18 Sep 2016
Under the first impressions from Herzog’s film –
There is optimism, there is pessimism, and there is art.
There is truth, there is non-truth, and there is art.
There is admiration, there is indignation, and there is art.
There is love, there is hate, and there is art.
There is glorifying or debunking the reality, and there is art.
There is profit, there is financial loss, and there is art.
In a Bavarian village in the late of 18th century, a glass-maker dies and takes to his grave the secret of his ruby glass. The glass factory owner goes out mad trying to unearth the formula.
David Licata, “Werner Herzog and the making of ‘Heart of Glass’”, “Filmmaker Magazine, May 24, 2012
“Revolutionary” mysticism of Hias, the shepherd and local seer:
I look into the distance, to the end of the world. First, time will tumble, and then the earth. The clouds will begin to race… the earth boils over; this is the sign. This is beginning of the end. The world’s edge begins to crumble… everything starts to collapse… tumbles, falls, crumbles and collapses. I look into the cataract. I feel an undertow, it draws me, it sucks me down. I begin to fall…a vertigo seizes upon me. Now I look at one spot in the tumbling waters. I seek one spot on which my eyes can rest. I become light, lighter, lighter. Everything becomes light, I fly upwards. Out of the falling and the flying, a new land arises. Like the submerged Atlantis, the earth rises out of the waters. I see a new earth.
Sociological” prediction of Hias:
A liar will cross one of the bridges, thief the other.
Dialogue between Wudy and Ascherl while drinking beer at the pub
Wudy – Tomorrow you will be finished, Ascherl! I’ll sleep off my hangover on your corpse.
Ascherl – Innkeeper, bring Wudy another beer.
Wudy – I’ll sleep on your corpse. Hias said that I’ll sleep on your corpse. Hias sees into the future.
Ascherl – Provided we sleep in the hay. And I must fall down onto the threshing place first. Then you must fall on me. If you don’t fall soft, you’ll be dead too.
The owner of glass-blowing factory shares his love for the Ruby Glass:
Master Muhlbeck is dead and no one knows the secret of the Ruby Glass. My god. This splendor is now relinquished from the world. Now what will protect me from the Evil of the universe?
The poet reciting his hymn to the red glass in front of the local lord (the owner of glass-blowing factory)
The land of the ruby –
And all the people
dance in the red glow
and live in it.
Their blood, their life,
everything is in the glass –
in the red, in the color.
This land is the only one.
Everything is in this land
and everything is ruby.
From Hias’ prophesies
Then the little one starts a war and the big one across the ocean extinguishes it. Then you will not get a loaf for two hundred florins. Then a strict master comes who takes people’s shirts and their skin with them. After the war you think there will be peace, but there will not be. The peasants will dress like town people and the town people will be like apes. Women will wear trousers and boots. The peasants will stand in their dung heaps with polished boots. The peasants will eat cakes and discuss politics. They all fight; there is war in every house. No man will like another man. The elegant and fine people will be murdered. Forest will get sparse, like the beggar’s gown. The few who survive will have iron heads. People become ill, but no one can help them. Pope consecrates a goat as bishop.
“Heart of Glass” in German language with English subtitles.
Ontological rivalry between two drunks
Werner Herzog and the human historical past
Herzog works with Stefan Guttler (playing the role of local rich man, the owner of the glassmaking factory, who is obsessed with the ruby-glass’s superhuman powers as today’s profit-makers with their profits).
Nature perceived/contemplated/meditated on by Hias
Nature for Hias is like living, not like life – the river is like clouds and clouds – like flood. Nature is like a breathing human soul, fragile and powerful. It’s, as though, present and simultaneously absent, material and ideal.
Hias-the herdsman as observer of human condition
The more Hias (Josef Bierbichler) knew how people are – the farther he felt himself from humanity, the more he was disappointed in his fellow humans. May be, because of this he began to think systematically. Throughout his long mornings he looked at the grazing cows and remembered about people. Thinking becomes his habit and even his love not because it can help in life but because it is not life – because it seems to be something better than life. To think is more decent than to live day after day according to the same expectations (or the same surprises).
To start to philosophize or psychologize you have to be disappointed, and then you start to think about the destiny of humankind, as if you don’t belong to this destiny (this is the prejudice of many thinkers – to feel, not without good reason, of course, contempt for human prejudices and superstitions). For Hias human beings are superstitions in flesh. Luckily, Hias had a nature. Still, is it wise to blame the baby but not the womb as well?
Glorious, sophisticated and blind obsession with the ruby glass
When a person is obsessed with something, like the local lord in the film (Stefan Guttler) with the ruby glass, s/he also becomes obsessed with material, fleshy aspect of the object, not only with its “essence”. In this scene we see how the aesthete-admirer of magic thing strokes it – caresses ruby glassware, as if, with gratitude for its existence.
