22 September 2012

Ostrov (The Island) by Lungin, 2006

Filed under: Movies — ktismatics @ 11:37 am


  1. What’s to be said about this movie? The cinematography and pacing are hypnotic; the story, simple, like a series of incidents extracted from a gnostic gospel. This is post-WW2 USSR, and in the first incident we’re immediately cued to a link between religion and politics. Most of the story takes place in the 70s, but the message is intended for a contemporary culture. The hero, an Orthodox monk, is a man of the people. A self-effacing prankster, he renounces material goods, abortion, and unquestioned obedience to authority. He holds no grudges and freely forgives, but he brooks no half-measures when it comes to fanning the consuming fire of the Spirit. This is the path to theosis, not just for the individual but also for the people — a path of resistance against materialism and the oligarchs and dehumanization. Is this a reactionary position or a revolutionary one, looking to the traditional Orthodox religion as a rallying point for moral and maybe also political resistance?


    Comment by ktismatics — 22 September 2012 @ 4:22 pm

  2. There’s a scene that is enormously powerful – the exorcism of the oligarch’s daughter. You’re struck by how SIMPLE it all is. The ‘hypnotic’ you speak of, struck me as well. Everything is so simple and straightforward, and yet carries immense weight,


    Comment by cpc — 22 September 2012 @ 7:02 pm

  3. The monk’s exorcism method: (1) isolate the possessed girl, (2) pray for her, quietly to himself. There was no talking cure, no real establishment of relationship, no attempt at controlling the girl through laying on of hands or other ritualistic gestures aimed at her. The girl didn’t even have to involve herself in the process. Suddenly, quietly, she was delivered. The idea is that some Force outside both of them is at work, a Force that is irresistible if they give it a chance to work, if they can get away from the distractions. In the girl’s case the distraction from Spirit seems to be her father the admiral — the representative of multiple paternalistic authoritarian regimes.

    The monk too is delivered during this exorcism. He has long been plagued by his guilt for being a coward and a traitor in combat, even though he was forced into it by the opposing army’s inescapable position of authority over him. The monk and the admiral can now meet on equal footing, with no paternalism of rank or nationalism getting in the way of either the superior or the subordinate in the hierarchy.


    Comment by ktismatics — 22 September 2012 @ 11:35 pm

  4. That´s a good observation, it seems that both parties undergo ´subjective destitution´ as it were ie the realization that there is no authority to speak of, that nobody is in charge of the event, and yet the event (magically) takes place. It would be psychoanalysis pur sang then, the realization of its ultimate goal to discard the Phallus? The monk does play the role of the therapist, especially in the way he pretends that the Spirit is speaking through him. He seems to evolve towards the role of the analyst. What did you think of the ending? It reminded me endlessly of the end of Edgar Allan Poe´s novella THE ADVENTURES OF ARTHUR GORDON PYM.


    Comment by cpc — 23 September 2012 @ 2:05 am

  5. As I was watching the monks rowing away I said aloud, “And fade to white.” He climbs into the coffin and together the brothers enter into the mystic, into the Spirit. It was an appropriate and captivating ending, interrupted unfortunately for me partway through by the ringing of the telephone — the intrusion of worldly distraction. He always disavowed his own authority as holy man, pretending to visitors that he was merely an acolyte. But I agree: he stops being the mouthpiece or amanuensis of the Word and becomes a Charon figure, the one who ushers the girl, then the brothers, into the presence of the Absence, into the white silence of the Beyond.

    Regarding the ultimate goal of discarding the Phallus, next up in my movie queue is They Live by John Carpenter, cited by the graffiti artist in Exit Through the Gift Shop (subject of a recent post) as the inspiration for his OBEY posters.

    Yesterday as I was passing by the house with the Bear Tree, the owner was just finishing the mowing of his lawn. When he turned off the mower I asked if he’d had any more visitations from the bear. No he hadn’t, but he and I had a nice chat in his driveway. He had an accent that I couldn’t quite place — German maybe, or Danish? Soon his wife came out: we don’t visit with the neighbors often, she said, and she joined in the conversation. She wanted copies of Anne’s photos of the bear, plus she had some of her own with squirrels in the tree watching the bear, so she gave me her card with her email address. On her card she says she does Dutch-English translations. Dutch people! They say they’ve lived in that house for 21 years.


