18 Aug 2016
“Lola” is a cinematic elaboration of the director’s concerns about mutation in a democratic system (as radical as it is camouflaged) which we all in USA and Europe are moving through in the 21st century. The film depicts and describes this mutation by stylistically grasping the very atmosphere of post-democratic life, when “forms of power are architectural and impersonal… [and] politics is post-ideological which means that critical disposition, symbolic gesture, political position, and everyday life are completely dissociated.” (Irmgard Emmelhainz, “Geopolitics and Contemporary Art: From Representation’s Ruin to Salvaging the Real”). Each person now has to be not only an applicant for a job, a “worry-er” about chances to get it plus a tireless fighter with rivals, but also – self-entrepreneur, self-advertiser and performer of the best image of his/her working abilities.
Fassbinder doesn’t want us to watch the film as those viewers who comfortably consume entertaining movies while combining them with “experiencing” Tramp-tower of ice-cream. He doesn’t want us to consume the film with generic attention. He even doesn’t give us enough time to read the subtitles and to think about what we just heard from the characters, who’re permanently rushing after success and scheming/planning their achievements.
The director gives us a practical lesson – if we want to understand the life we are part of, we cannot just swallow pop-corn while our eyes are glued to the magic screen where Lola is sweating with perfume, trying to satisfy her fans, customers and lovers to be able to proudly consume luxury in front of envy of others. She and others around her work as slaves and worry as if they are terminally ill – exactly as we all work outside the sacred time of consuming entertaining movies which make us dream as if while sleeping, because their creators profit on programming our dreams. In “Lola’s” characters we can recognize ourselves as we are – mutated, only if we’ll watch the film at least several times and make a special cognitive effort to comprehend that the democratic system became non-democratic not in the manner of the anti-democracies which are obviously different from democracies (as totalitarian or pre-democratic systems are). Post-democracies in the 21st century (which Fassbinder futuristically/realistically predicted in “Lola”) are capable to effectively mask their essence.
According to the film, the non-freedom and loss of dignity and self-respect in post-democracy are voluntarily accepted because people are quickly compensated through extra-satisfaction – materially-moneyrially and through imaginary pleasures. For example, many homeless in US today are equipped with iPhones and hour after hour/day after day watch animated cartoons and play video-games – activities which satisfy them so disarmingly that they feel proudly and euphorically patriotic (there are no homeless characters in “Lola”, and I use this example in order to help American viewers to understand what Fassbinder is telling us in his film). The poor are passionately dreaming of being wealthy through identification with millionaires as fictional and social figures, whom they can imitate in an imaginary way – just by feeling like them as they imagine them.
Imagination of the masses grows on the glamor of money as an existential fetish and impregnates people’s lives including their personal relations. Lola’s love with Esslin (Matthias Fuchs) – a romantic intellectual, is possible only through Schuckert’s money saving her and him from being on the bottom of the social hierarchy. Lola’s (Barbara Sukowa) relationship with Schuckert (Mario Adorf) is psychologically sophisticated unity of the very polarization of sex and entrepreneurial comradeship. And Lola’s relations with von Bohm (Armin Mueller-Stahl) – are based on marital ties fertilized by this couple’s participation in Schuckert’s public relations and business operations schemes. Various aspects of human togetherness – family, sex, eroticized power games and marriage become absolutely genuine and positive experiences only because the presence of extra-money impregnates and modifies the human soul. Money makes the human love sincere and vital, and only the nobility and dignity of human soul is lost, while human proclivity for disinterested behaviors and feelings is evaporated into sentimental echoes of idiosyncratic sensitivity. But according to the anti-democracy’s system of values it is a small price to pay for human happiness. Poverty of the soul of both rich and poor is not noticed when anti-democracy is taken for democracy. What was fakery and pretense in democracy, became the existential authenticity and genuine joy in post-democracy.
Song about economic and military globalism
Real estate business
Frank conversations in the restroom
It is rare moment, when Lola and Esslin feel as they felt before, at the beginning of their relationship, when they were naively, disinterestedly and dedicatedly happy, when their love and life were one.
Schuckert noticed Lola as a part time prostitute and became impressed with her “best ass in the NATO” and fascinated with her quick intelligence. He made her a full time businesswoman, cabaret singer and a creative profit-calculating partner. Together they became like a perverted father-figure and the precocious child. Her emancipated ambitiousness made even him learn some things from her. They are on the way to become equal partners. In post-democracy it is enough to be an exemplary success story.
Von Bohm is surrendering his pride, respectability and solidity to Lola’s femininity and irresistibility. He already made love with her. Now, after learning about her real status in the empire of Schuckert he is heroically decided to make love to her as a prostitute in order to redeem her past, as if, to baptize the harlot by and into marriage.
We don’t see Lola’s face because of the position of von Bohm’s head, and – his face by the same reason. Lola lovingly sells herself to his love (it is possible only in post-democracy by the small price of losing human faces)
The billionaire Schuckert is in a place where, as he likes to say, “We are all equal”. But in all another places it is for Schuckert – money the effective instrument of post-democratic equality (that is, equality of belonging to the same existential hierarchy).
The role of the American GI (Gunther Kaufmann) in the world of “Lola” is like the role of militaries in the global economy – they are everywhere in the world but “without too much publicity” about it. Pay attention that this particular individual is left-handed and human relations enthusiast – in the context of the film it means that he is very active in a certain private trade. He is not just a soldier (in post-democracy nobody has just one profession or occupation), he is more – he is a businessman.
15 Aug 2016
Poster and Publicity Photos advertising Malle’s “Lacombe, Lucien”
This poster focuses the viewers’ attention on the question – why a simple country boy who never thought in political terms could join the French police “collaborating” with Nazi occupation. Malle invokes the sociological reasoning to answer this question. The poster suggests that the hero of the film didn’t just impulsively join the collaborationists, but thought about what to do, and this makes the task of understanding his decision even more interesting and important. Lucien looks at swastika as entomologist – at insect.
