Acting-Out Politics

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

The Unexpected Similarity between The Characters Of “From the Life of the Marionettes” And Bergman’s Conclusions About Human Condition Registered In His “The Serpent’s Eggs” (1976)

During my second year in Munich (in 1977) I had begun writing a story I called “Love with No Lovers”. It was heavy and formally fragmented…
Ingmar Bergman, “Images (My Life in Film), Arcade Pub. New York 1990, p. 209 – 210

From “Love with No Lovers” I carved a steak that became a film for television “From the Life of the Marionettes”. It was not liked, but it is among my best films.
Ingmar Bergman, “The Magic Lantern (An Autobiography)”, Penguin Books 1989, p. 264

In “From the Life of the Marionettes”, Bergman evokes the attempt to escape from the world of desiccated conventions into the “nearness of violence” – possession of a reality synonymous with destruction.
Paisley Livingston, “Ingmar Bergman and the Rituals of Art”, Cornell Univ. Pr., 1982, p. 162

Why don’t we shatter a society that is so dead, so inhuman, so crazy, so humiliating, so poisoned? People try to cry out, but we stuff up their mouths with verbiage. The bombs explode, children are torn to pieces, and the terrorists are punished… But they are victims like their own victims, just as we are.
Katarina in the script of “From the Life of Marionettes” (1980)

In the very beginning of “From the Life of Marionettes” the color comes to the screen, because the human passion to live (in the main character and in his perception of the world) can come to unity and unison: because his passion becomes the world and world – human passion. But at this point the human being is already so frustrated that his passion is mixed with aggressiveness (the color of the screen turning red – mixture of eroticism and aggressiveness, instead of the main color in the film we’ll see soon – gloomily depressed black-and-white). Frustration and aggressiveness is consequences of the fact that a human being is not free and not human – he is robotic and subdued by necessities or seduced by becoming a rewarded marionette of the politico-economic system and its decision-makers. When human being is limited by survival-success (in our time combined with compensation in a form of super-consumption) he becomes more and more uncontrollably greedy, and greed is a facet of aggressiveness and twin of hate. The very organization of society blindly creates sociopaths and criminals inside citizens, while the decision-makers and financial elites are “too busy” and intentionally indifferent to this issue.

For people whose intuition is sensitive to the conflict between intimately loving someone and losing self-centeredness – dominant position over the person one loves (whose intuition is able to notice this conflict which is universal and tragic) – to love is truly torture. The stronger your love is – the stronger your conflict with your love becomes, because your need for self-centeredness and self-assertion grows stronger and stronger as a psychological compensation for dedication to your beloved (which loves implies). The more you are dedicated to the other – the more you feel that you’re losing yourself and become an appendix to your beloved, the less protected and more vulnerable you feel yourself. Your irrational fear is growing together with your aggressiveness.

Ch.1 – Ingmar Bergman on the set of “From the Life of Marionettes”

Ch.2 – The psychiatrist as a specialist in domination, through technical knowledge, over human souls (today’s version of such an agent of domination would be medical representative of Big Pharma)

Ch.3 – Regular life is crawling on…

Ch.4 – Katarina and Peter Egermanns as genuine and helpless beloveds (when love is truly present in intimate togetherness it is very difficult to avoid its incompatibility with self-centeredness)

Ch.5 – Peter and Ka (Katherine Craft) “locked” in the brothel with hygiene posters and photos of Hollywood stars on the walls

Ch.6 – Investigation of murder

Ch.7 – Meeting on the “sea-bottom” (Katarina and Peter’s mother, Cordelia Egermann)

Ch.8 – Silent Asylum of the prosperous slum

Ingmar Bergman on the set of “From the Life of Marionettes”

Bergman is trying to convey to the actors playing the main characters, Katarina and Peter Egermanns (Christina Buchegger and Robert Atzorn), the proper psychological modality for a demanding scene (actualizing Peter’s imagination)

Bergman is psychologically positioning Rita Russek (playing the prostitute Katharina Kraft) and Robert Atzorn (Peter). On the far left we see the legendary cameraman Sven Nykvist.

Psychiatrist as an agent of Domination over the human souls through technical knowledge

Professor Mogens Jensen (internationally famous psychiatrist) thinks about the imperfection of the human nature. For him the phenomenon of intimate love (with its irrational passions) often triggering violent reactions, can be considered as a proof of human emotional primitivism – a lack of rationality in human emotional life.

Peter Egermann, a sensitive and socially very successful young man visited Dr. Jensen because his relationship with a beautiful and an intelligent woman who already for several years been his wife, produces in him a horrifying recurrent desire to… kill her. And this is in spite of obvious amorous mutuality which both have expressed to each other many times and proved it again and again. Peter is in panic of not being able to shake this obsession off and appeals to the psychiatrist – he can’t understand how this monstrous impulse to hurt the very person you are in love with, can exist.

Mogens Jensen is also shocked by Peter’s confession (and he is disappointed in these prosperous and successful couple about which people think as an exemplary). By his visit Peter reinforced Professor Jensen‘s general suspicion about human love as a feeling rooted in irrationality. Of course, Jensen also doesn’t really believe that Peter is completely serious and sincere when he is talking about his obsession. He is not sure that violent impulses in a person as civilized as Peter Egermann can end up in actual violent behavior. From the one side, Mogens Jensen always suspects the presence of violence inside love, but from another, in Peter he doesn’t expect the possibility of surrendering to such a primitive level of feelings. It seems that as a psychologist Prof. Jensen is quite a superficial observer of humanity because for him dedicated love on irrationally deep roots is rather a façade, a courteous superstructure, pretentious makeup of prosperously living people, a kind of upper middle class theatrics.

Jensen’s (Martin Beurath) skepticism about Peter’s ability to… kill his wife, Katarina, is reflected in his barely hidden manner of ironic questioning of Peter about his obsession and in his sarcastic explanations to him how monstrously ridiculous the act of murder can look.

