Landscape & Film #1 : “How I Ended This Summer”.

Part of Kinoimages' revamped look/content is a closer look at landscape aesthetics, the passage of time, and in this case the fantasy of the Arctic in the Soviet Union. The text below (available only in German) is a form of recap of the perception of this Soviet icy space which started in the 30s and perpetuates itself until today. Our contemporary example is:
"How I Ended This Summer" (2010, directed by Aleksey Popogrebskiy). 
Filming location: Valkarkai Polar Station, Chukotka, Russia. 
So here is an extract from my Masters in which I contextualize the Soviet understanding of the Arctic, and although I don't deal with Popogrebskiy's film (but Eisenstein's Alexander Nevsky), it would be interesting to examine how the perception of this landscape was constructed and ultimately transformed, when read in light of Russian cinema today. Submitted at Universität Heidelberg in 2014. For inquiries, write to hanin.hannouch@gmail.com

How I Ended Last Summer (2) How I Ended Last Summer (3) How I Ended Last Summer (4)

The grim North, the endless icy waste, has bewitched me.” Pilot Iwan Papanin (1894-1986) zu einen Journalisten von Pravda2
Die Leere der Arktis bot der Sowjetunion ein unbeschriebenes Blatt, auf dem außerordentliche, fiktive oder reale Heldentaten beschrieben werden konnten. Die arktische Region verfestigte auch den sozialistischen Realismus, als eine abenteuerliche und bahnbrechende Weltanschauung, die beispiellosen epischen Handlungen den Weg bereitete. Diese nördliche Peripherie gab den realen Raum für die Erforschung der Arktis durch Flugtechnik, sowie den fiktiven Raum, wo historische Ereignisse, wie die Schlacht auf dem Eis in „Alexander Newsky“ (1938), in die Filme eingeflochten werden konnten. Heldentaten waren zentrale Themen für die Konstruktion des sowjetischen Bürger, eine wesentliche Säule der stalinistischen Propaganda wo positive Helden Beispielfunktion hatten. 
How I Ended Last Summer (5) How I Ended Last Summer (7) How I Ended Last Summer (8) How I Ended Last Summer (9)

How I Ended Last Summer (13)

„Uncivilized and unknown, the Arctic was the most distant part of the Soviet Union's periphery, the very edge of the world". Und auch am Rande der Welt war das sozialistische Projekt erfolgreich. Der Mythos von der Arktis begann 1932 mit Otto Schmidt (1891-1956) und mit seiner Führung des Eisbrechers Sibirjakow in eine Nordostpassage3. Waleri Tschkalow (1904-1938), ein Pilot, der in Nowgorod geboren wurde, gelang 1937 ein Rekordflug über 12.000 km. Dieser Transpolarflug führte ohne Zwischenlandung von Moskau nach Vancouver. Solche Heldentaten waren zahlreich in der Sowjetunion der Dreißigerjahre, wenn man die Berichterstattung in der Presse befragt. Sie spielten auch eine wichtige Rolle um die Macht von Stalin über jeder Ecke des Landes zu kontrollieren und für das sozialistische Projekt zu instrumentalisieren. 
  How I Ended Last Summer (14) How I Ended Last Summer (15) How I Ended Last Summer (16) How I Ended Last Summer (17) How I Ended Last Summer (18) Genau wie der Generalplan von Moskau und der Bau der Metro, wurde der Kampf gegen die Natur in der stalinistischen Propaganda äußerst hervorgehoben, in Pravda, Büchern, Artikeln, Radiosendungen usw. „In short, the Arctic and the celebrities associated with it became firmly embedded in the Soviet national consciousness during the 1930s.“How I Ended Last Summer (19) How I Ended Last Summer (20) How I Ended Last Summer (22) How I Ended Last Summer (23)
Alles und jeder der mit den Mythos dieser Peripherie verbunden wurde bekam magische Kräfte. Der Raum konnte das Schicksal verändern und Helden konnten die Natur manipulieren, weil sie die Prototypen des neuen sowjetischen Manns und unempfindlich gegenüber der Härte des Klimas waren.

How I Ended Last Summer (24) How I Ended Last Summer (25) How I Ended Last Summer (10) How I Ended Last Summer (11) How I Ended Last Summer (12)

Behind the scenes of Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives”

Behind the scenes of Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Live”s (2010).
I am not the author of these images. More on Facebook.
Check out our favorite poster of “Dream” by Kim Ki-Duk here

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Let’s watch “Antichrist” (2009) or: Namelessness & Trauma in Lacanian enunciation.

