Ktismatics

7 May 2007

Thinking is Not a Crime

Filed under: First Lines, Movies — ktismatics @ 2:18 pm

It was during one of the violent phases of the Revolution.

- Luis Buñuel, Ensayo de un Crimen, 1955

Archibaldo de la Cruz admits it: I’m a murderer. The police inspector smiles and sends Archie on his way. I can’t prosecute you for wishing someone’s death. Thinking is not a crime, my friend. But the women really are dead.

As the story begins Archibaldo, pampered scion of the Mexican aristocracy, is angry with his mother for leaving him with the governess for the evening. To calm his tirade, Archie’s mother brings him the music box. At the mother’s prompting, the governess tells Archie a story about the music box: made by fairies for a king, the box would make its owner’s every wish come true. She goes to the window and watches the police and the rebels fighting in the street below. Archie, glaring at her, turns the key on the music box. As soon as the music starts the governess falls to the floor dead, stricken by a stray bullet fired in the skirmish below. Archibaldo is ecstatic. He stands over the body, a trickle of blood pooling on her neck, her exposed legs voluptuous in death. I assure you that morbid sensation gave me a certain pleasure, Archie recalls, to feel myself all-powerful.

A beautiful nun stands next to Archie’s hospital bed, smiling as she listens to this macabre childhood reminiscence. She tells him she didn’t like his story, but the look on her face says otherwise. It’s imprinted on my memory like a photograph, he tells her. Time has a way of distorting things, the nun replies. She leaves the room for a minute; Archie extracts from his possessions a box containing seven straight-edge razors, one for each day of the week. He extracts the Friday blade. When the nun comes back, Archie asks her: Wouldn’t you be glad to die if it means eternal bliss? She would. I’ll give you that joy, Archie says, opening the razor. Terrified, the nurse runs out of the room, down the empty corridor, and into the empty elevator shaft, plunging to her death.

Buñuel shows us the unholy trinities of the Hispanic soul: aristocracy, church and military; motherhood, sex, and sadomasochism. And now we also see the magical fulfillment of desire, a kind of answered prayer, the spirit incarnate in Catholic mystical union. But there’s still something missing, something that makes confession unsatisfying, leaving Archibaldo neither punished nor forgiven: he has been denied the pleasure of actually committing the sin in the flesh.

Two more women die before Archibaldo’s imaginary killing spree comes to an end. Archie wants to murder them, he can see himself murdering them (we see it too, the fantasies enacted on screen). And they are killed… but not by Archie.

The fifth woman he meets at an antique shop. He’s shopping for a necklace; a couple are looking at a music box. Archie recognizes the tune immediately: he takes the box out of the woman’s hands. It belonged to my mother and is very dear to me. The woman, touched, begins reminiscing. He’s not interested in your childhood recollections, the man tells her — he looks just like Freud. The shopkeeper agrees to sell the box to Archie: To me childhood memories are sacred.

After the third woman’s death Archie goes into a bar. There’s a picture of Mary on the wall — we learn that this bar used to be a monastery. Archie orders a glass of milk. A woman comes up to him, asks if he remembers her. He doesn’t. She starts whistling the music box tune — it’s the woman from the antique shop. As always, Archie is charming, smartly dressed, almost effeminately elegant in manner. She has to go — her “daddy” is waiting, the man who looks like Freud. She hands Archie her card on her way out.

He looks for her at the address on the card, which turns out to be a dress shop. The woman doesn’t work there, and no one has heard of her. But then Archie sees her — or rather, a mannequin that looks just like her. He finds out where the mannequin came from and finds her there, modeling for some art students. She compliments him on his resourcefulness in tracking her down from the boutique. I saw you there dumb and paralyzed, Archie tells her. An artist himself, Archie invites her to his house for a private session, and she agrees.