Amidst a national campaign of mass deportation of Jews to concentration camps Lucien is psychologically locked between a beautiful girl of a Jewish ethnicity and her powerless and desperate father who, naturally, feels “suspicious” about “this young hoodlum working for the Nazis”, who brings to his daughter expensive presents, which she isn’t even free to refuse.
Lucien as he is
Lucien and the French collaborators with Nazi Germany
Lucien’s new buddies in the French secret police are teaching him how to use a gun. Pay attention that as the target for their target practice they use the portrait of… Marshal Petain, the Chief of State of Vichy France (1940-1944). The reason is that Petain was not respected by many of his followers who were on the German side not because of ideological reasons but because of salaries and financial opportunities their work provided.
By looking at Lucien in a company of German SS soldier we don’t get the impression that he is really an ally of the Germans. Indeed, he wasn’t sympathizing with the occupiers of France. He was just pretending, and not even too persuasively.
Lucien Lacombe and the Jewish family of his beloved
Albert Horn, France’s father is a tailor – this is the only reason he and his family weren’t sent to concentration camp (one of the police bosses used his craft free of charge). So, Albert worked to postpone his and his family’s deportation.
Eventually Albert made a tormenting decision – to sacrifice his life for the sake of saving his daughter with… Lucien’s help. He started to trust him despite his repulsion for him for being part of the French pro-Nazi forces. He started to believe that witnessing his sacrifice can make Lucien’s readiness to protect his daughter France stronger, that Lucien is the only chance to save her life.
France’s grandmother (Therese Gehse) is ready to die – she is expecting for the Gestapo to show up at any time, but she doesn’t know yet that she and France will be saved by the effort of “this traitor Lucien”
Lucien Lacombe and the only love in his life – the girl named France
The first night between France and Lucien happened in a standard room in the same building which Vichy police used for its headquarter (there was no room for them in her father’s place) – god often frames human happiness with monstrous incrustations (probably, in such cases he makes a deal with the devil – or moments of human happiness couldn’t happen at all)
Lucien and a patriotic propagandist
People of social hierarchy, even if they’re on its bottom but accept the hierarchical principle, are prone to use righteous propagandist speeches, as this resistance fighter whom Lucien doesn’t want to torture or kill.
The principle of hierarchical structure of social power, which is deeply rooted in human societies is, expectedly, antagonistic to the principles of equality and justice equally rooted in human unconscious. This contradiction is foundational part of our nature, a split within creation. We, humans are social by nature, but some of us have a problem with how our social nature is structured by relations of power. Fierce fight for a place in the social hierarchy and fight for domination between groups and countries is destiny of humans, like also an idealistic fight against the very hierarchical and domination based principle of human existence. Traditional totalitarian societies don’t make idealistic fuss about the hierarchical nature of human relations, but totalitarian countries with embellished ideological façade (like Soviet Union) and formal democracies, while loudly proclaiming “goodness” and “rightness” of equality, justice and fairness had/have their own ways to promote and even perfect the hierarchical divisions between human beings.
Those who find themselves at the bottom of the social hierarchy and countries under occupation, control and forced influence of another countries will inevitably try to rebel. Their resentment and their desire to live “like others” – those who are above them, will go to the surface. Something like this happened with Lucien Lacombe, the guy not only without any political preferences, but any political or ideological passions, who suddenly decided to join the French police collaborating with the Nazi occupation of France. He is a goodhearted village boy, but several events – his mother’s remarriage, his step-father’s authoritarian and indifferent position towards him, and refutation of a school teacher – one of the leaders of the local resistance group, to accept him as a member (because of fear that Lucien is too young for serious dedication and can endanger the whole organization) – triggered his growing interest in alternative social hierarchy – those who worked in collaboration with Nazis.
Lucien didn’t have any political orientation or interests. He was just… at the bottom. And being a teenager he had greed for living, for becoming somebody. His mother betrayed him easily and without any melodrama – she, a widow, just matter-of-factly accepted the formal and bossy behavior of her new husband toward her son, as if there was no for an elder man the other way to behave in this situation (Lucien never revenged her and even regularly financially helped her out). Lucien lost his home and had to start from nothing. He is a maverick, he doesn’t like to appeal to others for help or to fight for a place in the social hierarchy.
When conflict between two countries is brewing, to a substantial degree it is a conflict between the hierarchical elites of these countries, which usually not only successfully survive wars but make financial profits on it. Because these decision-makers need the majority of the population to be ready to sacrifice themselves in war, they invent jingoism/flagriotism to frighten the people not to betray them. They identified their own interests with that of the country and they made “treason” the top sin/crime. For Lucien the way up in the French hierarchy was closed and frozen. His reasons for joining the Vichy police wasn’t based on love for power and money, like it was the case for his new buddies – people who was lacking basic decency. Amongst them Lucien Lacombe was like a white crow or a black sheep. During his work for Vichy police he didn’t kill a one French person, by risking his life he saved a Jewish family, and he killed SS-soldier. After war the French tribunal could take into consideration his record by studying his case more scrupulously. But war is war – it is not only hate, it is indifference.
France’s father – Albert Horn, at first was alarmed when Lucien proclaimed that he wanted to marry France. And he detested this French boy who joined police working for Gestapo. Only step by step to his contempt for Lucien was added the belief that Lucien can help, more – save his daughter and his old mother, if Albert will show him what real love and courage are. Albert still didn’t rely on Lucien’s love for France to be able to make him endanger his own life in order to save hers. But he believed that if Lucien will see that Albert’s will voluntary surrender himself to the Vichy police, Lucien will be impressed by a father’s heroism and will feel a moral obligation to help. So, between the two men – father of France and her young lover took place mute (never formulated or even hinted at) pact, a kind of hypothetical moral agreement which made one to give his life to the barbarians to give a chance for his daughter and mother to be saved from extermination by Lucien’s heroic effort. Malle shows us in his film that in an exceptionally dangerous circumstances this type of future oriented implied moral agreement can enlarge the chain of heroic behavior. Heroism of the old man made teenager a hero. Of course, I am sure, that when post-war criminal court was sentencing Lucien to death, he didn’t even try to persuade the judges to decide in his favor – for him it could mean his moral weakness to use for his own advantage what was a sacred silent mutual agreement between him and his beloved’s father.
