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is that he write too much, gives me no time to finish, please slow down zizek i am not a quick reader
Following is a transcript of the first 10 minutes of the talk:
Following is a version in Chinese translation (selected, not full version):
A few interesting quotes here.
To read the full article go HERE.
The standard idea is to say, like my friend Alain Badiou in France, “those who are here are from here”. That is to say, no check for roots, open to all of them. Legalize everything. The problem is that they know very well that this radical opening will never happen. So it’s very easy to have a radical position which costs you nothing and for the price of nothing it gives you some kind of moral superiority. It also enables them to avoid the truly difficult questions.
Or, another thing that I really hate as a leftist who tries to be a communist – did you notice how the standard academic left likes nothing more than an attempted revolution going on, but far away from where you are? Today it’s Venezuela, which is why I like to be critical from time to time of Chavez. It’s a very comfortable position: you can do all the dirty work, you struggle for your career, compromises in your country in the west, but your heart is somewhere far away but it in no way affects what you are doing. This is another thing which I think is a fake.
I claim that we have two opponents: pro-capitalist liberals and old Marxists, as far as they still exist. They claim that it’s the same capitalism going on. This is obviously not true – in China and other places, something new is emerging.
This is typical theoretical arrogance. We don’t know what is going on. This is the point of my book: terrific new things are emerging. What’s going on in China today is something very ominous.
My position isn’t that we should sit down and wait for some big revolution to come. We have to engage wherever we can. If Obama wins his battle over healthcare, if some kind of a blow will made against this freedom of choice ideology, it will be a great victory worth having fought for.
All I’m saying is that one should distinguish between short-term battles worth fighting and short-term battles where your protest is of the kind that those in power like. There was a little bit of that in the marches against the Iraq war. Everyone was satisfied. Those who organised the protests knew they wouldn’t change anything. Blair like the protests – he or Bush said,
my god, they are telling the truth!” But this truth was easily appropriated by zionists, who say, “you see, that’s how you fight wars – we had to do it.” If you don’t change the ideological background, facts alone don’t do the job.
Theory is sacred, we need it more than ever.
When people ask me what we should do about ecology, the financial crisis – my god, what do I know? What I can do, as a critical intellectual, is to ask the right questions. Sometimes the way you formulate or perceive a problem can be itself be part of the problem. The classical example is tolerance. Why is it that we today automatically translate or perceive problems of racism or sexism into problems of tolerance.
The problem for me is that if we don’t want to end up in some kind of neo-authoritarian society, in which we’ll have all our private freedoms (…) but in which the social space will be depoliticized and much more authoritarian – here we should make a pact with liberals. Only a more fundamental questioning of our society can save us. It’s clear that we are approaching some kind of apocalyptic zero-point.
My unconditional insight is that we will be pushed into a situation where we will have to make a choice: either we do something or we are slowly approaching a society I’m not sure I’d like to live in.
THE PERVERT’SGUIDE TO CINEMA PRESENTED BY PHILOSOPHER AND PSYCHOANALYSTS -Slavoj Zizek
The problem for us is not, Are our desires satisfied or not? The problem is, How do we know what we desire? There is nothing spontaneous, nothing natural, about human desires. Our desires are artificial. We have to be taught to desire. Cinema is the ultimate pervert art. It doesn’t give you what you desire, it tells you how to desire.
Oh, I do like you, but it just isn’t good enough.
Oh, I forgot. Your mother asked me up for supper.
Okay. Bring some ice cream with you, will you?
What kind do you want,chocolate or vanilla?
What we get in this wonderful clip from Possessed is commentary on the magic art of cinema within a movie. We have an ordinary working-class girl, living in a drab, small provincial town. All of a sudden she finds herself in a situation where reality itself reproduces the magic cinematic experience. She approaches the rail, the train is passing, and it is as if what in reality is just a person standing near a slowly passing train turns into a viewer observing the magic of the screen.
Have a drink?
Oh, don’t go away.
Get in and look out.
We get a very real, ordinary scene onto which the heroine’s inner space, as it were, her fantasy space is projected, so that, although all reality is simply there, the train, the girl,part of reality in her perception and in our viewer’s perceptionis, as it were, elevated to the magic level, becomes the screen of her dreams. This is cinematic art at its purest.
This is your last chance.
After this there is no turning back.
You take the blue pill, the story ends.
You wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe.
You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.
But the choice between the blue and the red pill is not really a choice between illusion and reality. Of course, the matrix is a machine for fictions, but these are fictions which already structure our reality. If you take away from our reality the symbolic fictions that regulate it, you lose reality itself.
I want a third pill. So what is the third pill? Definitely not some kind of transcendental pill which enables a fake, fast-food religious experience, but a pill that would enable me to perceive not the reality behind the illusion but the reality in illusion itself.
If something gets too traumatic, too violent, even too filled with enjoyment, it shatters the coordinates of our reality. We have to fictionalise it. The first key to horror films is to say, “Let’s imagine the same story but without the horror element.” This gives us, I think, the background.
We’re in the middle of Bodega Bay, where the action of Hitchcock’s Birds takes place. Birds is a film about a young, rich, socialite girl from San Francisco who falls in love with a guy, goes after him to Bodega Bay,where she discovers that he lives with his mother.
Of course, it’s none of my business, but when you bring a girl like that… I think I can handle Melanie Daniels by myself. Well, as long as you know what you want, Mitch. I know exactly what I want. And then, there is the standard oedipal imbroglio of incestuous tension between mother and son, the son split between his possessive mother and the intrusive girl. What’s the matter with them? What’s the matter with all the birds?
Hurry up with yours, Mitch.
I’m sure Miss Daniels wants to be on her way.
I think you ought to stay the night, Melanie.
We have an extra room upstairs and everything.
The big question about The Birds, of course, is the stupid, obvious one, Why do the birds attack?
Mitch…It is not enough to say that the birds are part of the natural set-up of reality. It is rather as if a foreign dimension intrudes that literally tears apart reality. We humans are not naturally born into reality. In order for us to act as normal people who interact with other people who live in the space of social reality, many things should happen. Like, we should be properly installed within the symbolic order and so on. When this, our proper dwelling within a symbolic space, is disturbed, reality disintegrates.
So, to propose the psychoanalytic formula, the violent attacks of the birds are obviously explosive outbursts of maternal superego, of the maternal figure preventing, trying to prevent sexual relationship. So the birds are raw, incestuous energy. What am I doing? I’m sorry, now I got it.My God, I’m thinking like Melanie. You know what I’m thinking now? I want to fuck Mitch. That’s what she was thinking. No. Sorry, sorry, sorry. I meant that I got this spontaneous confusion of directions.
Mrs Bates. We are in the cellar of the mother’s house from Psycho. What’s so interesting is that the very disposition of mother’s house… Events took place in it at three levels, first floor, ground floor, basement. It is as if they reproduce the three levelsof human subjectivity. Ground floor is ego. Norman behaves there as a normal son, whatever remains of his normal ego taking over.Up there, it’s the superego.Maternal superego, because the dead mother is basically a figure of superego.
I’m gonna bring something up. I am sorry, boy, but you do manage to look ludicrous
No, I will not hide in the fruit cellar.
You think I’m fruity, huh?
And down in the cellar, it’s the id, the reservoir of these illicit drives. So we can then interpret the event in the middle of the film, when Norman carries the mother or, as we learn at the end, mother’s mummy, corpse, skeleton, from the first floor to the cellar.
You won’t do it again.
Not ever again.
Now get out.
I’ll carry you, Mother.
It’s as if he is transposing her in his own mindas the psychic agency from superego to id.
Put me down. Put me down.
I can walk on my own…
Of course, the lesson of it is the old lessone laborated already by Freud, that superego and id are deeply connected.The mother complains first, as a figure of authority, mother immediately turns into obscenity, Do you think I’m fruity? Superego is not an ethical agency. Superego is an obscene agency, bombarding us with impossible orders, laughing at us, when, of course, we cannot ever fulfil its demand. The more we obey it, the more it makes us guilty. There is always some aspect of an obscene madman in the agency of the superego.
We often find references to psychoanalysis embodied in the very relations between persons. For example, the three Marx Brothers, Groucho, Chico, Harpo. It’s clear that Groucho, the most popular one, with his nervous hyper-activity, is superego.
Well, that covers a lot of ground.
Say, you cover a lot of ground yourself. You better beat it.
I hear they’re gonna tear you down and put up an office building where you’re standing.
You can leave in a taxi. If you can’t geta taxi, you can leave in a huff.
If that’s too soon, you can leave in a minute and a half. You know you haven’t stopped talking since I came here?
Chico, the rational guy, egotistic, calculating all the time, is ego.
Chicolini, you’re charged with high treason,and if found guilty, you’ll be shot.
I couldn’t think of anything else to say.
And, the weirdest of them all, Harpo, the mute guy, he doesn’t talk. Freud said that drives are silent. He doesn’t talk. He, of course, is id. Who are you guys?
What are you doing in my room?
That’s my partner. But he no speak.
He’s dumb and deaf.
The id in all its radical ambiguity. Namely, what is so weird about the Harpo character is that he’s childishly innocent, just striving for pleasure, likes children, plays with children and so on. But, at the same time, possessed by some kind of primordial evil, aggressive all the time. And this unique combination of utter corruption and innocenceis what the id is about.
Get off there.
Get off that table.
What do you think this is here, anyway?
Put that down.
Lunatic! Stop that, here!
Here, let it alone.
Yes, I’m Dr Klein. This is Dr Taney.
I’m Sharon. Things have gotten worsesince I phoned you.I think you better come upstairs.
Yeah, but they’ve gotten violent.
Did you give her the medication?Voice is not an organic part of a human body.
It’s coming from somewherein between your body.
Mother, please! -Please, Mother, make it stop!
What is it? What’s happening?
It’s burning! It’s burning!
Do something, Doctor.
Please, help her!
Whenever we talk to another person, there is always this minimum of ventriloquist effect, as if some foreign power took possession. Let the enemy have no power over her. And the son of iniquity be powerless to harm her.
You mother sucks cocks in hell, Karras, you faithless swine!
Remember that at the beginning of the film, this was a beautiful young girl.H ow did she become a monster that we see? By being possessed, but who possessed her? A voice. A voice in its obscene dimensions. See the cross of the Lord.
Begone, you hostile powers.
The first big filmabout this traumatic dimension of the voice, the voice which freely floats aroundand is a traumatic presence, feared, the ultimate moment or object of anxiety which distorts reality, was in ’31 , in Germany, Fritz Lang’s The Testament of Dr Mabuse.
You and the woman will not leave this room alive.
Monster! Stop, please!
We do not see Mabuse till the end of the film. He is just a voice.
You will not leave this room alive.
And to redeem through your son, who lives and reigns with youin the unity of the Holy Spirit,God, forever and ever. So, the problem is, which is whywe have the two priests at her side, how to get rid of this intruder, of this alien intruder. It is as if we are expecting the famous scene from Ridley Scott’s Alien to repeat itself. As if we just wait for some terrifying, alien,evil-looking, small animal to jump out.There is a fundamental imbalance, gap, between our psychic energy, called by Freud “libido”, this endless undeadenergy which persists beyond life and death, and the poor, finite, mortal reality of our bodies.
This is not just the pathology of being possessed by ghosts. The lesson that we should learn and that the movies try to avoid is that we ourselves are the aliens. Our ego, our psychic agency, is an alien force, distorting, controlling our body. Nobody was as fully aware of the properly traumatic dimension of the human voice, the human voice not as the sublime, ethereal medium for expressing the depth of human subjectivity, but the human voice as a foreign intruder. Nobody was more aware of this than Charlie Chaplin.
Chaplin himself plays in the film two persons, the good, small, Jewish barber and his evil double, Hynkel, dictator. Hitler, of course.
He bit my finger. The Jewish barber, the tramp figure, is of course the figure of silent cinema. Silent figures are basically like figures in the cartoon. They don’t know death. They don’t know sexuality even. They don’t know suffering. They just go on in their oral, egotistic striving, like cats and mice in a cartoon. You cut them into pieces, they’re reconstituted. There is no finitude, no mortality here. There is evil, but a kind of naive, good evil. You’re just egotistic, you want to eat, you want to hit the other, but there is no guilt proper. What we get with sound is interiority, depth, guilt,culpability,in other words, the complex oedipal universe.Here you are.Get a Hynkel button. Get a Hynkel button. A fine sculpture with a hooey on each and every button.
