The 1923 Military Putsch in Germany as a Metaphor of German Nazism (1933 – 1945), and German Nazism as a Metaphor of American Globalist Corporate Rule in the Beginning of 21st Century

He never says what he’s thinking. He just charges ahead with all his feelings and he looks so frightened. And I try to tell him that we’ll help each other, but that’s only words for him. And everything I say is useless. The only real thing is fear.
Manuela about Abel Rosenberg, “The Serpent’s Egg” (SE)

In “The Serpent’s Egg” (1977) Bergman talked about what was then the future but today, in the new millennium, is already the present.” Franco Berardi, “The Soul at Work (From Alienation to Autonomy)”, Semiotext(e), 2009, p. 113

Bergman on the set of “The Serpent’s Egg”

For Abel’s brother Max to commit suicide in his circumstances is a sign of his disagreement with what he feels as the inevitability of fascism. While working at professor Vergerus‘ Santa Anna clinic with experiments on human beings Max came to the understanding that violent behavior is a fact of human nature, its inalienable feature. Overwhelmed by this “scientific” fact and typically underestimating the role of socio-psychological conditions in stimulating the violence he, with his suicide expressed his disagreement with what he took as an unescapable ”human nature”. But in reality this “natural” human tendency for violent reactions is a specific (albeit widespread) condition of living in social environment with extreme material and psychological insecurity. This condition is a result of a certain organization of human life when stimulation in population of national and political megalomania frustrated by the drastic inequality in income and in participation in decision-making in the name of the country, and resourceful scapegoating of carriers of national and behavioral dissimilarity (represented as reasonable alertness and a patriotic vigil) makes the masses of poor and humanistically uneducated people prone to irrational and violent behavior.

Sexual shows (and sexually “enlightening” literature and public discourse) in a thickening fascist atmosphere become omnipresent, and they masterfully exploit sexual controversies (perversions, inversions and gender fluidities) as issues attracting mass curiosity. Pauperization of the population and its inability to influence political decisions made the majority of people to look for the other areas of self-realization – they as if migrated into the area of private life. In this shot we see that sexual love under commercial exploitation became more and more extravagant (Bergman personifies Amour as a fat gender-uncertain dwarf). Marital bed is located as if in the center of the universe. Male actor plays bride while actress groom. Genital and anal areas as erogenous zones of the body are confused. Mass fixation on sexuality is an important phase in the process of the development of the fascist sensibility because it’s weakening human sensitivity to and curiosity towards the public realm problems and issues. The next phase is the overcoming “sexual decadence”. Bergman demonstrates it in the scene when Nazi militia sturmes into the cabaret and sadistically beat up its Jewish owner. This anti-decadence phase of fascist sensibility directly mobilizes people for violent actions through conservative ideology and is focusing them on the scapegoats (Jews, liberals, democrats, intellectuals, socialists, sexual deviants, foreigners, sick, the misifits, etc.)

Separation of sexuality from love is an organic part of fascization of human emotions. It’s twin of separation of body from soul. If body is separable from soul then it’s natural and normal to exploit it without regard for its humanity, to mistreat it, humiliate or murder it. In this sense pure sexual lust (registered in this shot) is no less fascist desire than hate (toward the physical existence of dissimilar people) and indifference (toward their soul) which today has become concomitant with torture and with murders used more and more in high tech wars.

Sexual humiliation – putting a human being in front of the necessity to prove his/her sexual “normality” is in fascist life not only the norm but part of everyday fun. People are expected to confess their sexual insecurities, worries and uncertainties and then solemnly overcome them by demonstrating their heterosexual prowess. Sexual labels function like fascist identification badges. Today in US classification of people by the mode of their sexual and gender behavior (like straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual , crossdresser, crossgender, etc.) reminds us of Nazi times with its Star of David and Red, Green, Pink, Blue or Black triangles, or the scarlet letter “A” for adulteresses in Boston of the 17th century.

Militarization of the economy and human soul became in pre-Nazi Germany everyday experience like today in US the trumpeting through media propaganda of war (war-paganda) stimulates suspicion and hate toward dissimilar others and contempt towards politicians and public personalities with democratic sensibility (tolerant, polite, verbally skilled and intellectually distinguished people, oriented on mass well-being). The fascist propaganda’s hurrah-populist point is that “real men” don’t need help, that it is humiliating to get “social help” – only sissies can enjoy it, and prosperity must be taken by force – through the destruction of other (evil) people and nations.

