Film, Psychology

Before Being Eaten – Death, Desire and Disgust in Film

Cannibal Holocaust. Directed by Ruggero Deodato. Written by Gianfranco Clerici. Grindhouse, 198019

    The film begins as a documentary about a missing film crew and its expedition into Amazon Rainforest. The crew goes to film a documentary about Rainforest’s cannibals. Alan Yates, the director; Faye Daniels, his girlfriend and script girl; and their two friends and cameramen, Jack Anders and Mark Tomaso never return to show their documentary.

    Instead professor Harold Monroe, a New York University (NYU) anthropologist, volunteers to lead a rescue mission to find the team and their film. He flies down to Amazon and discovers an absolutely primitive world of cannibals. Later on after much hiking through the jungle he meets the tribe which killed the four. The professor recovers the tapes and brings them to the States. After he warns that he has not seen anything more gruesome that the shot material he shows it to the commission of people who want to show the documentary to the wider audience. The documentary is shown and we experience the worst case scenario where all the documentarists are killed by cannibals after they perform and witness unimaginable events.

    In the beginning of the documentary the four introduce themselves and show how they are going to concur the Rainforest with their cameras. On their way they rape a girl which later is killed by the tribe. Then they burn the tribe’s houses and behave like they are the superpower. Later on we see who has the real power.

    Another tribe, the tree people, catch them one by one and gruesomely murder by decapitating, dismembering and raping the documentarists.

    After the commission watches all the material they are speechless. The commission decides to burn the documentary.

    There are so many studies of evil: eternal evil, evil in all of us, unconscious evil created by our psyche. But there is only one thought which bothers me a lot: why is evil called evil and why is evil bad? So many philosophers have agreed that evil is not that evil when one looks deeper, deeper into our soul.

    Evil through history has shown so many faces, though none of them has taught us how avoid it. But do we really need to avoid it and what would actually happen if we would finally avoid it? I expect the world would change as we know it. And I’m not sure if we would understand it.

    The world doesn’t change. Yes, the physical world is changing, but the human world is still in the same age as it was millions and millions years ago. We get angry at another human being. We think we are better than our neighbors. We go to war; thus we show that nothing has changed. That is scary.

    “… the price we pay for the advance of civilization is the loss of happiness. And since civilization itself arose as a flight from reality, it can’t even be justified as related to truth. The more civilized we become, the more we seem to suffer – without clearly gaining in knowledge.”20 Sigmund Freud

    The controversy of the film is based on our human perception. Nothing scares us more than fear of the unknown. It is enough for us to grab something gooey in the dark to make us scream. Our perception tells us things we know, but we might not be sure if it is real that something what we think it is. Could it be that what we grabbed in the dark is a decaying dead body? Or maybe that is something else that could make us sick?

    When I was a little child, I read fairy tales. They scared me so much that sometimes I had to go to sleep in my parents’ bed, thinking that they would protect me from unknown and imaginary things. Nobody knows for sure how Lucifer looks and why he is so scary. “From the standpoint of Jungian psychology, we might say that fairy tales do not recount consciously experienced human events, but that these “pure forms” make visible fundamental archetypal structures of the collective unconscious. This accounts for the non-human or, as Luthi puts it, abstract character of the figures; they are archetypal images, behind which the secret of the unconscious psyche is hidden.”21

    And now imagine that we have a film about something we heard from our great-great-grandparents, which is so real, because it involves us, human beings and nature. We heard stories about humans eating humans, maybe only in fairy tales, but when it comes to experiencing those stories on the screen, it is enough to put a couple of reality shots where animals are being executed without mercy. The story, even though not real, becomes a nightmare. The question if it is real is really asked.

    I grew up on a farm. My family was raising farm animals to be killed later for food. I remember one day my father came to our house and asked my brother follow him to the cattle-shed. The day came to kill a pig for food. Even though my brother is younger than I am, my father had chosen him for the “execution” of a pig. There is still a question why he had chosen my brother instead of me; maybe I was an “artistic” type, thus weaker for the purpose of killing of the pig? I do not know. I know one thing: that when it came to the point that my brother had to kill the pig he could not do it. He got sick to his stomach, because that was one of the pigs he used to feed every day. His soul made him upset, because it already had a relationship with the pig. He was not able to perform the killing, even though he was strong enough to do it. His soul’s intelligence forbade him the killing. My brother was able to help my father take care of the meat though, after the pig was killed by a butcher, but to perform the killing it was not completely in his power. It was in the power of his soul.

