14 Oct 2014
Everybody can easily understand the shock, panic and despair of the parents of their gay/lesbian children. Many of them have been hearing for decades from their clergy dogmatic/authoritarian assertions/verdicts about human “sexual life”. How else could they react on the revelation that their boys and girls, their primordial love and responsibility, who are closer to them than anybody else ever will be, are “not like their parents in the basic human reactions?” The question here is not so much negative opinion about such parents on part of their peers by common religious beliefs – the first thing ringing in the unconscious of those parents traumatized by their offsprings’ “betrayal” is that “if their children are gays it means they themselves are not straight enough!” But, may be, even more horrifying for the religious parents of “gays” is that the prospect of their salvation is suspended when they heard from the stuttering of their shamed children the monstrous words and saw their turned down faces and avoiding eyes. To lose the prosperous eternity should be extremely traumatizing experience for anyone in the place of such unlucky parent.
The traditionalist religious positions about human sexual function are based on dogma, not on scientific analysis. Official religious opinions are communicated by authoritarian statements and “verified” by loyalty to the authorities, not by rational thinking. Authoritarian communication tends to have a strong totalitarian component (it is oriented on common standards; it doesn’t follow the democratic principles of argumentative discussion and pluralistic picture of human being). On the other hand, the children of traditionalist parents, who are grown up in formal democracy with its legalistic procedures and mass culture (installing in human soul consumerist self-centeredness and instant gratification), where authoritarianism is masked by consumerist “choices” and totalitarianism by pleasure of identification with goods, services, images and pop-stars, despite their suffering for being “not typical”, are having their own dogmatism, in this case liberal by its nature, not conservative like their parents have.
To understand liberal dogmatism as it is applied to the issue of “gay” youth, is more difficult than the comparatively “elemental” dogmatism of the conservatives. New American generations grow up in a situation when people more and more react on the world not from their psychological wholeness but through psychological fragments oriented by people’s instrumental interests. Intense socio-economic development in the second part of 20th century and cult of material prosperity and private success made us think in instrumental terms, not in terms of disinterested encounter with the reality. With the rising of education costs and reduction of humanistic education (in comparison with technical one), with reducing job opportunities for college graduates with degrees in humanistic disciplines (liberal arts), the conservative decision-makers stimulate a specific world-view and manner of perceiving life through technical approach to reality that defines the world in an over-certain, over-dry and functional/instrumental manner. It is from this thinking style the younger generation got the tendency to reduce understanding of human personal life to sexuality, of eroticism – to sexual sensations, sexual behavior – to sexual practices, and sexual practices – to gender choice. People started to think about love relationships as its surface which they take for its essence.
What for psychological wholeness would be a particular amorous relationship, for the technical mind becomes a gender choice. What for the psychological wholeness would be the understanding of the concrete relationship as characterized by its uniqueness becomes rigid, almost obligatory behavior as determined “by our genes” or “our nature”. The consequence of this “technical” definition of personal relations is the appearance of rigid classificatory categories of human being, which rarely existed in history before when there was heterosexual and homosexual behavior, not homosexual man and woman as the opposite of heterosexual man and woman as a type of people. Today, we have “gay” and “straight” human beings where particular relationships are essentialized into a specific human nature.
This difference makes the gay youth suffer from the burden of having a particular nature and being doomed to have a specific identity, comparable with German Nazis’ style of qualifying Jews as not belonging to the common human nature because of their “specificity”. Today, human realities determined by fragmentary (technical) mode of thinking about life (instead of the one that corresponds to human psychological wholeness defining human behavior without reductive, impersonalized and biologized pseudo-exactitude). “Gays” and “straights” don’t exist. These labels misname just different kinds of personal relationships. Today’s tendency to essentialize “object choice” in human love is, it seems, a defensive reaction, a lack of courage activating the need to refer human emotions to unconditional authority of “genes” with god-like certainty in its determination of human behavior. Gay-straight labeling is “liberal” equivalent of conservative religious or secularly political dogmatism and authoritarianism (in a sense that gays appropriate this conservative label with masochistic pride).
Real democratic approach to the problem of homosexual love will be not to hide behind labels that refer to “nature” as to god/absolute (transforming condemning label into positive one). Real democratism will be in fighting with labels that reduce human beings to their biological foundation. The “pride of being gay” is like “pride of being Jew or Black or White (as the skinheads feel it)” instead of taking pride in being human – a creature with human intelligence and the right to live, to love, to flourish and be respected.