Abel, after having “innocently” lost his temper out of despair for being unjustly suspected in murders, is harassed by the police officers.

After being beaten up by police that made him even more paranoid and psychologically entrenched (pay attention to how he looks out from behind his palm – his destiny, Abel as if appeals to the world asking for help but simultaneously expects to be hurt). It is exactly when you cannot ask the world for help, cannot rely on the world as a friendly place you become a fascist as the only way to survive.

In the eyes of professor Vergerus, the head of Santa Anna clinic who has authorized the experiments researching human potentials for violent behavior, we see compassion. But does it mean that he is a compassionate person? As a matter of fact, he is, on the level of personal relations. But not on the level of his general position vis-a-vis human life, where he is, first and foremost a scientist. For him the most important thing is scientific knowledge in the same sense as today’s American Military-Industrial-Academic complex and other corporate powers decide the very direction of technical-scientific research in US and use tax payers’ money to finance it without sharing the control over the applications of scientific knowledge with people. Towards whom Hans Vergerus is so compassionate in this still? Towards humankind whose destiny, according to his competent opinion is to be used and if necessary to sacrificed on the altar of strict hierarchical control over social life, in the same sense in which in US today the two percent of population rule over the present and future of the country. Vergerus’ sincere compassion is split from his wholehearted dedication to scientific research – to the scientific truth regardless of “sentimental” considerations. So, his participation in science determines his position in life (in the same sense as many American scientists today while personally are people with liberal sensibility, work for military research projects for the sake of salary) while his personal ability for compassion is a genuine but a peripheral feeling. It belongs to the “sentimental” psychological fragment of a specialist. Vergerus himself is a victim of a naturalistic illusion – he thinks that as soon as you can find a predisposition for violence in human nature it makes necessary the creation of a social order where violence (from above) will curb violence (from below). For him human actions and desires – human freedom, can never be fully sublimated, refined and ennobled (human beings are human beings) – only through violence it is possible to control them. For Vergerus (as an enlightened technical specialist and a philosopher of social order), as for today’s specialists in biology, genetics and weaponology (regardless of their personal political sympathies), there is a human nature, science trying to understand it, and the art of its controlling and manipulating.

Police inspector Bauer is a honest man – he is skeptical and critical about Hitler’s Munich Putsch, he is against a fascist future for Germany, but psychologically he is already fascisized without being aware of it. By his profession he fights obvious evil – you can read it in his eyes (the eyes of a persecutor, a prosecutor, a hunter, investigator, and interrogator). His task is to depotentiate criminal behavior – he doesn’t take into consideration the socio-political and socio-psychological reasons for its existence. He is not conscious to what a substantial degree the drastic inequality and educational, psychological and intellectual underdevelopment (as a result of not financing mass humanistic education) invests into the very existence and scope of criminal and violent behavior. Bauer is like his gaze registered in this shot – too direct, not contemplative enough, and focused on the surface of the reality. Bauer and Hans Vergerus, the scientist and the police investigator – are fascist intellectuals, twins of fascist sensibility (as intellectuals they don’t need to be the ideological fascists to serve fascist cause). As a matter of fact, fascist intellectuals are much worthier for fascist political system than simpleminded thugs carrying ideology in their muscles and weapons. In US today people with liberal sensibility who work for Military-Industrial complex or for financial scheming sector of the economy are much worthier for the conservative system than those who harass and shoot down political opponents of fascism.

The building of the Santa Anna’s scientific archive dominates the tiny and insect-like human figures, like today’s importance of supercolliders the individual human beings and life. Technical science (including big pharma with its subsidized R&D) is prone to do experiments on human beings. It accumulates a wealth of scientific research related to its goals. Today in US when technical science more and more serves the interests of the financial and decision-making elite (and when there is an impressive discrepancy in financing of technical and humanistic sciences) we are more able to grasp the relevance of Bergman’s depiction of German Nazism’s preparatory steps towards power. Because taxpayers’ money through conservative government is in the hands of power-keepers they define which jobs will be available and which will not and what areas of knowledge will be financed and what are not. People come later happy to get a profession that will provide them with a good income (they even don’t form an opinion about its connection with a common good).