It is that, as if, to die unjustly after doing something exceptionally good could be more moral than to fight for justice for yourself. It is, as if, a truly moral act ought to be disinterested – not rewarded by a world where everybody fights for his/her personal advantage and where sacred disinterestedness is lost. As we see, the old man‘s self-sacrifice is not the most moral thing Albert-the Jewish tailor has done, it is his moral pedagogy with the young boy who lost himself by joining a group of egoistic immoral philistines only to find himself by saving innocent people. With Albert’s help Lucien has transcended the very dichotomy between patriots and traitors where both sides belong to its own hierarchy of inequality and fight for superiority of material and moral power. In a Christian world to transcend the law of hierarchy is a much more radical victory over rivaling, competing and fighting sides. Saint Albert made Lucien Lacombe-the-traitor and -the enemy a Saint.
06 Aug 2016
When infantilization of human psyche (achieved by mass culture making from people consumerists) is taking place simultaneously with the intensification of the development of technical (calculating/manipulating) mind,
We have nominally an adult creature with a heart of a child, soul of an infant and “thinking” of a robot.
Such bizarre organisms’ perception of the world is inevitably superficially banal and innocently vulgar – they need self-assertion: self-realization through fighting, appropriating, consuming and possessing – things, services, images, and opinions, and identification with leaders, the wealthy and super-stars in order to aggrandize their selves.
When robotic efficiency is combined with a childish ignorance about fragility of life, we witness a lethal blend of technical efficiency and inability to care about sustainability of life.
Combination of enhanced technical thinking and a lack of psychological sensitivity (as necessary ingredient of rational adulthood) is lethal – children without adults are in danger. They endanger themselves and everything else, and especially in the very moments they feel ecstatically strong and euphorically invincible.
Psychologically speaking, we are not born yet (our actions in the world are chaotic movements of our limbs). We are embryos armed with technologically advanced tools. And for us it is so easy and natural, just for the sake of momentarily feeling great, to destroy the planetary womb.
02 Aug 2016
The theft of Christian spirit of brotherhood by the Church’s hierarchical organization;
The theft of humanistic socialism (imagined by the young Marx) by Soviet totalitarianism;
The theft of the economy’s humane potentials by obsession with profit;
The theft of Democracy by (greedy) consumerism;
The theft of human prosperity by neo-conservative ideas of austerity and privatization/reduction of Social Security;
The theft of (people’s) psychological energy by Pokemon(-Go);
The theft of human environment by the oil- and coal-nivorous fracking entrepreneurs;
The justly justified right to defend “our country” against predatory enemies by the manipulative ideas of global domination, preventive strike and by overwhelming the whole world military spending.
01 Aug 2016
Being turned upside down and squeezed – like this pink/orange face-head (second from the left) – is the destiny of being young, which dooms us to nomadic adventure through childhood to adulthood (from one planet to another), where we, who are not yet adults, feel ourselves as refugees until we become one with our new mask. In Nolde’s painting this forced mutation of our being is represented in the left half of the canvass, where we are squeezed between two masks – the red one in profile, with an intense and self-enjoying smile ripe with laughter, and the yellow one where laughter has unexpectedly turned into cry – is inseparable from cry.
We psychologically grow from our adolescence/youth to our adult perception of life between these two kinds of laughter. When we are laughing/crying – is it about our past laughter at adulthood? Or, perhaps, about this previous life back then when our yearnings we perceived as an action, in comparison with our life in adulthood which consists of conquering or being conquered? Or, are we laughing/crying about our past’s idealism and hopefulness? Our radiant narcissism? Our naïve judgmentalism? Our youthful moralism? Obviously, too many reasons for adulthood to laugh or/and cry about our childhood and youth.
We don’t have much of a choice with our two emotional/instinctive postures – laughing at adulthood and later laughing/crying about our youthful naiveté, when life for us is a projection of the gray/green old man/spirit or ghost, who not only knows the reality but creates it by his cruel mind and with his otherworldly beard, with his mouth belching commands, orders and threats.
As the two masks of our two kinds of laughter mark our destiny on the left part of the painting, the old man-the terrible with a metaphysical beard is located in an upper right part of the painting over the mask of our final condition (with giant ears opened as human arms greedy for embrace). The old despot with green-brown face is separated from the yellow mask of our adulthood and from our death-mask, with a bright yellow cord-rope. The death-mask refers not to death as something different from dying, but to very dying of a human being whose eyes are so greedy for the world of the living that they look like the eyes of a skull – the more greedy for the visual impressions a human being is, the less he is able to see. And his mouth is opened so wide as if he wants to swallow the whole world, as if, he is moaning for compassion, for air, for food. The same with the mask’s ears – the bigger they are – the deeper, the more absolute the deafness is. His/our ears are like opened hands ready to grab a world which is already no longer ours.
But it’s not only dying that is blind. Youth physically can see (we notice the pupil of the “blueish eye” of the dark-red mask), but psychologically aren’t able to – young people are turned away from life passively but energetically rolling ahead. But the eyes of all the other inhabitants of life are not able to see, neither adulthood, nor the old man-the terrible or the dying human being. Through their eyes we can see the background of the world, and this includes god or the bearded wise man. And the brightest – shining sunny yellow on the face of the dying one is the last salute from the life.
Oh, that dense smile of the young human being who is turned away from the personages of existential drama and his own destiny – the young semi-hide from the adults their laughter at them – they are in charge of life.
