Michelangelo Antonioni

Great art, that is transcendent and cannot be transcended anymore (only, in its transcendent gaze become more intensified), establishes a perspective of Satori. Satori means a state of enlightenment that is difficult to describe, since enlightenment means that you have finally understood, and digested, the final paradoxes and aporias of existence. Satori is both an extremely intense perception and reflection as well as so extremely flexible and fluid that it is, overally, calm and eternal like the endless ocean. Satori means that you can permanently and instantly switch from motif to background, melting them into an (eternally open) One. That is, then, total reality, and your perception and reflection of total reality. Satori-percption is extremely wide, an open landscape, yet is also able to analytically sort out things and see them within extremely sharp contour. Satori is extremely intelligent. Schopenhauer, a Western philosopher that has achieved Satori, says that in order to finally understand fragmented aspects (of metaphysics) one must have understood everything else at first – and vice versa, and that means: Satori. Within the state of Satori, perception and reflection is extremely agitated and intense, yet also has also come to an end in its nervous and agitated quest for meaning since it has become the meaning itself, as a mirror of the world. It is an extremely penetrating as well as meditative gaze that sees the relations between the finite and the ininite. Therein, Satori need not be mistaken for eternal bliss and a final ascent to heaven, it can be humbly described as viewing the same things as everyone else does, only from a viewpoint one meter above everyone else. The Zen master acknowledges: Verily I say unto you, I have gained nothing from Satori! Enlightenment is, maybe, overrated. Yet it produces significance and establishes viewpoints that are stronger than the entire world. When a Satori viewpoint awakes, it is a metaphysical event that will shatter the earth.

At the moment, my three great metaphysical artists of modern cinema are Yasujiro Ozu, Andrei Tarkovsky and Michelangelo Antonioni. Their artistic gravity is so immense that it silences you. Once you see their films, you immediately sense: This is (finallly) art! Like the mushroom cloud of an atom bomb explosion it slowly unfolds before, absolute, powerful, sublime and seemingly unaware of its own earth-shaking potential, as it unfolds in relative serenity. They show the (imaginary) depths of existence and are, therefore, somehow stronger than existence. They remind us that die Welt ist tief, und tiefer als der Tag gedacht (not least due to its flatness). Yasujiro Ozu offers razor-sharp perspectives on the defining themes of human existence, and bans the wildness of the world within extremely ordered images, therein (nevertheless, or even more) opening abysses for eternal doubt, wondering and reflection. Andrei Tarkovsky explores the double nature of man as being both a materialistic as well as a spiritual creature, maneuvering his characters through dubious landscapes and surroundings, meditating about the seemingly eternal difficulties to merge both aspects of existence, the materialistic and at-hand qualities and the spiritual and beyond the veil qualities of man, into one. Correspondingly, also Michelangelo Antonioni revolves around human (and existential) incompleteness and man´s embeddedness into a (seemingly both finite as well as infinite) environment.

„Landscapes“ is what he´s looking for, yuppie photographer Thomas half-consciously responds to the question of an old (and annoyed) art dealer in an antique shop about what he actually wants in Blow-up. Even if one is perplexed or annoyed by viewing Antonioni´s movies for the first time, one cannot help being perplexed by the sophistication with which environments, architectures and landscapes are presented either, to a degree that inanimate, mundane, everyday objects rival with the characters, or, occasionally, even overpower them, as concerns their presence and charisma. That actors and characters are overally seen as „objects in a landscape“ and as „moving space“ is what Antonioni lapidarily confirms himself. Usually, these environments are presented as a critique (or, rather, as an illustration) of modernity and the obstructive power of modern society and its routines upon individuals, despite them being also extremely tasty and beautiful and inviting, therein being very ambivalent. Likewise, it is ambivalent whether the human characters that live and move within these environments are oppressed by them or whether their fabulous intellectual and emotional stuntedness – that makes them almost similarly inanimate to the exuberantly presented object world – are a result to cultural opression or a cause in itself. Most people that populate reality are, more or less, products of their environment, to a degree that they are not even able to reflect and to which they are indifferent, Antonioni´s environments are presented as extremely intrusive and out their to be explored, yet the individuals fail to do so and prefer to remain in an almost idiotic privacy and indifference. In an important scene in La notte (and within the entire oeuvre of Antonioni in general), Lidia takes a both explorative as well as drifting walk through the city; with her marriage already coming to an end obviously curious what possibilities may be at hand for her out there in this world. Therein, she gradually discovers freedoms and possibilities, yet also, and seemingly more prominent, dead ends, not only as concerns the people/males she meets but also seemingly as concerns the whole structure and architecture of the (modern) world, leaving her finally (respectively for the moment) exhausted and in a fatigue, in her own solitude. Despite that, her interest in her environment is not very deep, and not very sympathetic. She would need to smell the concrete of the spindling buildings and to touch it, in order to experience the world in the right way (or in the Satori way), as it seems. Then she would also be able to establish more meaningful interpersonal relationships, and exprience herself in a quasi electromagnetic field of connectedness. In the final seven minutes of L´eclisse you see the same urban environment next to Vittoria´s home, the intersection, where people may come accross or pass by, where they may meet or ignore each other, as the day gradually closes. It is both a brutal and a peaceful environment, an architecture of industrial aggression as well as providing shelter and safe homes, it seems both highly complex and immersive and in no way bearing any secret at all: it is just radiating a meditative presence. At least for those who are able to see and to experience. The characters in the movie are obviously not (yet) able to do so. In both The Passenger and L´eclisse there are moments, however, in which the female main characters (mildly) rave about the beauty of nature – yet at remote places to which they have randomly been taken to and which – in contrast to most other environments depicted in the films – are actually quite a void and unimmersive (cinematographically at least, they are left distinctly unelaborated), making it questionable whether their (feminine) receptiveness to the idiosyncracies of their environment actually hits the target or, grotesquely, misses it. Antonion´s environments serve as something both heternomous, obstructive, and as an illustration of man´s Geworfenheit into circumstances that may be alien to him, as well as an illustration of the internal landscapes and interior worlds of his characters, not only inasmuch as these are determined by external circumstances yet also, and more importantly, by what the individual makes out of them and how he perceives them. Therein, Antonioni´s movies may be perspectives where man is, as an individual, practically absent and truly reduced to an object in the landscape, as well as portrayals of almost solipsistic bubbles in which the characters live, indifferent to the outside world. This marks the span and range of Antonioni´s grasp on reality and, more tacitly, his understanding that reality itself is a subject-object relationship, a flexible relationship between ontology and epistemology that cannot be fixed from the outside and that is stable as well as instable, with no definitive meaning, since meaning is always produced and destroyed by changing circumstances and via individual viewpoints, i.e. subject-object relationships. Despite Antonioni´s architectures, environments and landscapes are (usually) sublime, definitive and solid, they also appear as extremely fresh and virgin, astonishing, and as if you would see them for the first time. This is so because of the way Antonioni chooses to look at them. In a piece devoted to Antonioni („Dear Antonioni“) philosopher Roland Barthes notes that the penetrative as well as meditative gaze Antonioni establishes has something inherently subversive, „because to look longer than expected (I insist on this added intensity) disturbs established orders of every kind“. Likewise, the penetrative gaze is both political and antipolitical, as in its dismissiveness of definitive meanings and to (egoistically or egomanically) fixate meanings it is inherently anti-fanatic. In Heideggerian terminology, the art of Michelangelo Antonioni seems to try to establish a Lichtung des Seins, via an ecstatic Besinnlichkeit, involving all faculties of man (and of the world), to dive into the depths of the world, of both subjetivity and objectivity, an – since an exoteric, godlike viewpoint is impossible – exploration of „In-der-Welt-sein“. And, as you have it in the philosophy of Heidegger, in the exploration of In-der-Welt-sein nothing is actually predetermined; our minds and our faculties in general are not taken as to operate within eternal categories (like you have it in the tradition of Kantian philosophy) but are more fluid, and In-der-Welt-sein itself refers to an interrelationship between man and his environment rather as a network that is always changing than a system that is given and fixed (depending, of course, on the versatility of both subject and the object). At the end of Antonioni´s final movie, Al di là delle nuvole, the alter ego director ruminates that what he has been doing all his life is to try to find human truths by taking pictures; behind them will be further pictures, very down the abyss there may be an „absolute reality“ that no one will ever come to see. Which is true, since outside the subject-object relationship and the In-der-Welt-sein there is no absolute reality. Antonioni´s films are a penetrating and meditative gaze upon reality in which this absolute and final (condition of) human reality shimmers through. That ist he vision within Satori. At the very final shot of L´eclisse you see an agitatedly illuminated streetlight at the final stage of evening twilight, of eclipse, seemingly aggressive as well as helpless and tattered concerning its contour, seemingly frightening as well as frightened, an instance that is one step above us and tries to guide and illuminate us, in its own reducedness and helplessness. That is the Satori.  

The postwar decades brought not only a solid liberal democracy and stupendous economic growth to Europe but also massive social change, especially in a rather traditional and rural country like Italy, uprooting people not only practically (i.e. due to mass migration from rural to urban places) but also culturally and spiritually. In Il grido Aldo is an (eccentric) embodiment of an uprooted man, feeling lost in the contemporary cultural environment and, finally, unable to adapt. After he had become dismissed by his common-law wife, Irma, he wanders through the Po Valley, together with his little daughter, Rosalina, to find a new settlement. Yet he is unable to find a new job, and, what is more, a relationship with another woman that would satisfy him. As he tries to return to Irma, he finds out that the reason for her breaking up the relationship had been that she had given birth to a child by another man. He climbs on a tower at the sugar factory he had previously been employed at, and, as Irma follows him, falls from the tower in front of Irma (provoking her visceral scream/grido – while the entire film could be seen as an expression of silent scream inside Aldo). It is unclear whether he commited suicide or he fell from the tower by accident, as he seemed to faint or lose his balance. Aldo´s depression and passiveness is enigmatic. He mourns the loss of Irma, but remains stubbornly unable to establish new relationships, maybe due to an inability to connect and an inability to love. From what we see, he even does not truly connect to his daughter. We do not know whether this is due to a depression or revealing of a more general and permanent condition inside him. Is the breakup with Irma probably so traumatic for him because he loves her so deeply, or rather because he feels emasculated (within a cultural condition of a declining patriarchy) or considers it a narcissistic insult? Or is his depression actually justified as life has little to offer to him, a simple proletarian, outside his marriage and his job (in which he obviously had been happy, or at least found fulfillment)? The flat and deserted landscape of the Po Valley through which Aldo wanders offers space to roam, to explore freedom, yet it is not exactly a land of opportunities and not a native land to provide shelter, making Aldo lost and vanishing in it; while at the same time it seems an expression of his deserted inner life, his uninterestedness and his flat, depressed, grey emotionality, making the entire condition a Möbius-strip of a conflictual In-der-Welt-sein. Most unnerving, the film offers no explanation of its ending, and, therefore, its actual message. Both intepretations, that Also commits suicide or that he falls to death by accident are not very plausible. Maybe it has to be understood primarily as symbolic, as an expression for Aldo having come to a dead end and having lost his desire to live – or (a fantasy inside him) to punish Irma by his suicide, or to provoke an actual emotion, and a great sympathy for him inside her again, maybe with the hope to reunite with her – maybe it is even meant to be a death oft he „old“ Aldo, who finally manages to let go, and the birth of a „new“ Aldo. It has also been suggested to view Il grido (and Antonioni´s films in general) as inner psycho dramas, or even as dreams, yet there is too much reality in them to find that satisfactory. These lacks of resolution, and the Möbiusstrip-like intertwindedness of interior and exterior world, as well as the both eccentric and both highly symbolic and almost archetypical characters will be permanent features in the films of Antonioni. The problem of Aldo finally seems to be that he – and in fact most of Antonioni´s quasi inexplicable characters and their inexplicable actions – is a flat and shallow, underdeveloped man whose psychological integration is incomplete, with contradictory features that may exaggerate and become even more disorganised when put under stress. The problem in finding out a good reason and explanation for their uncanny psychological states is due to the actual absence of a good reason, due to their lack of depth, while they are in a genuine strive with an insensitive world that puts the individual under a genuine stress. Aldo seems reminiscent of Camus` Stranger, who is both a highly abnormal figure as well as a cultural archetype. As individuals, and especially in a modern, anonymous mass society, we are all strangers; and while Aldo seems to be eccentric, finding it hard to cope with changing circumstances, loss of love and traumatic injuries is deeply human, and distinguishes humans from psychopaths.

