24 October 2011

Last Year at Marienbad by Resnais, 1960

Filed under: Movies — ktismatics @ 11:11 am

What is Alfred Hitchcock doing there, on the right, in the shadows, hovering a few inches above the floor?



  1. Re: Hitchcock – freakydeaky! I’ve never spotted that before. Are you sure its not George Cukor or somebody?


    Comment by W.Kasper — 24 October 2011 @ 12:44 pm

  2. “For the sharp-eyed observer, Resnais throws in another bit of cinema tradition: a ghostly profile of Alfred Hitchcock, incongruously appearing at screen right at about eleven minutes and thirty seconds — a nod to the master of suspense and his famous cameos, as well as a hint that Marienbad is, at bottom, a mystery.”

    – from an essay by Mark Polizzotti included in the DVD’s booklet insert


    Comment by ktismatics — 24 October 2011 @ 12:54 pm

  3. Doyle if you want to get this thread started you might wanna jot down your first thoughts, as usual.

    W that’s as perceptive as [PARENTAL ADVISORY]


    Comment by Center of Parody — 24 October 2011 @ 9:48 pm

  4. Throughout the film the man is trying to get the woman to remember: we met last year at Marienbad, we fell in love, you said that you would leave your husband, you asked for one more year before running away with me, the one year has passed, now is the time. By the end of the movie the man is describing to the woman how she already did leave her husband, already ran away with him, last year at Marienbad. This is strange. If the future is not predetermined, perhaps the past is not either. But I’m not persuaded that Robbe-Grillet is commenting on our world in this way. I think he is creating an alternate world in which time moves differently from its movement in our world. The film is thoroughly aesthetic: even its metaphysics are a work of art.


    Comment by ktismatics — 24 October 2011 @ 10:36 pm

  5. Why don’t you take a (PARENTAL ADVISORY) and shove it up your (PARENTAL ADVISORY) while (PARENTAL ADVISORY) on your mama’s (PARENTAL ADVISORY) while she (PARENTAL ADVISORY). After that, buy yourself a bottle of (PARENTAL ADVISORY) and ingest it through your (PARENTAL ADVISORY) so you can die slow and painfully of (PARENTAL ADVISORY). You never know – you might finally entertain us for a change.


    Comment by W.Kasper — 25 October 2011 @ 12:36 am

  6. Many years since I read A.R-G, but doesn’t that relate to accusations of misogyny he frequently had? A lot of his stuff is about breaking down, rearranging, disintegrating, reconstructing women. It’s a kind of pathology with him. Sometimes literally through violence, sometimes by ‘objectifying’ the space & time around them so the (male) protagonist can keep his (female) object under control. I’ve read interpretations of LYAM where they say its actually about repressed rape trauma.


    Comment by W.Kasper — 25 October 2011 @ 3:36 am

  7. The man is obsessed with the woman, and the story is his seductive persuasion of her. The whole movie is constructed as a frame story, with him telling her mostly in voice-over about what happened last year, or the year before, in their love affair. Try to remember, he keeps telling her; leave me alone, she repeatedly replies. Frequently there are discontinuities between his voice-over and the filmed flashback to which it alludes, as if Resnais is playing the woman’s part to Robbe-Grillet’s male lead. As he talks about how he used to come to her in her room, we see a scene where she is terrified of him, cringing away from him — evidently the beginning of a rape scene. Not violent, the man insists, and the flashback scene changes to her welcoming him with open arms. Are we to interpret this as her repressed memory of a rape that actually happened, or her fantasy of one that didn’t? Then we see the gaunt-faced husband leveling a pistol at her and shooting her: she sprawls onto the floor, her finger to her lips — screenshot 3 in the post. In this instance the man’s narration corresponds to the visual, suggesting that this murder is the man’s version of the past. But then he says no, it can’t end like that, and the scene changes again. Is it possible that she really is dead, that the jealous husband shot her last year, that she is dead and he is trying to bring her back to life through his memory and his words? Assembling the material into a coherent whole reveals as much about the viewer as about the film itself.

    It’s also possible to regard this story as metafictional, a chronicle of an ongoing collaborationg between the writer and the director for how to tell a story. Sometimes the words and vision agree; sometimes they clash. In creating a story past and present are continually bouncing back and forth: unfolding events in the narrative suggest changes in the backstory, which in turn suggest changes in the narrative present. The iterations between past and present are multiplied by having two storytellers trying to assemble a single coherent story.


    Comment by ktismatics — 25 October 2011 @ 7:12 am

  8. Anne and I watched Marienbad together — here are some of her thoughts:

    Throughout the film the man and woman always refer to each other with “vous” rather than “tu”: formal, not informal. This persistent use of the formal fits for her, who claims not to know or remember him. It doesn’t fit for him, who claims prior intimacies. Can we infer from his “vous” that he doesn’t really know her after all?

    Maybe the whole thing is a seduction through storytelling. The two people have never met each other before. He begins telling her a story about their past and timeless love affair, and she alternately resists and accedes to this fantasy. Gradually she collaborates with him in weaving this imaginary tale, and so the seduction succeeds.

    In the metafictional interpretation, maybe he is the writer and the husband is the director. The husband seems to know everything, not just about her but about the whole scenario. He always wins the sticks game: he is controlling the action like a director. But he rarely speaks. The two of them compete for the woman’s affections and fealty. So in effect we have two seducers — screenwriter and director — wooing the audience.

    Regarding the sticks game, in a sense the winner loses. Whoever takes the last stick — whoever in the end grasps control of the object — loses. This suggests a certain ambivalence about actually having the woman, who is the object of desire. And maybe also there is a corresponding ambivalence about winning the audience’s affection.


