Acting-Out Politics

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

When Money Has Become Separated From Production, Economy And Common Sense

“Disney CEO Robert Iger raked in 46.5 million last year, which comes to $248.00 – a minute (assuming Iger put in a 60-hour week)”
Robert Reich

“Many people barricade themselves within their ignorance of a number of matters, not wanting to have to know – they have a ‘passion for ignorance’, as one of my teachers, Lacan, put it.”
(Alain Badiou, Clement Petitjean interview with Alain Badiou, April, 14, 2014)

They are newcomers, although their ancestors are almost as ancient as human history. They are a legion even though they are a minority. They are a minority which is a legion because those who worship them are today’s majority. Moneysturbators are the lit elite of 21st century – those who shine in the artificial light of human civilization’s golden coins.

Moneysturbators are in a process of dumping the social goals for which money is a tool and servant – production of material goods, generating work, providing for life and its meaning, the existence of the economy itself as inevitable part of human and societal life and a mercantile ingredient of human mutuality. They are giving up production and economy as masturbators – amorous and sexual objects. They made money-making – moneysturbation a goal in itself, like masturbators – manual manipulation of their sexual organs while liberating themselves from the amorous and sexual presence of the other human beings. Money-making now is placed between moneysturbator and the technique of moneysturbating. It is, as if, the goal of erection was production of more and more erections, or goal of ejaculation was multiplication of ejaculations. Moneysturbation is the ultimate goal of maneysturbators’ life – to reproduce money ad infinitum and ad nauseam. They are tautologically hooked on money-making for the sake of continuing to be hooked on money-making.

Moneysturbation is the ultimate drug created for human race, although until 21st century it wasn’t so obvious. Like masturbation was always a kind of a fleeting hygienic procedure, or a kind of warming up before the “real action” or self-training for future, moneysturbation was a kind of an additional “money-cream” in the midst of real economic achievements, but today it has turned into a solipsistic activity, something isolated from the world and other people, something which takes competition autistically – as an ultimate and only inspiration in life.

In fairytale legacy of humankind we all remember the motif that in a certain lucky for us situations it is possible to take with us only as much gold as we can carry with ourselves. Isn’t after a certain point to become wealthier becomes an angrily solipsistic moneysturbatory fantasy, pure excess which we never be able to use productively, except for money-worship, being worshiped and being permanently afraid for losing our money to our quickly multiplying enemies? It is desire to control, not to possess in an existential sense – as much wealth and power as impossible, transforms the moneymakers into moneysturbators. Of course, in the 21st century corporations became “human beings” (by the miraculous alchemy of moneysturbatory money-stirring), as a matter of fact – super-human beings from animation cartoons, and can control archipelagos and planets of oily/coaly money, but who cares about super-humans except American generations raised up on Hollywood/(TV) cartoons? Vanity becomes the order of the day and creates clashes, hate, wars and victims (and one of them is meaning of human life). Giant corporate robots have super-inflated money-sturbatory inspiration, and its pollen rooting itself in human souls is flowering as human obsession with possessing super-wealth and super-power. Corporations are not killed during wars, like real human beings – they become stronger and fatter/richer.

It’s a problem of human imagination that has gone berserk and not of the real human needs. Imagination is a part of our unconscious which is demoniacally rooted – it has a narcissistic absolutism and an anarchic self-fixation. It like its own aggrandized – moneysturbatory, corporatized version. It is in a way like human technical intelligence which in the 21st century got autonomy from human destiny and became servant of the 1% of the population. Today human imagination is obsessively/compulsively constructed and yearns to be completely liberated from human condition.

If you believe that you are wealthy only if you are super- and stupor-wealthy, if only super-stupor-wealth – wealth without limits can make you feel protected and invulnerable, then – even wealth of God will not make moneysturbatatory person satisfied/pacified – really feeling invulnerable to the existence of enemies and “powers of nature” resisting his domination. Our imagination as such (if it’s not controlled by psychological wholeness), can never be satisfied/ pacified. The only way to handle the enemies is through a diplomatic intelligence and cultural and economic collaboration. We have to be able (without permanent panic) to live with “dangerous” otherness, without the vain hope that it can be eradicated from the equation of life. Even (moneysturbatory) imagination cannot provide the moneysturbator with what is beyond the very condition of life. The rational “negotiation” with the reality – a long and a difficult – a permanent task is the only reliable way – to try again and again to “negotiate” with the otherness of the world. Only a democratic negotiation – respectful treatment of the reality, concessions and compromises are an effective way not to harm reality beyond repair. For people capable of having to deal with real objects (other people and nature) it is enough security that we can get through respectful treatment of otherness. It is the same kind of security which made us capable to survive during the Cold War epoch when both sides – US and Russia refrained from narcissistic excesses in conduct in exchange for real – achieved by tough negotiations, security. Today, we have to learn from the past – previous but wiser times.

Today, it seems that for the new – moneysturbatory generation of a minority elite in US, negotiation and balance of power – democratic intelligence, is out of sight, not accessible as a resource capable to prevent mutual destruction. Growing psychological immaturity of American moneysturbatory wealthy and their neocon political servants forces them to look for confrontations and risk global survival. They don’t know anymore how to negotiate – they know only how to demand and command. The 1% believes that they as a super-privileged minority will survive the world super-nuclear war on medical super-technology. They believe that their money will protect them from nuclear destruction.

Let’s not forget that the unconscious is beyond time, its impulses are outside of the historical process. And so is the unconscious’ child – imagination, when it’s not controlled by the psychological maturity. Imagination itself is not able to learn – only the mind of the human wholeness can. Imagination as such implies that it’s beyond danger because it is beyond mortality. It is beyond the concept of risk because it doesn’t have the consciousness of mortality. It is, like technical thinking itself is outside the fragility of life. Imagination is the real engine of wars. On its own it inflames in us the feeling of the unlimited, winged freedom to act out (without thinking about consequences of our actions). Not psychologically mature human beings (who are under the power of moneysturbatory obsessions) can easily be not only genocidal but lifo- and eartho-cidal.

Today’s American (neo-conservative) leadership is behaviorally as childishly narcissistic and moved by imagination as the Soviet communist leadership was in their absolutist ideology.

Woman As A Personification of A (Universal) Human Being – Fassbinder’s Philosophical Parody On Socio-morphism Of Woman’s Emancipation

…eroticism is a ghastly maze where the lost ones must tremble. This is the only way to come close to the truth of eroticism: to tremble.
Georges Bataille, “The Tears of Eros”, City Lights Bks., 1992, p. 69

MC: There are more and more women who refuse any longer to let men victimize them.
RWF: Women who let themselves be oppressed often are more beautiful than women who fight back.
MC: You think so? That’s right, because they are probably more gentle. Because when you have to fight back you get tense…
RWF: But that would be the greatest masochistic fulfillment , not being able to take care of oneself anymore… Most men simply cannot oppress women as perfectly as women would like them to.
MC: Oppression means that it happens to you involuntary, conformity means that you do it voluntary.
RWF: That’s even more terrible.
MC: One can base a life together on a certain degree of conformity… I am a person who has to live relatively alone.
RWF: Either to live and be lonely or to let yourself be oppressed and be happy, that the choice a woman has…
MC: Nonetheless it is possible today to live in a different way with a man.
RWF: For that to be true, men would have to be emancipated. Do you know any emancipated man?
From “R.W.Fassbinder is talking about oppression with Margit Carstensen.” In “West German Filmmakers on Film…”, p. 109 – 111.

