Political Fight Without Cultural (Philosophically And Artistically) Agenda Becomes As Anti-humanistic As (Conservative/Authoritarian) Status Quo

Brother, friend, I want to barter
Your house for my stallion,
saddle for your mirror,
Change my dagger for your blanket.

By Federico Garcia Lorca

The population will all be petty bourgeois, the workers having been anthropologically eliminated by the bourgeoisie.
Pierre Paolo Pasolini, “Lutheran Letters”, p. 39

Between 1961 and 1975 something essential changed: genocide took place. A whole population was culturally destroyed… The young boys, deprived of their values and their models as if of their blood, have become ghostly copies of a different way and concept of life – that of the middle class.
Pierre Paolo Pasolioni, Ibid, p. 101 – 102


“La guerre est finie/The War Is Over” by Alain Resnais


The visual description of two sexual acts in the film – between Diego and Nadine and Diego and Marianne, is an important characterization of the humanity of the personages and bodily-spiritual sensitivity achieved by our civilization. The both experiences that are absolutely different emotionally are depicted as equally sacred. With Nadine we see how human body becomes a consoling gift while with Marianne it is a generous eternity.

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Interrogator in the customs office on the border between fascist Spain and democratic France (a small role for Michel Piccoli, but sculpturally articulated by his acting). Look at this secret agent pretending to be just a customs inspector, at his challenging and provoking face contrasting with the deadly boredom in his eyes. Of course, this episodic character is not really an opponent of the film’s hero, although he, indeed, works for the opposite side in the political fight, but in determination and scope of his personality he is real alternative to Diego. He is to Diego like Muroto is to Sanjuro in Kurosawa’s “Sanjuro” (1962), he is an agent of fascist and financial powers positioned to crush any disobedience oriented on promotion democratization of life.

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Professional revolutionary Diego Mora (Ives Montand), hiding under dozens of fictional names and identities, is, after being stopped on the French border, faking a call to “his wife”. But observe the ruthless expression of the French secret agent collaborating with Franco’s security apparatus.

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Diego Mora tries to dissolve in the urbanistic sea of middle class neighborhood where pristine philistines are occupied with building their private material prosperity and consumerist potency (identical for them with happiness), without any interest in anything else.

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Diego is habitually alert, but a drunk in a café takes him for a French secret agent spying on rebellious groups. May be, he is not wrong, in a way – opposite sides hating one another can start to resemble each other.

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Nadine (Genevieve Bujold) is connected with a group of radical students involved in left revolutionary activities fueled by their diffuse romantic passions. They’re totally oblivious to the fact, that the masses are losing interest in a big scale political fight.

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Like many professional fighters fighting for a higher cause, who every day look at death at the hands of Franco‘s secret police, Diego is especially sensitive to feminine beauty and attracted to youthful unbounded curiosity.

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Wanting to help Nadine and her idealistic friends Diego tries to explain what he understood about the quickly deteriorating chances for a revolution at a time when masses undergo a process of mutation – their thinking and feelings became like that of the rich people.

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In some situations, when Diego’s intuition tells him that he and Nadine may be under surveillance, they have to pretend that they belong to “different realms of being”, as it shown in this shot. Nadine enjoys these performances with a girlish dedication, but Diego is irritated because of the infantilism of the pompous revolutionaries. Long ago he himself was like this, well, not completely.

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Diego is on his way to meet with a group of young people who don’t see that the popular base of revolution has been undermined – the masses have accepted the frame of reference of the wealthy elite and want to become rich at the cost of sacrificing other groups and nations. When people lost the taste for solidarity in fighting for a common decent future, collective forms of fight are beyond people’s choice.

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Diego Mora is preparing for a meeting with his bosses who continue to dogmatically believe in the possibility of a general strike in Spain as an effective revolutionary tactic. They refuse to consider that either people will not go for general strike and will fight only for the local improvement of their particular working conditions, or that if they rise up in protest it will be crushed much more cruelly than they can imagine.

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He got what he expected – revolutionary dogmatism of Soviet style, the inability to grasp how the petty prosperity of post-war modernity has transform people into trolls in whose souls hate towards the wealthy has mixed up with their jealous admiration for the successful people and irrational desire to emulate them.

