DESTROY SHE SAID (Marguerite Duras, 1969) from Spectacle Theater on Vimeo.

Unfortunately this clip doesn’t include English translation but it’s visually expressive.

To survive physically after being exposed to catastrophically inhumane experiences – after being extremely violated by another humans, is not only difficult and more often impossible, but it’s not by itself a moral victory over one’s tormenters and torturers. Some people with personal courage are able to physically and psychologically survive the disastrous traumatic injustices and mistreatments. But only the spiritually exceptional people are capable of surviving such darkest episodes of their life without becoming hateful and revengeful, and emptied of psychological resources to accumulate the spiritual energy for rational understanding of forces determining inhumanity.

People able to survive such periods only physically and psychologically often cannot resist transferring their emotional pain into new situations and then with symbolic vengefulness they target new groups of people which have nothing to do with those who abused the victims in the past. This phenomenon of transferring hate as a purely symbolic psychological reaction – as an attempt to have a cathartic relief, includes impulsive scapegoating “desire”, which deserves compassion and psychotherapeutic attention. Such “scapegoating transference” is based on essentialization of historical memory (on unconscious mixing of historical memory and actual experiences, which in this context is very psychologically difficult task to differentiate). But in Duras’s film we observe people who are spiritually capable to rationally contain their psychological reactions and their traumatic experiences (in their case connected with the Holocaust).

Duras’ film gives us chance to meet the rarest category of people who not only survived physically and psychologically protracted systemic abuse (if not themselves, but through their families and relatives), but who are capable to be morally superior to victimizers of past and present– to the degree that they will never repeat actions of the oppressors towards anybody in the world.

The film’s main characters (there are no secondary characters in “Destroy, She Said”) combine their “disinterested interest” in other people’s lives and worldviews with an emotional openness towards them which has an intimate taste. Three “gurus” (without any guru-posture, of course, or any superhuman authoritative air) – Stein (Michel Lonsdale), Max Thor (Henri Garcin), and Alissa (Nicole Hiss), then one person who needs “participational” and spiritual help – Elisabeth Alione (Catherine Sellers), and the witness – her husband Bernard Alione (Daniel Gelin) – this is a human group of equals representing the cast of the film. Three gurus don’t have any special importance in comparison with other characters, and their exceptional role is rather their particularity than their status. Their extraordinary personalities and behavior are so far from being perceived as objects of idolatrous admiration.

The atmosphere of the interactions between the characters is simultaneously, challengingly frank, almost borderless, but also chaste, erotic and ascetic. The protagonists are at the same time – intimate and “individualistic”. Actors’ style of acting is not imposing on the viewers – it keeps the spectators free, nobody can be expected of becoming crazy about anybody on the screen or “fall in love” with a character or “star”. No one actor or actress is trying to be “liked” or create in viewers the desire to see him/her again in some other film. In other words, there is no smell of “hollywooding” (seduction into identification with hero/star) as a part of interaction between filmmakers and the audience.

The “gurus” (Stein, Max Thor and Alissa) are trying to build in themselves and other people a new psychology which can become an existential model capable of making barbaric and genocidal events and style of life corresponding to them – impossible.

Posted on Oct, 21 2017 –   Marguerite Duras’s “Destroy, She Said/Detruire dit – elle” (1969) – Three Kinds of Destruction by Acting-Out Politics