… [Story of Adam and Eve] – that barbarous narrative of debt, torture and revenge of which culture is the blood-stained fruit.
Terry Eagleton, “The Idea of Culture”, Blackwell Pr., 2000, p. 108

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Fassbinder (the second from the left) as an unidentified character in his own film, Hannah Schygulla – Karin (on the right) and Margit Carstensen – Petra (in the center)

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Fassbinder (in the center) works (assisted by Harry Baer – on the right) with Margit Carstensen on the set of “The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant”

The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant

Nicolas Poussin’s Painting

Stylized exposition

Scene 1. Preamble/Warming up for daily battles
Scene 2. Corrupting seduction
Scene 3. Revenge/Getting even
Scene 4. Agony of deafening defeat
Scene 5. Transfiguration (Petra maneuvers into democraticity)
Scene 6. Resolution/Dissolution (an offer which cannot be met)

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Nicolas Poussin, “Midas and Bacchus/Dionysus”, 1630

Poussin’s painting has a fundamental semantic importance for “The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant” – it is used by Fassbinder as historical-cultural rooting of his concept of Petra-Karin relationship as an archetype of Western civilization. The viewers are encouraged to locate Midas and Dionysus in the painting which Fassbinder has wall-sized in Petra’s stylized bedroom and by this makes it part of the semantic development of the film. By becoming a constituent part of the film’s plot and meaning through the director’s resourceful montage of its fragments with visual accents of the characters’ relations, the painting functions as analytical tool for RWF’s characterization of today’s behavioral proclivities. For example, Bush Jr. and his political cohort’s invasion of Iraq can be understood as acting-out by these people of their unconscious Midas-Dionysus’s complex. The film emphasizes the foundational role of the myth of Midas-Bacchus, which inspired Poussin’s painting, in forming the Western psyche.

Stylized exposition

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We see two cats awakening for the day. One of them – on top of the stairs, is occupying much higher place in the social hierarchy of Petra’s household. The other, at the bottom, has a dream, and she is dedicated to its realization. What can a cat dream about in Fassbinder’s film? Ideologically speaking – about equality, but existentially speaking – about being accepted and loved by the cat above. Of course, cats are metaphorical and signify the two main characters – Petra von Kant and her assistant and maid Marlene (Irm Hermann)

Preamble/Warming up for erotic and social battles

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For a person who, by Fassbinder’s directorial insistence, personifies King Midas from Nicolas Poussin‘s painting, to return to the world after a night of non-being is not an easy task. She has several missions to accomplish in the world and doesn’t like to be targeted by Apollo’s arrows. May be, she is a vampire of sorts?

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Petra’s morning starts elegiacally – with innocent and modest self-image

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After a long night Petra recovers the upright posture of Dionysus from Nicolas Poussin’s painting

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The appearance of Baroness Sidonie von Grasenabb (Katrin Schaake) with a morning visit to Petra made Marlene feel abandoned, ignored and not needed

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Baroness Sidonie was not alone – soon her protégé Karin arrived who “by chance” was looking for a fancy employment. Acquaintance of Petra and Karin starts with a little shaking up of early morning.

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Petra is curious about Karin’s curiosity towards her

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Petra describes to Sidonie the ordeal of her so promising but failed marriage which included intense and ambitious romance based on love inspiring the husband and wife to transcend the limits of perfection. Petra explains to Sidonie what amour, romance, marriage and divorce taught her about human life and mysteries of human togetherness.

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Is Petra talking to Sidonie about heterosexual love and marriage like one mannequin to another (which we see in this shot, together with two miniature dolls of little girls in the upper part of the shot)? Do Petra and Sidonie’s ideas about love and marriage come from the dreams of the little girls they were once? We tend to be spontaneously calculative/manipulative in the very sincerity of our amorous feelings, calculative because of our emotional greed and manipulative because of chronic hunger for amorous mutuality. Petra’s mind reflects her ontological deprivation and her hysterical dream about emotional plenitude (rooted in symbiotic relations of mutual identification trying to create a primordial unity between two people).

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One of the miracles of the film is how Petra from a woman after a night sleep gradually transforms in front of our eyes into an incredibly beautiful female specimen – the more her psycho-socio-cultural contemplations are found its verbalizations.

Seduction and counter-seduction

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Petra is ready for a decisive – recruiting, encounter with Karin, and she activates Marlene to rush to answer the doorbell and open the way to the future

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Karin is dressed as an Amazon-warrior, Petra – as armed not only with money but also with smashing glamor

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Dionysus is pointing at Petra as his “representative” in the narrative world of the film

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The most effective strategy of conquering is the one that doesn’t look like a “strategy” and is based on what looks like generosity, humanism, care, sharing resources for living, sharing life and love. It looks like love and it is love. It is not a matter of faking love – it is love as a part of the package of its realistic realization in the objective conditions of human life.

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While Petra orders Marlene to bring out the Champagne Dionysus points at Petra and Karin’s future

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Petra and Karin – spirit and nature – one body: two heads

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Dionysus on the wall, as if, following the development of Petra-Karin mutuality and business negotiations (love happens not only between two hearts or two souls, but between two human beings in a real – socio-economic environment, outside of which love is just a fruitless and fatal idealism) – and again points at Petra, as if, marking her success with Karin, which paves the road for Karin’s success which will follow

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Dionysus now points at Karin, for the first time, which is also Petra’s success.

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Petra is sharing with Karin her philosophy of life, while desperate for job and success Karin is ready for everything even without Petra’s shining wisdoms.

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According to the composition of this shot – a place for Karin in Petra’s life has opened (marked by the “naked” mannequin)

Revenge/getting even/getting equal

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Through a calculated pantomime and staged effects Karin tries to recover her human dignity not without some vengeful intentions. But would it be just to blame her? Of course, Karin’s existential sensitivity is less and less relevant in today’s life where people go to their “pragmatic” goals like tanks. For the 21st century both heroines of Fassbinder’s film are too delicate and sensitive. May be, it’s good for us to learn from them?

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Petra tries to reassure Karin in her love but a fissure of inequality in their togetherness makes it difficult. To seem subdued Petra as if eliminates herself that is emphasized by the composition of the shot.

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Karin develops a narration (which covers up a real problem) – her “organic” heterosexuality. She cannot address the real reason of her sexual betrayal – it could be too humiliating and dangerous for her future career opportunities

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This shot represents Karin as the apparition of a supernatural power of naturalness which can suddenly come not only to her face but to the surface of her very being – in her laughter, positive, wholehearted, ontologically overfilled, tranquil. This Karin’s somatic and effortless laughter makes Petra laugh in response – instinctively, spontaneously, forgetting everything.

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But Petra’s need to be reassured in Karin’s love becomes even stronger. Karin’s laughter of innocence transcends type of love based on individual amorous greed which transforms love into mother’s breast and kiss into appropriation

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Mannequins in Petra’s exotic house, where her bedroom occupies a central place, are awaken to human suffering.

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Petra, as if, being crucified on her bed – her love for Karin becomes one long and unending torture. Her bed with the three crowns signifying the two lovers and witness of their amorous joy – here Petra, Karin and Marlene, is transformed into the Cross of Crucifixion

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After a sudden call from Karin’s husband, and her impulsive decision to meet him, Petra felt, as if, a heavy bar has fallen on her

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Petra is humiliatingly begging Karin not to leave, but human unconscious is overfilled with instinctive strategies directed at finding ways to win by any price. Self-humiliation is one of the blind attempts to win in an impossible situations – to keep the object that slides way, inside the area of possession and passive control

The agony of a deafening defeat

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The next phase of amorous battle where eroticism is mixed with passion to dominate, starts already not between Petra and Karin, but inside Petra’s own life. The amorous duel of two symbiotic objects continues inside each player.

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Petra response to Sidonie (who just explained to Petra’s mother that Petra is crazy about Karin): “I am not crazy about her, I love (Ich liebe) her, I love her as I’ve never loved anything before. Her little finger is worth more than all of you together”.

