Acting-Out Politics

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

Identification with The Dead (Sacrifice Of Philistine Vitality), Impersonalization (Psychological Shattering), And Overcoming Of Spirituality Of Beauty Through (Nomadic) Creativity


Three spirits came to me
And drew me apart
To where the olive boughs
Lay stripped upon the ground:
Pale carnage beneath bright mist.

Ezra Pound

Instead of enjoying April as the philistines of every nationality do with babbling vitality, melting hearts and roaring erections, Pound’s lyrical hero gives himself over to the three spirits to pull him apart into identification with dead nature victimized by winter. Instead of praising the “bright mist” by hot tears of spring hope he perceives it as a shroud of corpses of the life’s victims – the poet eccentrically, absurdly refuses to forget about “pale carnage” beneath the surface of life. This depersonalization of the poet’s psyche keeps it intact from the repressive vigor of living imposed on human beings, and instead allows him to keep his creative need alive. Spirituality here is depicted as identification with death through fragmentation.

An Object

This thing that hath a code and not a core,
Hath set acquaintance where might be affections,
And nothing now
Disturbeth his reflections.

Ezra Pound

“An object”, a thing is an identity ready-made for the poet as a member of society, which, in experience registered in this poem, is offered to him with Devil’s resourcefulness in order to occupy him with trying to achieve desirable and predictable effects – recognition, fame and a respectable place within the social hierarchy, in order to distract him from his “anarchic” interests and dedications. “An object” is a human being transformed into a thing, a social cell, a creature oriented on “acquaintances” which can flower into “affections” and nurture the poet’s personality by stabilizing his “reflections” (his narcissistic self-images) and by this helping the poet to make a living. Then, instead of connecting himself with otherness, the lyrical soul becomes an “object”-oriented “object” and personification of the loss amidst social functionality and instrumentalism of heteronomous survival.


Lighthearted I walked into the valley wood
In the time of hyacinths,
Till beauty like a scented cloth
Cast over, stifled me, I was bound
Motionless and faint of breath
By loveliness that is her own eunuch.
Now pass I to the final river
Ignominiously, in a sack, without sound,
As any peeping Turk to the Bosphorus.

Ezra Pound

Spirituality of beauty as a complete self-realization is “stifling” the poet by the posture of a silent and “motionless” admiration. If there could be such a thing as positive suffocation this would be it – “loveliness is her own eunuch”. It made us castrated by absolute plenitude with irresistibly poisonous flavor. After becoming final prisoner of beauty – nothing else is possible except “the final river” (towards death), which becomes the way out, through the back door. Beauty is the ultimate achievement, it is solar narcissist. And if we still want to prolong our life – our way to death, we have to step into ignominy, isolation, miserable solitude and (poetic) muteness. And like “the Bosphorus is for the peeping Turk” we are doomed to seek poetic paths where we are not in life, not in death, but in the enchanted torment, where we will talk in a post-mute, broken (poetic) language. Revenge of beauty is final. We are lost on the roads to our death, and we don’t know what we shall meet at the end, may be, something worse than death. Conversion from being a prisoner of beauty to the barefooted poetic nomadism is a condemnation, and nothing can be done about it.

Forest of hyacinths

Hyacinths in the forest

Ezra Pound

Ezra Pound – 1885 - 1972
Ezra Pound – 1885 – 1972

Ezra Pound in his late years

In “April” spirituality of identification with the dead leads the poet away from life. In “An Object” impersonalization in the form of psychological shattering inseparable from social conformism, distracts the individual being from (poetic) existence. And in “Conversion” the nomadic torments of poetic creativity prevails over the spirituality of beauty.

Jean-Luc Godard with a camera, still stubbornly, unstoppably, beautifully himself

JLG is trying to explain something to the interviewer, but his eyes tell us that in spite of knowing perfectly well in what kind of a world he lives in today, he still can’t help but be surprised at the mental condition of the person he is communicating to.

“Film Socialisme” is not about “socialism” but – the direction of Western civilization obsessed with “technological and material progress” towards more wealth and power. The film consists of three parts – the luxury liner’s cruise towards a “promising future”, life in a French provincial city symbolizing the “backward” back-yard of our civilization, and a poetic representation of the repressed and the pauperized people’s struggle for human dignity in various parts of the world. If the first two parts are fictional, the third consists of Godard’s montage of clips and stills from fictional and documentary films that were shot at different times by filmmakers of various nationalities.

