Place – Tacita Dean & Jeremy Millar

The books surveys different interpretation of the theme “Place” in contemporary art. I found a few relevant critical quotes and artists whose practice is similar to mine.

The Stalker talking about the Zone in Andrei Tarkovsky’s film:
“Our moods, our thoughts, our emotions, our feelings can bring about change here. And we are in no condition to comprehend them. Old traps vanish, new ones take their place; the old safe places become impassable, and the route can either be plain and easy, or impossibly confusing. That’s how the Zone is. It may even seem capricious. But in fact, at any moment it is exactly as we devise it, in our consciousness… everything that happens here depends on us, not on the Zone.

“a romantic notion that the critic John Ruskin called the ‘pathetic fallacy’, the belief that the landscape might be made to mirror the emotional state of the person found within it.”

P38: Baudelaire on the flâneur
“The crowd is his element, as the air is that of the birds and water of fishes. His passion and his profession are to become one flesh with the crowd. For the perfect flâneur, for the passionate spectator, it is an immense joy to set up house in the heart of the multitude, amid the ebb and flow of movement, in the midst of the fugitive and the infinite. To be away from home and yet to feel oneself everywhere at home; to see the world – such are a few of the slightest pleasures of the independent, passionate, impartial natures which the tongue can but clumsily define. The spectator is a prince who everywhere rejoices in his incognito.”

P40: Stan Douglas, Canadian artist made a 6 minute film “Le Détroit” that shows a black woman searching for an unknown object in an abandoned house. The film alludes to the economic problems that turned some parts of Detroit into ghost estates and dilapidated neighbourhoods. “The film is projected onto semi-transparent material, while its negative is projected – with a small time interval – upon the screen’s reverse, thereby emphasising the haunting nature of the narrative.”

P68: Sartre on the Fantastic
“The law of the fantastic condemns it to encounter instruments only. These instruments are not … meant to serve men, but rather to manifest unremittingly an evasive, preposterous finality. This accounts for the labyrinth of corridors, doors and staircases that lead to nothing, the innumerable signs that line the road and that mean nothing. In the “topsy-turvy” world, the means are isolated and posed for their own sake.”

P90: a blue-filter produces the day-for night effect from Hollywood films (‘la nuit américaine’)

P98: Rodney Graham took photographs of Aberdeen, hometown of Kurt Cobain, to show the dereliction of the city, and tacky objects of consumerism.

Aberdeen - rodney graham

P138: Chantal Akerman, Belgian film-maker makes documentary bordering on fiction.

“D’est” (From the East, 1993) shows a journey across Eastern Europe, ordinary people and places are filmed.

“From the other Side” explore a small mexican town just outside the USA border where would-be-migrants wait before tempting the crossing, and the opinions of the inhabitants of Douglas, Arizona (on the other side) about the border policy.

P152: Janet Cardiff makes “audio-walks”: she writes a script inspired by mystery/film noir, then go for a walk in a chosen location where she records the script on tape.

P172: J.G. Ballard
“I noted the features of this silent world: the memory earasing white architecture; the enforced leisure that fossilized the nervous system; … the apparent absence of an[y?] social structure; the timelessness of a world beyond boredom, with no past, no future and a diminishing present. Perhaps this was what a leisure-dominated future would resemble? Nothing could ever happen in this affectless realm, where entropic drift calmed the surfaces of a thousand swimming pools.”

Madness and Cinema – Patrick Fuery

Key influences: Freud, Lacan, Derrida, Foucault
Key concerns: meaning and madness
Investigates meaning through “its opposite: madness” [the author’s definition, not mine]
More concerned with the role of the cinema spectator than with the depiction of madness on screen

Useful quotes from the book:

Don’t we analysts know that the normal subject is essentially someone who is placed in the position of not taking the greater part of his internal discourse seriously? Observe the number of things in normal subjects, including yourselves, that it’s truly your fundamental occupation not to take seriously. The principal difference between you and the insane is perhaps nothing other than this. And this is why for many, even without their acknowledging it, the insane embody what we would be led to if we began to take things seriously. So let us, without too great a fear, take our subject seriously.
(Lacan 1993: 123–4)

“To take cinema seriously is not just to work up the analytic side of things; becoming a spectator involves taking what is being seen on the screen seriously, that is, as if it is something real, something meaningful. […]when we become spectators of cinema there is something beyond the interplay between reality and pretence. There is something that dissolves the distinction between film and what could be called the everyday existence of reality.” p7

“In a lecture on madness, Foucault argues that the opportunity to contest (his concern is with the social order in general) has been lost in the contemporary age.5 For Foucault, this is tied up with the relationship of knowledge and madness, and it is what motivates much of his thinking. Foucault wanted to trace the process so he could investigate social institutions. Elsewhere he states: ‘Thus, in order for the big centres of internment to be opened at the end of the seventeenth century, it was necessary that
a certain knowledge of madness be opposed to nonmadness, of order to disorder, and it’s this knowledge that I wanted to investigate’ (Foucault 2000: 261–2). Part of the argument here is that becoming a spectator of cinema – and recall that this does not
simply mean just watching films, but of taking things seriously – is one of the ways the populace has continued the contesting of reason and order through a type of madness. This becomes part of cinema’s seductive qualities.” P9

p12 “Foucault’s sense of transgression (via Bataille) is interesting in this regard:
Transgression is an action that involves the limit, that narrow zone of a line where it displays a flash of its passage, but perhaps also its entire trajectory, even its origin; it is likely that transgression has its entire space in the line it crosses. The play of limits and transgression seems to be regulated by a simple obstinacy: transgression incessantly crosses and recrosses a line that closes up behind it in a wave of extremely
short duration, and thus it is made to return once more right to the horizon of the uncrossable.
(Foucault 2000: 73)”

Summarise Foucault p13:
“The two orders of representing madness then become either the reconfigured madness (sexuality as mad, possession as mad, excess as mad, vapours and bile of madness, madness as it breaks the law or threatens the ethical order) or that which is othered as madness (other cultures, other meanings, other sensibilities, other representational systems).”

“If it were possible to represent madness then all those other things that are seen as beyond the representational field (such as ecstatic pleasure, freedom, impossibility itself) may also come into focus.” p14

His central idea throughout the book: “the impossibility of representing madness outside of madness” p15

“Cultural paranoia acknowledges the need to colonise the unconscious in order to control, and represents the fear of this. A key to the processes of ideological power in these terms is the ascribing of madness to difference.” P19

P19: the figure of the wanderer/outsider associated to madness because “represent the existence outside the stabilising/stable realm of the cultural ideal of the family and its social structure.”

P23: Foucault, intertextual referencing of madness within art (works quote/copy each other)

P24: “Even something like the Surrealist and Dadaist attempts to create a mad cinema fail at this level because they must necessarily commence from the Symbolic (that is, Lacan’s version of the cultural order) and continue to borrow from it.”
OK, but isn’t the symbolic the realm of language whereas the imaginary is the realm of images ? In that case, the surrealist attempts through cinema are not as vain as their attempts through writings (simulated madness in “Immaculate Conception”).

P30: “In this delusive attachment to himself, man generates his madness like a mirage. The symbol of madness will henceforth be that mirror which, without reflecting anything real, will secretly offer the man who observes himself in it the dream of his own presumption. Madness deals not so much with truth and the world, as with man and whatever truth about himself he is able to perceive.”
(Foucault 1987: 27)16
“one of the implications is that there is knowledge of the self to be found in the images of madness.”

P31 “madness as reducing the mad person to a bestial state, or madness as illumination”

P32: ‘The ultimate language of madness is that of reason, but the language of reason enveloped in the prestige of the image, limited to the locus of appearance which the image defies. It forms, outside the totality of images and the universality of discourse, an abusive, singular organization whose insistent quality constitutes madness’ (Foucault 1987: 95)

P33: “This is the relationship of morality as a cause of the madness (for example, Breaking the Waves (von Trier 1996), Psycho, and Sister, My Sister (Meckler 1994)) as an inversion of the idea that madness is a challenge to the moral order. The oppressive moral order is positioned as causal, or the acts of madness are seen as the
reason for such moral rigour to prevent such madness.”

P41 Fear of madness
“it not simply the fear of madness, its unpredictability, the implied sense of violence, the disruptive force, that carries this aspect of the representation. It is also the fear that in madness exists not the distant, removed other, but the self. One of the things that make the representations of the excesses of passion so compelling is that it is a version of emotions that the spectator has expressed and experienced before. And in this self-recognition lies the fear of that excess and madness.”
“This is the fear of suburbia gone mad, of what is known and understandable suddenly becoming irrational and threatening.”

There is at least one spot in every dream at which it is unplumbable – a navel, as it were, that is its point of contact with the unknown’ and ‘There is often a passage in even the most thoroughly interpreted dream which has to be left obscure; this is because we become aware during the work of interpretation that at that point there is a tangle of dream-thoughts which cannot be unraveled and which moreover adds nothing to the contents of the dream. This is the dream’s navel, the spot where it reaches down into the unknown.
(Freud 1985: 186; 671) p46

P52: scopophilic (the obsessed pleasure of looking) and epistemophilic (the obsessed pleasure for knowledge) drives (see, for example, Freud 1990b: 124).

P53: how psychoanalysis positions anxiety (Angst) in terms of the ego and the libido – that is, with the (obsessive) agencies of the self and pleasure.
‘The Angst in Angst-dreams, like neurotic Angst in general, corresponds to a sexual affect, a libidinal feeling, and arises out of the libido by a process of repression’
(Freud 1990a: 85, translation modified). 1926
Idea changes:
the source of Angst is from the ego (with its dominance of the sense of self) rather than the id (where the libido resides). This, in turn, allows him to posit that it is an issue of different types of Angst – that of the ego and that of the id (see, for example,
Freud 1987: 320–1) – and that the ego-Angst must utilise psychical energy that is desexualised. Freud’s reasoning here is difficult to summarise, but at the core of the argument is the idea of defence. By arguing that Angst is ego based, Freud sees a relationship between the preservation of the self through the recognition of danger. Still, Freud does not dismiss the idea of id-Angst, and its shadowy possibilities remain. Freud’s issue is with origins – the issue of aetiology that appears at the outset (in 1895) and eventually leads to this theorising of an ego-based Angst. Finally,
Freud offers a solution that allows for both ego and libidinal processes. Angst is ego derived, and therefore tied to flight from danger as an act of self-preservation, and at the same time it has an origin in the repression of libidinal urges. Freud’s answer is
that in neurotic Angst we find that the ego ‘is making a similar attempt at flight from the demand by its libido, that it is treating this internal danger as though it were an external one’ (Freud 1986: 453). This further reveals the internal conflict involved in
the neurotic Angst.

P55 realistic Angst and a neurotic Angst:
P58: Freud defines realistic Angst not simply as that which exists in the real world, but as something ‘very rational and intelligible’ (Freud 1986: 441). A real presence of danger will understandably produce this form of Angst, but so too will any perceived sense of threat even if it has no basis in reality.

P62: neurosis is both a compromise and part of a system of defence.30 It is both compromise and defence because this is what is required to negotiate repression, and also to allow the neurotic subject to continue functioning. Without some compromise the neurotic passes into profound madness; without the acts of neuroses the neurotic is defenceless.

P63: We have, according to Freud, two paths when presented with continuing frustration. We can employ the pent up psychical tension into some act in the external world that will give libidinal satisfaction, or we can transform that frustration
into a sublimated act. If either (or both) these acts fail there is the danger of an introverted libido, which ‘turns away from reality, which, owing to the obstinate frustration, has lost its value for the subject, and turns towards the life of phantasy’ (Freud 1987: 120).
Such a scenario sets up a conflict between the internal world of the psyche and the external world of reality; and from this conflict we have neurosis.

P67: the formation of the spectator’s relationship between psychical reality, reality and film’s reality

P70: ‘Both neurosis and psychosis are thus the expression of a rebellion on the part of the id against the external world, of its unwillingness – or, if one prefers, its incapacity – to adapt to the exigencies of reality’ (Freud 1987: 223). The outcomes to this are that neurosis attempts to avoid or ignore reality, whereas psychosis disavows it and creates alternatives to it.39 Either way, one of the most significant aspects of all this is that the subject’s desires are attached to a world of phantasy. Freud argues that this world is ‘separated from the real, external world at the time of the introduction of the reality principle’ and ‘it is from this world of phantasy that the neurosis draws the material for its new wishful constructions’ (Freud 1987: 225; 226). Once more, the difference between neurosis and psychosis in this aspect of phantasy is important. Neurosis, Freud argues, will be attached to a part of a reality. This means it can enjoy a status neither strictly in the world of phantasy nor reality, but a combination of the two.
Such a status has a number of important implications for the neurotic spectator and the idea of cinema as neurosis. The cinematic text is always positioned precisely as a part of a world of phantasy attached to a part of reality; and the reality principle is used by the spectator to demarcate the pleasures and travails of watching a film beyond, and within, a sense of reality. The sense of neurosis comes not simply from these relational contexts of phantasy and reality, however. The neurotic spectator is not just enveloping phantasies in senses of realism (and vice versa), but is actually creating substitutes for reality through the attachment of one world order to the other. To do so requires a disturbance beyond the idea of film as a fictional world order. Such an idea insists on the condition that all spectators exist in potentia neurotic, and the pleasure of cinema is the continual capacity to construct narratives of neurosis. In other words, it is never a straightforward repetition of the pleasures of escapist phantasies, but rather the pleasure is derived from exploring (largely in an unconscious fashion) the different ways to attach phantasy to reality. Thus the
compulsion of this repetition is the mechanism of constructing attachments, rather than the attachments themselves. This is why the neurotic spectator may never be concerned with working out a particular type of neurosis – and so cinema is not a type of therapy – but instead is using the scopic drive to construct a subjectivity that plays with what it is to be neurotic.

“This cleaving of the sign is what constitutes the onset of psychosis for Lacan. It is the moment when the sign is divided into its constitutive elements of signifier and signified (see, for example, Lacan 1993: 268) so that it cannot function in quite the same manner.”
“It is also what allows for a merging of the Symbolic with the Imaginary, especially in terms of psychoses, where the Imaginary is highly significant.”

Now, aren’t those 2 in contradiction? He seems to say that the Symbolic and the Imaginary merge in psychosis, yet before he says that psychosis is a breakdown of the sign into signifier and signified. Problem is the Symbolic is the realm of signifiers and the Imaginary the realm of the signified, so this seems in contradiction to me!?

“the cinematic Imaginary – the relationship between the becoming spectator and the cinematic”

“the spectator is like the psychotic because of the paranoia involved in reading a film. Just as when we watch a film all elements have the possibility of meaning, so too does the psychotic interpret the world. Lacan argues the psychotic finds him/herself as a foreigner in the world, and as such finds meaningfulness in every act and object, every event and moment.”

P89: Lacan and psychosis
‘In psychosis. . . reality itself initially contains a hole that the world of phantasy will subsequently fill’
‘Let’s start with the idea that a hole, a fault, a point of rupture, in the structure of the external world finds itself patched over by psychotic phantasy’ (Lacan 1993: 45).

“Foreclosure, both Freud and Lacan insist, is quite distinct from repression. Freud’s commentary on the Wolf Man (Sergei Pankejeff) case includes the idea that Pankejeff
rejects part of reality as if it does not exist. Lacan extends this, arguing that foreclosure also takes place at the level of the unconscious. So the parts of reality that have been rejected (so they do not exist for that subject) are also not part of the repressed material of the unconscious. In this sense it is also rejected from the unconscious. Lacan defines foreclosure as ‘what has been placed outside the general symbolization structuring the subject – return from without’ (Lacan 1993: 47).

“Foreclosure is not repression, but the disavowal, the rejection and fending off, of a part of reality. In psychoanalysis the hole that is left must be ‘filled’ so to speak; two possibilities are phantasy and fetishism.”

‘If the neurotic inhabits language, the psychotic is inhabited, possessed, by language’ (Lacan 1993: 250).

“in point of fact the madman doesn’t believe in the reality of his hallucinations. . . . Reality is not the issue. The subject admits, by means of all the verbally expressed explanatory detours at his disposal, that these phenomena are of another order than the real. He is well aware that their reality is uncertain. He even admits their unreality up to a certain point. . . . Reality isn’t an issue for him, certainty is.”
(Lacan 1993: 75)

“What indicates a hallucination is this unusual sense the subject has at the border between the sense of reality and the sense of unreality, a sense of proximate birth, of novelty. . . . It is a created reality, one that manifests itself well and truly within reality as something new. Hallucination, as the invention of reality, here constitutes the support for what the subject is experiencing.”
(Lacan 1993: 142)

“Lacan, via Freud, argues that the principle difference between neurosis and psychosis is that in the latter the delusional is so powerful that there is a complete abandonment of reality. Or, to be more precise (and it is a significant difference),
what is at stake is the rejection of the Symbolic order, with its interpretation of the world and the subject.”

Sum up of chapter: the spectator acts as psychotic because he participates in creating the cinematic illusion by investing his narcissistic/egocentric drives in it, and gets satisfaction from doing so.

