When Moral Dirt of Socio-economic Life (While Partially Neutralized by Compensatory Consumerism And Entertainment) Is Being Dumped Into People’s Internal World

We feel motivated only by our social role, because the sensual life is more and more anorexic, more and more virtualized. We experience a desensualization of our life because we are so obsessed by social performance. It is the effect of the economic blackmail, the increasing cost of daily life: we need to work more and more in order to gain enough money to pay for the expensive way of life we are accustomed to. But it is also the effect of a growing investment of desire in the field of social performance… Franco Bifo Berardi, interview on “The Factory of Unhappiness”

The wealthy wolves swelled with gold and started to look like bears, for centuries tried to make the poor to unconditionally love the rich and powerful – they again and again have tried to persuade the poor to see the rich as benefactors and prophets in action. The decisive breakthrough in effectiveness of this noble task happens in front of our very eyes – during the beginning of 21st century. Today, even the homeless and hungry tend to wrap themselves with passionately patriotic feelings and almost effeminate love for tough-puff leaders and bosses with bells-balls of wealth – the poor’s ability for imaginary satisfaction is much stronger than it was in our ancient ancestors. Imagination in our times is technologically stimulated and is capable of providing much more pleasure than reality. And the main pleasure of social life today is to worship the wealth of the wealthy and fists of the fistful. The rituals of worship through political support is for the poor a bridge to identification with the rich – it works magically – “if I agree with millionaires/billionaires it is, as if I have a solid chance to become as rich as they already are!” Among the reasons for making this possible is the omnipresence of mass culture of entertainment connecting people’s aspirations with imaginary pleasures and possibilities, and supporting the psychological function of believing by the alchemy of profit-making. And people whose imagination (modified by the entertainment technology) helped them to adapt to socioeconomic life, are facing their own intimate relations with other human beings, which demands seriousness, tolerance, patience and sensitivity to boredom and stubborn otherness. It’s not surprising that the picture of personal relationships statistically shows the nauseating level of domestic violence, curious level of extramarital affairs and statistics of suspended divorce which is ahead of that of marriages (if to consider how many spouses of both sides are dreaming to divorce but postponing it because of financial considerations).

The DVD cover advertising Bergman’s “From the Life of the Marionettes”

Peter Egermann (Robert Aztorn) a young and a promising CEO of a successful corporation is helping himself in the whorehouse with innocent distraction/stimulation. Many viewers without difficulty will identify one of the American movie-super-stars on the wall

Professor Mogens Jensen a respected psychotherapist is lost in the brothel while trying to find there his patient Peter Egermann who called him in the middle of the night and needed his help.

Police investigator (Karl-Heinz Pelser) is moving ahead his investigation of the murder of the prostitute Katherine Kraft (Rita Russek)

The suspect’s mother Cordelia Egermann (Lola Muethel) is answering the investigator’s questions. She is full of suffering because of her destiny’s injustice towards her very image as a mother.

Peter and Katarina Egermann’s personal friend Thomas Mandelbaum – Tim (Walter Schmidinger) – by the trickiness of his answers makes the investigator irritated.

Professor Jensen (Martin Benrath) is intrigued by Katarina Egermann’s (Christine Buchegger) refusal to sleep with him right in his office.

Katarina exhausted and for a moment, as if, seeing her future and Tim in a rare moment of rest from their stressful job of working as professionals in a big fashion design agency


Bergman’s film is analyzing how the human internal world and intimate human relationships are hurt by our society as human beings are generally mistreated by an economic system that is based on privatizing the profits from production by the rich who simultaneously externalize the costs (including polluting the environment and poisoning nature and human bodies). The inequality between those who pollute life and those who suffer from being contaminated is shamefully a matter-of-factly phenomenon, like stress and humiliation of the working people who’re not allowed to participate in co-defining their working conditions and salaries besides having morbidly compete for jobs with foreigners inside and outside the country. All these inadequacies in the social life are projected into the human soul and contaminating our intimate life. Even compensated by extra-consumption and entertainment (and in the same time because of it – they teach people the simplistic and propagandistically distorted ways of perceiving the world) working people have a widening lacunas in their fragmented souls, and when they come to the area of personal life, they’re devastated, unconsciously or consciously traumatized by the socioeconomic mistreatment and unable to adapt to the real problems of human emotional mutuality. The condition of social life proclaiming “benevolent” competitive fight as an alternative to Christian love makes people (used to the indifference and manipulation on part of employers) suspicious, and this drastically contradicts the capacity for intimate love which needs spirituality and generosity of an unconditional emotional caress to be able to respond to another person amorously.

The economy (understood as profit-making and removal of obstacles for it) has become a “thorn” in the social body leading to irreconcilability between social life (impregnated by greed of profit/wealth worshipers) and the internal life of human beings, our ability to love in intimate relationships. Sociopolitical life makes us coarse, indifferent and hateful – permanently targeted by the entrepreneurs externalizing into our internal world what they don’t want to internalize – our natural resentment demanding from them the necessity to soften and humanize the social environment. We are not able to tame our fears, anxieties and stress and our natural resentment to be able to love in a context, where a human soul meets human body in its essentiality. In other words, what is “externalized”/ privatized into the human soul from the socioeconomic reality is our bosses’ economic misbehavior and our human social ego with its traumas and their compensations through consumerism and entertainment (adding to our psychological traumas the artificial and robotic reflexes of fake cheer and false optimism).

