is not only the past which for us is present because high-tech weapons became much stronger in its exterminating power than before, but the fatal dangers to our ecological well-being and physical and mental health on part of fossil fuels and chemical poisoning of the environment we are part of. But the people on the streets of the American cities continue to live as the personages of his painting. We today are not just similar with the inhabitants of Paris as Balthus shows them – we are more them than they were then. Our enemies are not outside of our borders but we ourselves who have lost contact with reality because it is not entertaining enough for us – not a fun. “The Street” was used by the philistines, but in the 21st century we are robotically enhanced philistines. That’s what it means when human life and human dreams are turned into animation cartoon turning into tableau vivant and back and again…

Balthus (Balthasar Klossowski de) - 1908-2001
Balthus (Balthasar Klossowski de Rola) – 1908-2001

When Moral Dirt of The Socio-Economic Life (While Partially Neutralized by Compensatory Consumerism And Entertainment) Is Dumped Into People’s Internal World

We feel motivated only by our social role, because the sensual life is more and more anorexic, more and more virtualized. We experience a desensualization of our life because we are so obsessed by social performance. It is the effect of the economic blackmail, the increasing cost of daily life: we need to work more and more in order to gain enough money to pay for the expensive way of life we are accustomed to. But it is also the effect of a growing investment of desire in the field of social performance… Franco Bifo Berardi, interview on “The Factory of Unhappiness”

The wealthy wolves swelled with gold and started to look like bears, for centuries tried to make the poor to unconditionally love the rich and powerful – they again and again have tried to persuade the poor to see the rich as benefactors and prophets in action. The decisive breakthrough in effectiveness of this noble task happens in front of our very eyes – during the beginning of 21st century. Today, even the homeless and hungry tend to wrap themselves with passionately patriotic feelings and almost effeminate love for tough-puff leaders and bosses with bells-balls of wealth – the poor’s ability for imaginary satisfaction is much stronger than it was in our ancient ancestors. Imagination in our times is technologically stimulated and is capable of providing much more pleasure than reality. And the main pleasure of social life today is to worship the wealth of the wealthy and fists of the fistful. The rituals of worship through political support is for the poor a bridge to identification with the rich – it works magically – “if I agree with millionaires/billionaires it is, as if I have a solid chance to become as rich as they already are!” Among the reasons for making this possible is the omnipresence of mass culture of entertainment connecting people’s aspirations with imaginary pleasures and possibilities, and supporting the psychological function of believing by the alchemy of profit-making. And people whose imagination (modified by the entertainment technology) helped them to adapt to socioeconomic life, are facing their own intimate relations with other human beings, which demands seriousness, tolerance, patience and sensitivity to boredom and stubborn otherness. It’s not surprising that the picture of personal relationships statistically shows the nauseating level of domestic violence, curious level of extramarital affairs and statistics of suspended divorce which is ahead of that of marriages (if to consider how many spouses of both sides are dreaming to divorce but postponing it because of financial considerations).


The DVD cover advertising Bergman’s “From the Life of the Marionettes”


Peter Egermann (Robert Aztorn) a young and a promising CEO of a successful corporation is helping himself in the whorehouse with innocent distraction/stimulation. Many viewers without difficulty will identify one of the American movie-super-stars on the wall


Professor Mogens Jensen a respected psychotherapist is lost in the brothel while trying to find there his patient Peter Egermann who called him in the middle of the night and needed his help.


Police investigator (Karl-Heinz Pelser) is moving ahead his investigation of the murder of the prostitute Katherine Kraft (Rita Russek)


The suspect’s mother Cordelia Egermann (Lola Muethel) is answering the investigator’s questions. She is full of suffering because of her destiny’s injustice towards her very image as a mother.


Peter and Katarina Egermann’s personal friend Thomas Mandelbaum – Tim (Walter Schmidinger) – by the trickiness of his answers makes the investigator irritated.


Professor Jensen (Martin Benrath) is intrigued by Katarina Egermann’s (Christine Buchegger) refusal to sleep with him right in his office.


