clubland: white

i have not yet seen the extras but i’m eager to write on this, so i’ll pitch a few ideas. idea no. one: is this a comedy? what makes something a comedy? i’m sure there are people on this blog who are way more qualified than i to discuss the necessary requirements of comedy, but it was hard for me the first time around, ten years ago, and it is hard for me now to see this film as a comedy. there is no laughter. there is, instead, a lot of heartbreak. surely, though, laughter cannot be considered a necessary requirement for comedy, because laughter is so subjective and culture-dependent. simon’s suggestion is that this is a comedy because karol is a schlemiel, and since this sounds interesting to me, i’ll go with it a bit. karol is a schlemiel because a) he can’t get it up, b) he lost his gorgeous, angelic-looking, divinely blond wife and he needs to die to get her back, c) he can’t speak “the language” (that other, better language), d) he makes a ton of money, looks like an idiot in his new business garb, then throws it all away, and e) loses his wife again to his scheme of getting her imprisoned and finds himself back at square one. according to this reading, the last shot of karol bawling his eyes out would be the clincher, the confirmation of his being a true schlemiel. the schlemiel cannot win because he doesn’t know how. (truth be told, there are also true comedic moment, like when karol’s suitcase is stolen; one might also want to comment on his relentless buoyancy, his capacity to bounce back into life and good cheer — as is evident, for instance, on both the occasions on which he’s beaten up; finally, there is some broad comedy — see for instance when karol poses as a strutting security guard).

idea no. two. the time has come for me to confess that i am a schlemiel: i unwittingly stumbled into yet another exploration of masculinity! yet, i really like the way in which masculinity is explored in this film. the woman-as-object-of-desire is not degraded, which is a relief for this female viewer. she is exalted, but only by the schlemiel, who cannot see her reality. this is brought out several times, including the scene in the beauty salon in which dominique shouts at karol that he doesn’t understand her, doesn’t understand that she wants him, that she needs him. one can read this in sexual terms, as dominique’s expression of coital frustration, but the sexual metaphor requires unpacking. why does karol find himself finally able to perform only at the end of the film? presumably, because he’s made a ton of money and because he died. the two things are not separable. he made a ton of money so that he could die and bait dominique back. karol is so taken by his fantasy of dominique as the otherworldly, the unattainable, that he cannot be there for himself enough to keep himself alive. the all-consuming quality of his fantasy of dominique doesn’t leave karol room to be in the world, to be outside himself. getting and maintaining an erection, i suggest, is seen here, not as self-confirming sexual prowess, but as a sign of one’s capacity to be there for the other person (i’m not suggesting that all males who cannot have or maintain an erection are self-involved schlemiels: i’m unpacking the central metaphor of this deeply metaphoric film). the flaccid penis is not-present, not-there just like the man to whom it’s attached.

idea no. three. so when karol “dies,” this other, fuller, disappearance (another schlemiel fantasy: will they cry at my funeral?) allows him to produce a temporary, self-vindicating, vindictive as it turns out, performance. he’s already not-there, so it doesn’t matter. the erect penis means nothing because the man is dead. karol once again fails to understand dominique’s needs.

idea no. four. in the first extra, someone comments about karol’s gaze, his repeated watching of dominique from a distance. i’d like to draw your attention to the gaze with which karol looks at the sleeping dominique after they finally consummate their (defunct) marriage. dominique’s hair surrounds her like a halo and she looks as beautiful, perfect, and white as the sculpted head karol loves so much. with reverence, he takes a strand of her blond hair and, carefully, moves it from her face, then leaves her to the criminal fate he has concocted for her. this gaze confirms the false and falsifying way in which karol views dominique. notice that the director does not support this otherwordly view of the woman, but “fights” us by showing us a dominique who, far from angelic, is very capable of meanness and even violence.

unlike many other “explorations of masculinity,” i don’t find this offensive at a gut level. karol’s struggling with his manhood is not about proving himself, but, i suggest, about being a loving, understanding presence and not a self-involved, adoring absence, for the other, the woman. and, thank goodness, there’s no need in this film for the male to confront his inner violence. as all of kieslowski’s movies, this is about transcendence, not immanence.

