The Masturbatory And Cunnilingual Underside Of Swann’s Sexual Elegance (The Woman As Orchid)

The necessity to make the existentially “exotic” nature of Schlondorffian Swann’s love for Odette de Crecy seem more realistic demanded the following texts to indulge in the exercise of finding a adequate language to normalized this version of the sublime.

Fingers and the “face” of the petals

Sexual arousal in Swann doesn’t include Odette’s face or her physique which for him rather belong to distant erotic preamble. The composition of this shot makes the flower of femininity (here – the orchid) the path of descending from the generosity of the breasts to the chamber of sensual treasures (metaphorized by the orchid’s depths). The orchid as such is a metaphor of this path by the efforts of Swann’s gloved fingers. Sexual act impregnated with amour is over-loaded with over-worldly associations and includes the interruption of visual dominance (of the amorous subject – Swann, over amorous object – Odette) through a highly tactile orientation supported by symbolic fingering of the very flesh of the orchid, preceding the inevitability of Swann’s final audience with Odette’s body.

Fingers and the “body” of petals
The second shot registers the return of sight (absent in the first shot) to support farther concentration (on part of Swann) on the body of the orchid. Swann’s sight functions as a pedagogical device, as if, he is showing Odette how to appreciate her own orchid-likeness as a code name for her sublimely erotic beauty. He is, as if, teaching her to internalize his gaze at her and through this to start to gain self-esteem. It’s, as if, in order to become completely beautiful the harlot has to become a lady. And through such lessons the passionate interest of Odette to marry a rich society-man and amorous intention of Swann to be united via Odette with metaphysical beauty feed one another from lips to lips. Odette learns how to repeat Swann’s gaze upon her and this double gaze (his and her at herself) becomes their mutual fixation and, eventually, a phase of their sexual intercourse.

The tongue and the fleshly depth
But we see, that in the third still something has drastically changed – everything. We see the very moment when Swann‘s lips touch the orchid’s lips, and Odette again becomes as she is – she is not looking at herself by repeating Swann’s gaze but now she is uniting with her own dream about being married to a gentle and wealthy man. Swann and Odette have lost one another – now he is in unity with her orchid-like depth and she with her dream of her life (about a happy elevating marriage). Schlondorff and his cameraman Sven Nykvist have triggered this intended abyss in the very center of the lovers’ amorous unity – they created a “blasphemous” visual and semantic effect of Swann’s protruding tongue penetrating the depth of Odette’s orchid! Instead of the very body of orchid’s petals we see Swann monstrously greedy tongue! Suddenly the amorous elegy becomes a caricature and parody. Schlondorff is famous for his ability to combine admiration for characters of his films with their criticism and even with mocking them.

Moments of human contact based on truth (acceptance of limitations of human love)
Here, in the fourth still we see that Odette returned from a rendezvous with her dream (registered in the previous shot) and honestly projects it into Swann’s eyes, and Swann takes her desire to his soul – accepts it with full compassion. And still, with Odette, Swann keeps avoiding verbalization of his marital intentions. He doesn’t trust her soul – he is quite aware how masterfully she arouses his jealousy. For her the “marital exclamation” of her destiny with Swann would be the only but the ultimate achievement of her life. But for Swann the equivalent of ultimate achievement would be a marriage between the earth and the heaven, where earth is melting and reviving itself in heaven’s embrace and where heaven is his love and earth is her dream.

When our heterogenious couple experiments with physical intercourse (“playing orchids”, as Odette wittily named their lovemaking – compared with playing with orchids of the first three shots) their amorous unity falls apart again – she tirelessly and monotonously continues to try to persuade him to marry her, while he continues to hesitate knowing very well that everything is already decided between heaven and earth (between him and her).

During physical intercourse as such, when Swann is worshipping Odette with his caresses, she, as we see in this shot, continues to ask for proof of his love for her, that he somehow is afraid to provide – the radical structural difference between metaphysical realm where everything is decided for them, and the relative and not reliable “layer” of social reality is difficult to breach. Metaphysical values cannot unconditionally unite with the human life. People like Swann always win in the absolute world, but lose when it comes to earthly existence.

Madame Swann after Odette de Crecy and Charles Swann became married couple

Posted on Oct 24, 2014 – Volker Schlondorff’s “Un Amour de Swann/Swann in Love” (1984) – Two “Knights” Fighting for Their Peculiar Ideals and Lost in A Chivalry-less World by Acting-Out Politics

Posted on Jan 5, 2015 – “Swan In Love/Un amour de Swann” (1984) By Volker Schlöndorff’ by Acting-Out Politics