5 July 2009

Carrie by DePalma, 1976

Filed under: Movies — ktismatics @ 10:47 am

carrie flow

carrie blot

carrie supper



  1. if the pictures you showed display a typically oedipal situation, it is also notable that as I’m sure you’ll have noticed, the oedipality is driven to camp levels through the brilliant gay performance of the religious freak nut mother, and becomes therefore a parody of itself (this line of thinking de palma developed to pitch-perfect levels in Dressed to Kill), clearly there is more at stake than just the trauma of the splitting, and this excess, in the film, is presented as Carrie’s sixth sense, her Affect. However as I believe Peretz justly argues, the focus of the story is not Carrie, but the Witness (the amazingly beautiful Amy Irving, who was married to Spielberg for a spell), and what the story of Carrie does to her vision, how it opens her eyes.


    Comment by the voice of parodic reason — 5 July 2009 @ 1:57 pm

  2. The Furies

    In Roman mythology, the Furies also known as the Dirae (The Terrible) (Erinyes or Erinnyes (The Angry Ones) in Greek mythology) are three sisters: Alecto (The Unceasing or The Endless who was their leader), Megaera (The Grudging or The Envious Rager) and Tisiphone (The Avenging or The Retaliator). There are two accounts of their creation. One account has it that they came into being when the blood produced by Cronus castrating his father Uranus splashed upon the Earth, G�a. The other account has it that they were mothered by G�a with air and bad human emotions and deeds such as murder, perjury, disrespect, ingratitude, harshness, and violation of filial piety and the laws of hospitality.

    They are the goddesses of revenge, sometimes called the daughters of the Night or Those Who Walk in Darkness. They haunt criminals, especially those who kill or commit wrongs against blood relatives, regardless of motivation, until they go insane and die. The Furies are untiring and persistent in their pursuit. They are impartial and indifferent, merely carrying out their duty. They continue to torment wrongdoers even after death, until the criminal shows remorse. Then, they become the Eumenides (The Kindly Ones, Protectors of the Suppliant, The Well-Disposed Ones) or the Semnai (The Venerable Ones). They were often referred to as Eumenides, as calling them Furies was concidered bad luck. The Furies have also been referred to as the Potniae (The Awful Ones), the Maniae (The Madnesses), and the Praxidikae (The Vengeful Ones). Vergil (or Virgil) placed them in the Underworld, tormenting sinners under the command of Pluto, but Greek poets often presented them as pursuing criminals on Earth, under the command of Zeus. However, the Furies are also said to steer the great goddess Ananke (Necessity), who is more powerful than even Zeus, in that he can not escape what is necessary.

    While they are sometimes presented as being very fair, artists often depicted them as crones with fiery eyes, bats’ wings, dogs’ heads and snake hair, often brandishing torches and metal-studded whips. Sometimes they were dressed as hunters. Weeping tears of blood and hissing with hair of vipers, they would descend like a storm. Ancient authors described them as stinking of rotting mortal blood (which they also spat out) and barking like bitches. They could not die as long as sin existed in the world. Tisiphone guards the entrance to Tartarus, wrapped in a bloodstained robe. Alecto is a maker of grief. She revels in war and quarrels. Little is said about Megaera.


    Comment by the voice of parodic reason — 5 July 2009 @ 1:59 pm

  3. I’ll go back to what Peretz says about this movie, but first I’ll note my own impressions. The events are all explorations of desire, about the circuits of desire and the short-circuits and overloads. In the opening volleyball game the desire of the players is short-circuited when Carrie lets the ball drop. The players’ desire doesn’t stop with the end of the game: it shifts to Carrie as the cause of desire’s interruption. Then, in the shower, Carrie’s budding sexual desire is short-circuited by blood and fear — or maybe blood and fear are the hysterical overflow, the obscene excess of sexual desire. The other girls now serve as short-circuits for Carrie’s desire, pelting her with feminine hygiene products. “Plug it up,” they chant at her — plug up the flows of desire that she has unleashed. But of course this action is another manifestation of their own desire to torment Carrie which we already witnessed on the volleyball court.