Katarina exhausted and for a moment, as if, seeing her future and Tim in a rare moment of rest from their stressful job of working as professionals in a big fashion design agency

___________

Bergman’s film is analyzing how the human internal world and intimate human relationships are hurt by our society as human beings are generally mistreated by an economic system based on internalizing the profit from production by industrialists who simultaneously externalizing its cost (including polluting the environment and poisoning human bodies). The inequality between those who pollute life and those who suffer from being contaminated is shamefully a matter-of-factly phenomenon, like stress and humiliation of the working people who’re not allowed to participate in co-defining their working conditions and salaries besides having morbidly compete for jobs with foreigners inside and outside the country. All these inadequacies in the social life are projected into the human soul and contaminating our intimate life. Even compensated by extra-consumption and entertainment (and in the same time because of it – they teach people the simplistic and propagandistically distorted ways of perceiving the world) working people have a widening lacunas in their fragmented souls, and when they come to the area of personal life, they’re devastated, unconsciously or consciously traumatized by the socioeconomic mistreatment and unable to adapt to the real problems of human emotional mutuality. The condition of social life proclaiming “benevolent” competitive fight as an alternative to Christian love makes people (used to the indifference and manipulation on part of employers) suspicious, and this drastically contradicts the capacity for intimate love which needs spirituality and generosity of an unconditional emotional caress to be able to respond to another person amorously.

The economy (understood as profit-making and removal of obstacles for it) has become a “thorn” in the social body leading to irreconcilability between social life (impregnated by greed of profit/wealth worshipers) and the internal life of human beings, our ability to love in intimate relationships. Sociopolitical life makes us coarse, indifferent and hateful – permanently targeted by the entrepreneurs externalizing into our internal world what they don’t want to internalize – our natural resentment demanding from them the necessity to soften and humanize the social environment. We are not able to tame our fears, anxieties and stress and our natural resentment to be able to love in a context, where a human soul meets human body in its essentiality. In other words, what is “externalized”/ privatized into the human soul from the socioeconomic reality is our bosses’ economic misbehavior and our human social ego with its traumas and their compensations through consumerism and entertainment (adding to our psychological traumas the artificial and robotic reflexes of fake cheer and false optimism).

Peter Egermann (Robert Aztorn) is the main character of the film who, in spite of his intelligence and education, is doomed to personify the very disturbance of human ability for having/establishing emotionally healthy relationships. More exactly, while his mutual love with his wife, Katarina (Christine Buchegger) is genuine and sublime, but both spouses… cannot handle their very amorous genuineness (it’s too much for them in its contradiction to and incompatibility with their unconscious overfilled with the realities of their social lives demanding from them being fighters for their socioeconomic success – what was externalized into their souls by the fact of living in modern society of prosperity and professionalism. The catastrophic fiasco of Peter and Katarina’s life carried out by his crime, and further the destiny of Katarina and the prostitute Katherine Kraft (the indirect and direct victim of his psychological condition) are examples of human inability for genuine amorous relationships (in today’s society), their ontological (the wife) and physical (the prostitute) victimization. These two women who never even saw one another, function in the film as sisters of forced martyrdom. It is the money-profit’s hate for human soul (symbolized by Katarina and Peter’s destiny) and for human flesh (symbolized by Catherine-the prostitute).

Professor Mogens Jensen a psychiatrist who matter-of-factly offers the wife of his patient Peter Egermann to have intercourse right in his office and right after his psychotherapeutic session with her husband, not only doesn’t empirically know what love is, but has a patronizing disrespect for it whatever it is. But his offer to Katarina is not supposed to be taken naively – as just a sign of his essential vulgarity. No, it is a therapeutic attempt to show her the way. He thinks that love is a sign of psychological immaturity (a kind of outdated feeling) – the obstacle for civilized life. In this sense he as he is, functions as representative of modern sociopolitical order with its pragmatic indifference to the “sentiments” and emotional cruelty.

Tim Mandelbaum another friend of our couples and Katarina’s business partner is a compulsive homosexual fetishizing casual young male bodies (that is hiding agony of his own body, which is, as if, suffocated by factual life). He is ready to be killed each time he picks up a young gigolo at the train station but can’t refrain from anonymous sex – he is unconsciously perceives his own sexual need as corrupted by the tendency to manipulate/exploit the love object and be manipulated/exploited by it. He consumes male bodies like people today buy electronic toys. For him bodily contact between sexual organs is the ultimate existential honesty distant from human soul ravaged by the survivalist competition’s calculations/manipulations.

Finally, Bergman introduces to the viewers Peter’s mother who instead of suffering for her son and trying to understand what really happened to him, is tormented that she suddenly appeared in her dreadful situation of being the mother of a murderer and this is horribly unjust to the very image of her sublime purity. The fact of having lived her life without noticing her son’s potential and actual problems made her morbidly fixated on her purified self-image.