    Comment by ktismatics — 25 October 2011 @ 7:58 am

  9. One reason the ‘rape’ theory came to mind was that the mystery had the tone of a trial. When I first saw it, I kept thinking of Rashomon for some reason. Or flashbacks in trial movies where traumatised witnesses/victims recount what they remember – except here it feels ‘slow-motion’ – fetishised.

    Although I have to say I really like your film posts. You’ve got a fresh eye for this stuff, not weighed down by the usual theories & critiques.


    Comment by W.Kasper — 25 October 2011 @ 1:32 pm

  10. Now that you mention it, W, the man’s persistent questioning is similar to the cross-examination of an eyewitness. He is almost accusatory in his insistence that she remember a past that he describes for her. I’m sure the defense attorney would object: leading the witness, Your Honor.

    I like the film posts too: they get me thinking about what I’ve watched more than I would otherwise, usually prompted by somebody else’s observations and opinions in the discussion. The process of selecting screengrabs also helps me with the “second reading.” The ones I posted here pick up on the sense of menace; a different set of images would convey romanticism or formal beauty, which are also true.


    Comment by ktismatics — 25 October 2011 @ 2:05 pm

  11. Maybe I should check out this movie again. I’d probably see it very differently to how I did years ago. Maybe an influence on those movies where passage into death – or trauma in the past – is presented as a puzzle, with symbols and statements that don’t completely add up. I’m thinking Jacob’s Ladder, Donnie Darko and Mullholand Drive, along with more subtle examples like Point Blank or House of Games. Not Freudian like Hitchock’s Spellbound – more like irresolvable ‘anti-psychiatry’.


    Comment by W.Kasper — 26 October 2011 @ 8:39 am

  12. [PARENTAL ADVISORY] again with his [PARENTAL ADVISORY] ignorance of psychoanalysis. Hitchcock Freudian was already a superficial American buggery of Freud to begin with, but late post-Freud psychonalysis dispensed long ago with the initital notions of repression. [PARENTAL ADVISORY] however thinks he knows everything.


    Comment by Center of Parody — 26 October 2011 @ 12:24 pm

  13. Missuz on Comrade Novels’s blawg

    Thanks ads. I think we could all be post-scarcity very quickly; it the imperial core populations got rid of their imperial ruling classes it would huge empower all of humanity, and outside the core elites, humanity is much more advanced politically. Outside the core elites there is very little attachment to capitalism or aversion to planning or collective/cooperative control of productive means and resources. With resource and technology sharing there would be I think even with the climate problems very moderate workloads.


    Comment by Center of Parody — 26 October 2011 @ 1:37 pm

  14. Marienbad almost surely had an influence on movies that systematically distort time like Mulholland Drive, Donnie Darko, Memento, The Shining. All of those do place a trauma at the temporal pivot point between past and future, with the return of the repressed being a central plot element. The question is an open one in Marienbad: was there a liaison between the man and the woman and, if so, was it obtained by force or by mutual consent? Cribbing from my own remarks from elsewhere, I see Marienbad as an elaborate mutual seduction, an extended foreplay, a strange game: is he pretending to remember, or is she pretending not to? Her vision of his taking her by force: is it a repressed traumatic memory, or a tease? From time to time something jarring intrudes: she breaks a heel, tips over sideways on the divan, drops a glass on the floor. Is this a return of the repressed, a breakdown in the fantasy game, or an anticipatory orgasmic shudder? There are too many possibilities left open to lock in too tightly on a misogynistic rape memory/fantasy.


    Comment by ktismatics — 26 October 2011 @ 2:06 pm

  15. CofP, what’s your point in linking to Chabert’s remarks at Ads?


    Comment by ktismatics — 26 October 2011 @ 2:11 pm

  16. I don’t recall ever claiming to know “everything”. However, I am fairly astute at identifying very, very stupid people (and repulsive creeps). Like morons who think ‘Freudian’ means ‘Freud’ then use it as the basis of another weak, desperate rant. I’m quite aware that a 90 minute Hollywood potboiler (‘superficial’ – what an insight!) isn’t the most thorough elaboration of Freud’s theories.

    Maybe if you laid off the amyl nitrate for an hour or two, your snark wouldn’t be so pathetically delirious.


    Comment by W.Kasper — 26 October 2011 @ 2:14 pm

  17. But back to civilization: Point taken about LYIM not being easily condensed into one interpretation. But like the examples you and I cited, there’s an awful lot of fetishization in these movies: patterns, ornaments, non sequiturs, misplaced eroticism, menacing flirtations, uncanny images/apparitions – and an awful lot of sexual guilt moving the plots along. I suppose it does relate to Hitchcock (or Fritz Lang) in a way. I’d bring up the ‘death drive’ but I’d rather not encourage (PARENTAL ADVISORY) to continue its babbling.


    Comment by W.Kasper — 26 October 2011 @ 2:29 pm

  18. Certainly fetishistic. The film begins with the camera lingering over the ornate decorations of the hotel, while in voice-over the man repeats, over and over, a litany of the objects comprising the hotel: corridors, salons, galleries, woodwork, molding, columns, doorframes, carpets. All, he says, are from a bygone era, empty and silent and deserted, thick and heavy, cold and dark. I suppose he could be telling us, and her, about his own repressed trauma from his past, his Oedipal trauma and his separation from his mother. An archaic wholeness is fragmented into these discrete objects; time too is fragmented. He obsesses over these objects, the woman most of all, in an attempt to restore his own wholeness, to recapture his loss, to reverse his castration. But the woman, in denying any memory of the man, castrates him again, preventing him from obtaining her, from incorporating the phallus back into himself, from becoming whole again. And so on — an analytic study of obsession via the fetish, the obscure object of desire: this can certainly be done. The filmmakers present his story to us in fragments, and we try to assemble it into a coherent whole only to have it fall to pieces again. We break it into smaller pieces: this scene, this image, multiplying the trauma he’s trying to reverse.