Dirtied rotting green is the backdrop of life, and our blind way ahead and down (emphasized by the composition of Nolde’s painting) frames the vitality Nolde’s masks radiate! How brightly the colors of ours lives shine! How generous the painters’ talent scrupulously and elegiacally depicting our way from the beginning to the end! Three masks in the painting represent the three stages of our life. One personifies somebody like a demiurge of human destiny, and the one depicts the very transition from childhood and youth to adulthood (clash of two vitalities) – the most demonic event of human destiny, much more tormenting than the final transition from dying to death.
20 Jul 2016
“Lola” is a stylistic parody on post-democratic post-modernity pluralized by the dynamism of a fragmented reality (consisted of an aggressively colorful, as though, advertising themselves, pieces of life).
The day has come
When we dream of foreign lands Here where we live
Is far too small, I’m told.
The day has come
When we head for foreign lands
And soon we’ll ask
What will the future hold
A white ship sets sail for Hong Kong
And I long for those distant places
But once I reach foreign seashores
I long to return home.
So I tell the wind and white clouds –
Take me with you where you’re going
I would gladly trade those new lands
Just to be right back at home
The day has come
When we live in foreign lands
And feel like we’re
abandoned and alone.
A white ship sets sail for Hong Kong
And I long for those distant places
But once I reach foreign seashores
I long to return home
So I tell the wind and white clouds –
Take me with you where you’re going
I would gladly trade those new lands
Just to be right back at home
(The song from the film and listened to by Konrad Adenauer (Chancellor of Germany from 1949 to 1963), about the absurdity and morbidity of militaristic and economic “globalism”)
Lola – Why you say that soul is always sad?
Esslin – Because the soul knows more than the mind. That’s why it is sad.
Lola – For me it’s the other way around. For me, the mind knows more than the soul.
(From a dialogue between Lola and the real father of her daughter – Mr. Esslin, in the “Lola)
Von Bohm – The first, Lindenhof project. Give me your honest opinion. without the slightest hint of fear and manipulation. Please, be frank and honest.
Esslin – The Lindenhof project is a conspiracy.
VB – A conspiracy? Interesting. Let me hear your proof.
Es. – First, the land registry abstracts. (Except inheritance, no significant change of ownership had taken place since the turn of the century. But in the last five years, transfers have increased dramatically. I know several of the new owners. They are power elite of the city.
VB – Very nice. Power elite.
Es. – Secondly, property prices. They are now triple the 1952 prices and ten times those of 1938. When the new construction plan goes into effect, profit from speculation will at least double again. Thirdly, the construction committee. Its membership is an amalgamation of the city’s so called “good families.”
VB – What about proof of conspiracy. How does Schuckert fit into this?
Es. – You know, if the others are circling waiting crows, he is a bird of prey.
VB – Power elite. Profit from speculation. Amalgamation. Bird of prey. And what about me? How do I fit into all this? What do you expect from me?
Es. – To impose order. To clean up.
VB – That I scatter the crows and forbid the bird of prey to hunt. Do you want to revolutionize our economic system?
Es. – I reject revolution. I am a humanist.
VB – You reject revolution. You are humanist. Then you’ll have to put up with birds of prey.
(From a dialogue between the city’s new Building Commissioner and his special assistant Mr. Esslin)
Schuckert (the rich real estate developer) shares with his mistress Lola his problems with von Bohm, the city’s Building Commissioner
Sch. – Von Bohm wants new apartments to be built, but he cannot build them himself, because he is just a planning official. So he needs a pack of pigs and slime-balls. You see? It’s ingenious and forward-thinking too. He knows what progress is. He ought to get the Wartime Medal of – I mean The Distinguished Service Medal.
Lola – You can put him on your payroll.
Sch. – No, he’d never allow it. But you are right. He has to be recognized somehow.
Lola – You could give him a chunk of your ass. He could make a pork chop out of it.
Sch. – I’ll give him a part of your ass. He gets one night with you.
(From a dialogues in “Lola”)
Von Bohm – What does a humanist do after a working day?
Esslin – I am a member of a group against rearmament.
VB – I’m always intrigued by fruitless passions.
Es. – In another group we’re studying Bakunin. He wrote an interesting book about land and property.
VB – What was his conclusion?
Es. – That the Earth belongs to everyone, not just a few.
VB – I don’t understand. It obviously belongs to just a few, not to everyone. Does he really think it or is it just wishful thinking on Mr. Bakunin’s part?
Es. – It’s reality in a higher sense.
VB – I understand. That’s why we complement each other so well: you’re busy with reality in a higher sense, while I’m busy with reality in a lower sense.
Es.– I dream and you act. That’s what you mean.
VB – You think and I function. That’s what you mean.
Es. – And Schuckert profits. That’s what I mean. Fascism will triumph.
(Another exchange between von Bohm, the building commissioner, and his special assistant)
“You can ask anything of men who accept money from others – even to take their pants down.”
Fassbinder films are so packed (visually and aurally) with information, references, asides, questions and unexpected connections (and, as a result so demanding) that most other contemporary movies look puny in comparison.
Vincent Canby, The New-York Times, Sept. 9, 1980
Socio-political Climate in West Germany under Konrad Adenauer
Lola’s Mirror Reflections
Lola – a person with proclivity for poetic inspiration. Here, she is reciting her love poem – reflecting her childish shyness and not less – her childish boldness – to von Bohm, the city’s new Building commissioner.
This shot of Lola’s mother and daughter shows Lola in her absence (she is a very busy woman) as a unifying link between the past and the future and, may be, even as the personification of Western post-WWII modernization.
Lola’s Amorous Social Façade – Her Professional “Candy-colored” Career
Lola (Barbara Sukowa) – an emancipated woman and a cabaret singer-dancer is shown by Fassbinder in a perspective of the expectations of mass viewers looking for a new Marlene Monroe or Marilyn Dietrich, as a not-so-talented performer, although a person with quite a sharp mind (not to mention her genuine business acumen.
Lola’s Amorous Existential Career
The father of Lola’s daughter is worrying about his future with Lola and their daughter – he is poor and proud intellectual. He doesn’t know that his future salvation is in the greasy hands of the business Magnate Schuckert.