The problem of the filmis not only the political problem, how to get rid of totalitarianism, of its terrible seductive power, but it’s also this more formal problem, how to get rid of this terrifying dimension of the voice. Or, since we can not simply get rid of it, how to domesticate it, how to transform this voice nonetheless into the means of expressing humanity, love and so on.
German police grabs the poor tramp thinking this is Hitler and he has to address a large gathering.
I’m sorry, but I don’t want to be an emperor.
That’s not my business.
I don’t want to rule or conquer anyone.
I should like to help everyone, if possible.
Jew, gentile, black man, white,we all want to help one another.
Human beings are like that.
There, of course, he delivers his big speech about the need for love, understanding between people. But there is a catch, even a double catch.
Soldiers, in the name of democracy, let us all unite!
People applaud exactly in the same way as they were applauding Hitler. The music that accompanies this great humanist finale, the overture to Wagner’s opera, Lohengrin,is the same music as the one we hear when Hitler is daydreaming about conquering the entire world and where he has a balloon in the shape of the globe. The music is the same.
This can be read as the ultimate redemption of music, that the same music which served evil purposescan be redeemed to serve the good. Or it can be read, and I think it should be read,in a much more ambiguous way, that with music, we can not ever be sure. In so far as it externalises our inner passion, music is potentially always a threat.
There is a short scene in David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive, which takes place in the theatre where we are now, where behind the microphone a woman is singing, then out of exhaustion or whatever, she drops down. Surprisingly, the singing goes on. Immediately afterwards, it is explained. It was a playback. But for that couple of seconds when we are confused, we confront this nightmarish dimension of an autonomous partial object. Like in the well-known adventureof Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland, where the cat disappears, the smile remains.
You may have noticed that I’m not all there myself. And the mome raths outgrabe. The fascinating thing about partial objects, in the sense of organs without bodies, is that they embody what Freud called “death drive”. Here, we have to be very careful. Death drive is not kind of a Buddhist striving for annihilation. I want to find eternal peace. I want… No. Death drive is almost the opposite. Death drive is the dimension of what in the Stephen King-like horror fiction is called the dimension of the undead, of living dead, of something which remains alive even after it is dead. And it’s, in a way, immortal in its deadness itself. It goes on, insists. You can not destroy it. The more you cut it, the more it insists, it goes on. This dimension, of a kind of diabolical undeadness, is what partial objects are about.
The nicest example here for me, I think, is Michael Powell’s Red Shoes, about a ballerina. Her passion for dancing is materialised in her shoes taking over. The shoes are literally the undead object. Perhaps the ultimate bodily part which fits this role of the autonomous partial objectis the fist, or rather, the hand. This hand, raising up, that’s the whole point of the film. It’s not simply something foreign to him. It’s the very core of his personality out there.
Security? I am Jack’s smirking revenge.
What the hell are you doing?
Far from standing for some kind of perverted masochismor reactionary fantasy of violence, this scene is deeply liberating. I am here, as it were, on the side of the fist. I think this is what liberation means. In order to attack the enemy, you first have to beat the shit out of yourself. To get rid, in yourself, of that whichin yourself attaches you to the leader, to the conditions of slavery, and so on and so on.
No, please stop! What are you doing?
Oh, God, no, please! No!
For some reason, I thought of my first fight, with Tyler.
There is always this conflict between me and my double. Motherfucker!
Well, Jesus. I’m sorry. No, that was perfect.
It is as if the double embodies myself,but without the castrated dimension of myself. There is an episode in the wonderful British horror classic, Dead of Night…
I knew you wouldn’t leave me, Hugo.
I knew you’d come back….
in which Michael Redgrave plays a ventriloquist who gets jealous of his puppet.
Now don’t get excited, I was only joking.You know me.
Take your hands off me!-Stop playing!-Maxwell!
Here, you fool! Officer, quickly, open this door.
In an outburst of violence, he destroys the puppet, breaks down, then in the very last scene of the film we see him in the hospital, slowly regaining consciousness, coming back to himself. First his voice is stuck in the throat. Then, with great difficulty, finally, he is able to talk,but he talks with the distorted voice of the dummy. Why,
hello, Sylvester. I’ve been waiting for you.
And the lesson is clear. The only way for me to get rid of this autonomous partial objectis to become this object.
Okay, I’m ready. Wait a minute. So that I don’t confuse them… Where is my key? My key is here. This one is here. Okay, any… You shout when. I’m standing on the very balcony where the murder, the traumatic murder scene, occurs in Conversation. The murder of the husband, observed through the stained glass in front of me by the private detective, Gene Hackman. The detective is in the nearby room. Significantly, just before he sees the murder, he observes the balcony through a crack in the glass wall.
Whenever we have this famous, proverbial peeping Tom scene of somebody observing traumatic events through a crack, it’s never as if we are dealing with two parts on both sides of the wall of the same reality. Before seeing anythingor imagining to see something, he tries to listen. He behaves as an eavesdropper,with all his private detective gadgets.What does this make him?Potentially, at least,it makes him into a fantasised, imagined entity.
I can’t stand it.I can’t stand it anymore.
You’re going to make me cry.
I know, honey. I know. Me, too.
I have no idea what you’re talking about.
He doesn’t fantasise the scene of the murder.He fantasises himself as a witness to the murder.
I love you.
What he sees on that blurred window glass, which effectively functionsas a kind of elementary screen, cinematic screen even, that should be perceivedas a desperate attempt to visualise,hallucinate even, the bodily, material support of what he hears.
Shut up! It’s “Daddy”, you shithead!
Where’s my bourbon?
Dorothy’s apartmentis one of those hellish places which abound in David Lynch’s films. A places where all moral or social inhibitions seem to be suspended, where everything is possible. The lowest, masochistic sex, obscenities, the deepest level of our desires that we are not even ready to admit to ourselves, we are confronted with them in such places.
Spread your legs.
Now show it to me.
Don’t you fucking look at me.
From what perspective should we observe this scene? Imagine the scene as that of a small child, hidden in a closet or behind a door…
witnessing the parental intercourse. He doesn’t yet know what sexuality is, how we do it.All he knows is what he hears, this strange deep breathing sound, and then he tries to imagine what goes on.
At the very beginning of Blue Velvet, we see Jeffrey’s father having a heart attack, falling down. We have the eclipse of the normal, paternal authority.
Baby wants to fuck!
It is as if Jeffrey fantasises this wild parental couple of Dorothy and Frankas kind of a fantasmatic supplement to the lack of the real paternal authority.
Get ready to fuck, you fucker’s fucker!
Don’t you fucking look at me!
Frank, not only obviously acts, but even overacts. It is as if his ridiculously excessive gesticulating, shouting and so on, are here to cover up something. The point is, of course, the elementary one, to convince the invisible observer that father is potent, to cover up father’s impotence. So the second way to read the scene would have been as a spectacle, a ridiculously violent spectacle, set up by the father to convince the son of his power, of his over-potency. The third way would have been to focus on Dorothy herself.
Many feminists, of course, emphasise the brutality against women in this scene, the abuse, how the Dorothy character is abused. There is obviously this dimension in it. But I think one should risk a more shocking and obverse interpretation.
What if the central, as it were, problem, of this entire scene is Dorothy’s passivity?Don’t you fucking look at me!So what if what Frank is doing is a kind of a desperate, ridiculous, but nonetheless effective attempt of trying to help Dorothy, to awaken her out of her lethargy, to bring her into life? So if Frank is anybody’s fantasy, maybe he is Dorothy’s fantasy. There is kind of a strange, mutual interlocking of fantasies. You stay alive, baby. It’s not only ambiguity, but oscillation between three focal points.This, I think, is what accounts for the strange reverberations of this scene.
This brings us to our third and maybe crucial example, what is for me the most beautiful shot in the entire Vertigo. The shot in which we see Scottie in a position of a peeping Tom, observing through a crack. It is as if Madeleine is really there in common reality, while Scottie is peeping at her from some mysterious inter-space, from some obscure netherworld. This is the location of the imagined, fantasised gaze. Gaze is that obscure point, the blind spot, from which the object looked upon returns the gaze.
After suspecting that a murder is taking place in the nearby hotel room, Gene Hackman, playing the private detective, enters this room and inspects the toilet. The moment he approaches the toilet in the bathroom,it is clear that we are in Hitchcock territory. It is clear that some kind of intense, implicit dialogue with Psycho is going on.
In a very violent gesture, as if adopting the role of Norman Bates’mother, the murderer in Psycho, he opens up the curtain, inspects it in detail, looking for traces of blood there, even inspecting the gap, the hole,at the bottom of the sink. Which is precisely another of these focal objects, because in Psycho, the hole, through fade-out, the hole is morphed into the eye, returning the gaze.
We say the eye is the window of the soul. But what if there is no soul behind the eye? What if the eye is a crack through which we can perceive just the abyss of a netherworld? When we look through these cracks, we see the dark, other side, where hidden forces run the show. It is as if Gene Hackman establishes, of fascination, the toilet bowl. “He flushes it,and then the terrible thing happens. In our most elementary experience, when we flush the toilet, excrements simply disappear out of our reality into another space, which we phenomeno logically perceiveas a kind of a netherworld, another reality, a chaotic, primordial reality. And the ultimate horror, of course, is if the flushing doesn’t work, if objects return, if remainders, excremental remainders, return from that dimension.The bathroom. Hitchcock is all the time playing with this threshold.
Well, they’ve cleaned all this up now.
Big difference. You should’ve seen the blood.
The whole place was… Well, it’s too horrible to describe. Dreadful!
The most effective for me and even the most touching scene of the entire Psycho, is after the shower murder, when Norman Bates tries to clean the bathroom. I remember clearly when in my adolescence I first saw the film, how deeply I was impressed not only by the length of the scene, it goes on almost for 10 minutes, details of cleansing and so on and so on, but also by the care, meticulousness, how it is done,and also by our spectator’s identification with it.
I think that this tells us a lot about the satisfaction of work, of a job well done. Which is not so much to construct something new, but maybe human work at its most elementary, work, as it were, at the zero level, is the work of cleaning the traces of a stain. The work of erasing the stains, keeping at bay this chaotic netherworld, which threatens to explode at any time and engulf us.I think this is the fine sentiment that Hitchcock’s films evoke. It’s not simply that something horrible happens in reality. Something worse can happen which undermines the very fabric of what we experience as reality.
I think it’s very important how the first attack of the birds occurs in the film. Precisely when Melanie crosses this bay. At first, we even don’t perceive it as a bird. As if some stain appeared within the frame. When a fantasy object, something imagined, an object from inner space, enters our ordinary realty, the texture of reality is twisted, distorted. This is how desire inscribes itself into reality,by distorting it. Desire is a wound of reality. The art of cinema consists in arousing desire, to play with desire. But, at the same time, keeping it at a safe distance, domesticating it, rendering it palpable. When we spectators are sitting in a movie theatre, looking at the screen…
You remember, at the very beginning, before the picture is on, it’s a black, dark screen, and then light thrown on. Are we basically not staring into a toilet bowland waiting for things to reappear out of the toilet? And is the entire magic of a spectacle shown on the screen not a kind of a deceptive lure, trying to conceal the fact that we are basically watching shit, as it were?
There was a young lady of Ongar Who had an affair with a conger They said, “How does it feel To sleep with an eel?” Well, she said, “just like a man, only longer” Usually, people read the lesson of Freudian psychoanalysis as if the secret meaning of everything is sexuality. But this is not what Freud wants to say. I think Freud wants to say the exact opposite. It’s not that everythingis a metaphor for sexuality, that whatever we are doing, we are always thinking about that. The Freudian question is, but what are we thinking when we are doing that? If I may be a little bit impertinent and relate to an unfortunate experience, probably known to most of us, how it happens that while one is engaged in sexual activity, all of a sudden one feels stupid. One loses contact with it. As if, “My God, what am I doing here, doing these stupid repetitive movements?” And so on and so on. Nothing changes in reality, in these strange moments where I, as it were, disconnect. It’s just that I lose the fantasmatic support. In sexuality, it’s never only me and my partner, or more partners, whatever you are doing. It’s always… There has to be always some fantasmatic element. There has to be some third imagined element which enables me, to engage in sexuality.