On the appointed day Archie dismisses his servants early. As he shows the woman around his exquisite home, he takes her to the sitting room to meet his “cousin.” There, seated on the couch, is the woman’ s mannequin double. She laughs. How did you get my sister to come here? She’s a good girl. My parents always said she’d turn out bad. When he goes out to pour drinks — wine for her, water for himself — he makes a quick trip to the big pottery kiln and stokes up the fire. When he returns, he finds that she has changed clothing with her double. Archie attempts to kiss her, but she resists. When he goes over to the mannequin and begins kissing her, the living woman reaches toward Archie and pulls him toward her. They kiss. As he’s about to gag her the doorbell buzzes. He’s angry, but she’s visibly amused — it turns out she’s invited some of her clients to tour Archie’s house. As he leaves, the woman tells Archie she’s getting married to the Freud lookalike; but you’ll always have my little sister.

Enraged, Archie grabs the mannequin double by the throat, then drags her by the hair. One of the legs falls off; he picks it up and tucks it under his arm. He lays the mannequin on a table next to the kiln, hikes up her skirt in order to put her leg back in position, and activates the mechanism to push her into the kiln. As we see the mannequin moving toward the flames we see her face: it’s the living face of the woman. Then, as we see her consigned to the flames, we watch the face melting — it’s the mannequin’s face again.

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18 Comments »

  1. The intent to cause harm has now been reclassified as a crime. This is a hazy area where individual rights run into the rights of the community and the individual is steadily losing. First there was terrorism, but slowly other intentional and potential crimes are being added to the list.

    Guilt by association is also being redefined in spite of “the innocent, though they may have some connexion or dependency upon the guilty (which, perhaps, they themselves cannot help), should not, upon that account, suffer or be punished for the guilty, is one of the plainest and most obvious rules of justice” Adam Smith

    Comment by samlcarr — 7 May 2007 @ 7:43 pm

  2. The intent to cause harm has now been reclassified as a crime. This sounds like Protestantism’s victory over Catholicism. It’s also the theme of Foucault’s Discipline and Punish — the gradual movement through the modern age of guilt and punishment from the body to the mind. I think Bunuel implies that Archie is guilty by association with the Catholic church and the military and a culture that promotes the violent macho domination of women.

    Comment by ktismatics — 7 May 2007 @ 10:43 pm

  3. a one line comment ————————
    “Archie, glaring at her, turns the key on the music box. As soon as the music starts the governess falls to the floor dead, stricken by a stray bullet fired in the skirmish below. Archibaldo is ecstatic. He stands over the body, a trickle of blood pooling on her neck, her exposed legs voluptuous in death. ‘I assure you that morbid sensation gave me a certain pleasure,’ Archie recalls, ‘to feel myself all-powerful.’”

    This is my problem with systematic theology.

    The following is very interesting: “‘The intent to cause harm has now been reclassified as a crime.’ This sounds like Protestantism’s victory over Catholicism. It’s also the theme of Foucault’s Discipline and Punish — the gradual movement through the modern age of guilt and punishment from the body to the mind.”

    Referenced from Wikipedia on Swift’s “Battle of the Books” in a recent conversation with Thomisticguy the Baptist: “In one sense, the ‘Battle of the Books’ illustrates one of the great themes that Swift would explore in A Tale of a Tub: the madness of pride involved in believing one’s own age to be supreme and the inferiority of derivative works. One of the attacks in the Tale was on those who believe that being readers of works makes them the equals of the creators of works. The other satire Swift affixed to the Tale, ‘The Mechanical Operation of the Spirit,’ illustrates the other theme: an inversion of the figurative and literal as a part of madness.”

    What lead up to my quoting wikipedia there? A conversation on Protestant vs. Catholic justification. And my bringing into that conversation the onslaught of modernity.

    —————————

    BTW you guys (especially T.G.) have heard me complain about a particularly modern “objective” truth, in which subject and object are completely outside of each other rather than there being some sort of participatory and active cooperation at work in whatever scenario is in question. This difference between “infused” and “imputed” righteousness is a very good example of what I am referring to. As is, interestingly, Aquinas’ talk of the agreement of science and theology, since God is the “author” of both; that as opposed to theology and science’s participating in a universal “objective” truth together, a concept which would make no sense at all in reference to theology.

    Of course, in the case of “infused” righteousness, there is still the truth of discursive reasoning and a man’s being self-conscious (having a self-image). As with all other things modern, however – with this whole Reformation thing happening right around the time of that shift from ancient to modern as a very good example – there is a new speculative “outsidedness” to the relation between subject and object that did not exist previously. Allow me there to extend the general epistemological terms of “subject and object” to our theological conversation involving our being “subjects” of and to Christ. In this case, then, it’s the “outsidedness” of man’s justification – which is only speculative – that does not “really [effect] a metaphysical change in the human being.”