11 Oct 2014
According to Jung, the distortion of art is not an expression of the destruction of the artist’s personality, rather the artist finds the unity of his artistic personality in destructiveness
PsyArt (Journal for the Psychological Study of the Arts)
… that man who paints those dreadful pictures…
Margaret Thatcher about Francis Bacon
When I made the Pope screaming, I didn’t do it in the way I wanted to. I was always… very obsessed by Monet… I wanted to make the mouth, with the beauty of its color and everything, look like one of the sunsets or something of Monet, and not just the screaming Pope. If I did it again, which I hope to God I never will, I would make it like a Monet
Bacon admires Duchamp and has returned often to the text of a 1958 lecture in which Duchamp discussed the role of the unconscious in creativity: “All the decisions in the artistic execution of the work rest with pure intuition and cannot be translated into a self-analysis… In the creative act, the artist goes from intention to realization through a chain of totally subjective reactions.”
Hugh Davies and Sally Yard, “Francis Bacon”, Abbeville Press, 1986, p. 83
Images are coaxed and commanded from the supple medium with materials ranging from Brillo pads to cashmere sweaters, as brushes are joined by rugs, cotton wool, sponges, scrub brushes, garbage-can lids, paint-tube caps, the artist’s hands, and whatever else Bacon can find in the studio… He often impetuously hurls pigment at the canvas. Thick impasto coexists with thinned washes of pigment and raw canvas, and sand and dust are occasionally used to give texture to the paint. A few works of the 1980s are veiled in in the haze produced by applying paint with an aerosol spray.
Hugh Davies, Ibid, p. 113 – 114
I think if you want to convey fact, this can only ever be done through a form of distortion. You must distort to transform what is called appearance into image.
I would like my pictures to look as if a human being had passed between them, like a snail, leaving a trail of the human presence and memory trace of past events, as the snail leaves its slime.
If in Picasso his characteristic figurative distortion could be inspired by his concentration on human suffering, the paradigmatic case of figurative distortion in Bacon can be his concentration on the emotion of horror (like in “Businessman 1”), or “post-apocalyptic” greed (like in “Study for the head of a Screaming Pope”), experienced by the protagonists of his paintings.
Bacon’s “Study for a portrait” (or “Businessman 1”) is a painting where behind the painter’s distortion of the protagonist’s face we see horror as archetypal emotion overwhelming the “businessman”. This emotion becomes the creative justification for the distortion as artist’s stylistic reaction.
The “businessman“, it seems, is horrified by the world and simultaneously by his isolation from it (he is covered by the glass box like Bacon’s endless, like the history of Catholicism, popes). The most horrifying objects of our fixations and passions are those we are most afraid of and equally afraid to lose. Isn’t prototypal of these objects life itself? As much as our “businessman” fears life he fears being isolated from it. He needs life to live and, simultaneously, to make profit on it. He is afraid to be “abandoned by life” but is doomed to destroy it while following imperative logic of amassing profit on its body. It is like to be able to live only if you have cancer, while without cancer you are dead. The “businessman” has to find way to live and, simultaneously, to destroy life by transforming it into profit – that’s why he is horror stricken: from one side he is afraid of losing life making him alive, but from the other his Lord Money never could allow this “existential slavery”. In short, we cannot be envious of the businessman’s situation – his soul is being ontologically torn apart, and he never knows how to act in his own name. It is like to be alive but unable to live. Bacon’s businessman is like a child of the very antagonism between mother-life and father-profit. And he is forever orphaned by their breakup.
When, today, we observe the neocon-businessmen and feel how far they are from the normal condition of human beings (who are naturally equipped with compassion for other humans and with the ability for emotional identification with otherness co-existing with our natural proneness for self-aggrandizement) we wonder how they could come to the condition of wanting and planning for austerity for the majority of people belonging to the same nation, and cutting medical benefits for the needy, elderly and children of the low wage hardworking poor. How many steps does it take for a human being to lose internal, immanent humanity! Bacon in his “Study for a Portrait or Businessman 1”, as if, is showing us the onset of this process of psychological degradation of the profit-worshippers.
Businessman, relatively a young fellow in a suit, suffers from his isolation not only from the external world but from the human emotions which have become irrelevant to him and can be even harmful for efficient business calculations and “profit above all” sacred principle. It is, as if, he doesn’t have enough air inside his glass box. Today the neocon business people including politicians are those who were able to survive a lack of “human air” inside the box of their business calculations and have managed to get rid of everything inside their souls that were holistic psychological resources capable of controlling the robotic reactions based on the psychological fragments (organized by purely technical intelligence to the neglect of the human and natural contexts of the technical reasoning).