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On her birthday Petra accepts presents from relatives and friends, but she is waiting just for one person to appear

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Dionysus points at the “plebs” – the painting’s metaphor, according to Fassbinder’s interpretation, of Sidonie, Petra’s mother and all the conformists reduced to gossiping voyeurs instead of risking to have their own games

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Sidonie’s present to Petra for her birthday is a doll with a striking resemblance to Karin

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Petra is hurt but simultaneously excited by Sidonie’s attempt to mock her passion – love is always ambiguous, and hope is the other side of despair. Those who are struck down by love can resurrect with surprising ease

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Dionysus points not at Petra but at her agony in front of her mother and daughter (Eva Mattes) whom we see in front of us, staring at Petra in disbelief

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Mother’s fall can be her daughter’s awakening. But to make mother’s suffering a lesson for her child she has to forget about her respectful image

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A child can even cling to a mother more if she feels that mother is not perfect, like the child herself. More, identification with a “sinful” mother can be the way for the child to develop an understanding of human life. And here, as an inspiration of empathy in Gabriele, Petra as a mother can succeed, in spite of all her “shortcomings”

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As soon as being loved is perceived in Western culture as ontological victory over life, not being loved is considered as ultimate defeat. Petra as personification of king Midas is crushed under the feet of philistines

Transfiguration – Petra’s “mutation” into psychological democratism

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Petra proposes to Marlene a “democratic” relationship based on equality and mutual respect. But what happened to Petra? Where is her royal shining? Where is her beauty, vitality, irresistibility? The ability to charm and fascinate? All of this seems irrelevant and superfluous in a new – decent human love. Petra’s transformation is, obviously, not in tune with modernity and post-modernity. Shining beauty is a weapon, and humankind cannot live without the power of Dionysian seductions and Apollonian arrows.

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Marlene is also transformed – from the one who admires and worships to the one who serves as an alienated administrator and nurse. Pay attention to the flower in Petra’s right hand – all that is left from her “greatest love” for Karin

The offer which cannot be met

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Marlene is leaving Petra. Without passionate fights of loving, without amorous dominating or being dominated, sadism and masochism of love she cannot continue

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Marlene is taking with herself a gun and Petra’s doll – symbol of Karin, the object of worship and domination, love and being dominated. Petra is left to her solitude.

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In “The Bitter Tears…” Fassbinder represents to the audience the Western tradition of love in intimate relations as an expression of Western spirit of aggressive individualism and its dream of being dissolved in a borderless togetherness. To the analytical distance from the events of the plot and characters’ emotional psychodrama, dense visual symbolism and psychological intensity of representation (including comic stylization), Fassbinder adds a certain eidetic density, a kind of fixation on visual images as an absolute point of reference, a fixation that parodies materialistic/consumerist streak in Western sensibility.

The supreme importance of personal love in Western cultural tradition is emphasized the fact that all the events in the film take place in one room – the bedroom of the main character. Physical love is the ultimate locus where the theology of personal spiritual realization, philosophy of personal splendor, psychology of emotional settlement in the soul of the beloved (and of the emotional enveloping by the beloved of the erotically dominant lover), and sociology of individual irresistibility in front of the other can be realized. Possession of another person’s body and soul in intimacy is the ultimate proof of successful self-assertion of a Western individual. In “The Tears…” personal love (demythologized from “romantic” idealization) is one of the essential games of Western civilization, the very pearl of its shell, the very blood of its sweat, the very steeple of its dome. Because domination over others is in our species the most basic drive, the mutuality of intimate love is irradiated by the music of emotional battle.

In the focus of personal love’s exaltation of Hegel dialectics of master and slave, personal value of a concrete individual in his/her relation to the other comes into light. That’s why each step of Petra and Karin towards or away from each other is described by Fassbinder with such a scrupulous precision – he depicts them not only as persons in concrete circumstances, but as individuals in their absolute self-assertion and self-realization. Such relationship is a dangerous experience, with cosmic jealousy and feeling of metaphysical loss. Fassbinder unfolds in front of us all this meta-historical drama in which self-aggrandizement and fight for domination are intellectualized and psycho-dramatized.

In agreement with the Western cultural tradition, “masculine”, actively seducing role (which is personified by Petra), symbolizes the value of the spirit over the flesh, culture over nature, phallic might over the impotence of amorous receptivity, social status over its absence, financial prowess over being poor. If Petra is an aesthete, Karin symbolizes nature, flesh which is supposed to be conquered by the Spirit, femininity which is supposed to be filled up by the emanation of the master. Their affair is composed of so many determinants that it is itself a work of art which two persons involved create together. Fassbinder simultaneously admires and debunks “a dance-like ritual of seduction and melodramatic intimacy”, “Petra and Karin’s mutual seduction through sex, theatrics and economics” (T. Corrigan, “New German Film: The Displaced Image”, Univ. of Texas, 1983, p. 50) – the beautiful amorous pantomime of Western courteous love in which Spirit mystically falls into the flesh. He is enjoying its sublime dedication and very critical of its hypocritical cowardice. Petra is as beautiful as aesthetics, as irresistible as spirit, as intelligent as a philosophy, as admirable as a White Knight, as adorable as a courageous woman trying to overcome the historical limitations of womanhood. And Karin is as natural as femininity itself, and as attractive as a young woman in need for help and protection without sacrificing her dignity.

Fassbinder’s classification of concrete love relations which we observe in the film, consists, it seems, of three kinds of love, two are widespread, and the third kind can only come to reality in future, if at all. The first type of love is the one which Petra and Marlene have. It’s psychologically a sado-masochistic relationship when one person is naturally dominating and ontologically is the shining center of adoration and admiration, while the other is accepting this domination as a precious gift and quite happy to be the object of a patronizing generosity – to serve and worship (like people in front of a monarch, like soldiers in front of a four star general, like the public in front of movie and/or pop-music stars, or many American poor in front of millionaires and adolescents in front of NFL players). The second type of love depicted in the film is the one Petra and Karin have. It is a relationship of inequality (in social, financial and professional power) when the weaker side disagrees to be dominated and manipulated and fights for autonomy (sometimes using revenge and counter-manipulation). The third type of love is sketched as a hypothetical one which could be realized, for example, if Marlene was not afraid of entering a mutually responsible relations which Petra offers her at the end of the film. The fact that Marlene is running away is telling us, that, according to Fassbinder, many women want to play men’s role in social and personal relations and that’ how they understand cultural development inside democracies – in a regressive, not progressive way.

Traditional Eros, with its possessive and dominating passions is engraved in the very spiritual archetypes of Western culture. Petra seduces as a Spirit, she shines and blinds as a Spirit, and her jealousy is so ultimate and so grandiose that it is the Spirit itself in her that is jealous and indignant about Karin’s “evil resistance”. And Petra’s suffering is so cosmic that it is the Soul’s monumental grief about the innate deceitfulness of evil nature. “What is spirit? – Fire, flame, burning, conflagration… Spirit is what inflames itself, setting itself on fire… Spirit catches fire and gives fire… Spirit gives soul” (Jacques Derrida, “Of Spirit [Heidegger and the Question]”, Un. of Chicago, 1989, p. 83 – 84) In this description of Spirit and Soul we immediately recognize Petra’s style of amorous self-inflammation and seducing frenzy of beauty and sophistication. Her spirit is forcing her soul to fall for Karin. “…the soul is on the way towards the earth… the soul seeks the earth… The soul is strange because it does not yet inhabit the earth.” (Jacques Derrida, Ibid, p. 88) Spiritual movement towards earth is also a fall. But a democratic recovery of Petra’s soul is possible at the end of the film.

Margit Carstensen’s incredible intonational versatility (in pronouncing Marlene’s name when she is calling her) – the intonational richness connected with giving the servant endless commands, orders and instructions refers to the multiplicity of Master’s needs to be satisfied. In Petra’s voice calling out for Marlene’s helping presence we hear all the tradition of slavery and perceive the masculine Eros ready to cool itself in the feminine receptivity’s masochistic generosity. But what about Petra’s arsenal of seductiveness? How, indeed, is she expecting to conquer Karin besides being financially generous (not too much) and promising her career and fame? The first scene of the film where Petra is awaken by Marlene and starts to beautify/canonize herself is a representation of the very beauty of the Spirit that mobilizes itself for strengthening of its seductive power. Petra’s artificial but so natural beauty shines, to borrow the phrase from Akira Kurosawa’s “Sanjuro”, as a drawn sword. “In the question of style there is always the weight or examen of some pointed object. At times this object may be only a quill or a stylus. But it could just as easily be a stiletto, or even a rapier. Such objects might be used in a vicious attack against what philosophy appeals to in the name of matter or matrix , an attack whose thrust could not but leave its mark, could not but inscribe there some imprint or form. But they might also be used as protection against the threat of such an attack, in order to keep it at a distance, to repel it… to meet the sea’s attack and cleave its hostile surface… the style might be compared to that rocky point, also called an eperon, on which the waves break at the harbor’s entrance… the style uses its spur (eperon) as a means of protection against the terrifying, blinding, mortal threat… style protects the presence, the content, the thing itself, meaning, truth [from becoming] deflowered in the unveiling of the difference.” (Jacques Derrida, “Spurs”, The Univ. of Chicago Press, 1978, p. 37 – 39.) Petra’s stylized beauty is this protective weapon against a potential or actual resistance on part of nature/Karin, expression of Petra’s desire to disarm Karin’s exercises in autonomy by making her blinded by her amorous admiration/adoration of Petra. This strategy is already not completely masculine, and Petra is already not only Apollo, but exactly Dionysus (as Fassbinder makes it by using Poussin’s painting) who “…is mainly a god of women… Dionysus is man and woman in one person.” (James Hillman, “The Myth of Analysis [Three Essays in Archetypal Psychology]”, Harper, 1972, p. 258) Petra carries the archetype of a productive mother; she is an artist-creator of beauty of soul and the very soul of beauty.