37 thoughts on “clubland: white

  1. A couple of thoughts. White, as part of the three colors of the French flag represents equality, and what we have is of course a marriage of anything but equals. Dominique is so dominant that Karol ceases to function. As Gio mentions, Karol worships Delpy as an idol, as someone he is unworthy of, which manifests itself physically. In the court room he yells out, “Where is the equality?!” when the judge shoots down his request to speak.

    Does Karol achieve equality by putting his wife into the same traumatic situation that she put him in – Of being abandoned in a country with nothing, not even knowing the language?

    And Gio, what do you make of Dominique’s character – her motives? I think she’s borderline evil; at least from what action of her we see. She leaves him penniless, then sets her own business on fire just so that he will be in more desperate straits than he’s in already. Perhaps the cruelty, the S/M quality of the relationship is accepted by both sides, but I was quite pleased to see Karol, ridiculous looking as a rich man or not, decide to use his money the way he does. People make a lot of money for all sorts of dubious reasons after all.

    The character of Mikolai was a favorite of mine when I first saw this, and I was pleased to see that I liked him just as much this time around. The depressed professional bridge player… I’d have liked a whole film dedicated to him.

    When I first saw this years ago, I was unfamiliar with Godard’s Contempt (Le Mepris) with Bardot. It’s such a great bit in the film when Karol points to his wife and Mikolai saws “Brigette Bardot? Isn’t she a little over the hill?” or something like that. Contempt is an excellent film, and of course the plot of it also concerns a beautiful woman who decides she has no use for her husband.

    Do Karol and Dominique represent their native nations in some geo-political context? Or even the east and west in general? Does the strong beuatiful West really treat the slovenly, clowinsh East with such disregard and contempt? I can’t say, because I wouldn’t dare waste my time thinking about such a horrible place as Eastern Europe.

    I wonder how much of the film’s meaning also plays into its part of the trilogy. I remember the three films tying together rather jarringly at the end of Red, but I don’t recall Dominique and Karol’s part in it.

    Finally, I liked that the color symbolism was less hit-you-over-the-head here than in Red and Blue. Perhaps just because white as a color is less obtrusive. And what’s up with the pigeons? The first shits on Karol as he looks up similing at it. Poland is represented as a garbage dump filled with them. A kind one in the subway allows Mikolai to pet it… the wedding flashback… I don’t think this was common to all three films, but i’m unsure what concrete thing it means here. Fate? A Greek chorus of pigeons?

  2. Gio: “karol once again fails to understand dominique’s needs.”

    Yeah but… Could anyone really understand her needs? Does she? I forget her exact words in the shop when she describes them, but they seem purposefully contradictory and even intentionally impossible. Was Karol in a no-win situation with her? She certainly does not go off and find her soulmate after the divorce; just a lover.

  3. i have been obsessed by the question of why my readings of films having to do with gender (like, all of them) tend to be discordant from the readings of the other members of this blog. i realize that i’m the least knowledgeable member of the club, movie-wise — you guys can put film in historical perspective in a way in which i never could (apart from my having watched a third of the films any of you has, i have a really hard time remembering things for more than, say, one week, which makes rattling off titles and directors a tad difficult). but still…

    an answer has finally dawned on me, and mark’s comment on white supports it. whereas you boys tend to identify with the guys, i tend to identify with the gal (there’s generally only one). do you think this might work as an explanation? in white, for instance, it doesn’t even occur to me to be outraged by dominique’s undeniable cruelty. this is an outrage i reserve for men. (in a interview you can see in the extras agnieszka holland praises kieslowski for being generous, adding that directors tend to be selfish and men tend to be selfish. it’s a gross generalization, proven false to me by just about every single one of my male friends, but i know what she says. i’m sure you don’t). what i ask myself instead is — why is she portrayed that way? what’s going on in the movie that justifies her cruelty? so i hypothetize that a) karol doesn’t get her (i.e. i take her at her word, in spite of the fact that karol seems the sweetest man on earth) and that b) karol projects onto her his fantasy of women — including the schlemiel’s fantasy that women are mean little bitches.