There is an irresistible power of fascination, at least for me, in this terrifying scene when Neo awakens from his sleep within the matrix and becomes aware of what he really is in that foetal container,floating in liquid, connected to virtual reality, where you are reduced to a totally passive object with your energy being sucked out of you. So why does the Matrix need our energy? I think the proper way to ask this questionis to turn it around. Not why does the matrix need the energy, but why does the energy need the matrix? That is to say, since I think that the energy we are talking about is libido, is our pleasure, why does our libido need the virtual universe of fantasies? Why can’t we simply enjoy it directly,a sexual partner and so on?
That’s the fundamental question. Why do we need this virtual supplement? Our libido needs an illusion in order to sustain itself. One of the most interesting motifs in science fiction is that of the id machine, an object which has the magic capacity of directly materialising, realising in front of us, our innermost dreams, desires, even guilt feelings. There is a long tradition of this in science fiction films, but of course the film about id machine is Andrei Tarkovsky’s, Solaris.
Solaris is the story of Kelvin, a psychologist, who is sent by a rocket to a spaceship circulating around Solaris, a newly discovered planet. Strange things are reported from the spaceship. All the scientists there are going crazy, and then Kelvin discovers what is going on there. This planet has the magic ability to directly realise your deepest traumas, dreams, fears, desires. The innermost of your inner space. The hero of the film finds one morning his deceased wife, who made suicide years ago. So he realises not so much his desire, as his guilt feeling. When the hero is confronted with the spectral clone, as it were, of his deceased wife, although he appears to be deeply sympathetic, spiritual, reflecting and so on, his basic problem is how to get rid of her. What makes Solaris so touching is that, at least potentially, it confronts us with this tragic subjective position of the woman, his wife, who is aware that she has no consistency, no full being of her own.
I don’t even know my own self.
Who am I?
As soon as I close my eyes I can’t recall what my face is like.
For example, she has gaps in her memory because she knows only what he knows that she knows.
Do you know who you are?
All humans do.
She is just his dream realised. And her true love for him is expressed in her desperate attempts to erase herself, to swallow poison or whatever, just to clear the space, because she guesses that he wants this. It’s horrifying, isn’t it? I’ll never get used to these constant resurrections! It’s relatively easy to get rid of a real person. You can abandon him or her, kill him or her, whatever. But a ghost, a spectral presence, is much more difficult to get rid of. It sticks to you as a kind of a shadowy presence.
Stop it! I must be looking disgusting!
What we get here is the lowest male mythology. This idea that woman doesn’t exist on her own. That a woman is merely a man’s dream realised or even, as radical, anti-feminists claim, the man’s guilt realised. Women exist because male desire got impure. If man cleanses his desire,gets rid of dirty material, fantasies, woman ceases to exist. At the end of the film, we get a kind of a Holy Communion, a reconciliation of him not with his wife, but with his father.
Did you see Hitchcock’s Vertigo?
Sorry, I don’t understand.
Hitchcock’s Vertigo, the film.
I think it happened here, you know.
Oh, you don’t know the scene, okay.
Often things begin as a fake, inauthentic, artificial, but you get caught into your own game. And that is the true tragedy of Vertigo. It’s a story about two people who, each in his or her own way, get caught into their own game of appearances. For both of them, for Madeleine and for Scottie, appearances win over reality. What is the story of Vertigo? It’s a story about a retired policeman who has a pathological fear of heights because of an incident in his career, and then an old friend hires him to follow his beautiful wife, played by Kim Novak.
The wife mysteriously possessed by the ghost of a past deceased Spanish beauty, Carlotta Valdes. The two fall in love. The wife kills herself. The first part of Vertigo, with Madeleine’s suicide, is not as shattering as it could have been, because it’s really a terrifying loss, but in this very loss, the ideal survives. The idea of the fatal woman possesses you totally. What, ultimately, this image, fascinating image of the fatal woman stands for is death. The fascination of beauty is always the veil which covers up a nightmare. Like the idea of a fascinating creature, but if you come too close to her, you see shit, decay, you see worms crawling everywhere.
The ultimate abyss is not a physical abyss, but the abyss of the depth of another person. It’s what philosophers describe as the night of the world. Like when you see another person, into his or her eyes, you see the abyss. That’s the true spiral which is drawing us in.
Scottie alone, broken down, cannot forget her, wanders around the city looking for a woman, a similar woman, something like the deceased woman, discovers an ordinary, rather vulgar, common girl. The douement of the story, of course,is along the lines of the Marx Brothers’ joke, This man is an idiot. “The newly found woman looks like Madeleine, acts like Madeleine, the fatal beauty. We discover she is Madeleine. What we learn is that Scottie’s friend, who hired Scottie, also hired this woman, Judy, to impersonate Madeleine in a devilish plot to kill the real Madeleine, his wife, and get her fortune.
We could just see a lot of each other.
Cause I remind you of her? It’s not very complimentary.
The profile shot in Vertigo is perhaps the key shot of the entire film. We have there Madeleine’s, or rather Judy’s, identity in all its tragic tension. It provides the dark background for the fascinating other profile of Madeleine in Ernie’s restaurant. Scottie is too ashamed, afraid to look at her directly. It is as if what he sees is the stuff of his dreams, more real in a way for him than the reality of the woman behind his back.
That’s not very complimentary, either.
I just want to be with you as much as I can, Judy.
When we see a face, it’s basically always the half of it. A subject is a partial something, a face, something we see. Behind it, there is a void, a nothingness. And of course, we spontaneously tend to fill in that nothingness with our fantasies about the wealth of human personality, and so on. To see what is lacking in reality, to see it as that, there you see subjectivity. To confront subjectivity meansto confront femininity. Woman is the subject. Masculinity is a fake. Masculinity is an escape from the most radical, nightmarish dimension of subjectivity.
I’m trying to buy you a suit.
But I love the second one she wore.
And this one, it’s beautiful.
No, no. They’re none of them right.
I think I know the suit you mean.
We had it some time ago.
Let me go and see.
We may still have that model. Thank you.
You’re looking for the suit that she wore, for me.
I know the kind of suitthat would look well on you.
No, I won’t do it!
Judy.It can’t make that much differenceto you.
I just want to see what…
No, I don’t want any clothes.I don’t want anything.
Here we are.-Yes, that’s it. When Judy, refashioned as Madeleine, steps out of the door, it’s like fantasy realised. And, of course, we have a perfect name for fantasy realised. It’s called “nightmare”. Fantasy realised. What does this mean? Of course, it is always sustained by an extreme violence. The violence in this case of Scottie’s brutal refashioning of Judy, a real, common girl, into Madeleine. It’s truly a process of mortification, which also is the mortification of woman’s desire.
It is as if in order to have her, to desire her, to have sexual intercourse with her, with the woman, Scottie has to mortify her, to change her into a dead woman. It’s as if, again, for the male libidinal economy, to paraphrase a well-known old saying, the only good woman is a dead woman. Scottie is not really fascinated by her, but by the entire scene, the staging. He is looking around, checking up, are the fantasmatic co-ordinates really here? At that point when the reality fully fits fantasy, Scottie is finally able to realise the long-postponed sexual intercourse. So the result of this violence is a perfect co-ordination between fantasy and reality. A kind of direct short-circuit.
In Lynch’s films, darkness is really dark. Light is really unbearable, blinding light. Fire really hurts, it’s so hot. At those moments of sensual over-intensity, it is as if events on screen itself, threatens to overflow the screen and to grab us into it, to reach towards us. It’s again as if the fantasy-space, the fictional, narrative space, gets too intenseand reaches out towards us spectators so that we lose our safe distance. This is the proper tension of the Lynchian universe. The beauty of Lynch, if you look closely, it’s never clear. Is it really the brutal real out there which disturbs us, or is it our fantasy?
At the very beginning of David Lynch’s Blue Velvet, we see an idyllic, American small town. What can be more normal than father of the family, in front of a white clean house, watering the lawn? But all of a sudden, father has a heart seizure, falls down to the grass. And then, instead of showing the family confused, calling for an ambulance, whatever, Lynch does something typically Lynchian. The camera moves extremely close to the grass, even penetrates the grass, and we see what is the real of this idyllic green lawn.
We should not forget this, how this happens precisely when father has a seizure. That is to say when, symbolically, the paternal authority breaks down.
I’ll send you straight to hell, fucker!
In dreams, I walk with you.
In dreams, I talk to you.
The logic here is strictly Freudian, that is to say we escape into dream to avoid a deadlock in our real life. But then, what we encounter in the dream is even more horrible, so that at the end, we literally escape from the dream, back into reality. It starts with, dreams are for those who can not endure, who are not strong enough for reality. It ends with, reality is for those who are not strong enough to endure, to confront their dreams.
Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive are two versions of the same film. What makes both films, especially Lost Highway, so interesting is how they posit the two dimensions, reality and fantasy, side by side, horizontally, as it were.
It must be from a real estate agent.
What we get in Lost Highway is the drab, grey,upper-middle-class suburban reality. Hero, married to Patricia Arquette, obviously terrorised by the enigma of his wife, who doesn’t respond properly to his advances. When they have sexual intercourse, he miserably fails. What he gets from her is a kind of a patronising pat on the shoulder. It’s okay. It’s okay. Total humiliation.It’s okay. After killing her in an act of frustration, the hero enters his fantasy-space, where he, as it were, reinvents not only himself, but his entire social environs. Captain, this is some spooky shit we got here. In what? In a kind of a universe which we usually found in film noir.
The hero’s wife, who is a brunette, becomes a blonde. In reality, she’s restrained. Here, she praises the hero within the fantasy-space all the time for his sexual capacities and so on. So it seems as if the dream is the realisation of what he was looking for. In reality, the obstacle was inherent. Their sexual liaison simply didn’t function. Within the fantasy-space, the obstacle is externalised. It’s a beautiful day. Mr Eddy is the master of Patricia Arquette within the fantasy-space. He is the obstacle to sexual intercourse.
If I ever found out somebody was making out with her, I’d take this and I’d shove it so far up his ass, it would come out his mouth.
The properly uncanny moments are those when the second shift occurs, when the fantasy-space, the dreamscape, as it were, is already disintegrating, but we are not yet back into reality. This intermediate space, neither fantasy-space nor reality, this space of a kind of primordial violence, dispersion, onto logical confusion… This is the most subversive moment, the true horror of these films. Towards the end of this fantasy episode, when we get the sexual act, there the woman also avoids the hero.
You’ll never have me. Whispering, “You will never have me.”
And at that traumatic point, we are drawn back to reality, when the hero encounters exactly the same deadlock. What the film truly is about, its focal point, it’s not the hero, it’s of course the enigma of feminine desire.
You’re a mystery.
I like you very much.
The enigma of feminine subjectivity in David Lynch’s films, it’s a gap between cause and effect. You do something to a woman, but you never know what the reaction will be.
Jeffrey, don’t, please.
My relationship towards tulips is inherently Lynchian. I think they are disgusting. Just imagine. Aren’t these some kind of, how do you call it, vagina dentata, dental vaginas threatening to swallow you? I think that flowers are something inherently disgusting. I mean, are people aware what a horrible thing these flowers are? I mean, basically it’s an open invitationto all the insects and bees, Come and screw me, you know? I think that flowers should be forbidden to children.
Suddenly I saw two figures jumping about on the rocks above us.
They hid and peeped out occasionally.
There are two boys looking at us, I said to her.
Her name was Katarina.
Well, let them look, she said,and turned on her back.
It was such a strange feeling.
I wanted to run out and put onmy costume, but I just lay still…
On my belly with my bum in the air, totally unembarrassed, totally calm.