After Peter has left, Mogens Jensen immediately called Peter’s wife to delicately alert her (he was a kind of a social friend of this glamorous couple popular in society because of their professional achievements)

But we would underestimate Mogens Jensen’s calculative-manipulative mind, if we could think that his rush to alert Katarina was motivated just by his care about the couple. May be, professor wanted to show Katarina the path to liberation from the burden of love (this sticky and predatory feeling), and may be, he even wanted to show her a more “elegant” way to be intimate – without love connected to it, and therefore, without the danger right in the midst of which Katarina has stuck with Peter, but his proposal to her was to start an affair with him, Mogens Jensen, which he made in a business-like, very modern form – to make double-amorous intercourse, without postponement, directly in his office, “right now”.

On the level of denotative storytelling – the psychiatrist didn’t know that Peter didn’t leave, as he thought, before Katarina’s arrival. So, whole professor’s conversation with her was available to Peter’s knowledge. But Peter is intelligent enough to imagine the verbal exchange between Mogens and his wife (he and his wife knew him well). It is knowledge of his wife influenced his decision to save Katarina from his destructive compulsion. In the still above we see how Peter, while hiding is listening to their conversation. Bergman uses the traditional idea of theatrical mise en scene in order to help the viewers of his film to understand its semantic essence through conventional depiction – to get the point why Peter has to use a substitute object in order to actualize the nightmarish push from his unconscious which he wasn’t able to resist – his murderous drive.

Professor Mogens Jensen (Martin Beurath) is giving information to the investigator concerning the prostitute Katharina Kraft’s murder.

Regular life is crawling along…

Peter is dictating to his secretary a letter to his firm’s client – another firm, as a part of an important financial renegotiations. And, as usual he is asking her to make copies of it for the management of their firm, for the main file, for him, for her and for the archive.

Katarina (Christine Buchegger) and her business partner and friend Tim Mandelbaum (Walter Schmidinger) are preparing the show of new fashions by their company).

Katarina and Tim’s more than decade long friendship was not typical – it allowed and encouraged sharing the truth about their personal problems (of course, besides chatting about everyday emotional trash everybody cares in dusty corners of their intuition). Today the accent was on Katarina’s family life and Tim’s disharmonious destiny of wandering gay man.

Peter as a “good son” was always visiting his mother on “her special dates”. But the role of a “grateful son” is not easy for somebody like Peter who feels, understands and accepts the differences between the perceptions of the reality of an aging mother and adult son (when both for decades carry self-centeredness as a part of their relationship). In this situation it’s difficult to avoid a bit of pretension. Pay attention to – how hard Peter is trying to be unconditionally nice with his mother and play her emotional games. But with some attention we can detect the terrifying grimace on his face which shows itself through his loving smile that went unnoticed by his mother who lives inside her blind ego-supportive self-myths.

The text on this still doesn’t belong to the character we see here – Arthur Brenner (Heinz Bennet), but to Katarina during a scandalous exchange between her and her husband, Peter. Arthur is a family friend of the Egermanns and an authority figure, alternative to Professor Mogens Jensen. He is present during this scandal between Peter and Katarina to prevent farther deterioration in their relations.

After an exhausting working day Katarina has decided to have a couple of drinks instead joining Peter in visiting his mother’s place. So, sulking Peter has to go there alone.

Katarina and Peter Egermann as genuine and helpless beloveds

Several stills in this chapter have been taken from Peter Egermann’s visual letter to Prof. Mogens Jensen

Peter and Katarina seen through Peter’s imagination – we see not only a loving couple, but two human beings thinking together and also analyzing themselves. Pay attention to reflective positions of Peter’s hands.

Here, we see that Katarina unconditionally trusts Peter, she intuitively resists the understanding that he is becoming obsessed with killing her.

Here, we see that Katarina unconditionally trusts Peter, she intuitively resists the understanding that he is becoming obsessed with killing her.

Katarina could see how tired and exhausted Peter is, and she took him to the bed to sleep another two or three hours.

Peter has an interesting “mystical” experiences

When Mogens Jensen, an old friend of both, Peter and Katarina, offered her his “erotic attention”, she, to his surprise, took some time to explain to him, how really close she and her husband are in spite of mutual sexual freedom they have given to each other.

Katarina and Peter were really happy, many times they were holding eternity in their hands

There were moments of mutual irritation and infuriation…

…the moments, when tender and caring Katarina was becoming somebody else…

And her animus started to clash with Peter, and this could continue for a while.

In such moments the couple played their battles through, but everything eventually developed into cessions of mutual thinking about what happened, and mutual regrets and reciprocal forgiving.

Peter Egerman and Ka “locked” in the brothel with hygiene posters and photos of Hollywood stars on the walls

Peter is not able to bring harm to his wife even if he wants to – he is in love with Katarina and always wants the best for her. At the same time they’re a couple with liberal sexual mores. He loves women and for him it means that he also loves to make love to women, even if temporarily, but dedicatedly. Of course, to appropriate, to possess a woman was for Peter delicate, tender passion, but what sex and what kind of love is possible without the feeling that the woman you want is yours in body and soul. Peter never was a consumerist, as we, Americans, today – in social and economic sense, but Peter consumed women as amorous and sexual precious beings. May be, he just loved domination through appropriation and possession. Was it just phase of his slow development of misogynous unconscious? Peter felt being in a kind of amorous trap in his marriage – it is his love for Katarina made him to feel desire to hurt her – to get rid of his dedication to her forcing him to melt, to feel himself as just an appendix to her body, as a kind of amorous shadow of his wife.

Peephole movies at the brothel reminded him of his youth

Twosome nude dance kindle his sexual desire

Nude sexual dance on the stage intensifies his fury against the power of female body that can transform a man into a crawling worm

Ka (Katherine Craft), the prostitute, for the first time sees Peter – the consumer of sex at the whore-house where she was responsible to help to sustain smooth functioning operations.

This still of Katherine Craft (Rita Russek) emphasizes the tragedy of her destiny (to be part of men’s sexual desires and their psychological ambivalence)

Chatting between Katherine and Peter was about her job at the brothel, the condition of the place, and how good or not money it is possible to make). Everything was o.k..

Ka professionally prepares herself for the acts of her job, while Peter hoped that he will not do anything he doesn’t want to. He found her “attractive”. Ka was “a good kid”.

