22 Mar 2017
When masculinity becomes spiritual it is distancing itself from or abandoning life.
When femininity becomes spirituality it creates alternative life.
When contemplation about life becomes sensuous it is feminine spirituality.
Sensuous agape becomes a celebration of new forms of life.
Duras’ “Baxter, Vera Baxter” is a film-contemplation about the sensuously contemplative Eros.
Nature we’re anonymous part of (before we imagined consoling theological reference), as nature itself anonymous to itself, can’t care about us. For this reason it’s natural that humans “spontaneously” don’t care about nature – nature doesn’t care about itself. It just lives and dies quite indifferent to both conditions whatever happens to it. In our human perception nature is irresistible in its monumentality, it’s authoritative, rather than seductive (until we’re not adulterating it with the incontinence of our projections). Those among us who “care” about nature do it because they “technically” understood that if nature becomes “disturbed” it’s bad for our own survival (quite egoistic and “beyond ethic” reasoning). Nature is indifferent to us as most of us to nature. This morally neutral nature is the environment of frustrated human happiness and the background of our suffering including melancholic grief of Vera Baxter. Like the human womb is not a mother, nature is not even a womb. It can destroy or protect you without any intention to do either. May be, nature is artificial, (robotic) womb, that of the creation. Vera Baxter has to solve her problems herself, with friendly human help, which she is very lucky to deserve.
Interiors help us against nature’s indifference as a protective projection of our naive animalistic narcissism and as an extension of ourselves, a kind of our psychological exoskeleton – a reflection of our suffocating rivalry with another humans. Something monstrous is with the interiors of our settling places – with their pompous artificiality they are also a form of nature created by us, puppies of creation according to our ambition to imitate the Creator and to rule over the world.
Vera Baxter (Claudine Gabay) “was abandoned” by her husband, but he is not a monster created by human proclivity for scapegoating. He is struck by the widespread human illness – lost the ability to love: to, psychologically combine and unite – amity, Amour, Eros, Agape and disinterestedness. There are numerous reasons why this materially successful person got this affliction typical in the so called prosperity societies offering sparkling compensations for the loss of the capacity for loving. Among them – sex, beauty, consumerist comforts, social status and respect, domineering and successful self-image, etc., anything you get as a tail if you have “many-money”. But Jean is suffering not less than his wife. He belongs to the rare creatures who are prone to suffer without love. People like Jean are martyrs of wealth, and they’re stuck in their golden caves forever. Several Duras’ films depict and describe this type of people. Today, it is even impossible to imagine, that only several decades ago these people could exist. Was it democracy that created these exotic creatures? Post-democracy cannot afford them – it made them mutate and disappear.
Vera Baxter’s husband is a rich businessman – no, he is much more emotionally developed – Vera characterizes him as not-a-rich person, but the one who has a lot of money. He is not robotized by money – he feels that he is hurt by losing the psychological border between himself and money. Money is a monarch – it cannot tolerate the slightest disagreements.
So, which is it, compensation or insult – the fact that Vera’s husband “sold her”? To be a desired object is woman’s meta-historical destiny. Woman’s voluntary participation in this deal is not eliminating or even softening its meaning. Desire comes with the need to control – Jean just outsourced the whole problem: money will take care of it. It’s great lesson of barbering bribery – be it legally illegal or illegally legal.
Depression of non-belonging and melancholy of self-contemplation
“Vera Baxter loue une villa a Thionville-sur-mer Venue avec son amant, elle decide par la suite de se terrer dance la villa. Elle se confie a une femme et lui raconte la maniere don’t son mari Jean a paye un homme afin que celui-ci devienne son amant…” (Allocine)
Vera Baxter, abandoned and alone, feeling her soul forgotten and her body refused and thrown away, allows herself ephemeral moments of chaste exhibitionism, as if her nudity is able by pure magic of its presence in front of herself to find worlds which can need her.
Vera’s body, as if offers itself to the walls and the ceiling and the trees and clouds behind the windows. And her bodily solitude offers strange cure. Her exhibitionism is pure, spiritual and unexpectedly satisfying, as though to offer her body to nobody and to nothing – is the offer which is always accepted although without being answered.
Gerard Depardieu plays the individual who received from Vera’s husband money for helping her to go through period of amorous solitude. Something in Vera – her disinterestedness vis-à-vis the world, has impressed the sensitive gigolo who fell in love with her. He started to empathize with her predicament and felt self-reproachful for his shameful participation.
Being liberated without becoming corrupted by the freedom of exposing yourself to corruption
Vera is very lucky to meet the disinterested attention of a person, who by chance learned about her situation and is psychologically willing and able to help. Delphine Seyrig plays Duras-like character who sees the feminine destiny in the historical perspective and appreciate the uniqueness of a woman like Vera whom she found locked in suicidal danger.
Just the observation of how these two exceptional female characters interact creates in us, viewers need to define ourselves away from traditional structures of mutuality (when two or more persons use one another for mutual benefit).
To be alone
Here we see the mistress of Vera Baxter’s husband right at a time when he has abandoned his wife. In modern life of enhanced calculation nobody really wins – it’s what the face of this young attractive and intelligent woman tells us. As the other characters in the film she tries to understand the essence of her predicament. Today happy looking are only those whose ability to see beyond the surface of life is reduced – people with programmed – standardized soul.