We men, at least in our standard phallogocentric mode of sexuality, even when we are doing it with the real woman, we are effectively doing it with our fantasy. Woman is reduced to a masturbatory prop. Woman arouses us in so far as she enters our fantasy frame. With women, it’s different. The true enjoyment is not in doing it but in telling about it afterwards. Of course, women do enjoy sex immediately, but I hope I’m permitted as a man to propose a daring hypothesis, that maybe, while they are doing it, they already enact or incorporate this minimal narrative distance, so that they are already observing themselves and narrativising it.
There is in Ingmar Bergman’s Personaa wonderful scene where Bibi Andersson tells to mute Liv Ullmann, a story about small orgy on a beach which took place years ago. This scene is so erotic precisely because Bergman successfully resisted the temptation of a flashback. No flashback. Just words. Probably one of the most erotic scenesin the entire history of cinema.
Katarina unbuttoned his trousers and started playing with him. When he came she took him in her mouth.
He bent down and started kissing her on the back
She turned around, took his head in both hands and gave him her breast.
The other boy got so excited, so he and I started again. It was as nice as the first time.
Then we swam and parted.
When Icame back, Karl-Henrik had returned.
We had dinner together and drank the red wine he had with him.
Then we slept together.
It’s never been as good, before or since.
Can you understand that?
Although sexuality seems to be about bodies,it’s not really about bodies. It is how bodily activity is reported in words.
Well… I first saw him that morning in the lobby. He was… He was checking into the hotel and he was following the bellboy with his luggage to the elevator. He…He glanced at me as he walked past. Just a glance. Nothing more. But I could hardly move.
Eyes Wide Shut is a film which has an incredibly precise lesson about fantasy. She tells him, not about herself effectively cheating him, but about fantasising about cheating him with some naval officer they met in a hotel and so on and so on. The entire film is his desperate attempt to catch up with her fantasy, which ends in a failure. Many people don’t like, in that mysterious rich people’s castle where they meet for their orgies, the big orgy. They complain, this orgy is aseptic, totally non-attractive, without erotic tension. But I think that’s the point. This utter impotence of male fantasising.
The film is the story of how the male fantasy can not catch up with the feminine fantasy, of how there is too much of desire in feminine fantasy and how this is the threat to male identity. Isn’t it that in Vertigo, on the contrary, all of the activity is on the side of Scottie? But I think that precisely because of this, his activity is extremely brutal, mortifying. He has totally to erase the woman as a desiring entity. That’s for him the condition to desire.
The other solution is, of course, the masochist solution, which is, of my inferiority.
But I do love you. And you know there is something very important that we need to do as soon as possible.
It’s as if our inner psychic space is too wild and sometimes we have to make love, not to get the real thing but to escape from the real, from the excessive real that we encounter in our fantasising. The point is the fragile balance between reality and fantasy dimension in our sexual activity.
Michael Haneke’s Piano Teacher is the story of an impossible love affair between a middle-aged, deeply traumatised woman and her young student. She’s in a way a person who is not yet sexually subjectivised. She lacks the fantasmatic co-ordinates of her desire. This accounts for a couple of very strange scenes in the film, like when she goes to a pornographic store and then watches in a closed, small rooma scene from a hardcore film.The way she watches it, it’s not to get aroused,but she watches it as a pupil in a school. She simply watches it to get the co-ordinates of desiring, to learn how to do it, how to get excited.
The notion of fantasy in psychoanalysisis very ambiguous. On the one hand,we have the pacifying aspect of fantasy. Piano Teacher plays with the opposite aspect of fantasy. Fantasy as the explosion of wild, unbearable desires. What we found in the middle of the film is probably, arguably, the most depressive sexual act in the entire history of cinema. As if to punish her for disclosing the fantasy in her letter to him, he literally enacts her fantasy in the way he makes love to her, which of course means that fantasy is lost for her. When fantasy disintegrates, you don’t get reality, you get some nightmarish real too traumatic to be experienced as ordinary reality. That would be another definition of nightmare. Hell is here. Paradise, at least this perverse paradise, is hell. Stop, please. One cannot here just throw out the dirty water, all these excessive, perverse fantasies and so on, and just keep the healthy, clean baby, normal, straight or even homosexual, whatever, but some kind of normal, politically correct sex. You cannot do that. What if we throw out the baby and keep just the dirty water? And put it as a problem: how to deal with dirty water. And put some order in the dirty water of fantasies. This is I think precisely what happens for example in Kieslowski’s Blue. During the …
were you conscious?
I’m sorry to have inform you…
Do you know?
Your husband…died in the accident.
You must have been unconscious.
Yes, your daughter, too.
You can organise, people do it, your life in mourning the lost object. Julie, in Blue, discovers that her husband wasn’t what she thought he was. That he was cheating her, that he had a mistress who is pregnant. This is the most terrifying loss, where all the co-ordinates of your reality disintegrate. The problem is how to reconstitute yourself. In a wonderful short scene, the heroine of Blue, after returning home, finds there on the floora group of newly-born mice, crawling around their mother. This scene terrifies her. She is too excessively exposed to life in its brutal meaninglessness. What she is able to do at the end is to acquire a proper distance towards reality. This is what happens in the famous circular shot where we pass from Julie’s face, while she is making love. This magical suspension of temporal and spatial limitations, this free floating in a fantasy-space, far from distancing us from reality… If I have not love… enables us to approach reality. I am nothing She is putting together the co-ordinates which enable her to experience her reality as meaningful again. As if the lesson is, not only for men but also for women, that you can sustain sexual intercourse, sexual relationship, only through the support of fantasy. The problem of course is, is this fantasy reconstituted? Is this the ultimate horizon of our experience? The function of music here is precisely that of a fetish, of some fascinating presence whose function it is to conceal the abyss of anxiety.
Music is here what, according to Marx, religion is, a kind of opium for the people. Opium which should put us asleep, put us into a kind of a false beatitude, which allows us to avoid the abyss of unbearable anxiety. We see Julie crying, but through a glass. This glass stands for, I think, fantasy reconstituted. These are, I’m tempted to say, the tears of happiness.”I can mourn now because it no longer immediately affects me.” Blue proposes this mystical communion, reconstituted fantasy, as sustaining our relation to the world. But the price we pay is that some radically authentic moment of accepting the anxiety at the very foundation of human condition is lost there. If anything, anxiety at the vocal level is silence. It’s silence. It’s a silent scream.
In Hitchcock’s The Birds, when the mother, of course who but the mother, finds the neighbour dead, his eyes picked out by the birds, she shouts, but the shout literally remains stuck in her throat. To return from cinema to so-called real life, the ultimate lesson of psychoanalysisis that exactly the same goes for our real life experience, that emotions as such are deceiving. There are no specifically fake emotions because, as Freud puts it literally, the only emotion which doesn’t deceive is anxiety. All other emotions are fake.
So, of course, the problem here is, are we able to encounter in cinema the emotion of anxiety, or is cinema as such a fake? Cinema, as the art of appearances, tells us something about reality itself. It tells us something about how reality constitutes itself.
Ripley. Ripley, come on.
Ripley, we’ve got no time for sightseeing here.
There is an old Gnostic theory that our world was not perfectly created, that the god who created our world was an idiot who bungled the job,so that our world is a half-finished creation. There are voids, openings, gaps. It’s not fully real, fully constituted. In the wonderful scenein the last instalment of the Alien saga, Alien Resurrection, when Ripley, the cloned Ripley, enters a mysterious room, she encounters the previous failed version of herself, of cloning herself. Just a horrified creature, a small foetus-like entity, then more developed forms. Finally, a creature which almost looks like her, but her limbs are like that of the monster.
This means that all the time our previous alternate embodiments, what we might have been but are not,that these alternate versions of ourselves are haunting us. That’s the ontological view of reality that we get here, as if it’s an unfinished universe. This is, I think, a very modern feeling. It is through such ontology of unfinished reality that cinema became a truly modern art.
All modern films are ultimately films about the possibility or impossibility to make a film. Dogville was in the Rocky Mountains in the US of A, up here where the road came to its definitive end near the entrance to the old, abandoned silver mine. The residents of Dogville were good, honest folks and they liked their township.
With von Trier, it’s not only the problem of belief in the sense of, do people generally still believe today the place of religion today, and so on. It’s also reflectively or allegorically the question of believing in cinema itself. How to make today people still believe in the magic of cinema? In Dogville, all of it is staged on a set. Okay, this is often the case in cinema, but here the set is seen as the set. The action takes place in Dogville, a small town, but there are no houses. There are just lines on the floor, signalling that this is the house, this is the street. The mysterious thing is that this does not prevent our identification. If anything, it makes us even more thrown into the tensions of the inner life.
Have you seen Grace?
She’s at my place.
It’s not that naive belief is undermined, deconstructed through irony. Von Trier wants to be serious with the magic. Irony is put into service to make us believe. Yet again, Grace had made a miraculous escape from her pursuers with the aid of the people of Dogville. Everyone had covered up for her, including Chuck, who had to admit that it was probably Tom’s hat he’d mistakenly considered so suspicious. The mystery is that even if we know that it’s only staged, that it’s a fiction, it still fascinates us. That’s the fundamental magic of it. You witness a certain seductive scene, then you are shown that it’s just a fake, stage machinery behind, but you are still fascinated by it. Illusion persists. There is something real in the illusion, more real than in the reality behind it.
Do not arouse the wrath of the great and powerful Oz!
I said come back tomorrow!
If you were really great and powerful, you’d keep your promises.
Do you presume to criticise the great Oz?
You ungrateful creatures!
Think yourselves lucky that I’m giving you audience tomorrow instead of 20 years from now!
The great Oz has spoken. Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
The great and… Oz has spoken.
I am the great and powerful Wizard of Oz.
What we can learn from a film like Wizard of Oz is how the logic of de-mystificationis not enough. It’s not enough to say, “Okay, it’s justa big show spectacle to impress the people. What is behind is just a modest old guy, and so on and so on. It is that rather, in a way, there is more truth in this appearance. Appearance has an effectivity, a truth of its own.
What about the heart that you promised Tin Man?
Well…And the couragethat you promised Cowardly Lion?
-And Scarecrow’s brain?-
And Scarecrow’s brain?
Why, anybody can have a brain.
That’s a very mediocre commodity.Every pusillanimous creature that crawls on the earth or slinks through slimy seas has a brain. Back where I come from, we have universities, seats of great learning where men go to become great thinkers. And when they come out, they think deep thoughts and with no more brains than you have. But they have one thing you haven’t got. A diploma! Therefore, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Universitatus Committeeatume plurbis unum, I hereby confer upon you the honorary degree of Th.D. -That’s Doctor of Thinkology. The sum of the square roots of any two sides of an isosceles triangle is equal to the square root of the remaining side.
Oh, joy, rapture! I’ve got a brain!
And that’s the paradox of cinema, the paradox of belief. We don’t simply believe or do not believe. We always believe in a kind of a conditional mode. I know very well it’s a fake but, nonetheless, I let myself be emotionally affected. This strange status of belief accounts for the efficiency of one of the most interesting characters, not only in cinema, but also in theatre, in staging as such,the character of prologue.
How do you do? Mr Carl Laemmle feels it would be a little unkind to present this picture without just a word of friendly warning. We are about to unfold the story of Frankenstein, a man of science, who sought to create a man after his own image without reckoning upon God.
Somebody tells usyou have to experience horror, we do it. So if any of you feel that you do not care to subject your nerves to such a strain, now is your chance to…
Well, we’ve warned you.Ladies and gentlemen, young and old, this may seem an unusual procedure, speaking to you before the picture begins. But we have an unusual subject.
Behind, not red, this is Hollywood, but black curtain, Cecil DeMille himself appears,giving us a lesson of how the story of Ten Commandments and Moses has great relevance today where we are fighting Communist, totalitarian dangerand so on, giving us all the clues.
Are men the property of the state? Or are they free souls under God?
This same battle continues throughout the world today.
This hidden master who controls the events can also be defined as ideology embodied, in the sense of the space which organises our desires. And your name? What the fuck is your name? In David Lynch’s Lost Highway, we have the Mystery Man, who stands for the very cinematographer, even director. Imagine somebody who has a direct access to your inner life, to your innermost fantasies, to what even you don’t want to know about yourself.
We’ve met before, haven’t we?
I don’t think so.
Where was it that you think we met?
At your house, don’t you remember?