P97: mixing of realities
“Lacan’s idea of the l’entre-je, the between-I, which is the inmixing of subjects (Lacan 1993: 193). When the spectator participates in the delusional acts of watching a film part of the formation of pleasure is precisely this inmixing of subjectivities. In this case, it is the between-I of being a subject, a spectator, and the forces of the film itself. When we are film spectators we are something different to our everyday existence, and have a subjectivity that is a mixture of delusion, textuality and the self. And in this we witness part of the reason why being a film spectator is so pleasurable,
for there is a great deal of power and seduction in the site of the between-I. In this position, the spectator finds him/herself in an extraordinary blend of realities and certainties that feeds delusions of immense force.”

“As with psychoses, the act of becoming a spectator involves a continual negotiating of the self and Other. So the delusion becomes not a loss of a sense of the self (that is, what has been previously seen as character identification51 and processes such as the willing suspension of disbelief), but a different relationship of the self to the Other.”

“Lacan’s mistrust, perhaps even hatred, of what he described as ego psychology. For him, much of this mistrust for, and resistance to, this version of psychoanalysis stems from the analytic quest to make people happy. This would seem to be an admirable aim, for it involves the easing of pain and the solving of disturbing problems. But Lacan’s idea of psychoanalysis was far from such a model that contrived to get people to fit comfortably into, and without questioning (perhaps even unable to question), the social order. So much so that in 1954 he travelled to Lake Zurich to meet Jung hoping to find out something that would support his idea that Freudianism is inherently subversive – that is, runs counter to the notion of the Good. And from that private, almost clandestine, interview (which Jung himself had difficulty recalling) Lacan produced his famous statement the following year regarding Freud and Jung’s trip to
the USA. As they came to the shadow of the Statue of Liberty, Freud turned to Jung and said ‘They don’t realise we are bringing them the plague’. For Lacan, psychoanalysis should not feign the production of happiness, and so a version of complacency, but rather distress – ‘the state in which man is in that relationship to himself which is his own death . . . and can expect help from no one’ (Lacan 1992: 304). These are the great themes that Lacan discusses in his interpretation of desire through Kant and Sade. It is the problem of desire as a disruptive process that cannot be ignored, that will never go away, and the need to live cooperatively in a social environment. It is the question of how desire can be managed within the Law of the social order.59 This idea that analysis should produce distress can be extended to include that broader field of analysis driven towards meaning and interpretation.”

P110: concept of double bind (contradicting injunctions each backed up by threats of punishment, making it impossible to take a painless decision)
“anyone caught in the double bind situation cannot escape, and cannot act without some form of suffering resulting. Transgression and punishment are invested in the very materiality of the double bind. Part of the consequence of this is that in the double bind we are made to feel responsible for the events that unfold, even if in the back of our minds is a sense of things being unfair, and our position in it all feels foreign. And the back of the mind that we have in mind here relates in no small way to the unconscious and desire.”

P110: Derrida
‘every resistance supposes a tension, above all, an internal tension’ (Derrida 1998: 26). This is a resistance which ‘provokes both the analytic and the dialectic to infinity, but in order to resist them absolutely’ Derrida 1998: 26).

P110: Lacan and social conflit
“Lacan’s play is with Good as the moral good, and Good as the goods (in the sense of property) of economy. For him the Good is tied to a conflict between the good of the
Symbolic order (moral good and production) and the desires of the unconscious. This is the idea we observed earlier in terms of the Good and power. This is the enfolding and unrolling sets of knots that Lacan sets up: the desires for the good of the self (ego)
are almost inevitably in contrast to the good of the Symbolic order; and that these contrasts become linked to power and desire. The surprising twist that Lacan applies to this is what he terms ‘an element of the field of the beyond-the-good principle’ (Lacan 1992: 237), which we might expect to be excessive desire or jouissance, but which turns out to be the beautiful. But Lacan does not stray too far from the issue of desire here, and shortly after introducing this idea of the beautiful he states: ‘The appearance of beauty intimidates and stops desire’ (Lacan 1992: 238). So the function of the beautiful is at least twofold in these terms: it resists the power structures of the Good; it helps us cope with the potentially destructive moment of desire, and in particular jouissance. The beautiful comes to be positioned outside of the Symbolic
order, and any manifestation of the beautiful is a weakened signifier, for it has been translated into a language system. It is culturally beautiful, but it is not the beautiful, and so does not have this function in terms of desire and jouissance.”

P112: Kant’s idea of “radical evil” “beyond the good”. However there are no quotations so check Kant directly!

P113: Kant on the disruptive nature of the Sublime
“if something arouses in us, merely in apprehension and without any reasoning on our part, a feeling of the sublime, then it may indeed appear, in its form, contrapurposive for our power of judgment, incommensurate with our power of exhibition, and as it were violent to our imagination, and yet we judge it all the more sublime for that.”
(Kant 1987: 246)61

P114: Freud “tripartite morality” (62)
2)Our unconscious drives
3)“civilised morality”: the need to conform to the morality of the cultural order

P115: Lacan on power (the good here refers to external morality in the Symbolic order, which I think corresponds to Freud’s “civilised morality”)
“The true nature of the good, its profound duplicity, has to do with the fact that it isn’t purely and simply a natural good, the response to a need, but possible power, the power to satisfy. As a result, the whole relation of man to the real of goods is organized relative to the power of the other.”
(Lacan 1992: 234)

P115: Foucault on power
‘The exercise of power is not simply a relationship between partners, individuals
or collective; it is a way in which certain actions modify others. Which is to say, of course, that something called Power . . . which is assumed to exist universally or in a concentrated or diffused form, does not exist. Power exists only when it is put into action’
(Foucault 1983: 219).

P116: the author’s thesis taking on Lacan’s and Foucault’s ideas of Power
“the Good” (civilised morality) is only someone’s drives defined as cultural good through the use of power. “the Good” is the drives of the most powerful individual(s) imposed to others through culture.

P116: Lacan and the beautiful
‘This relationship is strange and ambiguous. On the one hand, it seems that the horizon of desire may be eliminated from the register of the beautiful. Yet, on the other hand, it has been no less apparent . . . that the beautiful has the effect, I would say, of suspending, lowering, disarming desire. The appearance of beauty intimidates and stops desire’ (Lacan 1992: 238)
‘Moreover, it seems that it is in the nature of the beautiful to remain, as they say, insensitive to outrage, and that is by no means one of the least significant elements of its structure’ (Lacan 1992: 238).

P118: Lacan “Das Ding”
“This is the secret of how Need (as distinct from needs) ends up driving us from reality, so that the reality principle in fact ‘isolates the subject from reality’ (Lacan 1992: 46). Das Ding is the ‘absolute Other of the subject’ (Lacan 1992: 52) that, according to Lacan, we continue to search for through our desires, swept along through the manifestations of the pleasure principle. Opposed to this is the Good of the reality principle. So in effect das Ding is that which we know nothing of – the eternally strange – and yet at the same time it is the absolutely familiar. We are tempted, no doubt, to look for aspects of the unheimlich here – and there certainly are connections.”

P118: Lacan “Extimacy”
“Extimacy is Lacan’s term to deal with the issue of the Real in the Symbolic; it is that which is more intimate than the most knowable, intimate detail, yet to confront it is to see a fearsome thing. The Lacanian Real is extimacy, being as it is more real than reality, so much a part of our psychical processes, and yet so foreign to our conscious mind. The extimacy of our desires resides in a Radical evil for they define our subjectivity, and yet resist any Symbolic compromise.”

P122: Derrida on the double bind
“a double bind cannot be assumed; one can only endure it in passion. . . if a double bind is never one and general but is the infinitely divisible dissemination of knots, of thousands and thousands of knots of passion, this is because without it, without this double bind and without the ordeal of aporia that it determines, there would only be
programs. . . and no decision would ever take place.”
(Derrida 1998: 36, 37)

P127: Derrida on the scapegoat
“the figure of the pharmakos – the scapegoat who is both the remedy for, and the cause of, suffering. Derrida proposes that the character of the pharmakos involves both ‘the evil and the outside, the expulsion of the evil, its exclusion out of the body (and out) of the city’ (Derrida 1981: 130). Furthermore, the pharmakos occupies an unusual site, neither apart of or a part from the cultural order: ‘The ceremony of the pharmakos is thus played out on the boundary line between inside and outside, which has as its function ceaselessly to trace and retrace’ (Derrida 1981: 133)

P130: Lacan on the Hysteric
“The domain of knowledge is fundamentally inserted into the primitive paranoid dialectic of identification with the counterpart. The initial opening of identification with the other, that is, with an object, starts from here. An object is isolated, neutralized, and as such particularly eroticised. This is what makes an infinitely greater number of objects enter the field of human desire than enter animal experience. In this interweaving of the Imaginary and the Symbolic lies the source of the essential function that the ego plays in the structuring of neurosis.
(Lacan 1993: 177–78) (translation modified)

“One of Freud’s most profound contributions is the idea that the rational, civilised
person is driven by an unconscious that deals in madness, and that to the conscious mind is madness.”

‘having oneself psychoanalysed is like eating from the tree of knowledge. Knowledge acquired sets us (new) ethical problems; but contributes nothing to their solution’
(Wittgenstein 1978: 34).

“The ‘polymorphous techniques of power’ (Foucault 1984: 11) must be able to make sense – that is, seem to produce meaning – within a range of disciplines in order to remain effective.”

->false meaning isn’t it? government/corporate speak that only makes sense “internally” within its very restrictive view. It only appears to have meaning, but the only thing it has is perfect internal coherence. True meaning leaves more unanswered questions than answered ones: true knowledge is answering a few minor questions but ending up formulating twice as many deeper new questions left unanswered in the process.

Related issue P138: “Once we have the sureties of certain types of knowledge (usually produced within our cultural contexts), once their limits have been negotiated and set, it is up to madness to disrupt within them and seduce beyond them.”

why is it “up to madness” to do the questioning? “up to” seems to imply nothing else can do this job. And I don’t understand how an intellectual can ever reach any type of “sureties”? Sure madness questions, but it certainly is not the most efficient nor desirable way for the questioning individual. Individuals retreat in psychosis/neurosis once dominant ideology has just become “too much for them”, and they have no other escape route left. I would think that intellectual questioning, detachment, would be the thing that prevent individuals from being driven into madness due to having waited too long?

P140: Lacan on subjectivity/knowledge/truth: the 4 discourses (very long quote)

“In L’Envers de la psychanalyse (1991), Lacan creates the four discourses – four beautifully constructed models that operate with a sense of revolving relationships in order to denote different effects. The four elements of these models are:

S/ [(that’s supposed to be a capital S crossed out in diagonal I think)] – the ichspaltung. This is the split subject (ich = I; Spaltung = rupture, cleavage) and refers directly to a Freudian legacy. Lacan sees it as both an inevitable and problematic formation of the self. It is based on the idea that subjectivity is based on an irreparable split within the self as the subject moves through the Symbolic order. It is combined with the self-reflexivity of the Imaginary, originating as it does from the Mirror stage.

a – the objet petit a.73 This is the manifestation of desires as they are articulated through the subject’s relationship to otherness. Significantly, Lacan calls this the Plus-de-Jouir, which suggests a knowledge of jouissance emerging from the objet petit a. It also suggests a beyond to pleasure, particularly that inscribed by the cultural order.

S1 – master signifiers. At one level these are the signifiers of power and presence that have been developed in the Symbolic order. Thus they carry with them connotations of truth, knowledge, interpretation, and so on. These are also the signifiers that the subject has invested a sense of the self in. They are the discursive processes that allow the subject to relate to the signifiers, and for the signifiers to have meaning and relevance for the subject. In this way they become an essential component in the relationship of the defining of the self through the Other.

S2 – the systems of knowledge. This includes the sense of knowledge we might normally associate with such a term, and other interpretations of knowledge that the subject, and his/her Symbolic order, construct and are constructed by other systems.
Because they are systems there is a sense of a shared (that is, cultural) basis of knowledge, although it would also be possible to locate something as unique as Shreber’s interpretation of events as a system of knowledge. In other words, it is important not to conflate these with notions of truth, even if that is precisely what they come to stand for. To these four elements Lacan specifies four positions:

désir Autre
____ _____
vérité perte

These can be translated as desire, Other, truth, and loss (or, perhaps more correctly, the production of loss).74 These positions within the model later become attributed with certain qualities (Lacan 1975: 196):

agent travail
_____ ________
vérité production

These are positions of agency, work, truth, and production. That which is located within the top left hand position is active and desired; below that is the site of truth (about which Lacan pointedly states: ‘Quelle est la vérité? C’est bien là qu’elle se place, avec un point d’interrogation’ (Lacan 1975: 199). In admitting as much he seems to reflect his own uncertainty about such a position). The location of the top right is a positioning process – it is what the subject is interpellated into; and the bottom right is the resulting status of the subject who has allowed themself to be in a relationship with the factors on the left.

Now for the four discourses themselves:

The discourse of the university

S2 a
__ __
S1 S/

For Lacan, the discourse of the university commences with the agency of the system of knowledge, and the subject as an other of that system. This, then, is a highly systematic production of knowledge as knowledge. We are, as subjects, born into the existing Symbolic order, defined by the signifiers (of knowledge, of declared truths and meanings) that precede us. The discourse of the university operates as if there is an ideal I, full of mastery and control; and in doing so fails to eliminate this from the place where it finds its truth (Lacan 1975: 70–1). In other words, a very specific sort of truth is constructed – one which fits in with the production of (cultural) knowledge. (It is a discourse that Lacan defines himself as being, and working, outside of). It is noteworthy that in the graphic representation we find the left-hand side dominated by the system of knowledge and the master signifiers; the right hand side is composed of the subject as objet petit a and as a split subject.

The discourse of the master

S1 S2
__ __
S/ a

This is the discourse that demands the relinquishing of a great many things. It demands total acceptance of the master signifiers as they interpret and define. Here the relationship between the master signifiers and the systems of knowledge places the plus-dejouir – the excess and pleasure – in a suppressed position. Lacan states: ‘le discours du maître exclut le fantasme’ (Lacan 1991: 124) – that is, Lacan’s recurring formula of S_a.75 The discourse of the master is a powerful and pervasive element in a great deal of our lives – it is also a tyrannical one. Lacan asks: ‘Mais comment l’arrêter, ce petit mécanisme?’ (Lacan 1991: 207). Not through revolution because, argues Lacan, that is simply a perpetuation of the discourse, or at the very least of the relationships within the discourse. Rather the way to stop or escape this is through the discourse of the analyst. So far we have two discourses that position themselves as absolute producers of knowledge and truth. The certainty of institutionalised knowledge (the discourse of the university) and the excluding acts of the master signifiers are part of their constitution. Lacan proposes two alternatives to these discourses, two systems that operate outside of the absolutism of these other two.
These are the discourses of psychoanalysis and the hysteric, and it is the latter that concerns us the most here.

The discourse of the hysteric

S/ S1
__ __
a S2

In the discourse of the hysteric we observe that the primary position – the top left hand side – is occupied by the split subject. The ichspaltung is the subject type that has been repressed in the discourses of the master and the university. This is a site of resistance against the master signifiers (that is, those that stand for
unquestioned/unquestionable truth) and the established discourses of knowledge; and in this way we read the structure of S//a as a distinct area contra S1/S2. This becomes clearer if we refer to comments by Lacan in the seminar entitled The Psychoses. In this he states: ‘What is repression for the neurotic? It’s a language, another language that he manufactures with his symptoms, that is, if he is a hysteric or an obsessional, with the imaginary dialectic of himself and the other. The neurotic symptom acts as a language that enables repression to be expressed’ (Lacan 1993: 60). In such a model, then, the hysteric is the one who resists the powers of systems of knowledge and the dominance of the master signifiers. And this takes place not necessarily as a revolutionary act, but because he/she is defined, that is their subjectivity is defined, through the manifestation of the repressed material. That which cannot be expressed in discourses dominated by the master signifiers and the institutions of knowledge (in this case the example given by Lacan is the university) becomes the voice in the discourse of the hysteric. And such discourses necessarily produce a different sort of language because so much of what is expressed cannot be represented in the discourses of institutionalised knowledge and master signifiers.

Cinema as madness can be placed, and can be seen to operate, within the discourse of the hysteric in a number of ways. Graphically it is rendered as:

S/ – Cinema-Spectator S1 – master signifiers as other
__________________ ____________________________
a – excess jouissance S2 – knowledge as production/loss”

The author does not explain Lacan’s discourse of the analyst. Is it what I called questioning not involving madness in previous comment?

“As with hysteria (and neurosis, and so forth, for Lacan does not limit this model to the hysteric), cinema and its spectators are sites for the resistance to master signifiers because those signifiers are seen as inadequate in the representation of the subject and desire. Such signifiers are incapable of handling the repressed material, and this becomes the function of cinema.”

“For Lacan, psychoanalysis becomes the discourse capable of reading such a knowledge [of the unconscious]– or at least this should be the aim of psychoanalysis – and this is the foundation for the fourth discourse model (the discourse of the analyst).”

Why doesn’t the author investigate the discourse of the analyst? By only investigating the discourse of the hysteric as a form of contestation, he may fall prey to what the male surrealists were accused of by one female surrealist, that is of romanticizing hysteria while having no idea of the true suffering it causes. I think the accuser was Leonora Carrington, who tells her own experience of madness in “Down below”.

