02 Mar 2015
“Medea” is not only the resurrection of Euripides’ tragedy before cine-audiences of our days. It is a proof that great works of art from the past are not only relevant for our life today according to the same terms as they were perceived earlier (as a representation of tragedy as a private behavior, as a cast of human souls), but some can be relevant as a characterization of systemic norms of functioning of today’s societies. In “Medea” Pasolini classifies the forms of violence in various societies connected with one another through historical contiguity, and shows how types of violence in societies others than the one we’re born in can be taken by us much more traumatically than the violence we’re used to because it is ideologically normalized by our habitual worldview. So, when a person from a more archaic society, for example, encounters violence from a more advance society, it can put him/her in an extreme despair and fury capable of triggering intense revengeful reaction. Medea who is born in an archaic society where human sacrifice was a natural order of life and where she betrayed and murdered her own brother to help Jason to steal and run away with the Golden Fleece, wasn’t able to take Jason’s betrayal when they settled in a society which we can call proto-democratic. Here, personal betrayal because of intense fight for social success in a situation of competition for a higher place in the social hierarchy (Jason), and polite disrespect toward Medea’s suffering on the part of the king of Corinth (Cresus, the father of Jason’s wife to be), triggered in Medea nightmarish reaction of terrorist revenge.
Pasolini found a way to make the essence of Medea’s predicament a typical experience of the age of global economy and manipulative and corrupting “interventionism” into the Third World countries. Pasolini makes a personal drama of the characters rooted in the socio-political determinants of human behavior. By thinking about himself as about a generous person helping the new-comers to succeed in his kingdom, king Cresus appeals to Medea’s good will by asking her to liberate Jason from his marital obligations because of the beauty of Jason’s and his daughter’s pure and sovereign love for one another. That’s how global corporations today build their diplomacy with the Third World countries – they insult the locals just by matter-of-factly implying that West is much more superior to the less developed countries and that it is their “right” to tell other people what to do and bribe the Eastern and Southern countries’ elites and deprive these countries of their own economic development. In this sense Pasolini’s “Medea” is a premonition of the Middle Eastern terrorism of the 21st century. By watching this film about the events which took place in the Ancient world, we feel ourselves closer to our reality today, to its psychological and cultural roots.
Ultimately Pasolini’s film is about the semantic songs of psychological and cultural archetypes of the human history. Actors personify the hopes and agonies of universal human drives and desires with exactitude and almost an unbearably intense poetic power. “Medea” is a visual music of human emotions, an anthropological opera, existential dream of the truth of human life and death.
Moved by the overwhelming power of the archetype to realize her female destiny according to the social convention (the sacredness of marital ties and fundamentalism of marriage as social institution) Medea is going about killing her brother Apsirto. Look at Maria Callas’ gaze – Medea already doesn’t see her brother, she sees through him her future with her husband Jason.
Impressive by the aura of his wisdom and by his spiritual sensitivity, Centaur Chiron (Laurent Terzieff) teaches Jason-the boy about life, its sacred origins and inevitability of intra-human fight for power
Jason is full of pride for being able to possess Medea. Right after his first ejaculations, still lying on Medea’s body, Jason looks at the viewers – at the world, as if, taking people as witnesses of his tremendous success of getting a princess as a wife, of becoming somebody – independent from his family always telling him what he should do.
Last embrace between Medea and Jason – as a traditional male he, after intercourse, is already in post-coitum relaxation. Now, after their marriage Medea appeals for his touch, but for him there is nothing to achieve here.
Posted on Jan 26, 2014 – Pier Paolo Pasolini’s “Medea” (1969) – Medea As An Apocalyptic Muse by Acting-Out Politics
01 Mar 2015
The sun and the sun’s light are one – sun/light
The morning- and day-light was the first sun. The sun was the first god. God was at first a metonymy and later metaphor of the sun, but sun was not only light but warmth, not only light and warmth but life. God became the origin, creator and sustainer of life. He became a power capable of keeping darkness and death under control – at least at a relative distance, and he became the personification (not without the human aggrandizing self-projection) of sexual inexhaustibility and procreative might.
We were far from him as night – from the stars, as candle or a desk lamp – from the moon. We were banished from the beginning. When god of the sunlight and power of vitality opened himself to us, the best we could do is to become like gods in our small and shadowy way. We became god’s poppies. We are shadows in god’s world. We are the leaves of Creation, in one moment we live, and in the next we are withering away. But we know that god is our master. And this knowledge, as if, allows us to taste immortality.
Hundreds of thousand years we were allowed to be in our master’s world. We are nothing, but we know his empire. We try to understand it better. We are permitted to admire him for being the master, for permitting us to be worms of his soil, insects of his skies, and little crumbs of dreams from his imagination. Hundreds of thousands years have passed by.
Olafur Eliasson’s enchanted installation world of his “The Weather Project 2003” shows the viewers the sun/light as we perceived it before today‘s techno-scientific and technologically ridden perception established its artificial parameters, and we still perceive it like before. Majority of us still look at the sun/light through human sentimental projections. Installation’s sun/light is object of our admiring love, an object which never reciprocated our feelings – we live with our hurt feelings in regard to the sun, and yet we are nostalgic about the times when our love was full of hope. It didn’t happen, but our hope and nostalgia for it and our general amorous experience of one-sided dedication are projected into the sun, embracing it by the sacrificial mysteries of our sun-worship. We encircled the sun with endless trajectories of our love radiated by our bitterness of not being even noticed – the sun in Eliasson’s installation is, as if, surrounded by the “fog” of our teary love. Eliasson’s hazy sun is, as if, covered by our sentimental sentiments which, as if, took the sun within the psychological womb of our dedication.