    But you talk about the witness, VOPR, and you’re right. “And I only am escaped alone to tell thee,” — so begins the brief Epilogue to Moby Dick as Ishmael, the only survivor of the sinking of the Pequod, quotes the Witness to Job’s epic misfortunes. The Amy Irving character is the only survivor, the only Witness, evidently the narrator of this tale we’ve just been told. I’ve never read Stephen King’s book, but I understand that it’s presented retrospectively, in the context of a courtroom trial, in which case the idea of the Witness would be even more pronounced. In such tales we, the viewers/readers, stand next in line, witnesses to the Witness, carrying forward the lessons to be learned. Had there been no witnesses these stories would never have been told. We are given no reason to doubt Amy Irving’s story in DePalma’s film, but why on earth not? These are magical events, unparalleled in our experiences of the world. And who witnessed the encounters between Carrie and her mother: How would Amy have known these things? So now we’re getting into the blurry distinction between the Witness and the Storyteller, between observation and invention, between Truth and Art.


    Comment by john doyle — 5 July 2009 @ 2:30 pm

  4. in fact the position of the Irving character is exactly that of a psychoanalyst, who experiences what Peretz calls an existential opening, like the period which here appears not just as a girl problem or a psychoanalytic artefact but more like an existential portal, together with his client. But here or elsewhere in the book I think, though I am not sure, that he says that the Witness doesn’t get his gaze returned and this is what allows him to see in the blaknkness? That part about the gazes is not entirely clear to me Eloise.


    Comment by the voice of parodic reason — 5 July 2009 @ 2:43 pm

  5. Lacan’s famous verbiage on love being like that situation when a hand reaches out for a beautiful flower, but is then pulled back from the side by another hand, gets an especially interesting rereading in the last scene of Carrie, but for me the important thing here is that her fascinated gaze is turned away, interrupted, by the bloodied hand. You also mention interruption as a way of closing the flow.

    The part on the education of the senses is very important I think because it leads up to De Palma’s utopian discussions. This is a thread that’s been running through this place for years, across the marathon Hardt and Negri discussions and is intimately linked to my theological pursuits as well. He develops this in the chapter on Femme Fatale, where he shows (and this is what makes the book a very good piece) that there was an utopian vision all along, De Palma’s attempt to open the Doors of Perception to Paradise, while all the while his movies suggested it was about Hell and punishment.


    Comment by the voice of parodic reason — 5 July 2009 @ 2:50 pm

  6. They haunt criminals, especially those who kill or commit wrongs against blood relatives, regardless of motivation, until they go insane and die

    And this I quoted because I think the witches in CARRIE and the telekinetics in THE FURY are variations of the Furiae, where I underline their hauntological aspect (they are ghosts). Both Carrie and the continuation of Irving’s character in CARRIE in THE FURY seem to have the ability to haunt their victims with irrespressible images, images that mark them for life (Irving will never shake off that recurrent dream of her staining, corruption, loss of innocence). The haunting is the key expression, because it includes a kind of a retro-futurism in the Fury’s ability to access the futuristic potentials of the past.


    Comment by the voice of parodic reason — 5 July 2009 @ 2:54 pm

  7. Or is Amy the analysand while the viewer is the analyst? In analysis the analysand serves as the sole witness to her experiences; the analyst cannot confirm these reports with other sources. Amy tries to end the cycles of torment and revenge by offering up her boyfriend Tommy as satisfier of Carrie’s desire, thereby sacrificing her own desire. But in fact the desire for revenge is not assuaged: it falls, literally, on Tommy’s head. Amy witnesses the futility of trying to modulate the flow of desire: it only turns up the pressure, which eventually has to break loose.

    “The Witness doesn’t get his gaze returned.” At the grand climax Amy is the only one who witnesses the catastrophe that’s about to rain down from the sky. She sees the bucket, she sees the other girl and John Travolta getting ready to pull the rope, she sees Carrie and Tommie standing on Ground Zero, doom about to befall them. But you’re right: no one looks back at her; she tries to see through to a way of averting the crisis but the healing future is obscured by white noise. The gym teacher then steps in as the other witness, seeing Amy trying to stop the hand of fate. But the two don’t see the same things; they don’t look at each other; the two efforts to do right merely cancel each other. This is unstoppable Fate working itself out, which is the old-school Greek tragedy that Peretz claims to have been surpassed in DePalma’s films.