Scientific archive is described by Bergman as a dead matter of the intellect cut into small pieces of specialization, which is cut away from the human existential concerns. That’s what technical science is without humanistic orientation, and we, Americans, only today, after decades of the propaganda of technical science’s immanent humanism, start to comprehend that science without humanism (science for adventurist military purposes and for private profit by any price including indiscriminate pollution or decimation of commons) is possible.

Vergerus explains to Abel his scientific experiments with human proclivity for violent behavior. For human mind that is not philosophically trained (to recognize the multifaceteddness of human behavior and its socio-political and socio-psychological determinants), the fact that certain drugs and situations can create in human beings the mixture of aggressive frustration and violent actions can looks like a proof that human beings are basically violent by nature. Then the whole area of socio-psychological, politico-economic and cultural determinants of aggression and violence is completely dropped off. Cultural pollution injects need for degrading entertainment and psychological pollution by the cult of personal success, collective megalomania and the encouragement to hate and to wish to kill – destroy human mind and soul and stimulate orientation on power, control and military force. The result for our country today is that we spend as much money on weapons and preparation for wars as all other countries put together. Scientific experiments of Prof. Vergerus are Bergman’s metaphor of today’s macro experimentation with human beings by manipulating our physical and mental environment.

Abel is awakening to the idea (looking like a fact) of naturality of human violence. This he shares with his brother but contrary to him he is rather transformed into a follower of Vergerus’ technical-scientific concept of violence (to the neglect of socio-economic and psycho-cultural determination of violence). He is persuaded by the inevitability of fascism as the only way to keep the human proclivity for violence under (violent) control.

Prof. Vergerus puts what he considers as an “objective scientific truth” ahead of human lives (including his own). For him (scientific) thinking is more important than life. Technical science can, Bergman emphasizes, develop and even flower under totalitarianism.

Scientific self-observation dominates (and is more important than) agonizing body. Money and power outsmart the scientific truth, make it their servant. What Bergman registers in this shot is lust and greed of scientific knowledge (knowledge regardless of concerns for human well-being), a radical desublimation of noble idea of philosophical introspection. In western humanistic tradition scientific truth was an alternative to human prejudices, but in a fascist system this truth is impregnated by the psychological and cultural destructiveness and blind belief in power. It becomes not only an ally but a component of the principle of power over life. Techno-scientific truth under the fascism becomes an intellectual prejudice destroying life.

This hall, this barn of happy forgetfulness refers not only to the German reality – to “night life in Berlin of the 20s” preceding the victory of Nazism. It non-blinkingly refers to the American mass culture from 70s onward to the 21st century, where gusty and ghastly gusto and emptifying explosive pleasures are more important than any meaning and sense. Hollywood block-buster super-movies, pop-music and TV cartoons and soaps become castles of mass-forgetfulness that open the way to fascist transformation of society.

From Liv Ullmann’s psychological encyclopedia of acting: Manuela’s dance of a happy harlot (analysis of five shots from Ingmar Bergman’s SE)

Pantomime of successful seduction (PSS) in cabaret is meant to excite viewers’ desire to crush the brave “chick“ (daring to challenge them from the stage) with their sexual irresistibility. Manuela opens her body by putting her hands up behind her head and simultaneously makes herself to be perceived as unreachable/unavailable by the mask-like expression of over-confidence in her seductive power and by looking aside from viewers (as if something somewhere else is more interesting for her than the customers of cabaret in front of her).

An important, indeed, fundamental part of the dance of the happy harlot (DHH) is this generous gesture of invitation of the viewers into the fertile store of the female body.

Manuela’s gesture of pious shame for having organs targeted by men’s sexual arousal (she is closing it not only with her both palms but by nearing her knees together – as if blocking the man’s very path toward it) is meant to stimulate farther masculine “moral” contempt for woman as a happy harlot – WHH (contempt which in traditional males goes together with their growing sexual desire). The professional harlot reached intuitive virtuosity in understanding the complicated nature of men’s sexual psychology that has been positioned against itself by a near universal religious “pedagogy” throughout centuries. Woman must nurture man’s sexuality as a mother nurtures her child. Man’s sexuality in its both aspects – as sex as such and as power, grows on this nurturing into a glorious prowess of a penetrating masculinity (GPPM).

