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A Basic Theory of NeuropsychoanalysisA Cursing Brain?A Dream of Undying FameA Map of the MindAfter LacanAgainst AdaptationAgainst FreudAn Anatomy of AddictionAnalytic FreudAndré Green at the Squiggle FoundationAnger, Madness, and the DaimonicAnna FreudAnna Freud: A BiographyApproaching PsychoanalysisAttachment and PsychoanalysisBadiouBecoming a SubjectBefore ForgivingBerlin PsychoanalyticBetween Emotion and CognitionBeyond GenderBeyond SexualityBeyond the Pleasure PrincipleBiology of FreedomBoundaries and Boundary Violations in PsychoanalysisBuilding on BionCare of the PsycheCarl JungCassandra's DaughterCherishmentConfusion of TonguesContemporary Psychoanalysis and the Legacy of the Third ReichCrucial Choices, Crucial ChangesCulture and Conflict in Child and Adolescent Mental HealthDarwin's WormsDesert Islands and Other Texts (1953-1974)Dispatches from the Freud WarsDoes the Woman Exist?Doing Psychoanalysis in TehranDreaming and Other Involuntary MentationDreaming by the BookEnergy Psychology InteractiveEqualsErrant SelvesEthics and the Discovery of the UnconsciousEthics Case Book of the American Psychoanalytic AssociationFairbairn's Object Relations Theory in the Clinical SettingFed with Tears -- Poisoned with MilkFeminism and Its DiscontentsForms of Intersubjectivity in Infant Reasearch and Adult TreatmentFour Lessons of PsychoanalysisFratricide in the Holy LandFreudFreudFreudFreudFreudFreudFreud and the Question of PseudoscienceFreud As PhilosopherFreud at 150Freud's AnswerFreud's WizardFreud, the Reluctant PhilosopherFrom Classical to Contemporary PsychoanalysisFundamentals of Psychoanalytic TechniqueGenes on the CouchGoing SaneHans BellmerHappiness, Death, and the Remainder of LifeHate and Love in Psychoanalytical InstitutionsHatred and ForgivenessHealing the Soul in the Age of the BrainHeinz KohutHeinz KohutHidden MindsHistory of ShitHope and Dread in PsychoanalysisImagination and Its PathologiesImagine There's No WomanIn Freud's TracksIn SessionIn the Floyd ArchivesIntimaciesIntimate RevoltIrrationalityIs Oedipus Online?Jacques LacanJacques Lacan and the Freudian Practice of PsychoanalysisJung and the Making of Modern PsychologyJung Stripped BareKilling FreudLacanLacanLacanLacan and Contemporary FilmLacan at the SceneLacan For BeginnersLacan in AmericaLacan TodayLacan's Seminar on AnxietyLawLearning from Our MistakesLove's ExecutionerMad Men and MedusasMale Female EmailMelanie KleinMemoirs of My Nervous IllnessMental SlaveryMind to MindMixing MindsMoral StealthMourning and ModernityMovies and the MindMurder in ByzantiumNew Studies of Old VillainsNocturnesNoir AnxietyOn Being Normal and Other DisordersOn BeliefOn IncestOn Not Being Able to SleepOn the Freud WatchOn the Way HomeOpen MindedOpera's Second DeathOvercoming Destructive Beliefs, Feelings, and BehaviorsPhenomology & Lacan on Schizophrenia, After the Decade of the BrainPhilosophical Counselling and the UnconsciousPractical Psychoanalysis for Therapists and PatientsPsychiatry, 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WorldThe Brain, the Mind and the SelfThe Cambridge Companion to LacanThe Challenge for Psychoanalysis and PsychotherapyThe Clinical LacanThe Colonization Of Psychic SpaceThe Condition of MadnessThe Couch and the TreeThe Cruelty of DepressionThe Dissociative Mind in PsychoanalysisThe Dreams of InterpretationThe Examined LifeThe Fall Of An IconThe Freud EncyclopediaThe Freud FilesThe Freud WarsThe Fright of Real TearsThe Future of PsychoanalysisThe Gift of TherapyThe Heart & Soul of ChangeThe Knotted SubjectThe Last Good FreudianThe Late Sigmund FreudThe Letters of Sigmund Freud and Otto RankThe Mind According to ShakespeareThe Mystery of PersonalityThe Mythological UnconsciousThe Neuropsychology of the UnconsciousThe New PsychoanalysisThe Power of FeelingsThe Psychoanalytic MovementThe Psychoanalytic MysticThe Psychoanalytic Study of the ChildThe Psychoanalytic Study of the ChildThe Psychodynamics of Gender and Gender RoleThe Puppet and the DwarfThe Real World Guide to Psychotherapy PracticeThe Revolt of the PrimitiveThe Seminar of Moustafa SafouanThe Sense and Non-Sense of RevoltThe Shortest ShadowThe Social History of the UnconsciousThe Surface EffectThe Symmetry of GodThe Tragedy of the SelfThe Trainings of the PsychoanalystThe UnsayableThe World of PerversionTherapeutic ActionTherapy's DelusionsThis Incredible Need to BelieveThoughts Without A ThinkerTo Redeem One Person Is to Redeem the WorldTrauma and Human ExistenceTraumatizing TheoryUmbr(a)Unconscious knowing and other essays in psycho-philosophical analysisUnderstanding Dissidence and Controversy in the History of PsychoanalysisUnderstanding PsychoanalysisUnfree AssociationsWalking HeadsWay Beyond FreudWhat Does a Woman Want?What Freud Really MeantWhen the Body SpeaksWhere Do We Fall When We Fall in Love?Whose Freud?Why Psychoanalysis?Wilhelm ReichWinnicottWinnicott On the ChildWisdom Won from IllnessWittgenstein on Freud and FrazerWittgenstein Reads FreudWorld, Affectivity, TraumaZizek
The editors of this work provide an