Peter tries to overcome his hesitations to continue his rendezvous with Ka

Ka feels Peter’s emotional turmoil and tries to pacify him – she tries to close his eyes to what is tormenting him. Colored light surrounding his sexual need and his ambivalence to it, intensified

She was trying to quiet his head, to make it relaxed

The first bout of impulsive fury in Peter frightened her

She ran away to the stage, still with hope that he’ll get tired and become normal. The red light (eroticism and blood) intensified.

But Peter followed – to use her conventionally or in a particular way?

She hides behind the pompous bed on the stage for sexual performances

He attacked from behind, quickly suffocated her, put her in proper position.

He had anal intercourse with her body. The dense red light transformed back into the usual foggy black and white of Peter’s life and Bergman’s film.

Katarina and Peter’s mother

After the catastrophe and police and legal procedures followed it, Peter’s two women – Katarina and his mother, Cordelia Egermann (Lola Muthel) met in Cordelia’s “old house”.

In the beginning both women felt united in feeling screaming emptiness not because of Peter‘s physical absence from their world (he was committed to prison‘s mental asylum), but because of his radical psychological destruction of their lives and identities. It is as if you become somebody else you don’t know whom.

But soon Peter’s mother started to concentrate on her own tragic solitude – on the difficulty of suffering injustice which has ripped her destiny apart. “Can somebody tell me – what did I wrong?” Like most people she never thought about how society is organized and what influence this organization of life has on human behavior. Cordelia took life as a roles offered to the actors – as something given – take it or turn it down. She tried to play her role of mother well. Katarina pointed out that right now she is just trying to understand what happened with Peter and with that “poor woman” who was killed.

What is this morbid process of transformation of an impish angel into a demonic monster? What is behind it? How could it all have happened?

Silent asylum

In the hospital’s atmosphere of colored sterility Peter finds mental immobility instead of peace. What is he looking at in this still? At the chess board – he is playing chess with an electronic opponent. His thinking now, like that of the technical sciences specialists doesn’t include human life. His thinking now is as clean as the light at the hospital, as the colors of the rooms and corridors. There is no erotic and aggressive red of bursting/blasting moments of Peter’s life anymore, and there is no depressive foggy BW (black-and-white) of his depressive mood, which Bergman used for in the largest part of the film. Now, Peter is a perfect marionette-robot.

The prison pretending to be a hospital is like hell stylized as paradise. Peter’s mind surrendered to his criminal impulses and deeds, and now he is rewarded for not even trying during his life to find a third way, between a mindless conformism and criminal outburst – rewarded by a humane society sparing his life. Trilogy of his destiny is conformism, criminality and silly and silent asylum. But in the middle of his life he still was vital, alive (tragically and perversely), but human.

The super-relaxed atmosphere of Peter’s new life kept him beyond his irrational psychological impulses, but also outside the ability and the need to brood about what happened with him.

Peter never was a complete philistine, but now he was learning how to live like the majority of people do outside psychiatric hospital – people who are not able to express and even feel genuine reaction on the world.

Philistines (in mass-cultural societies) work like a fork, eat like meat, sleep like clip, copulate and mechanically follow society’s rules including semi-legal and semi-illegal ones. Plus they’re generously rewarded by consumerism, entertainment and all sorts of electronic toys. Peter plays chess with an electronic gross-master – alt-rival, and he likes to keep a little teddy bear in his hand – himself like teddy bear in the hand of society

Katarina regularly visits the hospital, where her husband is getting an exemplary treatment. She learns to accept Peter without the need for a deep and vibrant intimate relationship, without passion in sex, without any interest in the world, without any interest towards her personality. His mother is not able to visit him – still cannot see him – she can’t confront her own failure.


“From the Life of Marionettes” starts as a color film about a colored life. A brothel client expecting a pleasant bodily exchange suddenly, in the middle of the preambulary embrace is producing a bout of fury looking like a reaction on strong pain. His aggression is directed against the very object who was to satisfy him – a prostitute – his outburst is mixed with sexual excitement (Thanatos reacts against Eros). Bergman intentionally misleads us here – he wants us to take Peter Egermann’s (the main character of the film) condition as being beyond explanation (in order to make his point by creating in viewers a cognitive dissonance and by this stimulate in them the effort to overcome it by finally finding explanation to Peter’s behavior). In other words, the director puts us in position we’re today in our society where we are prone to take bizarrely aggressive actions (we encounter on a daily basis in TV news) as unpredictable, without objective determinations. We prefer not to connect human rage or criminality with the very organization of our society and way of life.

Unfortunately, when in our everyday life we try to improve our ability for intimate love with our intelligence (occupied, mainly, with strengthening our psychological power to become socially and financially successful individuals able to climb up to the social hierarchy’s rocky mountains) – we develop in ourselves the ability to be dominant and then lose our tunes with love. Our fighting/competing skills necessary for achieving social and financial success become the most argent goal – the more complicated and stressful becomes socio-economic life and the higher the standards of success the more under-attended becomes our amorous life. The very logic of love contradicts the logic of socio-economic achievements. Bergman’s “From the Life of Marionettes” analyzes what happens with human soul when our ability for intimate love is not supported and nurtured by a person’s scrupulous attention and understanding that the ability to love another human being demands much more education than putting food on the table and roof over the head.

In the first segment of the film we see that regular colors of life abruptly change into amorous/aggressive red color and later, not less unexpectedly – into a sad foggy and blueish black-and-white of everyday life. Spontaneous intuitive intelligence of the two main characters – Katarina (Christine Buchegger) and Peter (Robert Atzorn) is impressive, but it’s obviously not enough to prevent the murder of Catherine Craft (Rita Russek), a prostitute and a substitute object (used by Peter in place of his wife Katarina as a victim of Peter’s inability to tolerate his love for her). Their internal world and genuine love is melodiously interpreted by the director and the actors. We see their souls sharing with us their vibrations and tribulations with a frankness of confessions. It’s very difficult to witness that these smart, attractive and responsible people full of initiative and self-reflection are… abandoned by a society, in which people’s personal problems are considered private matter and the responsibility of parties involved.