The question – how to become able to want austerity for the population at large so unconditionally – can be answered by the difference between Bacon’s first painting above and his second one down below.
In the very difference between the two screams lies all the difference between horror and (cannibalistic) greed – between horror of human world mixed with the horror of losing it (quite a human condition) and, on the other side, overcoming this horrifying ambiguity when life is in permanent process of being exchanged for greedy consumption. The difference between two screams of the human soul is that between human agony of starting to lose soul – and becoming a creature which feels confidently without it. It is the difference between being and consuming, between still self-reflecting – and robotic (abstract), cannibalistic consumerism.
Bacon’s “Study for the Head of a Screaming Pope” shows, as if, the pope of business, a new human condition of becoming not already super-human (which is perverted – aggrandized form of being human), but a-human, non-human, human clone, reemergence of humanity as robotics of money/weapon.
The screaming pop’s shout is, simultaneously, intimidating and paralyzing. It is, as if, the first phase of digesting, it is opening the mouth to hypnotize through awakening horror in order to cannibalistically swallow.
If the first screaming is still inside human frame of reference – a pre-apocalyptic, apocalypse-opening experience, the second screaming is apocalyptic and in this sense – post-apocalyptic one. It is consumption through destruction, consumption as destruction – a post-individual function which only the giants of industrialism, military-industrial complex and of global financial manipulation are capable of – transformation of (human) fear of death into a giant predatory ghost. It is a completely impersonalized and dehumanized predatory greed free of moral or psychological hesitations. It is a scream-inhale – consumption of stench and juices of killed and decomposing matter.
Bacon is a paradigmatic artist – interested in finding the holistic truth about the universe we all live in, but he is among the minority today, when too many artists adopt a sterile perception of reality – to make it look representative and intriguing for the sake of their popularity and commercial success. They ignore the fact that critical – negative element in our creative perception is necessary to make the artist’s picture of reality structurally sustainable and semantically complete in its openness. Oriented on truth, not on success (a democratic period of Western history he was lucky to live in, provided him with success because of its interest in and ability to tolerate truth), Bacon, amid the gardens of democracy and greenhouses of consumerist prosperity discovered a horrifying seamy side – apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic predatoriness, which we today, in the 21st century, are noticing more and more in our economic and political behavior.
09 Oct 2014
Even psychological ugliness is elevated by Antonioni’s art (with its orientation on truth and the ethical impossibility to scapegoat what is a part of the reality) into monumental forms of objective historical process. Even protagonists who are not too attractive as human beings, with all their personal imperfections and moral flows signify a certain socio-political configurations which have a certain grace – what lacks in reality Antonioni adds through his aesthetics. Antonioni’s America is processes without participants. People are carried by abstract movements even when they are trying to act not typically (then they are like chaotic currents of energy in the wrong places). Antonioni’s America is mobile and nomadic but its mechanical dynamism is inert, as if, static. People permanently move in cars/trucks and planes to reinforce their relevance to the space. But if they reach the points of the “wilderness”, they mark it by the stamp of their ownership. Only Mark and Daria, youthful, sad and beautiful, are doomed to deviate from their routes because of their economic and political outsider-ship that ends up costing them too much.
In Antonioni’s America people can identify with the good and yet create evil but they can never personify good or evil (there are no personalities to carry good or evil in a sense of taking responsibility for their actions). Antonioni objectifies people’s prejudices and behavior and dissolves the human emotions into his epical vision of societal life. Good and evil co-exist, more – fused with one another inside the very system of living, the very structure of social relations. In this spliced form they found a way to avoid their identity – to live outside themselves, because then what is important is effectiveness, not goodness or evilness. When efficiency and effectiveness of the action is everything, good and evil as its components become irrelevant, lose their recognizable shapes. When effectiveness of the efforts becomes the superstar, evil becomes polished as “trying hard” entrepreneurship (Lee Allen, the boss), good as a feeling of sympathy and empathy (Daria) and human identity as being lost and wandering without direction (Mark). In this situation when good, evil and human (pre-economic) identity, are impersonalized and projected outside, civilized and democratic life is barely possible.