People who carry in their soul socioeconomic pollution – practically, all the population, are learned to accept their destiny and their victimization. Mogens Jensen cannot even afford to respect human love as carrier of alternative values – he is completely sacrificing it, don’t find a place for it in modern world. He is morally debunking intimate love as amorous obsession. To think like this is a sign of incredible deprivation. But he doesn’t have a choice – to accept the noble irrationality of love with its risks, contradictions and its demands would mean to step outside his professional guidelines, his very profession trying to apply to intimate relationships codes of mutual manipulation based on rational calculations, and then potentially lose his social status and material prosperity.

To be able to love means to try to fight for your love with yourself – that is with your inability to love. To love, according to “From the Life of the Marionettes” is to try to overcome your own resistance to loving (which is inside us because we’re overexposed to the existential pollution of our greedy, megalomaniacal and competitive ways of life). In this context Peter and Katarina Egermann are in a way heroes of fighting for their love. They are people who have fallen during this ordeal (that is not surprising if to consider that they like almost everybody else have accepted our socioeconomic way of life – tireless calculation of personal or group advantage as a normal way of life). People who use strategy of divorce are much more cowardly. They transform their spouses into something like an item of clothing – they wear their spouses on their own bodies or put them as a mask on their own souls.

Because of our particular condition of being split into being frustrated and corrupted from one hand and, on the other, having the potential for intimate love (without contradiction between spiritual and fleshy love – between Agape and Eros), the actors Bergman worked with in his mature period (many of them matured along with him because of the spiritual touch of their art), are playing spiritually even the roles of the people who are not really spiritual. It is this creative contradiction makes Bergman’s art existentially spiritual amidst the world which is deeper and deeper impregnated by a post-democratic barbarianism. It’s late Bergman’s unique directorial principle to prepare his actors to play existentially spiritually even the characters whose spiritual sensibilities are either nonexistent, wiped out or weakened.

Posted on 5/23/2018 –   Ingmar Bergman’s “From the Life of Marionettes” (1979/1980) – When Beloveds Cannot Handle Their Love Because Their Intelligence Is Kidnapped by The Feverish Demands of Social “Survival”/Success by Acting-Out Politics

Three Types Of Profit-makers VS The 99% Of The Population Becoming Pauperized Through Austerity Measures


Georg Grosz, “The Decision-makers and the Plebs”

The artist represents the social world as two unequal parts – one the desk with three giants occupying three third of the space while the “plebs” are on the periphery and are represented as much smaller human figures. The Olympians of today’s world are occupied with mental activity – the chief (at the top of the desk) is observing the plebs and calculating the profits made on people’s pauperization. The center of the picture – the very nucleus of the world of wealth-and-poverty is the main profit-maker’s left hand covering the pack of money.

The three profit-makers are calculating the growth of their wealth as a result of mass pauperization. The main money-predator is looking at people in poverty. Among them we see a cluster of unemployed as a result of the shutdown of the factories. The four workers include those with faces burdened by emotional trauma and despair, but the one in the center (drawn as bigger than others) is not only suffering but he is trying to think – is it really possible to do something about the fact that they were laid up and if it still possible – what can it be? To the right of the upper third of the drawing we see the tiny figure of a crippled veteran of the WW1 (reduced by Grosz to the size of a child because of his powerlessness which makes him insignificant in his own eyes). The largest figure amidst the people is the woman – a mother and/or a grandmother who feels desperate and ashamed that her children-and grandchildren are without food. She understands that she can do nothing about it, and it makes her situation even more painful. In the background there are also two figures of soldiers guarding the closed plant (or today transferred to the III World country, where labor is much cheaper). They’re made by Grosz even smaller than the vet on crutches. Why? What does the artist want to say by this? Aren’t soldiers the main weapons at the disposal of the mighty decision-makers? Why are they shown as even less significant than a crippled person? Unfortunately, soldiers cannot understand semantic contradictions created by the artistic thinking – they’re too disoriented by propaganda elevating them into glorious heroes moved by megalomaniacal delirium of being the best people on the planet. They still think that they are needed to defend their country while in reality they exist just to protect the wealth of the wealthy and the power of the powerful. Militaries are servants of these three giants with superhuman ambitions whom we see in Crosz’ drawing.