For the society working for technology, economy and business log-logic, there is no time to learn, how to play the amorous strings of human soul and study its partituras. In our country especially there is no culture of private love, if not consider as such culture the classroom lessons of how to put properly condom on man’s tribal attribute. It’s very often love as a private matter becomes in our society a detective story. Proper promiscuity (taken as sexual freedom) is trying to compensate for the absence of secularly spiritual amorous education as a kind of sex-relaxation after the stress of our jobs, looking for jobs and our careers. Sexuality as recreational drug didn’t help Peter and Katarina, to the surprise of the psychiatrist and psychotherapist Professor Mogens Jensen (Martin Beurath). Conversely it became part of the crime scene.

The very ability to love in a context of intimacy – in a condition of modern life is devastated on a psychological level by the splintering of holistic personality. Sex and the inflated need for sexual victories are taking the place of love. Violent crimes proliferate like fleurs du mal. The action of Bergman’s “The Serpent’s Egg” (a film the director made several years before “From the Life of the Marionettes”) takes place in the late 20s when the mental soil of German life was in a process of warming up for a Nazi style of social and personal life. Similarities between these two films socio-psychologically symptomatic and this can help to understand better “From the Life of the Marionettes”.

In “The Serpent’s Egg” human intelligence in 20-30’s Germany, besides being dedicated to techno-scientific research focused on elaboration of new weapon systems, also covered medical research in order to control and manipulate the very human nature for the purpose of using it according to the needs of the “New Germany”. The film shows us a number of such experiments. In “From the Life of the Marionettes” depicting our times this kind of experimentation is not addressed. But the scrupulosity of control over human life by the very intensity of social dynamism and corporate hunting for profit is a giant experiment with the whole population, which includes the intensity of consumption and overstimulation of human nervous system by and through entertainment. Stress of living and the always awakened need to prove one’s successfulness plus the burden of recreational drug use, and also the necessity of permanent upgrading one’s professional level, and shame of failure, etc. makes modern life alienated and unnatural. We, today are going through a pseudo-existential experiment, with a result of permanent exhaustion from tireless risk-taking. All this hell exists to provide money to a minority of elite profiteers and decision-makers which doesn’t want people to live but instead to overwork and overconsume. In this context what happened between Peter and Katarina Egermann and how cynically Prof. Mogens Jensen treats them are consequences of an absolutely impossible way of life.

To live like this means that the best resources of human intelligence and vitality are wasted on alienated ways of living, on satisfying artificial needs (created in people through their manipulation by the very locking them in the kingdom of overachieving according to artificial dreams). Our very values are volumes of absurd phantasms put into action by those who are accumulating trillions on our childish ambitions based on our unconscious desire to be worshipped by other people and nations. The financial elite of decision-makers seduce us into “greatness” and “exceptionalism” by the price of losing our humanity.

Intimate love suffers especially radically from this kind of organization of things as the area where body meets soul and where human spiritual potential either wins human destiny or fails in this mission. Peter and Katarina Egermann didn’t succeed in their love for one another not because of their “weaknesses” – defects in their humanity, but because despite their intelligence they were too existentially exhausted to resist the conditions of their life which were created not by them, but by the rulers of politico-economic system that transforms human beings into self-aggrandizing marionettes and worshippers of wealth. Instead of orienting people on humility and wisdom these manipulators teach people how to fight with one another and to brag in front of the sun-beams and clouds about how strong and superior they’re in comparison with the less successful. The same decision-makers torture people with austerity measures to castigate their victims as criminals. And they use self-aggrandizing ideologies which humanistically not-educated people easily surrender to while feeling themselves heroes of the planet earth. Only the development of emotional intelligence – spirituality of feelings as a psychological “agency” able to balance the capacity for loving and the desperate need for self-assertion stimulated by pervert social and international relations as abodes of calculations, manipulations, fight for domination, for enrichment, etc.

Instead of developing the ability to love, we’re taught to be occupied with “sexual relations”. Obsession with sexuality includes the so called liberalization of sex and creates similar disastrous consequences in the realm of human love as “neo-liberalization” of economy in the realm of economic relations, as genius of human sciences became perverted by the greed and arrogance of those who are in charge of the application of technical sciences to life.

People don’t develop enough the capacity for intimate love – and this deprivation expresses itself in a vacuum in the soul.

Peter and Katarina Egermann, Katherine Craft, Prof. Mogens Jensen, Cordelia Egermann and Tim Mandelbaum are martyrs of incompatibility between today’s society and human need for intimate love. Peter Egermann is its psychological victim, Katarina Egermann – its amorous victim, Katherine Craft – its physical victim, Mogens Jensen – its intellectual one, while Cordelia Egermann is the ontological victim of such a pathological incompatibility, and Tim Mandelbaum is its philosophical victim. Bergman himself, who, probably knew very well personally all these types of victimization of human beings by the organization of society (which formed them in a twisted and distorted fashion), was able to overcome them – not empirically, of course, but through their meticulous studying, knowledge and understanding in his art.

Whity Trailer

Fassbinder wrote the following text about his own film almost simultaneously with the date when “Whity” was opened for screening. The importance of his opinion about the main character of the film (played by Gunther Kaufmann) is emphasized by the way the film talks to the audience – by simultaneously addressing two historical periods: the viewers as they were at a time around the release of the film, and us today – in a new century, in a period of drastic totalitarization of American democracy, when the financial and ruling elites are fighting without gloves for their absolute domination in archaic and pre-democratic sense of the word. Here is a brief version of Fassbinder’s statement – “Whity always hesitates and fails to defend himself against injustice. In the end he does shoot the people who oppresses him, but then he goes off into the desert and dies, having come to realize certain things without being able to act… I find it OK that he kills his aggressors, but it is not OK, that he then goes into the desert… Had he truly believed in his action, he would have allied himself with other suppressed individuals, and they would have acted together. The single-handed act at the end of the movie is not a solution.” RWF, 1971, “Fassbinder”, The Museum of Modern Art, 1997, p. 46

Fassbinder, obviously, considers that for Samuel King (Whity) being together with Hanna means to be single-handed. She is far from being stupid and she dreams about becoming a modern liberated woman, and to a certain degree, in spite of being emotionally symbiotic with Whity, she proved that she can be much more than what she is. But the paradox involved here is, that Whity is much more radical than she and this is the tragic point of her failure. Whity’s extreme political radicalism is too much not only for Hanna and not only for Fassbinder of his own words we quoted, but for human life in general. Whity’s holistic mind pushes him farther than human life’s frame of reference. This makes him not just premodern, but anti-modern – outside of techno-structural (calculating) mind as an instrument of gaining power – be it unjust or progressively-humanistic.