Lars von Trier’s Antichrist (2009) raised many an eyebrow in terms of imagery and analysis.  I will attempt to comprehend it from a Lacanian perspective, NOT because this is the truth or the reality of the film, but because art is open to (elaborately justified) interpretation. It could or could not have been intended as such by the director but there are many lenses through which we can view it. I choose Lacanian theory. Once again, this is not the final word about the work, this is a mere proposition(PS – Basic knowledge of Lacan’s writing and the film itself are required). In case you’re not into reviews, do check out the selection of film posters.

Antichrist can be seen from a vivid Lacanian perspective revolving around the acute process of symbolization of trauma by the Subject. Let’s examine this process through the overlapping dimensions of Lacanian theory and Biblical notions throughout the film.

“Antichrist” (2009)- American poster.

To put it very briefly, traumas belong to the real of the Real (the raw force which refuses to be assigned signification, which is not (yet) associated to language, which cannot be articulated by words). In order for us to live with them in our conscious life, we go through the process of the Imaginary, a distancing mirror phase in which we recognize that ” I am not the Other, the Other is not Me” by means of language. Language, lives up to  its socializing force in the realm of the Symbolic, the realm in which all traumas are inserted, for us to be able to go about our daily lives. But not everything can be integrated into our waking realm. Gainsbourg’s (She) relationship to the world has 2 facets: Firstly, her rapport to Nature (the forest, the cabin etc.), which later becomes the scene of the massacre. Secondly, her rapport to Dafoe (He) and her access into his inner world. This intimacy, in Lacanian theory, is identified as the Real,  the Real being the realm of no language, the lack of names in the film becomes particularly revealing.

Antichrist (2009)- French poster

Women, in the Lacanian model, maintain a privileged relationship to this Real (desire, trauma, intuition etc.) since they do not fully exchange this internal power for the Phallus (and its attributes), unlike Man whose desire and existence is completely dependent on the Phallus as Master-Signifier in the socio-symbolic order. Women get to keep this force. Language finds its strength in the dimension of the Symbolic. “Nic”, their son is the only character with a name, therefore completely symbolized. After his death, Gainsbourg and Dafoe, remaining nameless, revert back to a world where no symbolization is to take place; the Real in full throttle because now, Nic is gone. What is interesting here is that children are not considered such “agents of the Symbolic order” because, they too, have a privileged relationship to the Real up to the moment of their insertion through language. But the film, disregards or intentionally subverts this.

Antichrist (2009)- Danish poster

In Biblical tradition, Adam recognizes animals in the Kingdom of Heaven by means of language, through naming them. Eve mediates Adam’s relationship to the world and to God,  she incites him to eat the apple, to internalize it and thus corrupts everything. She, because of this act and according to the title of the film, is a form of Antichrist: The opponent of Christ, the Other who resembles him but who will eventually lead mankind astray.

The Real is presented as a form of Deleuzian Encompasser, an independent and overwhelming space (the cabin in the wood) that antagonistically forces the subject to change the situation. Therefore, the namelessness of the characters is accounted for in this form of Biblical Real.

Antichrist (2009)- Australian poster

Next, the process of the Imaginary in the film, begins when She starts to refuse the treatment imposed by her husband, thus separating herself from him, his symbolization, language, status as a therapist, the social recognition he receives etc., basically all attributes of the Symbolic and social power. She reverts, once more, back to her Real, shying away from the society and its order.

The outcome of this Imaginary phase is the evacuation of “Jouissance”, rudimentary pleasure (which is part of the Real and which cannot be allowed in the socio-symbolic order). Jouissance in the film is exploited by the juxtaposition of the moment of sexual climax with the death of her child. It is both a physical Jouissance, the physical pleasure which she refuses to let go of, not even to save her son, and another kind of Jouissance that relates to our fantasies.

Antichrist (2009)– Italian poster

According to Lacan, the death of the Father is a fantasy, not at all the physical parent but the Name-Of-The-Father, the interdiction, the prohibition, the “No” of the symbolic order, you can call it the “Super-Ego” in parental form. The film transgresses this idea by inverting it, the fantasy here is now the death of the Son. Maybe because the Son also represents a kind of sexual interdiction, the difficulty of parental coitus for e.g. This interdiction, the attribute of the Symbolic, is once again clear through the Nic’s name in this realm of namelessness, his insertion into the Symbolic in the midst of the Real.

Ergo, to achieve the point of fully integrating such a trauma with the aforementioned order, the acceptance of the Master-Signifier is needed. And what is the Master-Signifier of the socio-symbolic order I hear you say? It’s the Phallus. The phallus as opposed to Jouissance.

Antichrist (2009)- South Korea poster

She uses sex as leverage a way to get around this and maintain her relationship to the Real where she doesn’t have to deny or let go of the death of her son, she doesn’t want to integrate it in the Symbolic, nor integrate herself. Her symbolic and not so symbolic castration of her husband (when she throws the log on his genitals) is a way of denial of the Phallus as Master-Signifier. Her attempt at giving him an orgasm right afterwards reinforces the importance of Jouissance to her.