“‘Reality is approached with apparatuses of jouissance’ (Lacan 1998:55). How curious this is! Here we see those elements – desire, excessive pleasures, the socially disruptive, pleasure and delight – normally associated with a loss of reality now forming the subject’s relationship to reality.”

‘meaning is by nature imaginary. Meaning is, like the imaginary, always in the end
evanescent, for it is tightly bound to what interests you, that is, to that in which you are ensnared’ (Lacan 1993: 54).
Meaning is images not words, the signified, not the signifiers.

“cinema is part of the Imaginary, and its meanings and pleasures are derived from what interests us as spectators. This is the difference between seeing a film as having meaning (the culturally inscribed) and being meaningful (derived from the spectator). This aspect of being derived from the spectator – what we take to the film and how we manipulate the realities of the film to fit within ourselves – finds a parallel in psychosis […]. As with psychosis, the spectator negotiates aspects of the reality he/she is experiencing (the real world, psychic reality, and cinematic reality, as well as the combinations of them) from the position of jouissance. This is the excessive pleasure of watching a film and becoming a spectator.”

P169: Wittgenstein on the dream image :
‘It can certainly be said that contemplation of the dream-image inspires us, that we just are inspired. Because if we tell someone else our dream the image will not
usually inspire him. The dream affects us as does an idea pregnant with possible developments’ (Wittgenstein 1978: 69)

Deleuze – Cinema

Cinema 1: L’Image-Mouvement (Movement-Image)

« espaces deconnectés ou vidés »
« situation de l’après-guerre avec ses villes démolies ou en reconstruction, ses terrains vagues, ses bidonvilles »
« crise de l’image-action: les personnages se trouvaient de moins en moins dans des situations sensori-motrices « motivantes », mais plutôt dans un état de promenade, de balade ou d’errance qui définissait des situations optiques et sonores pures. L’image-action tendait alors à éclater, tandis que les lieux déterminés s’estompaient, laissant monter des espaces quelconques où se développaient les affects modernes de peur, de détachement, mais aussi de fraîcheur, de vitesse extrême et d’attente interminable. »

« L’école allemande de la peur, notamment avec Fassbinder et Daniel Schmid, élaborait ses extérieurs comme des villes-déserts, ses intérieurs dédoublés dans des miroirs, avec un minimum de repères et une multiplication de points de vue sans raccord. »

« Ce qui a remplacé l’action ou la situation sensori-motrice, c’est la promenade, la balade et l’aller-retour continuel. La balade avait trouvé en Amérique les conditions formelles et matérielles d’un renouvellement. Elle se fait par nécessité, intérieure ou extérieure, par besoin de fuite. Mais maintenant elle perd l’aspect initiatique qu’elle avait encore dans le voyage allemand (encore dans les films de Wenders), et qu’elle conservait malgré tout dans le voyage beat (« Easy Rider » […]). elle est devenue balade urbaine, et s’est détachée de la structure active et affective qui la soutenait, la dirigeait, lui donnait des directions même vagues. […] C’est en effet le plus clair de la balade moderne, elle se fait dans un espace quelconque, gare de triage, entrepôt désaffecté, tissu dédifférencié de la ville, par opposition à l’action qui se déroulait le plus souvent dans les espaces-temps qualifiés de l’ancien réalisme. »


« la réalité dispersive et lacunaire, le fourmillement de personnages à interférence faible, leur capacité de devenir principaux et de redevenir secondaires, les évènements qui se posent sur les personnages et qui n’appartiennent pas à ceux qui les subissent ou les provoquent. »
« Ce sont ces images flottantes,ces clichés anonymes, qui circulent dans le monde extérieur, mais aussi qui pénètrent chacun et constituent son monde intérieur, si bien que chacun ne possède en soi que des clichés psychiques par lesquels il pense et il sent, se pense et se sent, étant lui-même un cliché parmi les autres dans le monde qui l’entoure. Clichés physiques, optiques et sonores, et clichés psychiques se nourissent mutuellement. Pour que les gens se supportent, eux-mêmes et le monde, il faut que la misère ait gagné l’intérieur des consciences, et que le dedans soit comme le dehors. »

« L’idée d’une seule et même misère, intérieure et extérieure, dans le monde et dans la conscience, c’était déjà l’idée du romantisme anglais sous sa forme la plus noire, notamment chez Blake ou Coleridge: les gens n’accepteraient pas l’intolérable si les mêmes « raisons » qui le leur imposaient du dehors ne s’insinuaient en eux pour les faire adhérer du dedans. »

« Dans la ville en démolition ou en reconstruction, le néo-réalisme fait proliférer les espaces quelconques, cancer urbain, tissu indidéfférencié, terrains vagues, qui s’opposent aux espaces déterminés de l’ancien réalisme. Et ce qui monte à l’horizon, ce qui se profile dans ce monde, ce qui va s’imposer dans un troisième moment, ce n’est même pas la réalité crue, mais sa doublure, le règne des clichés, tant à l’intérieur qu’à l’extérieur, dans la tête et le cœur des gens autant que dans l’espace tout entier. »

Cinéma 2: L’Image-Temps (Time-Image)

« Quant à la distinction du subjectif et de l’objectif, elle tend aussi à perdre de son importance, à mesure que la situation optique ou la description visuelle remplacent l’action motrice. On tombe en effet dans un principe d’indéterminabilité, d’indiscernabilité: on ne sait plus ce qui est imaginaire ou réel, physique ou mental dans la situation, non pas qu’on les confonde, mais parce qu’on n’a pas à le savoir et qu’il n’y a même plus lieu de le demander. C’est comme si le réel et l’imaginaire couraient l’un derrière l’autre, se réfléchissaient l’un dans l’autre autour d’un point d’indiscernabilité. »
« une description réaliste traditionnelle: c’est celle qui suppose l’indépendance de son objet, et pose donc une discernabilité du réel et de l’imaginaire (on peut les confondre, ils n’en restent pas moins distincts en droit). Tout autre est la description néo-réaliste du nouveau roman: comme elle remplace son propre objet, pour une part elle en gomme ou en détruit la réalité qui passe dans l’imaginaire, mais d’autre part elle en fait surgir toute la réalité que l’imaginaire ou le mental créent par la parole et la vision. L’imaginaire et le réel deviennent indiscernables. »


« Chez Fellini déjà, telle ou telle image est évidemment subjective, mentale, souvenir ou fantasme, mais elle ne s’organise pas en spectacle sans devenir objective, sans passer dans les coulisses, dans « la réalité du spectacle, de ceux qui le font, qui en vivent, qui s’y prennent »: le monde mental d’un personnage se peuple si bien d’autres personnages proliférant qu’il devient inter-mental, et aboutit par aplatissement des perspectives « à une vision neutre, impersonelle (…), notre monde à tous. » »
« Le regard imaginaire fait du réel quelque chose d’imaginaire, en même temps qu’il devient réel à son tour et nous redonne de la réalité. »
« les situations optiques et sonores pures peuvent avoir deux pôles, objectif et subjectif, réel et imaginaire, physique et mental. Mais elles donnent lieu à des opsignes et sonsignes, qui ne cessent de faire communiquer les pôles, et qui, dans un sens ou dans l’autre, assurent les passages et les conversions, tendant vers un point d’indiscernabilité (et non pas de confusion).

P35: conscience-camera
« elle [la caméra] subordonne la description d’un espace à des fonctions de la pensée. Ce n’est plus la simple distinction du subjectif et de l’objectif, du réel et de l’imaginaire, c’est au contraire leur indiscernabilité qui va doter la caméra d’un riche ensemble de fonctions, et entraîner une nouvelle conception du cadre et des recadrages. S’accomplira le pressentiment d’Hitchcock: une conscience-caméra qui ne se définirait plus par les mouvements qu’elle est capable de suivre ou d’accomplir, mais par les relations mentales dans lesquelles elle est capable d’entrer; Et elle devient questionnante, répondante, objectante, provocante, théorématisante, hypothétisante, expérimentante. »

p58: « le cinéma dit moderne »
« Des personnages, pris dans des situations optiques et sonores pures, se trouvent condamnés à l’errance ou à la balade. Ce sont de purs voyants, qui n’existent plus que dans l’intervalle de mouvement, et n’ont même pas la consolation du sublime, qui leur ferait rejoindre la matière ou conquérir l’esprit. Ils sont plutôt livrés à quelque chose d’intolérable, qui est leur quotidienneté même. »
« Les images-rêve à leur tour semblent bien avoir deux pôles, qu’on peut distinguer d’après leur production technique. L’un procède par des moyens riches et surchargés, fondus, surimpressions, décadrages, mouvements complexes d’appareil, effets spéciaux, manipulations de laboratoire, allant jusqu’à l’abstrait, tendant à l’abstraction. L’autre au contraire est très sobre, opérant par franches coupures ou montage-cut, procédant seulement à un perpétuel décrochage qui « fait » rêve, mais entre objets demeurant concrets. La technique de l’image renvoie toujours à une métaphysique de l’imagination: c’est comme deux manières de concevoir le passage d’une image à l’autre. A cet égard, les états oniriques sont par rapport au réel un peu comme les états « anormaux » d’une langue par rapport à la langue courante: tantôt surcharge, complexification, sursaturation, tantôt au contraire élimination, ellipse, rupture, coupure, décrochage. »

p94: Image-cristal
« L’image-cristal, ou la description cristalline, a bien deux faces qui ne se confondent pas. C’est que la confusion du réel et de l’imaginaire est une simple erreur de fait, et n’affecte pas leur discernabilité: la confusion se fait seulement « dans la tête » de quelqu’un. Tandis que l’indiscernabilité constitueune illusion objective; elle ne supprime pas la distinction des deux faces, mais la rend inassignable, chaque face prenant le rôle de l’autre dans une relation qu’il faut qualifier de présupposition réciproque, ou de réversibilité. […] L’indiscernabilité du réel et de l’imaginaire, ou du présent et du passé, de l’actuel et du virtuel, ne se produit donc nullement dans la tête ou dans l’esprit, mais est le caractère objectif de certaines images existantes, doubles par nature. »

p135: Bunuel
« une pluralité de mondes simultanés, à une simultanéité de présents dans différents mondes. Ce ne sont pas des points de vue subjectifs (imaginaires) dans un même monde, mais un même événement dans des mondes objectifs différents, tous impliqués dans l’évènement, univers inexplicable. »

p136: L’année dernière à Marienbad
« Le second niveau serait celui du réel et de l’imaginaire: on a remarqué que, pour Resnais, il y a toujours du réel qui subsiste, et notamment des coordonnées spatio-temporelles qui maintiennent leur réalité, quitte à entrer en conflit avec l’imaginaire. C’est ainsi que Resnais […] établit une topographie et une chronologie d’autant plus rigoureuses que ce qui s’y passe est imaginaire ou mental. Tandis que chez Robbe-Grillet, tout se passe « dans la tête » des personnages, ou, mieux, du spectateur lui-même. »
« La dissolution de l’image-action, et l’indiscernabilité qui s’ensuit, se feraient tantôt au profit d’une « architecture du temps » ([Resnais]), tantôt au profit d’un « présent perpétuel » coupé de sa temporalité, c’est à dire d’une structure privée de temps ([Robbe-Grillet]). »
« C’est que Resnais conçoit « L’année dernière », comme ses autres films, sous la forme de nappes ou régions de passé, tandis que Robbe-Grillet voit le temps sous la forme de pointes de présent. »
« De toute façon, les deux auteurs ne sont plus dans le domaine du réel et de l’imaginaire, mais dans le temps, nous le verrons, dans le domaine encore plus redoutable du vrai et du faux. Certes, le réel et l’imaginaire continuent leur circuit, mais seulement comme la base d’une plus haute figure. Ce n’est plus, ou ce n’est plus seulement le devenir indiscernable d’images distinctes, ce sont des alternatives indécidables entre des cercles de passé, des différences inextricables entre des pointes de présent. »
« Il y a probabilisme statistique chez Resnais, très différent de l’indéterminisme de type « quantique » chez Robbe-Grillet. »
« Resnais conçoit le cinéma non comme un instrument de représentation de la réalité, mais comme le meilleur moyen pour approcher le fonctionnement psychique. »
« la distinction bergsonienne entre le « souvenir pur », toujours virtuel, et « l’image-souvenir », qui ne fait que l’actualiser par rapport au présent. […] le souvenir pur ne doit surtout pas être confondu avec l’image-souvenir qui en découle, mais se tient comme un « magnétiseur » derrière les hallucinations qu’il suggère. »

« espaces quantiques chez Robbe-Grillet, espaces probabilitaires et topologiques chez Resnais, espaces cristallisés chez Herzog et Tarkovsky »
« les espaces cristallisés, quand les paysages deviennent hallucinatoires dans un milieu qui ne retient plus que des germes cristallins et des matières cristallisables. »

« si l’on considère l’histoire de la pensée, on constate que le temps a toujours été la mise en crise de la notion de vérité. »

p171: Puissance du Faux
« présents incompossibles »
« passés non-nécessairement vrais »
« la narration cesse d’être véridique, c’est à dire de prétendre au vrai, pour se faire essentiellement falsifiante. Ce n’est pas du « chacun sa vérité », une variabilité concernant le contenu. C’est une puissance du faux qui remplace et détrône la forme du vrai, parce qu’elle pose la simultanéité de présents incompossibles, ou la coexistence de passés non-nécessairement vrais. La description cristalline atteignait déjà à l’indiscernabilité du réel et de l’imaginaire, mais la narration falsifiante qui lui correspond fait un pas de plus, et pose au présent des différences inexplicables, au passé des alternatives indécidables entre le vrai et le faux. L’homme véridique meurt, tout modèle de vérité s’écroule, au profit de la nouvelle narration. Nous n’avons pas parlé de l’auteur essentiel à cet égard: c’est Nietzsche, qui, sous le nom de « volonté de puissance », substitue la puissance du faux à la forme du vrai, et résout la crise de la vérité, veut la régler une fois pour toutes, mais, à l’opposé de Leibniz, au profit du faux et de sa puissance artiste, créatrice… »

« La narration véridique se développe organiquement, suivant des connexions légales dans l’espace et des rapports chronologiques dans le temps […] la narration implique une enquête ou des témoignages qui la rapportent au vrai […] c’est toujours à un système du jugement que la narration se rapporte. […] La narration falsifiante, au contraire, échappe à ce système, elle brise le système du jugement, parce que la puissance du faux (non pas l’erreur ou le doute) affecte l’enquêteur et le témoin tout autant que le présumé coupable. […] Les évènements eux-m^mes ne cessent de changer avec les rapports de temps das lesquels ils entrent, etles termes, avec leurs connexions. La narration ne cesse de se modifier toute entière, à chacun de ses épisodes, non pas d’après des variations subjectives, mais suivant des lieux déconnectés et des moments dechronologisés. Il y a une raison profonde de cette nouvelle situation: contrairement à la forme du vrai qui est unifianteet tend à l’identification d’un personnage (sa découverte ou simplement sa cohérence), la puissance du faux n’est pas séparable d’une irréductible multiplicité. « Je est un autre » a remplacé Moi = Moi. »

« S’il y a unité du nouveau cinéma allemand, Wenders, Fassbinder, Schmid, Schroeter ou Schlöndorff, elle est là aussi, comme résultat de la guerre, dans le lien toujours variable entre ces éléments: les espaces réduits à leurs propres descriptions (villes-déserts ou lieux qui ne cessent de se détruire); les présentations directes d’un temps lourd, inutile et inévocable, qui hantent les personnages; et, d’un pôle à l’autre, les puissances du faux qui tissent une narration, pour autant qu’elles s’effectuent dans de « faux mouvements ». La passion allemande est devenue la peur, mais la peur est aussi bien la dernière raison de l’homme, sa noblesse annonçant quelque chose de nouveau, la création qui sort de la peur comme passion noble. »

« ce que sont l’objet et le sujet dans les conditions de cinéma. Par convention, on appelle objectif ce que « voit » la caméra, et subjectif ce que voit le personnage. »
« le récit [traditionnel/véridique] est le développement des deux sortes d’images, objectives et subjectives, leur rapport complexe qui peut aller jusqu’à l’antagonisme, mais qui doit se résoudre dans une identité du type Moi = Moi: identité du personnage vu et qui voit, mais aussi bien identité du cinéaste-caméra, qui voit le personnage et ce que le personnage voit. […] C’est la distinction de l’objectif et du subjectif, mais aussi bien leur identification, qui se trouvent mises en question dans un autre mode de récit. »

p194: Pasolini « « cinéma de poésie » par opposition au cinéma dit de prose »
« Dans le cinéma de poésie, la distinction s’évanouissait entre ce que voyait subjectivement le personnage et ce que voyait objectivement la caméra, non pas au profit de l’un ou de l’autre, mais parce que la caméra prenait une présence subjective, acquérait une vision intérieure, qui entrait dans un rapport de simulation (« mimesis »)avec la manière de voir du personnage. […] S’établissait une contamination des deux sortes d’images, telle que les visions insolites de la caméra (l’alternance de différents objectifs, le zoom, les angles extraordinaires, les mouvements anormaux, les arrêts…) exprimaient les visions singulières du personnage, et que celles-ci s’exprimaient dans celles-là, mais en portant l’ensemble à la puissance du faux. »