Among them sitting at the profit-desk – the main profit-maker is predatorily watching at the people. To the right at the table we see a person without eyes – instead eyes he is looking with his glasses – his professional – profit calculating eyes. For this reason he looks like a blind, and he is blind, if to mean human sight. To the left we see a creature who doesn’t look around but up – he looks skyward – with gratitude and a mute prayer to someone up there not to leave the three of them without his supernatural support. This person most likely thinks that they’re getting so much profit because of the supernatural help. By this belief he stabilizes his trio’s confidence and stimulates their professionalism to transform people into money.

The Psychological Dynamics of A Young Or Even An Older Person’s Resistance To A Repressive Or An Oppressive Society Is Similar To That Of A Child’s Resistance To The Despotism Of An Adult Family Member

Alexander (Bertil Guve) (in the part of the film, dedicated to his confrontation with the Bishop Edvard Vergerus – Jan Malmsjo) personifies not only a child abused by an adult and not only a human being abused by another person, but any citizen abused by a totalitarian or a neo-totalitarian political system.


Bergman and Bertil Guve (Alexander) on the set of “Fanny and Alexander”


“Jag Hatar inte dig, Alexander. Jag alskar dig.” (“I don’t hate you, Alexander. I love you” (Bishop Vergerus)

We see here what can be called the first phase of resistance to a despotic adult family member (here to the step-father, who just married Alexander’s mother after the death of his father). Alexander knows that he, in the eyes of “this new father” is on the wrong side, but he cannot accept this man’s authoritarian ideas about forced obedience (that it’s natural and normal to force obedience). Alexander’s heart resists – why has a person either surrender or be defeated? Why between people or sides cannot be other way? Alexander going through the first phase of resistance, is, as if, hiding his disagreement with his mistreatment by “hiding his eyes under his lids”. Pay attention to how close stepfather‘s fist to Alexander’s face – it’s not only the warning, but step-father defense against his step-son’s resistance. The curious thing is, that Bishop feels that the child’s resistance is the real menace to him, that Alexander is an attacking side, not resisting one.


Alexander doesn’t want to follow this stranger’s will, but the gaze of the “dominant man” was pressing him, as if, trying to squeeze from him surrender to the authority of the new-paternal will.


And here it is happened like a stubborn sun-beam from the child’s will – the power grows with resistance.


Alexander’s gaze at Bishop Vergerus is not just challenging and not only resisting. It’s asking the question how an elder man can treat him – a child, from the position of power armed with righteousness. Alexander wants to understand how this radical injustice can exist – that an adult puts his power to brake the will of a child.


The bishop intensifies his crushing gaze, but the silent resistance of Alexander’s eyes, already as strong as the wall made of stone, is intensifying too. Human will is not supposed to be attacked and broken. It supposed to be addressed with emotional equality and rational argumentation. The second phase of resistance is reaction on abusive behavior triggered by the demanding and forcing manly hands which can spank, beat and suffocate the “vicious child” who resists. Step-father, as if, warns to deform Alexander’s neck, as if, suggesting that their physical closeness is of the bond to death. Here we see the closeness of child abuse to the bodily molestation. But the child resists now openly, eye to eye, will to will.


The stepfather’s sadistic excitement is instinctively changing the target – now instead of Alexander’s eyes it’s his mouth. And he continues to violate Alexander’s flesh – he is pressing his palms to Alexander’s head-and-face. But what intention the man has toward Alexander’s mouth? The abuser simultaneously wants the child’s mouth be closed – not to express any disagreements, and yet opened with verbal admiration for his stepfather’s words, actions and wisdom. In both cases, with opened or closed mouth Alexander feels himself outside of “moral law” – and he is resisting the ferocious spiritual and physical power of this new father-priest and his religious and secular credentials.


Father’s sadistic caress of Alexander’s head-face combined with his hypnotizing gaze at Alexander’s mouth is so unbearable that the boy’s eyes, as if, close again by the very bodily disgust towards the physical closeness of the alien despotic power. This is the third phase of resistance in a situation of enormously unequal power, be it between a child, adolescent or youth in relation to an adult male or a person resisting to a totalitarian/authoritarian regime. The stepfather-the Bishop becomes… almost ecstatic, and this symbiotic familiarity is especially unbearable (when the violator projects his intimate desire to force the weaker one into social, emotional and bodily obedience. In this moment abuse through physical molestation starts to remind the photos of physical torture of prisoners by the American soldiers, which we all saw during and after the war in Iraq.