Relationship with the sun/light which is scientific and pragmatic is a recent phase in our cathecting of the sun’s centrality in our life. And only a minority of us has been able to shift the paradigm of our emotional symbiosis with the sun. Through scientists and enthusiasts we hear about the possibility to industrially utilize what refused our appeal with such a cruel indifference. If it is impossible to be loved, may be, it really will be possible to survive on sun’s energy – in a wide utilitarian sense. As we see, our attempts to find new relations with the sun are not without our cowardly vengefulness. This scientific phase in our relationship to our sun is only marginally reflected in Eliasson’s installation. But his accent on the amorous-sentimental background in our long affair with the sun/light shows the psychological context of our future with the sun. And the danger can be that we eventually can become too technologically manipulative. It is like to create marriage when the amorous part is over. Our today’s predatory approach to Creation is already hurting the Earth, but, as with Earth, our engineer-like scientific rudeness and lack of reverie will make us behave too arrogantly in our endeavors to use the sun, when time will come.
The fairy-tale mysteriousness and reverie expressed in Eliasson’s installation can help us to prolong the amorous-sentimental modality of our relationship with sun. Look, how drastically we are shifted from adoration toward Earth to abusing it with our gluttonous greed. Eliasson’s installation communicates to us a wise moderation – the sun is represented as already within our built-up world where people don’t feel themselves united in the technico-scientific optimism and don’t feel happy but are rather confused. And they better have this confusion longer to have the time to brood about it. Let’s be careful, let’s stay the sun’s children. We are too psychologically weak and too egoistic and predatory to rush into collaboration with the sun without hurting ourselves.
Here we are reaching the most important aspect of our relations with the sun/light Eliasson’s installation awakens in us. Doesn’t the sun look trapped by the people who themselves look trapped by trying to trap the sun in some kind of a potentially apocalyptic intra-galactic intrigue? Here is a warning accent of Eliasson’s installation. Today, we are living through a fossil fuel apocalypse and tomorrow, probably, we will be drowned in a nuclear apocalypse. We need to survive these two to really talk about our possible techno-scientific ambitions with the sun. But Eliasson’s installation is super-historically, geo-historically and even cosmo-historically oriented, it embraces a big span of time. Elliasson’s point, it seems is that the apocalyptic phases of humankind’s technological period can happen almost simultaneously. What we see today is only the beginning. How many of them will we create?
The enigma of the aesthetic fascination Eliasson’s installation creates in the audience is that we cannot be sure – is it end of us or step towards a hopeful transformation. Is what the artist depicts our dying (together with trapped sun/light?), or beginning of something else, a new life, a new way of being, will it be a monstrous or a glorious or a mixture of the both and for what purpose, for what goal, for what kind of a future?
21 Feb 2015
The main responsibility for making amiable Hans Epp feel isolated falls on a repulsive family modeled closely on Fassbinder’s family, while the story derives from events which actually occurred. His mother was amazed by the accuracy with which he recalled them. When his favorite uncle set himself up as a fruit and vegetable merchant, peddling his wares from a cart, the family gave him no emotional support. As a boy, Fassbinder had been unable to protect his uncle or even to protest, but the adult Fassbinder punishes the family by exposing its vindictiveness.
Ronald Hayman, “Fassbinder, Film Maker”, Weidenfeld, 1984, p. 9
What appears to be defeatism or mere self-abandonment, in fact founds another truth of selfhood and this corresponds to a different… and in present society unlivable – morality. Death, unbearably pointless as it may seem, is not a defeat… but the memorial to a victory.
Thomas Elsaesser, “Fassbinder’s Germany (History, Identity, Subject)”, Amsterdam U. P., 1996, p. 250
We are not capable of accepting the opposite of things as they are. So we’re nowhere near freedom. If the certainty that he had to die became physically palpable for the individual very early on, we would lose the existential pains – hatred, envy, jealousy. No more fears. Our relationships are cruel games we play with each other because we don’t recognize our end as something positive. It’s positive because it’s real. The end is life in concrete form. The body must understand death… Destruction isn’t the opposite of what exists… The terrible, wonderful moment that forces its way into the consciousness of some like lightning bolt and into the subconscious of others like sacred pain, the moment when you recognize the finitude of your own existence. But… paralysis… comes over us simultaneously with the longing for a utopia of our own. So the terrible recognition instead of liberating us, which is actually could and should, rather shores up our tormented pursuit of pleasure, our happiness in our mediocre unfreedom. R. W. Fassbinder, “The Anarchy of the Imagination”, 1992, p. 173 – 174
Hans’ mother (opening the door, seeing Hans after more than a year of absence and turning away) – Joining the Foreign Legion is your business. But dragging in a nice boy like Manfred Wagner… I had no end of trouble with his parents. They gave me the blame. Has he come back too?
Hans – No, he is dead.
Mother – It is always the same. The good die young, and people like you come back.
Hans – I’ve changed, Mom.