    “the propagation of psychoanalysis . . . has shown us, ever since Freud, that interpretation necessarily represents appropriation, and thus an act of desire and murder.” — Julia Kristeva


    Comment by ktismatics — 26 October 2011 @ 3:24 pm

  19. Maybe Barthes was a fan of the movie? There’s also Chris marker’s La Jetee from around the same time, with its puzzle/fetish desire/death conundrum (also related to Barthes a lot – surprising amount of google results).

    regretté / regretted
    Imagining himself dead, the amorous subject sees the loved being’s life continue as if nothing had happened.

    altération / alteration
    Abrupt production, within the amorous field, of a counter-image of the loved object. According to minor incidents or tenuous features, the subject suddenly sees the good Image alter and capsize.

    fâcheux / irksome
    Sentiment of slight jealousy which overcomes the amorous subject when he sees the loved being’s interest attracted or distracted by persons, objects, or occupations which in his eyes function as so many secondary rivals.

    objets / objects
    Every object touched by the loved being’s body becomes part of that body, and the subject eagerly attaches himself to it.

    signes / signs
    Whether he seeks to prove his love, or to discover if the other loves him, the amorous subject has no system of sure signs at his disposal.


    Comment by W.Kasper — 26 October 2011 @ 4:02 pm

  20. Oh man, W, now you’re bringing in the lit-crit big guns. I don’t know Barthes, but this list of sentences describes well the man’s orientation as “amorous subject.” I don’t know La Jetee either, so I can’t comment.

    Lacan’s first public discourse at a psychoanalytic conference was his famous “Mirror Phase” paper, which he presented at the 1936 Congress of the International Psychoanalytical Association in, yes, Marienbad. Per Lacan, the child’s self-recognition in the reflected image results in his beginning to see his real body as fragmented.


    Comment by ktismatics — 26 October 2011 @ 5:08 pm

  21. La Jetee? Voila!


    Also, just remembered I posted this extract from Alain Robbe-Grillet when OWS kicked off. Though I doubt anyone picked up on the (nouvelle) vague allegory (the extract’s just after he’s brutally murdered a woman BTW):


    The Barthes’ quotes are from ‘A Lover’s Discourse’ which uses Goethe’s Young Mr. Werther as its springboard, but is itself a great book.


    Comment by W.Kasper — 26 October 2011 @ 5:45 pm

  22. La Jetee is very good. It’s a tighter, less ambiguous story, but it definitely runs along the same lines as Marienbad.


    Comment by ktismatics — 26 October 2011 @ 9:50 pm

  23. WW2 hangs over a lot of French 50s/early 60s movies – guilt, reversed histories, repressed memories, double-lives, codes, forbidden liaisons, conspiracies, traumas etc. Cocteau’s Orphee (an obvious influence on LYAM & La Jetee) is filed with allegories about resistance, sacrifice, denial and survival. Maybe LYAM is basically about the question “what did you do in the war?” being answered with wilful amnesia. Resnais’ previous films were explicitly about the worst wartime traumas, after all.


    Comment by W.Kasper — 27 October 2011 @ 4:17 am

  24. Like morons who think ‘Freudian’ means ‘Freud’ then use it as the basis of another weak, desperate rant. I’m quite aware that a 90 minute Hollywood potboiler (‘superficial’ – what an insight!) isn’t the most thorough elaboration of Freud’s theories.

    Oh, [PARENTAL ADVISORY]! You didn’t explain HOW exactly it isn’t the most thorough elaboration, and this is where your lack of insight shines through the crack of your ass. Lit crit students always think they know psychology. Hitchcock’s movies are based on the ancient hydraulic model of personality, which Freud started with but abandoned in his later career. In this model, the Id is under the Ego and analysis is about retrieving repressed memories from the past. But in later Freud and in neo-anaysis, the Unconscious has no conventional time-space dimensions, therefore it is always speaking through the conscious, currently, in this moment. It runs parallel to the conscious, in other words. The task of analysis is not to retrieve the lost, beause nothing is ever really lost and everything remains recorded in the Unconscious. Rather, it’s to properly translate the mistranslated relation between the conscious, and the unconscious language. Whether memories come back or not, is of secondary importance.

    The repercussion this could have on Marienbad is that it’s paradoxical, retro-futuro, absurdist structure might be more related to this 1960s model of the unconscious.


    Comment by parody center — 27 October 2011 @ 6:11 am

  25. 15.CofP, what’s your point in linking to Chabert’s remarks at Ads?

    Her misconception of psychoanaysis is evident in the way she cheerfully proposes that we just ”drop the ruling elites” and ”property relations” as one takes off a ”character armor” in Reichian terminology. Her assumption is that behind the man corrupted by the property relations there is this integrated wholesome humanistic creature whose pure desires naturally come to fruition given a good social environment. Whatever she thinks of herself, she is most aligned with the Illuminati that way.


    Comment by parody center — 27 October 2011 @ 6:15 am

  26. And Doyle, now I’m ready to launch my main thesis – I think the castle space in Marienbad is a PORTAL.

    In a way not identical to, but similar to Lacan’s ideation of the Lack. The Lack is not necessarily a hole, as it is most often thought of , but a portal, having two entry points.


    Comment by parody center — 27 October 2011 @ 6:18 am

  27. Not only are you very stupid, you’re actually incredibly boring too. You should lay off ‘the vapors’ before your brain falls out through your ass. If it hasn’t dropped down the toilet already, that is. Maybe it’s just senility, but your purple head suggests otherwise.

    We await your grand Lacanian theory with a long yawn.


    Comment by W.Kasper — 27 October 2011 @ 6:43 am

  28. Marienbad is sandwiched by two other Resnais films, Hiroshima and Muriel, in which war is a central “character.” I don’t see any direct references or even indirect allusions to war in Marienbad — only vague references to last year, the year before, a bygone era. What about the setting? Marienbad is an old Bohemian spa town for the European elite, part of Austria-Hungary until WWI, then part of Czechoslovakia. After WW2 Marienbad’s German population was cleared out and the town was closed to Westerners. So Marienbad figures as a lost idyll, subjectively for the man’s childhood and politically for Europe’s between-war era of peace.