Among the results of the Bishop’s righteous pedagogy by violent means, typical of fathers with conservative sensibility in many countries under various dominant religions, was lost belief in Alexander’s soul – belief in a world based on collaboration and positivity. Alexander was resisting stepfather’s violent pressure with closed or with open eyes (in phases 1, 2 and 3), but the price for it was his traumatized soul which started to become blindly and painfully aggressive. Here we see Alexander in company of his sister Fanny (to his right), their grandmother (between him and Fanny) and their uncles (on the far left and to the right) leaving the church and we hear how he pronouncing the dirty words expressing his frustration and hate for the world as it is – rude, manipulative, not deserving his love anymore. It will be not easy for those who love him to restore his belief in the basic benevolence of people and life and his ability to continue to live meaningfully. In our country – US, the equivalents of Bishop Vergerus in ruling elite today put many American citizens and children into despair comparable with that Alexander went through in Bergman’s film. Many Americans today are losing their belief in their country as really democratic one.


Bergman rehearsing with Alexander how to act in front of the camera fear of the doll-mommies and simultaneously is teaching Bertil Guve (playing Alexander) how not to be motivated by the fear of what seems frightening.


Robert Rauschenberg, “Gift for Apollo”, 1959

It is very difficult for us today even to imagine how much delight our ancestors were getting by imagining the very existence and life of gods. Mythology opened for them not just alternatives to their world, but the possibilities of completely different worlds. People identified with what their imagination discovered and it meant that while thinking about gods and godly presences they thought about themselves. And rather often they felt themselves as Olympian settlers, and this was as pleasurable as the absence of the necessity to prove that they can be really as gods. For most of our ancestors it was pleasurable enough. Of course, among ancient people already were “mad” creatures – those with godly ambitions – who tried to realize mythological motifs in life and play gods in life because they were desperate enough to attempt to prove to others and themselves that they are carriers of something like “godly genes”. They were obsessed with the possession of superhuman social and military power and the wells of wealth filled to the sky. These people impregnated with self-aggrandizement became the prototype of 21st century’s bill-mills (the supreme cast of billionaires/millionaires). And today these mini-people with maximal power are in a process of surpassing the very human imagination about what it is to have power and wealth. And because they’re lucky to be in charge of technical sciences and technology they can even afford to be condescending towards the previous deities. These people with a ludicrous posture of thinking that they’re in position to send gifts to gods are those whom Rauschenberg parodied in his installation “Gift to Apollo”.

But what kind of a gift can today’s bill-mills offer to Apollo whose power was exactly overwhelming in the context of life, while our bill-mills work hard to be over-strong in the context of technology (sucking up money from the poor taxpayers and by seducing them with technological toys). Can gods of technological power and techno-immortality exist at all? Our bill-mills certainly desperately need immortality which in their psychology occupies a place of a savior from a deeply rooted fear of life. But the path to such salvation, it seems, leads them into becoming semi-human robots. Rauschenberg imagines and shares with us – how their gift to Apollo can look – like a miserable pseudo-chariot of technological artificiality, and this is for god who moves by the magic horses. This dirty, anti-hygienic and revoltingly looking stroller is the very essence of technology (when it’s under the socio-economic power of robotic misers destroying the natural world in order to build a robotically crippled kingdom of superhuman robots).

On a metallic surfaces of this corpus/corpse representing technological miracle (gift for Apollo) we see Rauschenberg’s reference to modern interest in interior design, traditional landscape and modern neckties (which Apollo, of course, will not be able to refuse – he will, no doubt be subdued by the height of civilized men’s elegance). The metal bucket for quenching the thirst of Apollo’s famous horses is unusable – the present condition of water can be dangerous for their health – they can be poisoned even while being imaginary. We need also to take into consideration the scratching/ screeching/rattling noise that might be produced by the wheels of this our present to Apollo, and let’s add to this the smell of gasoline, lubrication oil, etc., from which even Apollo can start to sneeze and cough and, may be, will even get asthmatic symptoms – all the things which he, before receiving our gift, didn’t know exist in nature.

