Film by Leandro Katz.
With Lynn Anander, Kathy Gales and John Levin.
Voices: Lynn Anander and Sheila McLaughlin
Cinematography: Viktor Vondracek
Story inspired by "Emma Zunz" by Jorge Luis Borges
Changing the Fantasmatic Scene
"Emma has a dream"
|"After receiving a revealing
letter, Emma has a dream. We see a crowded square, people running, policemen
on horses cross the frame. We hear a crescendo of voices yelling, whistles,
whispers, howling wind, drums. A sinking ship, a woman swimming in a rough
sea, the crowd cheers, a view of a flooded city. Men running down streets,
tear gas smoke, noise of marching troops, street violence continues to build
up. Scuffles break out among civilians and with uniformed police, we hear
a voice screaming 'Is this America? Is this freedom? Is this democracy?'
The crowd responds 'No, no, no!' The ship continues to sink, the swimmer
struggles with the sea. Troops, their rifles raised, cross a river. Flooded
streets again, with statues. A hand opens a case and extracts a gun. Shots,
crowds cheering. Screams. An Asian cameraman in battle uniform, raises a
wind-up camera and starts shooting.We see a group of women and children
with their hands stretched out, begging. Flooded streets again, the swimmer
goes on. Men with clubs run breaking windowsof a factory building, cheers,
more street fights; in an inverted street scene, the world is upside down.
Emma wakes up, burns the money and goes out to kill her oppressor. 'Not
for revenge, but for justice', she says". (Leandro Katz, scrip
notes, 1978) Open
| Considerable doubt has recently been
cast on the subversive potential of a cinematic avant-garde which dispenses
not only with narrative but with any non-specific meaning – of a filmic
practice which attempts to foreclose altogether on diegetic orchestration,
secondary identification and representation. Peter Wollen and Constance
Penley, for instance, point to the idealist dangers of the structural/materialist
Stephen Heath critizes the same aesthetic for its failure to address the issues of subjectivity, ideology and history. 2 Speaking in relation to a somewhat more inclusive avant-garde tradition, Christian Metz argues that the interruption of secondary identification functions to strengthen primary identification, 3 and Pascal Bonitzer queries whether that interruption changes anything at all.
|We have recently posed the question as to whether the alienation (of the viewing subject which is induced by the system of suture) is irreducible, or whether it might not be possible to do away with it through some perversion of the apparatus: for example, by inscribing into a film the means of production, or by rendering the screen opaque by multiplying its iconic or sonorous traces to the point of undifferentiation or unreadability, thus obliterating the fantasmatic scene and –literally– returning the spectator to his place. One could expound at length on the interest of this operation, and on its implementation. It is certain that it mobilizes the gaze differently, induces it to wander across the surface, towards the decor, that opens to it other adventures. But it is not certain from these (adventures) are of a fundamentally different nature from the derivatives of representation, nor that they effect a fundamental social subversion –a subversion in the paths crossed by desire and the social. Beneath these facile conflicts of imaginary profundity and surface real remains the question of the object– what to do, what is to be done, with the look? And the voice? 5|
As Bonitzer emphasizes elsewhere in the same discussion, the look is not to be confused with the image track, nor the voice with the sound track. Rather, the look is "submitted to the work of the image track," and the voice to that of the sound track. In other words, the sound track determines the point (or points) from which the look can be activated, just as the'sound track determines the point (or points) from which the voice can speak. These points might best be defined as "subjective spaces" since it is through insertion into them that the viewer assumes a given subjectivity. They come into play only in relation to an object, and entertain with that object a potential reversibility (for instance, the object in one sl)ot may very well become the space from which the look proceeds in the next).
The field thus constituted –the field brought into existence by the positioning of the look and voice in relation to a cinematic object– is described by Bonitzer as a "fantasmatic scene". Fantasmatic has here a double valence. It refers on the one hand to the doubly fictive nature of the cinematic signifier, and on the other hand to the effect which that signifier has upon the viewer/listener. It evokes both what Metz would call the "imaginariness" of the filmic object. 6 and the desires which it causes to circulate through the movie-goer.
Cinema's fantasmatic, like the one described by Laplanche and Pontalis, places the subject in a theatrical context, stages a scopic and auditory performance. 7 As viewers/listeners, we can be situated within that performance in at least four different ways: 1) we can see ourselves seeing (i.e. identify with a character within the fiction who represents the look); 2) see ourselves being seen (i.e. identify with the object of the look); 3) hear ourselves speaking (i.e. identify with a character who discourses authoritatively); or 4) hear ourselves being overheard (i.e. identify with a character whose words are constantly scrutinized, and who seems to be more a conduit for than a source of discourse). 8
"Male" and "female" are codified, in terms of these binary sets, the former becoming synonymous with the active form of the look and voice, and the latter with the passive form of the look and voice. The potential fluidity of the fantasmatic scene is in this way arrested, and its combinative possibilities circumscribed.
Classical cinema's fantasmatic immediately opens onto the social, making possible the maintenance of the existing symbolic order. As Fredric Jameson remarks in The Politics of Unconscious, a "libidinal apparatus" is always "a machinery for ideological investment"; it provides "the vehicle for our experience of the real." 9 It has a "structuring effect" on even those aspects of the subject's life which seem most impervious to unconscious desire. 10 It is thus not enough for an alternative cinematic practice to pull down the curtain of the performance; it must interrupt it, recast the players, challenge the rule of synchronization, demonstrate the reversibility of every position, indicate the provisional nature of the script and –above all– reroute desire.
Teresa de Lauretis suggests, in a recent essay on Micheal Snow's Presents, that this proiect necessarilv involves some form of narrative:
|One of the impossibilities of articulating the sexual, the political and the cinematic together is that while no 'positive images' of woman can be produced by simple role reversal or any thematics of liberation, while no direct representation of desire can be given except in terms of the oedipal, masculine-feminine polarity, it is only through narrative that the questions of identification, of the place and time of woman spectators in the film, can be addressed. I do not mean narrative in the narrow sense of story (fabula and characters) or logical structure (actions and actants), but in the broadest possible sense of discourse conveying temporal movement and positionalities of desire, be they written, oral or narrative forms ... 11|