    Comment by ktismatics — 27 October 2011 @ 7:37 am

  29. There’s also Resnais’ brilliant holocaust documentary Night & Fog. I don’t mean European history per se, more the Janus-faced existence of Vichy France (collaboration, resistance, the blurring of boundaries between both, and the national denial following liberation). Not sure if Europe was all that peaceful between the wars BTW – huge amounts of ‘street level’ conflict. Going by his films Resnais was less overtly enamored by US genre motifs than contemporaries like Godard, Trauffaut or Chabrol (whose films’ are not so much haunted by WW2 as fascinated by the Cold War).

    This thread’s making me wanna throw money at a French New Wave boxed set now. Damn.


    Comment by W.Kasper — 27 October 2011 @ 7:55 am

  30. “Not sure if Europe was all that peaceful between the wars”

    As the man struggles to remember, to conjure up the past from the empty hallways and salons, he finds himself confronted with possible repressed traumas, acts of violence, desertions, conflicts. He wants to deny these unpleasantnesses, to create a vision of the past that is totally romantic, sexy, beautiful.

    Funny you mention the boxed set. Yesterday Anne received an unsolicited email from Amazon pushing The Criterion Collection. It begins: “Are you looking for something in our Foreign Language and International Movies & TV department? If so, you might be interested in these items.” First on the list? Marienbad. Then come Pierrot le Fou, Red Desert, Breathless, The 400 Blows, Seven Samurai, The Leopard. Anne wrote in forwarding this to me: “I would think it was synchrony if I wasn’t so paranoid…”


    Comment by ktismatics — 27 October 2011 @ 8:18 am

  31. I’m not sure what the two entry points are for Lacan’s Lack, but most overtly in Marienbad the entry points are the past and the present. Then there are the unconscious and consciousness, and in the counterpoint between what we hear the narrator say and what we see on the screen there is the dialogue between the Symbolic and the Imaginary. Through all of it he, and she, are trying to get to the Real, but the revelation is always disguised and distorted and cut off by desires, fears, fantasies, denials.


    Comment by ktismatics — 27 October 2011 @ 8:38 am

  32. I think of the hole in geometric terms, 3D-style: it is a sort of a tube with an ”imaginary” and ”symbolic” coating. It is open on both sides, as a tube. In this sense it is not simply lack, but an open space as well.


    Comment by Center of Parody — 27 October 2011 @ 4:41 pm

  33. That’s so fascinating, I fell asleep on my keyboard by the 2nd sentence.

    When I awoke four hours later, my comment read: ‘CDFRTGBNJYGHGHGHGHGHDKDKDKKDUIKLMNBGLF’. Which may be a more interesting statement than the one above.

    In this sense it is not simply gibberish, but an open space as well.


    Comment by W.Kasper — 28 October 2011 @ 3:15 am

  34. I’m particularly compelled by the GHGHGHGHGH string. I sounded it out to myself just now, and it made me feel sort of vicious, you know? Like a wild animal snarling and growling at the same time?

    Marienbad isn’t a documentary illustrating Lacanian ideas, but it certainly lends itself to a Lacanian interpretation. Lacan is all about desire, and so is the movie. Referring to my usual source in these matters, Bruce Fink’s Clinical Introduction to Lacanian Psychoanalysis, I read this:

    Desire springs from lack. If one were given everything one asks for, would one want anything anymore? A spoiled child, who is always given whatever it requests, typically complains of boredom. In the words of the old song Marilyn Monroe used to sing, “After you get what you want, you don’t want it.” Satisfaction buries desire… Human desire, strictly speaking, has no object. It doesn’t quite know what to do with objects. When you get what you want, you cannot want it anymore because you already have it. Desire disappears when it attains its ostensible object… Getting what one wants is not the best strategy for keeping one’s desire alive.

    Indeed, hysteria and obsession can be understood as different strategies for keeping one’s desire alive. The obsessive desires something that is unattainable, the realization of his or her desire thus being structurally impossible. The hysteric, on the other hand, works to keep a certain desire unsatisfied. Freud refers to this as a wish for an unsatisfied wish, and Lacan refers to it as a desire for an unsatisfied desire. In both hysteria and obsession, obstacles are placed in the way of any possible realization of desire (except, of course, in dreams, fantasies, or daydreams — the wish fulfillment they stage does not lead to the fading of desire). Desire thus does not seek satisfaction; rather, it pursues its own continuation and furtherance — it merely seeks to go on desiring.

    Set aside the economic implications for now, along with the question of whether or not Lacan is right. In a Lacanian interpretation of Marienbad, the woman isn’t really the object of the man’s desire, since actually there is no object. Desire is the motive force that keeps him walking down those endless corridors and along those garden paths, again and again. If he ever got her, if she were to go with him, then his desire would inevitably move on to something else. Clearly he doesn’t believe this to be true. Toward the end, just before the woman finally leaves her husband to go with him, the man says this:

    “And once again I walked down these same corridors, walking for days, for months, for years, in search of you. There can be no stopping between these walls, no respite. I’ll leave tonight, taking you with me. It would be a year ago that this story began, with me waiting for you, and you waiting for me too. A year. You couldn’t have gone on living amid this trompe-l’oeil architecture, amid these mirrors and columns, amid these doors always ajar, these oversized staircases, in this always-open bedroom.”

    And he succeeds in his seduction: she has gone with him. But now, at the very end of the movie, he tells us not about himself, but about her. In the last lines of the screenplay the two of them are walking through the gardens together:

    “At first glance, it seemed impossible to lose your way. At first glance. Down straight paths, between statues with frozen gestures and granite slabs, where even now you were losing your way, forever, in the stillness of the night, alone with me.”