The plot of the film is dominated by the description of the destiny of two families – a previous high SS-rank Otto Goldberg, big scale thief of public money, and his two grandchildren (corrupted by consumerism and amorously fixated on each other as a psychological compensation), and the garage owners in rural France and their two children (searching for meaning of life and oriented on psychological growth).

Each part is constructed in a different stylistic paradigm. Life of the passengers on the “ship of progress” moving towards a more technological and financial power, is depicted by a combination of two clashing ideas – that of the social/financial elite and that of the crowd of demos. By this paradoxical blend: by showing the rich as the crowd, Godard is making a point about the spiritual emptiness and psychological impoverishment of many in today’s Western population where poor are prone to be idolatrous of the rich and dream to belong to the financial elites. Godard shows the wealthy as spiritual bums and psychologically homeless. The small business people of the second part of the film, on the other hand, are sensitive and existentially intelligent, not with calculating but with human minds, and psychologically whole – their depiction is not “generalized”, Godard addresses them with an inexhaustible curiosity and compassion. It is here that Godard creates the most startling images of the film, like an incredible pantomime of mutual beyond-bodily recognition between a son and his mother.

The third part of the film is visually musical and emotionally tormenting. We see the cruelty of power, lust of wealth, indifference of prosperity, the bleeding public realm, emotional violence and absence of grace. And we see human suffering and human heroism of continuous fight for justice, equality and humanity. The film establishes the film director as a visionary spokesman for the human destiny in 21st century.

The wife of a small business owner in rural France is running for local office and is making a film clip with her daughter for her election campaign

People are on their way to the city while the liner on which they travel to the “future” is on one of its stops. They look so confident when they are together on the cruise ship, but they are just prosaic ants outside it.

This is not a portrait of global petro-corporation. It is the very gaze of oil transformed into gasoline – the gaze of 21st century human destiny looking at humans.

In an epoch of absolute monarchy of global corporations a small businessman finds himself as a new kind of proletarian. From the one side, he faces pauperization as a result of “austerity” that is in the process of being imposed by the wealthy decision makers, but from another side, he keeps his humanity in the world of robots and abstract calculations.

Posted on Nov 25 2012 –   Jean-Luc Godard’s “Film Socialisme” (2010) – Prophetic Cinematic Discourse of Compassion, Grief, Truth and Future  by Acting-Out Politics

“Our Lady of the Assassins” starts as if it’s a commercial movie but quickly expands its horizons. It is a shockingly honest representation of how elder males in today’s societies, especially those occupying social positions of wealth and power, treat the youth. The amorous relationship between a rich and well educated middle-age man and a young boy, who was forced, because the poverty of his mother to become not only a petty drug dealer but a paid assassin sucked into the drug gangs’ turf war, became Schroeder’s sad comment about the desperate destiny of the young ones in today’s world.

Is Fernando, a writer who has returned with the intention to retire, to the place of his birth – Medellin (Colombia), in love with Alexis whom he met at a gay party and invited to live together in his spacious condo? Closeness to the youngster’s soul and body makes Fernando feel himself rejuvenated. And Alexis’ spontaneous intelligence made the elder man feel consoled – he likes to share with his new friend stories about his life. But while watching the film we gradually notice that Fernando doesn’t make any effort to help Alexis to become liberated from his drug bosses and, may be, even move toward an educated and honest life. When they both go out of Fernando’s place the boy serves as his bodyguard and several times saved Fernando’s life – Medellin streets are full of not only nostalgic memories and seductive prospects but real dangers.

Through the film Schroeder emphasizes two ways the elder males tend to use young people. First is using them as recruits for wars of profit or as laborers for pittance. Adult males with conservative sensibility use teenagers like this for centuries. But how men with liberal sensibility use youth? There is no socio-systemic sadism towards the young person in relationship between Fernando and Alexis, but instead there are elegantly indifferent narcissistic games on part of the wealthy person. This manner of using youth doesn’t contradict sincere and kind feelings. It only points at their limited scope.