The intensity of Petra’s suffering because of Karin’s alleged “unfaithfulness” is a symptom of her spiritual androgynous-ness (metaphorically personifying democracy in comparison with hyper-masculinity of Western tradition) that finds expression in her lesbian desire. “Hysterical symptom is expression of both a masculine and a feminine unconscious sexual phantasy.” (James Hillman, Ibid, p. 261) But Petra‘s alcoholically induced paroxysm of suffering (in the fourth scene) plus her destructive behavior are not just “disease and insanity… it is the madness of ritualistic enthusiasm… We cannot subdue hysteria… unless we first recognize the God in the syndrome and see hysteria as a manifestation of His imagination.” (James Hillman, Ibid, p. 273) Petra’s “excessive” reaction on Karin leaving her is a work of art, as her love for Karin is. For this reason this reaction is able to give birth – to Petra’s psychological, moral and spiritual transformation. “For artistic creation has, in the course of its development, changed from a means of a furtherance of the culture of a community into a means for construction of personality.” (Otto Rank, “Art and Artist”, Agathon Press, 1975, p. 425) Petra’s art as a designer of women’s apparel even before her encounter with Karin played a central part of her personal life. Now she started to perceive it as “unsatisfactory substitute for real life”. (Otto Rank, Ibid, p. 428)

At the end of the film Petra has outgrown her profession as a tool to stimulate her personal life (and her personal life as a tool to inspire her professional creativity). Now she can love without her profession, and for this reason she can achieve a much higher level spiritually and professionally. Petra is ready for love without ontological rivalry, without conquering/dominating. That means that she is stepping away from the Western spiritual tradition. She becomes congruent with democracy. In the 21st century she as a film presence and personification of a human being becomes barely compatible with Western life.

The triangle of Petra-Karin-Marlene defines the traditional love as always being a matter of three ingredients – two lovers and a witness: the viewer, the audience, the referent group, the judging and gossiping community, the gaze, Argus. It is in front of the audience the ontological clash between the beloveds unfolds. Traditional (sado-masochistic in its symbiotic de-individualization) love is socio-morphic. It is essentially, by its social nature, conformist. It is always a performance, even when and especially when it is completely sincere and spontaneous.

“The Bitter Tears…” is Fassbinder’s “Last Year In Marienbad” transferred from rich (in symbolic connotations) locations to no less symbolically constructed modern interior divided into four areas – the functional: the place for professional activity, intimate (the bed for making love), cultural perspective – settling in traditions and wisdom (the giant picture reproducing Nicolas Poussin’s painting “Midas and Bacchus” – 1628 – 1629), and subsidiary (the maid and worker Marlene’s kingdom).

We see Petra in her psychological glory and her humiliation (when her bed embellished with three metal crowns) was removed and Petra lives on the carpet (looking like clouds to ironically emphasize the greatness of her torments), and at the very end of the film, in her humility and humanity. Petra, like Hermann in (Fassbinder’s) “Despair” and like Querelle (in his “Querelle”), is able to outlive the glories and horrors of traditional life and narcissistic ways of feeling about the world (a fundamental, according to Fassbinder, human sin-and-vice).

In the very beginning of the film Fassbinder makes an analogy between Petra and Marlene on the one hand and the two cats living in Petra’s house, on the other. Later he makes an analogy between Petra and Karin – and the two perfect uncovered female mannequins in different (in various moments of the film) poses including that of making love. The problem, registered by this symbolism is that between cat-ness (animal vitality) and mannequin-ness (being just a material support for artificiality – civilization) – in historical life there is not enough cultural space for a human psychological and spiritual development. In the factual world of Petra von Kant, Karin Timm and Marlene this development can only start on the basis of narcissistic frustration and mourning as a result of disappointment in cat-ness, mannequin-ness and incessant competition and rivalry. Petra was able to survive her narcissistic blow – her shattered aggrandized self-image, and is ready to start to live in a new way – beyond amorous symbiosis and its another side – fight for domination, in real relationships based on equality.

Notes On Pop-Cultural Situation, When Social Reality Is “All That Exists”

Indeed, how could recent Hollywood cinema not be socio-morphically oriented – dedicated to showing exclusively social situations (without philosophical, moral, mystical and intellectual complications), as soon as money in cinema-business can come only from the horizontal others – from viewers of the movies and their producers who are in need to multiply their money invested in movies as merchandize?

The basic reason for socio-morphic acting in Hollywood movies (even “great” directors like Lumet, Huston or Kazan couldn’t avoid encouraging over-acting – over-certainty and over-expressiveness on the part of the stars, even in their exceptional films like “Long Day’s Journey Into Night”, “The Night of Iguana” and “Streetcar Named Desire” correspondingly, when everything what’s happening inside the souls of the characters is supposed to be exclamatory – over-emphasized through swelled interaction between them and swollen emotional code), is the proudly proclaimed commercial nature of the movie-medium in socio-economic action which demands populist “intensification”.

The problem with movie stars’ socio-morphic acting is the result of observing of primate of social relations in Hollywood movies by viewers. Especially drastic results in the influence of the Hollywood socio-morphism on the public can be noticed in the younger generations which learns from a pop-culture that the social world is not one among the others layer of reality but the only and ultimate reality, that all life is decided here – in between you and the other people, that human life can only be realized in and through social relations as such. Instead of listening to the depth of their own souls, the younger people plan their future professions by learning what professions are well paid today. They learn from the immediacy of experience with others, empirically – they don’t read and don’t dream disinterestedly. They emotionally copy others like monkeys other monkeys. They don’t listen the great silence, they don’t have contact with great uncertainty. Their minds don’t know freedom from their impulsive reactions. Their intuition doesn’t know nothingness. They never meet people who could show them the appearance of being from non-being and non-being from freedom.

The baby starts to notice the world from its mother-the world, and only later it learns that the mother is not the only inhabitant of reality, that many other people are there, outside the baby-mother dyad. They noticed and frightened by the fact that mother-the world sometimes can disappear. But even much more important than the discovery of other adults and other children is the discovery of many aspects of reality which let the child feel free, that it is up to him/her to breach the reality, to step into it, that reality is not a socio-morphic despotism that projects itself into the human being and occupy it like an irresistible demonic intruder. It is here the psychological harm of Hollywood’s representation of reality as belonging to human interests, as being at the disposal of humans, is the strongest. The young unconsciously learn from the very form of Hollywood movies that reality as such is just the periphery of the human perception (without getting that this “periphery” addresses them as its own periphery), that it, on the one side, is just seeking human attention but on the other, as if, intervenes into it with the mountains of visual and emotional pleasures. In other words, socio-morphic reality pretends to be the space for human action while in reality it has already transformed human being into the space for its own action. Transformation of a passive socio-morphic reality into active emotional manipulator is at the very heart of Hollywood representation of reality. Hollywood keeps viewers in illusion that it is them who are active (through identification with movie-stars) while in reality viewers are just like insects inhabiting the chairs of the movie-theater or sofas of their living rooms penetrated by TV screens.