Mother – Once a no-good, always a no-good
The composition of this and previous shot emphasizes Hans’ human appeal to other people from the bottom of the social hierarchy, but it is appeal without any servility, even dependence, without any advertising intensity. It is an appeal from down up but that of equality, unity of humanity in spite of a hierarchical world. Hans is what he is, without pretense. He is like the pears or the tomatoes he sells. But his wife Irmgard (Irm Hermann) burns with jealousy (widespread but not a natural reaction – it’s rather an obsessive feeling) because before relationship with her Hans was in love with another woman, whom she now noticed up at the window upstairs. So, in this moment we see Irmgard theatrically demonstrating her own bodily attractions – “challenging” the husband’s previous mistress (pretending she is ordering her stockings – jealousy is acting itself out).
Permanent accusations in infidelity Irmgard puts Hans through, makes him drink and complain to the barmen about impossible nature of women. Of course, his drinking also has demonstrative element in it (as Irmgard publicly arranging her stockings in the second, above, picture of Hans peddling fruits) – it’s behavioral metaphor of his suffering. So, the spouses are more and more swallowed by symbolic behavior – each demonstrating to the other how they are mistreated inside marriage, and this everyday theater fills their life and farther spoils their relationship.
After Hans’ “Grosse liebe” (big love) refused his proposal (because her father didn’t want a mechanic or street vegetable seller for a son-in-law), they became secret lovers because “she herself liked him a lot”. But, of course, this “consolation” didn’t soften Hans’ psychological trauma. For human beings as the social creatures recognition of society is more important than intimate triumph.
Hans’ mother was disappointed with his inability to make more money and have better a position in society. Her refutation of him gradually changed into contempt for his stubborn authenticity – for him agreeing to be like he is, instead of trying to achieve, for his wholeness (instead of being a competitive fighter in life).
Hans’ sister, Anna (Hanna Schygulla), the family “intellectual”, was ashamed that their mother despised Hans for not becoming an entrepreneur or a promising specialist. But she was satisfied with her critical view of her family – with her understanding the truth (in spite of their mother’s passionate denial that she doesn’t appreciate her son). She never tried to change the family’s position towards Hans. She has her own friendly and caring relations with him but she never tried to encourage him not to be hurt by his mother’s contempt, to recognize it as a sign of their relatives’ limitations. Anna’s very manner of cognition is, as if, impersonation of social stance of modern social science – objective (impartial), facts-ridden, dry, “without human passions”.
Hans, Irmgard and their daughter attend the family meal where everybody except Anna were encouraging Hans to try harder in life and politely praising him for making efforts, as if, he is a child and not an adult with his own ideas how to live.
Once when Hans was drunk and didn’t, of course, beat up Irmgard, but made some gestures similar by appearance with physical abuse, she made a big deal of it, left with the child to stay at Hans’ mother and created a loud theatrical case for divorce in front of Hans’ family. Anna tried to mediate between sides, but passively and distantly – she, with all her rationality, is subdued by the reality of life (by Sartrean abyss inside existence). She looks at the world as she is represented in this shot – she is as a half of a person: she thinks but cannot act in agreement with her own thinking. She is paradigmatic of today’s armchair intellectuals.
In this shot Fassbinder shows Hans’ family (including Irmgard) as a solemn family photo in order to emphasize the miserable standardization of these people’s (trapped by conventional social structures) ideas and feelings and their readiness to always take side with the established over existentially ambiguous.
Anna explains to Renate, Hans’ daughter, who is frightened by her father’s illness, that her father was mistreated by people in the past. Appreciate Anna’s posture in this still – she is, as if, defeated in advance in her very attempts to help the father and daughter’s relationship. Several times in the film Fassbinder shows Anna in variant of this posture of withdrawal from active social role.
After convalesing in the hospital Hans was depressed but desperate to be able to return to work. His periods of apathy didn’t create much compassion in Irmgard – she believed that Hans was just displaying a depressive posture to send her a message about how bad he feels in their life together. Irm Hermann’s many facial expressions in this film are parodies on religious iconicity. One of her iconic expressions represented in this shot is when her gaze is, as if, covered by fog – when Irmgard doesn’t want to see what she sees – the condition of the world (here, Hans’ depression, which, she thinks, is fake and is only directed to undermine her image as a kind and a caring wife).
Hans is afraid not to recover after a heart attack to be able to work and provide for the family, but Irmgard skillfully returned him to life by awakening in him the power of sexual optimism. She seduced him back to life. Hans, with gratitude, he felt he doesn’t deserve, tried to follow.
Hans burdened by his doubts about his ability to provide for his family followed Irmgard’s advice to hire a man as a help in selling, without ever imaging what change this decision will bring into their life.
The person Hans was able to hire, by chance appeared to be a man with whom Irmgard (when Hans was in the hospital) was led by a chain of innocently trivial circumstances to “sin”. To suddenly see this casual person again as family’s future partner in business was for Irmgard an impossible torment – as if, Providence itself wanted her to suffer for her ephemeral transgression (which was a result of her chaotic feelings connected with fear for Hans’ life).
Irmgard could ignore and “forget” her one-night stance, and Anzell (Karl Scheydt) couldn’t mention a word. But she was obsessed with the issue of who is morally better, she or Hans, and really suffered because of “the reappearance of her sin in her conscience”. She decided to get rid of Anzell by inventing a crude financial intrigue – she persuaded their new worker to share a part of the profit with her (to hide this part from Hans).