While the “conservative” use of the young is personified in the film by the Colombian drug mafia bosses, the essence of “liberal” use became clear when Alexis is killed by the rivaling gang, and this caused Fernando’s sincere suffering. He was able quickly find another boy of the same age as Alexis – Wilmar, who also grown in the slums and was connected with the drug lords, the main employer of teenagers in this area. Soon Wilmar was also killed by still another rivaling gang – by over-armed kids like Wilmar and Alexis.

Criminal boys-victims passionately pray to the Virgin because of being “bad”, becoming assassins, living in the slums. They pray for an easy and painless death of those whom they are assigned to kill.

The level of realistic acting in the film is quite high, especially the performance by Anderson Ballesteros in the role of Alexis, who has grown since Schroeder’s film into a professional movie actor.

Barbet Schroeder

Fernando’s amorously confessing gaze directed at Alexis, communicates bottomless sincerity and unlimited dedication, but it contradicts Fernando’s inability to do anything real to help Alexis to change the direction of his life towards freedom from poverty and independence from the drug lords. Probably, relationship between Fernando and Alexis is part of the same environment of extreme contrast between the haves (choosers and decision makers) and have-nots (passive followers of the circumstances created by others).

Fernando buys for Alexis gifts, feeds him and feels himself generous and hospitable, a kind of unconditional helper of the needy. It is a very pleasant feeling when the grateful happiness of another person depends on our beneficial deeds.

To save Fernando‘s life Alexis had to shoot and kill. And after Fernando lectures him about the “badness” of violating God’s Commandment

Not knowing how to defend himself – he killed for the sake of saving Fernando’s life, Alexis takes all the guilt to himself, his own conscience. That’s how rulers have kept power over population for centuries – not only by direct repression, but using moralistic ideological armament to subdue the uneducated poor, by playing on people’s guilty feelings. Rulers, yes, but aren’t we here talking about a good, kind, generous and disinterested Fernando who took Alexis to live with him in his spacious apartment?

Posted on March 18 2014 –   Barbet Schroeder’s “Our Lady of the Assassins/La virgen de los sicarios” (2000) – Socio-systemic Sadism Towards Young People, And On the Other Hand, Narcissistic Games Of Consuming Their Vitality by Acting-Out Politics

Pasolini’s Directorial Interpretation of Shakespeare’s Play

Pier Paolo passionately “demands” from the text he is reading a revelatory significance. We all have to learn to read like this.

Pier Paolo with a movie-camera is ready to let it open to him important truths. We need to learn to work with camera like this.

The 1st variant

The fact that the art of Shakespeare is perceived in history is represented in the film by the two additional characters Pasolini combines with the ones created by Shakespeare in his “Othello”. One is the puppet-master and the other is the garbage man. What the great playwright considers as spontaneous human complexes is for Pasoloni result of manipulation of human soul by certain conditions of life which make insecurity a basic rule of living. Permanent uncertainty in our human value prevents us from perceiving.

Shakespearean art existentially – instead of analytically comparing the characters of his plays with our life we transform them into idealized “puppets” whom we play with and whom we worship. The result, which Pasolini describes in the film is that Shakespeare’s characters as carriers of serious meaning are dying with each post-Shakespearean generation. Instead we are enjoying them as something like animated decorations.

The 2nd variant

The fact that the great classic works of art are perceived through history made Pasolini to analyze not only “Othello’s” images but how we understand them since the time of their creation. So, in addition to the Shakespearean characters Pasolini introduces two additional ones personifying our very relations with Shakespeare’s play. They are a puppet-master and the garbage man. Both are metaphorize what the viewers and readers of “Othello” for several centuries have psychologically been doing with the play.

According to Pasolini, instead of analytically connecting the ”immortal characters” with our life we transform them into idealized puppets, whom we can then play with, into whom we project our need for the sublime, and whom we worship as idols of aesthetic perfection. The result is that these puppets of our perception rooted in Shakespearean images – are dying with every post-Shakespearean generation. We, without understanding this, transform them into a kind of animated decorations, children of theatrical stage.