While Aldo had been a simple proletarian, inarticulate, immobile, a probably honest and innocent and naive man, whose morale coordinate system had become shattered by what he had perceived as dishonest and by what had uprooted him from his traditional existence, and while Antonioni had sympathies for the proletarians and the socially excluded, he would rather illuminate a smiliar fatigue and helplessness prevailing among the bourgeoisie, the technocrats and even in artists and bourgeois-bohemians, i.e. supposedly more articulate, more mobile and more priviledged people all alike in his following films L´avventura, La notte and L´eclisse that are, in retrospect, considered a trilogy (or a tetralogy, if Il deserto rosso was included as well). L`avventura had an eccentric and confusing impact upon its release, and truly initiated a new language and a new grammar within filmmaking. Uneventful and slow, actually lacking a true drama, leaving one confused whether that what you just saw in these films are affairs truly important or some mere coincidences, Antonioni challenged the hitherto rules of cinema, most notably also as concerns its aesthetics, and, paradixically, by making them more „arty“ and demanding, brought the vision outlined closer to everyday life than tradidional commercial films usually do. L`avventura is about the end of a man´s relationship, leading into a relationship with another woman. La notte is about how tacit events that happen in one night can lead to a fundamental shift of perception upon each other, finally causing a breakdown of a hitherto functioning, but also ailing marriage. L`eclisse opens with a young woman ending her first true relationship after some years and exploring her new freedom. In L`avventura bourgeois people go on a boat trip, at which Anna mysteriously (and impossibly) disappears after she confirms the end of her love and her relationship with Sandro. Sandro quickly develops an interest in Claudia (Monica Vitti) and as the search for Anna remains unfruitful and people´s memory of her gradually fades, we witness how the relation between Sandro and Claudia unfolds. Sandro is an obviously shockinkly carefree womanizer and a neurotic since though he has a well-compensated job he had traded it for a career as an artist and is true self-actualisation, making him envidious of other artists. As soon as the relationship with Claudia is established, he impulsively womanises with a prostitute, being interrupted by Claudia he falls in despair in an almost infantile regression, and finally gets consoled by Claudia. In La notte Giovanni, a writer, and Lidia are a married couple. Despite their marriage seems to function, both seem to be annoyed by it and trapped inside it as well. Giovanni is unhappy that as a writer he „no longer has inspirations, only recollections“ and tries to womanize outside the relationship. Lidia seems tired of Giovanni, due to his obvious emotional absent-mindedness behind his more glamorous surface and events during a nightly party making her finally lose confidence in the marriage so that she decides to leave him, while Giovanni, in despair, in infantile regression and an impotent attempt to show his love and make love with her tries to persuade her to stay with him. In L`eclisse Vittoria leaves the educated Riccardo at the beginning, seems to explore her new freedom, hooks up with her girlfriends and meets Piero, a broker, who is working for her neurotic and money-mad mother, triggering a tacit romantic affair between them that eventually does not work out (at least not for the moment). Throughout the trilogy, the bulk of the characters is quite inhumane, unbalanced, hurtful as well as vulnerable, indifferent yet agitated, passive, aggressive, eager to establish relationships and to find love and then not very disciplined at holding on to them; overally, they seem somnambulent and unaware, not using their potential (or, as seems to be more prominently the case, without great potential). Therein, Antonioni´s films and the alienation and strangeness they radiate seems due to them offering a vision actually more closer to reality than comercial films usually do. Despite their flatness, Antonioni´s characters have more „depths“ and facets than do have characters in comercial movies (as characters in comercial movies are not quite how human are but rather how they want to be and how they like to imagine the human world). It is not clear whether the men in the trilogy are womanizing because of being possessive and proud and macho-like, or because of their desire to find true love and to dive deeper into the mysteries of love as they usually seem boyishly curious and innocent and not motivated by sinister intentions as they approach the respective women (or, plain and simple, whether they do so due to the urges of their sex drive they are too boyish to keep in check). And it is not clear to where the women and their emancipatory moves are headed to neither. „I am not intelligent, I am alert“, confirms Valentina in La notte (respectively Monica Vitti, more or less on behalf of all the characters she portrays in Antonioni´s films). „Woman is the more subtle filter of reality“, confirms Antonioni himself, and the actually central characters, who embody the „active“ principle, who develop and who move on in his trilogy are the women. Despite being „a more subtle filter to reality“ the women in the trilogy/tetralogy engage in relationships with unsensitive, materialistic and erratic men, yet also manage to emancipate themselves from them, therein indicating the possibility of man´s emancipation from unfullfilling prevailing circumstances that had tacitly become obsolete. Tacit is also the hope about how far their emancipation, and any emancipation, can go. Vittoria leaving Riccardo for unspecified reasons at the beginning of the film and her deciding against becoming romantically involved with (the materialistic and randomly acquainted) Piero at the end may be a tale of personal growth, of a young woman (still somehow a girl) becoming more autonomous, or just generally doing the right thing by avoiding unsatisfactory and unsustainable relationships instead of falling prey to them, yet we do not know whether that point of view is the correct one: Her mediocre emotional flatness and her (and the other characters`) inability to love deeply and to establish true and responsible human relationships may as well be a permanent feature. Alertness is, at least, the state of the artist, and of Satori – more generally of the „awakened“ human being, and the precondition to personal growth – Antonioni seems to advocate alertness, ironically also as his films demand a lot of alertness, attention and investigation in order to be truly understood – yet then, the viewer will find, as a gratification, infinite pleasure in them that is much more intense and lasting than pleasure or emotional attachment that may arise from comercial movies, even if they are very good. – The trilogy is also most famous for depicting the human condition within environments and landscapes (with espcecially La notte being so carefully elaborated that it seems an almost inhuman – or superhuman – effort). In L´avventura the whole vision is, relative to the follow-up movies, comparably tattered, yet also for the obvious reason that the environments hardly ever seem to fit, people would meet up (or lose themselves) at places that seem grossly inadequate for the actual purposes (a feature that would, most prominently, return in The Passenger), space is out of joint – as are people, as are their interpersonal relationships. Whereas in La notte the architecture of modernity is presented as extremely impenetrable, well-formulated and solid, seemingly subjugating man to its own anonymous logic and suggesting a triumph of modernity (over man), the landscapes of modernity in L`eclisse are open and dispersed, seemingly fragile and inconclusive about where the logic of modernity is actually headed at (therein, in the context of the movie, giving individuals free space to roam, which they, nevertheless, prefer to use to refrain from deep interpersonal relationships and a general come together, preferring to descent into relative solitude, i.e. making up for a somehow inconclusive and dispersed landscape of human relationships – respectively reminding us that landscape makes only up for a space of coexistence, and not necessarily „connectedness“ between people and between things). In general, we do not really know what we see in Antonioni´s films: do they depict individuals in a great and central drama, the drama of their life, or are we watching something transitory and not even particularly meaningful (depending, at least, on the ability of the characters to extract meaning out of these events, leaving it further open about whether such an ability is strong and progressively developing in them, or not at all), are their neuroses characteristic of an entire Zeitgeist and are these characters symptomatic or are there neuroticisms isolated and very personal failures; the characters come from „nowhere“ and little about their personal history is revealed (or investigated by their fellows) at the beginning and we don´t know where they are going to and headed at at the end; are they in a state of transition or is it an illumination of their permanent nature; are the things that happen to them meaningful, maybe in retrospect, in their biography, or they just uncharacteristic distractions and alien to them; will they finally grow when they are able to detect the hidden meanings in the things that happen to them, or is the actually intelligent approach not to get lost in pseudo-meanings and overintepretation of random constellations? L`eclisse may be the film where these Antonionian characteristics and ambiguities are driven to their extreme.

„I am not intelligent, I am alert“ – in Il deserto rosso Monica Vitti (portraying Giuliana) has become hyper-alert (interfering with and reducing her intelligence). According to Antonioni Il deserto rosso is about a woman who is very neurotic, actually on the brink of psychosis. Despite that, and despite her being very confused, it is doubtful how neurotic she actually is, as she does not seem to have egocentric complexes or carry a disability to establish meaningful relationships, rather she seems disturbed that the others around her seemingly cannot. In its extreme colorfulness the industrial environment oft he red desert seems so intrusive that it seems to negate the possibility of reflection and meditation, seems to destroy the adequacy of traditional analytical tools by confronting man in a more primary and primordial way, demanding more primary and primordial methods of orientation. As Antonioni notes Il deserto rosso is not about emotions but about „the epidermal relations to the world, the perception of sounds, of colors and the coldness of the people that populate this world“. Giuliana is actually reminiscent to a child that experiences the world via flashy sensations and (partial) objects she nevertheless has not been hitherto able to make sense of. All the other people seem to be more competent in finding their place in this world than she is able to – including her own little son. Although it is not clear whether all these others are masters of reality, or actually its slaves and mastered by reality. Both Giuliana´s husband and her son are males that have an interest in technology; what is more, due to their conformism they are able to get along in this modern world without great effort – yet at the price that they are not very sensitive and not very interesting individuals, and that they seem to radiate a quiet despair. Ugo, an acquaintance of her husband with whom she gets romantically involved (despite in an affair that is rather a caricature of a romantic affair), is a more autonomous and a more interesting, but also a more ambivalent and egocentric man, yet he seems to be inherently nervous, womanising impulsively and planning business projects in far away (and more „virgin“) countries, i.e. navigating eccentrically through this modern world, both apparently somehow firm and somehow lost. Also he seems partially uprooted and in some kind of despair. According to Kierkegaard in The Sickness Unto Death, despair comes from an individual not being true to himself, therein despair may also be present in fully integrated (and not very alert) conformists, at least in some unconscious fashion. Giuliana is the antithesis to them. In her hypersensitivity, or alertness, Giuliana is the only person in the red desert that „truly lives“ and authentically experiences, who is not (respectively only by accident) neurotically egocentric, but confused by her open-mindedness and, as she cannot relate to the people around her and they cannot truly relate to her, lacking a clear identity. It is, therein, an identity crisis not due to neuroticism and abnormality but due to psychological transparency (and therefore not being a „type“ and not being able to actually get normed by institutions) and due to hypersensitivity, that is, not yet and due to the respective reasons, a self-aware hypersanity. In contrast to the people surrounding her who are – due to their conformism – able to move through society like a fish in the water, Giuliana has oceanic feelings of being embedded in an idyllic world, whose idyllic qualities are, nevertheless, lost. Therefore she cannot truly navigate through the real world and seems neurotic, as she has too many lose ends concerning her shape and identity. In the end, however, she seems to accept the loss of her childlike self-image and the existential fact that she is a seperated and autonomous individual. The acceptance of that seperatedness is both painful and a relief as it opens the path for her to becoming an autonomous and competent individual. It is left open whether Giuliana will manage to unite in her the best of both worlds, i.e the awareness of connectedness as well as seperatedness, of being a dreamer and a realist, an artist and a scientist, etc. – to sum up: a fully developed personality. Antonioni notes that Il deserto rosso should show that the industrial architectures and landscapes of modernity are not only ugly and frightening, but of equal beauty to architectures of the (occasionally idealised) past and to nature itself. And he concludes that Il deserto rosso is about adaption: about the necessity of man to adapt to new circumstances and a changing world.