The fact that the miracle of the ruby-red glassware can no longer be reproduced (the secret of its creation has been lost), makes the hero of the film lose his wholeness, personality, identity (everything starts to crumble, fall into pieces) and this creates in him engulfing panic.
This how the owner of the factory without production touches the sacred glass, like people caress an enigmatic, full of intriguing otherness pet, without which the very life of the owner cannot, as he feels, be sustained.
For our local baron his obsession with the ruby glassware is a psychological defense; his mysticism and aestheticism have to psychologically protect him from the consciousness of his human weaknesses and fragility in front of mortality, and it makes this refined and elegant person similar with the “poorest and stupidest peasant”.
At any time of day and night the baron visits the factory, which always kept ready… to start to produce the ruby glass again. Production of aesthetic or utilitarian artifacts becomes part of our human superstitions, as soon as their very ideas are rooted in the superstitious abyss of people’s unconscious.
Ontological rivalry between Ascherl and Wudy (which one is the best guy in the world?)
Ontological rivalry is not just about who is stronger or/and smarter or/and richer or who will get more medals at the Olympic Games. It is when a human being or a group of people or a country – can claim having a superior status or exceptional value, and, therefore, cannot be judged by the usual human criterion. It is exactly like Ascherl and Wudy, who compete with one another – who will overdrink and jump down from the roof and survive and who is not. For their time it’s the equivalent of today’s obsession with extreme sports or with especially dangerous military professions.
If to try to create the image of human face representing the humanistically/liberally uneducated human being, it would be the facial expression of Wudy (Volker Prechtel), from Herzog’s “Heart of Glass”. In Ascherl-Wudy bet Ascherl, indeed, jumped first and died, while Wudy fell on top of him and survived. He continued to drink night after night without his rival-friend, but soon he came to miss his drinking buddy. So, he brought Ascherl’s fresh corpse to the pub and danced together with it in front of people moved by it.
Clemence Scheitz is playing in the film the factory owner’s adviser and senior servant. If the condition of human mentality (of even the educated and intelligent people) could be characterized with ultimate image of human face, it would be the expression of this character from “Heart of Glass”
Search for other worlds or for “abstract” professions – can be result of at least the unconscious disappointment in humanity
Like some scientists today are involved in search for limits to the universe and for life in other worlds, people of the past, as some heroes of Herzog’s film, were involved in a similar search without even being paid for it. Of course, there is nothing superstitious and prejudicial about techno-scientific curiosity per se. Technical science in itself is not necessarily idolatrous. But the absence of serious concern about the use of the results of techno-scientific research on the part of scientists themselves lets those with limited holistic intelligence to control these results. It makes the whole enterprise of technical science – superstitious and dangerous. The very agreement not to control the socio-political applications of these results smells of escapism on the part of scientists, leaving the conditions of human social and international life in disastrous state and transforming people like Neil de Grass Tyson into children playing with high-tech toys. Herzog’s film reminds us that cognitive curiosity even with emotional dedication and creative imagination is not enough – it is necessary to have civil concerns and humanitarian dedications, otherwise scientists and scholars today will not be much different from even the exceptional people in Herzog’s “Heart of Glass”.
The herdsman Hias’s respect for the spirituality of nature was growing with each early morning when he in the company of blue cattle began his work. Every morning his meditations were rejuvenated by the splendors of a non-made-up nature which is living toward the unknown – not like human lives always defined by social imperatives or expectations. People are controlled by their own prejudices and superstitions.
Herzog shows how, for example, people are expecting the “return of the giants” by not just imagining future events but unconsciously hypnotizing themselves so effectively that they really believe in the reality of what they imagine. That’s, for example, how so many Americans in the 21st century solemnly follow Donald Trump’s triumphant blabber consisting of absurdities which activate people’s archetypes of pleasures, fears and hate. Hypnotic believes make life more eventful and “meaningful”, more interesting – more real than reality. That’s how violent video games transformed into wars, not armed black males transformed into the mortal danger to white police officers, or Stalin’s comrades in fight for the common goal – into his and whole country’s (Soviet Russia) deadly enemies.
Relations between regular people are magnified by Herzog in a surrealistically metaphoric scenes of ontological rivalry between Ascherl and Wudy, beer drinking regulars at the village tavern, who challenge each other not only to outdrink one another but in deadly drunken condition to jump off from the rooftop. In spite of the apparently imbecilic flavor of the bet our competitors’ mentality is very close to many forms of competitions loved and practiced in our times in the so called democratic societies, like risky sports as bone-braking skateboarding, ultimate fight, or clashes between countries with military super-technology at their disposal, which compete for fossil fuel global domination and/or world leadership.