Whity’s moral sensibility is absolutist, borderless, ultimate. It’s not too practical, but it’s difficult not to be fascinated by it, if you live in a historical period when the “moral” climate of living is naked fight for your own and/or your side’s advantage. The anti-democratic (neo-conservative and neo-liberal forces) have succeeded in destroying the chances to fight for improvement of life conditions of the majority peacefully. By taking a belligerent and very often – insulting and malicious fighting posture they have made the fight for existing democratic laws and progressive changes through using democratic socio-political tools ineffective and near impossible. Today the fight for a better and more intelligent life for everyone is not only unable to produce discernable results, but becomes psychologically unbearable (cultural people don’t have a right to behave like conservative political thugs). The fighters for humanistic improvement of the living conditions for majority started to be perceived as any fighters for their own advantage and agenda. Left and right in this situation have both started to look equally predatory and militant.

This miserable cultural (anti-cultural) condition didn’t exist (or existed in much lesser degree) when Fassbinder was creating and working on his “Whity”. The incredible achievement of his intuition was that in spite of his rational critical remarks about the hero of his film, he felt that his Whity’s moral radicalism transcending the borderline between life and death (and as such looking like fruitless extremism) is somehow proper and justified. From the one side, Whity’s father, step-mother and his half-brother Frank were so unbearably disgustingly criminal and immoral, but from the other side to kill them in the corrupt atmosphere of a society in which they will never be punished by law (being exceptionally financially fortified tricksters), means to commit a crime, and this crime will not allow Whity to continue to live meaningfully. Today, the open enemies of democracy armed with money they use as a crushing and corrupting weapon and as a protection against any prosecution, cannot be defeated by rational means of democratic socio-political instruments.

In this situation only… martyrdom seems as a rational, logical reaction on the order of things. Whity‘s self-punishment by death in the desert should be understood as such a martyrdom. He already in the end of 19th century felt the nightmarish possibility of the appearance in future of an ultimate enemy of morality. So, Fassbinder simultaneously, agrees and disagrees with Whity’s “desert” solution. He disagreed with such an end around 1970, when political and moral atmosphere was allowing such a disagreement (when “suppressed individuals” were uniting and acting together for their liberation), and he agreed with it, when, as it‘s happening today in the 21st century, there is, it seems, no another way – when the legions of conservatives storm the heavens as dark clouds – the sun. But in a way Whity was in a better situation than we’re today – he could punish the evil and then punish himself. Today, we cannot succeed with the first part – the enemy is too protected by technological, financial and propagandist tools and their own ruthlessness. We only have the second part as available reaction of protest.

How can a film which from the first glance look oxymoronic – as a “reformed” and a sophisticated Western, with real connotations, not only denotations looking like connotations, can address so different realities coded in various historical periods, and can contemplate so easily – without sentimental dramatization about such tormenting areas of human experience?

Whity has been transformed into a lizard – having been beaten up and thrown out of the pub

Corner of the kitchen at the mansion of Whity’s father Ben Nicholson (Ron Randell), – with a pheasant in the cage (waiting for its glorious end), where Whity and his mother work everyday.

Hanna, a singer in the saloon and a prostitute (Hanna Shygulla) dreams to go live to Chicago with Whity (Gunther Kaufmann) as a place of freedom

Fassbinder (to the right) plays a pretentious money hunter with a pompous dream of becoming a millionaire (in our time these types dream of making billions).

Fassbinder’s character in the film, a person who recently organized collective throwing Whity out of the saloon, stopped to be racist by magic when he learned that Whity got money and is ready to play cards. Whity’s money quickly disappeared in the future millionaire’s pockets.

Posted on 3/27/’18 –   Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s “Whity” (1972) – Sublimation Of Western Into Analysis of The Transition From American South/West To Industrial East/North by Acting-Out Politics

Eve’s breast as a seductive apple for Adam

Max Beckmann, “Adam and Eve”

We see that the both, Adam and Eve are trying to hide their own sexual organs, but while Adam’s hand knows very well the magic power of masturbatory touch, Eve hasn’t yet embarked on this “sensational” miracle able to move clouds. She is really trying to hide what she doesn’t know yet until the time will come.

Adam is much smarter. Eve’s face is, may be, pretty but her gaze is absent, as if, she is blind – it’s not understandable can she see or not. Adam’s face is activated by his experience that he better hide his diffused sexual intentionality, and for this reason his space-piercing eyes so inquisitive – every second he is ready to detect the danger of being discovered and frightened.

The serpent is much more entangled with Eve, than with Adam, can it be that the serpent is… her mother? Pay attention to the serpent’s tail coiling around Eve’s leg, and its head is turning away from Adam’s presence nearby. It appears that the serpent agrees with Eve’s destiny with Adam only because of God’s instructions, without any volunteering participation.

Adam is hiding his “kingly scepter” and in the same makes it seen while directing it towards the world in universal manly manner. But “frank ambiguity” of this gesture is even out-franked with exclamatory denotation of Eve pushing her breast to Adam – with her status of a beginner she cannot be sure of this gesture – it’s, obviously the will of God what made it possible – Adam ought to be occupied and by this pacified, otherwise even God might not know what can happen. Adam should learn that sex is not an autonomous pleasure seeking function, but a noble and responsible reproductive/ procreative necessity.

Eve the size of Adam’s rib or Eve as a hatchling out of the Serpent’s Egg

Max Beckmann, “Adam and Little Eve”

What is Adam looking at? The horizon? Depth of space? Clouded transition between heaven and earth? But, perhaps, Adam is not looking at all – may be – he is blind, or is overwhelmed by his responsibility of caring about Eve. Look at his pompous posture of keeping Eve on his palm.