Toto plays Shakespear’s Iago not naively – as a treacherous and a deceitful person, as the personification of the very essence of human cunningness. His Iago is not “Iagoistic” by essence. He rather makes a decision to become “Iago” because he wants to achieve certain goals which demand from him to behave “Iagoistically”. Toto’s grimace here is not an expression of the character’s essence but a mask, a makeup (this explains why Pasolini makes Iago’s makeup so obviously noticeable). That’s how regular people become immoral and “bad” – thieves, betrayers, robbers, murderers, torturers. They need money they don’t have, they need jobs they don’t have, they want to be left alone by “foreigners”. They want to be appreciated, they want to get education without being drown in debt, they want to have a good position in their own society. So, they start to act out in order “to survive” and “to succeed” and they put on Iago’s makeup of a crafty manipulator to achieve it.

Posted Jan 30 2010 –    From Deconstruction of Shakespeare’s “Othello” to the Deconstruction of History – Pier Paolo Pasolini’s “What are Clouds?” (1965) by Acting-Out Politics

RWF (1945 – 1982)

Among numerous semantic whirlpools to which Fassbinder’s film exposes the viewers – the relationship between Franz and Reinhold is the most intriguing and intellectually challenging, even more than Franz’ relationship with Eva, Mieze, Lina or Meck, his resistance to participate in workers’ politico-economic struggle, his “political conservatism”, his “idealism” or history of his “moral” struggle with himself, and many other topics, issues and enigmas.

The film becomes more and more relevant to the situation in US in the beginning of 21st century when mass pauperization of population (becoming less and less liberally educated) helps to reduce psychological life to basic archetypes of feelings and thinking. Fassbinder demonstrates that these “Biblical” archetypes of perception of the world and behavior are still very far from being understood as they form and express themselves in an atmosphere of psycho-cultural fascization characteristic of the 1920’s when the events of “Berlin Alexanderplatz” takes place.

RWF (to the right), Gunter Lamprecht/Franz Biberkopf (in the center) and Xaver Schwarzenberger (the cameraman)

Franz (Gunter Lamprecht) and Mieze (Barbara Sukova)

Franz and Reinhold, the “eternal couple” of Western civilization

Reinhold (Gottfried John) and Mieze (Barbara Sukova) in the fatal forest

Berlin Alexanderplatz
Franz and Reinhold, Reinhold and Franz, each thinks himself superior to the other. Objectively, Franz is emotionally stronger, more confident in his feelings, much deeper rooted ontologically, while Reinhold is less stable, more impulsive, needs violence to protect himself against Franz’s power of being.

Franz talks to God-Father, to the God-Son and to the Holy Spirit through metaphorical vehicles of beer, schnapps and personal experience

Reinhold sees Franz in prison where they have to pretend they don’t know each other

Relationships between Franz and Reinhold are paradigmatic for the human culture. It is a moral distance between Gandhi and Churchill, Allende and Pinochet, Kennedy and Nixon, Bukharin and Stalin, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and “survivalists by any means” under totalitarian regimes. And it is a spiritual distance between people like Samuel Clemens, William Faulkner, Godard or Fassbinder and craftsmen exchanging entertainment for enterpayment. Relationships between Franz and Reinhold are modeled on the relationship between archetypal (not doctrinal) Good and Evil.

It is relationships between those who are ontologically (not by dogma) prone to feel existential goodness as their frame of reference, even when they do some evil, and those who spontaneously tend to feel unity with the Evil (who know deep inside that they are on the side of the Evil) even when they do some Good. Well, the matter here is psychologically tricky. If, for example, Hitler or Stalin were quite conscious that they did Evil for the sake of what they believed is Good (promotion of the interests of superior race over inferior ones, of the “shining truth” of communist agenda over the “wrongs of imperialism”, or the right of the “best ever” political system to “transform” the “wrong” ones), people like Cheney or Bush-Junior can sincerely believe that their monstrous behaviors are not immoral at all but outright good because the borders between different segments of their psyche are messed up (such non-differentiation between Good and Evil is typical of the people with a lagging psychological and intellectual development who believe in Evil as normal people believe in Good, for whom the infantile nature of their way of believing transforms everything they touch into Good). But Franz Biberkopf and Reinhold Hoffmann are not only ideal types about whom it is possible to make generalizations anchored in the philosophical ability of both characters to be honest with themselves – to know, to feel their own essence. They both, even taken naively, as human beings and not personages of work of art, have reached a level of psychological wholeness – they both have an identity – they know when their motivations and reactions are morally right or wrong.