Lola and her future loving husband. Pay attention to very particular lighting of this scene. Von Bohm with his idealistic love for Lola is in “metaphysical” light, while she is in usual light of regular life, business deals and entertainment
Work for men and women
Fraulein Hettich (Helga Feddersen) is the secretary of Mr. von Bohm. The visual effects Fassbinder uses for her characterization, emphasize Miss Hettich’s tormentingly intense and contradictory emotions towards her boss.
Fraulein Hettich is a secretary secretly in love with the commissioner, and her love expresses itself by worshipful dedication. In traditional totalitarian systems loyalty to superiors is almost always rooted in a worshipful and even sacrificial love for the leaders. And because Miss Hettich as a traditional woman didn’t adapt yet to the new totalitarian socio-psychological configurations characterizing the post-WWII Germany (of economic miracle), she is as she is.
Schuckert (Mario Adorf) – Lola’s steady lover and the wealthiest and the most entrepreneurial man in the city, must find a resolution to his conflict with von Bohm – governmental administrator. We, Americans, who live in 21st century, know very well the nature of this conflict between bill-mills (billionaires-millionaires) and government bureaucrats. And for us it is not difficult to get, how Schuckert will tame von Bohm.
Von Bohm, in his office, is preparing materials against Schuckert (who in the film is the equivalent of the American Cough brothers, Lord Bankfein or Shelter Dailyson, though as belonging to the German economic situation in the 50s – not to American predatory atmosphere of 21st century, he is much less straightforward in his corrupting and manipulative business practices)
The governing elite of the city is alarmed by von Bohm’s “treason” – he has joined protesters standing not far from the local government building with slogans for peace and freedom for the people of Africa and Asia. Around the table we see from the left – the Mayor of the city (Hark Bohm), Wittich, the rich financier (Ivan Desny), standing behind him, the editor of local newspaper, the Schuckert’s wife, the Police Chief Timmerding (Karl-Heniz von Hassel), looking at our direction, and Schuckert himself (smoking).
Esslin (Matthias Fuchs) desperately concentrating on mass-cultural – souvenir representation of our humanistic historical aspirations, as if, is trying to comprehend how it is possible to profane noble traditions through entertaining
Esslin, on his part, is ready to sacrifice his intellectual idealism for the sake of keeping (silently) his old and eternal love for Lola and their daughter (and becoming a part of the elite). The solution, like in many situations, is merging (consolidating the efforts to fight more effectively for common interests)
It’s necessary not to underestimate the role of the mayor of the city (Hark Bohm) who, “for the sake of prosperity of the city”, helps the different sides to unite “for the goodness of the community”, of course.
Democratic Freedom for Political Demonstrations
On the placards it is written (from the left to the right) – “Freedom for the People of North Africa”, “Freedom for the People of South-Eastern Asia”, and “We Are for Peace”. It is impressive, that protesters here (obviously, “Arian” Germans) care about other people’s problems more than about their own. Isn’t to feel like this means real democracy (rather than competing for one’s rights, material gains and benefits)?
New apartment buildings – the way to a prosperous future
Fassbinder in “Lola” has changed his representational style of the reality of human life. The characters from modality of living – mainly being as they are, started to exist according to advanced modality of surviving/succeeding – trying to upgrade/advance their material existence and their status inside the social hierarchy. There is no time anymore for living as such, like there is no time for us, when we’re watching “Lola”, to read subtitles on time and form our opinions about what was just said. Lola is at least a three-hour-film compressed into less than two, with too many emotions and ideas, and psychological and behavioral events. The characters are rushing to achieve, project themselves into the world, to influence others. Their facial expressions, as they interact with one another, tend to move to over-certainty, as if, they wanted to be sure, that they‘re understood as they intended to be understood, that they really successful with others. The characters want to be effective with each other – they want to be taken seriously as possible partners … in business, in mutual support in advancing their career. The characters permanently posing and maneuvering, even with casual people. The situation is complicated by the fact that they are personalities that are not only formed by life, but by their own thinking about life – they are not limited by few, as if frozen, facial expressions, as many characters/stars in Hollywood movies. Their uniqueness is without idiosyncrasies, and their particularity resisting simplifying exaggeration.
We see how human beings moved by their intense desire for achievements (Schuckert, Lola, Esslin and minor characters) or for the chance to assert their value (Lola) or to restore one’s self-respect (Esslin), or not to lose one’s authority in danger of being belittled by the amorous passion (von Bohm), cannot avoid becoming emotionally vulgarized, but even then they still keep their humanity intact (not without help by the incredible acting by the exceptional actors – Mario Adorf, Barbara Sukowa, Matthias Fuchs and Armin Muller-Stahl).
In Fassbinder’s films before “Lola”, the characters still lived (when they were already overstressed by the necessity to reach social success this despotic imperative didn’t penetrate yet the very structures of their personalities). Of course, in some of his previous films we see a foreboding of a world of “Lola” – a world we all live in today. For example, in his “Why Does Herr R. Run Amok?” (1970) the main character (Kurt Raab) loses the ability to adapt to the social and existential environment, which was transforming people into a soulless robotic philistines, but together with his adaptability he lost his being – became a murderer and then committed suicide. Similar destiny swallowed the hero of “I Only Want You to Love Me” (1976), where a young man (Vitus Zeplichal) overburdened by the work necessary to keep alive the dream of material prosperity (inseparable from his merry marriage), loses his psychological balance succumbing to paranoid distortions of reality. In both of these cases the impossible reality pushes human beings into breakdowns, while in “Lola” the characters are ready to do whatever it takes to go on living in a psychologically unlivable circumstances. They adapt and become somebody else, the impossible possibilities, mutated human beings, although still human, in a way.