Irmgard knew that Hans will find Anzell’s cheating, and when it happened, the poor hired worker became furious at her and created scandal (although, to his decency, even then he didn’t mention about his amorous episode with Hans’ wife). He just told Hans relevant truth – that it was Irmgard who asked him to hide some money from Hans and that he did it for her, not for himself). He could revenge Irmgard by telling “whole story” but he didn’t want to – he is not a villain but just a human being.
Of course, Hans behaved as he had to – as if, he trusts his wife and is sure that Anzell has invented story of his wife’s financial trickery, but he understood, that Irmgard, by some reason, may be, could create ridiculously petty financial machination behind his back without any sense by following some kind of absurd irrational impulse. But, sure enough, this experience didn’t help him to overcome his more and more pessimistic view on human life.
It is not a depressive condition connected with Hans’ recent disappointment in life was afflicting him, but rather a kind of a withdrawal from life, a contemplative step back from it. Even his seldom visits to his “grosse liebe” (big love) was touched by this alienation.
The casual appearance of Hans’s friend from the Foreign Legion – Harry (Klaus Lowitsch), who now was new worker for the family, was quite timely. Harry could attend Renate and help her with her homework.
By seeing that life is less and less cathected by Hans, Irmgard discovered new side of her “Madonnaness”. Now it is not only unbearable for her to see the human “fallen” condition, now she openly and unstoppably suffers because of it. And thick Virgin’s tears flow from her icon-painted eyes.
At this point, the story of Hans’ life moves to its end quite quickly. Hans invited his wife, best friend Harry and his drinking-buddies for the last time – he decided to violate doctor’s categorical order not to touch alcohol after his heart attack and – drinks for health and future of everybody who deserved to be mentioned before his death.
Marriage as a humane business deal – Irmgard and Harry decide to team up together – Irmgard “for the sake of Renate” (Harry is very good with her), Harry for the sake of Hans’ memory (and their mutual memory of service in Foreign Legion).
Hans’ last memory before collapsing to his death was the painful episode from his military service, when he was captured, tortured and almost killed by the enemy, and betrayed by his best friend Harry (who could rescue him right away, but waited just to see what will happened between “Arabic terrorist” and Hans – was postponing the shooting the enemy until the last second).
Hans Epp’s emotional conflict with the world culminated around several points in his life when his incompatibility with his family and social environment became too obvious for him and in a very hurting way. The first most traumatic discovery for Hans was that he doesn’t have the right to be by profession what he wanted to be – he wanted to become a mechanic but his mother disapproved and shamed him for ordinary taste and plebian interests. This Hans’ “vice of simplicity” hurt him again when he fell in love. He wanted to marry the woman he admired, but while loving Hans (she said so many times and proved it) she refused to marry him under the influence of her father (he was shocked that his daughter would marry a “bare ass”). Feeling himself alienated in his own family (openly expressing “disappointment” in Hans’ inability to acquire more prestigious social position), Hans volunteered for Foreign Legion, in spite of disagreement of his sister Anna, the family “intellectual”. After returning as a legionnaire from the North Africa, Hans got a job in the police force, but a shameful (and psychologically very significant incident with a prostitute) forced him to settle on being a street vender. He married Irmgard who was helping him to sell their produce, and they had healthy and beautiful daughter. In spite of this little success Hans continued to be a pariah in his family and felt himself on the margins of the world. On top of it, his wife who learned about Hans’ grosse liebe (big love), gradually became impregnated with mad jealousy. She, probably, couldn’t forgive Hans for not being taken by him as greatest love but just a partner in everyday life, a kind of seller-assistant and “just a womb for his child and vagina for his sexual drive”.
Of course, there is nothing exceptional in the traumatic points of Hans’ destiny, nothing unusual or strange or extreme. Almost everybody has problems with social identity imposed on us or with our ideal love which creates jealousy in others, or almost everybody can be forced to lose a worthy job. But Hans perceived/felt the moments of conflict with the norms of reality as signs of absolute incompatibility between himself and the human world (without being conscious of it), as a kind of a “metaphysical” messages about the moral unsuitability of this “fallen” world as a dwelling place. As we see Hans is a simple but a pure soul, as the plums and the pears he sold every day. He is simpleminded in his emotions, but very sophisticated in his sensitivity, straight in his needs and dreams but amazingly “radical” in how deeply and broadly he took his conflict with the world – to the ontological borderless-ness of life. Trivial but traumatic violations of Hans’ personality on part of the world create his three suicidal episodes – joining the Foreign legion, heart attack and, finally, the result of Irmgard’s strange financial intrigues with Anzell, the worker employed by them (which in reality were not that at all but connected with Irmgard’s obsession with her virtue) – his suicide. Repression of his identity by his mother created in Hans ontological inferiority, the fiasco of his dream of ideal love killed his imagination, and the collapse of his family life destroyed his existential dream – his belief that it is possible to have a normal human life not poisoned by moralistic rivalry between spouses based on who is more “moral” and “more right” than the other.
As an existential man, Hans refuses to fight for a higher place in the social hierarchy – the basic motivation of the majority of the people (whose socio-morphism took the place of their thawing religious belief). But everyday survival of the so called “normal” people occupied with social success includes their tireless pretense before other people. Philistines build the appearance of “decent” life instead of living – they try to be more proper, more financially successful and “more established” than others. This pathological pretense which Fassbinder especially emphasizes in the scene of a family dinner at Hans’ mother, is the engine of “working hard” and becoming, indeed, more successful and therefore more “respectable” than others. Hans was born in such a family and was liberated only through his psychological traumas as a result of his authenticity. But the very psychological traumas that made him more and more authentic also made him more and more hopeless. While Hans is represented in the film mostly through straight frontal filming, Fassbinder uses decorative picturesque compositions to characterize Hans’ relatives by parodying the tradition of family photos when people are (intentionally) posing to look imposing and solidly happy. Fassbinder uses similar over-articulated shots to depict Hans’ sister Anna (Hanna Schugula), for whom understanding of life became independent from any attempt to apply this understanding to the reality. She has a position of a specialist in philosophy.
