Pauperized Public Intellectuals and Liberation of Rosemonde

Innovative Poster of "The Salamander"
This film poster shows the working Rosemonde as if by drawing, in a sketchy manner and by this it introduces to the viewers the unique orientation of this film dedicated not to concentration on things which are already solidly rooted in the existing reality but on what is in the process of being created, what will be realized only in the future – Rosemonde’s newly discovered existentially spiritual personality. We see her in the film before the birth of her real soul, and we enjoy seeing how her soul is forming, growing and ripening.

Monotonous and Anti-creative Work
Monotonous and anti-creative work for those who came from poor families and didn’t have a chance to study (a growing problem in US because of drastic cuts in public financing of college education and the skyrocketing cost of tuition), dulls and outwears human vitality. Pay attention to the sexual connotation of Rosemonde’s work in the sausage factory, suggesting a similarity of her job with sexual slavery. We don’t see her eyes – the expressive extra that only the eyes can open about the human soul is blocked. When people, like in US today, must constantly look for work and have several temporary jobs to survive, permanent worrying adds to strain and monotony and shuts up the human soul. Then a deadened (dull or bulging) instrumental gaze on the faces of the Americans on the streets, in bars and restaurants, in front of the TV/computer screens or in pop-music concerts, becomes a permanent characteristics of human soul turned off and a sign of degradation of human inner world.

Emptied After a Working Day
After a working day Rosemonde doesn’t know who she is as a person and what she is doing in the world.

To Live in order to Work
May be her intelligence which is in the process of being lost through atrophying doesn’t want to die and produces a melancholic excess that fuses with her depressive moods.

Life Without Humanistic Education and Serious Art
More and more often Rosemonde looks for consolation in pop-music, in mindlessness, in putting on the masks of mechanical cheer and automatic laughter. Her future is de-individualized (mass) emotions, aggressive passions, alcohol, pills and drugs. But her inner, not opened intelligence, her creative self blindly resists, and she feels the impossibility to live a “normal” life – to work, to be satisfied with an iron or wooden crumbs of existence. From her childhood she, a French speaking Swiss, lived by the Soviet slogan – who doesn’t work doesn’t have the right to eat – the maxim without which Nazi and Soviet concentration camps could never appear. But something in Rosemonde (and that is her existential talent) feels that human being has the right to have the time and energy for humanistic education, for thinking about life, for feeling nature’s liveliness and unity with the universe. For her who unconsciously aspires to be a human being it is natural to have a creative work that can provide the time for soul-making.

Right Wing Politician and Foreign Worker
In a moment of despair connected with difficulties of trying to understand and address Rosemonde’s needs and aspirations (their project to write about her truthfully – about what she is already, is in conflict with her as a real person oriented on changing) Pierre and Paul decided to have a cathartic relief. They create an inventive and resourceful psychodrama in the public bus when Paul pretends to be an Arab worker in Switzerland while Pierre impersonates a right-wing ideologist trying to mobilize people to “throw away” the foreigners, “these vampires who taking our country from us”. Of course, at the end they confess that all actions and passions were just a joke.

One Liberated Face
To see even if it is only one liberated face shining with self-respect, nobility and positivity, to help this liberation – is Pierre and Paul’s sacred goal.

To Feel Self-espect for the First Time in Life
For the first time in her life Rosemonde feels good about herself and the world, encouraged by the fact that somebody took interest in her as a human being.

Other-worldly Paul Discovers Real Rosemonde
After losing Rosemonde as a character of his story, Paul discovers the real (future) her, and this brings a smile to her face.

Marginalization of Alain Delon
Paul’s caring touch marginalizes the “postering” Alain Delon trying to settle in Rosemonde’s shared apartment.

Intellectuals and Salamander
Paul and Pierre both are on the verge of a breakthrough – Paul is ready to confirm his hypothesis about Rosemonde while Pierre understood something new about her.