    Comment by ktismatics — 23 September 2012 @ 8:54 am

  6. WHat a great song that Cat Stevens. I was going to tell you I loved the bear episode, especially the way he sat there carelessly oblivious to the commotion around his presence. Had he farted it wouldve been even funnier.

    THEY LIVE is a prophetic masterpiece and possibly Carp´s most brilliant film. You´ll like it even more than the CIGARETTE BURNS.


    Comment by cpc — 23 September 2012 @ 9:45 am

  7. John:
    I watched Ostrov this morning in segments on you tube. Thanks for blogging about it because I’d never heard of it. It was profound, simple, direct. When he doubled himself to tell the lady that her husband who was appearing to her in dreams was alive in France it was not his ego that was revealing his whereabouts but the power of the icon that he stood in front of. His burning of the abbot’s boots in the fire, books in which the sins of the world are written, his fumigation of the devils and the evoking of the live knowledge of his fear of death in that good man was a prodigy of holy farce.


    Comment by ombhurbhuva — 24 September 2012 @ 10:37 am

  8. Yes it was good to see the icons being portrayed as active channels and participants in the story, exceeding their power as beautiful works of art. CPC recommended Ostrov to me, so he gets the commendation. I’m not sure if he’s a prodigy of holy farce or of holy farts.


    Comment by ktismatics — 24 September 2012 @ 11:22 am

  9. “It would be psychoanalysis pur sang then”
    “The monk does play the role of the therapist, especially in the way he pretends that the Spirit is speaking through him. He seems to evolve towards the role of the analyst.”
    “it was not his ego that was revealing his whereabouts but the power of the icon that he stood in front of.”

    I’m reminded again by this movie how the Biblical concepts of the Word and the “image and likeness” shape Lacan’s trinitarian psychology of the Symbolic, the Imaginary, and the Real. The monk goes through/beyond language and icon into the direct presence of the Real.


    Comment by ktismatics — 25 September 2012 @ 9:03 am

  10. I don’t really understand Ombhurbhuva (what kind of a name is that?) remark about the icon.


    Comment by cpc — 25 September 2012 @ 9:50 am

  11. Omburbhuba aka Michael can offer his own elaboration, but for me the timing is ideal. I’m editing a piece of fiction I wrote nearly ten years ago, and just ten minutes ago I got to this bit:

    The more transcendentally minded Pilgrims contend that every Pilgrimage is a two-way portal. Backward, of course, from the seeker to the one sought, but also forward. Possessed of overflowing fullness of being, the Venerated One reaches outward, projecting himself down through the channel of time into the future. A shrine or a relic doesn’t just concentrate your attention on the source: it actually partakes of the essence. It’s portalic, as they say in Pilgrimage circles. The Holy One reaches through the icon into the body and soul of the acolyte who, maybe centuries later, will want to follow. Why? In order to touch, of course, and to heal and to show visions. But also to see, to feel, to be touched, to live on. Surging through the iconic portal, forward from past to future, the Holy One imbues the Pilgrim with presence and force. It is the Holy One who steps through, emerging on the other side.

    The adepts tell us that an exchange takes place at the fulfillment of every Pilgrimage. Exercising the disciplines of self-abasement and receptivity, the Pilgrim becomes transformed into a living icon. The Venerated One – hero, saint, god – steps into this prepared human vessel, born again to another time and place. If this is so, then it is the object of the Pilgrimage who lives vicariously through the Pilgrim, who achieves mystical union with the Pilgrim, not the other way around. In attaining the object of his quest the Pilgrim himself becomes an object, a replica whose individuality merges into the undifferentiated multitude of followers.

    Thereby does the object of a Pilgrimage, the Holy One, stretch himself across the generations, across the many who seek him. He attains a transcendence that approaches the eternal and the omnipresent. Collectively the Pilgrims become channels for a more powerful self, one who simultaneously occupies many times and places, many minds and bodies, a life that extends across a multitude of other lives. And so it is that the Pilgrims become partakers of the holy essence, transubstantiated thereby into sons and daughters of the gods.