The following, and most famous film Blow-up may be also about becoming and personal growth. The central character, photographer Thomas, is a younger man, both settled and successful as well as boyish and a bit snoppy, actually quite a contradiction in itself. Basically, Thomas is not alert, and in a grotesque way unaware of the world he inhabits. He does not like the shallow fashion models he is working with on a daily basis and does not treat them very well and even is shockingly unaware of their eccentric beauty, he is unresponsive to the beauty of nature and he drives with his Rolls Royce to photograph the poor in his attempts to do „true“ photographic art meant as a social commentary. He is always busy and seemingly always on the run and eager to change his (life) situation, but in doing so, he is erratic, impulsive and distracted and on a permanent random walk. It is actually hard to believe how Thomas can be renowned photographer as he obviously is only interested in finding (more or less) interesting subjects and objects to do his photography, in order to „take over“ them and consume them, but never to actually experience them. Most of the characters in the film are similar to that, as Blow-up portrays a young generatio n that is successful and dynamic and that has become the pacemaker of cultural and professional life in London of the 1960s, but that is also neglectful and directionless, in their hectictness and business they are absent-minded and passive, in their unquestionable dedication and professionalism with which they do their things there is shallowness and superficiality in the way they experience (themselves in doing) these things; in the words of Antonioni himself „a generation that has approached a certain individual freedom … and freedom from feelings too“. Whereas in Il deserto rosso the colours are extremely bright and penetrating, corresponding to the hypersensitivity of the main character and the obstrusiveness of the modern world, in Blow-up you have dull colours, corresponding to the indifferent perception of its personel and of its main character photographer Thomas. Not that Thomas or any of the characters is unappealing and hard to be liked, neither they are truly arrogant or vain – it is that they are unaware, unconscious and not alert, as adolescents typically are. Therein, Thomas (and most others) seem to be motivated by unconscious desires for love, for intimacy, for „landscapes“, for social justice and creating a better world, for exploring secrets and for „the real thing“, it just seems that they are suspended in their personal growth to truly experience such desires, to accept them and to transform them into something meaningful – as adolescents typically are. The – real or imaginary – murder case finally is something that forces Thomas to pay attention to reality and become highly alert, yet, also due to the inattentiveness of the people that surround him, leaves him in ever more confusion about its true nature and about what actually had happened, finally leaving him standing there not as a successfully grounded and self-confident young urban professional, but as a lost child in the park (therein finally „embedded in a landscape“) as the camera moves to the heavens. The unforgettable final scene of the hippies playing an imaginary tennis match, tangentially involving Thomas, is one of the „enigmatic“ masterpieces that seem both clear-cut as well as „open to endless interpretation“, while in fact they are actually simple, but highly suggestive. The imaginary tennis match is both a metaphor for the illusionary depths of perception as well as that perception is, to a significant degree, a social construct. Thomas has, by then, truly experienced „reality“ in the most profound way, as an interrelationship between ontology and epistemology that can never be broken up or experienced „from the outside“, but that can be expanded and contracted and experienced in countless nuances and facets within that relationship – depending on how much one is „alert“. Thomas had his – confusing and hard-hitting – epiphany, it is now up to him – as concerns the deontology that may be derived from „the interrelationship between ontology and epistemology“ – whether he uses it for personal growth or remains a rather aimless drifter.

While Blow-up had served as a portrait of the most contemporary London, Zabriskie Point aimed to be a portrait of most contemporary America, the land of unlimited opportunity and of the most distinct culture of individualism and individualistic freedom. Yet, as Arrowsmith ruminates in his seminal study of Antonioni and his art, Zabriskie Point may call into question whether liberalism, individualism and idealism can even be a meaningful response to the challenges in the (contemporary) world. The great idealism of the 1968 generation is viewed upon with some sympathy, but Antonioni´s judgement remains distinctly sober. Zabriskie Point is inherently pessimistic, or at least sceptical, whether the „other world“, the utopia that transcends contemporary industrial and capitalistic society, needs to be something so particularly flashy and groovy. The heated discussions of the revolutionary students in their crowded, overpopulated and uncharismatic room at the film´s beginning are somehow unnerving (and conflictual), Mark is a petty (or maybe even a serious) criminal, with some macho attitudes, somehow directionless and careless, and not very bright. The capitalists are not particularly vile and their plans to capitalise over individualistic life choices and make profit out of them appear as something rather positive than something negative, and their desert mansion is one of the tastiest things ever seen on screen (so is its explosion, but only for the moment, and only in imagination; otherwise it may refer to the negative destructive power of revolutionary spirit). Daria´s short stay at the roadhouse in the Mojave desert may serve as an actual illustration of a (ghost) world uncorrupted by civilisation, indicating that such isles in the desert will always exist, in asynchronicity. But they may not be an inviting place to live at, at least not for most people. The power of the imaginary, and of the imaginary utopia, will live on, because the imaginary is a coordinate of human existence, seems to be the conclusion of Zabriskie Point. Finally, however, the imaginary remains trapped within itself or may merge with actual reality only occasionally (in the cosmic love scene in Death Valley). Nevertheless, that´s life. It needs to be lived. The originally obstinately naive Daria has learned some lessons and did make contradictory experiences, by reflecting on them she may grow older and wiser and more useful to society and be someone able to „work with emotionally distubed children“ (Zabriskie Point was done by relying on layman actors (for the better or the worse), and in real life, Daria Halprin became a creative arts therapist in later life; Mark Frechette, by contrast, and uncannily, died at the age of 27 in prison after he had been involved in a bankrobbery in which one of his comrades got shot by the police). (Btw, after Antonioni had a decade in which he, rightfully, received highest praise for his works, and despite today Zabriskie Point is probably Antonioni´s most famous film next to Blow-up, Zabriskie Point initially got very negative, even disrespectful reviews, to a degree that somehow seems irrational. Making you wonder whether the bulk of humanity, and of art critics, maybe cannot stand permanent adoration of others and needs to take occasional revenge on them.)

What may be considered a weakness throughout the oeuvre of Antonioni is that there permanently are things that do not add up for good. Distortion and alienation is a legitimate means of artistic expression, but Antonioni seems to drive both his characters and his stories frequently over the edge. The question may appear, how can the heavy neuroses of most of his central characters serve as an illustration of the Zeitgeist, actually not only as an illumination and critique of an entire epoche, but, as it seems, of the human condition in general? Antonioni´s characters are, actually, often not typical humans, frequently they are weirdos. And what is even the cause for their sufferings and eccentricities? Why is Aldo so unnaturally passive and depressed in Il grido? Why are people, and especially Sandro, so inhuman in L´avventura (and why are they so lifeless and emotionally drained in L` eclisse)? What is the nature of Giulia´s existential confusion (or „neurosis“) in Il deserto rosso? How can someone so uninterested in the world, indifferent to beauty and dismissive against people, especially against women or poor people be a renowned photographer/artist like Thomas in Blow up? Of course, these characters are meant to be illustrative – and in being so flat out illustrative they may even serve as their own caricatures (which would make them even more comprehensive), yet, then again, Antonioni´s films are too serious to be convincingly populated by caricatures – but there is an apparent conflict between the obvious eccentricity of Antonioni´s characters and their appeal to serve as cultural stereotypes or even archetypes. Furthermore, the physics, the fabric of reality does not seem to add up in the supposedly hyper-realistic philosophical and artistic investigations about man´s position in the world that are Antonioni´s movies. Did Aldo fall from the building at the end of Il grido due to accident or did he commit suicide? To where and how did Anna magically disappear in L´avventura? Who shot the policeman in Zabriskie Point? Is the unnamed woman that accompanies David Robertson/David Locke in Professione: Reporter a random stranger or some kind of spy? And, most notoriously, did the murder case in Blow up happen or not? The films do not provide answers or provide inconclusive or contradictory hints. In doing so, the reality as presented in the films is not only ambiguous, multi-faceted, opaque and covered within the Veil of Maja, impossible to for the characters in the films to finally become transparent and to see through; reality, as presented in the films of Antonioni, is itself irrational and illogical, at crucial moments obviously evades natural laws and causality (or, if you want, makes the reality presented not only impenetrable to the characters within the films, but also to the more omniscient spectator of the films). That seems unsatisfactory, because reality is not like that; it might be ambiguous but not illogical or acausal (you may think you can resolve the issues of the irrationalities by referring to Antonioni´s movies, especially L´avventura, being somehow dreamlike, yet, overally, they are not). Exaggerations may seem as solutions at hand or as a necessity in pointing out how reality is and art and drama relies on exaggerated characters and exaggerated situations, yet artistic exaggerations eventually lose that respective efficiency when when they become overstretched. Then, characters and situations become implausible. A conflict like this is, however, prominent at the apex of art; also in the description of the human, all too human drama by Shakespeare or Dostojewski you permanently encounter otherworldly situations and characters that may seem flat out unconvincing. The great power of King Lear or The Idiot nevertheless seems impossible to achieve without the apparent shortcoming of the (main) characters being flat out unconvincing and convoluted. Such is the case also in the art of Antonioni. Without the heavily eccentric and unrealistic characters they likely would lose their universal and extremely convincing appeal and message (maybe the lack of power of Antonioni´s final cut Al di là delle nuvole is also due to the lack of convincigly unconvincing characters that populate this movie). And as concerns the obvious irrationality and acausality of the world presented in the films of Antonioni: although this is an intellectually as well as aesthetically heavily conflictual issue, Antonioni resolves them finally for the good, as these momentary lapses of reason (even within (the) reality (that is presented in the films) itself) greatly enhance the charisma of the films and the whole enterprise. Philosophically the inconclusive reality as presented in the films of Antonioni may serve as a reminder that you are eventually only watching a movie. And moreover, it may serve to illustrate that great and transcendent art maybe cannot even be without such exaggerations; a most appropriate capture of reality inherently needs to move beyond reality – that metaphysical art needs temporal evasion from the realm of physics and the natural laws and causality that govern (and imprision) events within the physical world. Antonioni is an artist equal to Shakespeare or Dostojewski. The intellectual nuancedness and sophistication of his vision are comparable to those of the grand masters of literature, the depths of his complexity endless, making his artworks infinte. Infinity and totality necessarily are self-contradictory or paradoxical. And so, also the films of Michelangelo Antonioni seemingly must bear contradictory elements. Its their nature. In their eccentricity, the films of Michelangelo Antonioni are perfect circles, philosophically and artistically. That is to say, Antonioni´s mediatations about existential incompleteness are finally something that achieves undisputability and completion. That is so because they stem from Satori.

Professione: Reporter – The Passenger is the final of Antonioni´s canonical movies, and probably the inherent peak and point of no return of Antonioni´s entire artisitic vision and ideology. The great, and always critically illuminated themes of growth, becoming and transformation are taken to their extreme and are portrayed to finally lead to death and/or nirvana. David Locke (portrayed by Jack Nicholson) is a 37 year old renowned journalist and reporter who has come to a dead end, frustrated with his life and with himself, carrying the desert of frustrated indifference and saturation inside him; as well as that he initially operates in a remote desert, in an unsuccessful attempt to find and interview an elusive rebel army in Africa at the film´s beginning (a rebel army fighting for a better world at present, but maybe just as corrupt and egoistic once it has seized power). By chance, he fakes his own death and assumes the identity of his deceased neighbor in his hotel, David Robertson, about whom he knows practically nothing, but who turns out to be an arms dealer on behalf of the elusive rebels, making him a target for agents of the country´s secret serivice who will finally assassinate him. In escaping from his own identity he finds himself cought in the prison of another one´s, which he seems to accept with some resignation from the onset. His quest for identity is semi-determined by the instructions in Robertson´s calender, by appointments that succeed or, mysteriously, fail and by meeting and collaborating with an anonymous girl that could be a random stranger or a spy or some kind of detective (brilliantly portrayed, congenial to Monica Vitti, by Maria Schneider). At the same time, he gets persecuted by secret service agents and by his former colleagues and his former – both seemingly dominant as well as somehow erratic – wife, from which he tried to escape as well. Locke is both quite a complex, competent and successful character, and surely the most self-actualised of all of Antonioni´s main characters, yet it is also revealed that his complexity and competence is limited, good enough to fit into the higher echelons of professional life but not to transcend them, and that, despite his skills at storytelling and his „fabulous power of observation“ he (correspondigly) remains internally vacant (an expression of philosopher John Locke´s concept of the mind as a tabula rasa). The limitations of the written and unwritten rules of his profession (which actually are out there for good and make some sense) finally reduce him to having beome a conformist or a pseudo-nonconformist – indicating that true self-actualisation, transgression and transcendence would require superhuman abilities, respectively, even another world that does not interfere and remains unobtrusive (and such a world cannot exist). Respectively, indicating that superhuman qualities may finally just make things even more complicated and the psychological, philosophical and real-world struggles more intense. Near the end of the movie, and most imminent to Locke´s/Robertson´s (nevertheless unexpected) demise, Locke (not Robertson) tells a story to the girl about a blind man who finally got able to see: first that man felt overwhelmed and full of bliss by the perceived richness, beauty and colorfulness of the world, only to subsequentially become ever more depressed and irritated because of the bad things he could finally see more clearly as well (and, obviously, being the truer qualitities of existence to him than the positive ones), so that the man finally commited suicide after three years. That is seen as Locke telling a parable about himself, and that his entire journey in the film and his transformation into Robertson (making him descent into an exciting but also violent and likely also criminal world) is a slow suicide or a desire for death, highlighted by various incidents and sarcastic, disillusioned comments Locke makes throughout the movie (taking them as a sense for his imminent death or even as clairvoyance, and not just as random events/comments may be erronous though as well). As a star reporter, Locke presumably has seen the whole world, and even its most remote places, indicating that transcendence must necessarily lead him to unearthly realms and transformation cannot happen anymore in this world for him. Locke´s violent (and erronous) (and, as is also likely, unwanted) death by murder comes quiet, almost peaceful and like a euthanasia, and the spectacular final scene with the long and tranquil camera move seems to indicate the passage of his soul to some kind of nirvana (or maybe also only his elusiveness). Arrowsmith notes how Professione: Reporter – The Passenger succeeds in the attempt of any great art, namely offering a glimpse at absolute reality, by permanently switching from background to foregound (therein finally merging them), the ambiguity of meanings, the symbolic as well as elusive idiosyncrasy of things, the interplay between order and chaos, by displaying the interplay of the registers of the imaginary, the real and the symbolic, the concept of journey leading into the great wide open as well as to dead ends, the tasefulness and the bitterness of things and of people, the passage of time…. Finally, maybe seen from the perspective of Satori, the things that make up reality as well as a person are interwoven and merge into in a gigantic (pseudo-) network that is, however, permanently changing and situational, its elements fluctuating within an iron cage made of iron rules as well possibilities for excessive transgression and freedom, with unknown consequences. Such a view on a gigantic and obstrusive as well as elusive network that is absolute reality you may have in the films of Michelangelo Antonioni and most notably in Professione: Reporter – The Passenger, where the central characters are the most active and determined ones, and most close to „enlightenment“ and transcendence in the entire oeuvre of Antonioni. Professione: Reporter – The Passenger indicates that enlightenment and Satori, the ability to see things from an elevated perspective, is tricky and risky. Eastern Satori therefore tries to achieve freedom from any desire and acceptance that reality is „not real“. That leads, however, to passiveness and is, however, an unrealistic grasp upon reality. No matter how far we are able to reach out, the world will always remain to have good and bad aspects, says Goethe, from his top view of intellectual perception and at an old age in his Maximen und Reflexionen. That is life, and it has to be lived. Satori gives you a distinctly more intense and more intelligent, and a more colorful and joyful perception and grasp of reality, but it is tricky and risky as well, because that is how reality is. The Zen master acknowledges: Verily I say unto you, I have gained nothing from Satori! Absolute transcendence and stability is an imaginary quality, that is only possible beyond this world, in death or in an otherwordly, and probably very boring nirvana. Yet in the long run we are all dead, as we all are just passengers. Embrace the moment, as they say. Arrowsmith concludes his study about Antonioni – and his entire oeuvre being a both joyful as well as painful meditation of human and general metaphysical incompleteness – with reference to Antonioni´s fellow Italian poet Giacomo Leopardi and his reflection on a metaphysical tedium the Italians call noia:

Noia is in some sense the most sublime of human emotions (…) there is certainly our inability to be satisfied by any earthly thing or even by the entire world … To imagine the infinite numbers of worlds and the infinite universe and to feel that our minds and desires would still be greater than such a universe, always to accuse things of insufficiency and nothingness, and to suffer the want and the void: this seems to me the best proof of the grandeur and nobility of human nature.

April 2020

Twin Peaks and Ethics

Zwei Dinge erfüllen das Gemüt mit immer neuer und zunehmender Bewunderung und Ehrfurcht, je öfter und anhaltender sich das Nachdenken damit beschäftigt: der bestirnte Himmel über mir und das moralische Gesetz in mir.

Immanuel Kant

Twin Peaks, created by Mark Frost and David Lynch, is, among other things, about „the battle between Good and Evil“. Many films, stories, fairy tales etc. are. Mankind seems to be obsessed by that. Men seem to like to see themselves within a battle between Good and Evil, as heroes. Usually, they like to see themselves as the good hero, not as the villain. That indicates: there is hope. Humans usually don´t, psychologically, thrive off conscious wrongdoing. There is hope.

In contrast to more simple-minded productions, Twin Peaks shows how demarcation lines between good and evil are blurred; as well as how their in-between, mediocrity, may kill off both just like as it might get corrupted by one as well as by the other, either in a stable or a more unstable, ever-changing fashion. Whereas the orginal series, aired at the turn of the 1990s, presents a more innocent, naive and easy-going world, that may be infected by evil, but not truly corrupted by it, Twin Peaks: The Return, aired a quarter of a century later, seems to entertain a more sinister and disillusioned perspective on humanity. In Twin Peaks: The Return you have a gallery of decent as well as indecent as well as mediocre characters as well, but the idea of a community between them – as you had it, nevertheless, and with all its twists and turns, in the original series – seems to be absent. People´s individual idiosyncrasies and quirks don´t appear as so funny or charming anymore, rather as something degenerative, and people, in general, as idiotic. In this world of disconnectedness where humans live in indifferent surroundings (also nature, so prominent in the original series, considerably has lost its charm), hardly anyone achieves anything, men are hardly able to transcend their circumstances, and failure is more prominent (actually, it is not – there are spectacular successes due to the effort of good people as well as the considerable, supernatural powers of the White Lodge and those associated with it : Killer BOB gets destroyed, Cooper/Dougie reconciled with his family, seemingly forever, the assassins get assassinated or into jail, the grotesque killer couple Hutch and Chantal get killed by an even more grotesque ad hoc assassin, the insurance company gets saved and its honest boss rid of his parasites, the warm-hearted criminals, the Mitchum brothers, get their compensation and thrive off philanthropy, Bobby Briggs has been redeemed (though lives a shockingly modest life now), Ben has become a businessman and a person of integrity, Norma and Ed get married (and Norma „saves her soul“ by resisting the temptations of capitalism), Nadine has been successful in „shoveling her way out of the shit“ thanks to the simple-minded ideology of Dr. Jacobi who seems to have become more successful and more caring for other people than in the original series, even Anthony Sinclair gets redeemed from his bad conscience as he confesses his previous crimes and gets ready to face the consequences; the psychopathic Richard gets destroyed (with a little help from his own father, the evil Cooper), and the trouble-making Steven Burnett disappears — it is just that, when Cooper, the Agent of the Good, leaves the worldy scene again (in Episode 17) which he just before had entered, to confront Evil in itself and to save Laura, very quickly relapses into a world of gloom and of failure, with Laura´s fate being paralleled by the incomprehensible sufferings and degenerative states of Audrey Horne or former child prodigy Gersten Hayward: overally, „Twin Peaks“ has become a seemingly gloomier place). Good and evil have become even more cryptic and the relationships between cause and effect even less clear (if they exist at all). More questions are left unanswered than at the end of the original series. Maybe there will be another season, maybe not, so that inconclusiveness and disappointment – that the Good cannot, finally, triumph (yet neither can Evil: shown in the scenes how Joudi/Sarah Palmer may be able to dislocate Laura and create confusion, but being unable to destroy the image of Laura, despite all her frantic efforts) – is meant to be the final statement. The world in Twin Peaks: The Return seems to finally be under the shadow of the Black Lodge (although that has also been stated in the original series), with the glimpses of light rather being something isolated and occasional than something overally or overarchingly effective. That cannot be tolerated and cries for resolution. If you think or feel like this, there is hope for you. Because the world is threatened by the shadow of the Black Lodge, counterbalancing via the powers of the White Lodge seems even more urgent. And: the more you are associated with one of the Lodges, the more prevalent the influence of the other Lodge will appear to you. After the good Cooper has created goodness everywhere by the end of Twin Peaks: The Return, it is just that because he never wants to rest in doing so that he is bound to confront a world of darkness time and again. (Note, however, that the ending could be interpreted quite differently as well, as the visceral scream of Laura Palmer/Carrie Page seems to immediately kill the powers/electricity of Joudi all in an instant before the series closes, so that we would have an almost sarcastically staged happy end where good magically and practically without true effort triumphs over evil (to fulfill the audience´s expectation).)

In Twin Peaks you have „good“ and „evil“ spirits that dwell in extradimensional places. The demarcation lines between their true character features are, as well, blurred (with former evil spirit MIKE having taken a U-turn to the good after he had an epiphany and the unclear identitiy of most other spirits that are not featured so prominently throughout the series), their functions and their motives are, to a considerable degree, unclear, they seem to cooperate as well as to compete with each other, and they have their own, although obviously not very deep, personalities. Their language is cryptic, and maybe they do not even understand themselves very well. In a way, they seem to resemble the gods of ancient Greece, including their cryptic communication to man via the oracle. They do not seem to be able to achieve so much, either against each other, or in their interactions in the human world. They seem to need humans, and need to possess humans, because in themselves, they are too one-dimensional. They seem to be more powerful, and less powerful than humans. It is true that they inhabit not exactly the same dimensions than humans. They seem a condensation of human qualities – BOB being, as Albert refers to him, „the evil that men do“ – as well as forces that are both more conscious/powerful and less conscious/powerful than humans in their entirety. BOB seems to resemble the id, the Giant/Fireman the super-ego; neither the id nor the super-ego are very deep, as desires, good or bad, just form ad hoc without a truly deeper reason (within the „id“), and the super-ego tries to ban or allow them for no deeper reason. The ego as the mediating instance is the interesting instance. The spirits – as they are representations or manifestations of „Good“ and „Evil“ – are no (or not much of) egos. They are entities (with the apparent master spirit of Evil – Joudy – being an „extreme negative entity“ (and, apparently, also an extremely unhappy entity that seems to be in a deadly conflict even with BOB/the evil Cooper)). As such they cannot, truly, think. They just are, and behave, according to their nature. In doing so, and in being so, they seem to play an indefinite chess game against each other and also try to influence and corrupt (or destroy) each other. Although fairly incomprehensible to us, there is no mystery behind that at all, much rather, an absence of mystery. They behave according to their nature (and are trapped inside theit nature). BOB as „the evil than men do“ is a force as well as a parasite that needs a host. It is the image of Laura Palmer that symbolises the good while, both in the original series as well as in The Return, as a human being she is prone to corruption, either in a more or in a less innocent fashion.

What is Good, and what is Evil – and what is their mitigation: ethics, ethical reflections and ethical principles? Are they something „outside“ and external to humans (with the possibility of being something divine), or are they just something entirely within, even beneath, humans (since „good“ and „evil“ are only elements within a wider range of things at the disposition of man, who can, as a conscious and complex being, manipulate and evolve notions of good and evil, and who is, in general (for these reasons and for others), „beyond good and evil“)? Are Good, Evil and ethics something „objective“, objective (quasi-) entities, or Platonic ideas, which, as such, may even govern the world? Or are they „forces“ that may consume and absorb men? As such, they are, all too often, experienced (with, for instance, people struggling with dysfunctional behaviour patterns often referring to them as their „demons“). As an educated person, you may refute such a notion – that Good and Evil are true forces or principles beyond human reach and understanding – as something archaic. Subjectivist notions, in one way or the other, refer to ethics as someting that arises from within humans, and that does not have objective existence. Thinking that ethics, or good and evil, were something objective would have to be considered as a man-made projection. Yet if this is so, and ethical considerations only arise within humans, how can it be ensured that they are not completely arbitrary or delusions (or, at least, completey culturally relative)? Although there is great subjective flexibility in interpreting notions of good and evil and ethical principles, it is strange to think about them as mere delusions. Ethics, good an evil have many aspects, and one of them is that they have normative implications, that they are normative by nature. Something that is normative by nature cannot really be thought as something merely subjective. It needs to, in essence, transcend subjectivity. By contrast, Ethical Realism means that ethics is not something that soley arises within the individual, but that ethical principles are actually inherent to the world and a part of objective reality. (Subjectivist) opponents of this view may argue: if ethical principles are an element of objective reality, where are they „located“? How are they substantialised, if we are not to believe in god or the devil? (And, apart from that, if ethical principles objectively exist, how can they exercise influence over humans and their considerations?) More recently deceased philosopher Derek Parfit offers compelling analyses that, if they should make any sense, ethical principles cannot be subject to human subjectivity and (therefore) subjective arbitrariness alone, but need to be something objective (that is, nevertheless, enlivened by subjective behaviour and subjective arbitrariness). Parfit proposes to see ethical principles and ethical truths not as platonic ideas, substantialised forces or divine intervention but as something comparable to logical truths or mathematical truths, as something that arises within the world but is neither an idea, a force or a substance and that is unlocated. Hell yeah, one of the most glorious notions I have come across in recent years is Parfit´s notion of ethical truths being someting resemblant to logical or mathematical truths! (The nature of logical and mathematical truths is not entirely clear neither, however; but that their true nature and substance would be something so confusing seems an overinterpretation as well to me.)