    Very interesting, then, is the quote provided by Ron: “While the term sanctification refers to the holiness which God effects in the life of His saints, and although the term justify in itself refers to a reckoning as righteous rather than to a making righteous, yet these two aspects of salvation can be separated only in discussion and never in experience.”

    And yet as Protestants we live by this purely speculative doctrine which supposedly really doesn’t apply to experience. In other words, this purely speculative truth actually effects our prayer life, our social life, and our “life with God” in general. I know that my actual life itslef, and not just my speculative discursions, would be very different if not for my Protestatnt background that was “infused” with this talk of “imputed” righteousness. T.G. – I think this, then, is a good example of what Jonathan Swift was referring to – in his discussion on the battle between the ancients and the moderns – with his notion of the inversion of the figurative and the literal:

    ————————-

    :)

    “He extracts the Friday blade. When the nun comes back, Archie asks her: ‘Wouldn’t you be glad to die if it means eternal bliss?’ She would. ‘I’ll give you that joy,’ Archie says, opening the razor. Terrified, the nurse runs out of the room, down the empty corridor, and into the empty elevator shaft, plunging to her death.”

    Smiling nominal Christians who haven’t faced the cross. They have issues. One of which is “the gradual movement through the modern age of guilt and punishment from the body to the mind.” “He stands over the body, a trickle of blood pooling on her neck, her exposed legs voluptuous in death.”

    Comment by Jaosn Hesiak — 18 May 2007 @ 12:46 am

  4. The sadistic power of the systematic Protestant theologian is linked to the urge to punish the effeminately uncertain, to leer lasciviously at the hidden sins of the imagination, to imprint a stern discipline onto the mind. Are there films that capture Protestant fascism? Hitchcock was Catholic, and you can certainly see parallels with Bunuel.

    The ruthless inward drive of Protestantism loses the physicality of the incarnation, the sensual lure of the cross. Sins were a lot more external in the Old Testament, and also in the Catholic world, probably the Eastern Orthodox as well. The physicality of sin and sanctification. Is it possible for some version of Christianity actually to free the spirit rather than shackling it with caution? What physically does the Kingdom look like? What physically do redeemed Christians do?

    Comment by ktismatics — 18 May 2007 @ 3:55 pm

  5. “Is it possible for some version of Christianity actually to free the spirit rather than shackling it with caution?” That’s the idea.

    “What physically does the Kingdom look like?” Streets paved with gold. No sun or moon, for there’s another light. A river of life. From Genesis 2: 5-13 “…the whole Earth was watered by underground springs [or "a mist that came up from the earth", in the English Standard)...God made all kinds of trees grow from the ground, trees beautiful to look at and good to eat. The Tree-of-Life was in the middle...A river flows out of [there] to water [it]…there is gold. The gold of this land is good. The land is also known for a sweet-scented resin and the onyx stone.”

    “What physically do redeemed Christians do?” No more sorrow or tears. They will be with their God, and He with them.

    Films, then? I guess it depends on the parameters of the search. I could think of ways that pretty much every film these days is related to the issues of physicality and your first paragraph.

    Comment by Jaosn Hesiak — 18 May 2007 @ 8:58 pm

  6. Anne and I just watched Leaving Las Vegas, which is kind of a morality play showing the dangers of alcohol, sex, gambling, screwing up on your job, pissing away your money. All of it is framed in a tragic love story: these two people, really nice people underneath, would really have hit it off if not for all the ways they subject themselves masochistically to the pleasurs of the flesh, that the sins of the body were really hurting the hearts and minds. And the corruption isn’t that of a tyrannical government or church but the anything-goes American lifestyle as epitomized by Las Vegas. Protestant fascism?

    Comment by ktismatics — 18 May 2007 @ 10:51 pm

  7. I’d say depends on whether or not you are a Protestant facist. To me, no, not necessarily. To J.P. Moreland, of course not. But he’s a Protestant facist.

