Rich And Poor In Their Mutual Alienation, Their Mythologies, Their Rituals and Cruelty


El Macho’s brave song

http://youtu.be/nLv6_w2mRRs
Miss World makes chocolate commercial


Documentary footage of exhumation of Polish officers… assassinated by Russian soldiers


Sweet movie is a light comedy later changing into a political thriller and horror movie
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Dušan Makavejev

Then Sweet movie is like life in formal democracies of 21st century – from the first glance it is prosperity and pluralism, but soon it becomes obvious that it’s rather cut-throat competition, wars, torture, police brutality and pauperization.

Lacan’s definition of castration as a movement in which the object is lost in order to be regained on the ladder of desire… the true object-cause of desire is the void filled in by its fantasmatic incarnations… the object a is also the object of the drive, the relationship is here thoroughly different: although in both cases the link between object and loss is crucial, in the case of the object a as the object-cause of desire, we have an object which is originally lost, which coincides with its own loss, which emerges as loss, while, in the case of the object a as the object of the drive, the “object” is directly the loss itself in the shift from desire to drive, we pass from the lost object to loss itself as an object… Is not the repetitive movement of losing and regaining oneself, of alienation and disalienation, a movement which, as Hegel explicitly claim, bring enjoyment, uncannily close to the circular movement of the drive?
Slavoj Zizek, “Less Than Nothing (Hegel and the Shadow of Dialectical Materialism)”, Verso, 2012, p. 497 – 498


Dušan Makavejev


Showism – massive deployment of mass entertainment is inevitable when contrast between the lives of the rich and poor dramatically sharpens. It is the way for the rich to advertize their life style – to establish themselves as models for unconditional admiration, or to create the illusion of a general prosperity in order to distract the poor from envy and hate for those who are better off.


One such show represented by Makavejev is about search for the best virgins from all over the globe for the purpose of marriage with wealthy grooms (democracy in action!). The more time passes by since the release of the film, the more natural and popular these types of shows have become in the West, especially in US. Today, the very idea of this show – matchmaking between prominently rich and the poor who have what to sell to become richer looks just realistic, not metaphoric as it was back then in the middle of seventies.


This doctor verifying the presence and authenticity of hymens in contestants personifies (hired) specialists serving the will of the wealthy and powerful – money in today’s world defines which professions are lucrative and what education to pursue. Look at this face of a specialists – it is not a conservative face of a wealthy masters deciding in what areas to invest in and which sectors of economy will develop and which not. It is a typical positive liberal face of a person just making career. Look at this guy’s love for his profession – for his expertise in identifying proper hymens. Look how he loves the hymen he is examining. For wealthy bachelors looking for a spouse – beauty is virginity and sterility. So, doctor takes libidinous pleasure from looking at a hymen signifying attractive asexuality. According to Makavejev, sexuality in the world of the wealthy is subdued by surplus-money and surplus-security. When the wealthy need sex, it means they need to consume sexuality – they want sex in condition of controlling it.


Now compare the liberal face of the doctor-hymenologist with that of a “decider“. We see before us the face of a billionaire-bridegroom using his electric toothbrush before first night with his beautiful bride with certified virginity. But why he has such disgusted expression? Contempt and animosity on his face is his reaction on the world he was consuming whole day to digest it into profit. It is from remnants of this consumption he is cleansing his mouth from. For him world is only raw material for his self-enrichment – it must be kept under super-sanitizing control. For him getting a new wife-virgin is metaphor of his orientation on sterilizing the world, transforming it into virgin (an earthly resource) to be used. He cleans his mouth but has dirty nails. It’s not physical dirt but that of his predatoriness. His facial expression is how today, the 1% of population (the financial elite) look at the 99% – Makavejev’s character hates the very world he eats, swallows, consumes, metabolizes, digests and defecates out and on.


The mother of the wealthy-bridegroom – the Chastity Belt Foundation lady, is a kind of Eve/Mary figure of today’s conservative rich – she is hooked on bodily hygiene. But the best cleaner of the world is, of course, money itself. The transformation of the world into money and life into money-making is their radical sterilization. Product is always cleaner than the matter it is made of, and the sold product is always cleaner than the unsold.


Mr. Kapital or Mr. Dollars, as Makavejev names the exemplary hunter for virgins, makes a speech praising the sacred institution of marriage that provides virgins with money and money to virgins according to the sacred logic of business deals.


The bride (full of romantic expectations) is waiting for the golden groom. She feels that the miserable human life is a thing of the past and that her future with Mr. Dollars will be beyond and above life of mortals.