Ascherl and Wudy not only compete (and, therefore, hate each other) – for the “title” of the best guy on the planet Earth (archetypal background of the deadly competition between countries for being “the best country in the world”). Ascherl and Wudy not only hate one another but love each other in a sense that they cannot live without one another, cannot live without hating one another. They‘re doomed to live to… compete for ontological superiority, as profit-makers are in the area of financial accumulation. That’s why after Ascherl’s death on the hard soil near the pub Wudy step by step began to sincerely suffer. Dead Ascherl cannot know that Wudy won. It means that Wudy didn’t prove to Ascherl that it is he, not Ascherl is the best guy in the world. With Ascherl’s death Wudy has lost his chance to be the best guy in the universe. So, he brings Ascherl’s corpse to the tavern and dance with it in front of fascinated drunkards. This resurrection of the dead rival also happened in recent times when the American decision-makers resurrected a whole country – the Soviet Union which objectively no longer exists since its dissolution on December 1991. Treating today’s Russia as if it’s still USSR with its megalomaniacal ideological pretentions is an example of resurrection of Ascherl by Wudy. American rich decision-makers obviously miss Soviet Union as global rival – they cannot differentiate between “the enemy” and just “another country”.
Herzog depicts Ascherl-Wudy relations as the representation of the psychology of the majority of the people. But the director in the “Heart of Glass” depicts also two intelligent reactions on the human condition. One is the life of Hias, the local seer and “sociologist”, and the other is behavior of the ruby glass factory owner, an aesthete and entrepreneur. Both “intellectuals”, artistic and scientific look for way out of ordinary existence – the admirer of ruby glass into the world of beauty, and Hias towards admiration of the natural world, like the most sensitive among today’s technical scientists.
Like the ruby glass worshipper’s reaction (on primitive quality of human survival around him) is not blindly worship the object but includes (his own) creative and aesthetic sophistication, Hias’s respect for nature has an intellectual component – curiosity toward nature’s functioning, the miraculous “mechanism” of its liveliness. This aspect of Hias’s admiration of natural world’s life is very close to today’s approach to reality by the techno-scientific reason. Behind the both, aesthetic/pragmatic and scientific/pragmatic reactions on existence lurks a tormenting disappointment with the social life and desperate search for an alternative reality. Behind the production of ruby glassware or desertion to nature we see the posture of today’s intelligent people trying to ignore socio-political problems of life by the sophistication of their professional or/and spiritual dedications. This trauma of escapist “disappointment in humanity” on part of intelligent people is the topic that Herzog in the “Heart of Glass” critically investigates without populist simplifications or sentimental accents.
While regular people (of Ascherl-Wudy kind) blindly compete and fight for domination, people gifted with holistic intelligence look for sublimated refuge in their intellectual interests. Both groups fail to have a deal productively with otherness of the others. Until exceptional people will not stop to escape from the truth of human nature, we will be living and dying inside the universe of “Heart of Glass”. This, it seems, is the ultimate concern of the creator of the film who so eloquently refers the viewers to the historical destiny of human race which keeps humanity’s future in its clutches, especially today, in 21st century when advanced economic manipulation and high-tech propaganda and entertainment tricks are used to keep people’s complexes in rigidly archaic state.
05 Sep 2016
This painting was banned by the Nazi regime and exhibited at the Degenerate art (Entartete Kunst) exhibition in Munich in 1937. During this exposition the most innovative artists of the time were mocked and labeled as cultural and political evil and anthropological deviation. To Emil Nolde’s horror (and to his honor) his name was among the “degenerate artists” and some of his works were on display as examples of degenerate art.
The truth of serious art awakening of hateful righteous indignation among conservatives of all stripes
Here we see in the same show room as in the previous photo, Nolde’s painting “Masks” – at the upper left corner. We can easily imagine Hitler and Goebbels’ “enlightened opinions” about it, surely, similar with that of the Russian Communist bosses or many today’s American neocons, if both categories of conservatives could be exposed to serious art.
The central semantic motif of the painting is “impersonated” by the mask in profile in the very center – it is the earthly monarchy of the absolute power in both senses – as a human despotism over other humans and as despotism of money over human beings in general (both signified as the might of the golden crown). The face-mask under the crown is charred by the obsession with power, which triggers apocalyptic blast – the face of the monarch is of the same color as the very backdrop of the painting – the color of a burned/scorched world.
But let’s take a look at the symbiotic unity between the (dark) monarchy (human power) and the demonic face/mask that symbolizes superhuman power (on the left of the painting) with a skin like a blue sky darkened, as if, by being locked underground (with the eyes swollen from the burned blood mixed with ashes). The both apocalypse triggering despotic powers – human and superhuman, act together. They share not only beard, but obsession with power and wealth. They are shown as glued to one another – the king’s with a golden crown and the devil’s heads are, as if, two monstrous growths on each other, as if, tumors of one another. They cannot be separated – they are the one piece yearning for domination over life to the point of exterminating it. The burned blind eyes of the golden-crown king look outside – they can see only the world transformed into ashes. The blindness of the monarch is the same as the blindness of the destroyed world. While the king/despot and the devil are both hurt by apocalyptic fires, the golden crown is intact and immortal. It is apocalypse-proven.