In other words, mythology was created by our yearning for magic mirror, while the very idea that modern civilization is culturally ahead of the world of our ancestors is a dreadfully delirious attempt of technological self-aggrandizement. “Water, air, earth and even fire (the four classical “elements” that are common to the philosophical and mythic traditions around the globe) no longer correspond to our mental representations of what they are. The image of water that automatically forms in the mind… rarely includes plastic debris, mercury and lead, coliform bacteria and petroleum hydrocarbons. Thinking of air, we do not usually associate it with Sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter from forest fires or fossil fuel powered factories. Whereas some of the elemental changes are visible (for example, those manifest in photochemical smog), a vast majority elude our senses and the cognitive apparatus… It should impel us to rethink the meaning of “natural environment” and of life, whether human or not, at an age when these are not only polluted but have been transformed into the by-products of the centuries-long blaze of energy derived from fossil fuels… the rapidly deteriorating state of the environment hit us with growing and disconcerting force. Drinking water is replete with micro-plastics, and, by 2050, the total mass of synthetic, human-made materials in the oceans will surpass that of the fish. Megalopolises on different continents languish under a stew of airborne toxins during the intensifying and protracted periods of extreme smog. Annually, forest fires consume large swathes of wooded land, due to a combination of rising global temperatures, droughts, monoculture plantations, and dearth of investments into (and unwillingness to rely on local knowledges for) fire prevention. Topsoil degradation, threatening the health and fertility of the earth, entails acidification, sharp increases in salinity, and toxicity, coupled with diminishing nutrient capacity and oxygen availability to plant roots.” (Michael Marder “Burning Ourselves to Death”, April, 2018)

Homo technologist‘s magic mirror is technology, not life, as it was for our ancestors, when the magic mirror was instant and pleasure it gave to us was instantly available and unlimited. But to make technology work we have to feed it on top of feeding our decision-makers. When people started to develop tools they, with advantages it provided, began to work for technology (on sustaining and developing it), but imagination was free. In the hands of people obsessed with wealth much more than ancient kings, technology is a parasite. The difference is that today’s financial kings (bill-mills) want to possess much more money than their ancestors (they are in habit to multiply what they have, not just accumulate), and this means that for us today it is much more difficult to provide unlimited luxury they want, than it was for our ancestors. The more we work for technology – the more technology develops – the more profit our possessed decision-makers glue to their souls and bodies. Profit through technology is directly proportional to destruction of life and technology-free imagination.

Here we are present amidst destroyed natural environment, with arrogance of our decision-makers. Technology which exist for providing more wealth for the wealthy will always be, as Rauschenberg shows it – dirty and miserable in their spiritual poverty. And those in charge of technology are in a process of transforming our planet into the same misery and dirt their souls live by.

“Frivolous Existential Genius” And “Moralistic Functionaries”




2 Clips from “Providence” (1977)


Alain Resnais and John Gielgud (Clive Langham) are preparing a scene on the set of “Providence”

Between a father and his sons – between Clive and – Claude and Kevin, the democratic culture stumbled and falls. Of course, the fall of such a massive socio-political edifice as culture takes place not immediately – as would a building collapse under bombs, but step by step, not letting people to rush to notice it (life deserves to continue regardless of the conditions!).

For several centuries novelists and philosophers were highly respected socio-cultural authorities – inspirers of democratic ideas and tastes. But in the last decades of the 20th century the laws as legalistic structures were gradually impregnated with protective functions towards the extreme strategies of profit-making. Democratic ideas of free competition were pushed aside and out, and monopolistic principle of market domination became the real driving force of an economy. Economic democracy began to look like despotism of the strong players who (through excess of profit achieved through drastic reduction of taxes for super-rich as governmental policy and also new super-strategies of profit-making) were able to support politicians which were promoting them back, and the permanent financial elites began to develop above the life of the majority, as it was in pre-democratic industrial systems. Social dynamism couldn’t form according to free and pluralistic tastes of the population but started to follow just few and selective channels of technological innovations based on intensified production of high-tech electronic toys distracting people from reading, thinking and spiritual development and high-tech military technology. Many lawyers have been transformed into tails and tongues of dukes and marquises of wealth as a mighty bureaucracy supported by the entrapping entrepreneurial spirit of the times and massive tax-payers’ money at the service of private investments. In the field of technical sciences the situation is similar – profit-makers decide how to use scientific discoveries and which branches of science should be financed. Profits of the financial elites makes decisions whole humankind depends on. What we just described is the context, in which the life of Clive’s two sons – a lawyer and an astrophysicist, formed itself in its cardinal difference from that of their father. And still, Claude-the lawyer and Kevin-the astrophysicist are not the worse human beings if to consider that they live in a condition of post-cultural feverish corruption making democratic truth out of game. Kevin is a good-natured escapist idealist, but Claude who is not serving private wealth, develops juridical intolerance toward violators of the law and justice fetishism.