    since this film is about karol and not dominique, and is presented from karol’s point of view, we don’t know what dominique’s needs are, precisely because karol doesn’t understand them.

    the possibility that the equality motif might be explored in terms of geography is certainly intriguing and plausible, but kieslowki is too interested in people — their drive towards transcendence — for this to be the only way in which equality operates in this film. maybe it’s not here at all. maybe it’s a red herring. but let’s say it isn’t. let’s say equality is analyzed in the rapport between the man and the woman, say in the reverse of power (the woman threatens the man physically, rejects him, leaves him destitute, has him pining after her, humiliates and controls him sexually, etc.), and, at the end, in karol’s retribution — his evening things out (a sort of achievement of “equality”) while screwing them up both for himself and for dominique: would this work? as i was watching the film i kept thinking that this is a film about getting even. you fuck me over and i return the favor. certainly a way of being equal, though clearly one that brings satisfation to neither party.

    the subplot with mikolai is very nice, and the scene of the shooting is excellent. very kieslowskian. but i don’t know what to do with it in the context of the movie, and i definitely do not know what to do with the pigeons, except in the first scene, when the pigeon’s shitting on karol is both comical and pathetic.

  4. well… I certainly recall identifying primarily with the women in Blue, Red and Double life of Veronique, as the women there were the main character and the films were told from their point of view.

    I was suprised watching it this time how little we get to know Dominique, and how I had to assume her motives fall on the sside of cruelty based on the small amount of info Kieslowski gives us. And I can contrast that to Godard’s Contempt, where the realtionship falls apart, however Godard does a fine job of balancing the POVs of the two characters.

  5. It was interesting to watch ‘White’ on its own this time, rather than as part of the trilogy. I had previously accepted the received wisdom that this is the weakest of the three films, and while I still think that is true, it emerged with a far stronger identity for me on this viewing.

    A few random thoughts, prompted by Gio and Mauer’s postings. First, Dominique seemed utterly unreal to me. She was a plot device designed to enhance’s Karol’s basic sweetness and to set in motion his elaborate revenge scheme. We are given no hint of motivation for Dominique’s actions, or the brutality with which she treats Karol. I admire Gio for trying to understand Dominique’s actions, but I don’t think the film-maker wants us to try. I agree that she is borderline evil, but the evil is almost cartoonish, particularly the orgasm over the phone. At the same time, it is hard to see why Karol loves her, unless he is in love with her image, as Gio suggests. How could anyone not be in love with Julie Delpy? Karol, Ethan Hawke and I are in the same boat here.

    But, Dominique does come alive in prison. For the first and only time, she emerges as an interesting character. She shows no rancor towards Karol from her high, barred window, but seems to enjoy the chance to communicate with him through sign language. I imagined Karol visiting regularly and communicating in the same way, and Dominique would never alert the prison officials, even though the fact of Karol’s existence would lead to her freedom. So Karol finally wins her love, but only when she is caged and beyond touch. Interesting gender dynamics there. Was his goal to punish Dominique, or to win her love?

    Second, the reason why this strikes me as a slighter film than the others in the trilogy is that it plays out somewhat like a caper movie, but with the darker element of revenge. Each step by Karol once he gets back to Poland, we ultimately learn, is planned. He has been plotting this revenge fantasy – to cage his ex-wife in plain sight in a foreign land – from the moment he meets Mikolaj. Kieslowski meets Chan-wook Park! Presumably copious amounts of blood on a snowy landscape would have ruined Kieslowski’s color scheme.

    Third, as Mauer says, Mikolaj is easily the most sympathetic character, and the one with the most depth. He wants to die to reduce the amount of his unhappiness a little. When faced with the reality of dying, he changes his mind, but it is his example that Karol ultimately follows: he has to die to win back Dominique.