The previous shot initiated the double inscription of the role of female organs of men’s delight (FOMDs) in Manuela’s dance (as a signifier of the power of female seduction). FOMDs are provocatively covered by Manuela’s hands and metaphorized by her lips. They are as if covered by Manuela’s hands naturalistically and by the metaphor of her lips poetically. But contrary to the previous shot’s vaginal smile of Manuela’s mouth, in this second shot her lips are opened with a strained grimace symbolizing woman’s response to the victorious genital penetration actualizing itself. Simultaneously Manuela’s fingers play puritanical resistance to the male insistent urge. Fascist males are not only coarse, but also thin-skinned (over-rude towards their sexual objects and with a fragile ego). So, their sexuality must be addressed from two angles in the same time – through appeal to the purity of their soul and through care about their lust. In Manuela’s dance this double nature of male’s sexuality is addressed through double representation of woman’s sexual appeal – direct but veiled, and metaphorical (through mimics of the dancer’s face).

The violently, stupidly opened mouth of the dancer signifies the successfully realized penetration – the final achievement of woman/harlot’s sexual professionalism.

For Manuela as a sophisticated person performance and success in cabaret is pure torment. You have to be pop-dancer/singer Madonna to enjoy dancing on the very cultural bottom of pop-taste. The three previous shots and the whole dance of the happy harlot is Bergman’s parody on traditional expectations men have of women’s behavior in sexual situations/relationships. The first shot represents seductive innocence, the second dull readiness to accept male penetration (or satisfy men orally), and the third is a depiction of successful genital mutuality or oral sex in proper culmination.

From Liv Ullmann’s psychological encyclopedia of acting: Manuela’s pantomime of compassion and care (the analysis of eight shots from Ingmar Bergman’s SE)

In a situation of intensifying fascization of the atmosphere in the country, when scapegoating search for the guilty ones for the deteriorating social conditions impregnates human souls and spills into the press, media, streets, pubs and households, people with a special gift of caring about others are ready to go through the heroic ordeals to help others to keep their humanity intact. Manuela is one of these rare heroines in trying to do the impossible to save Abel from becoming a psychological fascist. She as a traditional woman has only area of personal relations to realize her mission while fascism as a systemic malady includes the public sphere where Manuela is powerless.

This and previous shot depict the psychological space (coffee table and bed) where Manuela can try to reverse the process of fascization of Abel’s soul (him becoming more and more psychologically frustrated and entrenched, insensitive , indifferent, suspicious, self-centered, impulsively aggressive and without any positive existential initiative, prone to scapegoat people and feel self-aggrandized especially in front of those on whom he reacts with casual antipathy). Besides, Abel is a regular ordinary person moved by pre-scientific perception of life (based on intuitions and beliefs), and without developed self-reflective capabilities. Manuela tries hard to do for Abel what woman, mother, sister, another human being can do. But walls of care she tries to build around Abel as a blanket collapse in front of pauperization, alienation, frustration, suspicion, competition and rivalry around, and a seduction of power latent in anger. Try to save people like Bush Junior or Cheney from torturing, bombing women and children and inventing wars, or bankers who created the financial collapses in US – from greed and cheating! These people come to violent behavior because they have from childhood felt themselves living in a similar psycho-social atmosphere as the one Abel Rosenberg is exposed to.

The more material and emotional conditions of life deteriorate the more even space of personal intimacy shrinks, and battles with demons of psychological degradation shift into pure psychological space. Sometimes Manuela’s soul deserts but she still tries to care. This moment of disappearance of her soul is registered in this shot where she is transformed into caressing and caring hands.

Manuela understands how difficult, how impossible her task is. Look at her eyes. Where is she looking to? What does she see? She sees nothing – she doesn’t see any future for her and Abel and others for that matter.

But she feels that she doesn’t have the right to stop trying to care about him. She wants to persuade him that intimate togetherness is the abode of salvation, a beam of light in the midst of darkness.

She deploys a motherly passion to reach him. She tries to make him voice his anxieties, confess to her what makes him so tormented. She tries to make him think about his feelings, not just act them out and sulk being overwhelmed, like a child abandoned by the mother.

She made herself flirtatious. She forces herself to pretend she wants him passionately. To really feel compassion toward somebody is, indeed, a very hard work.

To save him she deploys the ultimate weapon – not only sexual passion, but a woman’s unconditional, ultimate dedication. She tries to make him love her. She tries to persuade herself that woman’s love can save a man from the world.

