Saturday, April 20, 2013

A "professor's" Guide to Ideology

I screened the lengthy  (134 minutes)“meta-documentary” “The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology” tonight at the NYU Abramson Auditorium near Franklin Square in Washington DC, on the last night of FilmfestDC.  The film, directed by Sophie Fiennes,  is written and narrated by University of Ljubljana professor Slavoj Zizek.  The film is a sequel to “A Pervert’s Guide to  Cinema” (2006).

In general, “ideology” means the “purpose beyond the self” that we are expected to live for, whether we express it in religious terms (Allah, God, Jehovah) or social (“the common good”, eusociality). To me, the term evokes Rock Warren’s “The Purpose-Driven Life”.  But in the end, Zizek believes that maybe it does need to be about you.

The professor develops his these by looking at perhaps 20 movies, starting with  “They Live” (1988, John Carpenter) in which a drifter Nada (Roddy Piper) finds a pair of sunglasses through which, in black and white, he always sees the subliminal message behind everything (like “marry and procreate”).  He follows to “The Sound of Music”, some of Stanley Kubrick’s films (like ‘Clockwork Orange”, discussed in “Room 237” (April 14),  Full Metal Jacket”, the Russian film “The Fall of Berlin (1949), Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” (2008).  Martin Scorcese’s “The Last Temptation of Christ” (1988), and “Seconds” (1966, John Frankenheimer).

Of course, once we accept a “higher purpose”, there is every risk that leadership will become corrupt and exploit it.  Zizek shows how this process was fundamentally the same with Fascism and Communism (he spends more time on Stalin than Hitler).  Nevertheless, the individual is in a position to “carry his weight” and maintain loyalty to the group. Somewhat infrequently in the grand scheme of things, the individual may have to confront that his affinity group, however established by propinquity, may have evil purposes.
Happiness and joy are themselves separated within the personality into “objects”, particularly within Catholicism (as he demonstrates with “Sound of Music”).  The power of the military can become overpowering in determining the personal values in the culture (as shown in “Full Metal Jacket” – and developed in the Army Basic chapter in my own manuscript “The Proles” as well as in Chapter 2 of my first DADT book).  Zizek discusses the crucifixion in comparison to the Book of Job, and concludes that that Christianity liberates the individual from a purpose defined by “God”.  In the end, he supports an individualistic, libertarian outlook and capitalism after all.

I was quite impressed with the music in the background of “Fall of Berlin” – it is the closing bombastic passage of one of Richard Strauss’s last works, “Freedom’s Day”. 

Zizek also describes how the "Ode to Joy" theme from the finale of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony has been misused by totalitarian idealogues, ranging from Hitler to Chairman Mao,  He shows Bernstein conducting it at the Christmas concert in Berlin in 1989 after the fall of the Berlin Wall (a CD than I have).  

With his analysis of “The Dark Knight” (Batman), Zizek shows that the “goodness” of those in power was fake, and suggests that a dark character (the Joker) is necessary to show up the truth. It sounds horrible, but somehow this sort of thinking drove James Holmes mad in Colorado, it seems.  This part of the film as probably filmed before the July 2012 mass shooting in Colorado.

The wiki entry for the film lists all the films excepted, here

The film was shot in 2.35:1 aspect to fit all the films, and often the narrator appears alone in the same aspect (and similar scenery) as the film he has just discussed.  So the screen was constantly "shape-shifting". 

The official site (Film4, etc) is here.

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