    My father had to invite our neighbor who was the one who always was asked to butcher pigs in our small town. There was nothing different about the butcher. That was his work. I know for sure that my brother was not meant for this work. Experiencing the “killings” in our cattle-shed did not make us different; even more so, we were able better understand the nature of an animal, an animal called human. Censoring the natural way of surviving creates a void in understanding of human nature.

    We want to pretend that there is a difference between us and other animals. The truth is we are the same. Seeing images which remind us about this is taboo and unacceptable to some people. We want to be superior; thus holocaust is born. To accept and learn is not what we want. We forget, thus we repeat.

To be continued…

 

Endnotes:

  1. Cannibal Holocaust is officially banned in over 50 countries worldwide. Certification status of the film today: Finland: K-18 (heavily cut VHS version); Norway: 18 (re-rating: 2005) (uncut); France: -18 (re-released) (DVD) (2004) (uncut); Singapore: (Banned); Finland: K-18 (2001); Sweden: 15; Japan: R-18; Hong Kong: III; Finland: (Banned) (1984-2001); UK: X (self applied: 1981); UK: 18 (re-rating: 2001) (heavily cut); Malaysia: (Banned); Ireland: (Banned); Canada: 16+ (Quebec); New Zealand: (Banned) (2006); Australia: R (re-rating) (2005) (uncut); Denmark: 15; Germany: 18 (heavily cut); Germany: (Banned) (uncut) 30; Brazil: 18; South Africa: (Banned); Philippines: (Banned); Italy: VM18 (re-rating: 1984); Norway: (Banned) (1984-2005); Australia: (Banned) (1984-2005); Mexico: C; Argentina: 16; France: -16; Iceland: (Banned); Netherlands: 16; South Korea: 18; Spain: 18; UK: (Banned) (1984-2001); USA: Open (rating surrendered: 1985); USA: X (original rating: 1984); West Germany: (Banned); Canada: R; Italy: (Banned) (1980-1984); USA: Unrated
  2. Sigmund Freud quoted in Neiman, Evil in Modern Thought, 234.
  3. James Hillman, ed., Studies in Jungian Thought: Evil (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1967), 86.

 

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Film, Psychology

Before Falling in Love – Death, Desire and Disgust in Film

Ai no corrida. (In the Realm of Senses (USA title) or Bullfight of Love (literal English title)) Dir. Nagisha Oshima. Perf. Eiko Matsuda and Tatsuya Fuji. Genius Entertainment, Wellspring, 197612

    The film is set in 1936 Tokyo, where Sada Abe (Eiko Matsuda) a former prostitute, now works in a hotel as a maid. Sada with her coworkers witness a sexual act between hotel’s owner Kichizo Ishida (Tatsuya Fuji) and his wife.

     After one innocent meeting on the porch Sada and Kichizo begin an intense affair that consists of little other that sexual experiments, drinking, and various self-indulgences. Sada’s obsession with Kichizo grows to the point that she has to have his sexual organs always inside of her. Sada falls deeper and deeper in love with Kichizo. One day they perform a very similar ritual as if they are getting married. After the ritual Sada feels that Kichizo belongs to her. She cannot stand even an hour without him. She follows Kichizo even when he is finally visiting his wife. Sada becomes obsessed with Kichizo and wants him all the time. She threatens to kill him if he so much as looks at another woman (including his own wife).

    Their obsession with each other escalates to the point that Kichizo lets Sada strangle him during the love making. Finally Sada kills Kichizo while Kichizo’s organs are inside of her. After that Sada severs Kichizo’s genitals and writes “Sada and Kichizo, now one” in blood on his chest.

    RENEE: The world is filled with people who despise what they cannot imagine. They enjoy their afternoons napping in the hammock. But before they know it they acquire breasts of brass, a belly of brass, and they sparkle if you polish them. You know your kind, when you see a rose you say, “How pretty!” And when you see a snake you say, “How disgusting!” You know nothing of the world where the rose and the snake are intimates and at night exchange shapes, the snake’s cheeks turning red and the rose putting forth shining scales. When you see a rabbit you say, “How sweet!” and when you see a lion you say, “How frightening!” You’ve never realized what blood they shed on a stormy nights out of love for each other. You know nothing of nights when holiness and shame imperceptibly switch appearances. That is why you plot to exterminate such nights, once you’ve finished mocking them with your brains of brass. But if there were no longer any nights, not even you and your kind could again enjoy untroubled sleep.13