Ethical behaviour is something that is encoded within our genes. In this respect, it is actually both something objective and subjective; something more ancient than we as well as something, to a considerable degree, inferior to the powers of our intellect and our overall personality; something that determines our (free) will to a degree we cannot even truly oversee nor transcend as well as something that has to succumb to our (free) will. It is both beyond and beneath us. Not only humans but also animals, plants and even viruses exhibit „altruistic“ behaviour, even is this apparent „altruism“ is just some sort of cooperative group behaviour to increase the chances of survival or prosperity of that respective group (at the expense of others) (for instance, if a virus attacks a body, this means war with the body´s immune system; within that you may witness „heroic“ behaviour of the virus as it forms small „suicide squads“ and kamikaze commandos to attack the immune system at certain points and, likely, lethally fail, yet in order to distract the immune system and ensure the triumph of the overall attack). It is, from that perspective, true that „the realm of ethics“ is both something transcendent and out of our reach as well as it is primitive and archaic/atavistic, and something that can, within some limits, get overcome by human agency.

Good is associated with connectedness, altruism, light; evil with disconnectedness, egoism, and darkness. You may have the mental image of „the Good“ as being something of great cohesiveness and great undifferentiatedness (the „divine light“, etc.) Undifferentiatedness, however, cannot be truly thought as being able to process itself (therein resembling its apparent counterpart: total chaos/maximum entropy). Creation, per se, refers to creatures. Creatures are differentiated from each other and they need to struggle for existence, within cooperation with other creatures, and at the expense of other creatures. Therein lies their potential for altruism and egoism (as well as for self-saturated mediocrity). Because of them being creatures, they are vastly different from their creating principle (both larger and smaller, both more liberated and less liberated, etc.) and they are tiny and small. That is, finally, creation. That creation carries relative „darkness“/egoism and relative „light“/altruism within itself is its inherent quality (philosophically, this view can most definitely be attributed to Friedrich Schelling). Creation manifests itself in (differentiated) creatures, which are, per se, individuals as well as parts of a larger collective. Therein, they behave in egoistic and altruistic ways, as individuals as well as a (part of a) collective. Ethics adresses the optimal state of balancing individual and collective welfare. For conscious beings, who can manipulate their environment and who have the power to create themselves, ethical considerations derive from the structure of being. Ethics is inherent to existence. We, as conscious beings, have some flexibility to manage (or neglect) ethics, we can create (or at least derive) exuberant virtue, but it also, and substantially, refers to something that is above us, to a coordinate of our existence or a dimension in which we are trapped in. As the confession of Kant illustrates, there are some people who see and internally experience THE LAW. They have a distinct mental represenation of THE LAW. Respectively, THE LAW is not an actual, and distinct, law, it is a distinct mental represenation of the ethical structure of the world, or of creation. Holy men are absorbed by THE LAW (a mental image of THE LAW might rather not be undifferentiated light, but an simple but extremely solid structure before the inner eye, and experienced as being within, or affecting, the body).

The good is transcendent as it always seeks to improve itself and become better. Therein, it refers to a potential that is actually infinite, as it is always beyond our reach. (Therein also lies the possibility of its own corruption: in the striving for goodness becoming a zealous and unempathetic quest for its own sake, something that may be overly guided by principles, something resembling obsessive-compulsive behaviour, spiritual pride (and prejudice) or megalomania, or an (inherent) pleasure principle: at the very end of Twin Peaks: The Return Cooper obviously has become such an obstinate, unempathetic zealot, therein alienating Diane/Linda and, maybe because of this, being unable to „save“ Laura Palmer, due to him himself having become impure). Striving for the good means becoming and self-transcendence, finally having achieved virtuousness, nevertheless, means having ceased to (seemingly endlessly) „become“ but to finally have arrived at the state of Being. From a theological perspective, having achieved an undivided state of Being is somehow resemblant to being God-like (and therefore, from a Leibnizian perspective (or other perspectives), man, and all creatures, necessarily must be fragmented and incomplete, otherwise they were God themselves and, if so, there would be no creation). Having arrived a state of completeness and of Being means something absolute. Yet, this absoluteness gets only confirmed in acknowledging its own relativity. Kierkegaard (respectively one of his (distant acquaintances of one of his) alter egos) raves about the joy that lies within the thought that against God we are „always in the wrong“. The highest level of virtuousness and absoluteness of Being lies within acknowledging the notion that against God it is „always in the wrong“ (i.e. acknowledging its very own relativity), and raving about it (i.e. that it supposes the existence of an instance infinitely superior – be it only a hypothetical instance – against which one is always „in the wrong“ for good, therein the possibility for self-purification being infinite. And as such an instance would serve THE LAW). Evil may also strive for its own intensification, yet that would mean degradation and perversion. Perversion may be bottomless and transcenting the limits of ordinary human understanding, yet it is hard to imagine its trajectory of intensification as infinite or unlimited or excessively open. Rather, the more perverse it gets, and the more shocking and the more harm it may inflict, the more it seems to get segregated, comprised and trapped within its own tiny box. (Note however, that this may only appear so from the perspective of the good. From the perspective of evil it may just appear the other way round: note however furthermore, that this usually does not seem to be the case. And note that „infinite“ perversion may of course be possible if, like Shakespeare´s/Verdi´s Jago, we were thinking about creation as being the work of a malicious and scornful god where anything good is just an illusion and its purpose just feeding us with false hope. Such a worldview is not logically inconsistent. Maybe it is even the truth. But it does not seem ultimately being infinite, since such a god would appear, eventually, idiotic).

Evil is, or may be, a labyrinth. And, as concerns its intensification and ego-syntonism, it may strive for becoming ever more a labyrinth. Its language, the way it talks to us, may be difficult to understand, not least because it is degenerated and beyond (or beneath) ordinary understandig, but also because it is manipulative and deceitful. It likes to mask itself. It does not want tob e truly understood (also since that would reduce its power). Many people are fascinated by evil (note that there is also a quite consistent interpretation of the entire series as playing, and being sarcastic, with the audience´s voyeuristic desire to see evil unfold and also desire for closure and simplicity that has both killed the original series as well as the film Fire Walk With Me (that got very negative reviews at its time); so that in The Return Lynch and Frost purposefully present an overly lifeless, evil and unattractive world, where all the postive that happens gets overlooked in the desire for the next sensational unfolding of evil, and with finally presenting a true mystery wrapped in an enigma). What I find truly fascinating, nevertheless, is the good. The good is not labyrinth-like, it is complex. It does not wear masks, it is authentic. Because of that, it is outside the norm and does not accord to ordinary patterns and therefore frustrate ordinary pattern recognition. Because of its complexity and authenticity, and its transcendent appeal, it may be difficult to understand as well. Both (great) good and evil escape the ordinary. Therefore also their powers are limited. Mediocrity, at times, seems to be the true governing force. To see it in such absolute terms is, of course, inappropriate on all accounts. What you have, in this world, is a chaosmotic balancing of forces. You may think that the world is an eternal struggle, a grand chessgame between good and evil, that seems to go on, without a clear result, indefinitely. Neither good, nor evil, nor mediocrity seem to truly understand themselves. As entities they just are. Beyond the Black and White Lodges and the mediocrity of Twin Peaks, in the icy mountains, there lives the intellectual balancer, who observes, and calculates. In serenity, in agitatedness, in confusion.

Picnic at Hanging Rock

They´re having a focus on Australian cinema these weeks at the Filmmuseum and so yesterday they did show Picnic at Hanging Rock. I have seen it multiple times but not on a large screen before. What makes my miserable life worth getting examined is that I am able to develop tremendous passions for many things and beauty greatly affects me, therefore I live in a state of bliss and enchantment, and Picnic at Hanging Rock again had a huge impact on me.

Twin Peaks: The Return

Das transzendente Genie, das alles umfasst und alles überschreitet und so wie David Lynch eines ist, muss durch alles hindurch und sich und seine Botschaften in seinem Durch-Alles-Hindurch-Wollen beständig transformieren und einige Schichten tiefer fallen, hinein ins Mysterium und in Richtung des Zentrums von allem. Kollabiert unter seiner eigenen Schwerkraft und mit der es alles einsaugt zu einem Schwarzen Loch, schickt das Material durch ein enges Wurmloch und schmeißt es, durch sich selbst hindurchgejagt, in einem Weißen Loch in einer bisher unbekannten Region im Universum wieder raus! Ja!! So ist das eben einfach!! Und immer wieder von Neuem! – Twin Peaks: The Return, hat mit der ursprünglichen Serie von vor 25 Jahren so wenig zu tun, dass es einen einfach umhaut! Wer hat schon eine Kraft der Imagination wie David Lynch? Das kommt in ein paar Millionen Fällen vielleicht einmal vor! (Chrysta Bell nennt ihn den möglicherweise kreativsten Menschen, den es je gegeben habe.) Die abstrakte Intensität und die Seele der alten Serie durch sich selbst hindurchgetunnelt, findet Twin Peaks: The Return im Hyperraum der alten Serie statt (oder so irgendwie). Die Welt ist viel älter und schrecklicher geworden, freilich, und hat nur mehr wenig Einladendes und Reizvolles zu bieten – traurig das! – gleichzeitig ist sie aber auch flacher und von einer höheren Perspektive des Welt-Auges aus betrachtet. Um es wieder einmal zu sagen, gibt es keine objektive Möglichkeit, zu sagen, ob das Leben an sich und objektiv ein Wert oder ein Unwert ist: alles hängt davon ab, ob man gesund ist oder krank geworden ist. In The Return ist die überwiegende Mehrheit der Menschen krank, es gibt auch Gesundheit und Heilung und verborgene Talente, wie in der ursprünglichen Serie, das Beklemmende an The Return ist, dass es eine Welt zeigt, die einigermaßen, und als offenbare Annäherung an das letzte Wort, von Idioten bevölkert ist, eine Tschechowsche Welt, eine Hölle auf Erden, wie man sie auch z.B. in True Detective hat, oder zumindest ein ewiges Purgatorium. Empathie mit dieser Schöpfung ist da nicht mehr so leicht möglich. Es ist keine, bei all ihrem Beklemmenden unter der Oberfläche, ulkige, urige, heimelige Welt mehr, und selbst die Natur lädt zu keiner Teilnahme mehr ein, und es gibt keine herrlichen Bäume mehr. Einige Öffnungen und Ritzen gibt es, wo das Licht durchdringt, und der Kirschkuchen als Friedensstifter hat auch einen Auftritt, doch man weiß nicht, ob das Gute (wie auch das Böse) nicht insgesamt eher noch eine Persiflage sind, und der dramatische, substanzialisierte Kampf zwischen Gut und Böse und Weißer und Schwarzer Hütte nicht auch nur eine unwichtige Kräuselung ist inmitten der eigentlichen, alles bestimmenden Macht, der kosmischen Indifferenz. – Natürlich ist es so, dass das Szenario zu einem erheblichen Teil unter der Herrschaft der Schwarzen Hütte steht und die Entwicklungen in Amerika, und anderswo, seit dem ursprünglichen Twin Peaks, keinen so guten Verlauf genommen haben. Natürlich ist es so, dass Menschen und die Schöpfung insgesamt, einigermaßen schwer auszuhalten sind, und das neue Twin Peaks einfach einigermaßen realistisch und der Realität geschuldet ist. Man meint halt, die höhere Perspektive des Welt-Auges steht für die höhere Klarheit und Abgeklärtheit und mit der Klarheit nimmt die Kälte zu. Die Annäherung an das Indifferent-Werden ist eine Übung wohl im Geiste des Zen, oder der Transzendentalen Meditation, wie Lynch sie betreibt und propagiert und deren Ziel es ist, zum Einheits-Bewusstsein vorzudringen und zum Herzen und zum Zentrum von allem. Der Charakter des Mysteriums und des Zentrums von allen ist so, dass es immer da ist und sein Antlitz ständig ändert, entsprechend jeweils dem, was einem gerade vor den Geist kommt und zu dem man einen Bezug aufbauen kann, der, wenn möglich, sich durch Empathie und Intensität auszeichnen sollte; genau gesagt, ist das Zentrum von allem das Herstellen eines solchen intensiven, die stoffliche Hyle transzendierenden, sprengenden Bezuges. Das große Mysterium und das Zentrum von allem, kann man wohl sagen, ist die Kommunion und das Mit-sein mit den Dingen! Dementsprechend ist das Himmelreich eine umfassende Kommunion von Mensch und Tier und Natur – der Schöpfung insgesamt – im Zusammensein mit Christus, den universellen Vereiniger. Zu Kommunion und Mit-sein mit den Dingen sind nicht alle Menschen gleichermaßen fähig, und Swedenborg sagt, die Hölle sei in Wahrheit eine Einrichtung der göttlichen Gnade, da die Seelen, die darnieder fahren, zur Kommunion, zum Erleben, zum Schaffen von Bezug, eh nicht in der Lage sind, sondern das Paradies für sie kann nur sein das Ausleben ihrer Wut, ihrer Paranoia und ihrer Gemeinheit – nicht aber des liebevollen Bezugs und der Anteilnahme! In der „Philosophischen Untersuchung über das Wesen der menschlichen Freiheit“ wendet sich Schelling gegen den Pantheismus, da der Pantheismus impliziere, dass Gott und die Kreatur gleich seien, in Wahrheit seien sie aber verschieden, Gott sei das Gute, und die Kreatur könne nur versuchen, sich Gott anzunähern, indem sie das universelle Gute anstrebe, sie sei aber immer davon bedroht, in ihren kreatürlichen Eigenwillen und die Selbstaffirmation hinein- oder zurückzuzufallen, der das Potenzial für das Böse sei. Schelling schreibt: „Gottes Wille ist, alles zu universalisieren, zur Einheit mit dem Licht zu erheben, oder darin zu erhalten; der Wille des Grundes aber, alles zu partikularisieren oder kreatürlich zu machen. Er will die Ungleichheit allein, damit die Gleichheit sich und ihm selbst empfindlich werde.“ Gott erhebt sich über den dunklen Grund des blinden Dranges, des Willens, des Eigenwillens, und zeigt das Licht an. Somit ist die Natur an sich notwendigerweise gespalten und das Böse, der kreatürliche Eigenwille, der Natur inhärent (und, trivial gesagt, könnte man das Gute ja nicht identifizieren, wenn es das Böse als Gegenpol nicht gäbe). Daher ist die letzthinnige Transzendenz, kann man vielleicht sagen, das Indifferent-werden gegen den Kampf zwischen Gut und Böse, unter Wahrung des Mit-seins und des Bezugs. Grant, der mich vor Kurzen wieder an Schelling und dessen „Philosophische Untersuchung“ erinnert hat, sagt auch irgendwie, alles sei eine Art Möbiusschleife, das ganze mit der Natur, dem Geist, der Schöpfung. Lynch hat das auch irgendwie begriffen. Vollständig begreifen und durchdringen kann man das nicht, eben wegen der Möbiusschleife. Und so ist auch die Transzendenz, die auf die Immanenz reflektiert, eine Möbiusschleife.