    Comment by ktismatics — 25 September 2012 @ 10:20 am

  12. cpc:
    ombhurbhuva is the first 3 words of the Gayatri mantra. The icon is a power object which channels divine energy. The monk stands in front of it facing it to receive this power and he stands with his back to it to have the power pass through him to the unworthy egoic manifestation of himself as the sinner Anatoly. In that way he doubles himself. In the system of Orthodox theology, panentheism and theosis are significant, the divine energy permeates and expresses everything. To a degree consciousness is artificially limited by persons and under extreme stress a consciousness can ‘herniate’ and drift away but through its connection with its origin either oppress or possess. Anatoly knows this demon of mischief because he is oppressed by it too. It manifests as freaks and pranks but in Anatoly they have a crazy wisdom in them. In the woman it is a harrying oppression. Such is my reading which does not discount discarnate spirits taking over the split off piece of ‘mind’.


    Comment by ombhurbhuva — 25 September 2012 @ 11:39 am

  13. John:
    Nice blast from the past. That would make a beautiful patch in a ‘quilt’. Bodhgaya was a place like that for me although I did not go there as a pilgrim.


    Comment by ombhurbhuva — 25 September 2012 @ 11:50 am

  14. Here’s a link to your story, which is fine and moving. Mine is about Monte Sant’Angelo, a medieval pilgrimage site in southern Italy.


    Comment by ktismatics — 25 September 2012 @ 11:57 am

  15. Can I call you OMBHUR then? The spelling is easier on me. My impression was that the icon, to the contrary, was the false image, upon which Anatoly’s ”patients” projected their true desires, like a Rorschach test. and he served more or less as a psychoanalyst to them – showing them what their true desire is. This is especially obvious in the episode with the older woman who has to sell everything and go to France. Later, Anatoly progresses to a higher level, dropping all pretense of analytic technique and just letting himself be a vessel to the divine energies – as in the exorcism – or perhaps as a two-way portal, as per John’s description. No icons are needed because God intervenes directly.

    I still don’t quite grasp the ending. Did he actually become the body of Christ?


    Comment by cpc — 25 September 2012 @ 1:56 pm

  16. cpc:
    Call me Michael,
    He listens to the woman’s dream, one dream, and he doesn’t need a series of sessions to discern what the meaning is. It isn’t symbolic, this is the spirit of her living husband getting into contact with her on the subtle plane. None of the usual trappings of psychoanalysis are there or Rorschach tests. Have you ever read The Way of a Pilgrim? This will give you an insight into the world view out of which Anatoly operated.

    The ending I take to be his physical death which is possible because the great burden that he carried could be laid down. Then according to the Gospel of John 3:2, we shall be like him for we shall see him as he is.


    Comment by ombhurbhuva — 25 September 2012 @ 4:09 pm

  17. Michael, psychoanalysis isn’t about discerning or interpreting meaning. It is about the traansferrential relationship between the analysed and the analyst, whereby the Unconscious lanuage speaks in the now and the analysed projects his Unconscious content on the analyst. It is far more important how the analysed speaks to the analyst in the now, than what his recollections ”mean”, If you don’t know that, then you don’t really understand psychoanalysis. There is no evidence in the film that her husband is actually speaking to her. It looks much more that Anatoli, like a psychoanalyst, helps her to articulate her desire, and to follow it without making compromises. ALso, I don’t know what a ”subtle plane” is.

    He doesn’t actually die (it is never shown explicitly) but never mind, I was more interested in his profession that we’re all sinners and that we must try and live with as little sin as possible. It sounded as though his worst sin was the guilt he
    felt (as it turns out, unjustly) for betraying his friend in the Nazi episode. And that his relief came from the acceptance of the fact that he is sinful – other words, from his acceptance of forgiveness.