« Ce que Nietzsche avait montré: que l’idéal du vrai était la plus profonde fiction, au coeur du réel, le cinéma ne l’avait pas encore trouvé. »

« Même quand le cinéma européen se contente du rêve, du fantasme ou de la rêverie, il a pour ambition de porter à la conscience les mécanismes inconscients de la pensée. »

« S’élabore un circuit qui comprend à la fois l’auteur, le film et le spectateur. Le circuit complet comprend donc le choc sensoriel qui nous élève des images à la pensée consciente, puis la pensée par figures qui nous ramène aux images et nous redonne un choc affectif. Faire coexister les deux, joindre le plus haut degré de conscience au niveau le plus profond d’inconscient: l’automate dialectique. »

p215: Antonin Artaud
« Artaud croit davantage en une adéquation entre le cinéma et l’écriture automatique, à condition de comprendre que l’écriture automatique n’est pas du tout une absence de composition, mais un contrôle supérieur unissant la pensée critique et consciente à l’inconscient de la pensée: l’automate spirituel. »
« Artaud cessera de croire au cinéma quand il estimera que le cinéma passe à côté, et ne peut faire que de l’abstrait, du figuratif ou du rêve. Mais il croit au cinéma tant qu’il estime que le cinéma est apte essentiellement à révéler cette impuissance à penser au cœur de la pensée. »
« Ce n’est plus la pensée qui se confronte au refoulement, à l’inconscient, au rêve, à la sexualité ou à la mort, comme dans l’expressionnisme (et aussi dans le surréalisme), ce sont toutes ces déterminations qui se confrontent à la pensée comme plus haut « problème », ou qui entrent en rapport avec l’indéterminable, l’inévocable. »
« « rejoindre le cinéma avec la réalité intime du cerveau », mais cette réalité intime n’est pas le Tout, c’est au contraire une fissure, une fêlure. Tant qu’il croit au cinéma, il le crédite, non pasde pouvoir faire penser le tout, mais au contraire d’une « force dissociatrice » qui introduirait une « figure de néant », un « trou dans les apparences ». »

« [Antonioni] explique que notre connaissance n’hésite pas à se renouveler, à affronter de grandes mutations, tandis que notre morale et nos sentiments restent prisonniers de valeurs inadaptées, de mythes auxquels plus personne ne croit, et ne trouvent pour se libérer que de pauvres expédients, cyniques, érotiques ou névrotiques. Antonioni ne critique pas le monde moderne aux possibilités duquel in « croit » profondément: il critique dans le monde la coexistence d’un cerveau moderne et d’un corps fatigué, usé, névrosé. »
« Le monde attend ses habitants, qui sont encore perdus dans la névrose. »

p268: Resnais and memory
« Cette membrane qui rend le dehors et le dedans présents l’un à l’autre s’appelle Mémoire. […] Car la mémoire n’est certes plus la faculté d’avoir des souvenirs: elle est la membrane qui, sur les modes les plus divers (continuité, mais aussi discontinuité, enveloppement, etc.), fait correspondre les nappes de passé et les couches de réalité, les une émanant d’un dedans toujours déjà là, les autres advenant d’un dehors toujours à venir, toutes deux rongeant le présent qui n’est plus que leur rencontre. »

« Nous ne croyons plus à un tout comme intériorité de la pensée, même ouvert, nous croyons à une force du dehors qui se creuse, nous happe et attire le dedans. Nous ne croyons plus à une association des images, même franchissant des vides, nous croyons à des coupures qui prennent une valeur absolue et se subordonnent toute association. Ce n’est pas l’abstraction, ce sont ces deux aspects qui définissent le nouveau cinéma « intellectuel ». […] Le cerveau coupe ou fait fuir toutes les associations intérieures, il appelle un dehors au delà de tout monde extérieur. […] C’est un cinéma d’inspiration néo-psychanalytique: donnez-moi un lapsus, un acte manqué, et je reconstruitai le cerveau. C’est une structure topologique du dehors et du dedans, et c’est un caractère fortuit à chaque stade des enchaînements ou médiations, qui définit la nouvelle image cérébrale. »

p278: « cinéma moderne »
« un renversement tel que l’image est désenchaînée, et que la coupure, ou l’interstice entre deux séries d’images, ne fait plus partie ni de l’une ni de l’autre des séries: c’est l’équivalent d’une coupure irrationnelle, qui détermine les rapports non-commensurables entre images. […] Au lieu d’une image après l’autre, il y a une image plus une autre, et chaque plan est décadré par rapport au cadrage du plan suivant. »

p356: Conclusion of the book!!!
« Ce qui met en question ce cinéma d’action après la guerre, c’est la rupture même du schéma sensori-moteur: la montée de situations auxquelles on ne peut plus réagir, de milieux avec lesquels il n’y a plus que des relations aléatoires, d’espaces quelconques, vides ou déconnectés qui remplacent les étendues qualifiées. Voilà que les situations ne se prolongent plus en action ou réaction, conformément aux exigences de l’image-mouvement. Ce sont de pures situations optiques et sonores, dans lesquelles le personnage ne sait comment répondre, des espaces désaffectés dans lesquels il cesse d’éprouver et d’agir, pour entrer en fuite, en balade, en va-et-vient, vaguement indifférent à ce qui lui arrive, indécis sur ce qu’il faut faire. Mais il a gagné en voaynce ce qu’il a perdu en action ou réaction: il VOIT, si bien que le problème du spectateur devient « qu’est-ce qu’il y a à voir dans l’image? » (et non plus « qu’est ce qu’on va voir dans l’image suivante ? »). »

p357: Different types of time-images:

1)opsignes (vision-images), sonsignes (sound-images): purely audio visual situations, the very first types of time-images (described in previous quote)

2)image-rêve/onirosigne (dream-image) and image-souvenir/mnémosigne (memory-image)

3)image-cristal/hyalosigne (cristal-image): « la situation d’une image actuelle et de sa propre image virtuelle, si bien qu’il n’y a plus d’enchaînement du réel et de l’imaginaire mais indiscernabilité des deux dans un perpétuel échange. »« en s’élevant à l’indiscernabilité du réel et de l’imaginaire, les signes de cristal dépassent toute psychologie du souvenir et du rêve, autant que toute physique de l’action. » « C’est le temps en personne qui surgit dans le cristal, et que ne cesse de recommencer son dédoublement, sans aboutissement, puisque l’échange indiscernable est toujours reconduit et reproduit. L’image temps directe ou la forme transcendantale du temps, c’est ce qu’on voit dans le cristal; aussi bien les hyalosignes, les signes cristallins, doivent-ils être dits miroirs ou germes du temps. »

4)chronosignes (time-image): « les rapports intérieurs de temps sous forme topologique ou quantique » « Nous ne sommes plus dans une distinction indiscernable du réel et de l’imaginaire, qui caractérisait l’image-cristal, mais dans des alternatives indécidables entre nappes de passé, ou des différences « inexplicables » entre pointes de présent, qui concernent maintenant l’image-temps directe. Ce qui est en jeu, ce n’est plus le réel et l’imaginaire, mais le vrai et le faux. Et de même que le réel et l’imaginaire devenaient indiscernablesdans des conditions très précises de l’image, le vrai et le faux deviennent maintenant indécidables ou inextricables: l’impossible procède du possible, et la passé n’est pas nécessairement vrai. C’est une nouvelle logique qu’il faut inventer, non moins que tout à l’heure une nouvelle psychologie. »

5)génésignes: images à la puissance du faux (images to the power of false): « Tantôt […] ce sont les personnages qui forment les séries comme autant de degrés d’une « volonté de puissance » par laquelle le monde devient une fable. Tantôt c’est un personnage qui franchit lui-même la limite, et qui devient un autre, sous un acte de fabulation. »

p361: Consequences of time-image on framing and editing:
« L’image dite classique devait être considérée suivant deux axes. Ces deux axes étaient les coordonnées du cerveau: d’une part les images s’enchaînaient ou se prolongeaient, suivant des lois d’association, de contiguïté, de ressemblance, de contraste ou d’opposition; d’autre part les images associées s’intériorisaient dans un tout comme concept (intégration), qui ne cessait à son tour de s’extérioriser dans des images associables ou prolongeables (différenciation). […]C’était le double aspect de l’image-mouvement,définissant le hors-champ: d’une part elle communiquait avec u extérieur, d’autre part elle exprimait un tout qui change. Le mouvement dans son prolongement était la donnée immédiate, et le tout qui change, c’est à dire le temps, était la représentation indirect ou médiate. Mais il ne cessait d’y avoir circulation des deux, intériorisation dans le tout, extériorisation dans l’image, cercle ou spirale qui constituait pour le cinéma, non moins que pour la philosophie, le modèle du Vrai comme totalisation. »

image moderne:
« les images ne s’enchaînent plus par coupures rationnelles, mais se ré-enchaînent sur coupures irrationnelles. […] Il n’y a plus lieu de parler d’un prolongement réel ou possible capable de constituer un monde extérieur: nous avons cessé d’y croire, et l’image est coupée du monde extérieur. Mais l’intériorisation ou l’intégration dans un tout comme conscience de soi n’a pas moins disparu. […] La pensée, comme puissance qui n’a pas toujours existé, naît d’un dehors plus lointain que tout monde extérieur, et, comme puissance qui n’existe pas encore, s’affronte à un dedans, un impensable ou un impensé plus profond que tout monde intérieur. En second lieu, il n’y a donc plus mouvement d’intériorisation ni d’extériorisation, intégration ni différenciation, mais affrontement d’un dehors et d’un dedans indépendamment de la distance, cette pensée hors d’elle-même et cet impensé dans la pensée.»

p363: Consequences on sound design:
« Il faut que le sonore devienne lui même image au lieu d’être une composante de l’image visuelle; il faut donc la création d’un cadrage sonore, tel que la coupure passe entre les deux cadrages, sonore et visuel; dès lors, même si le hors-champ subsiste en fait, il faut qu’il perde toute puissance de droit, puisque l’image visuelle cesse de se prolonger au delà de son propre cadre, pour entrer dans un rapport spécifique avec l’image sonore elle même cadrée (c’est l’interstice entre les deux cadrages qui remplace le hors-champ). »

« le cinéma moderne a tué le flash-back, autant que la voix off et le hors champ. »

Jacques Lacan – The Symbolic – The Imaginary – The Real

I read a Lacanian analysis of David Lynch’s Lost Highway, so decided to investigate this further. However I must admit that this strand of my research is rather unsuccessful. I had investigated Lacan earlier but could not make any sense of his 3 orders: the Symbolic, the Imaginary and the Real, so I had left the whole thing aside.

Reading this David Lynch critique, I thought I had understood the 3 orders “from example”. The author wrote that the first half of the film where Fred Madison kills his wife but represses just the murder itself out of guilt was set in “The Symbolic”, the second half of the film where Fred escapes into a psychogenic fugue to imagine a better life was set in “the Imaginary”. And the Mystery Man, a character (probably part of Fred’s own mind) who pursues him (both as Fred and as Pete, his idealised imaginary self) to force him to remember the murder was part of “the Real”.

So I had interpreted the 3 orders as:
-the Symbolic: external reality or all the information coming from outside that ourself has to process
-the Imaginary: our Ego or the way we like to imagine ourselves (minus the repressed content we find unacceptable about ourselves)
-the Real: the repressed content coming back to haunt us as symptoms that tear the fabric of the Imaginary.

However I am re-reading about Lacan with this example in mind, and still cannot make much sense of it. Below are some note taking from internet sources about the 3 orders. It seems my difficulty to understand comes from the fact that, contrary to Freud, Lacan does not study/write about phenomenon/events themselves but about the way they are coded/perceived into Signs: mostly language but also images (for the Imaginary). It seems Lacan considers one is unable to study things themselves, only their representation via signs. His thinking is influenced by the Structuralists. I purposefully leave this as notes organised “per source” because I am not clear enough yet on Lacan’s thought to be able to synthesize my own vision, so I’d rather keep different people’s interpretations of it neatly separated.

Media Study Interpretation:

The Imaginary: the imaginary becomes the internalized image of this ideal, whole, self and is situated around the notion of coherence rather than fragmentation. The imaginary can roughly be aligned with the formation of the ego which serves as the mediator (as in Freud) between the internal and the external world (Vogler, 2). It becomes, in Lacan, the space in which the relation “between the ego and its images” (Miller, 280) is developed.

The Symbolic: in contrast to the imaginary, the symbolic involves the formation of signifiers and language and is considered to be the “determining order of the subject” (Miller, 279). Seeing the entire system of the unconscious/conscious as manifesting in an endless web of signifiers/ieds and associations, Lacan claims that, “Symbols in fact envelop the life of man in a network so total that they join together, before he comes into the world, those who are going to engender him…” (Language, 42). And, “Man speaks therefore, but it is because the symbol has made him man” (39). The Symbolic Order functions as the way in which the subject is organized and, to a certain extent, how the psyche becomes accessible. It is associated with language, with words, with writing and can be aligned with Peirce’s “symbol” and Saussure’s “signifier.”

The Real: very unlike our conventional conception of objective/collective experience, in Lacanian theory the real becomes that which resists representation, what is pre-mirror, pre-imaginary, pre-symbolic – what cannot be symbolized – what loses it’s “reality” once it is symbolized (made conscious) through language. It is “the aspect where words fail” (Vogler, 2), what Miller describes as, “the ineliminable residue of all articulation, the foreclosed element, which may be approached, but never grasped: the umbilical cord of the symbolic” (280). This is perhaps the source of the most contention within theories of media in that media itself can only point at the real but never embody it, never be it. For Peirce, this can be described as the “index” – the “real” traces left behind; […] In a sense, the real is everything that is not media, but that informs all media.

The imaginary: pre-language development state where the Ego is developed. Realm of images?

The Symbolic: realm of language and narratives.
“The signs mediate a reference to a reality, but this reality is not present in the Symbolisation, but is re-presented. So the immediacy is lost. The price that is paid for the Symbolisation is thus the loss of the primordial object, the object a, the object of desire. What remains is an emptiness, a trace, something reminding of a fullness. We will say more about this when we discuss ‘the Real’.”
“For Lacan, the unconscious has the same structure as language, and is also constituted of a chain of signifiers.” signifiers such as dreams or symptoms
Therefore Lacan calls both the Symbolic and the Unconscious “the Other”(Capital O is important, “the other” is something else )
The symbolic/language/order is imposed from outside on the child who then becomes a “subject”. But by submitting to language, the subject looses his immediacy with reality.

The Real:
“This is the most difficult Order to talk about, exactly because it is the Order which cannot be expressed in language. As we have seen, language introduces differences and thus creates order. A striking example of this is the difference between man and woman. In social and emotional, sometimes even physical reality, there are no clear-cut characteristics that would differentiate a man from a woman. A certain man can have more female characteristics than a specific woman. The only thing on which the difference is based is a meaningless sign, the phallus. Another metaphor for this is the creatio ex nihilo: God created order by His Word, the order was not inherent but imposed. This is exactly the way language works. What is thus lost is an immediate relation with reality. Culture is forever cut off from nature. There is a loss, a gap at the centre of the Symbolic Order: it is rooted in a difference that has no essential ‘meaning’. The Order which comes before every Symbolisation or Imagination is called the Order of the Real.” “The Real is barred from the Symbolic Order but it also makes the Symbolic Order possible as it calls for an endless flux of signifiers to generate meaning. The signifiers constantly try to signify the Real in the Symbolic Order. Paradoxically, it will never be possible to put it into words completely: a gap will remain. Therefore, exactly because communication is somehow doomed to fail (the gap cannot be expressed) we keep on speaking. With Lacan, we find a core that cannot be Symbolised.”

“the other” = “autre” = “a” = “object petit a” = it is the unattainable object of desire, unattainable because it is situated in the “Real Order” and as soon as we project it onto signifiers (i.e. in the Symbolic order), it is no longer our real desire anymore.
This reminds me of Tarkovsky’s Stalker = we do not know our innermost wish.

“the Real is that which comes before Symbolisation, and which provokes desire. When it is approached too closely, it is a horrifying reality, but it also makes Symbolisation possible.”

A Psychotic cannot reconcile with the fact that the Symbolic order does not fully represent reality.

Slavoj Zizek on Wikipedia

Slavoj ZiZek defines the real as the difference/the gap between reality and an individual’s subjective interpretation of it (in the Symbolic Order)

In the Cartesian maxim “I think therefore I am”, “I think” takes place in the Symbolic order (the Symbolic subject) whereas “I am” takes place in the Real order (the Real subject).

“There are also three modalities of the real:
-The “symbolic real”: the signifier reduced to a meaningless formula
-The “real real”: a horrific thing, that which conveys the sense of horror in horror films
-The “imaginary real”: an unfathomable something that permeates things as a trace of the sublime. This form of the real becomes perceptible in the film The Full Monty, for instance, in the fact that in disrobing the unemployed protagonists completely; in other words, through this extra gesture of “voluntary” degradation, something else, of the order of the sublime, becomes visible.”

The Symbolic is not the realm of language per se, but of the signifiers.

The Imaginary is the realm of the signified (which, when attached to signifiers, form the language). The Child enters the realm of the Imaginary when he sees his image in the mirror (Lacan’s “Mirror Stage”). The Imaginary is closely linked to Narcissism, the Ego and images.