Peter Egermann (Robert Aztorn) is the main character of the film who, in spite of his intelligence and education, is doomed to personify the very disturbance of human ability for having/establishing emotionally healthy relationships. More exactly, while his mutual love with his wife, Katarina (Christine Buchegger) is genuine and sublime, but both spouses… cannot handle their very amorous genuineness (it’s too much for them in its contradiction to and incompatibility with their unconscious overfilled with the realities of their social lives demanding from them being fighters for their socioeconomic success – what was externalized into their souls by the fact of living in modern society of prosperity and professionalism. The catastrophic fiasco of Peter and Katarina’s life carried out by his crime, and further the destiny of Katarina and the prostitute Katherine Kraft (the indirect and direct victim of his psychological condition) are examples of human inability for genuine amorous relationships (in today’s society), their ontological (the wife) and physical (the prostitute) victimization. These two women who never even saw one another, function in the film as sisters of forced martyrdom. It is the money-profit’s hate for human soul (symbolized by Katarina and Peter’s destiny) and for human flesh (symbolized by Catherine-the prostitute).

Professor Mogens Jensen a psychiatrist who matter-of-factly offers the wife of his patient Peter Egermann to have intercourse right in his office and right after his psychotherapeutic session with her husband, not only doesn’t empirically know what love is, but has a patronizing disrespect for it whatever it is. But his offer to Katarina is not supposed to be taken naively – as just a sign of his essential vulgarity. No, it is a therapeutic attempt to show her the way. He thinks that love is a sign of psychological immaturity (a kind of outdated feeling) – the obstacle for civilized life. In this sense he as he is, functions as representative of modern sociopolitical order with its pragmatic indifference to the “sentiments” and emotional cruelty.

Tim Mandelbaum another friend of our couples and Katarina’s business partner is a compulsive homosexual fetishizing casual young male bodies (that is hiding agony of his own body, which is, as if, suffocated by factual life). He is ready to be killed each time he picks up a young gigolo at the train station but can’t refrain from anonymous sex – he is unconsciously perceives his own sexual need as corrupted by the tendency to manipulate/exploit the love object and be manipulated/exploited by it. He consumes male bodies like people today buy electronic toys. For him bodily contact between sexual organs is the ultimate existential honesty distant from human soul ravaged by the survivalist competition’s calculations/manipulations.

Finally, Bergman introduces to the viewers Peter’s mother who instead of suffering for her son and trying to understand what really happened to him, is tormented that she suddenly appeared in her dreadful situation of being the mother of a murderer and this is horribly unjust to the very image of her sublime purity. The fact of having lived her life without noticing her son’s potential and actual problems made her morbidly fixated on her purified self-image.

People who carry in their soul socioeconomic pollution – practically, all the population, are learned to accept their destiny and their victimization. Mogens Jensen cannot even afford to respect human love as carrier of alternative values – he is completely sacrificing it, don’t find a place for it in modern world. He is morally debunking intimate love as amorous obsession. To think like this is a sign of incredible deprivation. But he doesn’t have a choice – to accept the noble irrationality of love with its risks, contradictions and its demands would mean to step outside his professional guidelines, his very profession trying to apply to intimate relationships codes of mutual manipulation based on rational calculations, and then potentially lose his social status and material prosperity.

To be able to love means to try to fight for your love with yourself – that is with your inability to love. To love, according to “From the Life of the Marionettes” is to try to overcome your own resistance to loving (which is inside us because we’re overexposed to the existential pollution of our greedy, megalomaniacal and competitive ways of life). In this context Peter and Katarina Egermann are in a way heroes of fighting for their love. They are people who have fallen during this ordeal (that is not surprising if to consider that they like almost everybody else have accepted our socioeconomic way of life – tireless calculation of personal or group advantage as a normal way of life). People who use strategy of divorce are much more cowardly. They transform their spouses into something like an item of clothing – they wear their spouses on their own bodies or put them as a mask on their own souls.

Because of our particular condition of being split into being frustrated and corrupted from one hand and, on the other, having the potential for intimate love (without contradiction between spiritual and fleshy love – between Agape and Eros), the actors Bergman worked with in his mature period (many of them matured along with him because of the spiritual touch of their art), are playing spiritually even the roles of the people who are not really spiritual. It is this creative contradiction makes Bergman’s art existentially spiritual amidst the world which is deeper and deeper impregnated by a post-democratic barbarianism. It’s late Bergman’s unique directorial principle to prepare his actors to play existentially spiritually even the characters whose spiritual sensibilities are either nonexistent, wiped out or weakened.

Posted on 5/23/2018 –   Ingmar Bergman’s “From the Life of Marionettes” (1979/1980) – When Beloveds Cannot Handle Their Love Because Their Intelligence Is Kidnapped by The Feverish Demands of Social “Survival”/Success by Acting-Out Politics