    Have you ever felt a body ache from something your senses feel, but cannot define? Yes, that physical pain which comes from somewhere inside your mind and body. Somehow it gets activated by an atom or a small part of undefined sense. It keeps bouncing around the soul until it gets so aggravated that there is that unavoidable need for cry. And what if you cannot cry? What if you are born in a place where a “cry for body” is considered evil? But “I have an infinite hunger for love / for the love of bodies without souls,” Pasolini wrote.14

    The controversy of this film consists of pain which is born of a mind without reason. The reasonless pain gives birth to a helpless feeling. Not many can accept that undefined feeling which makes them squirm and writhe. They would rather go and kill it with knowledge of something which cannot be explained. Kant is helpless. His guidance for reason hits the wall, when the soul cries for the need to be physically touched. That pain just grows deeper when one meets another and “understands” that there is no way away from it but death. The pain which is born by reason and will to be touched hurts more. It doesn’t let the body go. The reasoning mind wants to come and help. But in that case the help is destructive. It is full of undefined sadness. The shaken soul goes asking “undersoul” why it is so that one soul cannot satisfy another body’s reason, the reason for another body’s pain? Descartes said in the Treatise on the Passions of the Soul: “That to know the passions of the soul, one must distinguish its functions from those of the body”; in Sade it became: “To know the passions of the body, one must distinguish its functions from those of the soul.” In the [Lucienne Frappier-Mazur] Writing the Orgy it reads: “To serve the body, one must first tame it. As always, the head is committed to the service of the body.”15

    It seems like it all gets round and lost in circle, a circle which doesn’t let one go. Is that another person who feels the same pain, but has no explanation for it?

    One needs to stop that future pain which comes from our depth. What can one do?

    Nietzsche said that to feel no pain one must despise one’s body: “body am I entirely, and nothing else; and soul is only a word for something about the body.”16 What if I knew that “soul” is not the only word for something about my body? What if I feel the pain not within my body, but within my soul? I know that there is no body without a soul unless one dies. My body has an aching soul. It comes not from my wisdom, but from my knowledge of another body. Is it possible that my body thinks? Does it really know the difference between the pain and pleasure? What if the pain comes from pleasure and pleasure comes from pain? The soul is helpless here. It cries: I want “to go under.”

    A soul is asking, but it gets refused and banned from the future.

    In the Realm of the Senses, Sada kills Kichizo, thus becoming one with him. Again Eros and Thanatos are together within soul and body. Sada has Kichizo’s sexual organs. She gets what she is missing; thus she fulfills the void in her body.

    “Did you suck my penis all night long?” asks Kichizo.

    “I want to have it inside of me all the time,” smiles Sada.

    To understand the controversy of the film, one has to be repressed. If one is free and listens to one’s body, one understands the need for touch. Freud “thought that the taboo generally countered the desire to touch.”17 Touching a naked body equals touching a dead body. To touch a dead body is taboo. The fear of giving birth to death appears. If a body does not get the touch it needs the body starts aching. If bodily pain is too hard to handle without knowing why, one gets confused, thus undefined. The reason for censoring the film comes from the undefined body or from the soul which refuses to be touched.

    From the early ages when there was a superstition that you need to eat another body to fix your body’s ache, one went, got that body, and ate it. Kichizo lets Sada “eat” him. Nietzsche says: “One must cease letting oneself be eaten when one tastes best: that is known to those who want to be loved long.”18

    Sada will never heal her body ache, because her body does not have the organ she retrieved from Kichizo. One never should censor body parts if one does not want to have his soul cry over it.

    To be continued…

    Endnotes:

  1. In the Realm of Senses was banned in most countries upon its initial theatrical release. Certification status of the film today: Argentina: 18; Australia: (Banned) (1992-2000); Australia: R (re-rating) (2000)Australia: X (original rating); Canada: R (Ontario) (1991); Canada: R (Manitoba) 28; Canada: R (Alberta) (1998); Canada: (Banned) (Nova Scotia); Canada: 18+ (Quebec); Chile: 18; Finland: K-18 (uncut) (1979); Finland: K-16 (uncut) (1979); Finland: (Banned) (uncut) (1978); Finland: (Banned) (uncut) (1976); Finland: (Banned) (cut) 1977); France: -16; Germany: 18; Hong Kong: III; Hungary: 18; Iceland: Unrated; Ireland: (Banned); Italy: VM18; Japan: R-18 (Re-rating); Japan: (Banned) (original rating); New Zealand: R18 (Re-rating) (2001); New Zealand: (Banned) (original rating); Norway: 18; Singapore: (Banned); South Korea: 18 (1999); Sweden: 15; UK: 18; USA: X (Original rating); USA: NC-17 (Re-rating) (1991) 29
  2. Yukio Mishima, Madame de Sade (New York: Grove Press, Inc., 1967), 73.
  3. Barth David Schwartz, Pasolini Requiem (New York: Pantheon Books, 1992), 52.
  4. Lucienne Frappier-Mazur, Writing the Orgy: Power and Parody in Sade (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1996), 122.
  5. Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, 34.
  6. George Bataille, Erotism: Death and Sensuality (New York: Walker, 1962), 47.
  7. Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, 72.
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Film, Psychology