    Comment by cpc — 26 September 2012 @ 5:58 am

  18. My feeling is that it is important to try to understand an alien view point from within its own interpretive schema. It is a form of pilgrimage that can be fruitful. We are all hampered by our own mental equipment and tend as Levi-Strauss points out in The Savage Mindto indulge in ‘bricolage’, a form of diy in which whatever is to hand is used, a pair of tights for a snapped fan belt etc. That word ‘handy’ meaning at hand captures the concept. Freud is handy but if you can get it the proprietary is better. The Way of a Pilgrim is 125 pages long. View it as a case history if you like.


    Comment by ombhurbhuva — 26 September 2012 @ 9:42 am

  19. Thanks for that tip, Michael, I will read it. I was not really talking about Freud in the comments above, more about the neo-psychoanalysis (Lacan etc) which as I recently found out at the Serbian Orthodox library has many connecting points with Orthodoxy, especially in the analytic technique.


    Comment by cpc — 26 September 2012 @ 11:20 am

  20. Tomorrow I’ll be picking up The Way of a Pilgrim from the library.

    Maybe there’s a half-empty/half-full distinction between Lacanian and Orthodox psychology. For Lacan the image is a deceivingly integrated representation of a self, while language breaks the self into fragments. Both distortions get in the way of the Real. In Christianity the image is distorted but not grotesquely so — “through a mirror dimly” is Paul’s metaphor. Paul also says that Jesus is the image of God, while Genesis says that man is the image and likeness of God. And for John Jesus IS the Word IS God. Theosis is predicated on a continuity between the human and the divine, through both the Word and the Image. As in that third screengrab, one tries to wipe the dirt off the image so that it can shine forth more clearly.


    Comment by ktismatics — 26 September 2012 @ 4:23 pm

  21. John:

    I know nothing about Lacan. ‘per speculum et in aenigmate’ Borges has an essay about a heresy that developed from that. They came to ban mirrors and all representations as the work of the devil. In Labyrinths.

    The Philokalia is on Internet Archive in full. The writings of Symeon the New Theologian are in it. With reference to Ostrov, Symeon accepted lay confession or confession heard by lay people.


    Comment by ombhurbhuva — 26 September 2012 @ 5:13 pm

  22. sorry about the confusion in pasting


    Comment by ombhurbhuva — 26 September 2012 @ 5:15 pm

  23. An excellent connection, Michael:

    “they cited I Corinthians 13:12 (“For now we see through a glass, darkly”) to prove that all things we see are false. Contaminated perhaps by the Monotoni, they imagined that every man is two men, and that the real one is the other one, the one in heaven… When we die, they believed, we shall join him and be him.”
    – from “The Theologians” by Borges


    Comment by ktismatics — 26 September 2012 @ 9:33 pm

  24. For Lacan the image is a deceivingly integrated representation of a self, while language breaks the self into fragments.

    Mind you – and this you can read in Fink’s excellent Lacanian Subject – Lacan is not one with those post-modernists who declared the death of the subject. The subject is divided and fragile, but it (or personhood in Orthodoxy) is still the ultimate destination. Langiuage does not ”break” the self, it forms the self, but because there is a gap in language, there is a gap in the self. This is why psychotic seem unable to grasp multiple meaning, why they are so certain of their delusions. A neurotic always asks questions, he is uncertain, ambivalent. I have to prepare for job huntin today but I will translate parts of the book on Orthodoxy and Lacan which I found in Serbia – there is no English translation available.


    Comment by cpc — 27 September 2012 @ 8:42 am

  25. I was looking again at Fink’s two books last night — I agree, cpc, that Fink offers excellent presentations of Lacan — trying to find something quotable about the Imaginary, but he has surprisingly little to say about it. Fink focuses on the split in the subject between conscious egoistic false self and the unconscious real self. For adults the false self is shaped in and by language, but psychoanalysis is a “talking cure,” with language deployed as a means for the analysand to become a true subject. Still, it’s the gaps in language, the slips between what the ego means and what the unconscious says, that open the portals to the Real. I’m saying that in this regard there’s a split between Lacan and orthodox-with-a-small-o Christianity, which values the meaning and reality of the Word for its own sake. To be sure, there is also Biblical theology of the silence and the slips, in which the Spirit speaks in groanings too deep for words. But this sort of negative theology doesn’t dominate the texts, Christianity after all being a “religion of the book.”