Recent Hollywood movies show reality as it is seen by the global conquerors.
Expressing/promoting (unintentionally but not disinterestedly) an irrationally-utilitarian ideology of emotional intervention into the world by human acting-out on the wings of super-stars, the film-makers teach viewers the calculative/manipulative logic (how to conquer/appropriate the intra-filmic world and then reality-world), and here is an amazing similarity between Hollywood and the Soviet propaganda driven movies. In USSR the world existed for one purpose only – to be converted to the Communist religion, and people had to learn from movies and movie-stars capable to achieve this conversion, like American viewers learn from the movie-stars how to project themselves into objective reality and how to emotionally and intellectually, by the very projection of their existential posture, convert the reality-world into, to quote Bush Jr.’s famous patter, “fre-om/d-mocracy”.

But can we draw a straight line between a certain aspect of Hollywood style (the alleged socio-morphism of pop-aesthetic representation) and concrete political leader? While Hollywood in a certain circumstances, for example during war, made propaganda movies, its habitual style is, basically, yes, commercial and entertainment oriented, and far from being comparable with Soviet cine-propaganda.

Isn’t appropriation of the world – by Soviet ideology and, on the other hand, by the practical ideology of appropriating the world – psychologically a similar approach, self-projecting, acting-out, consumerist, conquering? If child is not learning – contemplation, reverie, sharing the world with the world and instead, and only taught how to occupy it with self-projections and consumerist intentions, he/she will grow into a global conqueror, greed itself-in-action. Hollywood commercial style nurtures in viewers consumerist and intervention-oriented approach to reality of the visual and material world and does it as innocently as animation cartoon. It teaches how in their perception to intrude into the screen-world as they will intrude into the big world with the same arrogance (in relation to reality) and the same passivity (in relation to the technology which arms their confidence, be it cine-camera or high-tech weapon systems).

Beautified Life Versus Life’s Spiritual Body (Dr. Gachet and Van Gogh)

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Maurice Pialat (in the center), and Jacques Dutronc (Vincent Van Gogh) at Cannes Film Festival (1991)

44th Cannes Film Festival 1991: The Team Of Film Van Gogh By Maurice Pialat. Le 44ème Festival de CANNES se déroule du 9 au 20 mai 1991 : Jacques DUTRONC cigare aux lèvres entre Maurice PIALAT et Alexandra LONDON. (Photo by Jean-Claude Deutsch/Jacques Lange/Paris Match via Getty Images)
Pialat, Dutronc (in the center) and Alexandra London at Cannes Film Festival (1991)

The usual approach to van Gogh is to view him as a mixture of a genius and mentally ill (in different proportions, depending on who expresses the opinion). But Maurice Pialat depicts van Gogh as a human being – who is burdened by everyday life, drinking, hopeful, despaired, humorous, joking and fearful, pursued by the circumstances, trying to avoid destiny and looking at its face, VG in love, in sex, in fury, in lucidity, in confusion. VG (Jacques Dutronc) is simultaneously like everybody and the social other, he is common and unique, opaque and unconcealed. And he is strong in following his stubborn talent or following the meaning of his life inseparable from it. His pictorial talent is represented without sentimental fetishization – as an extension of his personality into a concrete area of creative self-realization. The director underlines the working process of van Gogh’s creativity by inferring his vision from the unique strokes of his brush as its material substance.

Pialat defines van Gogh as a person with an appearance of a workman, by his heavy and slow waddle, by simple manners, by chariness of words, especially in comparison with Dr, Gachet’s elegant mannerisms or Theo’s impersonal mimics and dosed intonations. Pialat’s accent in the film is the incompatibility of creative power in art and adherence of the artist to the ideology of beauty. To discover/create new aesthetics the artist has to be able to overcome the existing criteria of beauty with the safety and security that go with it. To be an aesthete in the area of art is another word for being a comfortable conformist. New is always seems ugly. Aesthetics cannot be created by an aesthete. Sophistication can’t be result of the very orientation on sophistication. Beauty can be created only if it is not perceived as beauty. In this relation we today are not in an easier situation than in the times of van Gogh’s suicide. For a really creative person to become successful contradicts his creative dedication, and great art can be more mortal than it could be imagined.

Dr. Gachet is simultaneously a physician and an aesthete, while VG is depicted in the film as a paradoxical combination of a worker and creator of art. Already in the very beginning of the film when van Gogh is stepping out of the train and walking in the direction of the inn we notice his pantomimic as indication of his closeness to earth, his being as if submerged into life and nature and the fact that physical work is habitual to him. By contrast the pantomimic of Dr. Gachet (Gerard Sety) suggests a lack of rootedness in life and alienation from nature that are compensated by his easy-goingness, pointedly elegant manners and beauty-fetishism. While Gachet is, as if, trying to control the stubborn matter through medical knowledge and beautify what is possible, VG is trying to find a new, spiritualized body for life in a new spiritualized matter created by his painting method.

The human world as it is, as if, belongs to Gachet – aestheticism is going together with indifference towards other people, with posture of control and air of inequality, with death and wars, while van Gogh is depicted as the opposite of the fallen angel – as angel who didn’t ascended yet.

The acting of even episodic characters is a result of learned spontaneity, of deep psychological research. There are no just intuitive sketchy silhouettes of personages. Instead, the viewers are overwhelmed by the actors’ exact delivery of the reactions of the personages. Jacques Dutronc and Alexandra London (VG and Marguerite), Jacques Dutronc and Elsa Zylberstein (VG and Kathy), Gerard Sety and Alexandra London (Dr. Gachet and his daughter Marguerite), Jacques Dutronc and Bernard Le Coq (VG and Theo) and Bernard Le Coq and Corinne Bourdou (Theo and his wife Jo) are not just extraordinary performers but sorcerers of psychological incarnation into the characters. Their achievements are result of a new school of acting where scientific research of the human soul going together with a mastery of psychological concentration.

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Vincent contemplates his inevitable suicide

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Van Gogh in the field (1)

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Van Gogh in the field (2)

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Van Gogh at Dr. Gachet’s place is finishing painting of Marguerite in the garden

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Van Gogh is paying to his mistress Kathy, the prostitute (Elsa Zylberstein)

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Vincent and Marguerite’s rare moment of simple human happiness together

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Vincent and Marguerite in love and in nature

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After love with Vincent, Marguerite Gachet is not just washing herself from the soil and dust, but cleaning her body from the “moral dirt” she, as if, exposed herself to, according to her father’s frame of reference

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Dr. Gachet looks at the copies of his portrait by Vincent, but avoids buying. So, he is getting one copy free, as a gift.

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Vincent after shooting himself

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Vincent before dying

Posted on May 23, 2015 –   Maurice Pialat’s “Van Gogh” (1991) – Humanity of the Genius (Van Gogh as the Non-conformist Human Nature Able To Create A New, Spiritualized Body For Life Of A New Spiritualized Matter Discovered By His Painting Method) by Acting-Out Politics

Posted on July 6 2010 –   Vincent Van Gogh’s Suicide Self-Portraits – Painting into the Death  by Acting-Out Politics

Gustav Klimt’s Painting “Gold Fish” (1901 – 1902) Can Be Put In A Semantically Oppositional Association With Hopper’s “Night Windows”

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Edward Hopper, “Night Windows”, 1928

Big apartment building of a solid construction and heavy arhitectural style which were dominant in the American urban settings before and right after WWII, attracts our eyes to three windows emphasizign different aspects of human life, in, probably, a rented apartment. In the right window we see either a kitchen or a bathroom, but metaphorically – a controlled hell in miniature, inevitable as a “technological” support of everyday human life in civilization. The middle window shows the backside of a headless woman occupied with cooking or washing. But it is the exhibitionistic effect of woman’s posture makes the middle window not just arousing the interest in the possible witnesses of the scene but semantically important (for understanding of the painter’s intentionality). What we, basically, see in all the three windows addresses the humanity of the woman living inside them. The window on the left is the only one that is opened. Should we call it a hygienic window?

Hopper makes sure that the opened window suggests a hygienic purpose not in the usual sense of ventilating the room with the cool air from the dark New York street. By the movement of the short curtain we understand that here we have a deal rather with the issue of letting extra-air out of the room. Here is the humorous punctum of the painting – woman’s protruded backside is associated with the next – opened window letting the woman’s air travelled through the room – out.