    Fourth, ‘White’ looks most like the Decalogue series primarily because of the colors and Kieslowski’s eye for the drabness of his homeland. Decalogue takes place under communism, while ‘White’ occurs four years after the collapse of the Eastern Bloc, but most of the little details are the same, except that bureaucrats are replaced by fairly benign gangsters on the make. I can’t remember in which two countries ‘The Double Life of Veronique’ takes place. One must be France, but what is the other? It would be interesting if Kieslowski were able to apply that gorgeous autumnal color scheme to Poland.

  6. The other country in Double Life is indeed Poland; though photographed a bit moe sympathetically there than in the Dekalogue I think.

    Chris’ comment on Julie Delpy’s beauty deserves a little expansion – I’d argue that the women of Three Colors are some of the most gorgeously depicted women on film. Julie Delpy may have the hardest time coming across as such since she’s not in the film very much, and her actions are so cruel, yet… Wow. When I first watched these, I found myself absolutely transfixed by Irene Jacob, Delpy and Juliette Binoche, and remain so today.

    I’d again compare Kieslowksi to Godard in this sense. Jean Seberg, Anna Karina, and Bardot in Contempt and her brief spot in Masculine Feminine (though Bardot was never more than just a beauty in other directors’ hands for me) – I’m not sure what word to use, but “smitten” comes to mind for these women. I could watch them over and over again.

    Even seeing Bincohe for the first time in Cache, a dozen years on, made me flush a little as if I’d come across an old girlfriend in a random meeting. I can’t think of another director who has managed to achieve that effect – for me – other than these two.
    Any thoughts on Preisner’s score? If White is the slightest of the trilogy, then it’s at least somewhat due to the music. Blue is totally dependent on the music as a plot device, and Red’s score is memorable, if only for the boleros. White, having just seen it a few days ago, I can’t even recall the main theme. I might try listening to the soundtrack to see if it holds up on its own; I generally admire scores that aren’t overpowering or try to lead the viewer on, but this one seemed uncharacteristically part of the background.

  7. Well, I went to Blockbuster last night to rent White but it was already checked out. What’s up with that! I’m still working to get a hold of a copy. More later.

  8. I have not yet given myself the chance to re-watch White, but I feel so bad about not keeping up with everyone that I will post a brief comment based on my memories of this film, which date back to 1994.

    I was very moved by this film, but I also remember being very aware that I was watching a man living out what I felt to be, since I had just gone through a mildly painful break-up, the ultimate fantasy: to witness those who have hurt you become overwhlemed with grief and guilt at your funeral. I also recall thinking that this was the ultimate male fantasy which is why I’m very interested in Gio’s reading. I recall feeling ashamed that I was rooting for Karol, and ashamed that I had shared Karol’s feelings of triumph. Karol stages his tears so as to protect himself from the fright of real tears (this is Zizek’s reading of the film which, if you can stand to read Zizek, is worth examining: The Fright of Real Tears: Krzystof Kieslowski between Theory and Post Theory). I think Kieslowski wants us to have the mixed feelings I am describing, to make us more fully aware of how strange human nature is. But Gio didn’t have these mixed feelings, which makes me suspect, as she does, that of the three films, this one’s for the boys.

  9. gio is dangerously and sadly uninclined to mixed feelings. her certainties, however, do not extend much further than books, movies, and the bush administration.

  10. Gio – I’m very confused all of a sudden. I was reading a comment on my blog and it linked to a page of contributors that included “a very nonny mouse” – So that comment may have been from you I’d guess. But that profile had a link saying they contributed to “Builtinashtrays” which is a blog I only discovered a few days ago and love. I even linked to it from my blog, and posted a comment on it a couple of days ago.

    But I found out about it from the OTHER contributor to YPMTRGA, who has nothing to do with this blog, and seemingly found it by random.

    Do you post to builtinashtrays? It’s a fine blog for which I wish much success.

  11. I really have no idea what to say about the builtinashtray controversy, but I’ll weigh in with a brief comment on White, which I finally had the chance to see.

