When Justified Criticism of People’s Condition and an Understandable Disappointment in Humans Becomes Narcissistically Centered and Like a King’s Edict

“Indeed, there is nothing more vexing, for instance, than to be rich, of respectable family, of decent appearance, of rather good education, not stupid, even kind, and at the same time to have no talent, no particularity, no oddity even, not a single idea of one’s own, to be decidedly ‘like everybody else.’”
Fyodor Dostoyevsky, “The Idiot”

From the age of fourteen or fifteen I started rebelling, and it seemed I would never stop rebelling. I suppose it was good, but I had to overcome it and reach a point where I could say, “This is done now, I’ve got rid of it, let’s move on.” For me Feu follet was very cathartic.
Louis Malle, “Malle on Malle”, Faber and Faber, London, 1993, p. 42

“The absurd man will not commit suicide; he wants to live, without relinquishing any of his certainty, without a future, without hope, without illusions … and without resignation either. He stares at death with passionate attention and this fascination liberates him. He experiences the ‘divine irresponsibility’ of the condemned man.”
Jean-Paul Sartre

Life is a costume grafted to a dead tree…
Being is a lie
Man is a lie
a baller of swine
a swine of balls

Beings have invented life
then grafted it
on the dead tree which was all there was

Life is a lower form of matter, a sub-element

Antonin Artaud, “Anthology”, City Light Books, 1965, p. 215, 216

Love and friendship in the epoch of moral disappointment

Louis Malle (1932 – 1995)
Louis Malle (1932 – 1995)

Louis Malle preparing the shot
Louis Malle preparing the shot

Alain Leroy’s “loves”

Alain and Eva
Alain (Maurice Ronet, 1927 – 1983) and Eva (Jeanne Moreau) met some time ago by a tender impulse for one another and soon had lost touch without any reason – they‘re both too intelligent individuals to be possessively tied to the body, to the physical presence, to the image. Love didn’t make them symbiotically fixated on one another. But, as we see in this still, when they by chance met again, their love is still there, modest, intelligent, not more than life, but, may be, the best part of it.

Lydia delivers genital orgasm
Lydia delivers a vaginal orgasm as female body – death of its egg. She loves Alain and cares about him. But she doesn’t understand why he is so tormented. Her impeccable femininity is so far from her general humanity preoccupied with keeping prestigious job in global corporation.

Alain, in spite of his disappointment in the societal life as it is and in what it does to people, is responsive to Lydia’s charm, her body and beauty. For him it is important that he is able to satisfy her, but love between them is spontaneous. He tries to understand her better – why problems which make him “mad” don’t exist for her at all and how a reasonable person can be so flatly rational.

Lydia cares about Alain
For the sake of love with Alain, Lydia risks complications with her close friend Dorothy – Alain’s wife. When Dorothy and Alain have “temporarily” separated, Lydia tried, for the sake of him, take Dorothy’s place” to make him more “cheerful” and “optimistic”.

For Alain it is important that he is able to sexually satisfy Lydia
Lydia is an “emancipated” professional woman. She is intelligent and soft, and tries her best to “awaken” Alain from his “ideas”. But Alain is not necessarily politically critical of the “system” – he just worries about what life does to people, about the condition of their souls when they “make success of their financial survival” as if they are building a bulwark, fort or a castle.

Lydia and Alain
Lydia’s life is rooted in her concrete dedications – to work, to success, to love, to friendship, to elegance. But her elegance is a bit dry and adroit. For her terms like “psychological conditions of living” or “human condition in general” are abstractions, empty and morbid. Of course, she never will tell Alain what she really thinks about his “passionate philosophical concerns” because of the fear of traumatizing him, making him even more distressed.

Alain’s mistress and his wife
Lydia has to return to US and will “report” to Dorothy that Alain “after his anti-alcohol treatment” is “much better” and will soon, hopefully, return to New-York to “his lovely wife”.

Aain and his wife Dorothy
Alain in his room at “Versailles clinic” looks at the picture of his wife – a “beautiful healthy American girl” with whom he is not able to feel as cheerful and joyful as she is. Pay attention to the fact that Malle makes Alain (reflected in the mirror) looking in comparison with Dorothy (whose picture is on the mirror) as a ghost (an omen of his suicide) – her picture looks more real than Alain’s face. And only his hand touching her photo looks real, but to feel real when he is with Dorothy is not enough for Alain to feel okay about himself in the world.