Three windows through which we see life inside cover three modality of living – controlled hell of the work supporting life or preparing for life, innocent exhibitionistic moment of shy showism, and always urgent hygienic efforts inevitable in everyday life. There are no paintings on the walls inside, not even bad ones, there are no photographs, even trivial ones. The walls are emptily naked, probably, painted, without even standard wall-paper.

On the other hand, Gustav Klimt has painted a magnificent woman’s back-and-buttocks, not less solid (although in another sense) than the American architectural style was before and after WWII, but – impecably and beautifully – as only rich and dense feminine flesh can be as a goal in itself. Hopper in his naughtily humorous mood made the woman’s rear prosaically, matter-of-factly covered by cargo (utilitarian) langere, noticeable through the two windows – one for a masked voyerism and the other for hygienic release.

Look at Klimt’s gold fish – this body cannot be even touched by man’s hand, only by human forehead or by cheek dreaming about laying on it its lips. We feel gold fish’s intelligence stepping back not only from the soft power of her body but from the interaction between it and the gaze confused by the mixture of shyness and daring, by diffused desire and possessive respect.

Gustav Klimt, Gold Fish, 1901 - 1902
Gustav Klimt, Gold Fish, 1901 – 1902

Some viewers will not find much difference between Klimt’s and Hopper’s ideas (like for many there is not much a difference between the two butts – of a weapon or a woman’s rump), but for some it will be a question of incompatibility between elevation of the beauty of feminine flesh and its prosaic – functional, reductionist perception. But, of course, it is not Edward Hopper who is in polemics with Gustav Klimt, it is the American reality according to Hopper, a reality in which preparation for life and arrangement of life are more important than life itself. No doubt, in this “genre” of preparation for/ arrangement of life American culture has achieved miracles – look at the beauty- and the fashion-industries. But the natural feminine body with its immanent shining as a goal in itself, without any sex-appeal and ad-connotation, without any seductive or teasing intention, without any business and money-making or calculating/manipulating interest, body minus enterpreneurship, body as a disinterested body of human disinterestedness is not rooted deeply in American soil.

Edward Hopper, “Conference at Night”, 1949
Edward Hopper, “Conference at Night”, 1949

The office looks like in a process of being established – tables are just put in, there is no chairs yet, but judging by the size and heaviness of the large books for documentation and keeping records there is a lot of expectation about this office, a lot of pragmatic dreams projected here. After WWII heavy-dense and agitating air of success was everywhere in the country, success in business and in career-making, through private entrepreneurship or administrative or scientific work. Hopper, probably, was critical about the flowering optimism of instrumental/functional atmosphere of those years.

All three protagonists of the painting have a common feature – their noses are a little like bewks of a predatory birds. Are the beaked human noses a feature invented by Hopper for characterizing the post-war American atmosphere of business excitement? Another humorous point is the funny nearness of the sitting man’s right hand to the woman’s bust and the geometrical similarity of the very direction of this hand with the surface of woman’s breasts, as if, he is encouraging her to raise them higher up. There is no sexual hint here on the part of the painter, of course, but rather a laughter at sublimation of human emotions into a non-sexual goals of building careers and making social success together.

Edward Hopper, “Room in New-York”, 1932
Edward Hopper, “Room in New-York”, 1932

The point of the “Room in New-York”, it seems, is not the fact that the man and woman each are occupied with his and her own interest and aren’t paying attention to one another – you cannot be romantically focused all the time. But what is unusual and interesting in the painting – it is the approximateness, non-discernability of their faces. The protagonists, certainly, belong to the same race, although it is not possible to describe with certainty their facial features. They are like… aliens from Hollywood movies. We can not empirically identify their faces as belonging to concrete – unique human beings. Is Hopper here expressing his opinion about mass men, people with standardized reactions and tastes, formed by mass culture of standardized entertainment?

Spirituality As A Disinterested Living

What is the position of the saint in the world teeming with the most complicated, the most sophisticated forms of evil?
Thomas S. Molner, “Bernanos: Hos Political Thought and Philosophy”

The spiritual man is not a strictly religious phenomenon: he is, rather, a man with a positive life whose being is heavy with the weight of God in him. He may be a simple peasant, a public figure, a young girl or a priest; in each case his life is centered on an Existence that is infinitely higher than his own.
Thomas S, Molner, Ibid.

What wonder, that one can give what one doesn’t possess! Oh, miracle of our empty hands!
Cure de Ambricourt (Priest of Ambricourt)

Make order. Make order all day long. Make order while thinking that disorder will take over the following day, because it is precisely within order, unfortunately, that the night will blow away yesterday’s work.
Cure de Torcy (Priest of Torcy)

Robert Bresson is not a Catholic, is not an agnostic, not a believer and not a non-believer but a deeply and irredeemably spiritual man

The way of the priest

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The small town’s prosaic main street is the only road the country priest can use to visit his parishioners of various ages, and sometimes he oversteps his conventional duties by adding psycho-therapeutic accents to his advices

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The intentionally ambiguous composition of this still emphasizes the ambiguity of the main character’s psycho-social situation. Is the young priest represented by Bresson “behind bars” because he is outside of the regular human life (outside the prison of the fallen world) or because this outside is a kind of solitary confinement that isolates him from the plenitude and exuberance of the created world? The painful split in the very essence of our hero’s destiny is his burden of simultaneously belonging to Christ and to the human kingdom. But Bresson’s “little vicar’s” situation is unique because he writes a diary – he has the need to report not only to God but to other human beings.

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This shot refers to the silent confrontation of the film’s protagonist with his raging illness and nearing death. The vicar’s task is how not to become obsessed with the inevitable –how still to keep perspective on life and on other people.

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To deal with parishioners means to permanently question your ideas about them in order to serve them better not only as a consoler but as the one who is obliged to say the painful truths.

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Casual meeting with a young man exposed to the experience of military service during the war, opens vicar to the fact that many priests die on the front line, but is his coming death different, and if it is, how? Composition of this shot suggests that the young man, as if, represents the whole world, while the priest occupies only its corner, but Bresson stimulates the viewers to decide whether the geographical aspect of the world is so decisive for defining the meaning of life.

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How not to die indifferent to life, how to die while still caring about the world of the living – disinterestedly, regardless of one’s personal situation – these feelings tormented the young Curé, also were awakening him for life of death.

The diary of the life’s soul

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It is incredible to see that the vicar of the local church is not appealing to god (is not praying enough) – he internalized god’s expectations, but he appeals to human beings, he looks for their attention and appreciation – through his diary.

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The priest of Ambricourt doesn’t (analytically) understand what he is writing – his life knows this and shares it with future readers of the diary. His diary then is an image of the soul of his life.

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His hand processes confessions of his life filtering them only by the grammar, without any self-censorship. Diary becomes a sacred mediation between human souls amidst the soul of Creation

The Count and Miss Louise

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The Count – one of the parishioners who, if to consider his influence on other people, can be called something like chief parishioner, hires Miss Louise as governess for his daughter. But he is still a healthy and an energetic man not alien to beautiful and engulfing romantic games.

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Indeed, why should he sacrifice his natural desire to sincerely love a beautiful woman?

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Miss Louise is young, attractive and lonely, and, of course, is ready to respond to the Count’s feelings with plumage of noble intentions

Country priest and Chantal, the count’s daughter

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But such is the condition of this world – the most natural and normal desires meet obstacles, sometimes very thorny ones.

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In this case the obstacle is the very existence of the count’s daughter, Chantal who perceives her father and her governess’ mutuality as intrusion of animosity into her world

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The situation is banal enough, but not to the eyes of Christ. Our priest delicately tries to stop the process of growing jealousy, resentment and vengefulness in Chantal’s soul.

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This is by no means an easy task – to reason a teenage girl, especially because the priest is too genuine of a believer to use dogmatic clichés about what’s happening in the human soul. For him right words are not what can influence life.

Martyrdom

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But how to curb the energies of hate in Chantal, in her father and in his mistress? How to stop Thanatos at work? Wars are Monsters that are not stoppable. Wars roll onto the point of maximum destruction.