Daria/Mark is the universal archetype of human potential for love that is not realized because of indifference and a-moral/functional violence of the very organization of life in society and its position toward youth and love (as hopelessly outdated categories). Mark and Daria are superfluous in a system of effective socio-economic transactions where even love starts with the competence to financially provide for love. Daria is saved from becoming an efficient conformist by the highest possible cost – the death of her beloved. By watching the film we trace in detail how a country of success destroys its own Romeo and Juliette. Mark is killed by the bullets shot by the robotic cops, and Daria is doomed to make anti-consumerist “revolution” in her imagination.
Zabriskie Point | Michelangelo Antonioni (1970) PART 1/12
Already in early seventies for Antonioni was clear the archetypal role of fire-arms for establishing and rooting of American psyche. The scene inside a gun shop in the beginning of the film serves as the film-introduction not just to American life, but to American narrative, American plot and American taste for life.
The definition of American citizen is provided by the position he/she occupies in relation to the name of his/her bank. In this shot we see the main character (Mark), who doesn’t have a bank account. Mark’s body covers the word “America” as a part of the bank‘s name – by this visual image Antonioni shows how Mark’s status in his country is problematized not only as a respectable person, but as a citizen. By this shot we already can understand that Mark’s destiny is in danger.
Encounter between the two main characters of the film – Mark (a person with self-dignity in spite of being in a situation of a “bum”) and Daria (a person who prefers to love than to be with a super-human boards of the board of directors) – is rather sexually-existential than erotically personalized. Viewers are encouraged to compare this couple with heroes of Bresson’s “Devil, Probably”.
08 Oct 2014
“Yojimbo” can stylistically be considered as a “study” for his “Sanjuro” made a year after “Yojimbo” (with the same main character played by a unique actor in the history of cinema Toshiro Mifune). But thematically it is quite an independent film that concentrates on the specificity of economically determined fight between rivaling groups of entrepreneurs with taste for semi-legal or just outright illegal strategies of self-enrichment (the types we are today in the 21st century know only too well). Kurosawa uses a tiny provincial city in Japan of 19th century as a setting for metaphorizing up-to-date behavior of international cast of predatory money-makers.
Like we today (after invented wars and financial collapses) Kurosawa in “Yojimbo” thinks what to do in a situation when pathological greed of the financial decision-makers endangers the life of human populations. Again, as we are today, Kurosawa was disappointed with the traditional idea of “revolutionary transformation” of a corrupt society – the experience of Soviet Union and Eastern Europe is enough to discourage us from this path. Instead, Kurosawa offers in his two films a vagabond samurai Sanjuro as, in essence, a role model for our hope. Instead of “revolution” as a strategy for social-psychological transformation of life Kurosawa offers “non-participation” in multi-corrupted system of living, when the hero is morally pure enough to punish sins of both sides.
Sanjuro is an outsider by moral reasons. This status (under-status) “of not belonging” to either of competing economic groups colors his personality as a moral alternative to those who while being horrified by the cruelty of the system are doomed to participate in its everyday rituals because they share many of its conventions, prejudices and vices. The intensity of “Yojimbo’s” critical energies joins the elaborateness of its analysis of today’s formal democracy’s vices and obsessions hidden under the beautiful make-up of its proudly humane ideological pronouncements.
“Yojimbo” isa rare example of a “not-violent film with a lot of violence”. It is impressively differs from Hollywood’s representation of violence. Like in “Yojimbo” and in Hollywood and Hollywood-imitation movies the violence can be created on both sides – positive and negative, but in Kurosawa’s film the positive hero is completely human – with humility and modesty and without charisma and shining bravado, while in purely commercial films a “good guy” is enveloped in mythological toga of super-hero. The negative characters in “Yojimbo” is also without fairy-tale aura and extremely realistic and “modern”, while in pop-movies they are shaped to be hated by viewers to the degree of providing audience the catharsis of murderous pleasure connected with identification with villains’ murder by a tremendously good guy. When Kurosawa shows justified violence he never glamorizes it, but where violence is not justified it is shown rather not as violence per se but as greedy and calculative emotion of those who use violence just to achieve their goal of grabbing more power, money and admiration. In this sense, Kurosawa’s film is a research into the nature of inter-human violence.
Competing powerful/wealthy/greedy men are always behind economic-political national and international conflicts in the modern world. Armies follow politicians, politicians – the wealthy/greedy. For this reason Sanjuro Kawabatake ‘s position is to let the strong people to act out their mutual hate for one another – let them wipe each other out and leave the world alone in peace. To achieve it he indirectly recommends the viewers not to allow ourselves to be tempted to become servants of the political and financial elite – slaves for the sake of self-enriching/self-promoting. The composition of this shot suggests that the task of any intelligent person is not to become an employee of the power/wealth and always be neutral to their plebeian fight of greeds (which will crash everything on their path).