Abel buys a bottle of wiskey and demands from the barmen to take a billion marks banknote for himself – into his mouth. Who today in US will refuse to take a million dollars banknote with his teeth? Look at the couple on the right – they understand that their country is stepping into fascism not more than many young Americans today who, exactly like this couple, feel amused and entertained while seeing the violent behavior.

Abel feels trapped by his circumstances – without this feeling, according to SE, the final fascist transformation of human being is not possible. Righteous fury and violent actions are felt by fascists as only way out of an impossible situation.

During the final moments of the film we see that Abel Rosenberg is awaken to the idea of the inevitability of fascism (cult of intolerance, militarism, despotism of circumstances over human will and their willful crushing by the ferocious actions, worship of power, omnipresence of megalomania and scapegoating) as a radical solution of human problems. This shot is a painful parody on the idea of spiritual transformation – fascism is always a “spiritual revelation” for its ideologists and followers, a “liberating truth”. By differentiating essential (psychological and behavioral) fascism from its different ideological incarnations, Bergman in this shot shows Abel’s “ascent” to fascism as his turning towards the light. The sterility of prison or hospital room eliminating the existential connotations (fascism is a system that radically dominates life and its immanent plurality) is the proper context for Abel’s transformation. The very composition of the shot sarcastically suggests the situation of a Saint and trying to seduce him Satan-like figure (represented by inspector Bauer). Bauer is ideologically an anti-fascist but psychologically a fascist. While telling Abel about fiasco of Hitler’s Munich putch (in the context of Bergman’s concept of fascism in SE it means while telling today’s Abels about impossibility of fascist victory in US as a democratic country) and the power of German democracy, he in reality seduces Abel exactly into fascism (with his naïve belief in democracy’s impenetrability for fascism). The same megalomaniacal belief makes many Americans unprepared for the understanding the antidemocratic transformations which are taking place in their country today. The presence (in the scene and in the shot) of Bauer’s “assistant”, junior police inspector, finalizes the omnipresent role of this figure in the film (he, probably, is an informant of prof. Vergerus) and putting the exclamation mark on the danger of victory of fascism in 21st century.


The fact that the screenplay of SE was made in English and that Bergman took an American actor (David Carradine) for the main role gives us the first hint that by describing pre-Nazi German society during 20s he meant to address the future American reality as he saw it in the 70s. His vision of German past and American future in SE has become even more relevant in the first decades of 21st century. During the time of release of the film we, Americans, didn’t understand our country as well as Bergman did, because we were blinded (and the majority of us still are) by our megalomania of belonging to the “greatest democracy” without analyzing it thoroughly, and because we were (and still are) psychologically swallowed by our orientation on consumption and pseudo-prosperity we are prone to confuse with democracy. Today after invented wars, and after financial collapses (engineered by frivolous sub-thinking of the rich decision-makers) we can really appreciate Bergman’s vision and ideas in SE.

To transform Abels of the world (personified by the main character, Abel Rosenberg), into Cains-the murderers is the basic task of totalitarian systems (totalitarianism needs wars like wars need soldiers, like soldiers need glory, like glory needs human self-sacrifices). Only the good-hearted and idealistic people can be obedient (usable) murderers because the initiative of the destructive behavior belongs to their leaders, not to them. They are just credulous believers and for that matter even more dangerous – they create evil while their hearts are full of goodness. They are subjectively always good (with almost angelic self-consciousness) but objectively they very easily become a tool of the Evil.

Many so called good people tend to avoid political awareness – the understanding that political activism is congruent to democracy – the only way to guarantee your participation in macro decision-making in the name of your country. But to be politically active means to lose megalomania (of enjoying the belief that “we already live in the best country in the world”) and to become conscious that fight for farther democratization of democracy is necessary to secure and improve democracy. Abel, on the other hand, is a typical philistine – here is how he himself expresses his apolitical stance: “I don’t believe in all this political crap. The Jews are as stupid as everybody. If a Jew gets into trouble, it’s his own fault. He gets into trouble because he acts stupid. I’m not going to act stupid, so I will not get into trouble.” What important for Abel is his profession and the money it brings. His status as an American trapped in Germany going through the process of fascization is Bergman’s metaphor for the situation of many American philistines in US today. Like Abel, they also tend to see the reasons for problems in individual human beings, not in socio-psychological system of relations. His naïve perception of the reality as a kind of monolith in front of him, his inability to see it as a swarming tangle of multi-sided and complicated socio-psychological determinants permanently influencing and reacting on one another, is a partial reason of his existential collapse into accepting fascism as a commonsensical sensibility.