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Vicar is shuffling and axing through his internal world trying to find a solution

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Vicar over-exhausts himself, and his body collapses right on the street full of puddles and mud

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Through physical pain and fear the priest gets the power to persevere

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Vicar’s illness became a magic cloak that made him endure

Priest of Torcy – a mentor, a tough friend and an admirer of the young priest

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Vicar of Torcy (Adrien Borel), priest of a neighboring, much bigger church, is a rare friend who tells the truth (what he really thinks), but with a sincere desire to help his young colleague by non-biased analysis of his shortcomings and by realistic recommendations.

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Vicar of Torcy criticizes the young priest but understands the godly origin of his inspiration. The presence of the bottle of wine between them and the filled glass is teasingly (intentionally) misleads viewers in order to emphasize that the obvious, visible reality contradicts its essential truth.

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The composition of this shot emphasizes, as if, the contrast in the positions of the two priests, while in reality it addresses the unity between them – the elder priest is encouraging the main character to continue, to leap ahead in spite of all the difficulties and not to lose confidence in his ways.

Blessing

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After severely scolding the young priest vicar of Torcy asks him for his blessing

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The young vicar (Claude Laydu) lets his hand make the gesture of… blessing, almost without his mind’s participation in the sacred ritual

Countess

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The countess, who is grieving for years over the death of her small son, was the most difficult case our vicar met on his path. How to relieve her soul from the incredible burden of resentful feelings against injustice God allowed to happen to her innocent child?

Seraphita

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Seraphita (the girl attending the catechism classes at the church) is a combination of spiritual nature and pagan (impish) impulses

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It is Seraphita who nursed the priest when he lost consciousness on the street, and she cleaned him up from his vomit (his stomach cancer was reaching the final stage)

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Seraphita confessed that she lied about the priest to different people and suffers about it. She is a child and for this reason carries the moral ambiguity inside which is not supposed to be matter-of-factly and punitively repressed, that could make her sinful impulses entrenched and revengeful.

________

Like Kenji Mizoguchi in his “Sansho the Bailiff” (1954) used the joined (two-leitmotifs) narrative – the story of a concrete family – its destruction and its re-unification, which is simultaneously the story of the realization of father’s moral principle in the world through the heroic spiritual effort of the family members, Bresson earlier – in “Diary of a Country Priest” (1951) uses the same principle of joint semantics, when he combines the depiction of the priest’s everyday work of trying to help the people to keep peace in spite of their proclivity to pursue their greedy and quarrelsome survival, and the story of his untimely dying without bitterness and angry feelings. As a result, it is difficult to say, what Bresson’s film’s main focus – the priest’s spiritual work or the story of his personal life, illness and death.

While God and the place He occupies in the life of the parishioners, naturally, dominates religious dedications and the functions of a country priest as much as his personal feelings and thoughts, his private desire, the imperative of his soul is to write a diary – to appeal to another human beings, to explain himself without really understanding what it is about himself he wants to explain. His writing style is laconic and ascetic – all the sentiments, as if, are left to the blotting paper: Bresson shows this blotting paper again and again even before we witness the country priest making notes in his diary.

As a country priest the main protagonist of the film tries to mediate between god and human beings, but as a human being he is trying to accept his imminent death not because he doesn’t want his worries about it to intervene into his obligations but because any trepidations and vibrations about losing life wouldn’t for him be on the level of his ties with Creation, of his belonging to life and death.

For our young vicar there is no contradiction between his personal dedication to his vocation and his writing a secular document. It is two sides of what the hero of the film is really dedicated to – not to God outside human beings, not to human beings outside God (independently from their mortality), but the very relationships between human life and Creation. He wants to help these relationships, to help to prevent alienation of human beings from God, the possible misunderstanding of God by humans with catastrophic result of degraded human condition.

The semantically joined narration (concentration on the human and over-human) is already announced in the title of the film where the “country priest” shares place with the “diary”. The film starts with an introduction of the fact that the priest writes diary: “I don’t think I’m doing anything wrong in writing down daily, with absolute frankness about the simplest and most insignificant secrets of a life actually lacking any trace of mystery.” The opening of the first page of the diary starts with the blotting paper covering the hand-written text. It seems that what the blotting paper is to the text of the diary, the diary itself is to the priestly obligations of the priest and to his worries about his illness and coming death. As the priest hints in the beginning, “the simplest and the most insignificant things” are the most real and “complicated” (but not mysterious) attributes of human life beyond “mythological mysteries”. It is human spirituality itself without solemn and pompous mythologization. It is spirituality without pride, without psychologically defensive aggrandizement.

On a certain paradoxical level, in other words, the diary is motivated by humanized/ secularized faith, like the country priest’s personal mortality is inseparable from his work to repair human-god relationships.

People like to keep God simultaneously – on the periphery of their soul – at the distance: in the realm of readymade religious rituals and standard prayers, in the secure periodicity of expected sermons, and too close, in a symbiotic connection with themselves which provides security – immediacy of benevolent response. People treat God like they treat other human beings – without spiritual creativity, at once in an alienated way and with over-familiarity. They transform God into an authority to intimately whisper to his ears their requests for favors and for ultimate grand reward. They transform God into a kind of a Commander-in-Chief who explains his despotism by his love for his creatures, as they themselves explain their own parental despotism by their love for their children. And they transform Christ into some kind of a seducer seducing us into obedience through His unconditional love. But the young priest has a different picture of God-man relationships – personal, responsible, creative, serious, intense, and unique, without egoistic expectations, formal arrangement and sentimental evacuations. He wants people to be capable of engaging God in a spiritual mutual love which can transform their life into a sublime dedication to moral ideals.

Most of the people in the local parish take the priest’s “idealism” as a burden on them and even violence against them – they don’t have time and energy for this “excess of expectations”, they have their everyday life to be occupied with. They need God because they believe that God will help them in their everyday survival and rivalry with their neighbors. Like evil flees their gossip bites the priest’s disinterested dedication to his work. Still, there are some people who are able to appreciate the exceptionality of a priest who is dying of cancer amidst the bliss of his faith.

Several exceptional deeds in the midst of a hell of an exploitation of Christ by the nominal Christians, which were able to open the hearts of the spiritually sensitive people to Christ are the apotheosis of the country priest’s life where material asceticism unifies with spiritual plenitude.

The conventional ritualistic prayers to God is defined by the logic of the film’s images as an alternative to much more difficult frankness with other people (the essence of the vicar’s diary) as a contact with god’s image inside them.

Bruno Forestier and Veronica Dreyer are very young, almost teenagers, in spite of their impressive appearance. Bruno is elegantly masculine, Veronica – intelligently feminine. And they are very seriously politically involved. Veronica is humanistically oriented and genuinely dedicated to her noble cause – helping those who are trying to liberate themselves from the oppressors (here, Algerians fighting for liberation from Imperial France). Bruno’s situation is much more complicated and sometimes ambiguous. There is no question that Bruno is dedicated to high culture (to knowing and understanding serious art, philosophy and music) with exceptional intensity. But his intellectual dedication, instead of being rooted in reality and finding way to people’s lives – not only staying Bruno’s personal interest, but, in a climate of domination of politico-economic aspirations over life, it became his attempts to escape the feverishly prosaic world full of repressive and manipulative energies. It became a kind of a psychological trick of distracting himself from the unbearable truth about the society which is seducing people into consumerist and entertainment addiction instead of stimulating their thinking about what’s going on.

Bruno is trapped by the right-wing organization working against Algerian liberation, and in spite of his impulsive and often childish attempts to liberate himself, is forced to become a hit-man and follow orders. Bruno is, probably, not the typical man among the right-wing secret agents, but it makes his collaboration even more tragic. While Veronica, because of her youthful idealism and a lack of understanding that nice ideas about liberation and her taste for freedom and her support of national self-determination are not identical with militant fight for realization of all that and even can come to contradict the very spirit of liberation, collaborated with the agents working for Algeria’s independence, Bruno as enemy of Veronica’s organization was captured and tortured by her comrades-in-arms. Bruno heroically survived torture without surrendering to the enemy any worthy information, but Veronica was captured by Bruno’s associates, tortured and murdered. Pretty hopeless results for human love, and that says something important about condition of young people doomed to be outsmarted by the adult functionaries of political and economic powers.