There are no fixed relations between signifiers and signified (i.e. the Symbolic and the Imaginary)

Artificial opposition such a presence/absence only exist in the Symbolic order, not in the Real. Such artificial opposition points out that something is missing in the Symbolic. The Symbolic introduces “a cut in the Real”.
“there is no absence in the Real.”
Lacan, J., The Seminar of Jacques Lacan: Book II: The Ego in Freud’s Theory and in the Technique of Psychoanalysis 1954–1955 (W. W. Norton & Company, 1991)
“the Real is always in its place”
Lacan, J. Seminar XI: The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis.

found a formal definition of “latent” from a dubious source but it fits what I compiled from Freud’s ‘The Unconscious’ essays, so makes sense:
“Psychology. Present and accessible in the unconscious mind but not consciously expressed.”

An overview of the Seminars of Lacan

Seminar 1:
“To this reshaping of the Imaginary by the Symbolic [the goal of analysis], he opposes the intersection of the Symbolic and the Real without mediation of the Imaginary, which would be the characteristic of psychosis.”

Seminar 13:
apparently Lacan saw a lecture by Foucault about Velasquez’s Las Meninas and commented on it. Could be the inspiration for the Ukrainian film “Las Meninas” about a really weird dysfunctional family?
Zizek brings out Psycho, where Norman Bates’ house is rendered uncanny because Hitchcok’s viewpoint switches from the house coming closer (as seen by the approaching woman) to the same woman coming closer (as seen from the house), giving the anxious impression that the house is gazing at her

Lacan’s Seminar VII is the one from which Zizek seems to draw most of his material (about Sade, the sublime, the Real and the second death) → check!

To reward those of you who read this far: some Lacanian jokes!

Carl Jung – his theories – the Shadow

5 parts of the mind in Jungian psychology, called complex/archetypes:
-the Self : the regulating centre of the psyche
-persona: the mask we present to the outside world to protect the ego from negative images.
-anima-animus: the female part of a male’s psyche and the male part of a female’s psyche. Some modern Jungians think instead that individuals of both genders have both an anima and an animus inside.
-Shadow: repressed content, the opposite of the ego image, often containing qualities that the ego does not identify with but possesses nonetheless.

There are other complex/archetypes. Jungian psychology is extremely esoteric and obscure, so this description is extremely simplified and focusing on the bit that interest me in the context of art.

More on the shadow

“Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is.”
Jung, C.G. (1938). “Psychology and Religion.” In CW 11: Psychology and Religion: West and East. P.131

The subject is prone to projecting their “shadow” onto other persons, so as to dissociate their dark part from themselves. The goes back to the idea of the double.

‘the shadow…is roughly equivalent to the whole of the Freudian unconscious’
Anthony Stevens, On Jung (London 1990) p. 43

‘the result of the Freudian method of elucidation is a minute elaboration of man’s shadow-side unexampled in any previous age’
C. G. Jung, The Practice of Psychotherapy (London 1993) p. 63

“in spite of its function as a reservoir for human darkness—or perhaps because of this—the shadow is the seat of creativity.”
Kaufman, C. Three-Dimensional Villains: Finding Your Character’s Shadow

‘the dark side of his being, his sinister shadow…represents the true spirit of life as against the arid scholar’
C. G. Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections (London 1983) p. 262

The shadow may appear in dreams, often as a dark figure of the same gender as the dreamer.
Jung, C.G. (1958-1967). Psyche and Symbol. (R. F. C. Hull, Trans.). Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press. (Published 1991).

“the gold in the shadow”: Though the shadow is popularly referred as the “dark side”, is is merely everything that the Ego does not identify with and represses FOR ANY REASON WHATSOVER.

Individuation: integrating one’s shadow

Confrontation with the shadow is important in the process of individuation, but for this to be fruitful, the result must be that the conscious integrate the shadow into itself, rather than the shadow takes control of the conscious. For Jung, if the conscious (the ego) represses the unconscious (the shadow and other complex/archetypes such as the anima/animus) too hard, then the unconscious may backlash and take over the conscious: this is a psychotic episode. Therefore the core goal of Jungian analysis is to become aware of one’s unconscious, and integrate parts of it into the self while maintaining control over it. This process is called Individuation and can be achieved through Jungian analysis but also other methods: interpretating one’s dreams, studying myths, or making art for example.

John Weir Perry’s book The Far Side of Madness: a psychological description of a psychotic episode.

Critical essays on David Lynch’s movies

This post reviews of lots of critical essays on David Lynch’s movies. David Lynch is one my key influences, I love the look and ambiguous atmosphere of his films, and share his concern with producing work that does not come with a ready-made explanation, that requires the audience to come up with their own explanation.

WARNING !!! THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS TO Lost Highway/Mulholland Drive/Inland Empire/Blue Velvet/TwinPeaks !!!

The Heart of The Cavern, Sean French, 1987

Sean French on the films of David Lynch
Sight and Sound, Spring 1987

‘To me a mystery is like a magnet. Whenever there is something that’s unknown, it has a pull to it. For instance, if you were in a room and there was a doorway open and stairs going down and the light just fell away, you didn’t even see the bottom, where the stairs ended; you’d be very much tempted to go down there.’ David Lynch, on Blue Velvet

Denis Diderot about 18th century novelist Samuel: ‘He carries the torch right into the heart of the cavern; he teaches us to recognise the subtle, twisted motives which disguise themselves with motives that are more respectable. He blows away the gentle spirit who appears at the cavern entrance and reveals the dreadful monster behind.’

Good to know for later: “scripts usually work out at about a page per minute”

“David Lynch has adapted Shelley’s injunction to make the familiar unfamiliar into a vision that makes the familiar weird”

The Lynch Film, Rebecca Paiva,1997

“Bizarre camera angles are a favorite of Lynch. He will position the camera in a far, overhead corner of the room; shoot the scene from under a table; or even through a crystal ball (as in Wild at Heart.)”

“Fadeouts and slow motion are also prevalent; they both contribute to the abstract, under-the-surface mood Lynch strives for […]There are many more slow motion sequences, too numerous to mention, that create similar moods of dreamlike confusion, horror, or primal drives. “

“Lighting techniques are also very similar in Lynch’s films; he has an affinity for dark vs. light settings. Sometimes, this can resemble film noir techniques (as in Blue Velvet and Lost Highway), or it can suggest an unyielding world of darkness and confusion (Eraserhead, Industrial Symphony #1, Wild at Heart), or it can even hint at a dark underbelly of an idyllic setting (Twin Peaks, Fire Walk With Me, Blue Velvet.) But whatever the metaphor behind the lights, a Lynch buff quickly gets accustomed to oddly-shaped shadows, dark rooms, slats of sunshine, and strobe lights. “

Useless for essay but cool to know: “In the film Fire Walk With Me, the letters “IS 432” appear on a license plate; this is a reference to Isaiah 43:2, which reads:

When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
And through the rivers,
They shall not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire,
You shall not be burned,
Nor shall the flame scorch you.”
“In Hollywood … they’re making … stories that are understood by people … and they become worried if even for one small moment something happens that is not understood by everyone. But what’s so fantastic is to get down into areas where things are abstract and where things are felt, or understood in an intuitive way, that you can’t put a microphone to somebody at the theatre and say “Did you understand that?” but they come out with a strange fantastic feeling … “(Lynch)


An examination of the contemporary noir phenomenon and its wider cultural significance
Simon McKenzie, 2003

“Let’s say you don’t want to be yourself anymore. Something happens to you, and you just show up in Seattle, living under the name Joe Smith, with a whole different reality. It means that you’re trying to escape something, and that’s basically what Fred Madison does. He gets into a fugue state, which in this case means that he can’t go anywhere – he’s in a prison cell, so it’s happening internally, within his own mind. But things don’t work out any better in the fugue state than they do in real life. He can’t control the woman any more than he could in real life. You might say this is an explanation for what happens. However, this is not a complete explanation for the film. Things happen in this film that are not – and should not be – easily explained.”
– (Gifford B 1997a in Rolling Stone, March 6, 1997)

“What is happening to Fred seems closely related to the psychological dynamics Freud (cited by Cowie 1993, p123) describes in the behaviour and suffering of both psychotics and neurotics:

“whereas the new, imaginary external world of psychosis attempts to put itself in the place of external reality that of neurosis, on the contrary, is apt, like the play of children, to attach itself to a piece of reality – a different piece from the one against which it has to defend itself”
-(Freud S, cited in Cowie 1993, p 123)
Cowie E 1993, ‘Film Noir and Women’, in Copjek, J., (ed), Shades of Noir: a reader, Verso, London.

The universe of Lost Highway can be seen to exist as a space whereby this psychosis and neurosis (both are present) play themselves out.”

“The repressed will return to haunt Fred in a number of ways (like videotape of the murder being dropped off on his doorstep, to give an example).”

“It doesn’t do any good to say, ‘This is what it means.’ When you are spoon fed a film, people instantly know what it is. I like films that leave room to dream.”
– (Lynch 1997, in Cinefantastique, April 1997)

“Barry may have his idea of what the film means, and I may have my idea, and they may be two different things. The beauty of an abstract film is it’s open to interpretation.”
– Lynch in Cinefantastique, April 1997

As a final note on narrative structure, it is useful to consider Barry Gifford’s allusion to his Lost Highway as a moebius strip in Film Threat magazine:

“We realized we didn’t want to make something that was linear, and that’s why the Moebius strip [as the film’s structure]. A Moebius strip is a long strip of paper curved initially into a circle, but with one end flipped over. The strip now has only one side that flips both inside and outside the shape. It made it easier to explain things to ourselves and keeping it straightforward. The story folds back underneath itself and continues.”
–(Gifford 1997b, interviewed in Film Threat, 1997)

Moebius strip image comes from Lacan:

“Lacan’s use of the moebius strip as a way to illustrate his conceptualization of the return of the repressed. This geometric form can be described as a two sided strip (say of paper) that is given one half twist along its length and then sutured together to create a loop which appears to be two sided on first examination but proves to now only have one (Herzogenrath, 1997 pp5-6). If Fred has repressed the murder of his wife, and gone into a fugue state creating alternate realities, he is doomed to circle around on a moebius strip of illusory reality.”
Herzogenrath B 1999, “On the Lost Highway: Lynch and Lacan, Cinema and Cultural Pathology”, in Other Voices the (e)journal of Cultural Criticism, v.1, n.3 (January 1999), University of Pennsylvania, web site, viewed 08 August 1999,

Naremore cites an exchange between Andre Bazin and Roger Leenhardt where it is described as film noir’s “vocation” to reverse the conventional norms which creates a “specific tension which results from the disruption of order and “the disappearance of psychological bearings or guideposts”” (Naremore, 1995, p19).
Naremore J 1995, ‘American Film Noir: The History of an Idea’, Film Quarterly, 49(2), Berkely, CA.

Borde and Chaumerton show their influence here, having stated in their seminal Panorama du Film Noir Americain that the removal of these psychological reference holds the key to the aim of film noir, again to create “a specific alienation.” (Borde & Chaumerton 1955, p25).
Borde R & Chaumeton E 1955, ‘Towards a definition of film noir’, trans. A. Silver in Silver A & Ursini J (eds), 1996, Film noir reader, Limelight Editions, New York.

Kaplan’s description of film noir as something that offers the space for the playing out of identity struggles (Kaplan, p.9).

“The main difference between Lost Highway and Double Indemnity, Out of The Past, The Killers is not due to any lack in noir sensibility, nor a lack of desire on behalf of the film-maker to create this sensibility but in the lack of desire in the audience. I am here talking of popularity of 1940s noir versus the relative obscurity those rare examples of a true film noir sensibility remain locked in now. A personal rip in the fabric of identity does not generate a widespread yearning to share what Sharrett refers to as a desire to share in fears for the future (Sharrett, 1998, p4). Pre-millennium angst did not disrupt all segments of the community, World War II did. Add to this the fact that the film-going public also has greater choice, and if ticket sales for Pulp Fiction (1994) are anything to go by, they prefer to spend their dollars on fare that speaks to their post modern malaise not by reminding them of their alienation but glossing over it and enjoying the surprises it may bring.”

I really like this conclusion. Most people today are scared of their own social alienation, and find it something shameful that should be repressed. I wonder whether this is due to post 1989, where there is only one social model left, the “end of history”. Therefore individuals today feel that their own alienation is their own fault, some kind of mental illness that must be hidden in order to survive in the outside world. Because the outside world today is perceived as omnipotent and unchangeable, contrary to the 40’s/50’s where alternatives, however flawed, were still available, the individual today considers that he is the one that needs to adapt to the outside world.

On the Lost Highway: Lynch and Lacan, Cinema and Cultural Pathology

Bernd Herzogenrath, 1999
Other Voices, v.1, n.3 (January 1999)

“the beauty of a film that is more abstract is everybody has a different take. … When you are spoon-fed a film, people instantly know what it is … I love things that leave room to dream …”

Christian Metz, in The Imaginary Signifier (9):
in the cinema, the spectator and the spectacle do not share the same space, since not only the diegetic reality of film is an illusion, “the unfolding itself is fictive: the actor, the ‘décor,’ the words one hears are all absent, everything is recorded” (The Imaginary Signifier 43). Thus, “[t]he unique position of the cinema lies in this dual character of its signifier: unaccustomed perceptual wealth, but at the same time stamped with unreality to an unusual degree … it drums up all perception, but to switch it immediately over into its own absence, which is nonetheless the only signifier present” (The Imaginary Signifier 45).
Christian Metz. The Imaginary Signifier. Psychoanalysis and the Cinema. Trans. C. Britton, A. Williams, B. Brewster and A Guzzetti. Bloomington, 1982. Subsequently quoted as (The Imaginary Signifier).

“With Lacan, the term suture denotes the “conjunction of the imaginary and the symbolic.” (14) With respect to the Lacanian registers of the imaginary, the symbolic, and the real, suture thus refers to the stitching of the representational registers, with the seam closing off the real from reality, closing off the unconscious from conscious discourse. Suture thus prevents the subject from losing its status as a subject, prevents it from falling into the void of the real, from falling into psychosis. Thus, the subject’s identification with the movie fundamentally relies on this “conjunction of the imaginary and the symbolic” levels within the cinematic discourse itself.”
14 Jacques Lacan. The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis. Trans. A. Sheridan. New York, London, 1978, 118. Subsequently quoted as (Fundamental Concepts).

“Fred meets the Mystery Man for the first time. In fact, the Mystery Man – simultaneously being inside and outside – can be read at the place where these (and in fact: all) opposites meet, he is – so to speak – the twist in the Moebius strip. In Lacan’s use of the Moebius Strip, the place denoting the suture of the imaginary and symbolic in a way “hides” the primordial cut that instigated this topological figure in the first place, the cut that is the unconscious (or, in Lacanian terminology: the real). It is by suturing off the real that reality for the subject remains a coherent illusion, that prevents the subject from falling prey to the real, that is, falling into psychosis. It is no wonder, then, that the Mystery Man always appears when a change in personality is close. “

The movie has been dubbed by Lynch and Gifford (e.g., in the published version of the screenplay) as “A 21st Century Noir Horror Film. A graphic investigation into parallel identity crises. A world where time is dangerously out of control. A terrifying ride down the lost highway.”

Lost Highway Sound design:
The first part of Lost Highway presents a marital scenario of uncertainty, anxiety, and unspoken suspicion. It takes place in a house which more resembles a fortress than a cosy home. From the film’s beginning, we have the feeling of tension and fear: home, the family unit is the place of trouble and terror. This feeling is emphasized by Lynch’s masterly employment of the soundtrack. For Lynch, “[h]alf of [a] film is picture … the other half is sound. They’ve got to work together” (Press Kit). So, in Lynch’s work, the soundtrack is a most important factor to enhance the mood of a scene. For example, during the dialogues between Fred and Renee there is no resonance to their voices. It is as if the works are spoken in a sound-absorbing environment, the whole spectrum of overtones, all those features that make a human voice seem alive, seems to have been cut. In its dryness, the voices of Renee and Fred almost seem to enact an absence of sound, or better – an absence of room, of the acoustics of space: it’s as if they are living in a recording studio covered in acoustic tile.

“the general feeling of being observed, a feeling that takes shape in the fact that they live close to the “observatory.” The outside literally starts to intrude the inside, and the threat is emphasized by the deep droning sounds (in a cinema with a good sound system, the spectators actually can feel this threat as a uncomfortable feeling in their stomachs …”

Confusing terminology of schizophrenia/multiple personalities and such:
“It is the phrase parallel identity crises that interests me the most here. It is usually read in terms of ‘double identity,’ mostly using the term schizophrenia. There has been quite some misunderstanding about this very term. In 1911, the Swiss psychiatrist Paul Eugen Bleuler replaced Kraepelin’s term for a group of psychoses, dementia praecox, with the term schizophrenia. Dementia praecox meant a psychosis of early onset, which Bleuler wanted to capture with the term schizophrenia, meaning literally “split mind,” since he thought the splitting of psychic functions to be the structuring element of these psychoses. Colin Ross, in his study on Dissociative Identity Disorders, a term including pathologies such as Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD) and the Borderline Syndrome, states that, “dementia praecox is actually a better name for this group of disorders [described by Kraeplin] than schizophrenia, while schizophrenia is a better name for [Dissociative Identity Disorder] than multiple persona disorder.” (31) Hence the popular notion of schizophrenia as “split personality,” a misconception that does not account for the fact that schizophrenia is an organic disorder of the brain, and not actually a personality disorder.”