    Comment by john doyle — 5 July 2009 @ 2:56 pm

  8. There’s some interview footage of DePalma on the DVD in which he talks about the notorious last scene of Carrie’s hand reaching up from the grave. This wasn’t in the book, though apparently King loved it and wished he’d thought of it. DePalma says that he ripped off the idea from the end of Deliverance — you can skip ahead to about the 6 minute mark on the clip to get to the scene.


    Comment by john doyle — 5 July 2009 @ 3:03 pm

  9. that scene is conventional horror territory, but being the brilliant pomo pasticheur that he is, de palma uses it just as a reference for something else, something his own. the scene has stayed with me not because of its conventional horror shock value, but this story behind it about the gaze, about irreversible corruption.

    another interesting aspect is that amy sees herself as carrie, but then in a parallel universe where her beauty is angelic and her conservative wedding outfit unstained by blood, and experiences therefore carrie’s fate. therefore the hand coming from the grave is not carrie’s, it is a hand from hell – cf that existential opening or blankness or no-place, and the hand from Lacan’s story, which ”opens your eyes” to the Real.

    also in his interviews and extra DVDs de palma strikes me as a great guy, a meticulous head with a subversive and daring mind who steered an enormosuly difficult battle with the studio system to make his art done. the extras are wonderfully directed, they are interesting to watch unlike the majority of DVD extras out there today.


    Comment by the voice of parodic reason — 5 July 2009 @ 3:32 pm

  10. I’m curious to know the history of the scary ending trope, of which the hand from grave is now paradigmatic. I remember, watching Carrie at the theater when it first came out, being completely shocked by the hand. It’s been done to death since then of course, but I wonder about before then. Like Psycho, in which there’s the lame psychiatrist explaining what we’ve seen, there was usually a return to normalcy at the end of these movies. Norman Bates’ little “I wouldn’t hurt a fly” scene keeps us creeped out, but the big horror moment are past. With DePalma there is no return to the ordinary world; the repressed is back, and it’s going to haunt you as you leave the theater. (I hadn’t realized before watching the DVD that Carrie and the gang attended Bates High School.)


    Comment by john doyle — 5 July 2009 @ 4:09 pm

  11. “amy sees herself as carrie”

    Very good. By having her boyfriend ask Carrie to the prom, Amy puts Carrie in her place. Then Amy secretly comes to the prom to watch herself-as-Carrie win the Queen of the Prom. The gym teacher thinks Amy is jealous, but Amy acts through her continuing identification with Carrie and not with the mean girls.

    “the hand coming from the grave is not carrie’s, it is a hand from hell”

    The Fury follows Carrie, right? And in The Fury it’s Amy Irving who’s possessed of the psychokinetic powers — as if, through her identification in the prior movie, Amy has now become Carrie.


    Comment by john doyle — 5 July 2009 @ 4:15 pm

  12. Or is Amy the analysand while the viewer is the analyst? In analysis the analysand serves as the sole witness to her experiences; the analyst cannot confirm these reports with other sources.

    i think in analysis both the analyst and the analysand find themselves on the edge of the Abyss, they are both blind, and it’s an eye-opener for both of them

    yes Amy continues her role from Carrie into The Fury, but the figure of the Witness is a constant (also in Blow Out and Dressed to Kill and any other De Palma), we will develop this thought with each new film entry as the Dear Eloise reading club continues


    Comment by the voice of parodic reason — 5 July 2009 @ 5:52 pm

  13. Interestingly I saw Sam Raimi’s Drag me to Hell the other day, which is an excellent socialist horror-parody in which the hand coming out of Hell returns as the central trope, and since the story is almost literally a riff on The Purloined Letter (”the letter always arrives at its destination”) I am again made to think of Lacan’s definition of love as the hand reaching for the alluring flower only to be INTERRUPTED mid-way by a hand unexpectedly coming from the side (or below, in any case – from the Beyond). So I agree with you I think this shock and surprise ending that leaves no closure branded itself on our minds and continues to live. Visions have that power: they continue to live.


    Comment by the voice of parodic reason — 5 July 2009 @ 6:00 pm

  14. I’ve not seem Drag Me to Hell, and I probably won’t before it leaves the cineplex because we’re off to visit family for awhile. I’m curious about the Lacan quote: love is the interruption of desire’s fulfillment? But yes, movies like Carrie want to come out of the theater with you, keeping the vision alive.