    So it’s not happily ever after in a Hollywood sense. Before she was alone with her husband, now she is alone with our narrator — her lack seemingly remains. We don’t know about his. He’s finally succeeded in wooing her, but it seems to have already happened in the past. It’s as though he needs to repeat this lack-desire-fulfillment sequence again and again, that he cannot live in the aftermath of fulfillment. Alternatively, the two of them have finally broken out of this endless cycle of unfulfillment that is Marienbad. They’re now, at last, prepared to fulfill their desires. Even if it seems that the path should be straight now, their way clear, it’s not so. Fulfillment breaks them out of the eternal return of desire, taking them into uncharted mysteries. This conclusion is I think not far from Lacan’s vague descriptions of the aftermath of a successful analysis.


    Comment by ktismatics — 28 October 2011 @ 7:43 am

  35. 33.That’s so fascinating, I fell asleep on my keyboard by the 2nd sentence.

    That’s what [PARENTAL ADVISORY] always told his teachers in college, which is why he ended up a half of an ass instead of a full ass. Which come to think might have been a blessing, because with his psychopathic tendencies plugged into a macabre intelligence, we would now have had another – as Lars von Trier would say – Hitler.


    Comment by parody center — 28 October 2011 @ 9:03 am

  36. From an interview with Resnais: “I was making this film at a time when I think that, rightly, one could not make a film, in France, without speaking about the Algerian war. Indeed, I wonder whether the closed and stifling atmosphere of L’Annee does not result from those contradictions.”


    Comment by ktismatics — 28 October 2011 @ 10:01 am

  37. What is it with Yugoslavians and Hitler*? Between you, Arkan and Zizek, I wonder kind of sex education they have over there.

    (*Yeah YUGOSLAVIANS, Mr. Chetnik).


    Comment by W.Kasper — 28 October 2011 @ 10:59 am

  38. I read in the reviews of the new Cronenberg film, which is about the famous conversation between Jung and Freud, that he is concerning himself with what happens after analysis. Can’t wait to see the movie,

    [PARENTAL ADVISORY], Missuz is very pro-Serbian, she doesn’t even mind Chetniks, so watch your FILTHY MOUTH there.


    Comment by Center of Parody — 28 October 2011 @ 10:34 pm

  39. Interesting. I see that Cronenberg’s movie is based on a play by Christopher Hampton:

    Hampton focuses on the young Jung’s involvement with Sabina, a Russian-Jewish patient, that starts at Zurich’s Burgholzi clinic in 1904. Deploying Freud’s psychoanalytic techniques, Jung gets to the root of Sabina’s problem: her childhood association of paternal punishment with physical arousal. Their relationship, however, transcends that of doctor and patient; and their sexual and emotional closeness – and Jung’s refusal to tell the truth about it – has huge consequences. It leads to a breach between Jung and his mentor.

    In part, the play is intended as a tribute to a neglected pioneer. Freud and Jung have entered the history books. But part of Hampton’s point is that Spielrein, a patient turned healer, was a highly formative influence. It is she who provokes the rupture between Freud and Jung which enabled the latter to venture deeper into the unconscious. She is also the originator of the link between Eros and Thanatos. And it is Spielrein who, in a telling phrase, argues that “only the clash of destructive forces can create something new”.

    Jung gets far more shelf space at the local bookstores than Freud and Lacan combined. I think he’s perceived as a kinder gentler version of Freud, plus people like to fit themselves into his personality types. But the last two sentences of this description of Hampton’s play point to darker forces at work. Jung was also an avowed gnostic who spent many years studying alchemy.


    Comment by ktismatics — 29 October 2011 @ 7:16 am

  40. I think it might be Jung’s mystic bent – it’s ‘feel good’ compared to Freud or Lacan. More solipsistic too. The ‘Mind, Body & Spirit’ section of any bookshop I’ve seen is always bigger than Psychology, Philosophy and Sociology combined, and Jung is as likely to be on that shelf as psychology. His personality types are as reassuring and tidy as horoscopes.

    As for ‘filthy mouth’ – isn’t it time for your weekly scat-session? I don’t mean Louis Armstrong impersonations either…


    Comment by W.Kasper — 29 October 2011 @ 10:15 am

  41. I think it might be Jung’s mystic bent – it’s ‘feel good’ compared to Freud or Lacan.

    At long last something resembling a decent thought comes out of [PARENTAL ADVISORY]’s toilet drain. Jung’s symbology is like a dictionary – you look for ”moon” and it says ”planet associated with sorrow” – the assumption being that these symbols are universal. Freud said quite the opposite, that the symbols are individual productions. This is why in analysis you don’t analyze the actual content of the dream, but the current speech of the analysand about that dream.

    I would not however dismiss the existence and importance of universal symbols, because they do apparently exist in cultural discourse. It’s just that I don’t believe they are universal psychologically.


    Comment by Center of Parody — 30 October 2011 @ 12:09 am

  42. It is she who provokes the rupture

    The interesting about that situation, as I’m sure you’re already sensing, is that it is a WOMAN who ruptures (which instantly reminded me of DEAD RINGERS) – which could be referring to the female jouissance of second-stage Lacan.


    Comment by Center of Parody — 30 October 2011 @ 12:22 am

  43. I’m not sure how literally to take what Jung wrote, which is very gnostic. The universal symbols are the reality behind the individual productions, much like the Platonic relationship between ideal and material realms. The personality types are interactions among archetypes — demiurges or spirit beings that possess individual people to a greater or lesser degree. What I think Jung intended with his personality types was for people to recognize the archetypes that had greatest control over them, so that they could attempt to counteract this control by cultivating their own possession by opposing spirit beings. Through the balance of spirit forces the person could lead a balanced life. Men are typically controlled by Animus — the spirit of masculinity — so they need to cultivate within themselves the Anima to counteract it. Animus is rational and powerful and independent, Anima is emotional and intuitive and passive — the usual Greek schema. Jung claimed that Anima came to him in spirit form, and that he had conversations with this demiurgic feminine being in his head and in his dreams. The real woman who ruptured would have been merely an instrument channeling the Anima, helping him become more well-rounded.