Apart from the Mystery Man, scenes that link the 2 sides of the Moebius strip:
“These two scenes of Fred in the dark hallway (Renee calling “Fred!”) and Pete in front of his parents’ house (Sheila calling “Pete!”), viewed in parallel, function like a kind of worm-hole which traverses the different event-levels of the movie”
+ the transformation of Fred into Pete in the prison cell

“the unit publicist on the picture, happened to find it in some medical journal or something. She showed it to us, and it was like Lost Highway. Not literally, but an interior thing can happen that’s very similar. A certain mental disturbance. But it sounds like such a beautiful thing – ‘psychogenic fugue.’ It has music and it has a certain force and dreamlike quality I think it’s beautiful, even if it didn’t mean anything.” (Lynch on Lynch 239)

Image of the Highway for Lacan:
“In his seminar on the psychoses, Lacan explores the factors that trigger off a psychosis. And again, he takes recourse to the metaphor of the road. In a chapter appropriately named “The highway and the signifier ‘being a father,'” he writes:

a succession of minor roads and a highway are not at all the same thing. … The highway isn’t something that extends from one road to another, it’s a dimension spread out in space, the presencing of an original reality. If I take the highway as an example, it’s because … it’s a path of communication. … the highway is an undeniable signifier in human experience. (34)
Jacques Lacan. The Seminar of Jacques Lacan. Book III: The Psychoses, 1955-56. Transl. by R. Grigg. New York, 1993, 290-1. Subsequently quoted as (Seminar III).

What Lacan is alluding here to is his notion of the point de capiton, the quilting point, which is that point which makes sure that some temporary notion of meaning can be created in language. […]So a point de capiton is a place where signified and signifier are literally stitched together – this is suture in the register of the symbolic. Like a highway with respect to a system of smaller streets, the quilting point holds that system of discourse together, and a minimal number of these points are “necessary for a human being to be called normal, and which, when they are not established, or when they give way, make a psychotic” (Seminar III 268-9)”

Lacanian interpretation of Fred turning into Pete:
Fred Madison tries to escape the threat of castration, but he experiences a “return of the repressed” in the real instead of in the symbolic, in his hallucinations (that is, in his second identity as Pete), because he does not accept the name of the father, the agency that might disturb his symbiotic relationship with Renee and/or Alice: Dick Laurent is dead! So, the “Highway” of the title is exactly this quilting point, this suture, that would be necessary for the subject to be inscribed into “reality,” into a state of “normality.” Once this point is lost, once this seam is undone, the subject falls prey to the real, becomes psychotic.”

Lacan and drone sound in sound design:
“With respect to the delusional aspects of psychosis, Lacan comments on “this buzzing that people who are hallucinating so often depict … this continuous murmur … is nothing other than the infinity of these minor paths” (Seminar III 294), these minor paths that have lost their central highway. What is the deep droning sound underlying most of the movie but this “continuous murmur?””

The policeman investigating the videotapes asks Fred if he makes video/photographs himself and he says no and explains why;
“I like to remember things my own way. … How I remember them, not necessarily the way they happened.”

“Seen in this light, the videos might represent the truth “the way it happened,” that is: the repressed truth of Fred”

Definition of “psychogenic fugue:
“involves a sudden, unexpected travel away from one’s home or customary place of work, with an inability to recall the past, that occurs in the absence of an organic mental disorder … There is often the assumption of a new identity. … Typically, individuals in a fugue state have no memory of their primary identity. When they recover their primary identity, they often have a reciprocal amnesia for the events of the fugue state. (39) “
Frank W. Putnam. Diagnosis and Treatment of Multiple Persona Disorder. New York, 1989. 13-4. Subsequently quoted as (Putnam).

Fred’s murder of his wife Renee is referred throughout the film by the euphemism “that night”.

The article states that multiple personality disorder (MPD) is almost exclusively American, and suggests links to playing social roles for success, the Hollywood system, the culture of sitcom, zapping and characterisation of typical consumer profiles. It is unclear how much of this is theoretical hypothesis from media studies, and how is from actual psychological surveys … Also, creating a second personality to escape a traumatic event is linked to USA ideals of limitless possibilities/ myth of the endless road.

“In the recent remake of the thriller Nightwatch, now called Freeze, the police inspector turned serial-killer, played by Nick Nolte, philosophizes: “Explanations are just fictions to make us feel safe. Otherwise, we would have to admit the unexplained, and that would leave us prey to the chaos around us. Which is exactly what it is.””

Lost in Darkness and Confusion: Lost Highway, Lacan, and film noir

Thomas Caldwell, 1997
Originally appeared Apocalypse Whenever (The University of Melbourne, 1997) and was later published in Metro Magazine, No. 118, 1999

Lacan’s 3 orders (however the exact identification in LH seems dubious to me):
“To understand Fred’s condition, and the complex non-lineal narrative of Lost Highway, Lynch’s film can be de-coded by using the psychoanalytic methods developed by Jacques Lacan. Lacan’s mirror stage theory developed the idea of three distinct but overlapping orders of human identity – the imaginary, the symbolic, and the real. They influence each other and work together simultaneously to give most individuals a stable relationship with reality. However Fred Madison has come unstuck and the three orders have become quite distinctly separate, leading to the creation of three versions of the same story with Fred represented by three different persona. The start of the film features Fred in the symbolic order, the middle part of the film has Fred transformed into Pete Dayton (Balthazar Getty) during the imaginary order, and the final part of the film has Fred possessed by the Mystery Man (Robert Blake), representing the real order.”

“Lacan’s notion of the three orders of the imaginary, the symbolic, and the real are a development of his mirror phase theory. None of the three orders are necessarily more true than the other, but they need to be properly aligned in order for the individual to be present in the stable human world (Bowie 1991: 111-112). The imaginary is the order of mirror-images. It is the dimension of experience where the individual seeks to dissolve their otherness by becoming their counterpart. Through the imaginary, the individual repeats their relationships with the external world of people and things, to desperately create an imaginary ideal self, what Freud called the ego. The imaginary links inner and outer mental acts, having the effect of resisting the development of the self (Bowie 1991: 92). The middle section of Lost Highway exists in the imaginary order, where Fred relives his life through the ideal identity of Pete Dayton.
The symbolic order is where the subject, distinct from the ego, comes into being. The symbolic exists in the realm of language, the unconscious and an otherness that remains other. Their is no concrete existence in the symbolic order, since it is constantly moving and gives meaning that is inter-subjective and social. The symbolic order does not allow the subject to keep to themselves since everything depends on the subject finding meaning in what is around them (Bowie 1991: 92-93). The first part of Lost Highway takes place with Fred still in the symbolic order, since he appears to interpret the world around him with more cohesion than later in the film.
The order of the real is a constant threat during both the symbolic and imaginary sections of Lost Highway and comes into full effect during the final section of the film when Pete has transformed back to Fred, but now aligned with the Mystery Man. The real lies outside the symbolic process and can be found in the mental and material world. The real is that which cannot fall into the signifying dimension (Bowie 1991: 94). The real presents itself as that which does not cohere to the symbolic order. It manifests in the form of the trauma and determines all that follows despite appearing to be accidental (Lacan1977b: 55). The real is what seems impossible to the individual. The real cannot be coded and hence fall in the symbolic, and therefore it cannot be mirrored to fall into the imaginary.
Lacan, Jacques, 1977, “Tuche And Automaton” The Four Fundamental Concepts Of Psycho-Analysis, The Hogarth Press, London, pp53-64

[…]Although the symbolic has priority over the imaginary, the imaginary does aid the symbolic in its process of understanding the external world (Bowie 1991: 99). However in Fred’s case the imaginary has taken over the real to such a dangerous extent that he imagines himself to literally be another person. This collapse of identity is due to the intrusion of the real. In the real, “the network of signifiers, that our being exists in, is not all that there is, and the rest of what is may chance to break in upon us at any moment” (Bowie 1991: 103).
Bowie, Malcolm, 1991, “Symbolic, Imaginary, Real …and True”, Lacan, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, pp88-121
[…]The real in Lost Highway is represented by the Mystery Man who is an “essential object which isn’t an object any longer, but this something faced with which all words cease and all categories fail, the object of anxiety par excellence“(Lacan 1988: 164). When Pete is making love to Alice and she says to him “You’ll never have me”, the imaginary world of him possessing her and Fred is thrust back into the symbolic. The imaginary has been torn away, exposing Fred in his isolation to the rest of the world, exposed the world as something “originally, inaugurally, profoundly wounded” (Lacan 1988: 167). Fred is left in the real order that falls outside of the imaginary, but cannot be labelled or nominated either and therefore falls outside the symbolic order.
The Mystery Man represents the real because he is the violence and inspiration for the murders that Fred will commit.”

Irony: “The things that Fred suspected Renee of are actually done by Alice.”
“In the scene preceding the discovery of her [Rene’s] death, Fred disappears into the darkness of their house, but emerges as two shadows that move towards her bedroom, one shadow belonging to Fred, the other belonging to the Mystery Man as the embodiment of Fred’s violence.”

Funny How Secrets Travel: David Lynch’s Lost Highway, Alanna Thain, 2004

The present is the actual image, and its contemporaneous past is the virtual image, the image in a mirror. According to [Henri] Bergson, paramnesia (the illusion of déjà vu or already having been there) simply makes this obvious point perceptible: there is a
recollection of the present, contemporaneous with the present itself, as closely coupled as a role to an actor. .Our actual existence, then whilst it is unrolled in time,
duplicates itself alongside a virtual existence, a mirror image.
Deleuze, Cinema 2, 79

Hitchcock had begun the inversion of this point of view by including the viewer in the film. But it is now that the identification is actually inverted: the character has
become a kind of viewer. He shifts, runs and becomes animated in vain, the situation he is in outstrips his motor capacities on all sides, and makes him see and hear
what is no longer subject to the rules of a response or action. He records rather than reacts. He is prey to a vision, pursued by it or pursuing it, rather than engaged in an action.
Deleuze, Cinema 2, 3

In the Madison home, the space is unremarkable, rooms are quite barren, there is no obvious visual sense of things being hidden or concealed, but the very familiarity and exposure itself becomes uncanny through compression and repetition. The spaces
are all decorated in earth tones, and are shot in such a way that they are overly intimate.hallways seem to lead nowhere, entrances are compressed into the space, the geography of the house is uncertain, the lack of doors makes it all the more claustrophobic. Hallways are treated as either dead spaces, lit so that they are merely black gaps between rooms, with no sense of transition, or singular spaces that are unconnected from the rest of the house.

Chris Rodley describes Patricia Arquette.s understanding of the film:
Arquette.s own rationale for Lost Highway goes something like this: a man murders his wife because he thinks she.s being unfaithful. He can.t deal with the consequences of his actions and has a kind of breakdown. In this breakdown he tries to imagine a
better life for himself, but he.s so fucked up that even this imaginary life goes wrong. The mistrust and madness in him are so deep that even his fantasies end in a nightmare.
Lynch on Lynch 232

David Lynch Keeps His Head, David Foster Wallace, 1996

US Premiere magazine, September 1996.

AN ACADEMIC DEFINITION of Lynchian might be that the term “refers to a particular kind of irony where the very macabre and the very mundane combine in such a way as to reveal the former’s perpetual containment within the latter.”

City of Quartz (anonymous comment from crew) check this

British critic Paul Taylor says that Lynch’s movies are “to be experienced rather than explained.”

This is one of the unsettling things about a Lynch movie: You don’t feel like you’re entering into any of the standard unspoken and/or unconscious contracts you normally enter into with other kinds of movies. This is unsettling because in the absence of such an unconscious contract we lose some of the psychic protections we normally (and necessarily) bring to bear on a medium as powerful as film. That is, if we know on some level what a movie wants from us, we can erect certain internal defenses that let us choose how much of ourselves we give away to it. The absence of point or recognizable agenda in Lynch’s films, though, strips these subliminal defenses and lets Lynch get inside your head in a way movies normally don’t. This is why his best films’ effects are often so emotional and nightmarish. (We’re defenseless in our dreams too.)
This may in fact be Lynch’s true and only agenda – just to get inside your head. He seems to care more about penetrating your head than about what he does once he’s in there. Is this good art? It’s hard to say. It seems – once again – either ingenuous or psychopathic. It sure is different, anyway.

The Making of “Lost Highway” , Steve Biodrowski • April 1, 1997

“There is a key in the film as to its meaning,” Lynch continued, “but keys are weird. There are surface keys, and there are deeper keys. Intellectual thinking leaves you high and dry sometimes. Intuitive thinking where you get a marriage of feelings and intellect lets you feel the answers where you may not be able to articulate them. Those kinds of things are used in life a lot, but we don’t use them too much in cinema. There are films that stay more on the surface, and there’s no problem interpreting their meaning.”

To realize his noirish world, Lynch let Deming shoot LOST HIGHWAY in varying levels of darkness. The film is a little creepier than something that has contrast, with few exteriors or daylight scenes. Whenever he could, Deming consciously used hardly any light at all to keep contrast down. “There are many places in the movie where I would normally use a back light, but didn’t,” Deming laughed. “So you have people kind of melding into the background. It’s kind of an extension of when Fred walks down the hallway and disappears; it’s keeping that feeling through the rest of the movie. In another film, a director would say, `What about a back light?’ and 90-percent of the time I’d put it there, but not for this movie.
Cinematographer Deming about using underexposure:
“The thing I wanted to achieve was giving the feeling that anything could come out of the background, and to leave a certain question about what you’re looking at. The film is working under the surface while you’re watching it.”


“Making films is a subconscious thing. Words get in the way. Rational thinking gets in the way. It can really stop you cold. But when it comes out in a pure sort of stream, from some other place, film has a great way of giving shape to the subconscious. It’s just a great language for that.”
David Lynch in Lynch on Lynch (Rodley 1997, p.140)

“Commonplace objects or ideas can assume such powerful psychic significance in a dream that we may awake seriously disturbed, in spite of having dreamed of nothing worse than a locked room or a missed train” (Jung, published 1979, p.43)

“The double does not necessarily disappear with the passing of primary narcissism, for it can receive fresh meaning from the later stages of the ego’s development.” (Freud in The ‘Uncanny’ 1990, p.357).
Freud states that Otto Rank “has gone into connections which the ‘double’ has with reflections in mirrors, with shadows, with guardian spirits, with the belief in the soul and with the fear of death.” (Freud, The ‘Uncanny’ 1990, p.356).
“As a general rule, the unconscious aspect of any event is revealed to us in dreams, where it appears not as a rational thought but as a symbolic image.” (Jung, published 1979, p.23)
Jung, Carl G. (ed.) Man and His Symbols. London: Aldus Books Ltd. 1979

“there are innumerable things beyond the range of human understanding, we constantly use symbolic terms to represent concepts that we cannot define or fully understand.” (Jung, published 1964, p.21)

Sigmund Freud rejects the method of dream interpretation based on assigning particular and fixed meanings for specific dream images. He calls this the “decoding” method, which “treats dreams as a kind of cryptography in which each sign can be translated into another sign having a known meaning, in accordance with a fixed key.” (Ferguson 1996, p.77)

Ron Garcia, the director of photography on FWWM says in an interview that the camera angles carry a lot of meaning in the film as well. In the film, we have a consistent high camera angle. “The high-angled shots reflect an angelic presence that continues throughout the film, with an unseen angel looking down on the evil events below.” (Garcia 1992, p.60).

Ron Garcia argues that “David (Lynch) creates an emotion in everybody by tapping into the subconscious. From a Jungian perspective, the subconscious is real: you’re there until you wake up, and some people don’t wake up from those nightmares.” (Garcia 1992, p.62).

Reading Inland Empire: A Mental Toolbox for Interpreting a Lynch Film, Adam C. Walter

This is by far the most useful David Lynch essay I’ve ever read! Very insightful, yet concise, clear and free of jargon!
“An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge”, 1891, Ambrose Bierce (escape fantasy of a condemned man at the moment of his death)

“In the work of Jungian writer Marie-Louise von Franz, for example, one encounters the concept of the fairy tale as a single, sealed psyche in which every character, setting, and object corresponds to some aspect of the psyche’s function. If we interpret a particular Lynch film largely as a fantasy, then many of the events and characters can be viewed as aspects of a dream that is playing inside the “consciousness” that is the film—inside the psyche that is Fred Madison, Diane Selwyn, or Nikki Grace. Because of this, certain recognizable, and psychologically-significant, character types will be seen to intrude from time to time:”

1)“the liars/unreliable narrators”: try to escape their repressed content into an idealised version of self
2)“shadow selves and detectives”: In psychology, the shadow is the part of the unconscious that swallows threatening information and experiences that a conscious mind cannot hold onto and, at the same time, remain functional. However, a periodic confrontation with the shadow is necessary for a healthy psyche”: The shadow id Frank in Blue Velvet, Bob in Twin Peaks. The detective engineers the confrontation of the conscious with the shadow (the psychotic character with their repressed content). When this happen in Blue Velvet, Jeffrey incorporates a part of the shadow into himself. In Lost Highway, “the Mystery Man shadow-character has taken on the role of detective in rebellion against the controlling ego-character, Fred, who is in complete denial.” The Cowboy in Mullholand Drive = less aggressive detective.
3) “Oracles”: sometimes doubling as shadows and detective but often separate. Grace Zabriskie in Inland Empire, Dwarf/Giant/Log lady in Twin Peaks. The Old Woman and the little boy in twin peaks ?
4) “Openings, Corridors, and Taking Directions”: “In a Lynch film, it is worthwhile to note any talk of doors, openings, windows, alleys, or corridors—or even the physical representation of them onscreen. These motifs are often loaded with suggestion, symbolism, and double meaning. The same holds true for any directions that a character is given or any descriptions of a “path” to take.”

