A film series on a different concept of migration, compiled by Slavoj Žižek.
Opening speech by Slavoj Žižek on 09.06.2004, 7 pm
“With Judaism a radically new understanding of society is emerging, namely of a society that is no longer based on sharing common roots: “Every word is an uprooting. The constitution of a real society is an uprooting – the end of an existence in which “being at home” is absolute and everything comes from within. Paganism takes root […] Paganism is the local spirit: Nationalism in terms of its cruelty and mercilessness […] A humanity with roots that God has within, with the sap rising from the earth, is a jungle or a pre-human humanity. (Emmanuel Levinas)
The opposition based on this view – “good” nomadic, wandering, “deterritorialized” subject versus “evil” subject, fixed on his ethnic-religious-sexual identity – dominates our ideological sphere. But the main message of our late capitalist experience is that we cannot simply trust such coordinates. For, first and foremost, a radical “deterritorialization” of subjectivity, in which even the innermost characteristics of our identity “disappear into thin air” (Marx), is the elementary characteristic of today’s global capitalism, which has fully adopted the logic of aimless excess.
This situation forces us to question the fashionable celebration of nomadic or “hybrid” subjectivity: To use the same term to describe a poor peasant forced to emigrate because of a local ethnic war or a devastating economic crisis as to describe a member of the “symbolic class” (academic, journalist, artist, art manager) who constantly travels between capitals of culture amounts to the same obscenity as equating famine with a slimming diet. Our first ethical-political duty, therefore, is to take a more complex approach to the issues and to subject the concept of “migration” to a kind of spectral analysis in which we have to distinguish between opposing tendencies, from emancipative to enslaving.
Slavoj Žižek (*1949) psychoanalyst, philosopher and cultural critic, lives and works in Ljubljana.
Lamerica (Gianni Amelio) I 1994, 115 min, DF
The film par excellence about the emigration crisis that followed the dissolution of Real Existing Socialism: In a kind of Benjaminian dialectic in suspense, today’s longing for the promised land of Italy overlaps with the Italian longing for America.
Sansho Dayú (Kenji Mizoguchi) J 1954, 119 min, OmdU
This story, set in medieval Japan, of a noble family torn apart by war and of the mutual longing between son and mother is a melodrama in the most sublime and noble sense of the word: the story of an absolute family bond that outlasts all distortions and divisions.
Watch on the Rhine (Herman Shumlin) USA 1943, 114 min, OF
Hollywood’s most radical confrontation with the limits of liberal humanitarianism: against the backdrop of Nazism, a liberal American family generously accepts distant relatives from Europe, but then finds itself forced to take the far more radical step of participating in a necessary killing.
The blue light (Leni Riefenstahl) D 1932, 72 min, OF
Isn’t Junta, the solitary wild mountain girl, an ostracized woman who almost falls victim to a pogrom instigated by the villagers – a pogrom that must remind us of the anti-Semitic pogroms? Perhaps it is no coincidence that Riefenstahl’s lover at the time, Bela Balasy, who co-wrote the screenplay, was a Marxist.
Viaggio in Italia (Roberto Rossellini) I 1953, 82 min, OmdU
The ruins from Italy’s past form the background for a rich American couple in marital crisis: in doing so, they retain their profound ambiguity, so that the material presence of the ruins constantly undermines their “obvious” metaphorical meaning (as a symbol of the ruined relationship of the couple).
The Silence (Ingmar Bergman) S 1963, 91 min, DF
Bergman’s true masterpiece: the train journey of two sisters and a little son, with a stay in an unspecified Eastern European country whose atmosphere of sensual decay and sexual depravity offers a perfect “objective correspondence” to the discomfort of modern life.
Hiroshima mon amour (Alain Resnais) F/J 1959, 89 min, OmeU
The love story of a couple in Hiroshima in the 1950s (a French woman fleeing the trauma of her German soldier lover, a Japanese man marked by the trauma of Hiroshima) unfolds the axiom of love as a magical event that overcomes even the most devastating historical traumas.
The Seventh Continent (Michael Haneke) A 1989, 107 min, OF
Is not the ultimate “migration” the journey to death itself? Haneke stages this directly as the planned journey of a family whose members decide to commit suicide together: no pathos, simply a cool rational implementation of the decision.