“Merchant…” is a good illustration of a fundamental difference between Douglas Sirk and Fassbinder’s perception of the human situation. If the protagonists of Sirk’s films can be seen as, essentially, ordinary people with sincere charismatic pretentions – who are able and willing to act as heroes, the main protagonist of Fassbinder’s film Hans Epp is a person without any charismatic ambitions who personifies the angelic element in human nature while being as human as anybody else. Hans’ incompatibility with the reality of human condition is a result of his awkward angelism, while in Sirk’s films the protagonists’ ability to act heroically is not only sentimental (and for this reason is an ideological, dogmatic solution), but, indeed, utopian, not a real way out of the inhumane situation. Sirk’s heroes belong to situations and to their communities, while Hans is individualistic and has cognitive autonomy. In Sirk the heroic situation is possible exactly because the hero corresponds to the world while for Hans the impossibility of a heroic challenge to the world emphasizes the moral abyss between him and the human world. The heroic action against “the carriers of evil” (scapegoats) are psychologically hierarchical – a form of fight for domination, while the psychological separateness from the world is an ordeal without reward, pure torment, heroism of confronting the truth of human condition.
Hans knows that his “best friend” Harry (whom he wants to become a husband of Irmgard and father of his daughter after his death) betrayed him while they served in the same Legion, but he kept this truth to himself until the last seconds of his life. He understands the immorality inducing condition of human life but never succumbs to scapegoating other people. It is here the social and political role of art in Fassbinder’s frame of reference becomes clearer. The role of cinema is not the creation of psychological and behavioral examples for viewers to imitate them with admiration and adoration. Cinema for Fassbinder is a tool of creating understanding of what’s happening with people in real life. That’s why Hans Epp’s suicidal death can become a stimulus for the viewers to think about life more dedicatedly and passionately. At this point Sirk’s political naiveté becomes obvious in comparison with Fassbinder’s political sophistication. Sirk is a revolutionary by heart – he believes that heroic actions (for men) and sentimental genuineness (for women) can change history. Fassbinder who spent his childhood on the disappointment in a fascist absolutization of heroic acting out is a believer in culture and humanistic education. For Fassbinder what can help is thinking about life, understanding of human problems through culture including non-commercial (not obviously or mainly commercial) cinema, but in no way impulsive political actions, a mythical quick fix which always excites the bored crowds into meaningless destruction. Fassbinder’s is a third way between Hans and his sister Anna – to try to influence life through understanding, not stop at understanding.
Fassbinder doesn’t endorse “sainthood” as such. Fassbinder is with Hans Epp not more than he is with Sirk’s heroes. If Hans could have the courage not to stay on the level of his traumatized sensitivity, and could systematically study the etiology of his personality and, on the other hand, human society, he could help human life by helping its gradual democratization.
09 Feb 2015
“Goodbye Language” is a graciously sad and an exuberantly blissful farewell to the only noble tool human beings have to breach the distance between themselves: strangers, neighbors, acquaintances, friends, lovers and beloveds. Intelligent, scholarly language (Godard’s), the one that is sensitive to truth is the only tool, because collective beliefs create only megalomaniacal illusions and ultimately makes situations between people much worse – more militant and sacrificial, and also because symbiotic mutual identification between people, over-emphasizing unity while neglecting differences usually stimulates biting and aggressive dissimilarities.
Godard investigates the nature of physical space separating people by massive distances or flat surfaces inside the same room. It’s in this situations that 3D optical technology is especially of use, – to emphasize the distance between human souls which can be redeemed only through language (when it is used spiritually and not like slogans mobilizing humans to hate/fight one another).
In “Goodbye…” Godard liberates the cinematic medium from the constraints of “story” – representation of sense and meaning via plots inevitably awkwardly illustrating ideas and feelings through didactic parables about human behavior. Godard makes cinematic medium an interlocutor of the human mind, a frank friend of human being in the role of a viewer.
The film starts with a contrast between war-making represented through pernicious fragmentation of the world into pieces of matter (looking like a burning pieces of skin), and quickly shifts to the dog’s sad gaze – the dog personifies the soul of human flesh, like the donkey Balthazar in Bresson’s film – the human soul and for that matter the human flesh.
Language is a spiritual tool of the human souls. The dog in the film has a “human soul” but doesn’t have human language. For this reason the dog’s psychological situation is similar with that of an artist saying good bye to the worthiest and the most potent element of human life. The dog in the film is as gracefully melancholic as human “good bye” to language can be.
It is mesmerizing how Godard introduces to viewers the physical spaces of human life, which alienate us from one another even inside the same interior. He emphasizes how we are locked between flat surfaces closing the perspectives, or between perspectives making us to feel disoriented and lost, as if, hanging nowhere.