The human mask-head turned upside down signifies, it seems, life as a victim of man-made apocalypse. Its hallowed eyes of sadness, mouth of grief and the blue-green patches of makeup confirm that life’s fleshy existence has been killed. Life is a corpse. But it is not burning in spite of the flames behind – it’s a monument created by Nolde’s art of universal memory. By the power of creator the artist saved a dead life from being deformed – erased from the cosmic memory. The moment registered in this painting by Nolde can happen aftermath of nuclear catastrophe, when monarchic and demonic aspects of despotism are at their best on the way to absolute, ultimate domination.
The time depicted by Nolde in this painting of 1922, is his prophetic feeling about the future of humankind. The two corruptors and victimized human and the natural world look at us today from Nolde’s canvass. Could those Nazis looking at this painting on display at the Exhibition of Degenerate Art in Munich have felt in it something like human-made apocalypse? They could be emotionally troubled by Nolde’s work, felt disturbed by the artist’s horrifying truth about their own megalomaniacal arrogance of believing that they are exceptionally, superhumanly worthy in comparison with the rest of the world, believing that “our country” is the best and that in order to prove “our” superiority “we” are optimistically and heroically ready to destroy the world with inferior people, and then they rushed to misnomer Nolde’s paintings as an example of his degeneracy. For people with Nazi psychology wars of domination with its apocalyptic aura are a precondition of their happiness of feeling themselves superhuman.
Let’s look again at the reality according to how Nolde sees it in his “Masks”. The world is a giant field of charred flesh and ashes. The devil’s eyes burned by the nuclear catastrophe. The blood dried on the devil’s face, and the golden crown is the only thing left intact in the world. Gold/money is the ultimate and the only survivor of high-tech war. Human eyes emptied by the blasts and human face emptied by dead suffering.
But why neocon generals and hedge fund managers and Wall Street self-financiers of the 21st century have to worry about destruction of life in the new wars? Are they exceptional or not? They believe that with super-technology and super-soft wares they are. More, may be, they know techno-scientific secret of how to transform/transcend themselves into super-existential condition and then they will become forever invulnerable for noisy, smelly and furious planetary inferiors (even without devil’s help, who anyway, according to “degenerate artist” Nolde’s “appalling” representation, is crippled by nuclear holocaust).
01 Sep 2016
Nolde’s “Maskenstillleben 1911” is not his creative (festive) reaction on the reality of human life, but rather his skeptical reaction on artificial cheer into which mass culture of contemporary society has transformed human life – on a permanent pseudo-festivity, which people gluttonously consume. When people’s desire to celebrate life is transformed into somebody else’s business and becomes economy: systemic production of excitement and amusement, the previous participants of the (pre-modern) carnival found themselves as chronic consumers of entertainment. They lose their interest in being part of life and the feeling of unity between life’s serious and carnivalesque sides. Their identification with the new, corrupted (tickling their pockets) forms of festivity has become voracious, flattened (liberated not only from its existential context, but from the very meaning of human relations) and “instrumental”. People lose the sense of “seriousness” of playfulness. Truth and imagination lose their common melody. The festive ritual becomes boring, and people need more and more exaggerated stimulation of joy, which is the destiny of any type of consumerism. This “non-seriousness” of carnivalesque joyfulness is reflected by the background of Nolde’s painting – its melting light-blueness, as if, filling the masks’ eyes and mouths. Joke-ness of instrumental entertainment becomes superficial and inept.
Among five masks – the fundamental one – in the low left corner of the painting, represents the face of cheerful dough, with a smile without smiling, with the joy which is generic and abstract. It is, it seems, impersonation of the very consumer of entertainment. His or her face expresses a kind of absent-minded happiness, and the eyes are transparently empty.
The three masks – above the 1st one – represent generalized content of entertainment as mass-cultural structure.
The mask of the cat with gluttonous cheeks and severe expression is, at the same time, joyful and joke-full (it softens and normalizes the immanent predatoriness of life).
Next, to the right from the cat – is a horror mask. It expresses horror with intentional exaggeration (as if, the intention here is to make people get used to horror in order to be able to live with it as a normal part of human environment). According to this approach, horror has to be taken easily and become a “humorous” feature of life.
Farther to the right is gender-ambiguous mask/face (in today’s pop-semiotics – with LGBT connotation) – it is a mask of streamlined pop-star, with eyes which exist for whatever purpose except seeing, and where mouth too is to be looked at (it is not for talking, kissing or eating).