May be, Adam’s gaze is paralyzed. Can it be that he bitten by the snake, by the very Biblical serpent became paralyzed, frozen, may be – petrified by the snake’s poison. Perhaps, it is in this condition Beckmann’s inspiration saw Adam in the first place and then the artist decided that sculpting Adam is a proper way to represent him.

To nurture and protect Eve was the basic task for Adam, which God assigned to him while determining the meaning of whole human history. Here we can grasp that being temporarily paralyzed, with the gaze without looking around was the first phase of Adam’s learning to become what later was called… a husband of his wife, her protector and provider, and a father of their children! It seems, that something like family values was in God’s imaginative intuition from the beginning.

We see snake’s head on Adam’s shoulder, it is like a tireless guardian of Adam’s task for all times ahead. Eve will grow – become more adult and experienced and soon will multiplied together with Adam into human race of all versatile variations. Yes, Adam and Eve will change, although in a way remain the same in a pluralistic way. Isn’t it the same with the very institution of marriage which while “radically changing” stays the same… in its “sanctified” essence?

According to Beckmann‘s sculpture, Adam and Eve’s union is not only a symbol of amorous unity and marital bonds, but of heterosexual symbiosis. Isn’t the serpent’s poison making Beckmann’s Adam petrified inflicts the same petrification on the social institution of marriage, although it’s corrected (and by this stabilized) by the financial taxation through divorce and encouraged by financial benefits to its loyalists.

Pieter Breughel the Younger, “A Compassionate Wife”

The peasant couple we see in the painting is happy – both, husband and wife have a soft and harmonious facial expressions. Life together hasn’t made them impatient or irritable with one another. And their subjective truths – feelings each might have regarding any situations involving the two of them aren’t identical – each obviously has her or his own perspective and at the same time are tolerant of disagreements between themselves. The wife compassionately and tenderly looks at the hen, which the husband has fetched for their family dinner, and the husband looks compassionately (although not without some humor) at his wife’s compassion. He understands what she is feeling – “how great it would be if they could just live with the dinner-bird in peace and friendship”, but their children need to eat. He knows what she is thinking and he likes that she thinks the way she does. It looks that the bird soon will be eaten by the happy family commune.

Look again at the peasant woman’s gaze at the bird, look at her hand caressing the bird’s head. And look at the husband’s hands – hasn’t he brought the doomed bird to his wife as a baby in need of mother’s touch and care? And the maternal smile of the wife doesn’t look anxious by the bird’s impending destiny. Her husband’s face communicates his affection for his wife who always a little sad when the time comes to kill god‘s-creature for the family meal. Still, look at his nose, not only red but swollen – we can bet that the man will be enjoying the taste of the chicken dish so much that it won’t be a place for melancholy at the dinner table. The husband is so touchingly patient, he will give his wife time to say good bye to the bird who was a member of the family… for a while and will be focus of collective memory until… next dinner. Compassion softens the cruelty without which life in the rural settlement couldn’t be possible. But so what that the exemplary kindness of our spouses has realistic limits! Survival is the first priority of life, nevertheless the ability for compassion is like a soft pillow for the peasant head which needs a dense restful sleep.

The both spouses are in tune, they’re co-experiencing, co-feeling their togetherness, not only with each other, but with life, and this is a feature of tolerance and softness of traditional country life, when nobody was selling tones of cattle or dreaming about luxurious existence yet. Bless the love of the traditional peasants for one another and for their domestic animals, and for sacred soil pregnant with food, and this paradise of produce will be interrupted only by the peasants’ king with his animalistic scream-call to fight with another monarch for “our” glory and more land. The blood will fertilize the soil. And eventually even peasants will start to think with techno-scientific ambitions – they become agro-industrial-farmers, invent machines and new forms of weaponry. Civilization – as a white horse will rise on its hind legs.

*We are not sure about the real title of this painting by Pieter Breughel-the younger. It can be a fragment of the bigger painting. We will be very glad if someone among the readers will be able to clear the origin of this painting. But it is beyond the doubts that the artistic aptitude of the painter to simultaneously appreciate human nature and humorously criticize it stays stronger with each century.

Klimt’s “Danae” depicts a Woman from the Classic myth, being seduced by god Jupiter (Zeus). The sleeping figure of Danae coils up to meet and embrace the fall of golden rain symbolizing Jupiter. The parted lips and legs, the closed eyes, the rolled down stocking on her ankle, the reddish hair and diaphanous purple veil are all indicative of Danae’s particular sensual experience. Nearly a quarter of the picture surface is taken up by Danae’s thighs… The ornament and rich coloring of the painted versions serve to diffuse the viewers’ attention from the exposed pose of the woman.

Klimt complicates Zeus’s stream of golden coins with “early embryonic forms identified by scientists in several decades later as ‘chromosome-like’ ‘gilded spermatozoa’ and ‘spheres of embryonic cells: blastocysts (a layer of cells surrounding a cavity that hovers above a lump of cells – the source of embryonic stem cells that will eventually divide to form the fetal anatomy)’” – New – “Gustav Klimt’s mysterious embryos”, Nov. 3, 2010.

Gustav Klimt, “Danae”, 1907 (“golden coins” are obvious in this version of “Danae”)

Gustav Klimt, “Danae”, 1907 (In this version you can easier notice the strange forms, some other substances in between the “golden coins”)

Gustav Klimt, “Danae”, 1907 (In this version of “Danae” every viewer will be able to detect the “other forms” beside the “golden coins” between Danae’s thighs)

The passionate dependence on men’s gaze enslaves women, puts them in a “junior” position of trying to prove to men the value of feminine existence. In our “honorable” patriarchal tradition women supposed to dream about men and in certain psychological situations to fantasize about them. When this happens, women are fantasizing about men-embodied, not, as men do, about women’s bodies. In a mutational moment when a woman (personified by Danae) had chosen Zeus over men, she is already in the kingdom of the flowing “golden coins” with her own hormonal substances in between, not in men’s world.

Man’s evaluating gaze is slavery of woman. But Danae is caressing the flowing emanation – the current of her own orgasmic sensation. It’s her left hand produces her sensation, and it is her right hand embraces not only her breast and not the imaginary penis, but rather her golden and godly sensations. But what, indeed, does she see under her convulsively pressed eyelids? – She sees-senses-feels her Zeus-orgasm.