The local policeman is appealing to Sanjuro (as soon as he walked into the city) not to lose the opportunity to “make extra cash” on hate between rivaling sides and later to pay him a little for a good idea.
07 Oct 2014
“Winter Light” is the second part of Bergman’s “religious trilogy” (the first, “Through Glass Darkly” – 1960, and the third, “Silence” – 1962). In the first film, the basic (for achieving enlightened life) human abilities – to love without psychological defensiveness and to be vital without de-sublimation, which together as a sacred combination make human beings spiritual creatures, leave the existential circumstances of human life and retreat to “heavens”. In the third film of the trilogy “god” (the form in which the unity of human love and human vitality takes place outside life) has “died” and human beings have to start from the beginning. But “Winter Light” depicts the situation when “god is silent”, and human beings slowly grow towards understanding that it is up to them to return their libidinous energies back into the (earthly) life to reassess and reposition their ability to love. In all of the films of trilogy Bergman’s points about spiritual life are mediated by the scrupulous psychological analysis of the characters – psychological and spiritual realities become aspects of each other.
Winter light is a metaphor of light of love/vitality in a condition of being distant from human life. The film depicts the Christian faith of seven characters – Pastor Tomas Ericsson and the six parishioners of his Church (three men and three women). Each protagonist‘s faith is cinematographically described as uniquely created by their individual intelligence and will in the unique circumstances of each of their lives. Bergman approaches each character’s religious belief as a sacred reality, as a precious creation. Some of the personages he personally admires, some he respects and others are objects of his “loyal criticism” that is full of empathy and good faith.
The frankness and gracious intensity with which the director depicts the human destinies and encounters between the characters are overwhelming, as much as actors’ performances making each individual soul radiate its own truth. Each personage is represented as having been formed by life and human history, nothing is fabricated in order to entertain or sentimentally please the audience. With all seriousness, the film is so congruent with the nature of human emotions that it’s taken inside the souls of the viewers as naturally as air by our lungs.
The film addresses Christians of various denominations, as much as people of other beliefs and non-believers with equal authority, and is an icon of not only a philosophical, but a humanistic cinema.
The film confirms that Bergman’s cinema is made for 21st century even more than it was for 20th century.
“Winter Light” can be taken as a proof that the media-brothers – theater and cinema, can collaborate together in love and friendship, balancing human existentiality and mentality, when visual symbolism of camera angles, composition of shots and geometry of peoples’ movements and postures can accompany melodies of human emotions sung by the actors’ souls.
Pastor Ericsson is trying to overcome the extreme theological doubts of his parishioner Jonas Persson (Max von Sydow) – (in the center). In the right corner we see (in profile) Jonas’ wife Karin (Gunnel Lindblom). While trying to help Jonas Pastor tries to address his own, not as extreme but much more radical doubts.
Does Pastor’s work require honesty or rather ability to unburden and pacify the parishioners’ souls by almost any price? Often Tomas tries to find a compromise between the two positions, but sometimes, as a decent person whose humility puts a limit to his confidence, he doesn’t know what to do and what to say. It’s these moments of helplessness make the Pastor a refined and spiritually mature believer. This shot depicts one of such difficult moments in Tomas Ericsson’s duties when he, as if, is transformed into his hand which is, as if, lost weight, lost confidence and cannot either expressively gesticulate nor rely on his office desk. The Pastor should be a human being – Bergman, seems, suggests here, and until it is true, and representative of religious authority is not transformed into a microphone producing propagandist clichés; we have a hope to grow in our faith.
It is the church sexton Algot Frovik (Allan Edwall) who is able to help Pastor to overcome his torments connected with his responsibility of a Pastor in relation to his parishioners. People accept authoritarian position of the church (power aspiration that builds a nest within the very Christianity), but is it right for the spirituality of the Pastor to participate in this power? Frovik shares with Tomas the alternative way of feeling – that of the existential parallelism between Christ’s and human suffering as the essence of Christian message.
06 Oct 2014
“Through Glass Darkly” is the first film of Bergman’s religious trilogy dedicated to a hypothetical moment in the history of human existential sensitivity when, as a result of disappointment in their own psychological condition, human beings develop a need for a relationship with God. Geographically and historically a universal setting of rural Sweden became the place where Bergman analyzes the specific constellation of human intimate relationships that gives birth to God.