Whatever Franz does, and sometimes he does terrifying things, he knows that he is answerable to Good, responsible in front of it, and he suffers for his inability to sustain this responsibility. He knows that he is a sinner but his frame of reference is the scale of Goodness. And whatever Reinhold does he knows that he is lost for Good, that he is abandoned by it, and he suffers by being alone – with Evil. It is Reinhold’s genius – to understand that he is on the side of…

Posted on March 26, 2011 –   Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s “Berlin Alexanderplatz” (1982) – Franz and Reinhold, the “Eternal Couple” of Western Civilization  by Acting-Out Politics

Maurice Pialat (1925 – 2003)

“L’Enfance Nue” describes the situation of children abandoned by their parents to quickly start to comment about a much more widespread phenomenon of child neglect in today’s society. According to the film, the physical abandonment of children is the psychological essence of child neglect. By depicting the destiny of a foster child, Francois – his way to criminality as a violent way of self-assertion, and by analyzing the details of his behavior, Pialat points out the inadequacy of the very organization of the care for abandoned, abused and neglected children in modern society.

Foster parents often don’t understand that the abandoned children are not just abandoned but traumatized by this and that they search for reasons why this happened to them and expect this to happen again. With all the best intentions parents-volunteers don’t know that it is not enough to love a child – traumatized child is mistrustful of adults’ love and is prone to unconsciously resist their influence and authority. Many foster parents (full of best intentions and sincere desire to help) cannot unconsciously forgive the child whom they adopted, for his/her emotional “resistance” (but this “resistance” is based not on “stubbornness” or “bad nature” but on child’s fear that the new parents will not accept the newcomer into their family and that again he/she will be refused and thrown out. Child can try to hurt himself or adults attempting to help him (or, as with Francois, to hurt the world of adults in general) not because he is “evil” looking for the way to destroy “good”, but because the young ego can think only in terms of attributing behavior to the will of those who act, not to “abstract” determinants making people behave in a certain way, not conditions of life (including ideological dogmas and religious superstitions) influencing people from their childhood and adulthood, forming people’s psychological proclivities and reactions. But aren’t adults feeling the same like children? And aren’t human laws are created by these adults who are like children, children inside adults? For the child it is either he is guilty for being abandoned or people who abandon him or those who are similar with them, like for adults it is child who is responsible for his misbehavior. Foster parents have to be helped to learn more about child psychology in order to react to the child’s ambivalent feelings less sentimentally.

The film is involving and scrupulous research into the psychology of child’s emotional trauma. Some performers from the first glance may look as not professional actors but again and again they surprise the viewers with amazing emotional elaborations of their characters’ reactions. The film is a “fiction” which is more “verite” than many documentaries.

Proper child-rearing starts with humanistic education of parents, but this can happen only if a whole society will invest in it.

Francois is an intelligent and a sensitive child who was already refused by several foster parents for stubbornness, non-compliance and disobedience, for having, as if, some kind of a hermetic box inside his head which the adults couldn’t penetrate with their love and which is always full of unpleasant and unexpected surprises. In his last foster home he met the bedridden old woman who, it seems, became his last chance – she didn’t treat him like a dependent child who fell on her shoulders with expectations and demands, but she simply started to share with him her own impressions and feelings about human life.

This old woman, who wasn’t his foster parent at all and showed interest in his real reactions, tastes and desires, was Francois’ last hope. He became emotionally fixated on her, rapport with her became so important for his life. But children (and adults) who are already traumatized are more vulnerable for the deprivations – when the old woman suddenly died, Francois immediately returned to destructive behavior, and his adversity towards the world of adults became more pronounced than before.

Francois in a rare moment of being hopeful

Family meal in one of Francois’ foster families is as “serious”, gloomy and boring as his whole destiny, in spite of his new parents’ awkward but sincere attempts to care for him. For abandoned children it is especially difficult to feel themselves happy as a part of a family unit. They tend to withdraw into themselves, become in one moment manically overactive, and in another depressed.