    In Lacan’s scheme language follows and supersedes image in the individual’s development, so the disjuncture between the false image and reality is the source of the original split or doubling of the self. Cinema recognizes that the image retains a primal power that can override the conscious linguistic powers of adults. Is it possible for there to be a “watching cure,” a form of psychoanalysis that complements the talking cure? And does it, Lacan-style, have to rely on the slips and gaps in the image? Or, per a more Orthodox psychology, can the contemplation of a clear image function like an icon as a portal to truth and power?


    Comment by ktismatics — 27 September 2012 @ 11:14 am

  26. In that book there is a special discussion of the icon, but I don’t have time right now to translate. Off the top of my head I can say that I feel as though the icon is supposed to be a negation of itself; the tranquil impenetrability of the Orthodox priest is so removed from any sensual or earthly pleasure, the image practically annuls itself. And yet in this very act of self-annihilation it captures the gaze (or is supposed to – I must say I don’t react as much to icons as I do to the atmosphere in the church).

    What I think is parallel to religion in Lacan is the ”paternal function”, because it is the sine qua non of all (social) life, and because it is self-sustained (it does not have a reason, and yet is the ultimate reason of all). This is in fact very similar to the religious notion of God and I think it doesn’t matter one bit that Lacan didn’t believe there was a supernatural force in the Hole.

    Fink discusses the Imaginary in his writing on the analytic technique (if you don’t have it, I can send you a PDF) – the third book. Since a psychotic can only really operate in the imaginary register, words are things to him. Lacan initially thought there was no cure, but changes his mind later and tells that the intervention has to be the opposite of a neurotic’s analysis. Instead of trying to control delusions, one should let them flourish under moderation so that they become stable. Then the psychotic might find a mission in life, using his own language – which is not symbolized, or anchored, but nevertheless a language.


    Comment by cpc — 27 September 2012 @ 1:29 pm

  27. I didn’t realize that Fink had a third Lacan book — I just requested it from the library, but sure, the PDF would be great. An interesting idea about treating the psychotic through the proliferation and working-through of delusion; I can’t help but wonder what empirical evidence is available to support the effectiveness of the approach. I would presume that if you were to develop your own cinemanalytic technique it would rely heavily on the cut, the split screen, Shaviro’s post-continuity, and other imagic analogs to the Lacanian verbal split between what is said and what is meant.


    Comment by ktismatics — 27 September 2012 @ 2:20 pm

  28. Harman’s ontology could be subjected to a Lacanian interpretation. That the object is essentially whole but always-already withdrawn from interaction reflects Lacan’s Imaginary order, where the image of the whole appears to penetrate or suffuse the entire object in a mystified or fetishized way. Harman’s fragmentation of the object into discrete qualities, cut loose from the essential unified object, he regards as characteristic of the object’s participation in the realm where interaction with other objects takes place. Arguably in a Lacanian scheme the child’s initiation into the Symbolic order serves the same function, with language making social interaction possible by cutting the person off from the unity of the Imaginary. In the Symbolic, words are assigned to one’s fragmented qualities as the basis for entering into linguistically-mediated interactions with others. Harman’s ontology would extend both the Imaginary and the Symbolic orders to non-human objects and their interactions. Maybe this Lacanian compatibility of Harman’s OOO is what initially drew Bryant into its orbit.


    Comment by ktismatics — 28 September 2012 @ 5:59 am

  29. I am starting to quote from Nikolaos Loudovikos’s book PSYCHOANALYSIS AND ORTHODOX THEOLOGY… first, a dedication

    “Fortunately, Christianity is neither Platonism nor Stoicism. Everything in our body and soul is created by God, and as such absolutely sacred. It is up to my own freedom to get angry, fall in love, play, create, eat, rejoice, be sorrowful, in such a manner that will bring me continuously closer to the divine source of my being: this is what Incarnation means. God does not call me to escape from this world, but to transform it into a place of His manifestation”[5]

    page 47… let us return to our subject. I want to trace the notion ‘spiritual-corporeal’, especially in mystics. They are often read idealistically, in a neo-Platonist or iconoclastic way. Saint Simeon: just as in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit we bow to one and the same God, so Man in God becomes an united soul and body.” (…) There are even bolder texts: ”We become Christ’s limbs and Christ our limb, and my former arm Christ’s, and my leg Christ’s, even though we are men” WHat kind of a gnoselogy do these words imply? Before I answer, let me quote SImoen again – knowledge is not light, light is the knowledge, for in it and thru it everything comes” So we’re not dealing with a mystification of the mind, its entry into some divine sphere, but with its transformation so that it can see the Uncreated Light. We have to stress that the Fathers never call this event ”mystical”. Whatsmore, on the existential plane, this is considered a transformation of human nature.