Before Being Executed – Death, Desire and Disgust in Film

Baise-Moi (Fuck Me). Directed by Virginie Despantes and co-directed by Coralie. Remstar, 20005

     “…why not turn criminal and become an agent of Heaven?”6 The Marquis de Sade

     Baise-Moi tells a story about two girls; Manu a thuggish looking girl, played by Raffa Anderson and Nadine a part-time prostitute played by Karen Lancaume. Two of them meet at the train station after a couple of “misfortune” events in their lives.

     Before meeting Nadine Manu and her only friend, a drug addict, are rapped by three degenerate street punks. After the rape Manu goes to her brother and tells what has happened. Manu’s brother reacts by vowing to find and take revenge upon the rapists, but is killed by Manu instead. Manu takes all his money and leaves.

     Meantime in another part of the town Nadine returns home from her job as a prostitute to find her roommate all pissed of because Nadine has smoked all her pot and has drunk all the alcohol in the house. After some argument Nadine attacks her roommate and suffocates her. Later Nadine goes to meat her only friend a drug dealer and her pimp in a hotel. Her friend gives her a package with documents and asks Nadine to bring them to Paris. When Nadine’s friend leaves Nadine hears gun shots and witnesses her friend being killed on the street right before her eyes. Nadine quickly leaves the place and heads towards the train station. She misses the train but meets Manu instead.

     Manu and Nadine exchange words with each other. They realize that they share common feelings of anger and together begin go on a violent road trip characterized by the pattern of meeting men, having sex with them, and then killing them.

     Finally, after much killing and aimless driving, the two women enter a swingers’ bar and kill many of the couples there. The pair discuss what they have done, and agree that it has all been pointless because nothing has changed inside them even though they have become country’s most wanted.

     They keep going on the killing spree, but Manu is suddenly shot in a convenience store after her attempt to rob it. Nadine runs inside the store just to find the dead Manu’s body. Later Nadine decides to burn Manu’s body and to commit suicide. She flees to a remote cabin to do it, but gets arrested by the police right before she wants to finish with her “worthless” life.

     The Marquis de Sade enters his Bedroom, puts on a face of one of his libertines and says in a philosophical tone:

     “…that it’s only human pride which makes murder into crime? For the murderer just turns the mass of flesh that today appears as a person into tomorrow’s clump of earthworms. Does nature care more about one than the other?”7

     I remember traveling with my friend through a desert in California. What amazed me was that there was no greenery around. I remember thinking: “How strange,” but meanwhile I had another thought: “How strangely beautiful, those rocks and sand with some brown grass.” At that exact moment, even though I was adoring the scenery, I understood that I missed the greenery I was accustomed to every day.

     Closer to the evening we came to a house in the middle of the desert. Surprisingly it had a tree and a few patches of brown grass around it. The hostess of the house greeted us with warmth and asked us if we would like to sit in the shadow of the lonely tree. We agreed and sat in the shadow waiting till the hostess brought us some lemonade.

     While sitting on a bench I looked at the branches of the tree and realized that the leaves of the tree had thorns. It was impossible to touch them. The hostess saw my interest and told me that this tree was planted by her father and that it is dear to her soul. I remember thinking: “Strange, this type of tree in the place I was living would be considered poor and not worth anything, while here it had a great importance, not only because it was planted by somebody’s father, but also because it threw a shadow on patches of grass growing below.”

     Suddenly the hostess exclaimed: “How do you like my garden?”

     First I was puzzled and started looking for a garden the hostess was asking about, but there was only one tree and the brown grass patches around it. After the hostess saw my puzzled look she pointed to the tree and the grass and told that that was her garden.