Posted on June 27 2011 –   Maurice Pialat’s “L’Enfance Nue” (1968) – Stationary Society vs. Children’s Existential Adventurism by Acting-Out Politics

“Chinese Roulette” takes as a point of departure seemingly normal for adults of all countries situation when parents assess and judge their children and their behavior during their childhood, and turns it all upside down. In CR it is the child – a precocious adolescent girl, Angela, who assesses and judges the ideas and behavior of her parents and the adult world in general. More, Angela “investigates” her parents’ internal world and, to complete the outrage, performs with them a sort of psychoanalytic session in a form of a quite cruel psychodrama – to give them couple of lessons about wisdom, courage, decency and their deeply prejudicial unconscious complexes and their psychotic compensations.

To help us to understand how Angela managed to become a pedagogue of her parents, Fassbinder unfolds before the viewers a symbolic plot depicting Angela’s predicament of being the reason for her parents’ disappointment in her for not-being the perfect child. This disappointment becomes the engine of a deep psychological trauma for both of her parents, to the point of pushing them to engage in irrational behavior. It is this behavior by which Angela’s mother and father – charming, successful, educated and sophisticated people try, unconsciously, to compensate themselves for having a crippled child, becomes the focus of Angela’s (and Fassbinder’s) intellectual adventure into understanding her parents’ emotional deficits and mental problem.

The manner of the acting in the film is as much characteristic of Fassbinder’s cinema as it is the opposite of Hollywood tradition of acting centered on mimic and intonational acting out (on delivery of emotions outside, under the very eyelashes of the viewers). In CR motivations of the characters don’t jump out of them like jinni from the bottle and must be interpreted by the viewers following the subtle cues. Characters’ emotions are like deep underwater currents characterizing the life of the soul of the personalities we see on the screen. Actors deliver performances not to tickle or scratch our perception (in order to produce cathartic emotional response) but to give us chance to understand the unconscious motivations of people involved in not easily resolvable conflicts described in the film.

Andrea Schober in the role of Angela Christ, opposing her mother and father’s worldview and behavior based on it, was able to act the emotional and spiritual alternative to the world of her parents, and meet the emotional power of Margit Carstensen playing her mother Ariane Christ.

This is symbolic close up of Angela’s mother (Margit Carstensen) – Fassbinder’s parody on Ariane’s suffering because of the fact of her daughter’s physical crippleness, suffering connected with her dreams about perfect child (motif responding to the behavior of Martha, the protagonist of American film “Who is Afraid of Virginia Wolf?” – Mike Nichols, 1965)

Angela’s amazing precocious mind concentrating on her parents’ reaction on her illness, made her not only a talented amateur psychologist, but a spiritual pedagogue of her parents’ condition.

Angela’s psychodrama with her parents created the situation that forces them to make a choice between their destiny as a parental couple and their corresponding love affairs outside their family enclave. In this shot what looks like triumph of love over the ontological and spiritual failure to produce a perfect progeny, is, in reality, use of love as a compensation for this failure – the decision to stay together in spite of this failure, a very bonding by this failure.

It is a failure – the decision to stay together in failure – what returned Ariane Christ to her husband Gerhard (Alexander Allerson). It is not overcoming the illusion of greatness what motivated re-unification of father and mother, but confirmation of the ultimate value of orientation of greatness that makes even non-successful attempt of achieving it great like reflection of the sun in the puddle.

Irene Cartis (Fassbinder’s parody on Cartier jewelry) is not just lost, she feel avenged in her affair with Gerhard Christ after years of fake although genuine relationship with him. But her reaction is not just “amorous revenge” – it is a taste for truth on part of a thinking person played by Anna Karina.

In the moment of being infuriated Ariane played in killing of her daughter (she doesn’t have an intention to kill her, of course, but she cannot refrain from taking pleasure from this idea), but instead she wounds Angela’s teacher Traunitz (Macha Meril) – the person whose radical psychological help to the desperate crippled child made her the fighter for Angela’s dignity and against widespread human superstitious obsession with immanent megalomania (as unconscious it can be).