The best way to imagine what Mystery Man is, is to imagine somebody who doesn’t want anything from us.
What do you mean?
You’re where right now?
At your house.
That’s fucking crazy, man.
That’s the true horror of this Mystery Man. Not any evil, demoniac intentions and so on. Just the fact that when he is in front of you, he, as it were, sees through you.
I told you I was here.
How’d you do that? Ask me.-
How’d you get inside my house?
It is not my custom to go where I’m not wanted.
It’s like the court in Kafka’s novels, where the court, or the Law, only comes when you ask for it. Oh! Now, why would he do that? Most peculiar. What on Earth? Hitchcock was obsessed with this topic of manipulating emotions. His dream was even that once in the future, we would no longer have to shoot narratives, our brains will be directly connectedto some machine and the director would only have to press different buttons there and the appropriate emotions will be awakened in our mind.
They’re coming. They’re coming!
What do directors like Hitchcock,Tarkovsky, Kieslowski, Lynch have in common? A certain autonomy of cinematic form. Form is not here simply to express, articulate content. It has a message of its own. In Hitchcock, we have the motif of a person hanging from an abyss by the hand of another person. The first example, Saboteur. Rear Window. Then we have in To Catch a Thief. You’ve got a full house down there. Begin the performance. Then in North by Northwest. Then, of course, in Vertigo.So we see here the same visual motif repeating itself. I think it’s wrong to look for a common, deeper meaning. Some French theorists claimed that what we are dealing here with is the motif of fall and redemption. I think this is already saying too much. I think that what we are dealing with is with a kind of a cinematic materialism, that beneath the level of meaning, spiritual meaning but also simple narrative meaning, we get a more elementary level of forms themselves, communicating with each other, interacting, reverberating, echoing, morphing, transforming one into the other. And it is this background, this background of proto-reality, a real which is more dense, more fundamental than the narrative reality, the story that we observe. It is this that provides the proper density of the cinematic experience. It’s the gigantic tree where, in Vertigo, Madeleine and Scottie get together, almost embrace, where their erotic tension becomes unbearable. What is this tree? I think it’s another in the series of “Hitchcockian Big Things”, like the Mount Rushmore statues, or take another example, like Moby Dick. This tree is not simply a natural object. It is, within our mental space, what in psychoanalysis is called “the Thing”. It’s effectively as if this tree, in its very extra-large distortion, embodies something that comes out of our inner space, libido, the excessive energy of our mind.
So here I think we can see how films and philosophy are coming together. How great cinematographers really enable us to think in visual terms. After the birds attack the city, there is a fire which breaks out at a gasoline station, where a guy throws a match on the gasoline.
Hey, you! Look out!
Don’t drop that match!Look out!
Get out of there!-Mister, run!
The first part of this short scene is the standard one. We get the standard exchange of shots of the fire and shots of the person, Melanie in this case, who looks at it. Then something strange happens. We cut to way above the city. We see the entire town. We automatically take this shot as a standard establishing shot. Like after details which perplex you, which prevent you from getting a clear orientation, you need a shot which enables you some kind of a cognitive mapping, that you know what’s going on. But then, precisely following that logic of the Thing from inner space which emerges from within you, first we hear these ominous sounds, which are sounds of the birds, then one bird enters, another bird enters… The shot which was taken as a neutral,God’s view shot,all of a sudden changes into an evil gaze. The gaze of the very birds attacking. And we are thrown into that position. And again, we can use here The Birds as the final instalment and read backwards other classical Hitchcock scenes in the same way.
Isn’t exactly the same thing happening in what I consider the ultimate scene in Psycho, the second murder,the murder of the detective Arbogast? Hitchcock manipulates here in a very refined way the logic of so-called fetishist disavowal. The logic of, “I know very well, but…” We know very well some things, but we don’t really believe in them, so although we know they will happen, we are no less surprised when they happen. In this case, everything points towards the murder and, nonetheless, when it happens, the surprise is, if anything, stronger. It begins in a standard Hitchcockian way. He looks up the stairs. This exchange creates the Hitchcockian tension between the subject’s look and the stairs themselves, or rather the void on the top of the stairs returning the gaze, emanating some kind of a weird unfathomable threat.
The camera then provides a kind of a geometrically clear God’s point of view shot image of the entire scene. It is as if here we pass from God as neutral creator, to God in his unbearable divine rage. This murderer is for us an unfathomable monster. We don’t know who he is, but because we are forced to assume the murderer’s position, in a way we don’t know who we are. As if we discover a terrifying dimension in ourselves. As if we are forced to act as a doll, as a tool of another evil divinity’s will. It’s not as classical metaphysics thinks, The truly horrible thing is to be immortal. Immortality is the true nightmare, not death.
Lord Vader,can you hear me?
We should remember the exact moment when the normal, everyday person, okay not quite everyday, but ordinary person of Anakin Skywalker changes into Darth Vader. This scene when the Emperor’s doctors are reconstituting him after heavy wounds into Darth Vader, that these scenes are inter-cut with the scenes of Princess Padm? Anakin’s wife, giving birth. Luke. So it is as if we are witnessing the transformation of Anakin into father. But what kind of father? A monster of a father who doesn’t want to be dead. His deep breathing is the sound of the father, the Freudian, primordial father, this obscene over-potent father,the father who doesn’t want to die.
This, I think, is for all of us the most obscene threat that we witness. We don’t want our fathers alive. We want them dead. The ultimate object of anxiety is a living father. This brings us to what we should really be attentive about in David Lynch’s film. Namely, what is to be taken seriously and not seriously in his films.
-Here’s to Ben.-Here’s to Ben.Here’s to Ben.-Here’s to Ben.
-Be polite!Here’s to Ben.
Frank is one of these terrifying, ridiculously obscene paternal figures. Apart from Frank in Blue Velvet, we have Baron Harkonnen in Dune, we have William Dafoe in Wild at Heart, we have Mr Eddy in Lost Highway.
Don’t you ever fucking tailgate! Ever!-Tell him you won’t tailgate.-Ever!I won’t ever tailgate…
Do you know how many fucking car length sit takes to stop a car at 35 miles an hour?
Six fucking car lengths!
That’s 1 06 fucking feet, mister!
If I had to stop suddenly, you would have hit me! I want you to get a fucking driver’s manual and I want you to study that motherfucker!
I want to spit once on your head.
Just some spittle in your face.
What a luxury. But I think that this very appearance of ridiculously violent comedy is deceiving. I think that these ridiculous paternal figures are the ethical focus, the topic of practically all David Lynch’s films.
Let’s fuck! I’ll fuck anything that moves!
A normal, paternal authority is an ordinary man who, as it were, wears phallus as an insignia. He has something which provides his symbolic authority. This is, in psychoanalytic theory, phallus. You are not phallus. You possess phallus. Phallus is something attached to you, like the King’s crown is his phallus. Something you put on and this gives you authority. So that when you talk it’s not simply you as a common person who is talking, it’s symbolic authority itself,the Law, the state, talking through you. So these excessively ridiculous paternal figures, it’s not simply that they possess phallus, that they have phallus as the insignia of their authority, in a way, they immediately are phallus. This is for, if they still exist, a normal male subject…
This is the most terrorising experience you can imagine, to directly being the thing itself, to assume that I am a phallus. And the provocative greatness of these Lynchian, obscene, paternal figures, is that not only they don’t have any anxiety,not only they are not afraid of it, they fully enjoy being it. They are truly fearless entities beyond life and death, gladly assuming, as it were, their immortality, their non-castrated life energy. Okay.This is indicated in a very nice way in the scene towards the end of Wild at Heart where Bobby Peru is killed.
Stop, you sons of bitches! This is the police!
He accepts the mortal danger he is in with, kind of, exuberant vitality,and it’s truly that when his head explodes, it’s as if we see the head of the penis being torn apart. Oh, for Christ sakes. That poor bastard. And then at the end, these figures are sacrificed.
Oh, Jeffrey.It’s all over, Jeffrey.
Joseph Stalin’s favourite cinematic genre were musicals. Not only Hollywood musicals, but also Soviet musicals. There was a whole series of so-called kolkhoz musicals. Why? We should find this strange, Stalin who personifies communist austerity, terror and musicals.The answer again is the psychoanalytic notion of superego. Superego is not only excessive terror, unconditional injunction, demand of utter sacrifice, but at the same time, obscenity, laughter. And it is Sergei Eisenstein’s genius to guess at this link. In his last film, which is a coded portrait of the Stalin era, Ivan the Terrible: Part 2, which because of all this was immediately prohibited. In the unique scene towards the end of the film, we see the Czar, Ivan, throwing a party, amusing himself, with his so-called Oprichniki, his private guards, who were usedto torture and kill his enemies, his, if you want, KGB, secret police, are seen performing a musical. An obscene musical, which tells precisely the story about killing the rich boyars, Ivan’s main enemies.
Let the axes drop!
So terror itself is staged as a musical. And the gates fell to the ground Now, what has all this to do with the reality of political terror? Isn’t this just art, imagination? No. Not only were the political show trialsin Moscow in the mid- and late-1930s theatrical performances, we should not forget this, they were well staged, rehearsed and so on. Even more, there is, horrible as it may sound, something comical about them. The horror was so ruthless that the victims, those who had to confess and demand death penalty for themselves and so on, were deprived of the minimum of their dignity, so that they behaved as puppets, they engaged in dialogues which really sound likeout of Alice in Wonderland. They behaved as persons from a cartoon.
Public enemy number one. You’re on trial today for the crimes that you’ve committed.
We’re gonna prove you’re guilty.
Just try and get acquitted.
In the mid-’30s,Walt Disney Studios produced an unbelievable cartoon called Pluto’s Judgement Day…Shut up!…in which the dog, well-known Pluto, falls asleep, and in his sleep is persecuted by, haunted by the dream of cats who were all in the past his victims, molested by him, dragging him to the court, where a proper, truly Stalinist political trial is in process against him.
We’ve seen and heard enough.
Jury, do your duty.
Just watch us do our stuff We find the defendant guilty
He’s guilty, he’s guilty Hooray!
The Law is not only severe, ruthless, blind,at the same time, it mocks us. There is an obscene pleasure in practising the Law. Our fundamental delusion today is not to believe in what is only a fiction, to take fictions too seriously. It’s, on the contrary, not to take fictions seriously enough.You think it’s just a game? It’s reality. It’s more real than it appears to you. For example, people who play video games, they adopt a screen persona of a sadist, rapist, whatever. The idea is, in reality I’m a weak person, so in order to supplement my real life weakness, I adopt the false image of a strong, sexually promiscuous person,and so on and so on.
So this would be the naive reading.I want to appear stronger, more active, because in real life, I’m a weak person. But what if we read it in the opposite way? That this strong, brutal rapist, whatever, identity is my true self. In the sense that this is the psychic truth of myself and that in real life, because of social constraints and so on, I’m not able to enact it. So that, precisely because I think it’s only a game, it’s only a persona, a self-image I adopt in virtual space, I can be there much more truthful. I can enact there an identity which is much closer to my true self. We need the excuse of a fiction to stage what we truly are.
Stalker is a film about a zone, a prohibited space where there are debris, remainders of aliens visiting us. And stalkers are people who specialised in smuggling foreigners who want to visit into this space where you get many magical objects. But the main among themis the room in the middle of this space, where it is claimed your desires will be realised.
I know you’re going to get mad. Anyway, I must tell you…We are now…on the threshold…This is the most important moment in your life.You must know that.Your innermost wishes will be made real here.Your most sincere wish. Born of suffering.
The contrast between Solaris and Stalker is clear.In Solaris, we get id-machineas an object which realisesyour nightmares, desires, fears,even before you ask for it, as it were. In Stalker it’s the opposite, a zone where your desires, deepest wishes get realised on condition that you are able to formulate them. Which, of course, you are never able,which is why everybody failsonce you get there in the centre of the zone.
You just make money, using our… anguish! It’s not even the money. You’re enjoying yourself here. You’re like God Almighty here. You, a hypocritical louse, decide who is to live and who is to dieHe deliberates!Now I see why you stalkersnever enter the room yourselves.You revel in all that power,that mystery, your authority!What else is there to wish for?It’s not true! You… you’re mistakenTarkovsky’s solution to this tensionis that of religious obscurantism…. for the great day of His wrath has come,and who is able to stand? But I don’t think this is what makes Tarkovsky interesting. What makes him interestingis the very form of his films.