Finally, at the right margin of the painting, behind the other masks we see a blurry mask of… the creator of mass-cultural festivity. It is a magician/inventor of mass entertainment, the ingenious craftsman who has made his product a forever fixed background of today’s life. Its optimistic blue (the backdrop of Nolde’s painting) fills the eyes and mouths of all the masks and overwhelms souls of the inhabitants of post-democracy. The very mask-face of the creator of today’s tireless gala-entertainment is completely made from the excess of this soft paste-blue.
Four masks positioned by Nolde above the main one (the smiling dough) represent three ideas of mass-cultural entertainment plus the ironic tribute to the very creators of it. A severe cat, as if, storing food in its cheeks, personifies our fears kept under control. The next mask symbolizes hyperbolic representation of horror as entertainment. Then we see the universalized, all-embracing as glove for all sizes, glamor of the super-stars. And the final mask refers to the very craft and the craftsmen of high-tech entertainment as a science and a global production machine.
In a briefest way – each of the five masks represents – the first: consumer of entertainment, the next three – archetypes of entertaining appeal and, finally, personification of the creators of entertainment.
18 Aug 2016
“Lola” is a cinematic elaboration of the director’s concerns about mutation in a democratic system (as radical as it is camouflaged) which we all in USA and Europe are moving through in the 21st century. The film depicts and describes this mutation by stylistically grasping the very atmosphere of post-democratic life, when “forms of power are architectural and impersonal… [and] politics is post-ideological which means that critical disposition, symbolic gesture, political position, and everyday life are completely dissociated.” (Irmgard Emmelhainz, “Geopolitics and Contemporary Art: From Representation’s Ruin to Salvaging the Real”). Each person now has to be not only an applicant for a job, a “worry-er” about chances to get it plus a tireless fighter with rivals, but also – self-entrepreneur, self-advertiser and performer of the best image of his/her working abilities.
Fassbinder doesn’t want us to watch the film as those viewers who comfortably consume entertaining movies while combining them with “experiencing” Tramp-tower of ice-cream. He doesn’t want us to consume the film with generic attention. He even doesn’t give us enough time to read the subtitles and to think about what we just heard from the characters, who’re permanently rushing after success and scheming/planning their achievements.
The director gives us a practical lesson – if we want to understand the life we are part of, we cannot just swallow pop-corn while our eyes are glued to the magic screen where Lola is sweating with perfume, trying to satisfy her fans, customers and lovers to be able to proudly consume luxury in front of envy of others. She and others around her work as slaves and worry as if they are terminally ill – exactly as we all work outside the sacred time of consuming entertaining movies which make us dream as if while sleeping, because their creators profit on programming our dreams. In “Lola’s” characters we can recognize ourselves as we are – mutated, only if we’ll watch the film at least several times and make a special cognitive effort to comprehend that the democratic system became non-democratic not in the manner of the anti-democracies which are obviously different from democracies (as totalitarian or pre-democratic systems are). Post-democracies in the 21st century (which Fassbinder futuristically/realistically predicted in “Lola”) are capable to effectively mask their essence.
According to the film, the non-freedom and loss of dignity and self-respect in post-democracy are voluntarily accepted because people are quickly compensated through extra-satisfaction – materially-moneyrially and through imaginary pleasures. For example, many homeless in US today are equipped with iPhones and hour after hour/day after day watch animated cartoons and play video-games – activities which satisfy them so disarmingly that they feel proudly and euphorically patriotic (there are no homeless characters in “Lola”, and I use this example in order to help American viewers to understand what Fassbinder is telling us in his film). The poor are passionately dreaming of being wealthy through identification with millionaires as fictional and social figures, whom they can imitate in an imaginary way – just by feeling like them as they imagine them.
Imagination of the masses grows on the glamor of money as an existential fetish and impregnates people’s lives including their personal relations. Lola’s love with Esslin (Matthias Fuchs) – a romantic intellectual, is possible only through Schuckert’s money saving her and him from being on the bottom of the social hierarchy. Lola’s (Barbara Sukowa) relationship with Schuckert (Mario Adorf) is psychologically sophisticated unity of the very polarization of sex and entrepreneurial comradeship. And Lola’s relations with von Bohm (Armin Mueller-Stahl) – are based on marital ties fertilized by this couple’s participation in Schuckert’s public relations and business operations schemes. Various aspects of human togetherness – family, sex, eroticized power games and marriage become absolutely genuine and positive experiences only because the presence of extra-money impregnates and modifies the human soul. Money makes the human love sincere and vital, and only the nobility and dignity of human soul is lost, while human proclivity for disinterested behaviors and feelings is evaporated into sentimental echoes of idiosyncratic sensitivity. But according to the anti-democracy’s system of values it is a small price to pay for human happiness. Poverty of the soul of both rich and poor is not noticed when anti-democracy is taken for democracy. What was fakery and pretense in democracy, became the existential authenticity and genuine joy in post-democracy.