Posted Dec 25, 2011 –   Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s “Chinese Roulette” (1976) – Parental Perfectionist Expectations (Placed on Their Children) As a Target of Child’s Rebellion by Acting-Out Politics

Schlondorff’s “Swan In Love” is a preciously rare example of not just an analytically-critical but analytically-political film. If Raoul Ruiz’s “Time Regained” (1999) is an exceptional example of analytically-critical cinematic discourse (based on Proust’s spiritually intellectual descriptions and deliberations), Schlondorff’s film is wholesomely analytically-political. In other words, it adds to the analytically-critical approach a loud slapping of the characters and their way of life which analytically-critical elaboration will refuse to allow itself because “it will not help to understand the depicted human situations in a more ‘objective’ semantic terms and instead just show a politically adversarial (subjective, competitive) reaction on them”.

The acting of Ornella Mutti, Jeremy Irons and Alain Delon perfectly corresponds to and elaborates (each for his/her own character) Schlondorff’s (interpretative) concept of the literary material. In Irons’ reading of the character, Swann cannot resist self-reflecting/ self-aggrandizing/self-admiring intonations (which seem dissonantly exaggerated in comparison with that of Pierre Arditi who dubbed Iron’s voice in French version of the film), Baron de Charlus – Delon’s megalomaniacal, sharp and self-ironic/self-pleasing gestures, created by the actor particularly for Charlus, and Odette de Crecy – Ornella Mutti’s intentionally streamlined and flattened voice and coquettish or depressed smiles or her solemn seriousness. In spite of being treated politically adversarially by the director (who marks Swan and Charlus as self-aggrandized narcissists besides being decent human beings and genuine intellectuals), they are not made into caricatures but portrayed honestly and in a balanced way.

Swann is not a lover; he is a worshipper of feminine beauty as a metaphysical value, like de Charlus is not a homosexual but a missionary converting the young heterosexuals into the cult of man’s sexual equality and solidarity. While Swann is a savior of beauty from the dirty intentions of the rude and ugly aristocratic and bourgeois males with predatory/consumptive interests, de Charlus is a guru of men’s bodily brotherhood. In both cases our elegant protagonists carry quite revolutionary intentionality. But their desire to liberate their chosen objects is rooted in and follows their conditions – Odette must be noble and pose as an aesthetic homunculus, and de Charlus’ young guys must convert into an all-male sexual cult of equals in body and soul while they dream about being above others even or especially if they are poor. Aristocratic idealism, in other words, has a cost, not only for the noble idealists themselves, but for their disciples. Missionaries are always in charge, even when they have put themselves in dominated position.

The film is full of symbolically elaborated loud slaps – Mdm Verdurin, who cannot close her jaws because she laughs too much, Mdm Combremer whose body is obsessively moving following the rhythm of music being played at de Guermantes pompous party, Swann who is kissing the orchid on Odette’s corsage (Schlondorff makes one of the orchid’s petals look as if it is Swann’s stretched tongue), de Charlus who “revenges” the old valet standing at the salon’s door (who is doing his job of reminding the late guests not to enter the concert hall) by playfully and rudely catching his nose with his fingers or poking it, or Oriane de Guermantes who while rushing because of being late to an important dinner party put black shoes with her red dress and has to change shoes by insistence of her husband, and Swan who is sexually penetrating the prostitute while smoking, and many more examples.

“Swann in Love” is entertaining as only a high education can be – entertaining for the human mind which didn’t forget its soul, and for a human soul which is inseparable from its mind. It is a visual symphony of caustic analysis of human behavior.

Schlondorff and Sven Nykvist (in a profile, on the left) prepare to shoot a scene with de Charlus and Swann entering the de Guermantes’ party.

Inflamed by the rumors about Odette’s lesbian laisons, Swann takes the prostitute who may know facts about Odette’s past.

De Charlus’ magnificent posturing and gesturing intended to make him irresistible seducer and eroticized missionary.

De Forcheville works on Odette to the horror of Swann who sees them from another corner of restaurant dining room. But Odette noticed his gaze, more, she is stimulating Swann’s jealousy and worries.

Mdm Verdurin was laughing too long and too passionately and now cannot close her jaws without medical help.

Madame Swann, previous Odette de Crecy, the mother of Gilberte (the future daughter in law of Duc and Duchess De Guermantes)

Posted on Oct 24, 2014 –   Volker Schlondorff’s “Un Amour de Swann/Swann in Love” (1984) – Two “Knights” Fighting for Their Peculiar Ideals and Lost in A Chivalry-less World by Acting-Out Politics

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