    Comment by ktismatics — 30 October 2011 @ 7:38 am

  44. According to Freud, Jung was an anti-semitic charlatan who mooched off his rich wife while having lots of extra-marital affairs. Reading some of it now, it reminds me of Spengler in parts, or family-friendly Crowley.

    But the Cronenberg movie does look worth a watch, like they usually are.


    Comment by W.Kasper — 30 October 2011 @ 4:06 pm

  45. IDNYC pitches in:


    … but leaves the final wisdom with his own gurus/fetish objects: Fox & Land. He really needs to get to grips with blogging basics. Repeating comments boxes & tweets verbatim is rather tragic really.


    Comment by W.Kasper — 30 October 2011 @ 4:18 pm

  46. Doyle knows what I implied: in his second phase, Lacan abandoned the whole Oedipal context (ie analysis as a debunking of father figures) and started exploring female desire, unrelated to the male demand, without lack and castration. It sounds like the movie is picking on exactly that very exciting thread.

    For now I only see an Italian cam copy, but a DVD screener is bound to float up in the next couple of weeks.


    Comment by Center of Parody — 30 October 2011 @ 5:53 pm

  47. I’m not sure how literally to take what Jung wrote,

    for me ”synchronicity” sticks to mind because I experienced it often, and also on the internets. There’s definitely something to it.

    I am also privy to the idea of something animalistic-primordial in the unconscious that is shared by humanity genetically. So ”collective unconscious” is also an interesting term.


    Comment by Center of Parody — 30 October 2011 @ 5:57 pm

  48. “I am also privy to the idea of something animalistic-primordial in the unconscious that is shared by humanity genetically”



    Comment by illegal dances of new york city — 30 October 2011 @ 6:42 pm

  49. Repeating comments boxes & tweets verbatim is rather tragic really.

    Now that he’s found a virtual piano on the internets, he’s honing that skill to perfection. He’s really […], but somehow I am compelled to agree with Comrade Dominique Fox – uniquely […].


    Comment by parody center — 31 October 2011 @ 6:34 am

  50. I agree with CofP that Melancholia invokes a universal archetype a la Jung. So too does Black Swan, where the dancer is trying to let the archetype possess her. In a Jungian version, though, allowing these archetypes to take you over is a big mistake, because you become a sock puppet of the larger forces moving you. Jung would no doubt have encouraged the dancer, who already was a good conduit for the archetypal White Swan, to keep that spirit alive while tempering its influence by cultivating a relationship with the Black Swan archetype. So too with Melancholia: try to draw planet Sanguina into orbit around Melancholia, preventing the apocalypse or at least delaying it. In a way this is a more Greek sort of mysticism, since the Greeks were always trying to play the gods against each other in order to maintain a little ambit of freedom from their influence. Going along with the possessing spirit is maybe more Christian; e.g., Paul counsels his followers to allow themselves to be possessed fully by the spirit of one particular god.


    Comment by ktismatics — 31 October 2011 @ 9:27 am

  51. Jung’s idea of the collective national unconscious no doubt played well among Aryans. Even if he proposed balancing out the Aryan archetype with, say, the Jewish one, I suspect he would have contended that the Aryan spirit should dominate, at least in Germanic lands. In a similar way the Greeks welcomed the barbarians as good workers whose national collective unconscious entailed their subjection to Greek dominion. Jung denied sympathy with the Nazis, though again it’s always hard to pin down quite what he thought.


    Comment by ktismatics — 31 October 2011 @ 9:56 am

  52. Similarly with Animus and Anima: I suspect that, like the Greeks, Jung would contend that, although men should be tempered by Anima, they should remain the dominant sex.


    Comment by ktismatics — 31 October 2011 @ 10:05 am

  53. I fully agree with Jung that males should remain the dominant sex.

    I agree with CofP that Melancholia invokes a universal archetype a la Jung.

    When did I say that? I wasn’t referring to Melancholia. But now that you’re referring to it, Melancholia hits unexpectedly, randomly, from the back. This would speak in favor of it a symbol of nihilism. However, on the other hand, everything on earth, in the film before the end of the world, is somehow connected and related to Melancholia – including Justine’s desire – so that it slow, gradual arrival seems inevitable, predestined, almost normal. This is a new kind of connection: Kim called it a parallel connection. It’s well known that in the Unconscious, things can exist parallel to each other like that, completely apart while being interlinked.