Tarkovsky uses as this material elementof pre-narrative density, time itself. All of a sudden we are made to feelthis inertia, drabness of time.Time is not just a neutral, light mediumwithin which things happen. We feel the density of time itself. Things that we see are more markers of time. He treats even humans in this way.If we look at the unique face of Stalker himself,it’s a face of somebodyexposed to too much radiationand, as it were, rotting, falling apart alive. It is this disintegrationof the very material texture of realitywhich provides the spiritual depth.Tarkovskian subjects, when they pray,they don’t look up, they look down. They even sometimes, as in Stalker,put their head directly onto the earth.Here, I think, Tarkovsky affects us at a levelwhich is much deeper,much more crucial for our experiencethan all the standard, spiritual motivesof elevating ourselvesabove material reality and so on.There is nothing specific about the zone.It’s purely a place where a certain limit is set. You set a limit, you put a certain zone off-limit,and although things remainexactly the way they were, it’s perceived as another place. Precisely as the place onto which you can project your beliefs, your fears,things from your inner space.In other words, the zone is ultimatelythe very whiteness of the cinematic screen.
“To the people of this city we donatethis monument;’Peace and Prosperity’.”
Chaplin’s City Lights is one of those masterpieces which are really too sophisticated for the sophisticated. It’s a deceptively simple movie. When we are enraptured by it,we tend to missits complexity and extreme finesse. Already, the first scene of the movieprovides the co-ordinates. It’s kind of a microcosm of Chaplin’s entire art. What’s the source of Chaplin’s comic genius? What’s the archetypal comic situation in Chaplin’s films? It’s being mistaken for somebody or functioning as a disturbing spot, as a disturbing stain. He distorts the vision. So he wants to erase himself, to get out of the picture. Or people don’t even note him, take note of him,so he wants to be noted. Or, if they perceive him, he’s misperceived, identified for what he is not.
The tramp is wrongly identified, by a beautiful blind girl who is selling flowers on a street corner,as a millionaire.He accepts the game, helps her,even steals money to pay for her operationto restore her sight,then after he serves the punishmentand returns, he tries to find her.And I think that this is the metaphorof our predicament. All too often, when we love somebody, we don’t accept him or her as what the person effectively is. We accept him or her in so far as this person fits the co-ordinates of our fantasy. We misidentify, wrongly identify him or her, which is why, when we discover that we were wrong, love can quickly turn into violence. There is nothing more dangerous, more lethal for the loved person than to be loved, as it were, for not what he or she is, but for fitting the ideal.
In this case, love is always mortifying love. Here it’s not only the trampas the figure within the film’s narrative exposing himself to his beloved girl, it’s at the same time Chaplin as actor/director exposing himself to us, the public. The true genius of Chaplin resides in the way he was able to stage this psychological moment of recognition at the level of form, music, visual aspect, and at the same time, at the level of acting.
When the two hands meet,the girl finally recognises him for what he is. This moment is always extremely dangerous, pathetic. The beloved falls out of the frame of the idealised co-ordinates,finally there exposed in his psychological nakedness. Here I am as what I really am. And I don’t think we have to read it as a happy ending. We don’t know what will happen. We have the letters, “the end”, the black screen, but the singing goes on. As if the emotion is now too strong, it spills over the very frame.
In order to understand today’s world, we need cinema, literally. It’s only in cinema that we get that crucial dimension which we are not ready to confront in our reality. If you are looking for what is in reality more real than reality itself, look into the cinematic fiction.
Slavoj Zizek –
What would be my… how should I call it, spontaneous attitude towards the universe? It’s a very dark one. The first thesis would have been a kind of total vanity: there is nothing, basically. I mean it quite literally,like… ultimately…there are just some fragments, some vanishing things. If you look at the universe, it’s one big void. But then how do things emerge? Here, I feel a kind of spontaneous affinity with quantum physics, where, you know,the idea there is that universe is a void,but a kind of a positively charged void. And then particular things appear when the balance of the void is disturbed. And I like this idea of spontaneous very much that the fact that it’s just not nothing… Things are out there. It means something went terribly wrong… that what we call creation is a kind of a cosmic imbalance, cosmic catastrophe, that things exist by mistake. And I’m even ready to go to the end and to claim that the only way to counteract it is to assume the mistake and go to the end. And we have a name for this. It’s called love. Isn’t love precisely this kind of a cosmic imbalance?
I was always disgusted with this notion of “I love the world,” universal love. I don’t like the world. I don’t know how… Basically, I’m somewhere in between “I hate the world” or “I’m indifferent towards it.” But the whole of reality, it’s just it. It’s stupid. It is out there. I don’t care about it. Love, for me, is an extremely violent act. Love is not “I love you all.” Love means I pick out something, and it’s, again,this structure of imbalance. Even if this something is just a small detail… a fragile individual person… I say “I love you more than anything else.” In this quite formal sense, love is evil. They inform me they play chess. I like that.
Think about the strangeness of today’s situation. 30, 40 years ago, we were still debating about what the future will be: Communist, Fascist, capitalist, whatever. Today, nobody even debates these issues. We all silently accept global capitalism is here to stay. On the other hand, we are obsessed with cosmic catastrophes: the whole life on Earth disintegrating because of some virus, because of an asteroid hitting the Earth, and so on.
So the paradox is that it’s much easier to imagine the end of all life on Earth than a much more modest radical change in capitalism, which means that we should reinvent Utopia, but in what sense? There are two false meanings of Utopia. One is this old notion of imagining an ideal society, which we know will never be realized. The other is the capitalist Utopia in the sense of new perverse desires that you are not only allowed but even solicited to realize. The true Utopia is when the situation is so without issue, without a way to resolve it within the coordinates of the possible, that out of the pure urge of survival you have to invent a new space. Utopia is not kind of a free imagination. Utopia is a matter of innermost urgency. You are forced to imagine it as the only way out, and this is what we need today. I hope I wasn’t too long. I thank you very much for your patience.
Another very short comment that I can make. You know why I applauded? If you watch old documentary movies, you will see a big difference between a Fascist and a Stalinist leader. The Fascist leader, when he is applauded, he just accepts it. The Stalinist leader applauds himself. The message being And this was my side. So we are on. Okay. The worst thing is to play this “We are all humans” game that some intellectuals like to play.You project a certain intellectual persona… cold thinker, whatever… but then you signal, through small details, to socialist wealth. A good, honest guy.
I put everything here… I love this… so that… By everything, I mean… Look even here it is. You see? Isn’t it a crazy combination? You have this, and then you have… The clothes are here. But it’s not only clothes. It’s more. It’s also… how do you call it? … covers, sheets for the… No, no. Everything is here. Here. Isn’t this nice, close to the kitchen? Here are socks, underwear. This is all my stuff, and basically, this is all my stuff: newspapers, journals. These are my books in foreign languages. Two copies of each one. So this is strictly prohibited. It looks bad. I think they are lower there, because this is mostly new stuff. I am narcissist here. Yes, I keep everything. This should go elsewhere. I’m sorry. I just… I’ll go far back, so this is there. Just let me… Okay, if you need the “Mladina” stuff, Ah, yes, there are some of them here. Let’s see what’s here, because these are the big format thing. These are some early Mladina from… Ah, this is from the dissident times. Yes. Mid-’80s, I started to write from time to time. For two years, some people even claim that I was the most influential. But then new political divisions start, and I was too combative, attacking everyone. This was me. This was my fame. I worked like crazy at that time,because I was writing in English my first books. I never wanted to endanger, not even minimally, the theory, which is why I was never, never interested in any kind of political career, because it simply takes time.
Two days before the election, there was a big round table with all the candidates: 20 of them, I don’t know how much. A right wing naive good guy, but basically an idiot, made a fatal mistake, which everybody remembered. Not even a mistake, a kindness: namely, as usual, as you can imagine, I talked quite a lot, too much, and then this guy wanted to censor me friendly, and turned to me… this was all live, big debate, central TV. But everybody remembered that, you know? You see? Even they admit that he is the bright guy.
I remember then, you know, after it was over,when the lights went off, the cameras went off, all other candidates started to shout at this guy, like “Are you idiot? Are you crazy?” Because then I jumped up immediately and almost got elected. When I first visited the States, I was shocked by your toilets here. IDEOLOGY Romanticism onwards. That was the idea of so-called European trinity… Anglo-Saxon economy, French politics, German metaphysics, poetry, philosophy… as the basic… how should I put it? … spiritual stances of Europe. Sorry. That’s it. French politics, revolutionary: shit should disappear as soon as possible. Anglo-Saxon/American: let’s be pragmatic. German metaphysic poetry, inspection: you inspect, you reflect on your shit. So isn’t it totally crazy that in a vulgar, common phenomenon like that you find certain differences which you truly can not account in any functional terms, but you have to evoke all this. I mean, you claim, Then you go to the toilet, produce shit. You are up to your shit, or how do you put it in ideology, no? Who believes what today? I think this is an interesting question, much more complex than it may appear. The first myth to be abandoned, I think, is the idea that we live in a cynical era where nobody believes no values, and that there were some times, more traditional, where people still believed, relied of some sort of substantial notion of belief, and so on and so on.
I think it’s today that we believe more than ever, and, as Fuller develops it in a nice, ironic way, the ultimate form of belief for him is deconstructionism. Why? Again, I’m going back to that question of, quote, Marx, no? Look how it functions, deconstructionism, in its standard version, already at the texture of style. You cannot find one text of Derrida without “A, “all of the quotation marks, and “B,” all of this rhetorical distanciations. Like… I don’t know. To take an ironic example, if somebody like Judith Butler were to be asked “What is this?” she would never have said, This is a bottle of tea. She would have said something like, she likes to put it in this rhetorical way… So it’s always this need to distanciate. It goes even for love, like nobody almost dares to say today “I love you.” It has to be, as a poet would have put it, I love you, or some kind of a distance. But what’s the problem here? The problem is that… why this fear?Because I claim that, when the ancients directly said “I love you,” they meant exactly the same. All these distanciations were included. So it’s we today who are afraid that, if we were to put it directly, “I love you,” that it would mean too much. We believe in it.
You know what I learned in the high school? It’s so disgusting,the reasoning behind it. Because all my friends… most of my friends… took either French or German as a second language. Okay, my idea was, you know, there was a code word to superpowers. Isn’t it good to play it safe? Whoever wins, I will speak their language. There were three levels of dissidents. The first in theory… I mean, if you dealt with theory or whatever or writing. The first level was, Were you allowed to teach? This was the first level of exclusion. The second level were, Are you allowed to publish books? The third level was,”Are you allowed to get a job at all in your domain?” And the fourth level is, you are arrested or whatever, no? I was between the second and third. My God, I was unemployed. It was humiliating. I was 27, and my parents supported me, my God. Then for two years,it was that humiliating job at the central committee. They knew that I am not an idiot and that I will probably succeed. So they were afraid that I would simply move abroad and succeed there. This would then be bad for… you know, another victim who wasn’t allowed to make a career in Slovenia. So they want me to vegetate on the margin, but there in Slovenia. It was in a way an intelligent move, but they didn’t know that the way they did it, they made it even easier for me to move abroad. Give him 7. It’s okay. Oh, sorry. Okay. “Gracias.”
– Oh, my God!I thought this would be some kind of old building with Peron and…not Peron, with Borges and so on. Oh, yeah. No, it’s super-modern. Oh, my God, I didn’t like the way that guy looked at me. It’s only an idiot coming. I hate this. Let’s move there. I hate when… I think that idiot…friendly, bright person… recognized me,and I hate this,because then they stare. They descend on you? Oh, my God.Okay, for you.
Did you ever expect this, to have all these fans?
No, but that’s what I really hate this. I can not tell you how much I hate it. You don’t love it just a little bit?
No, no, no, no, no.