     Later I learnt that she had been living in the desert her whole life. When I returned home I went to visit my garden. My garden was green and full of life. Roses in the garden had just bloomed. They were giving me the most beautiful colors I could imagine. I bent over to feel their scent when my attention caught some grass growing in the shadow of a rose bush. It wasn’t there before I went to California, so I grabbed it and rooted it out. Then I touched a rose’s blossom, but was stung by a thorn on the rose’s stem.

     “How beautiful, yet with thorns,” I thought.

     The lifeless desert and colorful garden made me understand something. To understand the beauty of a rose I needed a weed to grow next to it. To understand importance of a weed I needed a desert and a tree. To understand the impossible I needed a rose and a desert.

     Nadine and Manu’s need for each other is obvious. They were meant for each other as the rose and the weed was in the garden. People see a weed growing next to a rose immediately suggest that the owner of the garden is lazy, but in reality the gardener wants the rose to have company of the weed. Maybe he wants to enjoy the differences between the two of them. The rooting out the weed is making the controversial disappear. The norm of how the garden should look is forced upon the gardener.

     That spring I met somebody who made me think about the beauty in desert.

     I have always been drawn to deserted places. In the city one would call them seedy, lonely, sad, sometimes, the places where your dreams tell you their own scary fairy tales. There are only a few people who would go there just to be surrounded by all that mystery, the mystery only our unconsciousness can explain. I would go there sit and watch people who would play In the Realm of the Senses8 right in front of me. I don’t know why I was drawn to those places. When I was there it was almost like having a conversation with evil; who would answer my questions god knew no answer to. I believe George Bataille got some answers from those kind of places. I don’t know for sure if we were looking for the same excitement though. Dialogs between Eros and Thanatos were definitely happening there where Bataille got his inspiration (he was frequent visitor to bordellos). Bataille’s main idea is that sex is death. Through the sexual act we give birth to death; thus Eros and Thanatos are the same. Greek/Roman mythology says that they looked similar, with wings and were very handsome men; thus dialog between them is inside of our inner soul.

     One of those nights I met a person who came there to unleash his “fairy tales,” or let Eros and Thanatos go and make love to each other freely. He saw me sitting in the corner and watching. First he moved around the room, then he came to me and introduced himself. Suddenly he invited me to his house to read his poetry. I was intrigued. Was that my personal “fairy tale teller” saying to me: “go explore the unknown,” or was it my soul searching for that something Freud calls “the value of dreams?” So I went, even though I knew nothing about the person. I was surprised that I wasn’t thinking about anything bad that could happen in that kind of situation. I was interested in what the meeting would give birth to. Strangely enough, on the way to his place I remembered Pier Paolo Pasolini and his nightly escapades with male prostitutes. Still we don’t know if he was killed by one of them on the eve of All Saints. Most of the times our unconsciousness leads us to places where shadows become reality. Suddenly I imagined being taken by Nadine and Manu from Baise-Moi (Fuck Me) and executed without mercy. Nadine and Manu were so real at that moment that I even started thinking: “is it going to happen the way it happened in the film?” I don’t know how I could understand their pain at that moment, but I understood, or thought that I understood; maybe because at that moment I was without a place, going somewhere I could be raped and left as Pasolini was left:

     “Just because it’s a holiday. And in protest I want to die/ of humiliation. I want them to find me dead/ with my penis sticking out, my trousers spotted with white/ sperm, among the millet plants covered with blood-red liquid. / I am convinced that also the last act, to which I alone, the actor, am witness, in a river/ that no one comes to – will, eventually,/ acquire a meaning.”9

     Nothing made me be scared of the situation I was physically in at that moment. I was more involved in thinking of why Baise-Moi was born and how it was made. Was it born as a result of Eros and Thanatos having sex? Crazy thought! My mind flew into the realm of shadows, shadows which created “evil” films. German philosopher Leibniz in his Théodicée (‘Theodicy,’ 1710) explained “that in order to perceive light [good], there has to be shadow [evil], that a life containing nothing but sweetness would be cloying.”10

     Hm, I wasn’t expecting to talk in this sweet tone after watching Baise-Moi, one of the “evil” movies. Wasn’t I supposed to talk about killing somebody or having sex in unthinkable places?