introduction both to Lacan's works and to film criticism. Despite the
ideological boost, it is unlikely that readers who are unfamiliar with Lacan's
body of work will be comfortable reading this selection of nine essays. The
prose is often dense and some of the selections are less jargon free than
others. Paul Einsenstein's chapter is the least accessible but in all fairness
he is attempting to talk about a very slippery concept. The analyses are of a
group of wonderful and memorable films: Memento, Dark City,
Breaking the Waves, Cape Fear, The Sweet
Hereafter, Holy Smoke and Pi. Rather than reviewing
each selection briefly I have chosen to focus in more detail on Mark Pizzato's
"Beauty's Eye: Erotic Masques of the Death Drive in Eyes Wide
Pizzato's language is clear, sharp
and without pretense. He says "here film itself becomes a manifestation
of the death drive in human culture." (p. 83). He sees film, and
Kubrick's last work in particular, as producing in us a state of alienation
from being. And he says, "Kubrick's final film exposes the lure of beauty
as bearing a death drive in the eye of the beholder, implicating the audience,
male and female, in its rite of sacrifice." (p. 87). Pizzato sees
Kubrick as being consciously aware or at least instinctively aware of these
themes. Kubrick skillfully draws the viewer into a voyeuristic spectacle
"with beauty's ecstasy masking and revealing the death drive." (p.
90). Both Lacan and Freud believed in the existence of this drive. Pizzato
does not define it. The closest he comes is "an apparently alien force,
reproducing through us and 'feeding' on us, by perversely replacing us with
dramatic fiction."(p. 83). Thus destroying jouissance, replacing it
instead with hollow, meaningless frenzy. Jean Laplanche in Life and Death
in Psychoanalysis (1970) spends twenty-two pages on this but a gross
simplification of what he says might be: a self-destructive tendency fueled by
libido impelling one in a sado-masochistic direction.
Kubrick's movie is an adaptation of
Arthur Schnitzler's Dream Story (Traumnovelle). The two central
characters Bill and Alice, a married couple, as were then the actors who
portrayed them (Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman). Bill stumbles on a secret
society which host erotic events. His curiosity is aroused. Bill's voyeurism
parallels the voyeuristic attitude Kubrick is attempting to elicit in the film
viewer. Pizzato says, "these meetings and fantasies prepare Bill to
desire a more perverse experience, in revenge against his wife's Other
jouissance, when he is told about a mysterious orgy by this pianist friend,
Nick Nightingale." (p. 94). Alice has rebelliously told Bill about a
fantasy she had about another man. Pizzato sees her action as a desire to
refute Bill's attempts to reduce her to an object belonging to him, wife and
mother, not capable of an independent existence. He says, "Bill and
Alice are already suffering a symbolic death, through their disintegrating
marriage." (p. 106). Bill's journey though on the surface an erotic one
is extremely self-destructive and lurking in the background is the idea that
the secret society whose gates he has crashed might well have killed him
perhaps his wife and child as well.
Of the orgy scene Pizzato says
"the masked nudes of Kubrick's film (and their masked spectators), the
anonymous force of life in each body is revealed. Although their ritual is
highly formalized, indicating certain human structures of power, the base force
of Dionysian, orgiastic life is the ultimate attraction in the puppet theater
of the mansion. The erotic energy of the masked nudes ignore individual
personality, using the human body as a shell to reproduce the species (and
recombine genetic codes), then discarding it. Even the beauty of
self-sacrificing maternal love (to which the oedipal subject longs to return),
while involving imaginary and symbolic structures of desire, is driven by the
Real erotics and deadly objective of reproduction." (p. 105).
Pizzato says, "Kubrick's film,
unlike most cinema, eventually takes the viewer too far—beyond voyeuristic
pleasure—toward a more disturbing jouissance at the symbolic and imaginary
edges of the Real." (p. 96). This is quite an achievement. Pizzato
begins this chapter commenting on the alienating force of film which can
threaten to robs us of jouissance. But he shows us how Kubrick used that
negative to focus our eye in the direction of the Real. And, the Real is a
region of wordless, terrifying, stark truth. Pizzato does not address any
speculation as to why Kubrick chose to call his adaptation Eyes Wide Shut
but I think many of these issues just touched upon are relevant. Even when
looking the desire to not see is overwhelming. Perhaps that is why some critics
just did not want to see this film.
Each of the nine chapters in this
book focuses around Lacanan theory to organize their film criticisms. I
highly recommend this work for those who have some basic familiarity with
© 2004 Marilyn Graves
Marilyn Graves, Ph.D. is a clinical
psychologist and sometime freelance writer.
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