    Comment by Jaosn Hesiak — 18 May 2007 @ 11:26 pm

  8. Jason -

    I’ve pulled this in from the Virtual Realities discussion…

    With respect to Archie and the nun, Archie was the massive ego run wild, where he identifies with king and priest and aristocracy, the triumvirate that ruled Spain and Mexico. Through his deadly embrace he carries the pure woman (who is the virgin Mother)
    to fulfilling her masochistic desire, which is full-time service to the ultimate Master, death. This is a Bunuel movie, who pretty much had to leave Spain because he pissed off the Catholic fascist regime of Franco. But even if Bunuel’s intention was to indict Catholicism, the film affords other readings, it contains glimpses of other virtual realities. Systematic theology? I can see it: the tyranny of a massively and multiply structured intellectual power that kills life through its totalizing discourse.

    Comment by ktismatics — 19 May 2007 @ 12:44 pm

  9. Jason -

    It depends on whether or not you are a Protestant fascist. Maybe so. The contention is this: Leaving Las Vegas is a threatening gesture from the Protestant fascist: fear what can kill body and soul in hell, which is the marketplace of earthly delights. These delights destroy your body, which is unfortunate, but they really push from outside into the soul, which is an even more deadly death. So: deny the worldly lusts and preserve your soul. The world is Las Vegas, booze and sex and gambling are its evils. Be warned, for vengeance is near, and it will be administered through the very pleasures you seek. It’s as though God is using whiskey and whoredom and money as an avenging angel, which is kind of a Fallwellian argument. AIDS is God killing sinners through the very pleasures they seek. Protestant fascism.

    Comment by ktismatics — 19 May 2007 @ 12:51 pm

  10. Doylomania,

    This being a virtual post on Buneual, I actually addressed the Bunuel issue at your “Virtual and Actual Realities” post.

    “It’s as though God is using whiskey and whoredom and money as an avenging angel, which is kind of a Fallwellian argument. AIDS is God killing sinners through the very pleasures they seek. Protestant fascism.”

    Good gosh. Does Fallwell, or Moreland, or whomever, actually say that? Wow. I don’t think of God in that way really, although the Bible indicates similar things in the “O.T.” in regard to Isreal’s Baal worship. I think what would be missing in such a Fallwell argument, though, would be the relationship between God’s justice and His mercy. Justice in the O.T. is also intimately interwoven with the raising up of and compassion on the down-and-out. Of course the “Protestant Facists” would view such “AIDS victims” as moral failures before viewing them as “the blessed meek.” I can’t see Mother Theresa, though, thinking in such a “Protestant Facist” way…or…at least…I can’t see her living her life by that rule. That Catholic Facist bitch! Lol, very just kidding. She’s not Spanish. Kidding again.

    Jason

    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 20 May 2007 @ 5:10 am

  11. Falwell supposedly said this: AIDS is not just God’s punishment for homosexuals; it is God’s punishment for the society that tolerates homosexuals. More Falwell quotes at this site. When God punishes David for taking a census by bringing a plague that kills tens of thousands of people, I’d say you’re dealing with either a fascistic God or a false quotation of what God had to say.

    Comment by ktismatics — 20 May 2007 @ 11:54 am

  12. Franco wasn’t an aristocrat. He was a military leader who led a coalition of the monarchists and the fascists, both strong supporters of the Catholic Church and supported by the hereditary aristocracy of Spain. In the Spanish Civil War Franco defeated the Communists and also the Anarchists, who were the favorites of Hemingway and the other artsy-literary expatriates, as well as the Surrealists. The first time I went to Spain Franco was still in power. The guardia civil — military police — were all over the place.

    Comment by ktismatics — 20 May 2007 @ 5:22 pm

  13. I’ll admit, I went to that Fallwell site, and it made me laugh. Example: “Grown men should not be having sex with prostitutes unless they are married to them.” Or, “Billy Graham is the chief servant of Satan.”

    You said: “When God punishes David for taking a census by bringing a plague that kills tens of thousands of people, I’d say you’re dealing with either a fascistic God or a false quotation of what God had to say.”

    For one, I don’t think God ever SAID that he brought that plague. I just read about that story recently, and remember noting that fact. It was Isreal’s or David’s or Nathan’s or whomever’s interpretation of the sequence of events.