     My mind began writing notes to my undersoul. They were very personal. I could not imagine how I could censor them. They were my nature, my experience, my life. Missing one or another part would just hurt my being. I would not be able to understand what was happening right then without looking at my own soul’s intelligence somebody would like to censor. I would not be able to write the second note to my undersoul if I pretended that what happened didn’t happen. So, before I was in love, I had to be alone. To be alone meant to be with my raw senses. I became like the butterfly which Thanatos was always carrying. I felt like Kierkergaard was yelling to my ear: “There are well known insects which die in the moment of fecundation. So it is with all joy: life’s supreme and richest moment of pleasure is coupled with death.”11

     I was fearless as fearless were Manu and Nadine, but “wait!” somebody said, that is not right, exposing yourself on screen is censored. But how can I show that I’m not afraid to be exposed? To be naked meant to show death. The naked body is a picture of death, thus evil, Bataille explained. Nobody likes death. We need to cut it out or censor it. You want to say you want to execute me? But I have not been in love.

     To be continued…

Endnotes:

5. Certification status of Baise-Moi today:

Australia: Refused Classification (re-rating) (2002); Australia: R (original rating); Belgium: KNT ?; Canada: 18 (New Brunswick/Nova Scotia/Prince Edward Island); Canada: R (Alberta/British Columbia/Manitoba/Ontario/Saskatchewan);Canada: 18+ (Québec); Canada: R; Chile: 18; Finland: K-18; France: -16 (original rating); France: -18 (re-release); France: X (re-rating) (2000) (court decision); Germany: 18; Hong Kong: III (heavily cut); Iceland: 16; Ireland: (Banned); Italy: VM18; Japan: R-15; Luxembourg: 17 27; Netherlands: 16; New Zealand: (Banned) (video rating); New Zealand: R18 (re-release); Norway: 18; Peru: 18; Singapore: (Banned); South Africa: 18; Spain: 18; Sweden: 15; UK: 18 (cut); USA: Unrated

6. The Marquis de Sade quoted in Susan Neiman, Evil in Modern Thought: an Alternative History of Philosophy. (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2002), 184.

7. The Marquis de Sade, Justine, Philosophy in the Bedroom, and other writings (New York: Grove Press, Inc., 1965), 519.

8. Suggestion to the film by the same name (In the Realm of Senses. Dir. Nagisha Oshima. Perf. Eiko Matsuda and Tatsuya Fuji. Genius Entertainment and Wellspring, 1979)

9. Pier Paolo Pasolini, Bestia da Stile [Stylish Beast]

10. Susan Neiman, Evil in Modern Thought (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2002), 223.

11. Starrs, Deadly Dialectics, 97.

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Film, Psychology

Approaching the Subject of Death – Death, Desire and Disgust in Film

Prologue

There are not many people who can truly say that they are not afraid of death. The second humans are born, in effect, they are born to die. Death has many faces; many of them are mysterious, frightening, and it is most often the case that when humans are faced with death they lose their “cool.” What humans do not understand or are afraid to understand makes them suffer. Humans suffer not from life itself, but from living it. A human being’s consciousness is defined by intellect or by a way of thinking. The knowledge of how thinking is born gives humans their perspective on how to live. Death, desire, and disgust go hand in hand on the road of the unknown. Humans bravely walk this road of disgust looking for answers, although usually emotions get in the way, of rational understanding. The mind dictates the norms born in a society, while inner souls are drawn to experience an unconscious story.

The social and psychological use and function of human experience is fundamental. It defines and at the same time breaks down boundaries. Inevitably, in modern times, cinema has played a huge part in defining those boundaries. And because cinema story and aesthetics are constantly metamorphosing, the boundaries do as well. What is unknown today might be known tomorrow; what is evil now, might be good tomorrow.

The act of reproduction itself is an act of death. By producing a new life humans actually produce another being for death. This circle of human nature is morbid but not unfamiliar. Humans all understand that they live by Nature’s order; and in that way, similar to animals. But the big difference between humans and animals is humans’ unique consciousness of the paradox of death and their unstoppable instinct to impose intellect on the natural order to make sense of it all. What is often not understood becomes a taboo.

In these series of writings, I will attempt to draw a distinction between human intellect and human experience. Most of the time humans approach lives through their experiences. The experience of others is nothing for us at the age when our intellect is forming. A child will still put a fork into an electric socket even though his mother said that it will hurt. Humans’ experience of pain defines knowledge of that pain. Through that experience the senses gain “intellect.” Human souls “read” these senses. That way they become “intelligent.”