To be helped to be free
How for a screen-writer and film-director to address and describe a human being in her purity – in the not-corrupt segment of her/his soul? The very desires to survive socially and physically and encircle ourselves with entertainment fences are rooted in fear of violent death and punishment for disobedience and impregnated with greedily hysterical search for saving beliefs and supporting ideologies. The necessity to permanently maneuver in circumstances and calculate advantages makes it possible for people to tolerate life by turning off their human/holistic intelligence (mental sensitivity of heart inside the mind) and becoming unreachable for the meaning of facts of life. Instead, the intelligence which is allowed for human beings by the very structure of today’s life is to develop technical – calculative and manipulative reason, which makes them robotized – without breathing soul and mind. It’s this human condition which entertaining art industry is only too happy to exploit. Duras as human being and a serious artist is creating a cinema incompatible with (mass cultural) entertainment. “Baxter, Vera Baxter” is a current of pristine air to the spiritual slums of everyday life.
Vera Baxter (Claudine Gabay) is a seemingly regular person, with a typical feminine destiny of falling in precipice of love, being structured by marriage, giving her soul, body and aspiration to motherhood and becoming abandoned by her husband. After processing and absorbing the romantic idea of love in her adolescence and youth, Vera is made by life to feel love as sex and distraction from everyday routine. But something in her is crystallized as exceptional – it’s the sublime sensitivity of her soul which helps her to take life without permanent fight for appropriating – status, property, entertainment, social success, and for dominating the circumstances. Vera Baxter is a contemplative type of a person – she takes her predicament: losing all she had, as a challenge to contemplate, to think, to feel what’s happened and why. Vera’s proneness to internalize the external world rather than compulsively act on it includes her ability not to be afraid of suffering, to be able to step down to a depressive mood – to the river, and up to the cloud of silence. Be in the river or on the cloud for too long is a deadly danger, but Vera is lucky – she got il une inconnue – the “unknown person” (Delphine Seyrig), who became determined to help her in her destiny.
L’inconnue is a person who understands Vera’s predicament – to lose everything what love for a man (and man’s love) can provide – the children, social status, self-respect, material prosperity, identity, personality, areas of mastery. She thinks that in order to be able to love man less conventionally (less symbiotically and socio-morphically) and be capable to raise emotionally and mentally healthier children woman needs more independence not so much from the man she loves but from his love.
But Duras is not representing the problems between a husband and wife as that between two human beings or as a problem of marriage as a social institution. The very organization of life in society becomes in the film something like a third player the destiny of human love depends on. Vera’s husband, Jean is a rich man who is traumatized by his psychological situation – by the necessity to make profit in a profane way, by neglecting the human need to be disinterested in relation to the world – to love intellectual, aesthetic and mystical bonds to creation, and even before this neglecting the issues of equality, justice, fairness and human compassion. This “forgetfulness” is equal to the betrayal of human existentially spiritual nature, and the first calamitous result of the narrowness of human focus on pursuing personal success is a breakdown of the ability for a sublime (non-symbiotic) intimate love. Jean has lost Vera internally – he has lost the ability to love her because he cannot anymore love another human being. In Jean’s universe of profit-making the other is an indifferent object – positive, negative or neutral for your intentions.
Duras indirectly but insistently emphasizes that Eros and Agape are close relatives, that one without the other both are lost in the world. Vera and Jean are co-victims of this lost tie between two ways of love. When Eros and Agape became separated the Lust (lascivious Greed) quickly inserts itself into the equation of life (what we are witnessing today in mass-cultural separation of love and sex). An economy based on obsession with profit is organic part of mass-cultural degradation of human sensibility.
Here is how the plot of the film proceeds – Jean Baxter pays a million to a young man, a highly sensitive and intelligent person (Gerard Depardieu), to take his wife off his hands. But this person fell in love with Vera and by this betrayed his “payoff”. This opened an unexpected chapter in this business transaction between the husband and transitionary figure – a space of independence from received money opens – not only for the receiver, but for Vera, who could be existentially lost in an abyss between two hills, if not for the appearance of a stranger, the “another woman” (the prototype of Duras herself), who came with a gift of disinterested help. Of course, this help doesn’t mean a lesbian relationship, as many will likely believe or suspect. Amazing thing we have a deal here, is, it seems, the disinterested and transcending sexuality relations (although without any phobic panic about lesbianism). Mass culture has taught us, Americans, about primacy of sex and primacy of survival through social competition – mass-cultural myths, following the agenda of tiny minority – 2% of the population – people of deep cultural deprivation and serious psychological underdevelopment.
The style of the film reflects the fact that Duras considers human beings as human nature in history – she includes human history (concrete historical references) and spiritual experiences in human behavior, for example, she depicts human being not as a fallen-factual, but as a pre- or post-fallen.
Duras’ film addresses the human being not through amusing, entertaining and/or violent situations, but through a very particular – aesthetically spiritual rapport with a segment of the human soul not corrupted by mass-culture which has managed to create in us a fundamental need to feel our better-ness, best-ness, greatness and exceptionalism in comparison with others.