    Understand that we here have a theology that the German philosopher Krause tried to describe als ”omni-presence of God”, which is entirely different from pantheism. People who deal in cognitive science come to its realizations in odd ways. In their articles they say that if life is both corporeal and spiritual, then we need a God who is not only transcendental, but also present in the world, and resides here with us. Those who know theology know that we differ significantly here from the Catholics, but I’m glad to see more and more Western theologians who understand that the difference between essence and energy existed long before the Schism.

    (…) we are talking about the realization of omni-presence in man (”sabornost”: this term is untranslatable but it means all-encompassing, that the man encompasses in himself all mankind) Do you realize how close this is to Lacan.

    We owe many important points to him.

    One of his most important is the one he expressed in Seminar 4, where he says ”I feel that the words that the unconscious is God are the most progressive expression of atheism”. Contrary to Lacan I find that these words are the most progressive statement of Western theology. For relationship is the structure of the unconscious, which emans that relationship, as in Feuerbach, is the component of God, but of man also. Ergo, exactly what the Christian Revelation teaches us.

    I will state Lacan’s views on desire – which convince me more than any great intersubjective thought, like Bubber, or Levinas – by sorting them in 2 groups. The first group refers to three sentences: HUman desire is the desire for the Other. The second: human desire is the same as the desire of the Other. Third: Man wants what the Other wants.

    So, one man first learns to desire as the other , as if he were the other. Man’s desire is the desire of the other. It is the same as the desire of the other. The child wants what his mother wants and so enters the space of man. So, bit by bit it becomes a subject. And then man wants what the other wants, and not something else. He wants to be recognized through his desire as a man and a being and this is why his desire is identical to the desire of the other. So man learns to want as the other.

    Second group of sentences:

    ”Man’s desire is that another man wants him” ”Man wants the other’s desire for himself”

    There is thus something that the Other secretly wants and I try to find it. Precisely because this is the only way for me to exist as a subject. In a deeper sense this means that the existence OF US BOTH depends on a common essence, which we can only realize TOGETHER.

    Here we get to the famous petit objet a. It is the mysterious object of the Other’s desire. In the Symposium, we see Alcibiadus flying around Socrates like a fly, who is deeply disinterested. But Alcibiadus convinces us hat Socrates is deeply attractive. What makes him attractive is his mysterious desire, the object of his desire, which is so mysterious, it could be the image of Everything. So the desire of the Other is my call on Everyting, on Unity, on Wholeness.

    Exactly at this place I find a deep similarity between St Maxim and Lacan’s view of desire. Maxim’s desire is deeply enigmatic, also in Lacan ,even if it takes transient objects, it ultimately has no object. It is pure desire: in other words, God.

    I will close the chapter by saying a few words about intra-inter essere, which to me is the meaning of ”one soul” and which I would like to correct into intra-inter-con-essere, ”inside-outside-co-existence” where the inside refers to the original notion of the internal community, ”co” shows that it is simultaneously historical ie. existence is also possible in time and not just inside, and this all is the way of sabornost (all-encompassing). So the way of adulthood, ontologically or psychologically, is understood as the space in which COMMUNITY IS REALIZED, so that SPIRITUALITY AND COMMUNITY are the same.

    page 71

    so how is psychoanalysis different from theology? My answer might seem challenging to some: it seems psychoanalysis is basically a former philosophy that wants to become a theology and this is the basis of its ”scientificality”. I would determine this scientificality as an inspiration or an assumption, expressed in the experiential realism of analytic practice, that this ”mythic creature” that is called ”the unconscious” and fully corresponds to the anthropological model of transcendental idealism, also needs its ”mythic other”, and can become a real experience of authenticity, I believe Lacan understood this better than Freud, and Jung understood it better than both of them. The discussion is beyond this frame, but in any case I think the source of scienbtific experientiality in psychoanalysis is its ”nostalgia for experiential authenticity, and its plea for the creative indeterminacy of personality, which is the basis of any teaching abpout the unconscious. The unconscious – taken in its true intersubjective hermeneutics – becomes a term more authentic than ”mythic being” , it becomes concrete reality, living matter of an active world.