But something curious happened suddenly as devil’s intervention into god’s world – after the first night spent with her billionaire husband Miss Monde has been dumped on his servant – Jeremiah Muscle. What went wrong?


But Jeremiah Muscle is not only a servant, he has his own identity – he is a showman: he is bragging about plenitude of his body, his psychiatric records and psychopathic credentials…


…He also advertises the sweetness of his sweat.


Deadly traumatized already a second time on her way to sexual and financial triumph over the world and in the clutches of a nervous breakdown, Miss Monde is sent (by Jeremiah) to Paris. Here we see her in a suitcase – she is promoted from just being human into being a property. Her problem is that at this point she is property of nobody, property looking for its owner.


In Paris Miss Monde has her third traumatic sexual/amorous encounter with a man in a position of success and fame – the experience that pushed her into a kind of psychological coma.


For the first time, after Mr. Dollars and Jeremiah Muscle, the intercourse between human bodies, male and female, about which Miss Monde had thought of as her ally in her career in becoming wealthy, took place right on Eiffel Tower, but…


…what created in our innocent entrepreneur of her own virginity new psychotic shock was not the golden instead of usual man’s organ of love (as it was the case with Mr. Dollars), and not a dramatically super-sized one like Jeremiah‘s, but its… absence. Pop-singer and superstar came to occupy a place near the billionaire and Jeremiah Muscle in Miss World’s broken memory.


Three times, Miss World, the courageous virgin was thrown away from her dream of becoming rich through sex with famous and powerful men, and now she has collapsed into a psychological stupor, practically an autistic state, and she was sent to a radical psychotherapeutic group proudly living and operating in Switzerland.


According to the group’s psychotherapeutic concept, the person in Miss Monde’s condition has to begin her recovery as if she is a new-born. We see here how she discovers/rediscovers the primordial mother’s breast.


According to expectations and in accordance with psychotherapeutic principles previous Miss Monde/World reacts angrily on burlesque imitation of man’s bodily prowess.


Here she, again in accordance with psychoanalytic expectations, learns to appreciate and nurture the very remnants of man’s vitality repressed by indifference of factual life in the trap of a tough survival.


Finally, our dethroned Miss Monde is shocked again (again and again) by the psychological violence of the commune’s psychotherapeutic efforts to recuperate the innocent naturality and primordial freedom of human condition. She barely survived the violence of the wealthy and their bodyguards, and violence of rich and famous only to be exposed to the violence of the poor and the left. She has reached the end of her earthly hope. She is at the end of her rope.


Take a look at the expression of a maker of this chocolate commercial – doesn’t he look like an alien monster? Look at his teeth. The first time we met in Makavejev’s film the motif of predatory mouth when we saw the billionaire-groom brushing his teeth before the night of love. Now we see a predatoriness enjoying its readiness to cheerful bite.


Something terrible in how Miss World is advertizing chocolate – not its irresistible taste but its ability to engulf the chocolate lover…


… to tie up her hands and legs by its predatory sticky body…


…and to digest the chocolate lover on the spot… In last three shots Makavejev creates the images of the very apotheosis of (predatory) consumerism that more and more often becomes sadistic and a sadomasochistic experience.


The ship with a giant smiling and crying head of Karl Marx arrives to Amsterdam, like the spirit of Communism “wondering through Europe”.


The ship’s captain, Anna Planeta, is poor (revolutionary tradition symbolized by the Marx-ship, is all she’s got) but she is not appealing to the rich to survive like Miss Monde/Miss World 1984 – she tries to find her own solutions to the problems of human life.


Sailor from “Potemkin” right from the Russian revolutionary history and Sergei Eisenstein’s film personifies the spirit of revolution destroyed and resurrecting again and again. He is like Anna Planeta’s ship – the ideal essence of revolutionary thirst that cannot win over the rich’s dominance – cannot overthrow the very incompatibility between the rich and poor, the very irreconcilability between top and bottom of the social hierarchy, but at the same time cannot just disappear, wither away. Until the very contrast between the rich and the poor will not be reduced, the revolutionary spirit will be wandering around as an eternal hungry ghost.


The sailor from “Potemkin” (not more, not less than Lev Bakunin) introduces his pet mouse to Anna Planeta. What is symbolized by the little creature? The mouse, it seems, is the body of the ghost, what is left from the “great dream” of revolutionary liberation from inequality and injustice – it is today’s mass philistine, those who make enough money to buy the tickets to watch a batman-movie.


Anna Planeta’s ship is full of granulated sugar – the very alchemical substance of sweet dream of Communism for people made desperate by their poorness and powerlessness, and of the blind desire for consumption (stimulated by inequality and injustice) on part of the poor in the West, who unconsciously take mass culture as successful Communism. But this ship of hope for future equality is also full of sweet desire for love and sexual happiness and for bitter desire for revenge.