I think people are evil. This is horrible. You see all these creeps, all these creeps here? This is horrible. Who’s that hysterical woman? She’s a fan, Slajov. Yeah, but what is she doing here? She should go up there and wait in line, not annoying me here. It was simply made as a documentary supposed to present Lacanian theory to a wide public, I think for the second channel of the French state TV. What I appreciate is this inversion… reversal of the role between public image and private. It’s this total denigration… disappearance of this warm, human person. This for me is the idea of ideology. The central idea of ideology for me is not these ideas determine you… you are a Christian, you are a Marxist, whatever, today liberal, I don’t know. But the idea is precisely that ideological propositions do not determine us totally. We can not be reduced to our public image: there is a warm human being behind.
I think this is ideology at its purest. The most horrible and ideological act for me… and really horrible, terrifying… is to fully identify with the ideological image. The ultimate act is what we think is our true self. There is the true acting, and usually, our truth to that to which we are really committed existentially is in our acts more than importance supposed to be behind the act. So again, my point is that I’m… I like philosophy as an anonymous job, not as this kind of… Iook at the way he moves now, these gestures. I find this ridiculous. He emphasizes This ridiculous emphasis. I think it’s pure fake, an empty gesture, as if he makes a deep point there. He does not. I think Lacan, in a very classical way… what interests me are his propositions: the underlying logic, not his style. His style is a total fake, I think. I try to forget it. I try to repress it. Maybe it works as a strategy. At a certain point, why not? First, you have to seduce people with obscure statements, but I hate this kind of approach. I’m a total enlightenment person.
I believe in clear statements. And I’m for Lacan because, again, I think, to make it very clear, it’s not that Lacan is just bluffing in the sense that there is nothing behind this obscurity. The whole point of my work is that you can translate Lacan into clear terms. Well, I’ve just had enough of this. Now, live from the CN8 Studios, This is CN8 Nitebeat, with Barry Nolan. Jacques Lacan was a French psychoanalyst. He makes Freud sound like a simple Valley girl. Lacan’s theory of how the self works is so complicated, it makes my teeth hurt to think about it. Slavoj Zizek is a philosopher at the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia… I think I said this fairly close to the way it’s pronounced… who has written a book called The Puppet and The Dwarf. The book takes a look at modern Christianity from the view point of Lacanian psychoanalysis, or at least that’s what I think it’s about. Welcome, Mr. Zizek. Did I say that… Tell me the right way. Slavoj Zizek, but again, I prefer it the wrong way.
It makes me paranoid if I hear it the right way. This is the most complicated book I have ever tried to read. Strange, because the goal of the book is, on the contrary, to make Lacan back into someone whom even your grandma could understand.
Let’s say you have a good old-fashioned father. It’s Sunday afternoon. You have to visit Grandma. The father would… old-fashioned totalitarian father… will tell you, “Listen, I don’t care how you feel” … if you are a small kid, of course… “Going Grandmother and behave there properly.” That’s good. You can resist. Nothing is broken. But let’s say you have the so-called tolerant post-modern father. What he will tell you is the following: Now, every child who is not an idiot… and they are not idiots… know that this apparent free choice secretly contains an even more stronger, much stronger order: I’m beginning to like this book all the more. That’s one example of how apparent tolerance, choice, and so on, can conceal a much stronger order. So we should go back to more like the dad that just says Because I said so! Absolutely. It’s more honest. You went to the McDonald breakfast? This is not so ridiculous. Look what you get. You know, you get this with Happy Meal. Yeah, to make you happy. Yeah, but this is for the kids. I go there to make him happy. He pretends to be happy there not to disappoint me, But what the hell. The game functions. This means that, again, you know, I love him, but my perspective is time, you know. We go there, up and down, one hour passes. No, it’s pure desperate strategy of surviving.without getting too nervous without… and this is easy, because he eats and shuts up for 20 minutes after he eats. Okay, this will go. He’s perplexed, as you can see. Now he’s narcissistically amused. It’s just to keep him calm, in a non-demanding state, so it’s eating, it’s this, it’s whatever, no? Or at least negotiating.
Yesterday, he was building some Lego castles. He wasn’t satisfied with them, but then he gave me the role of just collecting a certain type of these small plastic cubes. I start to shoot at the animals, then… I love this one, American Army. You know, this one, I bought it. I don’t know where, but it’s beautiful. You can open it, you see? And put soldiers in so that then he attacks me from there. He destroyed this castle that I had here. This was his original, but destruction is very precise. It’s incredible how you think it’s chaotic, no? But he’s the big wise guy. He observes. Here, he’s very profane. He wanted to have a woman as the boss, the queen. Then he said, This is the two girls talking. You see, lesbian, progressive, politically correct, no? Two lesbians, and… but I like this one. Isn’t this a beautiful one? I bought it in Greece. A kind of a nice old Roman. Over.
Let’s show them all, huh? Okay, philosophy. This, I can do it, at least traditionally, in two lines, no? Philosophy does not solve problems. The duty of philosophy is not to solve problems but to redefine problems, to show how what we experience as a problem is a false problem. If what we experience as a problem is a true problem, then you don’t need philosophy. For example, let’s say that now there would be a deadly virus coming from out there in space, so not in any way mediated through our human history, and it would threaten all of us. We don’t need, basically, philosophy there. We simply need good science desperately to find… We would desperately need good science to find the solution, to stop this virus. We don’t need philosophy there,because the threat is a real threat, directly. You cannot play philosophical tricks and say “No, this is not the”… You know what I mean. It’s simply our life would be… or okay, the more vulgar, even, simpler science fiction scenario. It’s kind of “Armageddon” or whatever. No, “Deep Impact.” A big comet threatening to hit Earth. You don’t need philosophy here. You need… I don’t know. To be a little bit naive, I don’t know. Strong atomic bombs to explode, maybe. I think it’s maybe too utopian. But you know what I mean. I mean the threat is there, you see. In such a situation, you don’t need philosophy. I don’t think that philosophers ever provided answers, but I think this was the greatness of philosophy, not in this common sense that philosophers just ask questions and so on.
What is philosophy? Philosophy is not what some people think, some crazy exercise in absolute truth, and then you can adopt this skeptical attitude: we, through scientists,are dealing with actual, measurable solvable problems. Philosophers just ask stupid metaphysical questions and so on, play with absolute truths, which we all know is inaccessible. No, I think philosophy’s a very modest discipline. Philosophy asks a different question, the true philosophy. How does a philosopher approach the problem of freedom? It’s not “Are we free or not?” Is there God or not? It asks a simple question, which will be called a hermeneutic question: What does it mean to be free? So this is what philosophy basically does. It just asks, when we use certain notions, when we do certain acts, and so on, what is the implicit horizon of understanding? It doesn’t ask these stupid ideal questions: Is there truth? No. The question is,”What do you mean when you say this is true?” So you can see, it’s a very modest thing, philosophy. Philosophers are not the mad men who search for some eternal truth. What we encounter here, I think, is precisely Lacan’s reversal of the famous Dostoyevsky model, How? On the one hand, again, you are allowed to have a full life of happiness and pleasure, but in order, precisely, to be happy, you should avoid dangerous excesses. So at the end, everything is prohibited. You can not eat fat, you can not have coffee, you can not have nothing precisely in order to enjoy. So today’s hedonism combines pleasure with constraint. It is no longer the old notion of the right measure between pleasure and constraint.
Like sex, yes, but not too much. Proper measure. No, it’s something much more paradoxical. It’s a kind of immediate coincidence of the two extremes, like… as if action and reaction coincide. The very thing which causes damage should already be the counter-agent, the medicine. The ultimate example I encountered recently in California… I don’t know if you can buy it also here in New York… is chocolate laxative. And there it says as a propaganda, The thing is already its own counter-agent. And the negative proof of the calamity of this stance, I think, is the fact that today, the true unconstrained consumption in all its main forms… drugs, free sex, smoking… is emerging as the main danger. The traditional notion of psychoanalysis is that, because of some inner obstacles… you internalized, identified excessively with paternal or other social prohibitions… you can not set yourself free to enjoy, to… Pleasure is not accessible for you. It is accessible to you only in pathological forms, of feeling guilty and so on. So, then, the idea is, psychoanalysis allows you to suspend, overcome this internalized prohibitions so that it enables you to enjoy. The problem today is that the commandment of the ruling ideologies enjoy in different ways. It can be sex and enjoyment, consumption, commodity enjoyment, up to spiritual enjoyment, realize yourself, whatever. And I think that the problem today is not how to get rid of your inhibitions and to be able to spontaneously enjoy. The problem is how to get rid of this injunction to enjoy.
Organizations, such as the New York Psychoanalytic Institute, have helped gain general acceptance for theories considered radical when first advanced some 50 years ago by Dr. Sigmund Freud. The relationship between childhood frustrations and disturbed adult behavior has been clearly traced by such authorities as Dr. Rene Spitz of New York. Distressing experiences in childhood may set up patterns which in later life will produce mental conflicts. Such conflicts lead to the same feelings of insecurity which was felt as a child. When such conflicts paralyze the individual, preventing him from acting freely, he is said to have a neurosis. Let us see how a neurosis develops. My eternal fear is that if, for a brief moment, I stopped talking, you know, the whole spectacular appearance would disintegrate. People would think there is nobody and nothing there. This is my fear, as if I am nothing who pretends all the time to be somebody, and has to be hyperactive all the time, just to fascinate people enough so that they don’t notice that there is nothing. Well?
One of the big reproaches to psychoanalysis is that it’s only a theory of individual pathological disturbances, and that applying psychoanalysis to other cultural or social phenomena is theoretically illegitimate. It asks in what way you as an individual have to relate to social field, not just in the sense of other people, but in the sense of the anonymous social as such to exist as a person. You are, under quotation marks, normal individual person only being able to relate to some anonymous social field. What is to be interpreted and what not is that everything is to be interpreted. That is to say when Freud says, Unbehagen in der Kultur… civilization and its discontent, or more literally, the uneasiness in culture… he means that it’s not just that most of us, as normal, we socialize ourself normally. Some idiots didn’t make it. They fall out. Oh, they have to be normalized. Culture as such, in order to establish itself as normal, what appears as normal involves a whole series of pathological cuts, distortions, and so on and so on. There is, again,a kind of a “Unbehagen,”uneasiness: we are out of joint, not at home in culture as such, which means, again,that there is no normal culture. Culture as such has to be interpreted.
When people ask me why do I combine Lacan with Marx, my first answer is, Lacan already did it. I think, for example, that it’s only throught he strict psychoanalytic Lacanian notion of fantasy that we can really grasp what Marx was aiming at with his notion of commodity fetishism. It’s, I think, precisely the use of Lacanian notions like, again, fantasy… fantasy in the strict Lacanian sense, or excess “plus de joie,” excess enjoyment, and so on and so on. The real… not to mention the real… that we can understand today’s phenomena, like new fundamentalist forms of racism, like the way our so-called permissive societies are functioning. Again, here, the psychoanalytic notion, especially the way it was conceptualized by Lacan. The psychoanalytic notion of superego as injunction to enjoy as an obscene category, not as a properly ethical category, is of great help. So again, I think that if Freud, in his Freudian theory in its traditional configuration, was appropriate to explain the standard capitalism which relied to some kind of a more traditional ethic of sexual control, repression, and so on, then Lacan is perfect to explain the paradoxes of permissive late capitalism. When did you have the last meal… breakfast… or down there? Down there. We should probably… No, no, I mean, one,two hours later, we should maybe go down there. Or do you know any… At the place where you had your coffee, they do have good menus, you know,like very nice ones, like simple steak or whatever.
Sorry? Degenerate. You’ll turn into monkeys. There is a table free here if you want to be absolutely opportunist. Aqua Congas.Why shouldn’t I order? Could you put it there? Thank you. No, I mean, where to put it.
Why do you want to… Why did you say it was a fundamental misunderstanding that so many people came? No, in the simple sense that I have this terrible feeling that they expect something which they will not get, and I wonder what. Many leftists expect the formula, you know: I will teach them what to do. Shit, what do I know? Some people expect… You feel like that’s what that audience was looking for.
It’s a simple common sense insight: although I think they exaggerated… whatever, thousand people can not all have the same interest in Lacan as I do, no?