    Comment by cpc — 29 September 2012 @ 4:40 am

  30. I just watched that segment of Ostrov again in which the widow petitions Anatoly to pray for her dead husband. As his own oracular double, Anatoly does indeed stand with his back to the icon, with the positioning of the camera suggesting that Anatoly is speaking the icon’s truth. This scene also reveals the split in Anatoly: even as he pursues the gradual and progressive self-transformation of theosis, the divided self persists. The interplays between continuity and discontinuity are important, both in the film and in the religion. So too with Lacan. I tend to focus on the splits: conscious/unconscious, imaginary/symbolic/real, words/meaning. But the analytic praxis requires encountering the real through the symbolic, as well as the making conscious of the unconscious material.

    Lacan grew up as a Catholic in a Catholic country. Arguably his prime influences were an Austrian Jew (Freud) and a Protestant German (Hegel). But Orthodoxy is a big tent and Lacan is a polyvalent thinker, so it stands to reason that continuities can be discovered and explored fruitfully. I see that Kotsko is finding parallels between William James and Lacan, even though (as I quoted in a post) James contended that the unconscious doesn’t exist. Still, parallels and syntheses can be built to span even the widest divides.


    Comment by ktismatics — 29 September 2012 @ 10:49 am

  31. Well yeah anything can relate to anything or be interpreted as such but I find it particularly astute here that the idea of the unconscious being actualized or embodied in reality, the idea of living your symptom thus, is very similar to the Orthodox understanding of fulfilling God’s plan in earthly life. This idea is really absent from all other psychologies, as far as I know. I have absolutely no interest in reading anything Adam Kotsko has to say about Lacan.


    Comment by cpc — 29 September 2012 @ 10:54 am

  32. “the idea of living your symptom thus, is very similar to the Orthodox understanding of fulfilling God’s plan in earthly life”

    I didn’t see this idea expressed in the Loudovikos excerpt. Are you referring to the part where Lacan’s discourse on desire corresponds with the Orthodox praxis of becoming-subject within relationship, coterminous with the realization of community?


    Comment by ktismatics — 29 September 2012 @ 11:57 am

  33. Yes that’s what I was talking about. But more importantly, in the book I sent you, it is reiterated many times – that the living practice of language, in analysis, is far more signicifant than content, meaning, etc. I remember when I was doing it my analyst would say that people always think something is hidden inside and they have to discover it, but there is nothing inside, only indeterminacy. The point is to do it, to fashion yourself into something. So although personality and identity is all an illusion, no hay banda, et cetera, the outcome is not a leap into nothingness, but the restoration or possibly creation of a new personality, one that is more flexible in its dialogue with the unconscious etc. To me that sounds just like the Trinitarian paradox, that God is simultaneously spirit and body.


    Comment by cpc — 29 September 2012 @ 12:51 pm

  34. Anatoly does indeed stand with his back to the icon, with the positioning of the camera suggesting that Anatoly is speaking the icon’s truth.

    You say that the camera is suggesting that, but my interpretation is that Anatoly is turning away from the icon precisely to avoid the ”iconoclastic” approach to mystery, the same way a psychoanalyst would rather have you sit on the couch so that you don’t see the analyst’s face and keep projecting your content on him instead of focusing on your own desires.


    Comment by cpc — 29 September 2012 @ 12:54 pm

  35. We never get any independent validation of the truth of Anatoly’s revelations. It’s not just Anatoly’s proclamation that the husband is alive in France: he says that the pregnant girl will have a boy, that the crippled boy is healed, that his mother’s workplace will be closed for 3 days due to flooding or some such, that the admiral’s daughter has a demon. Maybe all of these proclamations were false, maybe even manifestations of his pranksterism. The ambiguity of outcome adds to the open-endedness that makes the movie better than it would otherwise be.