Solange and Alain
For Solange (Alexandra Stewart) Alain was an “amorous flame”, and she stays his close friend since. Her husband also admires Alain as an “exotic personality” and tries to help him to return to “society”.

Solange for Alain is the personification of ontological plenitude
But in front of Solange – her wholeness, her silent, non-imposing confidence, Alain feels even worse than in front of Dorothy. He, as if, taken the seamy side of life all to himself, and then has lost the emotional contact with being’s primordial irradiation. Fighting with the artificiality and pretense of life he somehow was losing life’s genuineness.

Alain Leroy’s doctor

psychiatrist’s approach to Alain’s condition
The psychiatrist understands Alain’s suicidal predisposition – he thinks that Alain “is hooked” on this idea although he is not mentally depressed person with unconscious self-recriminations and not a melancholic person with a lack of vitality, and not a psychotic (building conceptual reasons to end his life). But in Alain’s case it is existential disappointment, not an intellectual but based on a common sense judgment of the human world. For him, to suspend this judgment can only mean to go not only against himself, but against our human commonsense, and then pretend that we are idiots just to continue to live. The doctor’s task, then, is to make Alain exactly this existential idiot, to awaken in him the primitive anti-commonsense to override human existential (not just intellectual) contemplation about life.

Alain vs. his psychiatrist
Alain tries to remind the doctor that his quarrel with human condition doesn’t have an irrational origins, that conversely, it is this condition of forgetfulness of human belonging to the wholeness of life that is irrational and morbid, this dedication to petty trivial games of getting more power, wealth and glamour in reality and imagination.

Alain Leroy’s friends

The demanding sobriety of adult life
Alain‘s friend Dubourg (Bernard Noel) takes a tough stance trying to save Alain’s life – to shake him into accepting “adulthood”, the tough sobriety of human life.

Real friends are toughly frank with each other
Dubourg tries to use Alain’s famous womanizing as a tramp card, in order to return Alain to real life.

Men’s prowess for loving women
Alain is not worse than anybody else in his ability to love. The point here is not in the content of his self-judgment, but in his proclivity to judge himself. The problem for Alain is that his ability to love is as inept as other people’s. In other words, he is taking what is a common condition as his own. He knows that he is too ordinary person. It’s too easy for us to judge Alain for being narcissistically self-disappointed narcissist unable to accept the reality of his limitations. Today, in times of greedy self-assertion, of total fight with the opponents for personal or group success, the ability to be critically self-reflective is a rare virtue. Let’s respect Alain for being oriented on disinterested truth in his evaluation of himself.

Adolescents and adulthood
Here, Dubourg tries to use the idea of psychological infantilism and inability to accept adulthood to make Alain to accept conformism of adulthood. For this purpose he represents adulthood in the modern society as sober and inevitable – as reasonable and a wise conformism.

High and pie society
Alain, in his final “fly over the world” visits Solange and her husband only to find again the amazing triviality of their motivations and conversations.

Greeting postcards in Solange’s bedroom
Alain in Solange/Cyrillus’s bathroom sees the post-cards of congratulations and admirations from their friends on the anniversary of their marriage.

Alain Leroy’s solitude

Alain’s first drink after being cured from drinking
Alain’s first drink after being cured from drinking

Aloneness as a precondition for self- and world-reflection
Aloneness is a precondition for self- and world-reflection. The “organic” inability of today’s people for positive solitude is one of the reasons for the collapse of today’s disinterested sociality and the disintegration of human personality.

Alain Leroy is bidding farewell
Alain’s is bidding farewell to his aesthetic fixations, personal happiness as a salvation and his Versailles palace of “mental condition” and emotional dead end. He prefers nowhere to somewhere, no place to any place.

Our relationships with firearms
Our relationship with weapons is the oldest human affair, even older than relations with the Biblical apple.

Gun as man’s soul              Gun as man’s soul
The metaphors of gun were available to human psyche before Eve with her apple-cheeks (Picasso), apple-breasts (Beckmann) and apple-vagina (common accent).

Meditation with gun
Alain’s concentration on his gun is meditative, spiritual, not as the NRA (National Rifle Association) propaganda of high-tech fire-arms as killing toys for children and adults.

Gun as a partner in dialogue with ourselves
For Alain, his personal gun (that he as an officer got during his military service) is an interlocutor, his ultimate and a final partner in dialogue with himself.

making a decision
After having visited old friends Alain makes a decision.

Last book in Alain’s life
Alain is finishing reading the last pages…

Last moments of Alain's life
Alain Leroy in his last moments of being with us. He is not desperate. He is serious. To understand him we have to think.

