DIR: Sophie Fiennes PRO: Ailish Bracken DOP: Remko Schnor. WRI: Slavoj Zisek CAST: Slavoj Žižek
This insightful, enjoyable documentary is Slavoj Žižek and Sophie Fiennes’ follow-up to their equally entertaining The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema. Whereas in their earlier collaboration, Žižek, the revered philosopher and psychoanalyst examined cinema from the viewpoint of psychoanalysis and in particular how the cinema acts as a representation of human desire, here he utilises films as a means to exemplify and consider diverse ideological concerns.
Žižek examines issues such as capitalism, religion, class and gender and how certain films either reaffirm or subvert traditional western values in relations to these themes. He examines high-profile titles such The Sound of Music, Taxi Driver and Titanic, while also drawing attention to the subversive qualities of lesser known pictures such as John Carpenter’s They Live! and John Frankenheimer’s Seconds. Žižek is particularly enthusiastic about the Carpenter film describing it as a ‘masterpiece’, while his assertions on class in relation to Titanic are priceless in their wittiness and astuteness.
Fiennes attempts at making the film cinematic, though admirable as that may be, are less successful. These attempts amount to simply inserting Žižek into the scenes of films he is referring to. This gimmick here seems every bit as tacky and uninspired as it did in the former collaboration between filmmaker and philosopher. However, despite the groan-inducing obviousness of Fiennes’ direction, the film is consistently engaging due to the agreeable, persuasive presence of the great Žižek.
Žižek manages to relate complex ideas in an accessible, humourous manner. His assertions are generally gloomy in relation to the picture they paint of humanity, but Žižek does end on a cautiously optimistic note. It may reflect badly on this reviewer that he admits this faint optimism was less compelling for him than scenes in which Žižek talks of the sexual undertones of songs in The Sound of Music or one particularly delightful moment when Žižek uncompromisingly faces the camera down proclaiming: ‘we are alone’. Perhaps the slightly unconvincing nature of the film’s last-gasp optimism is down to the film’s length. At 136 minutes the picture does feel overlong.
Ultimately though, despite some flaws, the film stands as a hugely entertaining, stimulating, and genuinely funny piece of work. This is essentially a one-man show and the film is a great showcase not only for the intellectual attributes of Žižek but also his performative capabilities.
The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology is released on 4th October 2013