Too much sweet taste and too passionate expectation of love are both dangerous. They can very easily turn into deadly disappointment and frustration full of destructive energy.


Anna Planeta and “Potemkin” sailor’s dream of happiness under communist banner is doomed to fail – too much sugar is in the dream (revolutionary hope) or/and in reality (the Western mass culture of consumerism) makes poor people psychologically unable to pull out the necessary historical transformation (especially in a context when mad resistance on part of the rich makes it especially difficult task).


Potemkin sailor becomes the prototype of endless victims of communist dream, martyr of utopian idealism. Victims of greed of rich meet victims of idealism of poor in an alternative world located above the real one.


But victims of both – of the rich and of the poor fighting the rich, are remembered not for too long because the very suffering of people living without equality and justice makes communist dream stronger than truth about the victims of the revolution, and because the rich’s blind antidemocratic fear of fairness makes them fiercer than they could be.


The next five shots are from a documentary “…footage (taken by the Nazis in 1943) of exhumation in the Katyn Forest of Polish officers, engineers, doctors and teachers …


… assassinated by Russian soldiers.” (Lorrain Mortimer, “Terror and Joy (The Films of Dušan Makavejev)”, Univ. of Minnesota Pr., London, 2009, p. 198)


This person was killed while continuing to shout out his protest against illegal – contrary to Geneva Conventions, actions of Soviet troops.


This photograph was taken from the pocket of a murdered person – a spot of doomed paradise amidst the reality of the hell.


Nazis (pro-rich) investigate the Soviet atrocities, the Soviets (anti-rich and pro-poor) – investigate the Nazi’s in turn, and the spirit of democracy between them is not democratic enough to resist the totalitarian temptation and imitates the both sides.


In the last part of the film we see the corpses of children “murdered” by the Western mass-cultural “pedagogy” of “sexual freedom” (“sexual revolution”) that is a form of “phantom of liberty” going berserk. Sex is transformed into a goal in itself, a consumerist item, a tool to distract people from addressing growing inequality in the public realm. But then we see children in what viewers take as body bags raise their heads, and it become clear that children are not physically killed but what is killed in them is their soul – killed by the mass consumerist ideology. Too much “sweetness” leads to psychological regression that makes even more difficult to resolve the problem of social inequality.

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The “Sweet Movie” (SWM) is about two irreducible social strata our specie is fatally polarized on – rich and poor (strong and weak, leaders and followers, propagandists and credulous believers, deciders and the obedient), about their psychology and their madness as a result of permanent struggle and the impossibility of their unification. In other words, it is a film about the tragic impossibility of a real democracy in the age of a formal democracy. Makavejev reminds viewers of an unpleasant truth about the non-existence of a human being in general (Homo sapiens), a human being beyond belonging to extremely unequal social strata. Instead of “human being” we see conflict-ridden violent co-existence between the rich/powerful and the poor/powerless. In some historical periods this bifurcation is more difficult to notice because the poor don’t want to be aware that their destiny is so different from their masters’, and because these masters create a lot of socio-political and ideological tricks (jingoism and entertainment culture are good examples) in order to make it intellectually difficult for the poor to recognize the truth. But in some historical moments like the present financial attack of the 1% on the 99% of the population, the truth about strict social hierarchy among primates including humans (the fundamental “law” of social inequality) can easily be noticed. Both polarized social strata in SWM (the top and the bottom of social hierarchy) produce sociopathic and psychopathic behaviors as a result of mutual frustration (the rich because they cannot reach unconditional dominance over the poor, and the poor because they cannot achieve equality with rich).

Two leading female characters – Miss Monde/Miss World and Anna Planeta personify the two main positions of the poorer towards the richer. The poorer are trying through association with the rich become finally one of them. Anna Planeta, on the other hand, tries to live without appealing to the rich, on her own, with her own hopes, dreams and frustrations. The both approaches Makavejev finds grossly inadequate, the both characters end tragically. It looks that until drastic social inequality exists, there won’t be a way out of excessive human suffering. Formal democracy tries to mask its presence by deploying mass culture (that by cheap prosperity and pseudo-freedoms distracts people from their deprivations) and political propaganda (that binds frustration of the poor to misguided hate for other types of poor).