Lost Highway: Unveiling Cinema’s Yellow Brick Road, Reni Celeste, 1997

“And do you know what ‘the world’ is to me? Shall I show it to you in my mirror? This world: a monster of energy, without beginning, without end… enclosed by ‘nothingness’ as by a boundary… blessing itself as that which must return eternally, as a becoming that knows no satiety, no disgust, no weariness… this, my Dionysian world, the eternally self-creating, the eternally self-destroying… without goal, unless the joy of the circle is itself a goal. “
Friedrich Nietzsche, “Will to Power”

Various philosophical interpretations of the Mystery Man:
“Three primary fissures are foregrounded in this film: that which exists between one discrete individual and another, that which exists between the individual and itself, and that which exists between the thing and its representation. […]This Nameless Man [Mystery Man] will play a leading role in the film as that which stands between doubles, between passages from one realm to the next, and between each individual and itself. He exceeds the constraints of temporality and spatiality, moving from past to present, from subject to subject, and occupying two spaces simultaneously. […]It is perhaps tempting to interpret him as the unconscious, especially in the light of Fred’s apparent forgetfulness of his wife’s murder. [5] One might also be inclined to understand him as the figure of death as symbol, like the ghoul who comes to call in Bergman’s _Seventh Seal_. But I will do neither. I also want to insist that I am not understanding this figure in terms of a Hegelian negativity that serves as a resource in the dialectical process. Rather I want to understand him in the Bataillian sense as that excess which undoes and exceeds *any* system of signification–a dark tear that is revealed through heterogenous matter, excess, obscenity, sacrifice, and eroticism. [6] This is also close to Derrida’s concept of Otherness, which he insists is not a lack or void but a ‘negativity without negativity.’ [7] This is not the reverse side of positivity, but rather something that transgresses signification. To even name this figure is problematic because he is precisely what is nameless. He both is and is not. He is the downfall of Aristotelian logic and Hegelian dialectics. He is what breaks apart all construction and yet serves as its groundless ground. He is beautiful and terrifying. He is in everything and yet he is nowhere and nothing. He is glimpsed at the threshold of the paradox, the aporia. And he is everyone’s double.”
6. Cf. Georges Bataille, Eroticism (San Francisco: City Lights, 1986).
7. Rodolphe Gasche, The Tain of the Mirror (Harvard University Press, 1986) p. 103, quoting Derrida from The Truth in Painting.

“The classic American road narrative actually leads not to California but to a shattering moment of consciousness somewhere across the barren desert of adversity and solitude where a terrible truth emerges: that this is the road to nowhere. What lies ahead is only more of the same, what lies behind is a receding history that cannot be regained, and destination is impossible. This double bind leaves only one exit to glory: temporal death, whereby one enters the American metaphysical kingdom like James Dean, by dying and becoming an absence that is present as an afterimage in the dreams of the surviving: to be an American myth. To pass this exit is to meet either failure or farce.”

“The mirror has been a source of mystical transversion and a point of passage in narratives for so long as to have become cliche. It has signaled the divided self, the marker between dream and waking, fantasy and reality.”

The mirror not as something that gives a sense of self, “reflection” not as something that encourages rational thinking. Derrida, “ On Grammatology”:
“There are things like reflecting pools, and images, an infinite reference from one to the other, but no longer a source, a spring. There is no longer a simple origin. For what is reflected is split *in itself* and not only as an addition to itself of its image. The reflection, the image, the double, splits what it doubles. The origin of the speculation becomes a difference. What can look at itself is not one; and the law of the addition of the origin to its representation, of the thing to its image, is that one plus one makes at least three.”
12. Jacques Derrida, On Grammatology, p. 36.

“Critiques which read texts in order to delineate the politically ‘progressive’ from the ‘regressive’ remain ensconced in the stability of metaphysics, fixed in a modern conception of static justice. Lynch’s cinema has never fallen under the good graces of such readings. His vision of America has been neither condemning nor embracing, and his pastiche never simply playful nor nihilistic. Ultimately Lynch’s primary interest has been in dissecting the cat, following along its strange corridors, peering into its pink folds and red tunnels. [22] If we come closer, the inner organs begin to emerge. Lynch is interested in coming closer. Exaggeration, the seeing ‘too much’ of obscenity, has always been an important part of Lynch’s language. Even a florescent diner sign can be obscene if we look at it long enough; and especially if we listen to it. Such visions unconceal something beneath form, something naked in its neutrality, the horrible thing that Emmanuel Levinas called the ‘there is’ and described as

…something resembling what one hears when one puts an empty shell close to the ear, as if the emptiness were full, as if the silence were a noise. It is something one can also feel when one thinks that even if there were nothing, the fact that ‘there is’ is undeniable. Not that there is this or that; but the very scene of being is open: there is.’ “[23]
22. Chion, Michel. David Lynch. Translated by Robert Julian. London: British Film Institute, 1995.Michel Chion speaks of Lynch’s childhood fascination with dissecting and then rebuilding animals.
23. Emmanuel Levinas, Ethics and Infinity, trans. Richard Cohen (Pittsburgh, PA: Duquesne University Press, 1985) p. 45. Also discussed in length in Existence and Existents.

Various Quotes

“It’s about a couple who feel that somewhere, just on the border of consciousness – or on the other side of that border – are bad, bad problems. But they can’t bring them into the real world and deal with them. So this bad feeling is just hovering there, and the problems abstract themselves and become other things. It just becomes like a bad dream. There are unfortunate things that happen to people, and this story is about that. It depicts an unfortunate occurrence, and gives you the feeling of a man in trouble. A thinking man in trouble.”
– Lynch on Lynch, Faber and Faber publishing.

“You can say that a lot of Lost Highway is internal. It’s Fred’s story. It’s not a dream: It’s realistic, though according to Fred’s logic. But I don’t want to say too much. The reason is: I love mysteries. To fall into a mystery and its danger … everything becomes so intense in those moments. When most mysteries are solved, I feel tremendously let down. So I want things to feel solved up to a point, but there’s got to be a certain percentage left over to keep the dream going.”
– Rolling Stone, March 6, 1997

Barry Gifford on Lost Highway:

“Let’s say you don’t want to be yourself anymore. Something happens to you, and you just show up in Seattle, living under the name Joe Smith, with a whole different reality. It means that you’re trying to escape something, and that’s basically what Fred Madison does. He gets into a fugue state, which in this case means that he can’t go anywhere – he’s in a prison cell, so it’s happening internally, within his own mind. But things don’t work out any better in the fugue state than they do in real life. He can’t control the woman any more than he could in real life. You might say this is an explanation for what happens. However, this is not a complete explanation for the film. Things happen in this film that are not – and should not be – easily explained.”
– Rolling Stone, March 6, 1997

“We realized we didn’t want to make something that was linear, and that’s why the Moebius strip [as the film’s structure]. A Moebius strip is a long strip of paper curved initially into a circle, but with one end flipped over. The strip now has only one side that flips both inside and outside the shape. It made it easier to explain things to ourselves and keeping it straightforward. The story folds back underneath itself and continues.”
-Film Threat, 1997


“Sometime during the shooting, the unit publicist was reading up on different types of mental illness, and she hit upon this thing called “psychogenic fugue.” The person suffering from it creates in their mind a completely new identity, new friends, new home, new everything – they forget their past identity. This has reverberations with Lost Highway, and it’s also a musical term. A fugue starts off one way, takes up on another direction, and then comes back to the original, so it [relates] to the form of the film.

“The unit publicist was reading up on certain mental disorders during production, and she came upon this true condition called ‘psychogenic fugue,’ which is where a person gives up himself, his world, his family – everything about himself – and takes on another identity. That’s Fred Madison completely. I love the term psychogenic fugue. In a way, the musical term fugue fits perfectly, because the film has one theme, and then another theme takes over. To me, jazz is the closest thing to insanity that there is in music.”

“There is a key in the film as to its meaning. But keys are weird. There are surface keys, and there are deeper keys. Intellectual thinking leaves you high and dry sometimes. Intuitive thinking where you get a marriage of feelings and intellect lets you feel the answers where you may not be able to articulate them. Those kinds of things are used in life a lot, but we don’t use them too much in cinema. There are films that stay more on the surface, and there’s no problem interpreting their meaning.”


“This story is really about a man who creates a situation, finds himself in a dire situation and has a kind of panic attack. And that he really has a difficult time in dealing with the consequences of his action. And this action fractures him, in a way.”

Lynch on Blue Velvet:
“A film that deals with things that are hidden within a small town called Lumberton and things that are hidden within people.”

“[the ear is] a ticket to another world.”

Lynch on various things:

“In my dream, I see these fantastic paintings that were done by somebody else. And I wish that I had painted them. And I wake up, and after a while the impression wears off. I say, wait a minute, those are my paintings. I dreamt them; they’re mine. Then I can’t remember what they were.”
I’ve had exactly the same frustrating dream!!!

“I like the feel of film noir a lot and it – to me it’s all about a mood that comes about when people’ s desires lead them into areas where they’re doing something against their conscience and, you know, then suffering the results. So it’s about fear, and it’s a nighttime feeling and that – that thing creeps into my work, you know, quite a bit.”

“It’s a simple thing he [Frank Daniel] taught me. If you want to make a feature film, you get ideas for 70 scenes. Put them on 3-by-5 cards. As soon as you have 70, you have a feature film.”

“Everything sort of follows my initial ideas. As soon as I get an idea, I get a picture and a feeling, and I can even hear sounds. The mood and the visuals are very strong. Every single idea I have comes with these things. One moment they’re outside of my consciousness, and the next moment they come in with all of this power.”

Freud – The Uncanny – The Unconscious

This post contains reading notes on Freud’s ‘The Uncanny’ and ‘The unconscious’ (parallel theory). I am interested in psychoanalysis both because of its influence on Surrealism, and because of my own interest in affecting my audience on an unconscious/intuitive level.

Freud – The Uncanny (1919)

“unheimlich” is literally “unhomely” though translated as “uncanny”

“The uncanny is that species of the frightening that goes back to what was once well known and had long been familiar.”

Jentsch was the first to define “unheimlich”:
“for him, the essential condition for the emergence of a sense of the uncanny is intellectual uncertainty.”

“Uncanny is what one calls everything that was meant to remain secret and hidden and has come into the open.”

Freud makes a long etymology of the word “heimlich”:
“heimlich is not unambiguous, but belongs to two sets of ideas, which are not mutually contradictory, but very different from each other – the one relating to what is familiar and comfortable, the other to what is concealed and kept hidden. Unheimlich is the antonym of heimlich only in the latter’s first sense.”
“among the various shades of meaning that are recorded for the word heimlich, there is one in which it merges with its formal antonym, unheimlich, so that what is called heimlich becomes unheimlich”
“Starting from the homely and the domestic, there is a further development towards the notion of something removed from the eyes of strangers, hidden, secret.”

Freud talks about “the substitutive relation between the eye and the male member that is manifested in dreams, fantasies and myths”. This reminds me of witnesses describing Diane Arbus using her camera both as a shield and a weapon of aggression.

“the double was originally an insurance against the extinction of the self or, as Rank puts it, ‘an energetic denial of the power of death’, and it seems likely that the ‘immortal’ soul was the first double of the body. […] But these ideas arose on the soil of boundless self-love, the primordial narcissism that dominates the mental life of both the child and primitive man, and when this phase is surmounted, the meaning of the ‘double’ changes: having once been an assurance of immortality, it becomes the uncanny harbinger of death.”
What can be “embodied in the figure of the double”: “the possibilities which, had they been realized, might have shaped our destiny, and to which our imagination still clings, all the strivings of the ego that were frustrated by adverse circumstances, all the suppressed acts of volition that fostered the illusion of free will.”

“”every affect arising from an emotional impulse – of whatever kind – is converted into fear by being repressed, it follows that amongst those things that are felt to be frightening there must be one group in which it can be shown that the frightening element is something that has been repressed and now returns. […] something that was long familiar to the psyche and was estranged from it only through being repressed. […] ‘Something that should have remained hidden and has come into the open’.”
Freud rejects Jentsch’s vision of the uncanny as caused by “intellectual uncertainty” yet he somehow comes back to it:
“an uncanny effect often arises when the boundary between fantasy and reality is blurred, when we are faced with the reality of something that we have until now considered imaginary, when a symbol takes on the full function and significance of what it symbolizes.”
Maybe this is not so much intellectual uncertainty, where the doubt can be lifted by rational investigation (Jentsch’s example was the uncertainty whether someone is a person or an automaton, which can be lifted by close investigation), but rather the shattering of intellectual certainty, of one’s vision of the world, that is uncanny.

“the infantile element about this, which also dominates the mental life of neurotics, is the excessive stress that is laid on psychical reality, as opposed to material reality.”

“where does the uncanny effect of silence, solitude and darkness come from?”

“the uncanny derived from what was once familiar and then repressed.”

How the fiction writer can create an uncanny feeling in the reader:
“he betrays us to a superstition we thought we had ‘surmounted’; he tricks us by promising us everyday reality and then going beyond it”

The creative writer and daydreaming (1907)

“the opposite of play is not seriousness – it is reality”

“now the creative writer acts no differently from the child at play: he creates a fantasy world, which he takes very seriously; that is to say, he invests large amounts of emotion in it, while marking it off sharply from reality.”

“the true ars poetica lies in the technique by which he [the creative writer] overcomes our repulsion, which certainly has to do with the barriers that arise between each single ego and the others.”

Introduction by Hugh Haughton

Oscar Wilde :
it is not the artist but “rather the beholder who lends to the beautiful thing its myriad meanings, and makes it marvellous for us, and sets it in some new relation to the age”
Oscar wilde, Complete Works, ed Vivyan Holland, 1966, p1028

“One of the earliest psychological investigators of the aesthetic, Edmund Burke, opposed the economy of beauty, built up around positive experience of pleasure, to the sublime, built up around the negative experiences of awe, terror and dread. In this essay Freud, like Burke, moves beyond an idea of aesthetics ‘restricted to the theory of beauty’, as he puts it, to explore an aesthetics of anxiety. […] The uncanny, that is, unlike Burke’s Sublime, is a paradoxical mark of modernity. It is associated with moments when an author, fictional character or reader experiences the return of the primitive in an apparently modern and secular context.”
Freud quotation, is it from the Uncanny itself ? Unclear, check if used
“a person may identify himself with another and so become unsure of his true self, or he may substitute the other’s self for his own […] the self may be duplicated, divided and interchanged”
→ psychogenic fugue in David Lynch’s Lost Highway

The Unconscious

This collection of essays is a work in progress written while Freud developed his theory of the unconscious, therefore some concepts vary/evolute/remain undetermined.

Grossly, Freud defined 3 parts of the psyche:
the conscious: psychic material consciously available
the preconscious: psychic material not consciously available, but that has not been actively repressed, it is merely latent.
the unconscious: psychic material not consciously available because it has been actively repressed.
There are censorship mechanisms at the border between the unconscious and the preconscious, and between the preconscious and the conscious.

It is mostly the preconscious concept that is a bit unclear and changing in Freud’s thought: In the earlier essays, it is described as latent material in which the conscious can pick material as it needs it, the preconscious and the conscious are not separated by censorship, the preconscious is merely a reserve of available material for the conscious. In later essays, the concept changes and the idea of censorship between the preconscious and the conscious is introduced. The psychic material in the preconscious starts to be described as things that the subject is not uncomfortable enough to repress as long as it remains merely latent, but not explicitly comfortable with either. As I understand it, it is psychic material that is unobtrusive enough for the subject to be able to ignore it for the time being and not to have to take an actual decision about repressing it or not. But, when this material gets “pushy” and tries to break through into the conscious, it is subject to censorship: either it is judged harmless/acceptable and let in, or it is judged unacceptable and repressed down into the unconscious.

Introduction by Mark Cousins

“he makes a further distinction between the preconscious and the unconscious which corresponds to the distinction between psychic material which is merely latent and psychic material which is made unconscious by the act of repression.”

“Without noticing it, Freud makes here a contribution to the very idea of ‘reality’. We might think that most philosophers would assert that ‘reality’ is whatever is the case; the human science might adjust that by thinking that ‘reality’ is all that people think is the case. Freud’s concern to think out the difference between phantasy and reality leads him to the novel proposal that reality is an obstacle. It follows that the boundary between reality and phantasy is no longer something like the difference between a mental event and a real event. I am always within a phantasy as long as I meet no obstacle to its satisfaction. Reality is not a topographical category, it is not that which is outside my skin, it is whatever is an obstacle to the satisfaction of a wish. One way of charting the progress of Freud’s thought is that he finds the obstacles of reality more and more efficacious in the block they offer to desire just as he becomes increasingly convinced by the archaic character of desire and its relative ineducability by reason and the world. The very existence of the unconscious had alienated the subject from his own consciousness. Now the unconscious alienates the subject from full acceptance of external reality. Ultimately, the subject is the very battleground over which reality and phantasy lay their claims.”