With SE, Bergman-a director who was nurtured by the tradition of psychological theater (inseminating his cinematic analysis of the phenomenon and the condition of the human soul) has dived into a historical period of desperate social acting out. Human soul under the despotism of social circumstances was shattered by the shattered existence – in SE we see how the noble drama of the human soul clashes with an action driven environment. Through this film deep psychological motivations (Manuela’s compassion and dedication and Abel’s confusion and despair) met with a collapsing relational matrix. Traditional webs of connectedness between people were ripped apart by the plummeting value of money, drastic unemployment, mass frustration and surplus-aggressiveness releasing itself on any under-hand object.

To make this transition of a whole society (from soul to action, from “spirit” to “flesh”) representable in a dramatic form, Bergman makes the human soul personified by the two main characters – Abel and Manuela, who are thrown into Berlin of late 20s where human life was in a process of a rapid deterioration into naked survival by any price – NSBAP (which is the film’s definition of fascism). SE depicts the incompatibility between human holistic intelligence and aggressive actions. Democratic sensibility was crumbling – the situation resembles today’s condition of American life with its militarization of the economy and culture, financial collapses, growth of unemployment and right-wing agitation of masses to look for scapegoats.

This film released in 1977 addresses us, Americans of the 21st century, who are going through similar processes that Germany was going through in the mid-20s. In SE this transformation of a psychological drama into action film is Bergman’s stylistic metaphor of the destruction of human soul by the soulless social actions.

Between Manuela and Abel as victims of the action movie of fascist reality (where existential thinking is destroyed by sound bites, slogans and clichés and where noble emotions are shattered into intolerance, hate and a blackmail) on the one hand, and the opposite pole – this fascist reality itself, we see number of characters who are trying to keep their identities and personalities intact but already without liveliness and wholeness – rigid, fragmented, closed and stereotypical. It is, first of all, the Head of Santa Anna clinic Hans Vergerus and Inspector Bauer personifying fascist intellectuals – the scientist and the police authority correspondingly. Hans Vergerus (Heinz Bennent with expertly nuanced and analytic performance) is not a fascist by ideology. He is a fascist by psychological fragmentation and by thinking through an intellectual fragment, not through the whole personality. His thinking is as alienated as, for example, the thinking of a person with a liberal sensitivity in US today who on the basis of his professional education works for military or oil industry controlled by people with neo-conservative sensibility and whose democratic political tastes and voting records have much less influence on the socio-political situation in the country than their work for neo-conservative goals.

In his depiction of Hans Vergerus as a dedicated thinker Bergman is probing the controversial issue of sincere philosophical dedication to the objective truth which becomes a partner of fascist socio-cultural transformation. Like Vergerus inspector Bauer (Gert Frobe who paints his character with rich palette of mimics, intonational and body language characterizations) is not an ideological fascist either, more, he is an anti-Nazi, but his orientation on investigation/punishment of criminal behavior without any interest towards its socio-psychological context makes him also a collaborator with a totalitarian power. While Vergerus’s intellectual function is indifferent to the question of improving conditions of people’s life and in this sense is robot-like (not mediated by humanistic sensibility), Bauer is essentially close to Judge Abramson in Bergman’s “The Rite” (1967) – the film-drama of fight between the controlling power of “law” and existential wisdom of art.

Among characters who are located between the tragic personifications of human soul Manuela and Abel Rosenberg and action movie of fascist reality, are: Frau Holle, Manuela’s land lady, Herr Hollinger, the director of the circus where Max, Manuela and Abel once worked together, and semi-comic characters of Dr. Soltermann and Dr. Silbermann (functionaries, still seemingly fully human, of the fascist system). Pay attention to Bergman’s alliterative play with connotation of holiness suggested by the names of Holle and Hollinger, the two characters whose advanced age emphasizes their noble inability to understand what’s happening in the world around them, and to the connotation of gold/salt and silver as alchemical substances in the names “Soltermann” and “Silbermann”.

To come to the condition of acting out the human soul has to become fragmented under the pressure of chaotic existence and of its own desperate attempts to find salvation in intolerance, hate and finger- and weapon-pointing. Bergman’s film is prophetic in predicting fascization of American life and culture in 21st century and transformation of many Abels into Cains with Abels’ heart under the survivalist pressures. Bergman traces how Abel suffers under Nazi power, how he confronts this power and tries intuitively to grasp it, and how in the process he starts to identify with this power in order to handle it better and not be victimized by it.