To find ourselves with others enduring together or without any connectedness amidst limitlessness and amidst endless limits of the physical space, which the protagonists permanently unconsciously internalize and transform into their impressions, feelings and ideas, is, according to the film, the ultimate ordeal of human life. Squeezed or banished between the crowns of the trees and earth, the crowns of the trees and skies, between the shores-lines and ships, between our perception and landscapes, between us and space under water, or between surface of the street asphalt covered with rain and drops of the sky and spots of the trees reflected in it, as if, this reflection deepens the space, and, finally, between our naked bodies, we learn how to live, to love and welcome our togetherness and separateness.
Godard’s film teaches us existence amidst our rushing and vanity, feverishness and greed, militancy and human blood again and again washed down in a standard bathtub of 21st century civilization.
“The law that denies its own violence, cheats. The law that denies what turns it into a state apparatus, cheats. The law which deems itself self-legitimizing, cheats twice.” Jean-Luc Godard, “Goodbye language”
Godard’s “Roxy Mieville” in the role of a dog in the foreground of the landscape and he, somehow, doesn’t seem reduced by it. He is kind of independent from it while being part of it and the perspective is independent also.
08 Feb 2015
“Eloge de L’Amour” is a film about private love and its public environment – social (the 21st century) and cultural (human history). Of course, Godard’s film cannot be about a particular love affair in general – a kind of particularized on the surface and generalized in essence human experience, love in which everybody can recognize him/herself, even pets and poppies. Godard’s film is not representing love as a love story, as a plot in love with screen, like in commercial movie-making. “Eloge de L’Amour” doesn’t appeal to the money in the viewers’ pockets by making love as easily recognizable as banknotes. Godard’s film is not just about “love”, but about a unique and a rare amorous experiences of a very particular people, Bertha and Edgar, who are exceptionally educated in humanistic sciences (liberal arts) and for whom their particular lives are only a part of their intense interest in the big world. Godard is aware that for the viewers to be able not even to understand the film but just to be able to concentrate on it, it is necessary to have a very rare quality – the ability to love the amorous couples (not sexually, of course) – to enjoy (not voueristically, but disinterestedly) how other people love one another.
In other words, you need to be able to appreciate the specific beautty of Bertha-Edgar love which is too noble, too serious, too sublime for the conditions of life in 21st century (because of the growing indifference of the social and psychological environment towards the qualities of refinement and sensitivity in private relationships). Godard’s film follows Michelangelo Antonioni, Ingmar Bergman and Alain Resnais in their analysis of the psychology of private love and the incompatibility of a sophisticated amorous experience with modern conditions of life. Antonioni in his “Il Grido“, “La Notte”, “L’Avventura” and “L’Eclisse”, and Bergman in his “Anna’s Passion”, “Shame” and “From the Life of Marionettes” warn us how life vulgarized by conformist competition, predatory self-assertion, economic manipulation, ontological rivalry and hedonism of vanity makes it impossible for the beloveds with intelligent hearts and souls to realize their love. Godard confirms and radicalizes Antonioni’s and Bergman’s conclusions in culturological perspective. He shows how private love (including the one between Bertha and Edgar) gets trapped and becomes stifled and suffocated. As heroes of Alain Resnais’ “Hiroshima mon amour”, Bertha and Edgar in order to realize their love for each other have to sacrifice their relationship. They sacrifice their love’s realization for the sake of their love.
A stressful and chaotic environment that doesn’t leave any place for human psychological development and disinterested thinking Godard fills with burlesque landscapes and urbanistic build-up of a digested stone full of human inhabitants and business outposts. At the end of color half of the film we see how world around Edgar (driving to the second part of the film) is becoming shattered in his perception. Is the fragmentation of the physical world an effect of Edgar’s perception or his perception is registering what is really taking place? Here we are dealing with a double, simultaneous decomposition of reality – objective and subjective: when both feed on and at the same time emptify one another. We are already in the 21st century. Destruction of civilization starts with destruction of the human soul. Like after something like an invisible global neutron bomb, civilization is really destroyed, while it continues without human beings.
Any person who is psychologically able not to use pacifier of entertainment and dares to confront the intellectual and existential challenge of cinematic art should meet and expose him/herself to Godard’s “Eulogy of Love” and enjoy being lost and helpless and still find the way again inside Godard’s incredible work.
Godard’s principle of working with actors contradicts and transcends that of the commercial directors. He, without, of course, claiming it, works with actors not only as a film director in a applied (functional) sense but as a kind of a therapist and guru of the psychological development of the actors’ personalities. Godard doesn’t have another choice – his characters are much more developed (much more fundamentally elaborated by screenwriting and directorial art than people in the conditions of factual life). The main characters his actors play are not only ahead in psychological development (not in moralistic sense but as individuals) of the actors who play them. They, as Godard directorially interprets them are able to clear the perspective for the psychological development of the actors playing them while the circumstances of actors’ lives can be absolutely different from that of the characters they try to impersonate. But Godard is doing much more than that, he is a kind of aesthetico-cognitivist teacher of the viewers as well. In his films (and especially in the ones like his “Eloge…”) the protagonists and latently the actors personifying them, become non-behavioral and beyond literal emulation and the level of social role models – pointers towards the existentially educational orientation, the routs of possible spiritual development.
Godard in the film personifies himself – in the middle of the night Paris – a central and a marginalized figure, a semi-human being and semi-phantom trying to tell people something exceptionally important but remaining a shadow of Paris’ darkness and Paris’ lights amidst its noise and its silence.