Last Night’s Terrifying Twin Peaks Will Be Remembered as One of the Best Episodes of Television Ever

One Year Later, I Can’t Stop Thinking About Twin Peaks: The Return

Here is the exhaustive Unified Theory Of Twin Peaks we knew was coming

‘Twin Peaks’ Ending Explained: How to Make Sense of David Lynch’s Baffling Finale

Marcel Proust Goes to the Rocky Horror Picture Show

I found something lovely  (gives me some terrible thrills)

Philip Hautmann I especially like this song and the lyrics as they transport – well – nostalgia for a more perfect world within a mind that is otherworldy and that is at home in outer space repectively that lives in the future which is, paradoxically, the subject of his inverted nostalgia. It leaves open room for various other interpretation as well. It somehow makes you feel such secureness and embeddedness in something that cannot be explicitly described and Patricia Quinn as the nostalgic as well as timeless Usherette looks very cute. It is Proustian as recovery of memory and lost time, the climax of the Proustian enterprise to achieve total information awareness and completion of self as Time Regained. What is especially admirable is that does not stand at the end point of the geniuses quest, something he has won after hard effort of creating a hyprcycle out of his own self, but as a somehow light and fluffy introduction to the enterprise, thereby clearly taking Proust unexpectedly and by surprise. Hail Richard O´Brien!

Stephan S
vor 4 Monaten
Does anybody know if this is really the voice of young Patricia Quinn?
However, it is badly sung but so genuine and authentic that I wish I’d been there in 1973. Times of craziness and creativity. So sad it’s all over.

happytree68
vor 5 Jahren
I wish they had kept the usherette to introduce the movie. I think she’s just so delightful. She’s so adorable, she seems to represent an age to true movie escapism. You could almost imagine her being yelled at by her boss because she keeps lingering in the theater to watch the movie instead of working.

Yasujiro Ozu

Was im Leben uns verdrießt, man im Bilde gern genießt.

 Goethe

Look what a formidable master Yasujiro Ozu was! They say Yasujiro Ozu (Dec. 12 1903 – Dec. 12 1963) was the „greatest filmmaker movie buffs probably have never heard of“, (if I may say so) an explorer of the human condition comparable to Shakespeare! I came across him some weeks ago when I saw one of those „Greatest Films of all Time“ lists (a seemingly somehow reliable one), where Tokyo Story (1953) by Yasujiro Ozu was ranked #3 (after Vertigo and Citizen Kane). I also remember to have seen Late Autumn (1960) last year at the Filmmuseum when they had a focus on Japanese cinema of the postwar era – I was impressed by it, but had no time to dive further into that director back then. Yasujiro Ozu´s films usually are quite simple and not overcharged with plot. Tokyo Story is about an elderly couple visiting their children (and grandchildren) in Tokyo. Their grown-up children meanwhile have families of their own and it turns out that they have neither the time nor the motivation to care a lot for their parents (with one good – however also somehow exaggeratedly good – soul being an exception). The careers of them are middle class, but more humble than expected, the grandchildren show a nasty (though also childish/immature/harmless) behaviour and may not seem very promising. On their way home the mother suddenly dies, which makes the family come after them, but leaving soon again. Late Autumn begins with the burial of a wife´s husband, with three friends attending (and one of them being a bit late), consoling the widow and her grown-up daughter (although both do not seem to be particularly shocked, with especially the widow showing a near-idiotic grin almost all the time). The story then revolves around the three friends trying to find a husband for the daughter, who somehow stubbornly refuses marriage, wanting to stay with her mother instead, with one of them (a widower himself) trying to remarry with the mother: The first endeavour is finally successful, the second one not, condemning both the widow and the widower to spend the rest of their lives in solitude, respectively, in case of the widow, leaving them obviously unable to reinvent themselves anew and start a fresh life. I reiterate, very simple stories, not overcharged with plot – but in the result, Yasujiro Ozu´s films are extremely heavy, and when I saw Tokyo Story, it was extremely uplifting for (well, for what? – for) my mind. With a somehow Beckett-like precision and sharpness, though not in an abstract/absurd setting, Yasujiro Ozu reveals what life is about at such a level of artistic quality that he may account for a true metaphysical artist! On the one hand, Yasujiro Ozu heavily relies on what Paul Schrader calls „transcendental style in cinema“ (read his illuminating essay or watch his lecture): By withholding stuff, confronting the viewer with the unexpected, paradoxical construction of empathy in the viewer, constrasting images (e.g. happy music to rather, or silently tragic scenes), by using ellipses, delay on the verge of provoking boredom he creates multiplicity of meaning and depth, even spirituality. On the other hand, and seemingly in contrast to such qualities of creating „depth“, his films and characteristics of his signature style are simple and somehow „flat“: the uneventfulness in his films and humbleness of storytelling, often the lack of soundtrack, the lack of melodrama, the static camera, the tatami shot (showing people from the perspective of a viewer seemingly sitting on a tatami mat with the film´s characters on the floor around a table) – what is more, the seemingly flat characters with their flat dialogues, where it is always unclear whether they are supposed to be characteristic Japanese people being somehow lost in their overly formal behaviour and politeness or being rather expressionless and shallow human beings per se. Dialogues usually are shown as frontal shots on the character speaking and the other characters responding, creating the impression of a competition or fight between egos (maybe even manifestations of a Nietzschean „Will to Power“) or at least of an isolation of the characters in their (pseudo-) individuality – or their solitude. The static camera creates the impression that all shots are also to be seen as artworks or paintings (with Ozu being reported to have been obsessively careful in the meticulous aesthetic arrangement of each shot) – and with no shot usually lasting longer than another, giving them equal importance. Likewise, Ozu´s films usually don´t revolve around a single character (neither they ever seem to have someone resemblant to a hero/ine), but around a number of characters, respectively their mutual interplay, and, as already stated, there is a most obvious absence of melodrama in the execution of storytelling – in sum, creating a counterweight to Hollywood movies and Hollywood storytelling. And it seems to be that characterstics of „flatness“ that (in tandem to the „transcendental“ elements of style) are responsible for the „frightening“ metaphysical depth of Ozu´s works and his (execution of) worldview: Metaphysical depth in art is created by the interplay between reality and ideal, the expected and the unexpected, archetype and individual idiosyncracy and the like, forming self-contained units of universal appeal. Ozu´s approach maybe can be said to consist in bringing humble but also bright reality (therein usually the beauty of nature of of the colourfulness of the world) so much into coverage with itself that an extreme metaphysical tension that adresses the intellect, the senses, the soul is created. Bringing stuff not into full coverage with itself, respectively metaphysical art, opens up and adresses one´s own imagination, though not in a sense of using your imagination further, but adressing imagination per se. The perfect art of the genius are manifestations and examples of endgames won by the power of imagination, imagination perfectly realised, as such they are frozen and static, but there are a lot of explosions that happen around them and they are transcendent in themselves. Ozu´s genius and its metaphysical appeal is not, for instance, a „fiery“ one, his quality rather lies in bringing stuff so much into coverage with itself that the metaphysical depth is endless (and of course, people in real life are not exactly like portrayed in Ozu´s films, neither is reality exactly like that…). With his extreme precision of intellect and imagination, Ozu strikes us by creating so very universal situations and universal characters – it is a paradox that Ozu´s films have gained little international recognition for being „too idiosyncratically Japanese“ while on the other hand – as (for instance) German independent filmmaker Wim Wenders notes – being the most universal films ever made, and probably ever possible to create (of course, their universality is limited as they do not seem stuff a mass audience can ever be programmed to fall into, due to the lack of melodrama, artistic sophisitication, „transcendental style“, nonconformism, and, most general, Ozu´s core approach not to make movies for the purpose of entertainment, but to get closer to the mystery of life). Human relationships and the life cycle are the most general topic in the films of Yasujiro Ozu and the most defining elements and conflicts, like between stability and transition, loss, tragedy, failure, missed opportunites, but also warmth between friends and family members (which Ozu also portrays), trust, altruism, mutuality, the „follies“ of youth and the wisdom of age, are more or less the same across times and across cultures. It has been noted that it takes a lot of courage and self-assuredness to „always make the same movie again“, and Ozu at least made movies that are very similar to each other (and, superficially, simple), but also exhaustively distinguished. Late Spring (1949, #15 in the above mentioned list of 50 greatest films of all time) is about a grown-up daughter that (again) refuses to marry because she likes to stay with her beloved father, and her father being finally successful trying to marry her, with a pleasant present being cracked up into an unpredictable (and maybe more dismal) future for both, yet also as a necessity of transition in a world where all things must pass. Floating Weeds (1959) and The Only Son (1936) are about life games that do not exactly work out and remain humble. By contrast, Good Morning (1959) is a wonderful film about children who want to have a TV set from their parents (including farting jokes) (also, Good Morning is a loose remake of I Was Born, But… (1932) which also deals with typical problems of children), or What Did the Lady Forget? (1937) is about (humourous) ways of how to deal with different (and difficult) family members. Both Late Autumn or An Autumn Afternoon (1962) are also about friendship, altruism and taking care for each other. In his early days, Yasujiro Ozu made rather comic (but also tragic) films, like Days of Youth (1929) (however, many of them are lost).