In our thinking about fascism we by historical inertia continue to perceive it from the position of its victims while Bergman in SE offers a courageous vision of the spread of fascist psychology and behavior in today’s world. Fascism is a power which not only victimizes people but recruits them through fear. More and more people today want to avoid being victims of horror by becoming horror-makers. They want to respond on horror with creating their own horrors. They feel that the only way to beat horror is to create horror. Through the inducement of extra-fear and stimulating surplus-suspicion towards the world with its otherness (what fascism perceives as Evil) it creates illusion that it is handling the disastrous condition of the world while in reality it participates in this condition, more – it is its culmination. The film claims that fascism which has realized itself in German Nazism is only an embryo – a Serpent’s egg of a totalitarianism of the future. Abel Rosenberg is a “paranoid” truth-seeker – Knight of the revenge against the world’s “Evil” with evil of his own creation.

In SE Bergman tries to understand what’s happening with the human soul that it stops to be a soul and becomes a mechanism of organized violence, murder and torture. Among social factors of this transformation of the human soul into a “pragmatic” mechanism of violence Bergman emphasizes – population’s polarization on those who are more competitive and aggressive (fascist masters) and those who are more “passive” and “weaker” whom the first group treats with contempt, the existence of “seizures” of irrational suspiciousness overwhelming individuals and groups, and alienation of cognition from human heart (de-existentialization of thinking).

Among psychological factors of this transformation of human soul moving toward fascist world view Bergman underlines – the experience of being the object of suspicion, experience of being the object of humiliation, experience of being the object of marginalization, and feeling that violent emotions are “normal” just because they are “already there” in your soul (empirical normalization of violence).

Bergman also analyzes the psyche of a concrete person who goes through fascist transformation. He depicts features of Abel’s psychological condition as: narcissistic inadequacy of his self-image (his overestimation of his personal “reasonability” and “rationality”); his tendency to react on what happens in the world through acting out – without intellectual mediation; his proneness to react on the world emotionally – with the speed of rushing blood; being childish and capricious with world as a baby can be with its mother; being possessive when world is generous and being easily infuriated when world is retentive; and his psychological dependence on other people’s reactions on him makes him behave impatiently, despotically and moralistically suspiciously.

Particularly elaborated examples of fascist sensibility are provided by Bergman in many scenes. Here we can only touch on three of them. The first describes a prostitutes’ den where we observe how sexual humiliation of a vulnerable person is sexually exciting and arousing for those around. The second is the depiction of a condition of religious belief under fascism when the spirit of Christianity is not capable of influencing the world and only petitionary prayer is all “spirituality” can do. In both scenes we find American actors (Glynn Turman and James Whitmore) playing important, albeit episodic roles. The third refers to the moment when Abel finds Manuela dead and immediately feels that her death (obviously, a suicide) is result of “enemies around” (he unconsciously projects his guilty conscience outside, according to classic paranoid route).

There is no directorial scapegoating in SE – no one person is represented as “bad” – fascism is a systemic disease, it is a psycho-socio-cultural virus using susceptible psychological environment to spread its deadly embraces. People create fascist modes of relatedness not because they are “bad” – but because they psychologically and educationally are not prepared to resist fascist temptations. Prevention of fascist socio-economic waves from returning is a question of humanistic (psychological, sociological, historical, philosophical, etc.) education of larger population. The question of its financing cannot be a matter of profit-making. Its “returns” are not measured by financial self-enrichment as a result of investment, but by building psychological and cultural (symbolic) structures which can preclude fascist disasters. Is it realistic to expect in a country like US the creation of educational anti-fascist prophylactics?

In the end of the film a voice-over declares that Abel Rosenberg is disappeared and was never seen again. In the beginning of 21st century the prototypes of Abel has reappeared in a rejuvenated form and multiplied fashion. We see Abels transforming into Cains here in US, in Europe, in Russia and Israel and many other places including the larger Middle East, keeping busy incarnating into reality a vision which puts manipulation and power as the ultimate principle of social relations between people.

Posted on Dec 4 2014 –   “The Serpent’s Egg” (SE) – 1976, by Ingmar Bergman by Acting-Out Politics