Karin, daughter of a fiction writer, wife of a physician and elder sister of a teenage brother, is looking for existentially spiritual relationships and is frustrated by the father’s inability to understand her (he is always over-occupied with writing new book), by the husband’s inability to love her (he cares about her in obvious and didactic manner) and by the incestuous encounter with her brother (vitality and emotional openness is not enough for human soul).
By the incredible power of her character and by her rare gift to expect spirituality to be present inside the very circumstances of her life she constructs the God of her needs and voluntarily accepts the psychiatric label for her condition. Her god is what her father, her husband and her brother cannot be (father looks at her through his new texts he is trying to improvise, husband perceives her through psychiatric jargon, and brother will do anything she wants without differentiation between important and not, between substantial and casual).
Karin is a personification of human genius that disagrees with the absence in human relations of that which is fully present in God.
The characters of the film including Karin herself are all extraordinary in their own ordinariness, in their very weakness of being irreparably human. But Karin wants her humanity not just recognized and attended but celebrated while her family members exchange theirs for its conventional social equivalents (social position, fame, success, stability, competence in everyday rituals, partial satisfactions).
The acting is based on particular relationships between actors and their characters (between Bergman, actors and characters) which are empathic and without any familiarity and sentimentality. It is like people in democracy should treat each other – without projective immediacy with which Hollywood actors, for example, play their characters, but with a sensitive distance of genuine love and interest. Acting of Harriet Andersson (Karin), Gunnar Bjornstrand (father), Max von Sydow (husband) and Lars Passgard (brother) should be analyzed and taught to students-future actors.
Karin hopes that her younger brother will be able to accept the god of her construction – a giant with a soul that is as vast as the sky, and her yearning for recognition without limits and mutuality without distance.
Eroticized ritual of worship god that Karin created. This and the following shots of Karin’s erotic union with god are unique because of their emotional power, pantomimic versatility and exactitude of Harriet Andersson‘s acting directed by Bergman. Karin’s ritual of coming to union with god through worship starts with the recognition of worshipper’s sense of self-worthlessness – her horisontality of lower species under the magnificient verticality of god.
Eroticized ritual of worship god 3 (the next phase of the attempt to unite with god according to Karin is psychological “self-beheading” – becoming free from scepticism, reservations and doubts in order to be absolutely dedicated to the one she worships.)
Eroticized ritual of worship god 5 (of course, Karin doesn’t mean the presence of anything sexual in her ritual of worshiping god – for her it could be unforgivable blasphemy. But the intensity of the emotions takes the body with itself).
Eroticized ritual of worship god 6 (whatever Karin’s sensations are she sees only his face, that of her savior, master, her groom, her beloved, the one she lost when she was born and whom she found again).
Eroticized ritual of worship god 8 (when unity with god is reached, body and soul, concrete sensations and their repercussions, past and future, being and non-being, destiny and non-destiny still have the shape of universe’s culmination when god and worshipper become one).
Eroticized ritual of worship god 9 (the ritual ends as it began – human being returns to its immanent condition – be bodily and emotionally spread onto earth under the sky of god and under the sun of god’s radiance. The wisdom worshipper carries with herself after the ritual ends is lesson of humility – god doesn’t share his knowledge and power, and human extraordinary sensations end with god’s departure. Do these sensation also belong to god?)
Whatever words Martin invents to make Karin “return” are in vain. She is turning away from “our“ world in full consciousness. According to the terms and rules of our times the place she is leaving for is the psychiatric hospital. She no longer wishes to live with those she once loved.
Minus, Karin’s younger brother, feeling guilty for sexually submitting to her emotional despair, is confessing to their father about what happened. Why didn’t he refuse? She wanted it and he wanted to help her. He thought it was her way of asking him for help. The task of the father in relation to his son is to save him from morbid feeling that he has committed the ultimate act of transgression and from blaming himself, as his task with Karin is to take away her guilt for her “betrayal” of them all, Martin, himself and Minus. There is no betrayal here, just the tormenting insolvability of human destiny, when human beings try so hard to be decent, and if they hurt others they always hurt themselves as well. Bergman’s film shows the disappearing specie – people who hurt themselves when they hurt others.
05 Oct 2014
“Lancelot of the Lake” is a demythologized version of Arthurian legend, a kind of “King Arthur” for adults. Bresson focuses on the love affair between Lancelot and Queen Guinevere and on Lancelot’s destiny after his return to the “Round Table” without the Holy Grail.