    Amy as Witness/Analyst in Carrie has no power to alter the terrible future through her interventions. Or rather, her interventions exacerbate the flow of vengeance by interrupting it. Is the implication for the analyst, then, not to interrupt the symptom but to let it flow? And her intervention to help Carrie achieve her desire with Tommie, to overcome the obstacles of her shyness and strangeness: was this too a cause of the disaster? So either interrupting or facilitating flows through conscious agency become suspect, per DePalma. He might be right: short-cut coaching and behavior change might do more harm than good.


    Comment by john doyle — 5 July 2009 @ 8:38 pm

  15. he explains on page 137

    what i’m referring to here as a phantom eye can be related to what Lacan famously called the gaze, in distinction from the look. While the look is the objective moment of vision,the vision whose source is the seeing subject as the center of the field of vision, the gaze is the marking within objective vision of the possibility of the objective eye’s destruction and blindness, and its exposure to a look that comes from elsewhere. Now, what is this gaze, that Lacan says comes from the side of the object (yet not the object of the objective look) ad not, in distinction from the look, from the side of the subject if not, to use the terms of this essay, the discovery of being haunted, or being exposed to the phantomlike side of the mirror? While the Look is the relation to the actual image given in the mirror, the gaze marks the moment of passage throug hthe Other that has to be sliced in order for the actual image to arise (as well as to remain objective, valid from the viewpoint of others) an Other exceeding the image and continuing to haunt it as internal outside. The gaze thus marks within objective vision, or the look of perception, the non-place of the external inside, or of the excessive phantom, which means that any immediate relation to the actual object (the mirror image) depends on an obliquie look, the passage through the phantomlike Other.

    The Lacanian gaze is a major concept of the new thinking (,…) in that it signifies the inscription of the question of vision in a logic of HAUNTING rather than in a logic of TRANSCENDENCE, of an intelligible beyond to which sensual vision would be opposed.

    (BUT as I said he goes further than Lacan:)

    …how the discovery of the gaze or the phantomlike trace of the excessive Other becomes the origin of a new definition of vision, of the birth of a NEW EYE. This visionary eye is born of a gaze, a passionate eye, the eye incorporating within itself the passivity to the haunting Other. If Lacan perhaps did not develop this aspect, we can nevertheless say that the gaze is not only the interruption of seeing, but origin of a new seeing. Gillian SEES, we can say, only WITH THE EYE OF THE GAZE, the eye of the phantom, she sees the absolute outside haunting the inside as its blind spot, sees it not as an object, but a sensation of the essential fragmentation and touching transmission announced by the Other, and is thus not only a seeing with the eye of the phantom, but a seeing OF phantoms, of that blankness traced in the inside by the outside.


    Comment by the voice of parodic reason — 6 July 2009 @ 5:54 pm

  16. You should pay attention to the shot, from an oblique angle that suggests anamorphosis, which is on exactly 2:29 of the total running time: although this is supposed to be a subjective shot from Nancy Allen’s perspective as she witnesses the murder, it isn’t really; it seems to be addressed to something ELSE coming from the side. I wonder if this isn’t what Peretz means?


    Comment by the voice of parodic reason — 6 July 2009 @ 6:22 pm

  17. VOPR, I confess that I’m incapable of concentrating on the subject at hand inasmuch as I now must prepare for a 9-day voyage to visit family members. I’ll not be taking my computer with me, though I will take Peretz’s book, so hopefully in some lucid interval I’ll be able to borrow someone else’s computer and offer a response worthy of the comments you’ve posted here.


    Comment by john doyle — 6 July 2009 @ 6:35 pm

  18. alright Eloise you can close the Reading Club for a while, but only for a while. Hope you have a nice trip.


    Comment by the voice of parodic reason — 6 July 2009 @ 6:53 pm

  19. I woke up early on travel day, somewhat refreshed and consequently even more aware of certain gaps I experience in watching movies, theorizing about them, and interacting with the “real world.” I’ve been having some encounters with the local university that I find really quite alienating. It’s summer and the offices are nearly all empty, confronting the visitor with the walls and abysses of the post-apocalypse. In conversations with professors I experience this cold empty bureaucracy at the personal level, talking not with ghosts but with robots. I find myself neither scrutinized by the Look nor penetrated by the Gaze but scanned by an electronic eye. My bar code is read, I’m assigned a category, I’m processed, I’m sent down the conveyor belt to the appropriate container. This is a form of blindness in the middle of the eye from which no insight or second sight can ever shine through.