    Like Straw Dogs, White is about the schlemiel (is he a schlemiel, a putz or a schmuck?) as inner psychopath. The self is so absent (as I think Gio pointed out) that only the most rigidly controlled violence (Karol’s revenge plot the equivalent of Dustin Hoffman’s massacre in Straw Dogs)can give it a semblance of life. or, to put it more bluntly, only the monstrous self-aggrandizement of Karol’s scheme of faking his own death, allows him for once to get it up. Now that he is controller and destroyer, Karol can fuck out of spite–or what amounts to the same thing, his psychopathic idea of love wherein self-abnegation meets its opposite, Dominique far from being seen as a person but rather as a catalyst for a completely internal process. Yes, Dominique is cruel but her cruelty, even when outrageous, seems human and partly the result of the great insult of her own husband failing to be adequately sexually attracted to her.

    I found White to be quite slight until the last twenty minutes when its sly purpose became clear. We had been sucked into sympathizing for the downtrodden Karol, then rooting for his miraculous recovery–only to find out in the end that this narrative has as its goal the creation of the perfect monster, where self-destruction meets total dominance. That Dominique willingly participates in the imprisonment at the end is a sign of Karol’s destruction of a real self, that contrasts with his phony destruction of himself. Or, as I think it can be read, the condemned Dominique has succumbed to the madness of believing Karol to be a supernatural presence–hence he gets to be in actuality (D’s actuality, at least)the idealized object he had made of Dominique (without success until she could succumb to this scheme).

    I take the film as a dissection of an element of some varieties of masculinity which require the idealization of the object of desire as a perverse form of control. Karol’s control is undone by his dick,which indicates that the idealization has bounced back on Karol, undoing his role as lover and husband. He gets it up again when his idealization and control mesh perfectly in his scheme. The tears at the end indicate either a culmination of Karol’s desire to cry for himself in a way that excludes all others or some indication that something may remain unresolved in the completeness of his plan, that Dominique even in her prison cell, retains some reality outside of Karol’s annihilating scheme. Karol’s tears are as disturbing as David’s smirk at the end of Straw Dogs. but White has to some degree given the spectator a sucker punch by first making us “feel for” this schliemiel so completely.

    I’d like to tentatively suggest, if everyone agrees, that we see Le Samourai as our next communal film–something that will perhaps lead to some interesting ideas about genre and dovetail nicely with this discussion of White, as well as with the discussion of Straw Dogs over at miamibooks. but I’m open to other suggestions or to someone else taking a turn.

  12. i’m struck by how closely michael and i read this film. it had not occurred to me to find that it makes the same points as straw dogs, a film that, in spite of all the cool readings people have given of it, i still find disgusting (i mean this literally, not as a value judgement; i watch it and feel disgusted). i have already said a tiny bit on the dissimilarities, and on why straw dogs repels me while white attracts me, but i can say more at some later time (i’m sure you are all dying to hear it). and i’m sorry that, because he lives out in cowland, michael always comes late to our discussions, so i propose we discuss le samurai, so he’ll get first dibs. plus it’s a really cool movie.

  13. I’m sorry I’m behind on White–just got it from my library on Saturday. But I, too, think Le Samourai is a great choice for the next flick.

  14. Michael, or anyone – What do you think of Gio’s first question: Is this a comedy? I think of all the questions that have been raised about White, I find it the most interesting.

    I remember in junior high, while reading some Shakespeare, my teacher told the class that Shakespeare wrote comedies and tragedies. Then he said (I kid you not), you can tell them apart by whether or not the main characters die at the end. In comedies they live, in tragedies they die.

    My junior high and high school education: Now THAT’s a tragedy… and yet also a comedy…

    A couple more thoughts, which may not hold any water:
    So. Anyway. White IS a comedy in that Karol’s character in downright Chaplinesque, including his name, his body language, even his lack of masculinity. Humor runs throughout the film, even when the plot points of the film are quite tragic (suicide, being beaten to a pulp, sexual failure, being homeless in a strange city). True, there may be no “laughter” as Gio points out, but again, according to my teacher, laughter is not a necessary part of comedy: Only survival.