    Again, though, I don’t think that means that God wasn’t involved in some way. I mean, as I said, I’d prefer to know when I’m being a spiritual idiot. Tens of thousands of deaths sounds a bit much to me, but then David’s being king of Isreal is a tall order. He’s responsible for lots of lives, and his lack of TRUST, combined with his own pride, brought lots of deaths. This hurt David, too, and not just the families of the dead folks. Hence his repentance.

    TO BE CLEAR, though, I’m not suggesting that “God did it,” like directly. God doesn’t cause sin, nor its consequences. But that doesn’t mean that the consequences of sin do not arise out of God’s ever-present Truth. In other words, I don’t think “God sent a plague to kill a bunch of folks.” But I do think that a lack of TRUST in God (as opposed to in one’s own pride) will have consequences.

    Comment by Jaosn Hesiak — 21 May 2007 @ 7:24 pm

  14. Smaller scale example…other than the Davidic one…more personal (and exciting). Last night at church there was this REALLY REALLY REALLY hot young woman (I might just as well describe her as the perfect physical “specimen,” as far as I’m concerned, lol) sitting next to me at church crying about her rectn breakup with her long time boyfriend. She’s been to church three times since Easter, and its CLEAR that she INTENDS to sit next to ME when she comes to church…AND talk to me. Would the consequences of my acting on the possiblity of fulfillment of desire there (on both ends) be owed to God (and His truth) or to my own choice in the matter to get myself into a sticky – but VERY desirable – situation?

    Comment by Jaosn Hesiak — 21 May 2007 @ 8:20 pm

  15. Jason –

    The narrator says that Yahweh sent the plague – I Chronicles 21:14. But you’re not an inerrancy guy — maybe the narrator made a wrong inference?

    As for the girl in the pew, I’d say there are many virtual realities latent in this situation, several of which might be actualizable. You’ve interpreted her intent based on experience and cues signaled by the young lady, you’ve recognized her hot affordances, you’ve acknowledged your own desire, you’ve sensed the possibility of God having arranged these circumstances… And it’s a real person with whom you might be able to establish a real relationship… Sounds like a go to me.

    Comment by ktismatics — 21 May 2007 @ 8:43 pm

  16. Busted. Reign on MY prade, then, why don’t you! I had only read 1 and 2 Kings! Lol. AND, I remember thinking, I look foward to seeing what “Chronicles” says about this? Inerrancy…uumm…? I would point to it as more of a question of interpretation. God Himself isn’t really the narrator.

    ———————–

    “…you’ve sensed the possibility of God having arranged these circumstances…” I’ve also sense the possibility of another’s having “arranged” the circumstances, if you know what I mean. I really don’t know the circumstances behind her relationship with that other dude, nor the circumstances in their breakup. I do know that, whatever they are, they have her set on leaving Los Angeles in August. I also “get the sense,” however, that my acting out on the various desires at play could lead to EITHER her STRONGER desire to leave LA, OR a strong desire for her to stay in LA.

    I also know, though, that a really good friend of mine (best friend’s fiancee) tries to “protect” her whenever I bring the topic up; because she (hot woman who just broke up with boyfriend) is in such a sensitive place, and she (best friend’s fiancee, also friends with hot recently-single young woman) interprets my asking, in such a context, as my trying to take advantage of the situation….which is a bit of a misinterpretation. But I think my freind (best friend’s fiancee) might be “projecting” a bit (but who knows?).

    Comment by Jaosn Hesiak — 21 May 2007 @ 8:59 pm

  17. August? The clock is ticking. But I can see your mutual friend’s point about the sensitive situation. There’s no harm in being a friendly conversational partner, though, surely? Maintain your sensitivities to cues. Have a cup of coffee together, be nice, see what happens. If nothing happens, then you’re no worse off than before, plus maybe you can avoid making a golden ass of yourself.

    Comment by ktismatics — 21 May 2007 @ 9:24 pm

  18. Something has already “virtually” happened, lol :)

    Just kidding, my mind really hasn’t gone there. Watching her cry sort of throws my mind into reality, I think.

    I’ll keep you updated on the situation. Thanks for being a “sounding board.”

    Comment by Jaosn Hesiak — 21 May 2007 @ 9:30 pm


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