    Comment by Center of Parody — 31 October 2011 @ 10:35 pm

  54. Enantiodromia
    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    Enantiodromia (Greek: ἐνάντιος, enantios, opposite + δρόμος, dromos, running course) is a principle introduced by psychiatrist Carl Jung that the superabundance of any force inevitably produces its opposite. It is equivalent to the principle of equilibrium in the natural world, in that any extreme is opposed by the system in order to restore balance.
    Though “enantiodromia” was coined by Jung, it is implied in the writings of Heraclitus. In fr. 126, for example, Heraclitus says “cold things warm, warm things cool, wet things dry and parched things get wet.”[1] It also seems implicit in other of his sayings, like “war is father of all, king of all” (fr. 53), “they do not know that the differing/opposed thing agrees with itself; harmony is reflexive (παλίντροπος palintropos, used of a compound bow, or “in reflexive tension”), like the bow and the lyre” (fr. 51). In these passages and others the idea of the coincidence of opposites is clearly articulated in Heraclitus’ characteristic riddling style, as well as the dynamic motion back and forth between the two, generated especially by opposition and conflict.
    Later Plato in the Phaedo will articulate the principle clearly: “Everything arises in this way, opposites from their opposites.” (sect. 71a).[2]
    Since Jung’s recognition of it many centuries later it has been observed in modern culture. For example, it has been applied to subject of the film The Lives of Others, to show how one devoted to a communist regime breaks through his loyalty and emerges a humanist.
    Jung used the term particularly to refer to the unconscious acting against the wishes of the conscious mind. (Aspects of the Masculine, chapter 7, paragraph 294).
    Enantiodromia. Literally, “running counter to,” referring to the emergence of the unconscious opposite in the course of time. This characteristic phenomenon practically always occurs when an extreme, one-sided tendency dominates conscious life; in time an equally powerful counterposition is built up, which first inhibits the conscious performance and subsequently breaks through the conscious control. (“Definitions,” ibid., par. 709)
    Enantiodromia is typically experienced in conjunction with symptoms associated with acute neurosis, and often foreshadows a rebirth of the personality.
    The grand plan on which the unconscious life of the psyche is constructed is so inaccessible to our understanding that we can never know what evil may not be necessary in order to produce good by enantiodromia, and what good may very possibly lead to evil. (“The Phenomenology of the Spirit in Fairytales”, Collected Works 9i, par. 397)
    The term has also been applied as a neologism to describe the tendency of a younger generation to manifest the undesirable traits of a previous generation, despite the repudiation of these traits when they were young.[citation needed]
    Two scientific ideas which appear similar to enantiodromia are Newton’s third law of motion and the Gibbs entropy formula.
    [edit]See also


    Comment by Center of Parody — 31 October 2011 @ 10:51 pm

  55. CofP: “Jung’s symbology is like a dictionary – you look for ”moon” and it says ”planet associated with sorrow” – the assumption being that these symbols are universal.”

    Melancholia is universal: it’s out there in the universe; it swallows the earth into itself, destroying all life in the universe. Melancholia is more than a symbol, just as any gnostic archetype is more than symbolic. It is the reality, the pure form of melancholy, the Death Star.


    Comment by ktismatics — 1 November 2011 @ 5:42 am

  56. ““cold things warm, warm things cool, wet things dry and parched things get wet.”

    War is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength. Accelerationism is negation of the negation.


    Comment by ktismatics — 1 November 2011 @ 5:50 am

  57. Here are some remarks from Robbe-Grillet’s 1963 essay “Time and Description in Fiction Today”:

    Last Year in Marienbad, because of its title and because, too, of the works previously directed by Alain Resnais, has from the start been interpreted as one of those psychological variations on lost love, on forgetting, on memory. The questions most often asked were: Have this man and this woman really met before? Did they love each other last year at Marienbad? Does the young woman remember and is she only pretending not to recognize the handsome stranger? Or has she really forgotten everything that has happened between them? etc. Matters must be put clearly: such questions have no meaning. The universe in which the entire film occurs is, characteristically, that of a perpetual present which makes all recourse to memory impossible. This is a world without a past, a world which is self-sufficient at every moment and which obliterates itself as it proceeds. This man, this woman begin existing only when they appear on the screen the first time; before that they are nothing; and, once the projection is over, they are again nothing. Their existence lasts only as long as the film lasts. There can be no reality outside the images we see, the words we hear.

    Thus the duration of the modern work is in no way a summary, a condensed version, of a more extended and more “real” duration which would be that of the anecdote, of the narrated story. There is, on the contrary, an absolute identity between the two durations. The entire story of Marienbad happens neither in two years nor in three years, but exactly in one hour and a half. And when at the end of the film the hero and heroine meet in order to leave together, it is as if the young woman were admitting that there had indeed been something between them last year at Marienbad, but we understand that it was precisely last year during the entire projection, and that we were at Marienbad. This love story we were being told as a thing of the past was in fact actually happening before our eyes, here and now.

    This notion of the man and the woman existing only during the projection of the film is the premise of Bioy’s 1940 short novel The Invention of Morel. I just watched Marienbad again the other night and again found it riveting.


    Comment by ktismatics — 30 March 2013 @ 3:46 pm

    • Yes, it is totally riveting, but Robbe-Grillet, with his strong streak of sadism, wants to tell you how to see it, as if he definitely even knows. He can’t know either. If there’s talk of ‘last year’, then it’s not just a matter of the ‘here and now’, that’s just his ‘special subjectivity’ that you’re supposed to favour over you own that claims that. If it were literally true, and the claims are quite bumptious even if worthwhile, the film lives all the time, somehow ‘anew’ when someone else watches it, maybe not when nobody in the world is watching it.

      As, for example, this: “but we understand that it was precisely last year during the entire projection, and that we were at Marienbad. ”

      We most certainly understand nothing of the kind, or certainly not only that. Since you’ve revived discussion of him this time, I see how it’s almost a form of ‘growing up’, to use the hideous time-worn phrase, to finally break the Robbe-Grillet addiction, even if you find his jewels exquisite (and they are.) It’s just that it gets annoying when he says ‘we understand…’ when he is just trying to get his film and its images total attention, i.e., fuck whatever non-Robbe-Grillet thing you were up to, it can’t matter, and if you didn’t see it the way I told you to, then you couldn’t know, you were ‘we’ but you weren’t ‘me’. Endless variations on why R-G is great, but also a pain in the ass, because he also wants his constructions to allow the viewer/reader a ‘form of play’. But then he gives such strict directions that you can’t play, even if some of his directions are charming.