However, although the film seems to go in the direction of the Real, She’ self-mutilation only reinserts her back into the order whilst she cuts off whatever direct link she has to her body, pleasure and nature. Her death at the end is the ultimate assertion of symbolic order not necessarily via the Phallus, but through the denial of the Real.

Now that you’ve had enough of the word “Symbolic”, I would like to state that this text is a bigger elaboration on a comment I posted on another blog a year or so ago. Once again, I am not AT ALL claiming that Antichrist is Lacanian in any way or that von Trier intended as such, it is a mere interpretation, as erroneous, ambiguous and false as it could be.

Written by Haneen H aka Kinofrau
I am the author of this text.
I am not the author of these images. All rights reserved.

Let’s watch: “Nokas” (2010) by Erik Skjoldbjærg, or just how unlikely it is to commit a crime in Norway.

Norwegian director Erik Skjoldbjærg, with his debut film “Insomnia” (1997), starring Swedish actor Stellan Skarsgård, delivered a work of extreme aesthetic ambiguity, literally. Just as the character of Skarsgård is himself somewhat suspicious and ambiguous, just as the nature of the crime he’s investigating is unclear, just as the region in the north pole that he’s visiting is also confusing, the visuals of the movie are the same. Through overexposure instead of dissolution to mark time ruptures, Skjoldbjærg was able to deliver an extremely nuanced neo-noir. And if you have seen and appreciated “Insomnia” for the masterpiece that it really is, the masterpiece of depicting the darkest of tales in the brightest possible conditions (the midnight sun), you are likely to walk out with a lot of ideas after watching  his “Nokas” (2010).

I think the English title “Hold-Up” is not a very appropriate one, because the film does not represent the actual crime in its totality. At the beginning, emphasis is somewhat placed on cleaning rituals of the criminals. At this moment, I feared that it would get too moralizing for my taste. After all, good cops who die (or not) just to reinforce the power of the social order has been the Hollywood discourse during the 30s with films repeating over and over again the whole “public” enemy notion, very James Cagney. And, nowadays, with postmodernism, the gratuitous aspect of violence is also sufficiently emphasized, so “Nokas” could have swayed either way, and failed. But it didn’t.

The interesting thing about “Nokas” is that it overtakes (but does not subvert) these cinematic models primarily thanks to its depiction of the robbery by means of testimony.
“Nokas” is entirely constituted based on what eye-witnesses remember of the incident and most importantly, HOW they remember it. The use of slow-motion when depicting the very first attempt the robbers did to break the bank window, remembered by the desk clerk, the going back and forth in time through the “5 minutes earlier” inserts highlights this .

Sure, in a scene when police dogs are needed for a mission but are unavailable because they’re on vacation, it makes you wonder how serious their work is, and yes, when the cops get sent out across town just to survey an overloaded truck, you are inclined to suppose that there has got to me more serious crimes out there. But in fact, the answer is no and this is the actual overtaking that I am talking about. The very first reaction the cops, as well as the crowds had when the hold-up at the Cathedral Square (where the actual crime took place) started is “Is this a training exercise?” & “is this a drill?”, furthermore enhancing just how unimaginable it is (apparently) in Norway to actually go for a passage-a’-l’act and fully commit a crime. The film depicts this with extreme subtlety and success.

Keep in mind that in Norway, the maximum penalty is a mere 21 years and criminals are not even handcuffed or in uniform in court laws. I suppose crime is pretty law but can offer no real statistics to back this up but it all the more enhances the unlikelihood of a robbery taking place. People passing by the besieged square, ask the criminals politely if they can cross the road and if the hooded men are not too busy to let them do it.  At one point, a confused bus driver gets a call telling him that the square is under attack and him, not knowing what to do, asks the caller which direction to take. The caller ultimately tells him to get to the square and ask the police instead of the usual “run for your life!”.

There is no excess aggression on both sides, the film is surprisingly violence-free. Naturally, cops can seem somewhat comical as they struggle to put bullets in their outdated pistol which looks right out of a John Wayne film, but there is no gore, no blood and almost no real cold-blooded murder. The situation is just absurd. The film focuses on these little absurdities and the exchanges between cops, criminals and people passing by instead of telling us that the crime has actually been committed. We barely see the robbers take the money and it’s only at the end that the director writes it to us.


So bottom line is, if you’re interested in Scandinavian cinema, check out Insomnia first and then make the natural shift to this one, Nokas. NB- If you’re interested in Norway, check out this documentary about Norwegian black metal, nationalism and violence: https://kinoimages.wordpress.com/2012/06/13/black-metals-until-the-light-takes-us-2008/

Written by Hanine H aka Kinofrau