Alongside each film I screened I read certain philosophers and psychoanalysts to gain insight as to how to react to it. They touched the parts of my brain which connect creativity, common sense and compassion. The written works of Dostoevsky, Nietzsche and Bataille gave me the stylistic approach for writing the series; the idea of using the “soul’s intellect” to better understand my own feelings towards the controversial. With their help I put my thinking into impressionistic writing, because my creativity is provoked by that which makes my brain work.

Intellectually explaining a feeling can sometimes kill the understanding of it. This is why I am going to take on a “personal tone” in the series. Unconsciousness is very important to me while constructing my sentences. Sometimes I explain myself through “free association,” the method many psychologists use on their patients. The flow of the “research” is accessed through my “dreams” along with the films and philosophical literature. The feelings provoke my thoughts, and written words get onto paper.

Dostoevsky’s Notes from Underground is my main guidance in the structure of this work. Dostoevsky, in the first part of Notes, explains and narrates his feelings through a character, but leaves the actual events that affected him for the second part. He tells about affected feelings before the reader hears what caused them.

I often pay homage to Nietzsche and his construction of Thus Spoke Zarathustra. His lonely man’s voice provoked in me the tragedy of the human psyche. I want to call him a “psychologist of philosophy.” I play with his way of writing and, maybe, at some point even pretend that I am that voice. “With knowledge, the body purifies itself; making experiments with knowledge, it elevates itself; in the lover of knowledge all instincts become holly; in the elevated, the soul becomes gay.”1 “God is a thought that makes crooked all that is straight, and makes turn whatever stands.”2

Georges Bataille’s explanation of how he used his personal experience while writing Story of the Eye gave me guidance as to how to express something that I was not able to express or explain.

These are the keys one should know while reading next chapters. If it feels “too impressionistic,” let it be, because explaining a feeling is sometimes censoring the thinking of the soul. Personal experience through feelings for me is the soul’s intellect. At some point one might feel that there are too many people speaking at the same time and the main thought is buried somewhere in between. That is my purpose. Many times controversial films are censored and then uncensored or re-released. Why this is happening is also buried somewhere between “defined censorship.” The real question is: who gives the power of censorship to one or another group of people? How do they decide that something is inappropriate and can provoke “evil?” Are they not “evil” themselves who see movies with their own dirty minds? Are they not reflecting like a mirror what is wrong in their own lives? Is it not, in Freudian terms, “a fear of the unconscious?”

“In his denial of the unconscious, of the deeper self that is expressed in dreams, one may sense his fear of depths, of anything not visible to the naked eye – for he is, after all, the ‘objective’ observer par excellence.”3

I am very much on Nietzsche’s side when he says that “all instincts that are not allowed free play turn inward.”4

Oscar Wilde’s novella The Picture of Dorian Gray written in 1891 comes to my mind. The ironic part in the history of writing The Picture of Dorian Gray is that the book was used to accuse Oscar Wilde of “evil doings” and “helped” him to become a convict. A similar thing happened with the Italian director Deodato after his Cannibal Holocaust was released in 1980. The film’s mis en scene was so vivid and believable that he was actually accused of killing his actors during the filming. To avoid jail time or even a possible death sentence he had to find the actors and bring them to the court to show that they had not in fact been killed during the shooting of the film and were very much alive.

The play with the human psyche and hidden evil is what interests me while writing the series. Humans who would not know good without knowing evil.

So these are my “notes from the underground” after screening the films. Each “note” is affected by a specific movie and by a specific controversy the film touches.

To be continued…

Endnotes:

  1. Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, a book for all and none (New York: Viking Penguin Inc., 1966), Pg. 77
  2. Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Pg. 86
  3. Roy Starrs, Deadly Dialectics: Sex, Violence, and Nihilism in the World of Yukio Mishima (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1994), 130.
  4. Starrs, Deadly Dialectics, Pg. 128
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Theater Farts

Gone Fishing or Something about Stalin

Well okay my dear darlings, I have to write this entry in a subway car as some kind of alternative-ass-writing artist. It’s late, alright, and I got drunk in the city, so sue me. I haven’t had my Port for quite some time now, so whatever you say, I do not care. I just got abused by a drag queen, kissed by somebody I was and I think still am attracted to, so, of course, I am drunk, what do you expect me to be after spending the night surrounded by all these high heels on the rocks, I mean… oh never mind… This should be a perfect time for me to write all those five reasons why you should wear heels at least once in your lifetime, but I won’t be doing that, because, my dears, I just got some Mexican musicians entertain my loneliness in this subway car, and… And what the heck are they doing here, at this hour, singing in a subway? Oh wait, it’s already New Year and I believe it’s bright outside. So, of course, it must be another day. So my dears, I will just get another sip from my strategically covered water bottle which holds a residue of some kind of alcohol, but I digress saying that. And I digress not because I am drunk at 9AM on a Monday morning, no. I digress because the alcohol I am drinking right now is not alcohol anymore; I am pretty sure about that. It tastes as some kind of weirdly flavored liquid that came out from those ice cubes I got into my drink just before I left that place I had to leave many hours before I got myself this unbelievably drunk. Wait, what is that? A finger nail? Oh whatever, I will just pretend that it’s a cherry in my drink, but enough about it. There are many more important things to discuss here, like, for example, world hunger or what dress one or another celebrity wore at one or another Globe or whatever they’re called now.