Another examples of Fassbinder’s warnings about the new life, as it depicted in “Lola”, and a premonition of his new cinematic style corresponding to this reality, is “The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant” (1972) and “Despair” (1978). In “Petra” the main character – a successful designer of women’s clothing (Margit Carstensen), is, as if, playing herself in her very life – as if, impersonating herself as a master-manipulator and at the same time as a self-sacrificial fetishist of love. For her to manipulate her muses-models by loving them is, as if, the psychological equivalent of creating for them fashionable clothing which, as if, corresponds to their new souls – both of which designed by Petra. In other words, in essence, Petra thinks about herself not so much as a women’s fashion designer but as a creator of new women as human beings. In reality, Lola is not less ambitious than Petra, but her ambition ends in a cave filled with gold coins, while Petra’s still belongs to the human universe moved by the energies of psychological creative power, not the power of money or technology. In “Despair” the hero (Dirk Bogarde) has lost the ontological and social coordinates of his self – the very atmosphere of pre-Nazi and Nazi Germany made his soul disoriented and lost (he, as if, became a chaotically nomadic refugee from his habitual life). Hermann-Hermann starts to impersonate/identify with another person with completely imaginary identity (in a belief that he is this person). As a result, it was no psychological agency, which could take responsibility for Hermann’s feelings and actions. Of course, in this two preambles to “Lola” (which supersede it as a depiction of the human soul’s search for the meaning of itself, not just a masterful socio-psychological portrayal of human being running from its own humanity), the main personages are more sincere and honest, while in “Lola” they are conformists following the twisting rules of fight for material and social success. Petra, Karin and even Marlene in “…Petra…” are much more “sublime” and holistic human beings than the characters of “Lola”. And this is almost as true about Hermann-Hermann and Felix in “Despair”, in comparison with the “fallen” creatures in “Lola”, because their society is not a democratic one anymore. In “Petra” and in “Despair” people still, although deliriously and destructively, look for their ideals, not for financial gain over other people.
The fact that Lola happens to be a “fatal magnet” for the three men (all of whom are in a desperate need for her) – secular intellectual (Esslin), bill-mill (billionaire-millionaire) – Schuckert, and the monolith conservative – von Bohm, seems at the first glance a bit crude, although it emphasizes the symbolic connotation of Lola as the character impersonating not just German women of post-WWII, and not even German soul of the same historical period, but Germany of economic miracle. Lola also refers to the various emancipated women as mass-cultural toys for a pluralistically versatile men of the epoch, when sexual consumerism and pop-entertainment became a very important behavioral features (obsession settled in the German soul emptied from the Nazi utopia of world domination). The events of the plot (the situation that Lola is the greedy focus of sharply different male personalities) should be taken with relative importance – she can be interpreted as not a woman but as women who make amorous success as a part of their careers. In any case, Lola is perceived by her three men as – family relationship (by Esslin), as eternal mistress (by Schuckert) and as marriage/marital relationship (by von Bohm).
In this new way of life when people come to others because they want something from them, not because others are part of life, comes Fassbinder’s new style – of placards, of people’s permanent self-advertising, of registering and parodying how people all the time are, as if, posing for photo ops before others. Personal relationships reflect this “mutation” in the social atmosphere which “poisons” the very heart/soul of human intimacy.
Relationship between Lola and Esslin started before “economic miracle” had a time to grow muscles. Fassbinder wants us to reconstruct how their mutuality could start. They came to each other by pure feeling – there were no calculations and no money- planning in their love. Esslin had a modestly paying job, and this was the only material basis of their relations. But this in a new world based on calculation and financial prowess was not enough. They both had to come to the cabaret – she as a pretender for local stardom, and he as a pop-musician. Elegant whore house and Schuckert came soon, making Esslin humiliated and desperate, with an inferiority complex growing in his soul like a malignant tumor. He had to share Lola not only with her casual clients, but with Schuckert, who besides his sincere financial generosity was quite an amusing person. Esslin’s tormenting helplessness and, finally, “moral surrender” to the new, corrupt world of permanent calculation and rivalry is typical example of the corruption of liberal intellectuals in a new, post-democratic (neoliberal) world. We see it in our own country (US) even more articulately. Esslin didn’t want to lose Lola, he loved his daughter, so he made a “democratic” compromise with the reality as it happens to be. Eventually Esslin is financially helped by Schuckert, who tolerates his ongoing relations with Lola on top of financially taking care of his daughter whom he, Schuckert earlier officially recognized as his own child.
Lola’s relationship with Schuckert is, of course, based not only on his money-money-money and readiness to tolerate being not the only one in Lola’s life. Schuckert is also not like today’s American profit-makers. He is charming in Luis Bunuel’s sense – he is close to Bunuel’s discreet charm bourgeois, only under specific socio-cultural conditions of post-WWII West Germany. Schuckert in Mario Adorf’s virtuoso representation is a personality simultaneously streamlined and sharpened by money-making – streamlined into a basic positivity and sharpened into wit of inexhaustible and paradoxical investments. He is a case which is difficult to even imagine today, when the rich financial manipulators are overwhelmed by greed-and-anger (where greed is compulsive and anger is preventive) and carry a violent unconscious coloring their behavior even in the areas far from their professional occupation. In Schuckert’s times military expansionism was not allowed to West Germany, and economic globalism was not yet as developed as today, after a United Europe was added to NATO as multicolored condom.
Working with money made Schuckert almost – gentle, permanently maneuvering and adapting to changing situations to be able to suck the profits regardless of how “physically” uncomfortable this sucking position may be. Schuckert’s touch is money-erotic. For him to get his money is an aphrodisiac. To appropriate money for him is sexually exciting and it is rejuvenating for everybody around him. Lola in the film becomes the personification of currency. She circulates from Esslin to Schuckert to von Bohm, and the first and the last persons are enriching and vitalizing themselves in their transaction through Schuckert. All three became linked by money’s benevolent universality, as a kind of stock-holders of Lola as a share who from a cabaret dancer-singer and a prostitute will become, through Schuckert-Eros the owner of the cabaret and brothel. Success through money makes people blissfully “drugged”, and they forget about the world outside money, and they will be surprised if this world will dare to remind about itself.