Klimt’s improbable, impossible painting is not about Zeus-the rapist and Danae as the victim of rape and not about Gods’ magic of multiple reincarnations. It’s about the creative discovery by a woman of her own magnificently sensual body (instead of using men’s tulip-tool as a mediator of this discovery). Instead of worshipping the gold (instead of participating in both genders’ cult of the metal of yellow greed) Danae, to use the language of fairy-tales, is the sexual revolutionary. She transformed her own body into the mountain of sensual gold.

Does every woman have to limit herself to Danae’s sexual experiences? But does every man have to play with women Zeus/Jupiter? Of course, not. But this is tremendous that Danae (with the help of Zeus named Gustav Klimt) was able to do what she did.

Full of crushing guilt and self-condemnations she decided to visit him in the slum. May be, Ocho (Tomoko Naraoka) believed that to beg her husband, Hei (Hiroshi Akutagawa) to forgive her would start to heal the relationship between them. May be, she wanted to try to clear her own soul after what’s happened. May be, the power of her love for Hei, which was always there in spite of her ghastly mistake, can be able to return him back to life.

Every day Ocho tried hard to share Hei’s life – this time – in the slum – to get him back to a normal life, where they were so happy for many years.

Ocho thought that her sincere and frank confession will reach her husband’s heart, but weeks followed one another and nothing happened. Hei didn’t want even to notice her and never spoke even one word. Here, we see that Ocho is, as if, asking for our, viewers’ compassion in a situation of being refused – not already in a context of love, but as a human being.

But it looks like that the condition of Hei has nothing to do with Ocho anymore. Life, as her husband, perhaps understands it now – is allowed the betrayal of love to take place – not just betrayal – the murder of love. He is outside of this life. No, his soul is dead, he is spiritually dead – a living body without a soul.

In his gaze – the gaze of a person who was alive some time ago – is that of death, not already the betrayal of his love by a woman who was his wife. Now, he sees only one thing – life without soul, life without life.

Ocho feels that the consequences of her moments of weakness are far away from what she did, and she doesn’t know what to do now.

Ocho understands that the point here is already not her betrayal – she redeemed it by her confession to her husband, by her humility and her repentance. And now it is already not between her and him. Now it is after their life. Now it is about death, refutation of life on part of life.


Sure, personal betrayal, especially that of such a holistic feeling as love is monadic and as such is limited by the personal relationship. But the betrayal of human holistic identity leads people today to a condition of being and living without souls, and not only by the reason of betrayal of personal love, but of their own humanity by their conformist behaviors and corrupted and vain choices. The point here is not that their factual deeds may or may not be forgiven (which is rather self-centrist perspective), but it’s a matter of irresponsibility of our blind consumerist greed and addiction to entertainment which are changing not only us, but the world – for example, by destroying the condition of the precious natural environment for human, animal and flora’s life, the precious and fragile gift of life.

This segment of Kurosawa’s incredible “Dodesukaden” provides just one among many examples of humankind’s tragic decline. There’re fewer and fewer people like Kurosawa’s Ocho, a woman of rare dignity whose spiritual ability to transcend her own obsessions makes her incomparably superior in comparison with today’s “emancipated” females competing with males for high-salaried jobs and shining careers.

Posted on May 26, 2012 – Akira Kurosawa’s “Dodes’kaden” (1970) As Anthropological “Map” of Human Psychological Condition (Kurosawa’s Contemplation on the Living Art of Archetypal Crystallization) by Acting-Out Politics

Posted on Sep/4/’14 – “Dodes’kaden” (1970) by Akira Kurosawa by Acting-Out Politics

Is It Enough For Human Beings Just To Serve Life? Couldn’t It Happen That Just To Serve Everyday Life And Living People Will Eventually Harm Them?

When in the morning children run out to school, as usual, the father starts his working day of making brushes. The father is a craftsman – he needs to provide for his large family – a wife and a handful of children. The wife for most of the time is pregnant. And she hates when her husband is working. Today again his stereotypical movements made her impatient and irritated, until she got tired and again deserted from home for a stroll outside.

Outside their hovel she meets not so much people as butterflies, dragonflies and bees who usually accumulating around the wife of our artisan who is whole-headedly dedicated to his work and their children. By every day waiting for her appearance, the insects even gradually learned how to obtain human form to please her.

The wife’s (of the Buddha-looking craftsman) strolls became the event of the slums. She moved like a model in front of public. She simultaneously excited and satisfied the insects and the bystanders, and she, as if indifferently enjoyed the attention of the both amid the sun and breeze.

The woman and insects’ friendly familiarity with each other, their cheerful crudeness bring smiles to the faces of the onlookers who felt waves of optimism and belief in the future. The poor and marginal also want to enjoy life as much as possible… somehow.

But the most amazing characters of this segment of Kurosawa’s “Dodeskaden” is the husband of the woman attracted to the bees, dragonflies and butterflies of human male gender. He really loved to care about his wife’s children. His readiness to live, to enjoy not only living, but caring about what lives and to share life’s softness and sensitivity makes him a kind of a hero, a kind of a Buddha character, keeper of the hearth.

At the school and yards children of our couple were hearing gossip that they’re not the children of their kind and caring father and that each of them are from another, different fathers. This painful rumors and the laughter usually accompanying it made the kids we see here, insulted and humiliated. They felt themselves worse and inferior in comparison with other – normal children. They couldn’t resist to complain about what’s happened to their only father they had.

Our hero of domestic wisdom invented a semantic trick – probably, the only chance in this situation to pacify children of their age by trying to close their emotional wound and start to heal it. He suggested to them that it’s impossible to make people not to talk about what they want to talk about and that fatherhood in this situation is, practically the matter of children’s belief in who their father is. He explained to his kids that their father is the one about whom they believe that he is their father. So, the issue can be resolved only through – whom they believe – him, who knows that he is their father, or other people who are saying whatever they like. Children were saved by their father’s explanation. Of course, they agreed to believe in father’s love and in having a loving father and being happier than their peers or evil adults inventing dirty stories.