Disgust toward Factual Human Condition
Pierre is a person of the world. It’s not that he loves world. But he feels that he is a part of the world’s love, of human nature and history, and shares the world’s problems and its intelligence. For him human life and this factual world are inseparable. But to be able to keep his dedication to the world Pierre had to develop his critical thinking – to separate world’s grains from its husks. Love toward the lovable in life is impossible without criticism toward human sins, vices and stupidity. This shot registers Pierre’s characteristic expression of playfully exaggerated disgust which immediately disappears when he meets people like Rosemonde who are abused by reality and even awkwardly trying to resist protecting their kindness, vulnerability and intelligence.

Gaze from Another Galaxy
Paul perceives the world from the psychological distance – through his talent, creativity and penetrating imagination. He is not a journalist and not a sociologist like Pierre, but his thinking is as rational and responsible as Pierre’s. As a writer he puts between himself and the world his creative images and ideas which are out of tune with human life in a given society but in tune with human dreams about a more just and a fuller – spiritually richer life. Look at how straight his gaze into the world is but at the same time it comes from far away – he intellectually pierces the world as if from another galaxy: his soul. His task is to notice in the giant junk pile of the human society the seeds of human soul not corrupted by the social environment, and when he finds them (or Pierre finds them for him) he will forget everything to nurture them for spiritual mutation.

Faking the Roles of Sales-girl and Customer
Rosemonde and Paul are faking the roles of salesgirl and customer before the prying gaze of the shop owners. Paul wants to help her to be strong enough to tolerate the mechanical and pretentious atmosphere of the shop before she will leave it forever. To where? The decisions and answers are supposed to come from her, her internal world which is already fledging.

Little Salamander's Dream
Little salamander’s dream is not about seeing wide bright spaces (countries, world, cities, fields, mountain tops, sites of power and luxury, etc.), and showing herself off to various people. Her dream is, conversely, to be left alone, “to take people off her back”, to create a border between her and the world which she was never dignified enough to be given. She needs to find who she is, to build her internal space, to become her own. As this shot demonstrates she needs a symbolic veil between her and the world until she’ll become somebody inside her to be able to confront the world not as a robot in the crowd of other robots trapped in modern cheap prosperity but as a human being.

Pierre and Paul are impoverished intellectuals amidst the shining swamp of vanity, prosperity and camphorated conformism of soulless work, mindless consumption and life without meaning. They are writers with a poor exchange value. Their talents are stubborn as hairs standing on its ends. And they are carriers of the spirit of alternative existence. They irradiate something that for a person sensitive to this irradiation it can offer a way out of blindly following the rituals of conventional life.

Pierre and Paul are eccentrically free, and they are capable of sharing their freedom. Freedom is opposite of money – when it is disinterestedly shared it become more than it was. Tanner’s film can for some strange souls among busy working/busy spending Americans become what Pierre and Paul – today’s variant of Gospels’ Peter and Paul, became for Rosemonde.

Technically it is not too difficult for Americans of the 21st century to liberate themselves from the despotic grip of global corporations – you don’t need to “fight” them, to go to the street to “protest”, participate in “strikes” or any of that. You can just stop to depend on them, and start to ignore them – to boycott their products, at first some of them, then gradually add on the others (to begin with the most absurd and the most polluting, destructive and poisonous ones). You can start to laugh at their childish propaganda and at their barbaric motivations and system of values which is the arch-danger to survival of the world. The global economic monster needs the world to consume its waste product. It tries to seduce the world into collaboration, to impress it with its shining excrement, with its songs and shouts, with the power of its paws and teeth. If the world will not be fascinated with its glaring scales and will not respond with consumerist passion the monster eventually will burst like bubble. The difficulty of the task is not located in the technicalities of ignoring the bubble economy and pseudo-production. It is in gaining the psychological capability not to want what we are taught to need and want, to ignore the meaningless and poisonous technical toys – not to fall on our knees in front of their seductive glitter, and to be able to turn away from the empty luxury that smells with imaginary plenitude.