    Comment by ktismatics — 29 September 2012 @ 6:09 pm

  36. We never get any independent validation of the truth of Anatoly’s revelations.

    Well that’s on the one hand because there IS no ”truth” (Anatoly’s patients have to fihd their own truth) but I think also on the other hand because the movie is calling on the kind of a blank resignation that we also see in Melancholia…


    Comment by cpc — 30 September 2012 @ 1:41 am

  37. John:

    The lay monk Brother Data is back. Even in Lourdes, where there has been a medical board to examine putative cures since the mid 19th.C., of the 5,000 remarkable cures only 67 have been definitely accepted as miraculous.

    When events such those as in the movie tend to constellate around a single figure then an inference to the best explanation available to one is inevitable. What that might be is a matter of epistemic fidelity. We proceed on the basis of what we know and trust or what coheres with our overall world view. Contra William James I doubt whether we can simply decide to move into another domain, or leap across the void. In the panentheistic schema we arrive there because we are always there, there was never any other place to be. It’s very mysterious and at the same time commonplace.


    Comment by ombhurbhuva — 30 September 2012 @ 1:50 am

  38. These circuits of exploration are stimulating and probably also important. Again certain bifurcations appear: want/need/desire, fact/truth/meaning, also fiction/nonfiction. Can they be reconciled, or is there an irreducibly dynamic tension and oscillation?

    The widow *wants* Anatoly to pray for the contentment of her dead husband’s soul, and she brings some baked goods to pay for his services. Anatoly disregards what she wants in order to make evident her *desire* which is itself bifurcated: a desire for her husband, a desire for her independence — pleasure/pain, jouissance, the symptom as life-organizing principle. Now she resists: she *needs* to feed the chickens and to butcher the hog, she can’t possibly go to France to fulfill her own prayer. Is her husband a specific man who may or may not have been killed in the war? Or is husband an abstract description of a kind of relationship into which the woman may or may not enter? Is she prepared to set aside her security and autonomy in order to re-establish such a relationship? Anatoly assures her that “they will let her come back”: these comforts will not be lost to her forever. Is her desire for her husband a joy, or is it, per the Garden of Eden story, a curse? So yes, I think that imposing from outside the context of the film a Lacanian interpretation doesn’t do a great violence.

    Is there an external validation of specific truths or entire worldviews? Does this external stance imply a desire to assume an impossibly transcendent stance? Does the idea that meaning is created also imply that empirical facts are also created? E.g., by saying the words can Anatoly bring the woman’s husband into existence in France, cause work stoppages, turn the fetus into a boy? It happens in fiction: does this aspect of fiction reflect some truth about reality? Or is fiction that part of reality in which facts can be created?

    Regarding the blank resignation, certainly we do see the end of Anatoly’s immanent voyage of theosis culminating in a transcendent void. And we see it too in Melancholia, where Justine’s immanent sadness finds its climax in the transcendent apocalyptic collision of the planets. In our prior discussion of Melancholia, Dejan, you pointed out that Justine stands with her back to the planet, passively allowing it to take her over and becoming a channel of its power. This nihilistic climax brings both despair and joy — jouissance. Maybe the subjective difference is that, while in Ostrov we see everything emptying into white, in Melancholia the brilliant white flash culminates in utter blackness.


    Comment by ktismatics — 30 September 2012 @ 10:52 am

  39. Maybe the subjective difference is that, while in Ostrov we see everything emptying into white, in Melancholia the brilliant white flash culminates in utter blackness.

    I think I already noted during the discussions of the film that the screen design in that last scene is such that the explosion of Melancholia spills over into the audience so that the screen literally appaers as a two-way portal. Even though there is a fade to black. I think it is the same kind of a ”whiteness” or ”brightness” that is discussed in the Brian De Palma book: the uncreated Light that is.


    Comment by cpc — 30 September 2012 @ 12:39 pm

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