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In the gaze of the Communist boss (Jean Daste) looking at Diego is a righteous suspicion that what he hears from him is either treason or weakness of character. For him the general line of the party cannot be questioned or doubted.

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Wife of Diego Marianne (Ingrid Thulin) sometimes sees her husband no more than once a year. She respects his dedication to disinterested fight for a noble cause and is ready for all deprivations in their marriage. She is staying alone with their son (who practically doesn’t know his father in order to be protected from the dangers inseparable from his father’s life).

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Diego cannot even tell her when he will be able to see her next time, but her love is stronger than conditions of its realization. In Marianne, only one thing is stronger than her sensuality, it is her intelligence. May be, another thing is her psychological maturity.

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Each time when Diego and Marianne get a chance to see each other they feel themselves as beginners of life together, and this their gift for permanent innovation in their intimacy makes them able to think about existential alternatives to the habitual life. Diego shares with Marianne his radical disappointment in people who instead of fighting for progressive changes became fixated on consumerism that radically undermined the prospect for a real political change in Europe.

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This time return from Spain made Diego feel that they both are in the process of discovering some unknown new potentials in their very mutuality. They feel that their love is ready to produce a new phase in their very resistance to live like “everybody else”. Before, their love was part of camaraderie in a common fight. Now, their new fight has to become part of their love.

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Diego and Marianne’s love is ready not only for a new kind of love between them but also for a new paradigm of their participation in the social life – not just resistance to power’s expectation but to be the origin of cultural and spiritual creativity.

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Marianne and Diego have to start from the beginning, to repeat their youth on a new, a more mature level. In a way, they are in a situation similar with that of heroes of “Hiroshima, mon amour”, only here the task is how to live and be together all the time but differently, while in “Hiroshima…” it was how to be able to live separately, but as if being together.

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Diego and Marianne are planning how to fool not only the secret police in both countries, Spain and France, but also how to fool Diego’s previous “comrades in arms” – how to organize a new way of resistance, more positive, more existential, less pompous and more in the spirit of humility. This new way is not of fight which is more than life (where present is sacrificed for future) but a life which is fight but in the very form of living. It is a way of a more morally decent living, feeling and thinking, a more democratic and humane. Now, it is time to prove that it’s not fighting which is nobler than living but that living can be nobler than traditional forms of living and fighting. Now, it is not between life and fight but between life and life, the traditional and the new, purer one, materially more ascetic and richer emotionally, intellectually, spiritually, existentially.

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Something was happening in the democratic West at the time when Resnais made his “La guerre est finie”. He was one of the first to notice it. Pasolini was, may be, even closer to be the first who understood that the progressive energies of the Western democracies become progressively flattened and exhausted. He talked about bourgeoisiefication of the population at large. Resnais’ film elaborates how the changing conditions of life (development of cheap pseudo-prosperity) fixates the population on consumption and entertainment, and this fact pulls the rug from under people like the main character of the film – a professional revolutionary in the tradition of Spanish Civil War, who dedicated his whole life to fighting for the interests of the poor.

In US during the same period Herbert Marcuse noticed the same cultural-political mutation and registered the changes in his “One-dimensional Man”. Many intelligent and well educated in humanistic sciences people in Europe and US saw that the matter-of-factly idea that future life in democratic societies will be better – not only more materially prosperous, but more democratic and humane, was nearing its last breath. But the intellectual elite reacted in two opposite ways. One group, Americans and Europeans, quickly learned a new, depoliticized language, and developed euphemistic and pleonastic lexicon of dissertations and publications. Another group, mainly, students of liberal arts in both Europe and US, tried to battle without the larger population. It is this outburst of idealistic enthusiasm “in spite of the desert around” brought about May 68 student revolts. Resnais depicts students like this in “The War is Over”, with neat idealism of smart and angelic leaders believing that the students will be the new revolutionary “proletariat”. There is a third group – radicalized intellectuals and knights of truth reacting against the success of repressive desublimation in democratic societies, the whistle blowers and exceptional reporters and journalists who, in spite of the inertia and political degradation of the population and selling out of academics, tried again and again to explain what‘s really going on in the Western democracies, with the hope that scientific truth will pull people away from pop-singers, athletic events and discounted cheeseburgers.