The knights in the film are shown as quite “modern” in their sensibility; their aspirations are similar with ours today – dreams of power and glory and working on development the talent and courage to achieve it. Lancelot’s mistakes are that of Western civilization in the beginning of 21st century, while Guinevere is a role model for us in her critical stance against the culture of rivalry, competition, wars, heroism and exceptional achievements. Bresson’s Guinevere is not only “early feminist” of our civilization – her Christianity is humanistic and based on sacredness of love.
In Bresson’s film as a radical deconstruction of traditional values, human beings are shown as if hypnotically submerged into the sticky atmosphere of habitual ways of feeling and acting. People follow the call of cultural archetypes somnambulistically, to the apocalyptic end, with a full honor of their high moral grounds – with believes in abstract idolized ideals, dedication to them and self-sacrifice for their sake. With a stylistic clairvoyance Bresson exposes the spiritual experiences of warrior-knights as a vain and self-aggrandizing quest for final invulnerability and ontological plenitude, and their orientation on valor and heroism as a childish naiveté with machoistically masochistic flavor. Bresson debunks morality even of the noblest among the knights, people as Lancelot as a loyalty to the group with a shared fetish (their common goal) and identity, their concept of beauty as a profane aestheticism of banners, knights’ colorful tights and horses’ saddles, their idea of glory as a worshipful sacrifice of their own and other people’s bodies, and their understanding of mastery as an expertise in battle.
While the radiant spirituality is mocked by Bresson as the shining of armors and weapons, only among the exceptional female characters we can see a perspective on psychological maturity and existential spirituality, but by the price of women’s cultural infertility and isolation. Guinevere’s attempt of love Lancelot – to find an alternative to her husband, egomaniac and warmonger, is ended in defeat. King Arthur’s militant values are victorious, and Lancelot moved by the honor of military comradery, returns Guinevere to Arthur. Peasant old woman who successfully nurtured Lancelot’s wounds after the decisive tournament is seriously disappointed with knights’ infantile militancy.
It is the horses’ eyes and the shy sound of their neigh – “obsessive” motif of the film – become sign of ontological home, unrecognized by people obsessed with and betrayed by their dream of possessing power over otherness, life and death (the dream our culture today shamefully and tragically shares with Lancelot, Arthur, Gawain and other knights, except with so much more destructive capability).
Quest for the “Holy Grail“ wasn’t like searching for mushrooms or berries with tournaments in between – it was uninterrupted war between rivals for getting the grail with Christ’s blood – not only a symbol of immortality but remedy from mortality.
The path towards glory and ultimate invulnerability to death (immortality) leads from one fight to another, and courage and will for victory reward the soldiers with success. Victory is glorious but death is honorable. Victory and death, Glory and Honor are twins. To die with one or another in your grip is equally worthy and deserves admiration here and god’s reward after.
To lose in the battle your head means to keep your heart. But to lose on the battlefield your head and your heart means to keep your soul. The “knight-soldiers of Christ” can never lose. People dedicate to them their songs. But Bresson’s film is an exception – it’s not only not glorifying the Round Table. It deconstructs it as a moral and cultural perversion of anti-humanism under the banner of religion of love, that we today share with its knights.
The real hero of the film is its heroine – Queen Guinevere who, by sincerely loving Lancelot, tried to change the direction of her kingdom away from the endless wars to peace, prosperity, nurturing life and human will to live. But she overestimated Lancelot – she thought that his honesty and sincerity and absence of envy and meanness are enough to pull him away from fight for power and passion to win. But he remains on the side of fight not because of evilness, but because of… goodness. He joins Arthur against the common enemies because he choses military friendship over love for woman and peace. He prefers personal immortality to love, the masculine sharing of power to contemplative life of peace.
Guinevere has to be returned to Arthur – the dream of her life: to be liberated from Arthur and all that he represents, and to stay with Lancelot is shattered. Her world is darkened, as it’s shown in this shot. According to Bresson, Guinevere was the carrier of feminist values many centuries before feminism was established. But today many feminists have come to just imitate men in their aggressive careerism. Did they achieve pacification of the atmosphere of life inside democratic countries and in the international arena?