It has been noted that Yasujiro Ozu´s films revolve around the principle of mono no aware – which refers to an awareness of transcendental beauty of things which are bound to, nevertheless, pass, leaving behind melancholy about a basic sadness of life. As it comes to mind, great art, and therein also the art of Yasujiro Ozu, retrieves the things lost, or out of reach, in their transcendental beauty, and makes them tangible. Despite their simplicity, Yasujiro Ozu´s films come in with an enormous gravity, dass es dich einfach nur so aushebt, where it remains – as in the good things usually the case – a mystery from which it actually derives. Sure, from the slowness and metaphysical uneventfulness, their expression of artistic mastery, their depiction of life, their universality… but finally you begin to realise that the simplistic films by Yasujro Ozu are – sublime! Their gravity derives from being „something greater/deeper than you“ and of themselves, transcending themselves, like all true works of art do, opening up depths that can be explored forever. How do they make you feel? Ist es eine Komödie? Ist es eine Tragödie? The maybe most memorable moment in the entire oeuvre of Ozu is when at the end of Tokyo Story the youngest daugher, Kyoko, frustrated by the behaviour of her relatives, moans Isn´t life disappointing? with the exaggeratedly friendly (and silently lonely and depressed) Noriko nodding at her with a (frozen) smile: Yes, it is. – Well, you have to understand that there is finally no conclusion possible to be objectively drawn from life and from existence, but that your outlook on life is entirely dependent on whether you are mentally healthy or (have become) mentally unhealthy. When you are healthy, you can stand the sadness of life, and you might find Yasujiro Ozu´s bleaker films amusing. When you are unhealthy, you may not. But even (or only) then, Yasujiro Ozu´s films will strike you as a kind of Satori. That films like Tokyo Story have been a Satori-like revelation to them has been noted by many filmmakers. Satori is a general experience (across time and cultures) that is, however, very idiosyncratically experienced by few and for which no general description may be vaild (hence the reluctance of the enlightened ones to speak despite speaking a lot and the un/ambiguity of the Koan); it has been described as „the same experience of reality as usual, but only two inches from above“. In a way however, films like Tokyo Story or Floating Weeds are like the (finally inexplicable) Satori perspective itself, and the bleakness of life becomes illuminated (in the ambiguous meaning of the word). As it says in Zen Sand 16.3.: If only a single awakened spirit becomes DAO and views upon the Dharma-World / Leaves and trees, nations and the great Earth all become Buddha. Hence, if all else fails, the films and the spirit of Yasujiro Ozu remain, and the world is saved.

UPDATE SUMMER 2018:

In Tokyo Twilight (1957), which is considered as Ozu´s bleakest film, characters are not of the „Beckett-like“ precision as you have it most explicitely in Tokyo Story, instead, they are much more intransparent and opaque and, as they seem to lack a solid inner core, fickle and easily drawn in opposing directions (in a effort to find love and support, that may nevertheless be also strongly egoistic) – and therefore quite realistic. Ozu himself was said to have been somehow unhappy with the preciseness of his characters in Tokyo Story, as he was usually favoring a more nuanced approach in the protrayal of people and of reality (and, as not all people and all realities are alike, it is good to see how Ozu masters all the different approaches alike). Early Spring (1956) is about young adults and about their monotonous average professional lives as salesmen, their not very fulfilling marriages and occasional infidelity, including personal tragedies and early losses of lives, twens having arrived at an early dissatisfation with their lives and the prospect that more of it is what just will ever be about to come, with the prospect that finally what you find out is that „life is just an empty dream“ as an elderly salesman mourns, contrasting, therein, the widespread optimism due to the economic boom in the 1950s. It ends with a tacit (respectively neutralised) happy end and the message that it´s probably the small things that count in life. In Early Summer (1951) you also have younger grown-ups at the verge of trespassing into the more mature period of adulthood. Apart from the rascally (respectively „sensitive“) children you have people that are likeable and supportive of each other. It (more losely) revolves around marriage (and the increased autonomy of women in post-war Japan) and you have an absence of true problems, despite at the end a temporary melancholia about the impermanent nature of life and the transition of things (via wonderful shots on fields respectively the cyclical character of nature). Tami´s (i.e. the mother of the prospective husband) happiness is very cute and infectious, and I think I will remember her. Equinox Flower  (1958) was Ozu´s first movie in color, and it again portrays the conflicts of marriage – though this time it is not the daughter that refuses to marry but the father who, in a mixture of fear for the daughter´s future and losing his daughter to another person, stubbornly opposes the marriage his sibling has chosen out of love (while nevertheless promoting marriage on the reason of true love over „sterile“ marriage for the sake of convenience), with his opposition slowly crumbling under the friendly efforts of his family members to convince him otherwise. A tacit comedy, Equinox Flower indicates (though not explicitely shows) a happy end, as the intentions and the hearts of all the individuals involved are, each in their own ways, pure and the characters show responsibility and awareness for themselves and for their loved ones. There Was a Father (1942) was shot during the war and therefore also contains some patriotic elements (that had been cut out of the version now widely available), The story of a father and his son, the grand theme of the film is responsibility and sense of duty – and its ambiguities: while „doing his duty“ seems to prevent from a slippery life course and failure, it hinders emotions and authenticity. Woman of Tokyo (1933) is a silent film in which Ozu developed from his early student comedies to a student tragedy. It is the story of two siblings, Chikako and her brother Ryoichi. Chikako works hard and makes thorough sacrifices to provide her brother with the financial means and emotional/moral support to complete his studies (since that is what would make her so proud). When Ryoichi  gets confronted with his sister also prostituting herself for that end, he turns angry and desperate and commits suicide, obviously due to worries of damage done to their reputation (respectively because he is a weakling, as Chikako mourns in the final scene), leaving his grieving sister alone.

Jeannette – L’Enfance de Jeanne d’Arc

„Ein Heavy-Metal- und Rap-Musical voller (selbst)bewusst schlaksig-tapsiger Tanz- und Gesangseinlagen, dargeboten von Laiendarstellern mit teils recht eigenwillig-eindrücklichen Gesichtern – über die Kindheit von Jeanne d’Arc, basierend auf einem modernen Mysterienspiel aus dem Jahre 1910?! Ganz genau. Und so findet in JEANNETTE zusammen, wovon man nie glaubte, dass es tatsächlich etwas miteinander zu tun haben könnte: die (scheinbar) religiös-vergeistigte und die (oberflächlich) humoristisch-groteske Seite von Bruno Dumont. Hier, bei diesem spirituell durchaus ernsthaften, minimalistisch-bizarren Camp-Gustostück, kann man endlich einmal sagen: Das habe ich so noch nie gesehen.“ (Stadtkino Wien)

WOW, wie dieser Film drei Elemente enthält, die für mich so wesentlich sind: Tanzende/singende/springende Kinder, deren Seelen gleichzeitig älter sind, als die Zeit selbst, Heavy-Metal-Musik, sowie das Streben nach Heiligkeit – der Gernot hat gemeint, wir sollen uns diesen Film rasch ansehen, da er unglaublich schlecht läuft, meistens seien nur drei, vier Leute im Publikum: und tatsächlich waren dann neben dem Gernot und mir nur noch irgendeine Alte im Saal, wobei der Michi dann auch noch dazugekommen ist – scheint zu unterstreichen, dass Leute wie Jeanne d`Arc, die ganze Nationen und Großgefüge spirituell zusammenhalten, dabei gleichzeitig meistens radikale Außenseiter und Einzelgänger bleiben. Die Geschichte der Jeanne d`Arc z.B. mit Heavy-Metal-Musik zu vermengen, mag gekünstelt wirken von der Intention her und paradox im Ergebnis, ist es aber nicht; die scheinbare Heterogenität sei vielmehr ein Tribut an die Vielschichtigkeit und Tiefengestaffeltheit der Welt, die tief ist, und tiefer als der Tag gedacht, und ergibt somit eine vollkommen homogene Perspektive, einen perfekten Kreis, eine vollkommen Sphäre. Der Über-Humor ist die Methode, der Welt (und ihrer Psychose) mit vollkommen tiefsinnigem Ernst und in spiritueller Feierlichkeit begegnen! Ein achtjähriges Kind, das versucht, ultratiefe Moral zu verwirklichen (also Moral, die über das gegebene menschliche Maß hinausgeht und so einen neuen Markstein in der Geschichte, eventuell sogar der Evolution der Moral errichtet)… da verschlucke ich mich fast vor Begeisterung, und fühle mich erinnert an meine Jessica Simpson aus St. Helena… (wobei ich am nächsten Tag dann in eine gewisse Depression verfallen bin, zusätzlich zu dem, mit was ich sonst zu kämpfen habe, als es sich irgendwie aufdrängt, dass die Geschichte des Verwirklichers ultratiefer Moral, der nicht nur ein Hyperset bildet, sondern sich gleichzeitig auch von der Menschheit abnabelt, im Leben mit einer gewissen Wahrscheinlichkeit nicht so gut ausgeht). Der Text, der verfilmt und vertont wurde, stammt von Charles Péguy, der bei uns kaum bekannt ist, und den ich also lesen muss.

Jessica Simpson, 9, entdeckt, dass alles auf der Welt ein Herz hat

Inside the Wire

The Wire is held to be the greatest TV series of all time by some. An approval as ultimate as that would be a matter of taste, nevertheless The Wire depicts the human game at an epic scale and it does so more or less flawlessly. It is a grand achievement and can be compared to a classic novel series, Balzac´s Comédie humaine comes to mind, although The Wire is better than many of Balzac´s works. Revolving around drug trade and drug related crime in the city of Baltimore as the ultimate nexus The Wire depicts different institutions and social realms and their relationship to law enforcement in the five seasons of the series (illegal drug trade in season 1, the seaport system and trade unions in season 2, the city government and bureaucracy in season 3, the school system in season 4 and the media in season 5). It is a police/crime series as well as a social drama as well as it illuminates how things actually work (and is, in this respect, infotainment). The main interest of the series is to depict how individuals are formed by institutions and how individuals try to maneuver themselves through institutions for the better or the worse, for the greater good or for self promotion, for trying to improve their institutions or blow them up (with usually the anonymous institutition being the stronger one, swallowing, eating and digesting the individual – unless the individual is able to make career, which is a main endeavour/obsession of most of the characters). The main message I got is how policies and almost everything that happens in the human realm is the result of a compromise or a countertrade between different endeavours or between different logics in an effectively heterogenous world. Kissinger says that people usually do not understand politics as politics, in reality, means the choice between two evils. That is, somehow, a permanent message of The Wire; that the actual problems are dilemmas in nature, i.e. they cannot actually be solved just managed in a more or less clever and effective way.

Some (like Stephen King) said The Wire depicts human hell. In some instances that is about true, in general the situation is purgatory-like, although personal achievement or endeavour and what people want is frequently out of sync with what people get and how they are rewarded. The intelligence of the series lies, among other things, in depicting how both their endeavours and their rewards may be seen as just and fair from one perspective (e.g. the individual or the ethical perspective) and unjust and unfair from another (e.g. the institutional or the juridical perspective). There are few happy endings and resolutions in the individual storylines (which is uncommon for a TV series or movie), however there usually are organic developments and life trajectories (without much change in personality and character of the individuals however). Truly outstanding (or likeable) characters are few, if any, although most of them have their positive qualities and talents; the series does a great job at displaying the individualities of the characters and one is able to empathise with them, and after all even many of the gangsters don´t even actually seem that bad. The series does a good job at establishing not only various but truly individual perspectives – and it is actually magical how well and organic the performances are by the actors who were to a considerable degree not very prominent: all the characters appear incredibly real and convincing. The nexus, however, is „the game“ and „the corner“ that will „always remain the corner“, with individual humans only populating and being around the corner for a while until they get displaced by other individuals. In one of the more depressing scenes the death of Omar, the most idiosyncratic character of the series, is depicted as to not cause much interest or affection (yet however people trying to excel each other at inventing grotesque fairy tales about the circumstances of his death after a while); likewise as the infidel and unreliable McNulty gets told by his spouse Beadie that family may be the only one who actually cares when you are gone (McNulty, an assumingly terrible husband, is divorced from a wife that often exaggerates and is egoistic and he has two sons who don´t show exaggerated individuality). It is a „cold world“ in which we are living, as is effectively said on more than one occasion. The series starts with a police hunt on the criminal Barksdale organisation which displays a dangerousness and lethality hitherto unknown in Baltimore only to be, after it gets destroyed, replaced by the even more sinister Stanfield organisation (with a probable return to a more casual state of affairs in the Baltimore drug scene after the Stanfield organisation gets blown up). Yet the big wheel keeps on turning and it is almost meditative how the great flow is depicted by The Wire.