Alain’s posthumous confession
“I’ll kill myself because you did not love me, because I did not love you. Our bonds were loose. I kill myself to tighten them. I’ll leave stain on you… indelible stain.”
Alain Leroy


Alain Leroy made the decision to leave this world in which indifference of the people (drowned in everyday life of calculation and consumption) for one another became for him indistinguishable from cruelty. His suicide (by “philosophical” but, really commonsensical reason of becoming completely incompatible with gilded prosperity of his friends and acquaintances’ life) he has decided to realize as a scientific work – he didn’t want to be impulsive and sentimental, he wanted to give life a fair chance to prove to him, that it is possible to live a real life in an unreal world.

Of course, he already tried to distance himself from life before, mainly through alcohol, but regardless of how successful his alcoholic departures were, sometimes more, sometimes less, eventually you had to slide down into life again, and then you feel yourself like a cartoon character, or like ejaculation without orgasm. Alain wanted a real solution, without returns defeated, with a bended head.

Already for several months he lived in a clinic at Versailles amidst classic architecture and antic interiors where they tried to cure him from alcoholism. He became cured, and his “sober” decision to radically block the world from intervening into his internal world with all its buzzing noise, took the place of his previous alcoholic escapades. He decided to visit his old friends (quite a versatile bunch from different layers of social hierarchy, with various tastes and dreams), moved by the hope that something may unexpectedly appear and provide him with the reason to continue to live.

Tragically for Alain and meaningfully for the viewers of Malle’s film (and unnoticeably for the a large and busy living human world) the people he met on his last day weren’t able to change Alain’s mind, although some of them tried.

For us, the viewers of “The Fire Within”, it’s difficult not to agree with Alain’s criticism of his friends and acquaintances. We know that human life is not only difficult and very often impossible – but it bends people: cripples their gentleness, transforms them into frightened, hateful and desperate or righteous and indifferent louts. It transforms (uneducated) children into adults educated not only for fighting for success but for serving the social and financial elites, these gluttonous cannibals. Life makes the regular people suspicious, defensive, obsessed and stupid. It was already discernible in the 60s, and becomes obvious in the 21st century. Alain wasn’t “depressed” as the cliché blabbers about people prone to commit suicide. He was intellectually and emotionally sensitive. He was a philosopher with the heart of a musician. And he was existentially dedicated human being – he didn’t want to settle in a profession, as many people who couldn’t live only by salaries and profit and who needed to find sublime caves of professional interests by the price of gradually becoming indifferent to what is outside their professional areas. Personalities like Alain are needed in society where freedom, thinking about life and mutual respect are necessary values – a society which doesn’t exist yet. He died instead of us, to teach us how to be truthful to ourselves, how not to lose our own perspective on life. To continue to live while being Alain Leroy is not easy but it is necessary, and it is too late for him if we’ll try to persuade him (in our very reaction on the film) in the ultimate importance of life, hope and humane efforts in spite of everything.

Alain is right and wrong simultaneously. His mistake – suicide by his reasons, is a mistake of a great existential philosopher’s heart. We have to learn from his reasons for abandoning us, and from his mistake.

Something is very special about the acting in this film. Even a minor role is acted as if by a particular instrument in a polyphonic orchestra. Every gesture and every intonation delivers a mini-melody depicting an individual destiny. Even rudeness, meanness, stupidity and madness of some characters are always expressed elegantly. Malle proved himself of being not just a film director – but a conductor of style and meaning, with the help of Erik Satie’s penetrating and overwhelming music (metaphorizing the existential rarefaction of the main character’s worldview and the density of his contemplative gift).

The film‘s style is as intellectually neat (but not pedantic), as gentle (but not sentimental) and as genuine (without pride) as Alain’s personality is. The film’s style is sublime and modest at the same time, intellectual without intellectualizing.

Louis Malle and Luis Bunuel
Louis Malle and Luis Bunuel. The young Malle is shy because of his admiration for the old master who is enthusiastic to share with promising talent his experiences.

A question for the readers/viewers: How Alain’s comprehension of suicide as an existential act is different from the semantic context of the question Frost asks in his poem here?

The Question

A voice said, Look me in the stars
And tell me truly, men of earth
If all the soul-and-body scars
Were not too much to pay for birth.

Robert Frost

Robert Frost (1942)
Robert Frost (1942)

Posted on March 5 –   “Fire Within” (1963) By Louis Malle  by Acting-Out Politics