This type of optimistic, hopeful and joyful resolution of people’s doubts, uncertainties and fears is very resourceful and humane. People need hope, because life is so controversial and can be so tormenting, if not our human ability to put our interest in truth aside only to continue to live. The poor and oppressed people or those who are corrupted by the dream about possessing the wells and walls of wealth often never even form the need to be interested in truth. These people don’t have the chance to reach maturity. They stay whole life as kids greedy for self-assertion. Lack of education and excess of superstitions and prejudices are their loyal friends. Even in the so called democracies people can vote for leaders who are super-competent in imitating people’s hopes with their propaganda slogans precluding people’s ability to realize their dreams in real life.

Posted on May 26, 2012 – Akira Kurosawa’s “Dodes’kaden” (1970) As Anthropological “Map” of Human Psychological Condition (Kurosawa’s Contemplation on the Living Art of Archetypal Crystallization) by Acting-Out Politics

Posted on Sep/4/’14 – “Dodes’kaden” (1970) by Akira Kurosawa by Acting-Out Politics

Soul Of The Interior As Interior Of Human Soul

Henri Matisse, “Interior with Violin” (1918)

In comparison with other Matisse’s paintings of the interiors (he made more than many) his “Interior with Violin” unexpectedly has a “cargo” quality. The interior looks as a corner of the interior where chaos is intermixed casually with neglect and disorder of cluttered colors and forms. It’s not that the room can be abandoned, but it rather looks neglected because the painter, as if, transformed it into a trajectory of looking, into something like a dressing room for a casual gaze. But on the other side, this section of an interior looking not “warmed” by the human presence, is elevated by the artist into a place for the violin case, and this, may be, because a violin is capable of expressing tribulations of the human soul.

The violin has already awakened – already put aside its densely blew blanket to meet the advancing sea. Soon the violin will make the other half of the shudders opened, the room will be transformed and will look closer to Matisse’s other interiors. The sound of violin: human contemplation in music – a vital suffering of the human soul feeling pain because its sensitivity is pressed by the very existence of the world, will awaken the semi-room of Matisse’s “Interior with Violin” into a full-fledged interior where the world is coming to itself – to the exuberance of its essence.

Sea, sky and light will enter the interior and will be tamed by the violin’s song. The areas of darkness in the room will not completely disappear but will join in the company of the joyful noise of nature with notes of quiet concentration and elegiac analysis of the spirit of life. The violin will become a violinist and will give its hand and voice to the beach, the ebb and clouds as a guarantee of human presence in the world.

Henri Matisse, “La Lecon de piano, Henriette et ses freres”, 1923

The interior in “La Lecon de piano…” is full of harmonious light, and the piano is reciting poems. This interior is very different from the one in the previous Matisse’s painting which wasn’t ready to correspond to the external world as its full blown opposite because it wasn’t “turned on”, like emotionally unawaken human soul in front of the still shuttered out life outside. In “Piano Lesson/La lecon de piano” the interior is in full power of life to be the interior of the outside world – its soul, its organ of contemplation.

If this interior could be more realistic than it is – it would be an extension-with modification of the external world, not its opposition inside collaboration. Then, like comfortable and “overfilled with design” interiors of prosperous private houses today, it would be places of continuation or a variant of entrepreneurial spirit or temporary relaxation intended to prepare humans for the next round of social activities. The design and the psychological atmosphere of Matisse’s interiors and especially in “La Lecon de piano” is so stylized and expressively static and transcends the reality of everyday living, that the viewers have reasons to feel that they have a deal here with a decisive alternative to the norms of real life, which at the same time is somehow congruent with it. It’s like typical interiors, but, as if, two-dimensional, oriented on something else and more beautiful (but not in applied sense – ready to be consumed, but in absolute sense – let’s say, like a human soul in comparison with socio-morphic actions, like human autonomy to human heteronomy or human freedom in relation to necessities of life.

The faces of all three personages are intentionally generalized – the facial expressions are muffled – there are no traces of emotions on the faces. The emotional ties between the personages aren’t emphasized. One of the brothers stands close to Henriette and is interested in her piano work and, perhaps, in her, while the second brother is a bit demonstratively isolating himself from the “couple”: he, may be, sulking at their closeness and, as if, encircling himself with the symbolic aura of his chair and book (with the cover which is by its color and form reminds us a popular universal representation of the heart). The positions of the characters refer to the innocent incestuous triangle. Brothers’ identical shirt-robes with white-black stripes are visual echoes of the piano keyboard – and this emphasizes that relationships between the brothers and sister and between the brothers are not just intra-family ones but emotionally influenced by the presence of art. Composition of the painting is very static – there are no currents of vitality flowing between the characters. Matisse’s personages are not people, but internal objects. In his interiors there is a spirit of internal expressiveness, without exteriorization, projection or appeal. By contrast, the realistic interiors are full of self-advertising designs. They refer not to an alternative to external life, extrovert orientation and recommended sociability. That’s why the interiors of numerous epigones of Matisse look so pompous and self-asserting, imposing and pride-irradiating – the furniture, as if, invites the viewers to try it, and the painted humans look like potential buyers. Matisse’s interiors, on the other hand are goals in itself. All the difference between art and mass art and between culture and mass culture is here!

Henriette and both her brothers are not realistic characters – they’re internal, psychological objects – figures imagined by the artist and represented as free from being consumed by the viewers through identification. To consume the personages of art means to transform it into a part of consumer’s personality – it’s a totalitarian psychological operation. This operation by which mass-cultural art survives on money paid by the consumers in exchange for the pleasure of appropriating/consuming the personage-model, whom they swallow, digest and assimilate into themselves is the basic mechanism of antidemocratic psychology.

Matisse’s “Interior with Violin” and “Henriette and her brothers” is like pure otherness inside today’s world. It’s like spiritual emanation. Our choice when we are in front of Matisse’s interior is not to appropriate its content and form, but to keep it free from colonization through perception, to keep its internal world not consumed – to be in communication with it as with a spiritual substance which is free from us as we are from it, free, and for this reason respected by ourselves and, may be, loved by Matisse’s models. Epigones of serious artist is much more perverted than the thieves of his works of art.

« Previous Entries  Next Page »


May 2018
« Apr    



Recent Comments