Song about economic and military globalism
Real estate business
Frank conversations in the restroom
It is rare moment, when Lola and Esslin feel as they felt before, at the beginning of their relationship, when they were naively, disinterestedly and dedicatedly happy, when their love and life were one.
Schuckert noticed Lola as a part time prostitute and became impressed with her “best ass in the NATO” and fascinated with her quick intelligence. He made her a full time businesswoman, cabaret singer and a creative profit-calculating partner. Together they became like a perverted father-figure and the precocious child. Her emancipated ambitiousness made even him learn some things from her. They are on the way to become equal partners. In post-democracy it is enough to be an exemplary success story.
Von Bohm is surrendering his pride, respectability and solidity to Lola’s femininity and irresistibility. He already made love with her. Now, after learning about her real status in the empire of Schuckert he is heroically decided to make love to her as a prostitute in order to redeem her past, as if, to baptize the harlot by and into marriage.
We don’t see Lola’s face because of the position of von Bohm’s head, and – his face by the same reason. Lola lovingly sells herself to his love (it is possible only in post-democracy by the small price of losing human faces)
The billionaire Schuckert is in a place where, as he likes to say, “We are all equal”. But in all another places it is for Schuckert – money the effective instrument of post-democratic equality (that is, equality of belonging to the same existential hierarchy).
The role of the American GI (Gunther Kaufmann) in the world of “Lola” is like the role of militaries in the global economy – they are everywhere in the world but “without too much publicity” about it. Pay attention that this particular individual is left-handed and human relations enthusiast – in the context of the film it means that he is very active in a certain private trade. He is not just a soldier (in post-democracy nobody has just one profession or occupation), he is more – he is a businessman.
15 Aug 2016
Poster and Publicity Photos advertising Malle’s “Lacombe, Lucien”
This poster focuses the viewers’ attention on the question – why a simple country boy who never thought in political terms could join the French police “collaborating” with Nazi occupation. Malle invokes the sociological reasoning to answer this question. The poster suggests that the hero of the film didn’t just impulsively join the collaborationists, but thought about what to do, and this makes the task of understanding his decision even more interesting and important. Lucien looks at swastika as entomologist – at insect.
Amidst a national campaign of mass deportation of Jews to concentration camps Lucien is psychologically locked between a beautiful girl of a Jewish ethnicity and her powerless and desperate father who, naturally, feels “suspicious” about “this young hoodlum working for the Nazis”, who brings to his daughter expensive presents, which she isn’t even free to refuse.
Lucien as he is
Lucien and the French collaborators with Nazi Germany
Lucien’s new buddies in the French secret police are teaching him how to use a gun. Pay attention that as the target for their target practice they use the portrait of… Marshal Petain, the Chief of State of Vichy France (1940-1944). The reason is that Petain was not respected by many of his followers who were on the German side not because of ideological reasons but because of salaries and financial opportunities their work provided.
By looking at Lucien in a company of German SS soldier we don’t get the impression that he is really an ally of the Germans. Indeed, he wasn’t sympathizing with the occupiers of France. He was just pretending, and not even too persuasively.
Lucien Lacombe and the Jewish family of his beloved
Albert Horn, France’s father is a tailor – this is the only reason he and his family weren’t sent to concentration camp (one of the police bosses used his craft free of charge). So, Albert worked to postpone his and his family’s deportation.
Eventually Albert made a tormenting decision – to sacrifice his life for the sake of saving his daughter with… Lucien’s help. He started to trust him despite his repulsion for him for being part of the French pro-Nazi forces. He started to believe that witnessing his sacrifice can make Lucien’s readiness to protect his daughter France stronger, that Lucien is the only chance to save her life.
France’s grandmother (Therese Gehse) is ready to die – she is expecting for the Gestapo to show up at any time, but she doesn’t know yet that she and France will be saved by the effort of “this traitor Lucien”
Lucien Lacombe and the only love in his life – the girl named France
The first night between France and Lucien happened in a standard room in the same building which Vichy police used for its headquarter (there was no room for them in her father’s place) – god often frames human happiness with monstrous incrustations (probably, in such cases he makes a deal with the devil – or moments of human happiness couldn’t happen at all)
Lucien and a patriotic propagandist
People of social hierarchy, even if they’re on its bottom but accept the hierarchical principle, are prone to use righteous propagandist speeches, as this resistance fighter whom Lucien doesn’t want to torture or kill.
The principle of hierarchical structure of social power, which is deeply rooted in human societies is, expectedly, antagonistic to the principles of equality and justice equally rooted in human unconscious. This contradiction is foundational part of our nature, a split within creation. We, humans are social by nature, but some of us have a problem with how our social nature is structured by relations of power. Fierce fight for a place in the social hierarchy and fight for domination between groups and countries is destiny of humans, like also an idealistic fight against the very hierarchical and domination based principle of human existence. Traditional totalitarian societies don’t make idealistic fuss about the hierarchical nature of human relations, but totalitarian countries with embellished ideological façade (like Soviet Union) and formal democracies, while loudly proclaiming “goodness” and “rightness” of equality, justice and fairness had/have their own ways to promote and even perfect the hierarchical divisions between human beings.