Edgar is rushing to the future from the bright tunnel of hope – he will meet Bertha – his amorous match, but he doesn’t know that his happiness can come only together with truth, and the truth in the 21st century will not be an encouraging one. He will understand this truth better in the black-and-white part of the film.
Bertha is trying to explain to the American movie-business people what they will not be able to grasp:
-You said, “American writer”. What “Americans” do you mean? South America?
-The United States, of course.
-Of course. But Brazil’s states are united too. In Brazil they’re called Brazilians.
-No, I said the United States of North America.
-The United Mexican States are N. America, and they’re Mexicans. In Canada they’re called Canadians. Which United States do you mean?
-I just said: the United States of the North.
-Well, then, the inhabitants of your united state, whatever they called. See? You don’t have a name. This man signed for a country whose inhabitants have no name. No wonder, they need other people’s stories, other people’s legends. You are like us. You are looking for the origin: parents, siblings, cousins. Nothing original about that. But we seek it inside ourselves. Poor you! With no history, you have to seek it elsewhere, in Vietnam, Sarajevo.
-Do you know the origin of Okay? One of your generals, during the Civil War, used it in his report: “0 (zero)-killed.”
In spite of the overcrowdedness and entropy of urbanistic life Godard points at the existence of an instant oasises of self- and world-awareness like the poster advertizing Bresson’s “Pickpocket”, one of the best films of the time.
Posted on Dec 19 2014 – Jean Luc Godard’s “Eloge de Amour/In Praise of Love/Eulogy to Love” (2001) – Godard’s Introduction To The New Century (Spiritually Intellectual Souls Amidst A Growing Social Anomie And Cultural Degradation) by Acting-Out Politics
07 Feb 2015
“La guerre est finie” is a film about two exceptional people – Diego Mora (Ives Montand), a professional revolutionary in the tradition of Spanish antifascism, and his wife Marianne (Ingrid Thulin), caught in a period of anthropological mutation in Western post-WWII countries (mutation as a result of a successful socio-political corruption of the populations by cheap consumerism and entertainment).
Diego’s underground work in Franco’s Spain makes it impossible for him to participate in his family life in France where the secret service was collaborating with the fascist circles in Spain. Marianne, who knew about her husband’s secret identity and supported his dedication to trying to organize peaceful resistance to the Fascist rule in Spain, is a scholarly educated person who was trying to do through intellectual press in France the same in spirit as what Diego was doing on a political level. He was organizing peaceful resistance of the people in Spain while she was trying to awaken the humanistic and cultural sensibility of the French public.
Diego and Marianne sacrificed life in a modern sense of enjoying material prosperity and foolish entertainment and trying to upgrade your social status for the sake of spirituality of living. The couple represents the two aspects of spiritual being in today’s world – resistance to inequality and protection of the poor and the needy (Diego) and the attempt to educate the masses not with technical but through humanistic knowledge (Marianne). They lived like this – loving one another, seeing each other not more than once or couple of times per year, until Diego started to come to the conclusion that the forms of their resistance became outdated – that people became so corrupt by the fake prosperity that they have lost the feeling that human beings are basically equal despite their differences in race, nationality and social status. People today have drastically changed their orientation – they are worshipping the wealthy, dreaming to be like them and are more and more ready to serve rich bosses on any conditions. Diego understood that it’s necessary to change the forms of resistance from fight to the alternative way of living, that it’s not enough to resist politically – that people will not support this type of resistance anymore, that it’s time to learn how to live differently and how to share this experience with others. They decided to return to Spain with new identities, which are their own (belonged to them before an artificial life of political fight and the Middle Class life in societies of artificial prosperity, consumerism and conformism). But this step appeared to be much more dangerous and even radical than their previous lives.
During the film we follow Diego through flash-forwards and flash-backs coding visually his imagination and memory, through his ordeals, through the moments of his reverentially sexual consolations, through the torments of his efforts to confront the necessity of change his life – making his very existence a political tool.
The intelligence of acting in “La guerre…” (refraining from vanity of mass-cultural appeal to the public) also becomes a political instrument of a new – existential resistance to the predatory status quo.
Young girl’s (Nadine) hand on Diego’s will. The common humanity of those who follow different path of resistance to repressive philistinism – old revolutionary and young idealists, will leave its trace in Nadine’s existential memory, as…
Marianne, probably, for the first time in her life wearing a headscarf, is on her way to take a plane to Spain with a new political agenda – not to fight for a better life in the conventional sense, but to live, modestly, ascetically, intelligently. We have to find how to invest our intelligence not in fighting, even for justified causes, but to life. Resnais is not clearing what this new life will look like – our historical time doesn’t know this yet. First, we must learn, how not to take the very image of new life from the corrupt social elite – to stop living according to their idea of what life is.
Posted om Sep 23 2014 – Alain Resnais’ “La guerre est finie/The War Is Over” (1966) – When Cultural (Symbolic And Sublime) Transcendence Is Impossible, Then Politics Becomes Purely Instrumental by Acting-Out Politics
06 Feb 2015
The First Review
“The Dreamers” is a film about the pernicious influence of repression of infantile sexual drive on people’s psychological development. It depicts an incestuous sister/brother twins in their early twenties (Isabelle and Theo) who were not able to transgress and need a sexual ersatz-object to have some kind of sexual life. Their American friend Matthew seems fit to help the two beautiful Parisians (he has his own psychological complex which can match their sexual fixation on each other – he is psychologically split between sex and love). This quite widespread condition makes it possible for him to be sexually involved with Isabelle without being loved by her (besides, he himself is attracted to her just sexually, without any amorous complications).