      The following sentence is better: “This love story we were being told as a thing of the past was in fact actually happening before our eyes, here and now”, because actually ‘we’ can accept that without demanding that there not still be ‘such a thing as a last year and this year at Marienbad’. I imagine the fine cabinet-working (I think some of that had started or also been done in French military, it’s been so long I read any of his bio) provided a nice contrast to writing and film in which you are always leaving gaps, because we know what a fine cabinetmaker we’d find if there were ‘gaps’ in it. Well, yes, they put that sort of thing on display in art galleries, but you don’t actually use such shit. I am pretty sure his was functional, and probably perfect. Also, he could himself determine what those ‘gaps’ in the novels and films were, but he’s too French too give it up and say ‘I said so, and they’re mine, not yours’, but he definitely means that. There are all sorts of under-control neurotics, and he also had this thing for young women (I don’t know how far it went) and there’s often talk of his ‘child-wife’, but I’ve forgotten details of that too.


      Comment by Patrick Mullins — 30 March 2013 @ 4:43 pm

  58. The next paragraph in the R-G essay:

    But, it will be asked, what do the scenes we have watched represent, under those conditions? What, in particular, is signified by these successions of daylight and nighttime shots or these excessive costume changes, incompatible with such a brief duration? It is at this point, of course, that matters become complicated. It can here be a question only of a subjective, mental, personal occurrence. These things must be happening in someone’s mind. But whose? The narrator-hero’s? Or the hypnotized heroine’s? Or else, by a constant exchange of images between them, in the minds of both, together? It would be better to admit a solution of another order: just as the only time which matters is that of the film itself, the only important “character” is the spectator; in his mind unfolds the whole story, which is precisely imagined by him.

    So R-G wants to have it both ways: as auteur I am telling you what the film is, whereas it is up to you, the spectator, to decide what the film means. I don’t have a real problem with that perspective. I’m also inclined to believe him when he claims that he intended for the characters to come into existence at the beginning of the film, as in Bioy’s book which R-G acknowledges as a crucial influence on the film. But the night and day scenes and the “excessive” costume changes aren’t only in my head; they’re on the screen. If these transitions do not betoken the passage of time in the film as they ordinarily do in the real world, then why put them in the film? Why trick the viewer into imagining that time is passing, especially when there is no definitive stance made in the film itself that no time has elapsed? This is where his explanations of his own work begin to do more harm than good: if he wants to assert unequivocally what everything is intended to show, as if these intentions defined the work of art, then he’s painting the work itself into a corner, forcing it to submit to a detailed rational scrutiny which doesn’t successfully map onto his argument. Then it begins to seem as though he has failed to accomplish his intentions. Instead, as you rightly observe, he needs to let go of some of this obsessive control over his work and over his audience so that the film can have a life of its own.


    Comment by ktismatics — 30 March 2013 @ 5:35 pm

    • “and because, too, of the works previously directed by Alain Resnais,”

      Yes, probably, but always just beneath the surface of all my musings on ‘Marienbad’ is that I never think about Resnais to any degree; it seems to more ‘about’ Robbe-Grillet. I actually don’t know Resnais, have seem ‘Hiroshima…’ years ago, ‘Muriel’, and I think other than those, only two of his senior-citizen’s films from the 00s, ‘Pas Sur le Bouche’ which I thought pleasantly lavish a film of an old operetta and should have been given a big release here (I saw it at a film festival), ‘Coeurs’, which I could see as having little merit, but people said I shouldn’t take it so seriously. I thought it was truly bad..

      Maybe in ‘Muriel’, which I watched again in the last 3 years, there’s some kinship with R-G with the time-warping, but it’s not nearly the dead-serious rigour in the serialism of images, verbal and visual. I don’t know enough about Resnais to know how much of ‘Marienbad’ was his film, I am more likely to notice that ‘Muriel’ did not have R-G. but ‘Marienbad’ seems lavish because of Resnais, but resembles R-G’s films and novels in the imagery and words. Have you thought about this? How ‘Marienbad’ seems almost totally R-G’s film? Or maybe I’m wrong about that. Resnais was the already hugely famous filmmaker with the clout, but I wonder where, in the film, Resnais is the obvious master of it and where R-G is.


      Comment by Patrick Mullins — 2 April 2013 @ 5:47 pm

  59. I’ve never seen a film by R-G so I have nothing but the novels for comparison. The obsession with detailed description, both verbal and visual; the obsessiveness of the man toward the woman; the inability to construct an entire pre-existing world from the pieces shown; the ambiguity of the story — these are certainly R-G hallmarks. But I was just refreshing my memory of Hiroshima Mon Amour, which was the Resnais film immediately preceding Marienbad — her is the Wiki plot summary:

    Hiroshima mon amour concerns a series of conversations (or one enormous conversation) over a 36-hour long period between a French actress (Emmanuelle Riva), referred to as She, and a Japanese architect (Eiji Okada), referred to as He. They have had a brief relationship, and are now separating. The two debate memory and forgetfulness as She prepares to depart, comparing failed relationships with the bombing of Hiroshima and the perspectives of people inside and outside the incidents. The early part of the film recounts, in the style of a documentary but narrated by the so far unidentified characters, the effects of the Hiroshima bomb on August 6, 1945, in particular the loss of hair and the complete anonymity of the remains of some victims. He had been conscripted into the Japanese army and his family was in Hiroshima on that day.

    The film uses highly structured repetitive dialogue, mostly consisting of Her narration, with Him interjecting to say she is wrong, lying, confused, or to deny and contradict her statements with the film’s famous line “You are not endowed with memory”. Although He disagrees and rejects many of the things She says, he pursues her constantly. The film is peppered with dozens of brief flashbacks to Her life; in her youth in the French town Nevers, she was shamed and had her head shaved as punishment for having a love affair with a German soldier, which she juxtaposes with the loss of the hair “which the women of Hiroshima will find has fallen out in the morning.”

    Strong parallels with Marienbad can readily be discerned. So this must have been a true collaboration between R-G and Resnais.


    Comment by ktismatics — 3 April 2013 @ 7:10 am

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