Unity Between People’s Orientation on Private Happiness and their Consumerist Conformism In Public Life

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Picture 1Margot’s intelligence distorts her beauty putting the shadow of disharmony between her perception of the world and how the world perceives her. While Margot’s beauty is welcomed by the culture, her intelligence is not. Her unpleasant facial expression of strain and uncertainty is a sign that beauty without intelligence is conformism and philistinism and that intelligence splitted from beauty becomes psychologically disturbed.

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Picture 2 Fassbinder emphasizes the contrast between Kurt’s peaceful animality (signified by his opened under arm) and Margot’s suffering for not being reciprocated (or for being reciprocated only sexually)

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Picture 3- Here Fassbinder emphasizes another contrast – between Kurt’s innocence and Margot’s torment. Kurt’s gaze is flat, while Margot’s is overfilled.

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Picture 4- Margot cannot share with her husband her “psychological problem” with social world as it is – she has “responsibilities” of a wife, a mother and a citizen. So, she feels alone, face to face with her fear and her fear of fear.

Picture 5- Bibilein senses that her mother’s new hairdo/makeup “dollness” hides something troubling.

Picture 6- Margot tries to mix pills of loud music with alcohol

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Picture 7- Tired after sexual overindulgence lovers contemplate their mutual experience. They’re both looking at what just happened – the doctor enjoyed his destiny’s sudden gift, Margot possesses what she has just done, she cannot let it go and to become the past, she keeps pressing it to herself.

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When the area of public behavior is controlled by the official ideology masses of people either enthusiastically serve the strong and rich, and/or retreat into private life, or become occupied with consumption of what is available. The combination of the first and second strategy (with the third as a marginal trend) is typical for traditional (ideological) fascism. Combination of the second and third (with the first as a marginal, but still as a strong trend) is intrinsic for an economic (consumerist) fascism.

What in Germany was fight for direct power during Nazi period after the war (post WWII and onward) became a fight for a higher level of material prosperity. Fight for direct domination became fight for domination through wealth (through accumulation and multiplication of private wealth while handing out some of it to the politicians). Fascism returns through the back door lubricated by money. Fascist ideology became money-ideology. Money provides the top people (topple) with a comparable degree of power that direct domination had during Nazi era.

If war is a continuation of politics by another means, the post-WW2 German economic miracle is just the continuation of Nazi fascism by the other – economic, means.

Speculation, property appropriation, prosperity worship, total dedication to career and its enhancement, real estate boom, interior design, material comfort – are now the operational definitions of domination. Money-fight for ownership of private land, floor space for the extra-chair and extra-toilet seat has become the new (sublimated) variant of the Nazi military fight for living space. The interior of the Margot and Kurt Staudtes’ apartment is as if made for furniture that uses people like in a game of billiard balls are used.

For Margot (Margit Carstensen who again was able to triumphantly reincarnate into a new character, after her ultimate performance as Petra – “The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant” – 1972) – the furniture/food/children: her middle class prosperity is, simultaneously, desirable and unreal, something she wants to keep and yet feels is a mirage. The fear of loosing it becomes a mental symptom exactly because she doesn’t believe in its reality. It is her latent (unconscious) refutation of the reality what makes it unreal to her, but this intensifies her fear. The human intelligence in Margot clashes with the collective ideology of philistinism. It’s as if she feels that what is unreal can easily slip away. She desperately glues to her daughter’s physical existence, she jumps to her husband for sexual sensation – to persuade herself in the realness of her life, but the feeling of her life as not rooted in Being presses on.

Fassbinder unfold before us a confused condition of a person who, without understanding why the world is literary melting in front of her eyes, instinctively cannot accept the reality of belonging to prosperity as a symbol of social status. Margot tries to fill the hole in the very fabric of her life (here we step from her fear into her fear of fear) with Valium, swimming pool, pop-music, new dresses, hairdo/makeovers, alcohol and sexual misalliance. All this temporarily helps her to ignore her feelings. But it doesn’t make her perceive what is not real as real. How to continue to live a life that is not life at all? How to learn to believe in collective hallucination? How to take your husband’s career for real life just because it provides money to go on? How to accept your own real children as belonging to a superficial world?

Margot is locked in the very undecidability between accepting the collective dream and loosing as a result her humanity and intelligence. But chronic intense medication transforms the world into a living utopia – wolfs are over filled with food, and yet all the sheep are accounted for. Private citizens on permanent medication are happy and have responsible jobs. This solution is quite typical for today’s society. Existential spirituality is sacrificed for the sake of conformist happiness.

Private solution for the public matters is today’s strategy of handling the population. Addiction to prescription or illegal drugs, drug-like products and their obsessive or somnambular consumption become the film’s micro-political symbol for the combination of private happiness and public conformism.