Miss World, the pretty girl with petty bourgeois psychology (shall we call it the American dream?), has one goal in life – how to sell her virginity to a successful marriage with a man of means. She managed to win a contest of the “most virgin” with a price of becoming a billionaire’s wife. It seemed to her like a dizzying victory. Of course, investing one’s virginity to a promising marriage is rather an obvious idea, though Makavejev demonstrates that to realize it can be much more difficult than it looks to the virgins. The problem is that they are not too experienced, and for this reason are prone to overestimate the exchange value of hymen. Besides, they are too easily shocked. They never understood that choosing the wife among virgins puts the bridegroom (who is as far from his own virginity as from his umbilical cord) into an immense strategic advantage. More, virgins are needed but their supply is also pretty good.

To sell/invest one’s virginity can be a tough business – it’s necessary to be able to make quick tactical decisions without losing the main goal. Our virgin was too naïve – too human and too straightforward. Her first shock came when during her first night of love she couldn’t avoid noticing that her multi-billionaire husband not only using a robber alcohol to disinfect her whole body, not only has a penis made of pure gold, but that he doesn’t use it in a manner she simplemindedly expected him to. Instead of enjoying her discovery of the golden part of his body or at least pretending that she is enjoying it, she panicked and allowed herself to feel and think the impossible – that her husband is somehow cheating her out of her rights. Because of this unforgivable incompetence our awkward virgin almost lost her life.

With impressive rudeness she was dumped on one of the numerous servants of billionaire of golden masculinity. And after treating her not at all as the wife of the rich boss and giving her a new trauma by exposing her to the overwhelming sight of his super-human-sized glory, he sent her in a suitcase to Paris, where the emotionally broken virgin, already in a quite psychotic state, had the third shocking experience (proving again her incompetence). Her third hope, the pop-singer has overwhelmed her with, this time, the… absence of a discernable masculine attribute about which she always thought of as an ally in her business intentions and plans. Now, the triply frustrated virgin had only one place left to go – an Austrian psychotherapeutic community settled on a farm outside of Vienna (about fifty people living with pigs, cows, hens and their leader Otto Muehl’s ideas – inspired by Wilhelm Reich’s psychological concepts of a radical liberation of human potentials).

The therapeutic principle the community followed was “very radical” – to induce in patients psychological regression to the condition of the baby in order to let them start their emotional development again in an atmosphere that is free from traumatizing influences of factual life in a “fallen world” (with its artificial conflicts and adversariness). It was supposed to heal traumas of “civilization” and restore the human ability to enjoy the spontaneity of being a human being in natural environment. The idea is too obvious to be really good. The ex-Miss World had to start with awakening sensitivity of her mouth to be able to imitate the baby’s vital sensorial center of contact with world. She as if for the first time discovered the breast of the human mother (of the soft and feminine black woman-member of the community) and stopped to be afraid of human body.

But… the controlled regression from the factual world (transforming human body into the item of consumption or string of bravery), seemed to the previous Miss Monde to be so… violent (once again, violence), so unnatural, so inhumane, that she became a completely hopeless and even autistic. In this condition she agreed to act in a chocolate commercial where she, according to oral instructions, had to die while imitating the happiness of a chocolate consumer (or was it her not pre-meditated suicide inside the advertisement?). Makavejev likes undecidable tropes like this one, when several semantic variants behind an action can be of equal probability.

Stuff like this for polite people with liberal sensibility can sound too extreme, too hyperbolic and, yes, too rude, and many scholars-specialists in cinema decided that Makavejev as a film-director has a “bad taste” but that his cinematic language is his own although being framed by general raffishness of his aesthetic (anti-aesthetic) canon.

Only in 21st century the unabashed cultural (not political at all) radicalness of Makavejev’s aesthetics can be appreciated. What was metaphorical amidst reality of seventies became in today’s world just realistic. Liberal illusion that more humanistic future is coming “by itself”, without the painful existential transformation – is shattered, the wealthy 1% (with their intellectual servants and conservative propagandists) advance under the banner of radical programs of planned pauperization of the 99% through austerity measures and shock therapies. In 21st century Makavejev can, finally, find his enthusiastic audience, first of all, among the Americans and the Europeans who for decades were deluded by mass culture and consumerism.

The vicissitudes of adventures of the frustrated virgin is only one half of Makavejev’s film connected through parallel montage with the symmetrical part dedicated to the life of Anna Planeta personifying the sweet (for the hearts of the poor and the pauperized) revolutionary utopia. She is moving around the world on the ship symbolizing the idea of revolutionary liberation from the world of inequality and injustice. Anna Planeta (AP) is the opposite of Miss World – she is as poor but she doesn’t want to be obedient to the ideology of money and stubbornly holds on to her independence and her dedication to the ideology of liberation. AP defined by the film as a romantic revolutionary who is doomed to become a murderer and corrupter of minors. AP is trying to create the equivalent of what for rich is money – the mythology of future paradise of material prosperity (signified by the sugar that is in excess on her Marx-ship and by plenty of candies). AP’s granulated sugar is for the poor as money/profit is for the rich.