    Both John and Michael remark they felt suckered in rooting for Karol when his plan is revealed. Is there no humor in this reveal, cruel as it is?

    My primary thought about Karol’s tears is how fake they looked on screen, and the fact that tears running down a face slowly like that are annoying to the cryer; they tickle and irritate. Anyone’s first recation would be to wipe them away unless you needed them to be seen. The back-and-forth relationship of dominance and submission between Karol and Dominique has swung back to Karol’s favor, as we’re led to believe it was before the actions of the film, when they lived in Poland. Is is possible that it’s not Karol’s faked death that cures his impotence, but the geographical setting; that he lured Dominique back to Poland?

    I don’t believe that in prison Dominique actually thinks Karol is dead. I think she figures that out after the police arrive in her room. After all, she also tried to get Karol arrested in Paris. I also don’t know if Dominique is unhappy in prison with Karol down below worshipping / gazing up at her. If they are in fact, both happpy at the end of the film, doesn’t that further qualify it as a comedy?

    I can’t help thinking there was a twist at the end of Red that involved Karol and Dominique (and Binoche). And I also still think the film can be (has to be somewhat) read as a metaphor for clumsy, backward eastern Europe vs. sophisticated, beautiful western Europe at the end of the cold war. Karol’s success as a businessman is, as Gio has pointed out, ill-fitting at least, even if successful, mirroring Poland’s clumsy, even mis-directed, attempts to enter the purely capitalist realm of the west. …and perhaps becoming a worse entity for it?

  15. I would agree that the film is certainly a comedy, one that is closest to the chaplinesque during the first two thirds and then more twisted in the last third. If the distinction is allowed it’s something of an intellectual comedy, one without, as Gio says, a great deal of laughter. and, of course, a comic twist takes place “outside” the movie, as Mark points out–the trick on the spectator who has been regarding Karol as a powerless nebbish. The geo-political idea is very tantalizing, but I’m ignorant of post-war Eastern European history–I suspect there may even be allegorical correspondences scattered through the film, that go unrecognized by me.

    so, is everyone in for Le Samourai next? It is available as a criterion collection and I assume it should be readily available on netflix. can we watch it, say, by monday july 31st?

  16. John, I believe we say Le Samourai at the Nuart–or perhaps at the New Beverly on a double bill. I vaguely recall a Jean-Pierre Melville festival somewhere.

  17. you’re already on to the next movie? white should be arriving from netflix tomorrow–i guess i’ll be a film behind. wait, i still haven’t seen black narcissus.

  18. he said (I kid you not), you can tell them apart by whether or not the main characters die at the end. In comedies they live, in tragedies they die.

    this is as good a criterion as any, don’t you think? and it surely works in this film, where even the dead survive.

    Anyone’s first recation would be to wipe them away unless you needed them to be seen.

    oh, tears are a tricky thing. sometimes you feel ’em, sometimes you don’t. once i found little puddles by my feet before i realized i was crying. also, if it’s cold, you feel them less.

  19. Well, yeah, the tears are a tricky thing in the movie, as John mentioned, quoting some theorist in a line I still don’t really get: “Karol stages his tears so as to protect himself from the fright of real tears.”

    Karol’s tears seem to be represent a “happy ending” to me. His marraige is, in a sense, back together; she’s in Poland, where his sex problem is not a factor, even though she’s untouchable, trapped in a tower. Very fariy tale. Kieslowski’s verion of “they lived happily ever after?”


    So, I watched Le Samourai, and I’m interested in how Michael wants to extend talk of genre and masculinity into this film. I’d not seen it before and was quite taken aback by it. I had recently seen Melville’s Bob le Flambeur, which I liked a great deal, and wasn’t prepared for the almost surreal aspects of Samourai.

  20. though I’ve already seen it a couple of times, I have to refresh my memory by watching Le Samourai again this weekend. I’ll try to post something substantive by Monday to get the ball rolling.