Lola’s identification with Schuckert becomes the nucleus of their love. Lola seduces men and fans of her cabaret career. And Schuckert seduces with money and the promise of more of it. Lola feels herself as a Schuckert of the need for “sexualized” consumption of money, of the world, of the future, and Schuckert becomes Lola of the very seductiveness of profit and the seductive power of attracting dreams and money for investments. Schuckert is Lola of money, Lola is Schuckert of feminine attractiveness, of greed for the admiring gazes of the fans, for men’s sexual generosity which she is in power to consume, appropriate and possess. Lola is not a talented singer, but she is a strong personality, she is very intelligent and is in control of her own seductive capital, emotional, physical, mental, like, according to Schuckert’s compliment to her, having the “best ass in the whole NATO”.
But the human soul is larger than any existential situation, any opportunity or any limitation including death. It is larger than the demands of moments or expectations of eternity. It is more than the present, the future, and the past – it transcend the very transcendence. In Lola’s soul there is an important place for von Bohm. Fassbinder depicts von Bohm as a combination of a groomed authoritarianism and a child-like existential naiveté. Von Bohm is masculinely elegant in contrast with Schuckert whose face is, as if, always greasy (his metabolism is too intense – he is shiningly sweaty at all times). Some years back von Bohm, probably, was high-ranking officer of Wehrmacht (judging by his posture and manners). Lola as an emancipated woman, who felt guilty for being not socially successful and who sharply felt that her reputation is dirtied by her cabaret/whorehouse affiliation, desperately needed to restore her self-respect. It is at this point of her emancipation that god sent her this handsome man in his prime, whose feelings for her were as pure as the sunrise – many religious men in spite of their authoritarianism like women with initiative (it liberates them from responsibility for their sexual non-indifference). Von Bohm overcame his psychological trauma of learning about Lola’s real professions with the help of hard alcohol (devil sometimes works in collaboration with god) and by making his suffering public. He even felt stimulated to rescue her from all kinds of disgrace which could trap her on her way to redemption and… to social success.
On his way to a holistic dedication to Lola – his personality became divided like in adolescence, when a physically growing still-child discovers the fallen world of adulthood. Psychological fragmentation becomes part of yearning for wholeness. Von Bohm’s love for Lola was reinforced by his decision to marry her. Then everything came under harmony – Lola’s relationship with Esslin, her relationship with Schuckert and her alliance with him, von Bohm, the Building Commissioner, which made her a respectable lady. To overcome fragmentation holism becomes selectively blind (as a temporary condition – a small pay for total glory). Money unites the world – tarts, breads and crumbs – into one happy human family, in one successful humanistic world. Marriage is able to deflower not only into respectability, but into full-fledged humanity.
But what about Fraulein Hettich – von Bohm’s dedicated secretary who went through all his ups and downs, difficulties, successes and his final triumph, a woman with the appearance of an old imp and heart of an angel? She suffered though Von Bohm’s wedding and his marriage to Lola to the point of her complete… happiness. Miss Hettich is a marginal character with a maximum of close-ups – she represents the importance of the majority in totalitarian propaganda and totalitarian leaders’ success. She is also Lola – Lola of the traditional totalitarian system. She is a woman with need for love completely socialized – transformed by the social hierarchical relations, by the importance of social power, while Lola as a sexual object is completely privatized (exists for private consumption which is the veiled model for ultimate – privatizing consumption – of profit). Extreme socialization and extreme privatization become undifferentiated in a despotic world.
Posted on 8/18/’16 – “Lola” by Rainer Werner Fassbinder (1981) by Acting-Out Politics
01 Jul 2016
Veteran suicide claims on average the lives of 22 veterans each day, or one every 65 minutes (Department of Veterans Affairs – DVA)
“Every day, 22 American veterans commit suicide, totaling over 8, 000 veteran suicide each year”
(Washington Post, Feb. 2, 2015)
With suicide, a person is much more desperate than when he is risking his life in war. During war he is equal to his enemies: both have the same goal – to kill the enemy before it will kill you, both equally hate one another. But with suicide you are transformed into a prisoner of hate. It is, as if, self-hate is more hateful than hate, it is the ultimate defeat when your hate is turned away from the enemy outside and became focused on yourself, when you are imprisoned inside your own death (when you betray yourself – as if, take the side of your own enemy).
The torturing thugs in Janco’s drawing give the captured person a “choice” – to be killed or commit suicide. Self-murder is even more murderous than murder – the self-victimized, as if, joined the enemy against yourself. It could be like a treason, if the command to kill yourself was not perceived as given by our superiors.
For soldiers, veterans and civilians, suicide is the identification with an adversary environment which is trying to repress and suffocate a desperate individual. In Janco’s drawing we see two torturers as “demons” of sadistic inter-human environment. The first – on the left of the victim (to his right) tortures him by mock or real execution. He looks up (to god – asking Him to permit to finish off the arrested or because he feels ashamed for torturing the prisoner). But the second torturer, the younger one, is completely taken by his “creative” idea of how to transform the homicide into suicide. His face is innocently fascinated with his joke – the forcing the victim to pull trigger on himself. In his radiant excitement he doesn’t think about god – he all belongs to this moment, like a kid playing a videogame of overpowering zombies, aliens, monsters and villains. From murder to suicide (from murdering to forcing suicide) – two phases of environment’s domination over people, of political and economic system over human beings. From homicide to suicide. From sending young people to kill and be killed to statistic of veterans’ suicide. From giving people jobs that will allow them to eat, procreate and laugh while watching entertainment, to pushing them into the swamp of chronic unemployment and despair.
But look at the victim – he is resigned in front of inevitability of violent death from the hands of torturers (persecuting society or political system operating through violence, and helped by the indifference of those who are still prosperous and entertaining themselves with consumption of things, services and images, and praising their destiny as being a part of human civilization).