Fictional and scholarly prose-writers and poets were the carriers of secular spirituality that opposed to the social power rooted in weapon-and-wealth and enforced by the reflexes of ideological moralism and economic oppression through austerity-strategy. Writers argued in the name of (subjectively felt, but not necessarily subjective) truth, while lawyers either in the name of particular interest, or misbalanced (exaggerated, softened or misnamed) truths, as Claude does. Here is the difference between Clive (the father) and Claude, democracy and post-democracy, the essence of things and their technicalities.

Here is the difference between – how Clive (John Gilgud) and Claude (Dirk Bogarde) pronounce their words. Clive’s words are delivered by his psychological wholeness (by his holistic personality). In the very emotional coloration of his speech feelings are not necessarily in full harmony with his ideas and rationality, but in interaction with them, like his heart influencing and being influenced by his mind and the other way around. In Claude’s speech, on the other hand, words are crowded in his mouth like a chewed mass before being swallowed, his existential emotions are not rooting it. His words are, as if, orphans and are secondary – colored in mannerist way. While Clive’s speech is existential, Claude’s is functional. While Clive’s discourse is full of jouissance, Claude’s is concise and to the point, minimal. Dirk Bogarde as Claude uses a specific manner of pronouncing words, as if, they are for swallowing, not for being released – flying out free from the mouth. This very manner, as if, underlines Claude’s speech as an artificial behavior (colored by the substantial degree of uncontrolled narcissism).

Where Clive’s talk is emotionally spontaneous, almost anarchical, Claude’s is ordered and obedient (agreed with a formality of law), where Clive’s talking is almost frivolous Claude’s is moralistic. When Clive’s speech is focused on the essential Claude’s is oriented on the cliché and anti-individualistic. Claude expresses aversion for the improvised self-expressiveness, and it‘s a symptom of what is exactly anti-democratic in Claude’s very sensibility. But, of course, between Clive and Claude there are Molly and Sonia (Claude’s mother, and his spouse), the abused woman and the liberated one, the woman who suffered her femininity and the one who had asserted it (but in a conventional – political emancipation sense), a victim and the adapted one. Can we see much progress in it, when emancipation is touched by superficiality and artificiality and as such quite an ambiguous?

Are lawyers today, in a post-Clive universe, a subspecies of technical specialists, while jurisprudence – of technical sciences, as soon as (serious) writers were an incarnation of humanistic and humane approach to life? Lawyers are cognitive masters of contested truths and technical – casuistic logic, while the 20th century writers in the tradition of 18-19th centuries were critical intellectuals of poly-subjective truths.


Cultural legacy of Providence as existential location of independent critical truth and the destiny of persistent spirit of inquisition in his father is in the hands of Clive’s son (Dirk Bogarde), a famous lawyer and a person in love with his wife Sonia (Ellen Burstyn).


At what is the old writer, Clive Langham (John Gielgud), a spiritually independent soul and an incredible personality with his incorrigibly challenging views looking at? At his death? No, he is too elegant and intellectually paradoxical for this. In fact, he is looking at human life locked in an impossible – barbaric mass ideologies (like exceptionalism and superiority) and crude behavioral patterns (like rituals of consumption and entertainment and primacy of militarism over culture). He knows that he’ll not see all of this already soon, and this makes him even more focused, though already in a superfluous, utopian way.


Clive is doing what he has always done – for most of his life – he is thinking about human and societal life and history, about the psychological state of human beings. It is obvious in this shot that without the wine of immortality, in his own words “this exquisite chill”, it would be very difficult to hang onto an even minimally optimistic perspective.


Clive feels the coming end of not only his own life but all the sophisticated and seriously humane dreams of the previous epochs.


Clive still enjoys the sarcastic remarks of his own verbal exchanges with himself.


While holding in front of himself the photo of his wife Molly, Clive gives himself to the only way of feeling objective unity with her who committed suicide few years back. By placing his still vital gaze on Molly’s gaze as if at him from her photo – in the same visual space, Clive is, as if synchronizing their gazes.


Clive imagines himself as he will be soon


Clive having a bout of torments with processing his own survival which is more and more bothersome and unattractive.