    I think about your experiences, Dejan, trying to be an artist in this sort of blind world. When you fall under the bureaucratic gaze, when applying for a job or sitting through a project meeting, do you have any subjective experience that the eye is seeing you at all? Isn’t this what the artist or the analyst somehow has to penetrate: to look through the blind eye of the alienating posthuman other, to envision the death of humankind haunting the empty architecture. I see no future in accelerating this alienation, this death. Seeing at oblique angles, through lenses and mirrors — these are metaphors for what you probably see all the time. It’s a rather horrifying vision. And I’m concerned that most art, watched through the mechanical dead-eye, is merely scanned and categorized and set on the shelf, having exhausted its short-lived entertainment value, never having actually penetrated that eye…

    And now it’s 3:30 a.m. and time to get ready to travel.


    Comment by john doyle — 7 July 2009 @ 2:24 am

  20. Eloise don’t get depressed your prostate will not be glad. I am not pursuing this De Palma now due to some triteness like the subversiveness of art movies, that age was gone with socialism. It’s too bad it’s gone but that’s the way it is and nothing will be gained via regret. What excites me is the promise of paradise, the promise of deliverance, already on Earth, in THIS life, that love, and a source of absolute positivity, is available NOW, through a change in vision. This profoundly theological dimension of De Palma never escaped me and I’m surprised Erdman is just standing there saying nothing when I’m sure he could also profit from BECOMING VISIONARY.

    When Carrie blows up the town, she doesn’t just blow up the bourgeois-patriarchal order, as a proper witch should, she also blows-up Amy Irving’s vision, turns it inside-out, to reveal the Gateway to Hell. But Hell, here, is not eternal damnation, as Peretz I think successfuly argues, but a plurality of possibilities, a freedom of choice: for even as Amy might have been marked for life by the horror she witnessed, her EYES have also been opened, and she has been given the doorway to the fourth dimension, the Beyond, the Real.


    Comment by the voice of parodic reason — 7 July 2009 @ 4:34 pm

  21. I must return to this outburst of positivity, VOPR, and without ironic cynicism. Now, however, I’m quickly recounting parallel experiences while putting in my short stint at the wireless cafe during my family vacation.

    I had an experience recently of the uncanny haunted eye of sensation outside of perception or whatever the hell Peretz calls it. I was taking a run, one of my usual routes, when I felt a sharp though not painful tap on the top back of my head. Immediately afterward I simultaneously heard a fluttering noise and felt a rapid oscillation of pressurized-depressurized air just behind my ears. Now you probably know what it was already, but at the time the sensation was entirely odd, completely unexpected, unaccountable. Had I not turned to see the redwing blackbird flying away (I must have approached too near its nest) I might be haunted for the rest of my days by this unaccountable multisensory encounter with the Real. It is the case that vision serves as the confirmatory sense in such encounters, linking the signifier of sound, pressure, touch, smell, etc. to a thing of which I have an image in my mind’s eye. This seems to be true despite arguments against knowledge as representation. Without confirming the source of these sensations visually, my confidence that I’d been pecked by a bird would have been much smaller. Here my experience parallels John Travolta in Blow Out, trying to understand odd sounds by seeing the source of their emanation. But I must move on now.


    Comment by john doyle — 8 July 2009 @ 1:52 pm

  22. Eloise first of all I hope you’re having a nice trip. I loved the Melanie Daniels reenvisionig, I think the bird was sent by the Egyptian temptress to distract you from Enlightenment though. And yes it sounds like what De Palma is about, although there was no blinding light of love after the incident.


    Comment by the voice of parodic reason — 10 July 2009 @ 1:21 pm

  23. Carrie explores the rift between knowledge and power. Desire fuels the power to act, both in Carrie and in the mean girls who are out to get her. The two characters with knowledge — the gym teacher and Amy Irving — attempt to control the flows of desire, but fail. At the Prom the POV shot shows Irving’s dawning understanding as her eyes follow the rope up to the bucket of blood and then back down to the kids under the stage. Then we get the gym teacher’s perspective as she sees Irving trying to use her knowledge to avert disaster. It’s almost as if the all-knowing camera itself is lamenting its own impotence to prevent the tragedies it sees and shows.


    Comment by john doyle — 19 July 2009 @ 7:16 am

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