We have to learn how to live in luxurious simplicity, how to take responsibility for our destiny instead of consuming metal and electronic excrement, and how to stop to look at polished conformists with faces of pebbles as our role models and to follow the greasy success by any price. But we are not as lucky as Rosemonde – we don’t meet people like Pierre and Paul in life. Majority of the potential American public intellectuals have sold themselves for celery of salary and caviar of career. For us the only way to meet Pierre and Paul is through Tanner’s film on the silver screen.

The two of them are two halves of wisdom which is quite difficult to recognize and even more difficult to open up to it. Their wisdom doesn’t look like wisdom at all – doesn’t look like a dignified authority. It is not a super-human spirituality, located above humanity. It is not something to look up to from below. Their wisdom is inside humanity – it is available to everybody with human flesh. It is straightforward; it is right in front of us, much closer to us than our pompous dreams about the super-natural success (about the precious medallion of millions). It is available if human beings will find a way to distance themselves from the vices and voices of our infantilism which are a result of our childhood psychological traumas used by the politico-economic system sustaining and reproducing itself on these human weaknesses. From childhood Rosemonde was a victim of physical and mental abuse, of the absence of humanistic education and life’s indifference toward her psychological and existentially spiritual needs. These abuses and indifference made her vain and delinquent. It dehumanized her soul and standardized her needs. Her aesthetic and semantic sensitivity became reduced to the pop-cultural images and the banging sounds of mechanical pop-music transforming her from a human being into a doll-like automaton.

At this point of her life the spirit of an alternative destiny in the form of Pierre and Paul attention touched something inside her. Pierre is disgusted by the factual life but he is not an escapist into the wooden-legged traditional spirituality. He knows that even a degraded existence is larger than what is disgusting in it, that the solution must be found by every person inside the existential parameters. Paul prefers to escape from giving himself to life as it is into intellectual creativity – he found the possibility to avoid the disgust of actual life without leaving the factual living. He has a highly developed empathic sensitivity toward the semantic configurations of different situations of human life – the area where external circumstances and human intuitive attempts to tame it are entwined and became like one “organism”. But he prefers to approach life of people with its problems with intellectual concentration, not, like Pierre, with an empirical openness. Paul understood something of Rosemonde, but it is Pierre who unlocks her gracious side and makes Paul to concentrate on it.

The vicissitudes of the creative process inside the very human relationships is the most extraordinary achievement of the film. We are privileged to observe and to feel human life as a creative process inside the mutuality of human relationships. Rosemonde as a living soul inside an existential container became more important for our two intellectual wanderers than her past deeds and Paul’s penetrating grasps into it. After her traumas were healed by her relationships with Pierre and Paul, her future becomes their agenda and a matter of importance for the viewers. Her future becomes the main psychotherapeutic tool for re-orienting her life.

Viewers start to understand that there is something wrong in addressing human problems with scientific vigor alone, that understanding should be completed by caring about development of intelligence of concrete people. Paul’s project of writing Rosemonde’s story collapses in spite of him being correct about her behavior and motivations – her real presence as if dissipated the spirits of ideas. While watching the film we start to feel the artificial overemphasis on science including humanistic science in today’s democracies by the price of under-emphasizing the care about people’s intellectual and existentially spiritual development.

The film pays attention to the idolatrous tendency in human culture (our proclivity to idolize realities instead of living with them) which tends to separate the idea of love from the idea of sex, and the idea of sex from the common humanity of all human beings. Culture idealizes love into the idol of eternal love, and simultaneously fetishizes sexuality into sex as a goal in itself. According to the film, we underestimate our common humanity as the most basic and sacred commons we have – its precious emotional reservoir – the source of our intuition and thinking, the ability to disinterestedly love each other and of our creative gift to modify our ways of life.