Nobody expected this “complication” in the very progressive political orientation of the democratic societies – that more and more people “on the bottom” will become corrupted by the cheap consumerism, which in the 21st century is under the menace of disappearing because of frivolous globalist wars, Wall Street financial speculations and collapses and “austerity” for the population inspired and promoted by neocon politicians*. When today’s conformists/consumerists were honestly poor there was always something else in the souls of these people beside the desire to get richer. It was disinterested vitality (DV) as a form of spirituality, a question of human dignity. While today the dignity aspect is in a process of being forgotten and what left is compulsive consumerism and daydreaming about riding the white horse of wealth, before existed the pathos of fight for justice and equality as principles, not only for improving personal material condition. It is this spiritual disinterested passion which was shattered by the experience of pseudo-prosperity in consumerist period of democratic societies. And this precious disinterestedness as a cultural asset is very difficult to recover. Without interest for otherness, disinterested truth, ability for empathy and sympathy, and critical thinking real democratic progress cannot continue. Fight based on righteous hatred, even a justified one, cannot be the way to a more democratic future.

The hero of Resnais’ film understood this, but the students – friends of Nadine, who are themselves are disinterested idealists, made a fetish (with plumage of feathers) from extreme forms of political struggle and their fight is doomed to be in an existential vacuum. The masses in the West mixing consumerism with prosperity, are rich by the mythical unconscious identification with wealthy. The film is an analysis of how Diego Mora (Ives Montand) comes to horrifying – discouraging understanding that the very basic reason for his fight of a professional revolutionary is disappearing like snow during spring or yellow-red leafs in late autumn. Successful fight is possible only when it is intelligent – when intelligence dominates passion, when human mind overrides the technical (strategic – calculative-manipulative) mind. How many people then and today are able to accept this primate of humanistic intelligence over technical intelligence, of intelligence over narcissistic stubbornness supported by dogmatism as a bulwark?

Of course, there are deadly risks to “abandon” the new, philistine masses to their wealthy manipulators and their conservative propagandists-politicians. Hungry philistines are only one step (or half-a-step) away from psychologically turning into full-fledged fascists. Already less and less people to continue to think that needy are deserved to be helped. They are more and more supporting the neo-cons who try to eliminate Medicare and Medicate and reduce Social Security. But Diego intends to continue his fight even for people who are becoming more corrupt than before.

Diego is fortunate to have a wife (Ingrid Thulin) who shares his understanding of a change of a political and cultural situation in the West and is ready to start a new life with completely different forms of resistance than before. But the Spanish and French right wing bureaucrats and enthusiasts continue to collect materials about Mora and Marianne. Will our heroic couple be able to start a new life in Spain, with new paths of struggle, will they get the chance to invent new forms of political fight? Resnais leaves us uncertain about these matters, as life does. Even in 21st century the issue of the necessity of changing the forms of political resistance is still completely uncertain. People who are ready to do all they can for farther democratization of the Western countries, have to think, to create, to become progressives in a new sense. They have to invent a new sense of the word “fight”, when the words “difficult” and “dangerous” can mean something else than before.

At the end of the film when Ingrid Thulin walking long way to the airplane terminal, is the image-premonition of how long it may take for history to change from militant fight for justice to existential one. The fact that she for the first time during the film wears a head-scarf, tells us how difficult it will be to materially survive for those who will pursue an existentially-spiritual strategy of fighting for a more democratic life.

*Factual pauperization, the first steps of which we are experiencing today, will not return us to the previous – a pre-consumerist condition of a political fight, because people are already have been changed by the period of consumerist fever. People with petit bourgeois psychology will not react on austerity and pauperization like pre-bourgeois masses – they can react with a fascist blindness, in righteously and solemnly extremely violent manner.

Posted on Feb 7 2015 –   “La guerre est finie/The War Is Over” (1966) By Alain Resnais by Acting-Out Politics