  21. finally got to white last night. i don’t really have a whole lot to add to the discussion other than to note that “equality” in this film is explored through the lack of it, and the perversion of the idea in the attempt to attain it. the geo-political subtext seems clear. poland’s entry into the west (“we are european now”, karol’s brother says to explain the neon sign”) is both presented as caricature and critique: the bumbling gangster capitalism of poland is set against the slick facades of paris and gets at some truth about the whole dehumanizing enterprise.

    i’m not so sure about gio’s sympathetic read of dominique. both she and karol seemed deeply unsympathetic to me though they reverse their positions along the way. i do agree, however, that kieslowski and his camera see dominique very differently than karol does. karol’s adoration of the plaster (?) head that he steals, and with which he has a more meaningful relationship, is i think key to this split gaze.

    mark, at the end of red, we see the judge watching a tv broadcast of a ferry rescue. the only survivors are binoche and her lover from blue, jacob and the young man from red, and karol and dominique from white.

  22. mark, at the end of red, we see the judge watching a tv broadcast of a ferry rescue. the only survivors are binoche and her lover from blue, jacob and the young man from red, and karol and dominique from white.

    do you actually remember this?!?

  23. Wow, you guys had a lot to say about this film! Took me a while to go through the comments. Being the other female commentator on this thread, I should say that I also found Dominique’s character interesting. I certainly do not see her as evil, as some of you do, although I don’t really sympathize with her either. I just thought her justification for her actions–that Karol doesn’t understand her frustration and rage–was enough. And I took her actions to be more absurd than real (I would read the movie as less comical than absurd in this regard). But the movie is clearly more interested in Karol than Dominique, which is evident in the way she becomes fully incorporated into Karol’s fantasy (we see Karol joining Dominique in the final wedding sequence). At the very end, she loses her language and must adopt to a new one; she is just the way he likes–distant, angelic, objectified (literally framed by the window). And there’s also something to be said about how the viewer doesn’t quite understand what’s being communicated. Perhaps this is the inward world that Frisoli’s talking about and maybe he’s achieved it at the end.

    In terms of the film’s commentary on masculinity, I agree with most of Gio and Frisoli’s comments. What I find interesting though is that Karol’s impotence, although a major topic of the film, doesn’t seem to interest him so much. What he seems to demonstrate is the death drive in a pure form; he has to have sex to get to it, so he does and then he gets what he wants. So what does that say about masculinity? I am not sure. Frisoli says, “He gets it up again when his idealization and control mesh perfectly in his scheme,” but I don’t think that it’s the moment of erection that signals his control. It’s what he can do afterwards.

    Having the near killing of Mikolai as part of the movie suggests that there is clear distinction between actual death and symbolic death. The film is clearly interested in the latter.

  24. yeah, i don’t think we have seriously tried to incorporate the subplot of mikolai’s “suicide” into the rest of the film. i like your distinction between real death and symbolic death, but i can’t make sense of your reading karol’s symbolic death in terms of the death drive. doesn’t freud contrast it to the pleasure principle? but karol seems to find his symbolic death pleasure, satisfactory. he is not the depressed type. he’s a cheery guy. what gives?

  25. I agree with the earlier comments that part of Karol’s drive is the childish fantasy of wanting to be at your own funeral to see who shows up, who cries… It has nothing to do, it seems, with really wanting to be dead.

    Mikolaj’s death is very well thought out, not really childish, and yet a childish ‘prank’ (if it can be called that) on Karol’s part, removes the death wish from him, which was very real. Mikolaj could care less who shows up at his funeral; he just wants his pain to go away.

    Could their contrasting death-wishes be another level of the unequal ‘equality’ that runs through the film?

  26. Having the near killing of Mikolai as part of the movie suggests that there is clear distinction between actual death and symbolic death. The film is clearly interested in the latter.

    There is indeed a clear distinction between actual death and symbolic death in that the former is really, really bad for your health.

  27. Karol may be satified but I am not sure he’experiencing pleasure in his fake death. It seems that he’s uncomfortable with pleasure in general.

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