Formulations on the Two Principles of Psychic Functioning (1911)

“every neurosis has the effect, and so probably the purpose, of forcing the patient out of real life, of alienating him from reality. […] The neurotic turns away from reality because he finds either the whole or parts of it unbearable.”

“Art brings about a reconciliation of the two principles [the pleasure principle and the reality principle] in a unique way. The artist is originally someone who, unable to come to term with the renunciation of drive satisfaction initially demanded by reality, turns away from it and gives free rein to erotic and ambitious wishes in his fantasy life. Thanks to special gifts, however, he finds his way back to reality from this fantasy world by shaping his fantasies into new kinds of reality, which are appreciated by people as valid representations of the real world. […] But he can achieve this only because other people feel the same dissatisfaction he does at the renunciations imposed by reality.”

Drives and their Fates (1915)

“The outside world is divided up into a pleasurable part, which it [the ego] incorporates into itself, and the rest which is alien to it.”

Repression (1915)

“failed repressions will be of more interest to us than successful ones, which for the most part will elude our scrutiny”
some repressions are actually successful: the repressed content does not come back as unpleasant symptoms.

I like the subtly subversive implications of Freud’s theory: the outside world/reality is an obstacle for the individual, and the individual may try to circumvent it as any other obstacle. And in a the case of a successful repression of something unpleasant (a successful repression is one that does not come back with incapacitating symptoms), it will never be noticed as an “illness” and will never need to be cured: in the (rare but existing) case of a successful repression, the individual will have improved their happiness by negating reality. Freud’s theory is not moral: “accepting reality” is not better than “repressing it”. It’s only the unpleasant symptoms of an unsuccessful repression that needs to be cured. Freud’s theory appears almost utilitarian to me, that’s why I like it.

In defense of the Unconscious (1915)

Latency = “psychic unconsciousness”

The special properties of the Ucs system (1915)

Ucs = Unconscious

“Ucs processes pay equally little heed to reality. They are subject to the pleasure principle: their fate depends only on how strong they are and whether they meet the requirements of pleasure-unpleasure regulation.”

Fetishism (1927)

“the essential difference between neurosis and psychosis was that in neurosis, the ego, at the behest of reality, suppresses a piece of the id [represses it ???], whereas in psychosis it is impelled by the id to detach itself from a piece of reality.”

id = latin for “it” = unconscious

Documentary, fiction and the problem of truth

The documentary chronotope, Michael Chanan

from Jump Cut, no. 43, July 2000, pp. 56-61
copyright Jump Cut: A Review of Contemporary Media, 2000, 2006

“When Bakhtin speaks of how “space becomes charged and responsive to the movements of time, plot and history,” he is advancing a notion which becomes more concrete in Henri Lefebvre’s work on representational space. In Lefebvre, a representational space is a system of symbolic representations, constituted by artistic and other media and forms, each with its own material characteristics, comprising a culturally and historically specific system which in some way maps the elements and relations of the physical, the social and the mental worlds. In doing so, the medium incorporates or signifies the physical space of the actually existing world, and makes symbolic use of it. Representational spaces thus tend towards a more or less coherent system of nonverbal symbols and signs. The products of representational spaces (to follow Lefebvre) are symbolic works, in this case, films, either fiction or documentary, or some admixture of the two. Does this also mean we can distinguish different types of representational space which correspond to different modes of filmic utterance? Is documentary perhaps a different screen world from fiction?”

“the almost universal prohibition in fiction (with certain notable exceptions) against actors looking directly at the camera, so as not to be seen by the spectator as staring directly at them. […] The rule functioned to maintain the illusion of the camera as an unseen observer, always in the right position to show the unfolding action, the appropriate scene; thus transporting the disembodied viewer into the space of the screen world. This ban does not have the same force in documentary, even in the most conventional examples. In documentary, the illusion the camera seeks to maintain is unnecessary. Indeed, it may well go against a stronger imperative — to present a sense of actuality, of testimony, and of the presence of the camera as a witness in the same space as the events unfolding. […] the acknowledgment of the camera serves to reinforce the reality effect, whereas later, in fiction, it will break it.”

“Fiction is the work of pro-filmic construction, even, one might add, when it is constructed in order to imitate documentary. Documentary, however, even when it imitates fiction, is a form of selection from the actually existing world. Although it runs the gamut from the filmographic interpretation of what is already there, to a constructed or reconstructed rendering of selected elements, the incursion of noise and accident provides evidence that the image is taken from the space of lived experience. Therefore it has a quality or degree of veracity which is not greater than that of fiction, but different. In short, the representational space produced by documentary has different co-ordinates from those of fiction.”

“If documentary depends on a disposition to believe, then fiction evokes what is traditionally spoken of as “the suspension of disbelief””

“Fictional screen space creates the unities of the scene and the plot. Through the ubiquitous camera and altering frame, the spectator becomes a vicarious unseen observer, transported into an imaginary space which is very similar to real space but behaves according to its own generic rules. These rules are different in the case of documentary from those of fiction. Where the space of the fictional narrative produces continuity, documentary space is composed of discontinuities, both spatial and temporal, produced by dialectical (and dialogical) associations across time and space. Neither of these modes of articulation is absolute or totalizing, but fictional screen space, ever since the ban was first raised against the actor gazing at the camera, has an ineluctable tendency towards closure and abstraction from lived experience. In contrast, in the space of documentary the represented world is not separated from the viewer by reason of narrative principle. On the contrary, the social reality portrayed here is one in which a viewer could in principle find themselves present, putatively, or as a potential historical subject, and sometimes palpably. It is a world, in other words, which is continuous with the space in which the viewer lives their own life, not separate from it.”

Wreckage upon Wreckage: History, Documentary and the Ruins of Memory, Paula Rabinowitz, 1993

“The sense of immediacy-as-truth/truth-as-immediacy was central to the earliest scientific and modernist uses of the cinema”

“History is where pain and death occur but it is in representation that the facts and events gain meaning.” As “star” of the documentary, the presence of the body, especially the body in pain, signifies a truth and realness which seems to defy contextualization.”
Bill Nichols, Representing Reality (Bloomington, Ind., 1991), 265.
“the purely psychosexual manifestations of lack and plenitude, differentiation and identification, which characterize the fetishistic forms of narrative desire”
“The spectator of documentary, this subject of agency, also desires, but desires to remember and to remake history. But how is this spectator hailed by the documentary if the psychosexual processes of identification and disavowal central to narrative address are routed away from interiority and located in evidence? Primarily through an appeal to feeling over thinking.”

“the fragmentary quality of truth”

Jill Godmilow, director of Far from Poland (1984) calls for “deconstructing the documentary . . . to reformulate language -not just verbal language but visual language as well. To poke holes in the existing language, to make spaces, so that there is a possibility for imagination and action to work through it.”
Jill Godmilow, “Far from Finished: Deconstructing the Documentary, An Interview by Brooke Jacobson,” in Reimagining America: The Arts of Social Change, ed. Mark O’Brien and Craig Little (Philadelphia, 1990), 181.

“This desire to dream, to provoke imagination, seems to lead the documentary away from the realm of history and truth into the realm of art and artifice. How are we to judge historical documentaries if they call themselves dreams? In documentary the viewer is asked to participate in a series of contracts -between film and its object, between filmmaker and audience, between reality and representation. In the traditional documentary- including its use for historians -the response to the film is usually confined to whether the viewer agrees or disagrees with the content. On rare occasions the “protagonist” of the film succeeds in convincing the viewer to follow its position- save the dolphins by boycotting tuna, for example- but the construction of the cinematic argument is left unexamined. In the deconstructionist documentary like Shoah and Far From Poland, the object of the film is to produce a new and disturbing knowledge of history and of its rhetoric-of both its content and its form. Like the Angel of History, we are asked to become complicit in the process of making meaning, of making history. We are made uncomfortable, not by images of cute dolphins bleeding on the deck of the tuna boat or by the emaciated limbs and swollen bellies of hungry children in Somalia, but by the codes which allow the images to make us say “Oh, how awful” and go on about our lives.”

The Concept of Chronotope (and its relevance to cinema)

The concept of Chronotope has been invented by Russian literary critic, Mikhail Bakhtin (who actually borrowed it from Einstein’s theory of relativity) and literally means “time-space”.

“almost as a metaphor (almost, but not entirely). What counts for us is the fact that it expresses the inseparability of space and time (time as the fourth dimension of space).” p 84
‘the intrinsic connectedness of temporal and spatial relationships that are artistically expressed in literature’ (Bakhtin, 1981, p. 84).
‘Time, as it were, thickens, takes on flesh, becomes artistically visible; likewise, space
becomes charged and responsive to the movements of time, plot and history’ (p. 84).
Bakhtin, M (1981): The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays, Austin, University of
Texas Press.

Memory and Exile: Time and Place in Tarkovsky’s Mirror, Dr. Peter King

“Mikhail Bakhtin’s idea of the chronotope: the singular linkage of time and place – how place is always a place in time – and how this creates the significance of memories of a particular place.”

“As Natasha Synessios (2001) has suggested, this concept was influential on Tarkovsky’s thinking for this particular film [Mirror]. Speaking generally, we might suggest that film is particularly suitable for this fusing of space and time, with its attempt, as Tarkovsky himself saw it, to stop time (Tarkovsky, 1986). Film is an artistic medium specifically intended to hold up time and to create impressions using time and space.”

The symbolism of the mirror in Tarkovsky’s films:
“According to Green (1993), it is used as ‘the metaphorical looking-glass that provides man with a reflection of himself. In its surface, time is refracted; and it is a transitional device through which one may pass to other worlds, other states of consciousness’ (p. 80).”

Green (1993):
“the view Tarkovsky seeks is that of the child, with which we glimpse Utopia or paradise. The point in man’s history where he takes the wrong path is where the child loses its innocence and begins to comprehend the world in documentary form. (p. 85)”
“marks an attempt to recover the vision of childhood as well, not just the memories, but the unexplained mysteries, with all their discontinuities and distortions of time; a child’seye view of the world and history, which accounts in part for the elusive fascination and haunting quality of the film. (p. 85)”
Green, P (1993): Andrei Tarkovsky: the Winding Quest, Basingstoke, Macmillan

“We do not remember our lives in a linear manner, viewing one incident following another, but rather as a mix of the actual and the hoped-for, of promise and regret.”

Bakhtin’s Chronotope on the Road: Space, Time, and Place in Road Movies Since the 1970s, Alexandra Ganser, Julia Pühringer, Markus Rheindorf, 2006

“the relation between images of time and space in the text, out of which any representation of history must be constructed. The chronotope of a particular text thus functions as an ideological index, but can also be used to discuss a whole genre. In some chronotopes, mainly those of travel and uprooted modern life, time takes precedence over space; in the more idyllic, pastoral chronotopes, space dominates

“of special importance is the close link between the motif of meeting and the chronotope of the road (‘the open road’), and of various types of meeting on the road. In the chronotope of the road, the unity of time and space markers is exhibited with exceptional precision and clarity. (Bakhtin p98)”

“While Bakhtin was primarily concerned with chronotopes of the novel, critics such as Robert Stam have recently suggested that the chronotope seems in some ways even more appropriate to film as a medium in which “spatial and temporal indicators are fused into one carefully thought-out concrete” (Bakhtin 11)”
Stam, Robert. Subversive Pleasures: Bakhtin, Cultural Criticism and Film. Baltimore, Maryland: John Hopkins University Press, 1989.

“the suspension of movement and its corresponding space-time relation entails the hopelessness and dreariness of film noir”

Interesting articles from “Papers of Surrealism” journal

“Fantasy, the Uncanny and Surrealist Theories of Architecture”, Anthony Vidler (2003)

“Rather what Surrealism motivated was the uncanny of the Other, which for Surrealism was the ‘real’ – the uncanny sense that the normal was nothing more than a complex of repressed objects. In the aesthetic sense of Surrealism, this normal was modernism itself and the uncanny of Surrealism was no more than the repressed of modernism, an apparent normal that in fact was a mask for the ‘real’ pathological.
In architectural terms, this search for modernism’s repressed underlife was concentrated in three domains – domains that the modernists had clearly and polemically identified as the basis of their attack on tradition: the solid, load-bearing wall that afforded traditional protection and privacy; the bourgeois house and its kitsch-like trappings of ‘home’ or ‘Heimat’; and the objects of everyday life, which, while for the most part mass-produced, were still encumbered with ornament and encrusted with historical references. Against these three hold-outs of tradition in modernity “

“All posed a volatile and elusive sensibility of mental-physical life against what was seen as a sterile and over-rationalized technological realism: the life of the interior psyche against the externalising ratio.”

Freud in the Uncanny: ‘over-accentuation of psychical reality in comparison with material reality,’

Sigfried Giedion observes of the interiors of Ernst’s Une Semaine de bonté:
“The room, as nearly always, is oppressive with assassination and non-escape”

“Surreal Dreamscapes: Walter Benjamin and the Arcades”, Michael Calderbank (2003)

On Benjamin’s essay of 1925 entitled ‘Dream-Kitsch’:
“this inter-penetration of the two realms is not a ‘natural’ constant, but a historically specific phenomenon. 10 Kitsch objects, the banal by-products of culture subsumed under the logic of industrial production, are assimilated into dreams, thereby obscuring the oneiric ‘blue horizon’ of the Romantics, with a ‘grey coating of dust’. Correspondingly, as Marx first diagnosed with his analysis of the commodity fetish, at the height of capitalist modernity, ‘ordinary’ commodities become invested with a magical, quasi-religious and dreamlike aura.”

“In ‘Konvolut L’, Benjamin notes: ‘Arcades are houses or passages having no outside – like the dream.’”

Comparing Benjamin and Breton:
“For both writers, what is significant is not the waking state per se, which could quite easily carry on in the same drearily prosaic way, but the moment when consciousness is shocked into the recognition of possible forms of cognitive experience from which it is excluded in reality. Both writers also, therefore, develop a notion of a single material reality, in which ‘dream’ and ‘waking’ experience are both inextricably grounded, and which progresses not in a gradual, seamless, linear continuum, but instead proceeds unevenly in jolts, leaps and unexpected reversals.”

“Giorgio de Chirico and surrealist mythology , Roger Cardinal (2004)

What is most modern in our time frequently turns out to be the most archaic.

“a collection of talismanic embodiments of the twinned novelty and absurdity of modern life. By deliberately fetishising the bric-à-brac of twentieth-century urban culture, surrealism was able to draw up a formula for the surrealist Marvellous and to elicit a striking mythology out of the banalities of the contemporary world. “

On Aragon’s Le Paysan de Paris:
“a kind of archaeology of the contemporary unconscious “
‘the vertigo of the modern’ [‘le vertige du moderne’]. (Aragon’s words)

Breton’s essay on de Chirico (1920):
‘re-appraise the basic perceptions of time and space’ [‘reviser les données sensibles du temps et de l’espace’].

Aragon’s quotation, unknown book:
‘Though substituted for the natural myths of antiquity, [the new myths] cannot be truly opposed to them, for they derive all their strength, all their magic, from the selfsame source.’
‘Substitués aux antiques mythes naturels, [les mythes nouveaux] ne peuvent leur être réellement opposés, car ils puisent leur force, leur magie à la même source.’

“The Uncanny”, Margaret Iversen, 2005

“Schelling defined it [The uncanny] as something that should have remained hidden but has come to light. In a more Freudian idiom, it is a feeling prompted by the return of the repressed.”

“The scene for the emergence of uncanny strangeness is, after all, the familiar, conventional or banal. This is so because the ‘familiar’ is constituted by the repression of childhood traumatic experience or the real of unconscious fantasy. The familiar must inevitably have a simulacral quality because the real has been expelled. David Lynch beautifully demonstrates this mutual dependence in his film, Blue Velvet (1986). The white picket-fenced world of Lumberton shown in the opening sequence has such stereotypical clarity that one’s gaze slides right off the image, unable to get any purchase. Lynch makes it clear that the bourgeois residential area has this two-dimensional simulacral quality precisely because reality (here a criminal underclass and the unconscious) has been marginalized, banished to the other side of the tracks. For me, the uncanny is not the simulacrum itself, but that which agitates its shiny surface.”

Dana MacFarlane, 2003, reviews “City Gorged With Dreams: Surrealism and Documentary Photography in Interwar Paris” by Ian Walker

“One of the explicit claims Walker makes is that the ‘stricter’ the reality presented by the photograph, the more potentially subversive and surreal its effect. In the process of being represented photographically, the everyday world is transformed. The surreal appears in those photographs in which the logic of realism presented by the photograph is interrogated, undermined and transformed.”

Breton’s Nadja: ‘the space between’

‘Surrealism lies at the heart of the photographic enterprise: in the very creation of a duplicate world, of a reality in the second degree, narrower but more dramatic than the one perceived by natural vision.’ Susan Sontag, ‘Melancholy Objects’ in On Photography (New York: Penguin, 1979), p. 52.