Scenes of Bruno’s torture in the film are shown without sensationalism but with truthfulness that makes it not easy to witness. Waterboarding of Bruno and the end of Veronica emphasize how fragile the young people are in comparison with professionally trained in manipulation functionaries of organized politics. The film is a warning – how successfully even the culturally educated and even with noblest hearts young people are manipulated by the political functionaries because youthful humanism (personified by Veronica) and genuine artistic proclivities (personified by Bruno) cannot match the practicality of political militancy of those who organize and carry out belligerent political fight.

Godard’s film is futuristically oriented, for example, it shows sessions of torture as habitual and matter-of-factly practices as if it takes place in the 21st century – in the 60s nobody could imagine that torturing could be done with a halo of pride around the torturers’ heads. By this film Godard warned people about what will come, and his prophesy of a coming barbarization of humanity is proved to be true. The systemic abuse of the young people – their transformation into (conservative) agents of repressive powers and by this shattering of their spiritual and intellectual potentials is another horrifying prophesy of Godard’s “The Little Soldier” which today is in a process of being confirmed by life. Young people today have to watch this film instead (of attending) rock-concerts or spectacular sport-events.

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The tremendous, confident, shining and driving an expensive car, Bruno Forestier entered Switzerland. On the backseat, over the movie-camera we see Jean-Luc Godard.

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Playing philosophical ping-pong with himself distracts Bruno from cultural destruction around

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For pure thinking (in philosophy and in technical science) Bruno may be right, but not in understanding life

Michel Subor and Anna Karina in Jean-Luc GodardÕs LE PETIT SOLDAT (1963). Courtesy: Rialto Pictures/Studiocanal
Composition of this still suggests that Veronica in relationship with Bruno is for him like an ephemeral butterfly in between him and his self-introspective reflection of himself

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Veronica is saying “no” to Bruno

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Veronica, trapped by Bruno’s artistic “pressure” looking like confession in love, saying “yes” to him

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Laszlo – the senior secret agent, working for the Algerian liberation, lights his cigarette right before using fire to torture Bruno

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“Enhanced interrogation technique”, to use the 21st century vocabulary, is applied to Bruno in the early 60s

The Reflective Strategy Of Assimilating The Viewers (of the Painting) Into The Painting

Giovanni Battista Moroni, “A Gentleman in Adoration before the Baptism of Christ” (1555 – 1560)
Giovanni Battista Moroni, “A Gentleman in Adoration before the Baptism of Christ” (1555–1560)

Moroni’s bold division of the intra-painting space suggests not only the ontological difference between secular realm where Moroni’s “gentleman” is located, and sacred realm where baptism of Christ by the John the Baptist takes place, but their unity, that is made even more articulate by their difference. The secular and the sacred realms of the painting are like the two-flower plant near the lower margin of the canvass, where the smaller flower points at the secular area, while the bigger one to the opposite direction where spirit itself becomes humanized.

In spite of being separated from the sacred event by the thick stone wall and the waters of the river and despite the fact that the direction of “gentleman’s” gaze doesn’t geometrically correspond to the exact location of the area we expect him to look at – at Christ and John the Baptist (he looks rather at the future results of this exceptional event), the secular area can be considered as congruent with the sacred because the hands of the observer of baptism (in praying position) transcends the symbolic separation of the two realms by protruding into the sacred one.

There are no traces of piety on the secular observer’s (gentleman in adoration) face – just stubborn concentration and a sadness and torment (from knowing the historical destiny of the both – Christ and John the Baptist). What does it mean – to pray to the baptism of Christ? For what purpose such prayer can exist? Is secular observer praying for the success of this sacred meeting of Christ and John the Baptist for the future of humanity? Baptism of Christ must have a particular meaning. Indeed, what can the god-son get from being baptized by a human being – John the Baptist? If to consider that we look at the scene of baptism through the gaze of the “gentleman in adoration”, Christ is baptized into humanity – into human destiny and human ordeals. God is baptized into human condition – physical fragility, physical pain, human need for psychological support, human despair and doubt in his mission. The facial expression of the observer in adoration is not “iconic”, the spiritual pain he feels is expressed by the contained stress in the lower part of his face – he identifies with Christ’s earthly destiny, but also – and here is the point of the painting about secular spirituality – he identifies with Christ after John’s baptizing, with Christ’s human sacredness, with godly nature of human being’s potentials. In other words, we see in Moroni’s painting not just the combination of the sacred and secular areas (the left and the right segments of the canvass) but their unification inside the sacred realm, where secular element is not only related to the holy element but is as equal in its spiritual importance. This reinforcement of secular reality inside the very sacred reality complicates the composition of Moroni’s painting and makes the unity of the sacred and secular exclamatory and historically futuristic. We don’t see the traditional situation when somebody is praying to the holy apparition, but instead a person who is praying to the sacred unity of the sacred and secular realities.

The observer in the painting personifies us, the viewers of the painting. And he especially represents the democratic viewers today because of their tendency to be spiritually more secular, not spiritual in a idolatrous, otherworldly, superhuman – conservative sense. Our representative (“gentleman”) in the painting identifies with Christ not as the child of God as bearer/possessor of exceptional ties with his Heavenly Father, but with his heavenly earthly nature. He identifies with him being baptized into humanity – with him as with the carrier of the sacredness of being human in a spiritual way.

For Moroni it is not enough just to think about Christ’s ordeals as that of a human being (not to use God’s power to protect oneself from the evil human deeds and human vulnerability). It seems, he wanted to represent in his gentleman-human witness of Christ‘s baptism those who are able to learn from Christ to respect themselves as human beings regardless of their belief or disbelief in Christ as Godly Son of God. This perspective is contrary to the habitual – conservative one, when people identify with Gods’ power and even try to emulate it with high-tech weaponry and super-wealth. Moroni’s painting orients the viewers on a world where god becomes human, where god accepts human condition and becomes an example of noble humility in dealings with other people and with the natural environment.

Over Christ in the scene of baptism we see an angelic cloud which, as if, is pointing not at Christ (as it could be in traditional – conservative, based on idolatry, tradition), but to the importance of baptism of supreme spiritual value into the condition of human life. It is, as if, through Christ God-Creator is blessing his own potentially human nature into which God’s nature incarnates itself through Christ’s earthly destiny. And we understand – the praying gesture of the secular observer is repeating the praying gesture of Christ. “Gentleman”-observer learns from Christ-who-became-a-human-being, a new – human pray, pray for humans who became the victims of evil committed by humans – that of betrayal, deception, cruelty, enslavement in all its forms, humiliation, torture and murder. If in traditional – metaphysical belief in god, humans are not supposed to sin because it contradicts god’s commandments, in the new perspective emphasized by Moroni’s painting, a human being has to refrain from sin for the sake of not violating our godly-earthly nature. In his “A Gentleman in Adoration before the Baptism of Christ” Moroni registers how praying to the super-human agency is becoming the existential hope/task of investing human spiritual energies into earthly lot of human beings.

The river which the baptized Christ will cross, doesn’t only separate the scene of baptism from gentleman in adoration/human observer and viewers of Moroni’s painting but at the same time connects it with them – one sleeve of the river, as if, leads towards us, people living outside art. After being baptized Christ has already turned to us and will move in our direction – to the world where we all live for (already) more than five, more than twenty centuries.

The archaic scenery/landscape behind the scene of baptism through the meaning of a new baptism is opened to the future, where Moroni’s protagonist and we, the viewers of the painting wait with the desire to understand more our past and future. The meaningful symbolic composition of the painting and the solid Renaissance sacred humanism of the painter is an incredible – trans-historical achievement of Giovanni Battista Moroni.

To pray to John the Baptist’s baptism of Christ means to pray to our internal god’s inspiration and power to keep our spiritual courage, perseverance and endurance in resisting human evil.

Moroni, Giovanni
Giovanni Battista Moroni, “A Gentleman in Adoration before the Baptism of Christ” (1555–1560)

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