Those who find themselves at the bottom of the social hierarchy and countries under occupation, control and forced influence of another countries will inevitably try to rebel. Their resentment and their desire to live “like others” – those who are above them, will go to the surface. Something like this happened with Lucien Lacombe, the guy not only without any political preferences, but any political or ideological passions, who suddenly decided to join the French police collaborating with the Nazi occupation of France. He is a goodhearted village boy, but several events – his mother’s remarriage, his step-father’s authoritarian and indifferent position towards him, and refutation of a school teacher – one of the leaders of the local resistance group, to accept him as a member (because of fear that Lucien is too young for serious dedication and can endanger the whole organization) – triggered his growing interest in alternative social hierarchy – those who worked in collaboration with Nazis.
Lucien didn’t have any political orientation or interests. He was just… at the bottom. And being a teenager he had greed for living, for becoming somebody. His mother betrayed him easily and without any melodrama – she, a widow, just matter-of-factly accepted the formal and bossy behavior of her new husband toward her son, as if there was no for an elder man the other way to behave in this situation (Lucien never revenged her and even regularly financially helped her out). Lucien lost his home and had to start from nothing. He is a maverick, he doesn’t like to appeal to others for help or to fight for a place in the social hierarchy.
When conflict between two countries is brewing, to a substantial degree it is a conflict between the hierarchical elites of these countries, which usually not only successfully survive wars but make financial profits on it. Because these decision-makers need the majority of the population to be ready to sacrifice themselves in war, they invent jingoism/flagriotism to frighten the people not to betray them. They identified their own interests with that of the country and they made “treason” the top sin/crime. For Lucien the way up in the French hierarchy was closed and frozen. His reasons for joining the Vichy police wasn’t based on love for power and money, like it was the case for his new buddies – people who was lacking basic decency. Amongst them Lucien Lacombe was like a white crow or a black sheep. During his work for Vichy police he didn’t kill a one French person, by risking his life he saved a Jewish family, and he killed SS-soldier. After war the French tribunal could take into consideration his record by studying his case more scrupulously. But war is war – it is not only hate, it is indifference.
France’s father – Albert Horn, at first was alarmed when Lucien proclaimed that he wanted to marry France. And he detested this French boy who joined police working for Gestapo. Only step by step to his contempt for Lucien was added the belief that Lucien can help, more – save his daughter and his old mother, if Albert will show him what real love and courage are. Albert still didn’t rely on Lucien’s love for France to be able to make him endanger his own life in order to save hers. But he believed that if Lucien will see that Albert’s will voluntary surrender himself to the Vichy police, Lucien will be impressed by a father’s heroism and will feel a moral obligation to help. So, between the two men – father of France and her young lover took place mute (never formulated or even hinted at) pact, a kind of hypothetical moral agreement which made one to give his life to the barbarians to give a chance for his daughter and mother to be saved from extermination by Lucien’s heroic effort. Malle shows us in his film that in an exceptionally dangerous circumstances this type of future oriented implied moral agreement can enlarge the chain of heroic behavior. Heroism of the old man made teenager a hero. Of course, I am sure, that when post-war criminal court was sentencing Lucien to death, he didn’t even try to persuade the judges to decide in his favor – for him it could mean his moral weakness to use for his own advantage what was a sacred silent mutual agreement between him and his beloved’s father.
It is that, as if, to die unjustly after doing something exceptionally good could be more moral than to fight for justice for yourself. It is, as if, a truly moral act ought to be disinterested – not rewarded by a world where everybody fights for his/her personal advantage and where sacred disinterestedness is lost. As we see, the old man‘s self-sacrifice is not the most moral thing Albert-the Jewish tailor has done, it is his moral pedagogy with the young boy who lost himself by joining a group of egoistic immoral philistines only to find himself by saving innocent people. With Albert’s help Lucien has transcended the very dichotomy between patriots and traitors where both sides belong to its own hierarchy of inequality and fight for superiority of material and moral power. In a Christian world to transcend the law of hierarchy is a much more radical victory over rivaling, competing and fighting sides. Saint Albert made Lucien Lacombe-the-traitor and -the enemy a Saint.
06 Aug 2016
When infantilization of human psyche (achieved by mass culture making from people consumerists) is taking place simultaneously with the intensification of the development of technical (calculating/manipulating) mind,
We have nominally an adult creature with a heart of a child, soul of an infant and “thinking” of a robot.