Through the metaphor of sugar Makavejev simultaneously comments on Proletarian revolution inspired by sugar-dream of Communism, and American and European mass culture – cheerful parody on this dream: realization of the cheap and fake consumerist prosperity. This twin metaphor for sweet ideological dream about future prosperity (the Soviet variant of an imaginary ideological alternative to alienation between rich and poor) and granulated sugar of factual pseudo prosperity (its Western mass-cultural variant) is the semantic spine of the film. These two “branches” of liberation ideology – Soviet (“Socialist”) and Western (mass-cultural), both producing violence (murder of the sailor and corruption of children), Makavejev completes with the depiction of the domination of the rich over the poor (the treatment of Miss Monde by Mr. Dollars) and with violence of the Soviet army during WWII. While Soviet violence is shown as direct and a kind of – revengeful (in the documentary footage about crimes of the Soviet army), mass-cultural violence (MCV) is characterized as rather exploitative and tricky, more psychological than directly physical. MCV that AP commits with children she seduces into the ideology of sexual liberation, violence she acts out in front of her “associate” – the revolutionary sailor and “bum“, and atrocities committed by Soviet troops in documentary film reel are examples of the violence of the poor. The documentary clip that Makavejev made part of his film is one of the strongest indictments against violence as a result of gross inequality between the top and the bottom of social hierarchy.

Violence of the poor is shown as a reaction on the violence against them, the blind desire to demonstrate (first of all, to themselves) that their violence can be even more violent that the one exercised earlier against them. The seduction of children into sexual liberation ideology (into freedom to have “sweet experiences”) is interpreted by Makavejev as murdering of their souls, transforming them into robots of consumerist pleasures, completely artificial creatures unable to perceive life in its wholeness. The final images of the film suggest that after having incorporated the sugar-dream the kids continue to live but as zombies of pleasures, not liberated human beings. Makavejev ends the film with accent on the modality of living deadness, be it deadness of Socialist robots (obedient to orders of their leaders) or mass-cultural one living for the sake of consuming things, services, pleasures and entertainment.

Makavejev’s very style as an intellectual film-director is unique by semantic distance between “juicy” visuality of his images and their meaning. As a thinker in images he avoids creating a middle range conceptuality orienting visuality on deeper generalizations as mediation between the two (like Godard, Bergman or Pasolini do). The reason, it seems, that Makavejev considers shock or shaking up the viewers’ perception as a more effective way to awaken their cognition than to provide a multi-stepped semantic staircase from the surface of the image to its meaning. Makavejev in this sense is a “shock therapist” of human perception. Some viewers can prefer a more delicate treatment of their cognitive function on the part of a film director. But if we consider how “inertial” our perception of the reality is, how much we are prone to superstitions, prejudices and clichés, how credulous we are before commercial ads and political propaganda, various and often conflicting ways of awakening our cognitive ability should be more than welcomed.

Makavejev aesthetic canon can be defined as anti-propaganda aesthetics, as a masterful undoing of what ideological propaganda, be it Socialist or pseudo-democratic, has done to our perception and thinking. Makavejev’s cinema is shocking but through these aesthetic shocks it exorcizes the propagandist messages/suggestions that have corroded our very ability to understand the reality. Makavejev’s cinematic style is oriented to make us resistant to new attempts of political propaganda from the extreme right and the extreme left that kidnaps through brainwashing our intellectual freedom and the ability to think for ourselves.

Passionate loyalty to Communist ideal is a result of psychological castration of Communist dreamers by the very reality they rebel against – by Capitalist obsessions with keeping inequality intact by the magic of money calculations. But the very Capitalist obsessions and circulation of fraudulent money waves are also a result of psychological castration – the impossibility of people obsessed with money to satisfy themselves (the impossibility for the system to relax their violent strains). Without re-unification between different strata of human society we will always have the castration effect for both irreconcilable strata – the top-rich and the bottom-poor, when people will try to compensate for this castration by their belligerent posture towards one another and the world.

Posted 11/14/’17 –   Sugar-taste, Sugar-dream, Sugar-dreaming, Sugar-excitement, Sugar-prosperity, Sugar-destructiveness – From Dušan Makavejev’s “Sweet Movie” (1974) by Acting-Out Politics

Review posted on July 4, 2014 –   “Sweet Movie” (1976) By Dusan Makavejev by Acting-Out Politics