The creator of The Wire, David Simon, had a long experience with the drug scene and the law enforcement in Baltimore (and a vast perceptivity) which finally cumilated into the wisdom of the series. Jimmy McNulty, more or less the cental character of the series, is a portrayal of a cop who is not actually out there to help people or to empathise with victims of crime but to be able to feel intellectually superior to the criminals he is chasing (which, according to Simon, is not so uncommon among the personnel of law enforcement). McNulty is the most capable detective, but he is loathed by superiors for frequnently being disloyal and egoistic (although he always has a point (which usually carries a higher truth) in his soloistic maneuvers), and because of his pride and apparant shallowness in other psychological respects he is a failure in private (a notorious womanizer and alcoholic who does not seem to have true friends). Female officer Kima also has a rather wobbly private life, however that is because she likes the (inherently dangerous) occupation and she is a more balanced character (there is an indication that she likes to play the tough cop when she rather needlessly beats a drug dealer in one of the first episodes but such a suggestion of imbalance isn´t prominent later in the series); Kima is also one of the more complex and likeable characters. The elderly Lester Freamon is the most intelligent and wise officer of the team, despite his laid-back demeanour a kind of intellectual alter ego of McNulty who also has frequent trouble with authority. It is satisfactory to watch that he gets hot and sensible Shardenne as a spouse and they obviously live a harmonious relationship. Carver and Hauk are a kind of Laurel & Hardy team with Carver obviously becoming a good officer and Hauk degenerating into becoming an employee for Maurice Levy, the amoral lawyer for Baltimore´s drug kingpins (that Levy is jewish is not an antisemitic stereotype but due to the fact that many of those lawyers for Baltimore´s drug dealers are jewish, says Simon (himself jewish)). When, in an obvious attempt by superiors to sabotage the investigations against the Barksdale organisation, the special unit deliberately consists of especially lazy and incompetent officers at the beginning of the series Pryzbylewski is portrayed as brutal and stupid (and probably racist) but he soon proves his value as a code breaker and puzzle solver as well as a nice and unassuming guy who rather likes to work behind the scenes as he is too nervous (or so) for acting in the streets – which tragically proves true as he accidentally kills a fellow officer and then leaves the police and becomes a devoted maths teacher at the school for Baltimore´s troubled youth. Bunk is the firmest figure of the series as he is morally concerned (but not naive) and seems to be able to connect to everything and all the different realms without losing himself. Daniels also is one of the more ethical as well as effective officers who may be willing to sacrifice some of his career (and also his marriage) but gets overcompensated when he becomes useful for superiors – only to find out that as a police chief he would have to engage in unethical activities to please his political superiors (e.g. manipulating statistics) which causes him to resign and become a lawyer. The cholerical Rawls is depicted quite as devoid of personality as he maneuvers through the ranks and spills down the pressure that is exerted on him by higher ranks – a creature of the hierarchy.

D´Angelo Barksdale calls his subordinate dealer Wallace a good guy who, „unlike the other niggers“, has a heart and since both have some moral sense they prove as to frail as to effectively be gangsters – they meet their tragic end not as they break out of their criminal organisation but as they get liquitated as potentially untrustworthy by the superiors of the organisation. D´Angelo is probably the most tragic example of an individual who had become a gangster not by his own choice or because he is particularly bad and draws satisfaction out of what he is doing but because he was born into a family who runs a criminal organisation as a family enterprise with the individual family member´s worth being reflected in how much he is useful to this organisation. His uncle Avon, the head of the Barksdale organisation, is the offspring of a criminal and his brutally criminal ways rather seem to be a lifestyle to him he is accustomed to and the killings he orders a matter of ruthless professionialism – it is difficult to decipher how much psychopathological pleasure and narcissistic gratification he  may receive from upkeeping his image as a fearsome drug kingpin including a notorious womanizer or whether he just acts as a professional gangster inside a fiece battle of competition. When it is effectively too late and his organisation about to be blown up he however ruminates whether the approach of his partner Stringer Bell (to become businessmen not anymore directly involved with the drug trade on „the corner“) wouldn´t have been the more intelligent one. Stringer Bell is one of the most noteworthy characters of the series, a cerebral gangster who in his spare time studies business administration at the university (and recceives good grades and is obviously well liked by his professors with whom he intellectually conversates) and who wants the Barksdale organisation to finally engage in normal business and to buy political influence. Nevertheless he is as ruthless as Avon, he orders the murder of D´Angelo and finally betrays Avon whose gangster style he increasingly sees as dangerous and so (accidentally) blows the Barksdale organisation up – while at the same time he is betrayed by his „brother“ Avon and gets killed by Omar and Brother Mouzone whom he betrayed before – an almost Shakespearean end to the Barksdale organisation which collapses over itself (the fearsome hitman Brother Mouzone, who obviously belongs to the Muslim brotherhood and reads Harper´s magazine is also one oft he more remarkable characters of the series). Marlo Stanfield who starts a war with the Barksdale organisation is a young gangster who is primarily driven by lust for power and who is quite expressionless in most other respects. All he strives for is „wearing the crown“ and he is even more ruhtless in ordering killings for minor reasons than Avon. Proposition Joe embodies the „reason of state“ among the Baltimore drug dealers. Like most other dealers he simply wants to sell his drugs and refrains from brutality. Nevertheless he is clever at manipulating situations to his own advantage. A friendly fat uncle who officially repairs radios and watches he is almost a highly likeable character. He meets his end as he gets betrayed by his own nephew to Marlo who wants to take over Joe´s drug supply line via the organisation of the Greek and to take revenge for Joe´s accidental collusion with Omar. Omar Little is the most idiosyncratic (and, actually, a bit strange) character of the series. He lives by robbing other drug dealers (and, occasionally, giving away drugs to junkies for free) making him a bit a Robin Hood-like character. He is highly intelligent, fearless and feared by other drug dealers, homosexual and even seems to possess superhuman qualities and pain tolerance. Nevertheless he gets killed by 12 year old Kenard in the end, the probably most sinister and sociopathic character of the series (next to female/tomboy killer Snoop).

You have bad mothers in The Wire, like drug addicted Raylene who lets her husband living with her despite he had been sexually abusive towards his children in the past or De`Londa who becomes furious over her son Namond as he proves incompetent as a drug dealer. You have weak family ties, not only illustrated in the Barksdale family where they (sexually) betray each other but also in the case of McNulty. Chris Partlow, Marlo´s primary enforcer, on the other hand seems to be devoted to his family, despite he has the highest body count of all he cannot stand being spared from his family for a longer time (he gets desperate because of this when he is on the run from Omar) and he also displays geniune care for his subordinates. If he wasn´t a killer Chris also comes in as an example of being a somehow nice guy as well as a ruthless criminal. In the end he goes to prison for life after being assured by Marlo that his family will be taken care of. One of the more astonishing (and uncanny) scenes of the series is to see how little the gangsters seem to care about being thrown into prison for many years or for the rest of their lives, contrasting and effectively destroying their assumed struggle for a good life which made them criminals in the first place. The seaport workers (occasionally or more systematically) engage in petty crime, their trade union, led by Walter Sobotka, is forced to support the criminal activities of the organisation of „the Greek“ as they need to collect money for their political struggle in order to survive as the seaport is under threat from environmental legislation, prestige projects to use the territory for other purposes and, most of all, technological progress rendering more and more traditional jobs obsolete. It is depicted how Sobotka and his trade union (as an epitome for American labour) are alone in their struggle with nobody showing interest or affection for their concerns. The second season sets in as the trade union gets into a struggle for the approval of the church with the police, an actually petty feud which however causes officer Stan Valchek to react furiously on a personal level and, despite that, professional as he tries to investigate obvious criminal activities of the union. The Greek, an unassuming elderly gentleman, heads a criminal organisation which engages in various criminal activities from drug trade and smuggling to human trafficking. According to David Simon the Greek is an embodiement of unfettered capitalism, using and abusing American labour indirectly for the purpose of enrichment. The second ignition for season 2 is 13 young women from Eastern Europe found dead in a container in which they were shipped to become sex workers in America. Tommy Carcetti who is quick to run for major and, then, for governor, is an opaque figure and it is difficult to distinguish whether his actions as a politician are motivated from pushing his career or promoting the common good. As the series continues, Carcetti gets more and more swallowed by career motivations and what originally could be held as emanations of rhetoric talent sounds more and more unbearable as stereotypical and disposable statements of a career politician. One of the most memorable scenes of the series is when it is disussed in the city council about who is responsible for the dire financial situation and no one is willing to accept any responsibility. Dire straits is also the condition for the local newspaper which gets sandwiched between depleting funds and capitalist diktat from above making its editors turning a blind eye on unethical and sensationalist journalism in order to attract attention and secure their position (they finally get the Pulitzer Prize which they hope makes them more immune but it is foreseeable that the obvious flaws will sooner or later be uncovered). The most uncanny season is the fourth which depicts the situation at public schools for the children of the black lower class. The children are brutal, refuse to learn anything that is not of practical use for their future in the streets and, in most cases, obviously don´t even understand content that is more abstract (which is quite common among humans yet in that case comes in a more undisguised fashion). Nevertheless Pryzbylewski becomes a devoted teacher who cares for his pupils. Academics from the university try to set up programs to improve their situation but they eventually fail, not least to lack of funding (with the academics regarded as unworldly and quixotic by the police and Dr. Parenti, the sociologist being a bit a colourless figure who however is at least exited about how the scientific community will applaud his findings after the program got terminated).

Despite being suspenseful and exiting and, at its core, a great crime series, despite being informative, epic and pandemonium-like and despite high critical acclaim The Wire was a moderate success in commercial terms and proved a bit too complex for a larger audience. At the same time The Wire was popular all across the political spectrum as liberals, conservatives, Christians, Marxists, etc. were able to draw out something that seems to confirm their worldview. Simon however strongly opposes ideological dogma, according to him the main endeavour of the series was to show the complexity of the city, demanding a complex and multidimensional understanding of problems in order to effectively cope with them. Despite his strong standing against asocial neoliberal capitalism (Simon says the dimension of collective responsibility has become refuted, even viewed upon as obscene in nowadays America – the question of individual and collective responsibility in the makeup of a good society is something we accidentally just had in the note about Michael Neder) The Wire isn´t so openly and outspokenly critical towards neoliberalism in the end (maybe because the producers did not want to effectively polarise and repel the more conservative audience). The Wire does not tell why Balitmore became such a dangerous place (or why crime rates fell in many American (inner) cities in the later 1990s, excluding Baltimore) or why you have drug abuse in any Western city but usually not such high levels of crime as you have in many American cities. The Wire is, in the end, an overly pessimistic series. – But the big wheel keeps on turning, and as for now good night, po-pos. Good night, fiends. Good night, hoppers. Good night, hustlers. Good night, scammers. Good night to everybody. Good night to one and all.

Zerkalo (Prelude to a possible Note about Tarkovsky)

„I trust not promotions
And I fear not omens
I flee not from slander or poison
There is no death
We´re all immortal – All is immortal
Fear not death at seventeen,
Not at seventy …
There is only reality and light.
There is neither dark, nor death in this, our world.
We´ve reached the beach,
And I am one of those, who pulls the nets in,
When immortality arrives in batches.
Live in a house, and it won´t crumble;
I´ll summon a century at will,
Enter and built my house in it.
That´s why your children and your wives
All share my board
The table serving forefather and grandson:
The future is decided now.
And if I rise my hand,
The five rays will remain to you.
My bones, like beams
Held up each day,
I measured time with a surveyor´s staff,
And passed through it as through the mountains.
I chose a century to my height.
We pressed on South, raising dust in the steppes,
Weeds smoldered, a grasshopper played,
Touching horseshoes and prophesying…
Threatening me with death quite like a monk.
I strapped my fate fast to my saddle,
I rise up in the stirrups
Of the future as a boy.
I am content with my immortality,
With my blood coursing from century to century.
I´d gladly give my life
For a safe corner of warmth.
If life´s swift needle
Did not draw me out, as though I were a thread.“

(01:01:10 – 01:03:12)

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Independence Day 2

Independence Day 2 ist nicht so gut wie der erste; aber egal, die Möglichkeiten, das so kraftvoll zu inszenieren wie beim ersten Mal waren ja auch praktisch nicht mehr gegeben. Bei der Zeichnung der Charaktere hätten sie sich aber mehr einfallen lassen können (obwohl etwas anderes als eine rein schemenhafte Individualität und eine bloß schemenhaft individuelle Unterscheidbarkeit von Menschen, also echte individuelle Idiosynkrasien, in die heutige fortgeschrittene Epoche vielleicht gar nicht mehr passen würde und von den Leuten möglicherweise auch gar nicht mehr verstanden werden würde; ja, es scheint mir, dass Emmerich und seine Kumpels da bewusst ein Zeitdokument geschaffen, außerdem einen codierten Hilferuf ins All gerichtet haben); gut finde ich, dass der Metalfreak-Wissenschafter Okun, neben seinem unerschütterlichen Frohsinn und seinem explosiven Enthusiasmus für nüchterne, objektive, verallgemeinernde Erkenntnis, diesmal eine stärkere, besser integriert wirkende und kompetentere Figur abgibt (wie auch der einstmals pfiffige und wendige Levinson, dessen nachdenklicher und erfahrener und, wie sich später herausstellt, richtiger Rat gleich zu Beginn von den Funktionseliten nicht befolgt sondern das gewalttätige Gegenteil davon ausgeführt wird, deutlich gealtert und melancholischer rüberkommt lol). Die Vorstellung von außerirdischer Zivilisation und Technologie macht mich aber auf jeden Fall immer ganz kribbelig.

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