Alright, Plastikoff decided to ride this train to the very end, just because he suddenly realized that he needs some smoked fish that goes perfectly well with all this drunken debauchery. And you can get that particular smoked fish on Coney Island only. Why only there? I do not know. Maybe because the ocean is right there if suddenly you feel very adventurous after eating that fish.

Okay, I got the fish and I poured another glass of Port into my water bottle just because I can. Mondays are dark in theaters, so I don’t feel guilty drinking at this hour. Got it? Good.

The alcohol level in my system is high enough to be able to speak about serious art and when I say that, I really mean it. To understand the Russian soul you really need to get drunk to the point that you don’t remember yourself. And when you don’t remember yourself, you remember things that matter the most. There was a reason why Stalin made all of his ministers drunk at his parties. He would listen to them. Some of them, of course, would not show up at the next party or anywhere else for that matter, because, my dears, Stalin would make them disappear as that smoke on an early morning blown by the wind and I am not talking about that kind of smoke you smoke your fish in. In Vino Veritas, that’s right, and for most of them that “veritas” ended up in Siberia. And why the heck I am speaking about Siberia all of a sudden? Is this because its winter and I feel quite cold sitting here all by myself on Brighton Beach? Or is it that there is something else I want to tell you about the Russian soul?

Now why my dear darlings am I bubbling so much about drinking, Stalin and Siberia you’d ask? Well because that was the time when theater in Soviet countries was booming. This was the time when the greatest theater traditions were born.

Since everything was censored greatly and there was literally no book in press that would not use a quote from Marx or Engels, yes, that’s true, a quote had to be included somewhere in the beginning of any book going to press otherwise it would be not released, artists were becoming very creative about how and what they wanted to say to their audiences. People started looking for alternative ways of getting information they were missing because of the censorship. Artists during that time began learning how to speak and create “in codes.” Nothing would get passed through Soviet censorship, you know that already. It’s almost like in today’s United Sates where every camera on your computers is regulated by that invisible man who oh so wants to get into your naked business. Why else would you use your camera for? (Smiley face?)

But returning to the Soviet times, there were, of course, certain authors that would not pass the censorship even with those quotes, but this entry is not about them. We are talking about theater now. There were theater directors who put a classic play (let’s say something Shakespearean) with some hidden messages in it critiquing the Soviet regime. This is where a tradition of a theater-director-who-was-able-to-tell-something-else-“in code”-while-putting-up-a-much-known-play-at-the-time was born. People flocked to theaters to watch those shows and “read” those hidden messages inside performances. People literally had to wait in line over night in freezing cold to get those tickets to see one or another play. Tickets were sold out the very first day of the month when theaters would release those seats for sell. If you missed that first day, you had to wait for another month to see one or another production. If you were lucky, you were able to snatch a ticket for a show which would happen sometime at the end of the month. Those tickets, most likely, were for standing-in-the-isle “seats” only. This was the time when Director’s Theater was born. A director was the story teller, the stage was his/her canvas/book and audiences came to see what a director wanted to say to them about the situation they were living in.

What happened next with theater in Soviet countries and why you most likely will hear a director’s name attached to a production there first, I am going to discuss in my later entries when I am less drunk and not as cold as I am right now. For some reason I am still entertaining an idea of a winter swim in the ocean, but let me get that fish eaten first before my neighborhood cats realize what’s happening here.

The fish is done but for some reason I still feel like I need to add something before I get completely surrounded by those cats. I will just say blatantly, today is a perfect time for the United States to catch up on all that lost time when Director’s Theater was cultivated in those Soviet countries “everybody” here still calls Russia. I am going to elaborate about it a little bit more in other entries but for now I am leaving you with this fishy smell. Tah-dah

Should I still go for a swim?

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