If you were to have a daughter, would you allow this guy to take your daughter to cinema? Be honest. The answer is, no. I hate the way I appear. In some documents, it’s even worse. It’s really as a kind of a criminal that I appear, you know. You think they were expecting just a sort of political advisor? No, the problem is, whenever I talk about politics,- I feel it as if it’s a fake.
Not in the sense that I’m faking,that I don’t mean it, but my heart is not in it. The book that I really enjoyed writing was the one on Hegel… sorry, on Schelling.
And that part of the message doesn’t get through. You can immediately see also in the way it… For example, of my last books, the one that I really loved, The Opera’s Second Death. That one is doing very modestly, nothing. But that’s what I love. No, we didn’t yet, no? I’ll tell you… Wait a minute. Is this just drinks? First you should look here, the Venice. You have calarinas, filet Milanese, ensalada cesar. This is just for people who come to be shocked and hopefully to get out. So that is why you have it? So when people open the door,they go… Yeah, there is a small hope that I will get rid of them. That’s the only fun. Has it ever worked?
As a matter of fact, yeah. Some people were actually offended. My big worry is not to be ignored, but to be accepted. When I appear to be sarcastic, the point is not to take seriously. What is not to be taken seriously is the very form of sarcasm. It’s the form of the joke which masks the effect that I’m serious. But people still have this idea that this guy did some big crimes. No.Of course it’s not as simple as that that I’m simply a Stalinist. It would be crazy, tasteless, and so on. But… obviously, there is something in it that it’s not simply a joke. When I say the only chance that the left appropriate fascism, it’s not a cheap joke. The point is to avoid the trap of the standard liberal oppositions: freedom versus totalitarian order, discipline, and so on, to rehabilitate notions of discipline, collective order, subordination, sacrifice, all that. I don’t think this is inherently fascist. Often, friends tell me, I tell them,not even the oretical… intellectual, whatever, statement. But it doesn’t work like that. For example, concerning Stalinism, my God, I’ve probably written more about Stalinism, about its most horrible aspects, than most of the people who reproach me with Stalinism. And that’s my wager here, that sorry, the only way to get the message If you say, “Of courseI’m against fascism. There are just some attitudes which were traditional even more to the left, but fascism appropriated them,”I think it doesn’t have the desired precise political effect. It enables the liberal consensus to reappropriate it.You must say it with this excess.
One hour be enough, or you need more? These are, of course, again, the Lufthansa socks. I stole two of them today. I went to wash my hair, and then I was in an intense situation, and then the woman hairdresser notice it,and told me, “Why don’t I give you a massage with some oil?” I enjoyed it,but I felt so obscene, as if I paid for masturbation.But it was relaxing. It is nice.- But it’s too much.
My God, where are you? This reminds me of socialism, carrying water in plastic bottle. Really? Yeah, because they were waiting for us. You see? We were not late. I realize it, because you’re not here. But they wait for us, you see? Yeah, they didn’t start without you. They were waiting for us. Let’s start as soon as possible. Let’s go in. The majority of academics who are obsessed with this idea The left needs a new answer: isn’t it basically Like precisely as already Robespierre said,”We want revolution without revolution.” There is, I notice, a fundamental difference between the standard plurality of struggles which progressive liberals… What does it mean? Isn’t it in a way false even to expect such a clear political formula in the sense of “All we need is a bright intellectual to tell us what to do, and then capitalism will be over, we’ll have socialism,” and so on? I’m too stupid. I don’t understand.- I’m sorry.
Thank you very much. Again, I have to accept this, again, almost Lacanian decenterment of subjectivity, which is that People see things in me. They have some expectations. There may be political expectations that I will provide the formula, the big question that everybody’s expecting today from a leftist intellectual… What should we do?… or some kind of spiritual guidance to help them psychologically, or theoretical amusement in the sense of many dirty jokes or examples from movies. And I honestly accept that. I think that my reaction to this should be not so much but my duty’s basically to try and occupy the position of the analyst, which is basically to play, in a way of transference, with these expectations, and to undermine, frustrate them, to make it clear to them that the question is not what I can give them, but are these expectations legitimate? What this expectation should tell them about themselves. It was usually that big progressive act was like it was Nixon, not Democrats, who had to do it with China. This paradox… It was in France. It was de Gaulle, not socialists, who… Algeria, yes. But I’m a little bit skeptical… You really are an intellectual superstar to me, so I had to touch you. Sorry, sorry. Interrupting. I’m the editor of Progress journal of socialist ideas. Harvard will know it.
He needs a shower. It was over there. Who knows here? The guy knows. I’m sorry. You know things here. Okay, sir, you know the guy who did “The Hero,” the Chinese guy? Double Indemnity is not on the market now, no? Being There also, I think, it looks bad, no? Being There, you know, Peter Sellers. It should be… Hal Ashby. No, this is too intelligent for me. You know the ape will not get the banana. Fuck it, I don’t get it here. Ah. U.S. ’70s. “Being There.” It’s a wonderful movie, and look, my anal character. The price is okay, so definitely. What more do I need? Fountain head is the best American movie of all times. Then the best German movie would be “Opfergang.” This is the sacrificial path, of course,from ’44, by Veit Harlan, the Nazi director. So we have Ayn Rand, a Nazi, and then… unfortunately, this is a more standard one… it is “Ivan the Terrible,” Eisenstein. I would say these three are the best movies of all times for me. Ah, this one I want, definitely. So we have these two. That will be it, I think. How about if I buy them for you? No, wait a minute. Poor American girl, working class. Who pays for that? Are you serious? … Okay, with pleasure.- I’ll let you buy… No, let it be the eternal secret of my desire. Did I suspect this in advance or not? If you were not to make this offer, I would in the last minute say, “Maybe not now. I have too many things to carry.” This one is a little expensive, actually: $32. Shut up, or you will get three more. I’m so sad that l… Wait a minute. What is this? My God, I would love to have so that you will not… – It’s got a special booklet.
Where? Which one? Sorry, can I buy this one also? Oh, sorry. Fuck off. What are you working on now, Slavoj? What’s the new book? The mega… basically, Ticklish Subject, Part 2. Big, big mega thing. How far along are you? Pretty close to the end. It will be mega. One part philosophy, theology, one part cognitivism… I’m now deep in brain sciences… and one part obscenity, politics, and so on.- What’s it gonna be called?- I don’t yet know. Maybe “The Parallax View,” but I must check it on amazon. Com, see if there are already 20 books named “The Parallax View,” no? I must look into that aspect. What does parallax view mean? It’s very simple. It comes as close as possible to what my position is. You know that… It’s very simple. When you mistakean apparent move… You look at an object. It appears that the object itself moves or changes, but in reality, it’s just that your perspective shifts, no? Like lunar, stellar, whatever, solar, parallax. The idea is, your shift in your subjective position is refined. You perceive it as move in the object. But, of course, then I add another twist that it is in the objectin a way,because object-subjectcan be mediated.So what interests meis precisely this radical cut,like you move from one to another perspective. There is no way to overcome this antinomy. And then I develop this systematically in philosophy,cognitive science.In cognitive sciences,the parallax would have been either you look at your inner experience,or you open the scar,you see the stupid there, brains, no? But you really can not make the jump, and you really can not… Even if scientifically you can explain it, you really can not accept that stupid piece of meat that you see. That’s thought. So if we distilled your canon into three books, what would they be? Three of my best books are unfortunately four, I would say. Sublime Object, Tearing with the Negative, Ticklish Subject, and now the new one. This is the serious work I’ve done, with little pieces here and there.
But this is what I would… although I’m more and more self-critical of the first one. It’s still too liberal. I’m for democracy there. I’m ashamed, I’m very sorry to say. I think there was a thing called totalitarianism, which was bad, and I think there should be pluralism in society. My God, what am I talking there? You know that Marx Brothers joke “I would never be a member of a club…?” You know, if I were not myself, I would arrest myself. I have a very complicated ritual about writing. It’s psychologically impossible for me to sit down, so I have to trick myself. I operate a very simple strategy which, at least with me, it works. I put down ideas, but I put them down usually in a relatively elaborate way, like the line of thought already written in full sentences. So up to a certain point, I’m telling myself, “No,I’m not yet writing. I’m just putting down ideas.” Then, at a certain point, I tell myself, “Everything is already there. Now I just have to edit it.” So that’s the idea, to split it into two. I put down notes, I edit it. Writing disappears.I’m sorry.
Please. Just be loud enough. Good question, but not in the sense that now I will say, I’m modest, so nice. No, it’s much more serious phenomenon. Let’s be quite frank. At a certain superficial level, I am relatively popular, but me and my friends, I don’t think you can… maybe you can… even imagine how noninfluential are we within the academia, which is why it pisses me off how many, whoever they are… the enemies… portray us Lacaniansas some kind of a phalogocentric power discourse. It’s very fashionable to paint usas kind of a dogmatic power discourse. For example, yesterday, when I delivered a differently improvised version of the same talk at Columbia in New York, a lady kindly towards the end asked me “But why”… Her problem was, why am I so dogmatically Lacanian. Which belief? Perfect. Perfect question. Okay, I defy you with a very simple empirical, in the best Anglo-Saxontradition, question. Apart from this brief conflict between Gayatri Spivakand Derrida,could you name me one Derridian who made a small critical remark on Derrida? Rudolph Gasche? Avital Ronell? Name somewhere,but name me one.
Why are we dogmatic? Why are they not? Name me one point where Sam Weber makes an ironic critical remark on Derrida. Name me one point where Avital Ronell does it. Name me one point where Rudolph Gasche does it. So why are we… Why is my… Why am I dogmatically attached to Lacan, and it’s not… Why did you think this is disavowed belief? I am a Lacanian. You are knocking on the open door. You don’t have to prove to some deconstructive analysis, But he’s a Lacanian. I am a card-carrying Lacanian. Something is going on here, and I just wanted to draw the attention to this, how all this popular, and I think so to give you now the true answer.I think that I admit it. There is a clownish aspect to me, like they put it in “New York Times,”Marx Brother, or whatever.
All that, I maybe flirt with it. But nonetheless, I’m getting tired of it,because I notice that there is, as it were, when there are some stupid reports on me, reactions to me, a kind of a terrible urge, comparison, to make me appear as a kind of a funny man. And the true question would be, where does this urge come from? Why is there this necessity to portray me as somebody who can only thrive through jokes? And even my publishers buy it. You know that my Lenin book… introduction of Lenin’s… was almost turned down by Verso? Why? First, they always, at Verso, gave kinks at me… Oh, you are just making jokes, then I told them, “Okay, now you have a book, Lenin’s text,” Their reproach was, So, you know, much more than it may appear is going on here. It’s quite a complex phenomenon. I’m almost tempted to say that making me popular is a resistance against taking me serious. And I think it’s my duty, for this reason, to do a kind of a public suicide of myself as a popular comedian or whatever. Let’s hope we can enter here. I don’t know how this functions now. This is it. Here you should do your Hitchcockian shot like from “Vertigo.” I saw two, three times that I came here, because when it was still open, you took there the elevator to the top. And often I saw here some policemen are cordoned off,and an object here, covered. Because you will immediately see what l… if you take the shot up. That’s it. From up there, it was practical to jump down, no?
Go up, you jump down, and it’s kind of a nice, modest, ethical suicide. It’s not this spectacle that on the street, you embarrass other people. You go here, and you jump down. Of course, my idea was to organize this. You want to kill yourself. We organize it. We prevent so that we guarantee that no small… will be here. I even have the idea that, the way they do it in this society of biopolitics, as Foucault would have put it, where they ask you… In order to get married: you don’t have AIDS, you’re mentally stable. Obviously, doesn’t work, because if it were to work, I would never be allowed to get married. But they should do it the same like if you want to kill yourself, no? I was thinking about it. I think that only people… some medical… or psychiatricadvisory committee, team, should decide is it a case of a true metaphysical suicide, or just a short crisis, like you were just dropped by your girlfriend or boyfriend, and there is a reasonable hope that it’s a momentary depression, then, in two or three weeks, it will be over. So it can be medical crisis. it can be this kind of psychological crisis,or pure metaphysical suicide. As a Marxist, if somebody tells me that Lacan is difficult, this is class propaganda by the enemy. I never thought I’d have this much fun talking about this.