Posted on Aug, 28 2012 – Robert Bresson’s “Lancelot of the Lake” (1975) – Critical but Still a Too Flattering Reflection of Today’s Condition of Western Culture in Mirror-Lake of its Past by Acting-Out Politics
04 Oct 2014
Pier Paolo Pasolini, “Theorem” (1968), Subtitles ENG
The members of an outstanding but ordinary family receive each personally a spiritual revelation in this unique film that itself becomes a cinematographic vehicle for these revelations. Under the influence of the sacred the heroes of the film became more human – their human identities are transformed into a kind of “holy organisms”. They start to live and breathe as beings who heard the call of spiritual reality. They became more self-introspective, less conformist and socio-morphic.
While the film‘s protagonists are shaken and forever transformed by enigmatic spiritual message, Pasolini deploys his film for the purpose of making the viewers also to go through a psychological mutation under its aesthetic guidance. That makes “Theorem” a highly unusual work of art – more than just a work of art. Pasolini juxtaposes modern life with its noisy competitiveness and political frustration on all sides with Biblical and mythological references, and forces the viewers to become human beings of all times without losing particularity and concreteness of their circumstantial and historical destiny.
In the film, non-didactic fragments from the Old Testament are perceived as a part of today’s discourse addressing real human worries and concerns. But by providing viewers with the images of spiritual sensitivity as tools for our perception Pasolini involves us into spiritual conversion he depicts.
How can an angel designed not for the imagination of small children (including adults), but in a context of taking god not as a Santa Claus but as a real challenge to human fallen condition, look? Pasolini… answers this question by introducing the main character of the film (his angelism is, of course, free from any bird-wings associations and completely connotative). In “Theorem” Pasolini depicts human problems not as a part of profane (fallen) reality but as they could be seen in the realm of spiritual reality. Today’s problems everybody can relay to, are shown as profane only by their content but on the level of form they’re transformed by Pasolini not only into an aesthetic, but into a sacred reality. This daring experiment on part of Pasolini verifies the unique standing of “Theorem” in the history of intellectual cinema. The sacred as a frame of reference right in front of our very eyes became, as if, realized as our, the viewers’, own perception of our own falleness and our ability to transcend it (through Pasolini’s cinematic vision).
We see how members of a wealthy family under the influence of the presence of an angel-like figure (staying as a guest in their house) are awakened to their real human identities (which are always rooted in the sacred archetypes of humankind but function according to the social standards like puppets of ideological conformism). Unexpectedly each member of the family started to take his/her lives seriously and meaningfully, as “god expects them to”. They started to respect their “true selves” and care about real needs of other people.
The exemplary philistine family (the father-industrialist (Massimo Girotti), the mother-beauty (Silvana Mangano), the son burdened by complexes and obsessions (Andres Jose Cruz Soublette), the daughter (Anne Wiazemsky) waiting not for the prince charming but for the savior of her being, and the maid (Laura Betti) – became forever transformed by the encounter with not too talkative presence of a person with a hidden (connotative) angelic aura (Terence Stamp).
Pasolini’s “Theorem” is a school of holy pedagogy and teaches us the difference between profane – externally and/or internally conformist life and a spiritually awakened way of being.
This shot registers the moment when the news about the arrival of some distant relative of the family reached the household. Pasolini makes this scene in mono color to underline the tautological nature of philistine family life. But radical changes, which nobody consciously expects but everybody unconsciously yearns for are coming together with their guest.
Gradually other members of household start to feel that something strange begins to happen with how they feel themselves. Here we see how Lucia, the wife of the industrialist and mother of two children, confesses to the guest about what happens to her since his arrival.
Paolo feels as an ancient nomadic tribesman and is ready to present to his creator his critical ideas about his destiny assigned by god. During this scene many viewers feel as though Paolo had revelatory moments of reviewing our lives, human life in general.
For Lucia and Paolo’s daughter Odetta revelation of the sacredness of life (refused by people) connected with the presence of the visitor was so overwhelming that her sensitivity towards the imperfections of human life became too strong and she lost her desire and ability to communicate.
The iconic image of Mary near the Cross serves as a semantic resume of the various reactions on spiritual revelation depicted in the film. Only here Susanna Pasolini (Pier Paolo’s mother in episodic role) mourns not only Savior’s earthly destiny but that of the whole Western civilization with its modernization/upgrading of money-making and weapon-systems.
With the depiction of Pietro’s (Lucia and Paolo’s son) reaction on spiritual revelation Pasolini is going even farther than the macro apocalyptic ending – Pietro’s revolt is post-apocalyptic in a sense of being purely anarchic and narcissistic.
What is left – only the sacredness of human and nature’s primordial energies. Here we, the viewers, following Pasolini, return to the position Lucia has, to the holiness of human genome as last hope for our rejuvenation.