According to the logic of Bertolucci’s images this whole situation is quite common for youth in Western civilization. On the one side we have those who are (like Isabelle and Theo) traumatized by their sexual desires and on the other – those who are (like Matthew) ready for sexual relations without “romantic” involvement. These are two halves of Western youth whose erotic life is a symptom of their peculiar psychological underdevelopment.
The drama of our dreamers takes place amidst the student rebellion in Paris of May ’68, and all three of them are maniacally hooked on cinema (they instinctively use cinema instead of living because they cannot be in the world spontaneously and meaningfully – they are not able to perceive the world existentially because of being psychologically split – having a shattered psyche either between life and love [Isabelle and Theo] or between sex and love [Matthew]).
“The Dreamers” is a film about the pernicious influence of repression of infantile sexual urges (incestuous desires) on person’s psychological development.
The Second Review
“The Dreamers” depicts incestuous brother/sister twins in their early twenties (Isabelle and Theo) tormented by their barren sexual fixation on each other. If they could give themselves to their desire they would go through and out of it to sexual adulthood (incestuous need makes sex more important than it really is exactly because it is forbidden). But beautiful French twins are psychologically repressed and therefore stay forever fixated on their infantile sexual obsession. So, they instinctively need a sexual ersatz-object which unexpectedly became personified, for them, by their recent American friend (Matthew) who has his own psychological complex that makes it possible for him to agree to be sexually involved with Isabelle in spite of not being loved by her and despite the fact that he himself was just attracted to her beauty and sexiness (without amorous complications).
According to Bertolucci’s images, this whole situation is quite common between young people in Western civilization, and this allows the director to make daring generalizations about why young people, with all alleged openness of democratic societies to humanistic progress, are not able to promote social change towards a more democratic life.
Futile fixation on infantile sexual object of those who (like Isabelle and Theo) are traumatized by their unconscious or conscious incestuous desires, and proclivity of many who (like Matthew) are ready to mate with a sexually attractive object without a simultaneous amorous need – are two halves of Western youth with sexual life as a symptom of emotional and psychological underdevelopment. One group needs incestuous ersatz-object and leads a pseudo-conventional sexual life without love, and both groups need to be passionately occupied with artifacts to which they are emotionally tied symbiotically, in infantile manner (consumer goods, hobby or technical toys) inside today’s omnipresent mass-cultural setting.
That’s why the drama of our “dreamers” takes place amidst the student rebellion in Paris in May 1968, and all three of them are hooked on cinema like a child on his/her toy (they use cinema instead of living; they live inside the films, their love for cinema has a symbiotic immediacy that is characteristic of consumerist tie between subject and things he/she possesses or images or ideas he/she bonds with). Repressed incestuous object (Theo) in Isabelle’s life returns/reincarnates as incestuous ersatz-object (Matthew) and as incestuous artifacts (cinema for all three main characters).
The film includes a lot of sexual action and multifaceted (and multi-angled) nudity, but everything in it is colored by Bertolucci’s sadness about the lost existential direction of our civilization. Does he love young people? He is worried about their general sensibility distorted by psychological repressiveness and ideological and consumerist predatoriness of today’s society.
05 Feb 2015
Ozu depicts how Japan surrendered to militarism and after defeat in WW2, to a feverish industrialization and modernization, put its citizens in both these situations in a near impossible psychological turbulence. People had to forget themselves and start acting like cheerful robots. Leaving today with permanent wars and with financial collapses (created by our American financial elite) and austerity as a result, we as viewers of Ozu’s film find ourselves in similar circumstances as the Japanese people in the middle of 20th century and feel that by describing the simultaneous presence of maniacal and depressive drives in Japanese life Ozu is talking to us Americans of 21st century.
The main character of the film Sugiyama, a banker and the father of two grown-up daughters is a person whose wife abandoned him and their children long ago. Her sudden appearance in the plot is telling of mute appeal on her part – not for forgiveness but for contact, communication and confession. But buried feelings between x-spouses and them and their adult children are enveloped by an almost solemn silence. This existential silence is helped by Zen-Buddhist legacy with its meditative and anti-existential accent.
Ryu Chishu playing Sugiyama acts not only the part of a concrete person with a particular destiny but impersonates Japanese sensibility under the regime of a despotic industrialization/technologization (treating people as its slaves and servants instead of serving their interests). The “Zen”-silence about personal matters and problems resonates with political silence about social problems.
Special achievement of this film is the acting of Tetsuko Hara (famous for her work in Kurosawa’s early films) with her ability to interiorize and contain emotions of grief. Her silent torment about her family situation is colored by compassion of co-suffering with the world abandoned by the emotional care. But Tetsuko Hara is also critical about the character she plays for her inability to talk about the tormenting emotional truths, for the timidity of her smile of compassion.
The film addresses the problem that external, factual Japan is abandoned by the internal, psychological one and is going to future blindly, without spiritual guidance.
Sugiyama’s two daughters adapt to reality with two opposite psychological strategies – in the elder the compassion for people hurts her ability to understand life, and the younger is desperately trying to impose herself on indifferent circumstances.
The mother, abandoned her family long ago recently reappeared, though without any plans to rejoin her husband and her daughters. What is the psychological and spiritual calamity behind all these withdrawals from life?