Such bizarre organisms’ perception of the world is inevitably superficially banal and innocently vulgar – they need self-assertion: self-realization through fighting, appropriating, consuming and possessing – things, services, images, and opinions, and identification with leaders, the wealthy and super-stars in order to aggrandize their selves.
When robotic efficiency is combined with a childish ignorance about fragility of life, we witness a lethal blend of technical efficiency and inability to care about sustainability of life.
Combination of enhanced technical thinking and a lack of psychological sensitivity (as necessary ingredient of rational adulthood) is lethal – children without adults are in danger. They endanger themselves and everything else, and especially in the very moments they feel ecstatically strong and euphorically invincible.
Psychologically speaking, we are not born yet (our actions in the world are chaotic movements of our limbs). We are embryos armed with technologically advanced tools. And for us it is so easy and natural, just for the sake of momentarily feeling great, to destroy the planetary womb.
02 Aug 2016
The theft of Christian spirit of brotherhood by the Church’s hierarchical organization;
The theft of humanistic socialism (imagined by the young Marx) by Soviet totalitarianism;
The theft of the economy’s humane potentials by obsession with profit;
The theft of Democracy by (greedy) consumerism;
The theft of human prosperity by neo-conservative ideas of austerity and privatization/reduction of Social Security;
The theft of (people’s) psychological energy by Pokemon(-Go);
The theft of human environment by the oil- and coal-nivorous fracking entrepreneurs;
The justly justified right to defend “our country” against predatory enemies by the manipulative ideas of global domination, preventive strike and by overwhelming the whole world military spending.
01 Aug 2016
Being turned upside down and squeezed – like this pink/orange face-head (second from the left) – is the destiny of being young, which dooms us to nomadic adventure through childhood to adulthood (from one planet to another), where we, who are not yet adults, feel ourselves as refugees until we become one with our new mask. In Nolde’s painting this forced mutation of our being is represented in the left half of the canvass, where we are squeezed between two masks – the red one in profile, with an intense and self-enjoying smile ripe with laughter, and the yellow one where laughter has unexpectedly turned into cry – is inseparable from cry.
We psychologically grow from our adolescence/youth to our adult perception of life between these two kinds of laughter. When we are laughing/crying – is it about our past laughter at adulthood? Or, perhaps, about this previous life back then when our yearnings we perceived as an action, in comparison with our life in adulthood which consists of conquering or being conquered? Or, are we laughing/crying about our past’s idealism and hopefulness? Our radiant narcissism? Our naïve judgmentalism? Our youthful moralism? Obviously, too many reasons for adulthood to laugh or/and cry about our childhood and youth.
We don’t have much of a choice with our two emotional/instinctive postures – laughing at adulthood and later laughing/crying about our youthful naiveté, when life for us is a projection of the gray/green old man/spirit or ghost, who not only knows the reality but creates it by his cruel mind and with his otherworldly beard, with his mouth belching commands, orders and threats.
As the two masks of our two kinds of laughter mark our destiny on the left part of the painting, the old man-the terrible with a metaphysical beard is located in an upper right part of the painting over the mask of our final condition (with giant ears opened as human arms greedy for embrace). The old despot with green-brown face is separated from the yellow mask of our adulthood and from our death-mask, with a bright yellow cord-rope. The death-mask refers not to death as something different from dying, but to very dying of a human being whose eyes are so greedy for the world of the living that they look like the eyes of a skull – the more greedy for the visual impressions a human being is, the less he is able to see. And his mouth is opened so wide as if he wants to swallow the whole world, as if, he is moaning for compassion, for air, for food. The same with the mask’s ears – the bigger they are – the deeper, the more absolute the deafness is. His/our ears are like opened hands ready to grab a world which is already no longer ours.
But it’s not only dying that is blind. Youth physically can see (we notice the pupil of the “blueish eye” of the dark-red mask), but psychologically aren’t able to – young people are turned away from life passively but energetically rolling ahead. But the eyes of all the other inhabitants of life are not able to see, neither adulthood, nor the old man-the terrible or the dying human being. Through their eyes we can see the background of the world, and this includes god or the bearded wise man. And the brightest – shining sunny yellow on the face of the dying one is the last salute from the life.
Oh, that dense smile of the young human being who is turned away from the personages of existential drama and his own destiny – the young semi-hide from the adults their laughter at them – they are in charge of life.
Dirtied rotting green is the backdrop of life, and our blind way ahead and down (emphasized by the composition of Nolde’s painting) frames the vitality Nolde’s masks radiate! How brightly the colors of ours lives shine! How generous the painters’ talent scrupulously and elegiacally depicting our way from the beginning to the end! Three masks in the painting represent the three stages of our life. One personifies somebody like a demiurge of human destiny, and the one depicts the very transition from childhood and youth to adulthood (clash of two vitalities) – the most demonic event of human destiny, much more tormenting than the final transition from dying to death.