Clive is preparing for a near future. He has to agree with what, according to his words, he “disapproves“.

Clive’s family


Look at Claude Langham (Dirk Bogarde), the elder son of the main character of the film – look at the emotional pain in his eyes. Why is Claude suffering so intensely? Here, he is looking at his half-brother Kevin, an astrophysicist (who is illegitimate son of their father). Of course, what we see is visualization of literary imagination of the father, the writer (Clive Langham – John Gielgud). But what is the point for Clive to concentrate in his final book on the hidden hate Claude has for his father’s “bastard” child, his younger brother who is a cheerful and kind-hearted person without any animosity? Claude’s dislike for Kevin is made obvious in the film, but it doesn’t correspond to the image of real Claude (not as father represented him as a character of his novel), whom we see in the final part of the film where Claude impresses viewers with his goodness and positivity. It seems that Clive in his book (and Resnais in his film) are really concentrated on the phenomenon of hidden hate – the one which in real life is hiding itself behind the other self-expressions. What is this hidden hate and why should it be so important for Clive Langham-the writer and for Resnais himself? Hidden hate can be more potent than obvious one. One of the examples are the militaries on our side – we don’t perceive them as hating people, haters of our enemies, and they themselves usually don’t express yourself as such, we see them rather as defenders of our country, as patriotic lovers. Another example is the behavior of the 1% of super-wealthy – occupied to the obsessive degree with money and the ways of money-making. But very quickly it becomes apparent that these people’s money obsession is based exactly on hate if we focus on the social consequences of their accumulation/appropriation – on policies of austerity for the majority of population, on principle of internalizing/privatizing profit and externalizing/socializing cost of their business. In other words, other people and nature have to suffer exactly because of their obsession with money. The third example is Claude himself – a successful lawyer, a rational person and a dedicated family man, but not only, according to his father’s intuitive sensitivity. Of course, Claude doesn’t do many unattractive things usual for today’s bill-mills (billionaires/ millionaires), but the issue in his case is a question of being intolerant to other people. Isn’t hidden hate more and more important as characteristic of our civilization, when destruction of life takes place not so much directly, but indirectly, for example, as a destruction of the very environment of life – air, water, food, or the destruction of human soul through consumerism and entertainment? We are already getting a little bit closer to understanding Clive as a writer, Resnais’ film and Claude’s a bit megalomaniacal righteousness as a psychological defense against massive moral disappointment not only in today’s society, but also in his own irresistible father.


That’s how Resnais personifies Clive’s idea of Claude’s unconscious projection of his feelings about his “illegitimate brother’s” (Kevin – David Werner) inferiority.


That’s how Clive imagines himself in his old age – old, culturally outdated, lonely and hunted/hounded and hiding in the forest. Pay attention to the impeccably young hand on the trunk of tree, which represents such contrast with Clive’s condition that it can be felt by him, as if it is pulled-out saber over his head.


Clive imagines the situation, when Claude (his elder son-the lawyer) is questioning in the court, on the side of prosecution, his younger son Kevin, who felt compassion towards the old man and didn’t want to kill him, his father, in the forest.


Clive always likes to talk with Sonia (his daughter-in-law) and be in her company. Her closeness, somehow, unburdens him from his intellectual rigors and contradictions.


During lunch on the day of his birthday with his family Clive cannot resist serious criticism of Claude’s political position and moral principles.

Clive Langham’s last birthday


Clive’s family celebrates his 78th birthday. We see Clive himself (John Gielgud) at the top of the table. To his right arm – Sonia, Claude’s wife (Ellen Burstyn). To Clive’s left hand – Claude (Dirk Bogarde). And to Claude’s left arm – his half-brother Kevin. Farther we see the castle’s senior cook and her husband – the majordomo.


Clive is enjoying his guests – his two sons – Claude (Dirk Bogarde) to the right, and Kevin (his son out of wedlock) – David Warner (on the left), and Claude’s wife Sonia (Ellen Burstyn).


Clive between Claude and Sonia who is trying to keep Claude from intervening into the bristling currents of his father’s ironic wit.


The composition of the still suggests Sonia’s “amorous respect” for her husband’s father, for his profound stubborn mind and talent for sublime fury and philosophical improvisations.


After the “last supper” Claude and the other guests leave the table, one at a time, following the request of the old man. Claude’s last gaze at his father.

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