It is difficult to imagine Janco’s plots and topics realized not through the medium of drawings but through, let say, watercolor or oil paint. It could essentialize the evil of human making which Janco depicts. In his “Two Guns to the Head” drawing the evil is sketchy – ontologically not solid or dense. The evil is ghostly, as if imaginary. It’s revealing the ephemeral vanity of miserable human existential imagination. When humans imagine super-human or pre-human (for example, elementary particle reality), they feel themselves better than human life (in their theology or in astro- or quantum physics). It is human life – which they cannot and aren’t able to make decent – they concentrate on a more pleasurable/clean realities, on what is too big or too small. After the nightmares of the planetary and human history these intellectual escapists from human reality are too happy with their comfortable life and cognition.
Until human wars, especially the frivolous ones – for geo-political domination – will continue, our troops and our civilians will continue to be murdered, not only by the enemy (homicidally), but by wars’ influence on our own souls (suicidally).
The two thugs in Janco’s drawing carry the connotation of being “demonic” agents of the destructive/manipulative social and international environments.
19 Jun 2016
The first four paintings seem to belong to a different psychological category than the last two. The first model (in “Nude on a Divan”) barely tolerates the gaze of the viewers – the artist and the public. Her gaze can be interpreted as expressing her “tiredness” of being a model and even reproach to the consumers of her nudity including the painter. The second model (“Grand nu”) lets herself to be observed, but with a drop of sadness, as if, she accepts her posing job as inevitable routine, se la vie. The third one – “Female Nude”, pretends that she is resting – she is trying to ignore the whole event. She could prefer not to be where her bare-naked body is. And the fourth one, “Nu allonge”, is coming to a full ontological contact with the gazes of those who have transformed her into an object of their staring – she is, as if, emphasizing her equality with her audience. She matches the gaze of the audience, and this challenge can be the first step of flirtation and, may be, even the imposition of her emancipated-ness. In this sense she is the younger sister of Manet’s “Olympia”.
With the last two paintings the situation is radically different – here we are already not in the land of perception at all, not in the theater of the gazes. Nude on the red cushion and the pink nude (the same model, but…), as if, has eliminated the very possibility of her own gaze – her eyes are not closed and not opened. More exactly, they can be either open or closed, but Modigliani, as if, suggests that this is not the point, that the punctum of the paintings is elsewhere. It is the very body of the model which starts to be the focus of interaction with those who approaches the model via the paintings. In “Nude on the Red Cushion” and even more in “Pink Nude” the human soul (of the model) is communicating through the body. The human soul became body in order to seek contact with the very personalities of the viewers.
The body of the model here is not only alive, like in preceding paintings, but it is living. It’s moving, not externally, but internally. We are not just in the presence of an attractive or even irresistible woman’s body – woman in her body, the bodily woman, woman fully incarnated, woman as body, we are involved with this body, that is, as if, “physically” interacting with us. The model is responding to our emotional response to her being in front of us – she activates our desire by putting us inside the sexual situation before we are awakened to it. There is no question of peep-hole perception anymore. This model is reacting on our presence in front of her before we started to react on her. She doesn’t belong to our perception, but to our desire which unexpectedly became maniacally aware of itself.
We are not perceiving woman’s body giving itself to our greedy curiosity – we are already unified with this body in a blissful abyss instantly staged inside our imagination. We‘re semiconsciously sexually involved with Modigliani’s model, and our involvement is framed by the work of art. We, appropriated by her, appropriate her. The difference between two paintings, the “Nude on a Red Cushion” and “Pink Nude” – is the coloration emphasizing various tonalities (various degrees of intensity) of the model’s body. In the first painting the woman’s flesh is still an object of neutral coloration, while the second addresses her body in a process of being transformed by her own ardor, which, as if, making her blood circulate much more intensely. In the second painting the woman is involved in a sexual intercourse with us. We feel the hotness of her body. We feel the resilience of her body – this irresistible effect of resistance in collaboration. She took us much before we took her.
The painter inserts his “Pink Nude” in between our voyeuristic greed and our feeling of sexual participation with the model – we are able to surpass our sexual dreams or our factual sexual pursuits – we discover the model’s sensual trembling in the depth of a physically static – cognitive interactional experience. Modigliani’s Pink Nude is ahead of life and ahead of imagination.
The artist leads us into the painting, and he abandons us on this way, when we are already there. And soon after this very moment we feel that we are anointed into becoming the monarch of the situation – chosen by the model for love with her, and then we notice the very absence of the artist, and more, that we don’t need him anymore, and still more, that we never needed him, that all the miracle is between us and her, her and us. And we visit her again in the painting, which in reality is a magic theater making us happier than we ever are in real life. To get the woman in response to her getting us, to find ourselves as the sexual object of the model right during sexual act – without any amorous and sensual preparation is like to find ourselves right in the middle of paradise existing without hell or purgatory and against everyday life with cane of imagination and crutches of entertainment.
When Modigliani was creating his “Nu couche/Pink Nude”, he was understanding his spiritual responsibility according to the principle of aesthetic privilege – his right to de-existentialize the sublime: to take sublimation out of life, to occupy the desire to sublimate with instrumentality and delights of art, and with this “trick” triumphantly squeeze the excess of “de-sublimated” pleasure for himself and the viewers of the painting. Even hundred years later we find ourselves as beneficiaries of his sophisticated boldness.
Modigliani achieves with us what he wanted – making us the poppets of his talent and craft. He forces us to meet his model who is sexually dedicated to us before we discovered her, and her sexuality in action treats us as sexual slaves. Modigliani’s canvass is a magic membrane imprisoning us into an irresistible primordial orgy*.
*Of course, in the big world of mass culture people are exposed to naturalistic/de-sublimated “pantomimes” that overstimulate people’s sexual energies. Uniqueness of Modigliani’s “Nu couche” is that it is satisfying our de-sublimated desires as de-sublimated ones but in a sublimated context. It mobilizes the viewers’ cognitive resources to process but not modify their de-sublimated impulses in the depths of their physically static interactional experience. Modigliani uses our cognitive focus against the naturalism of imagination.