The Pervert's Guide to Ideology
An intellectually provocative psychoanalytical dissection of Hollywood movies
Those who saw The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema will know what to expect from this latest collaboration between British documentary filmmaker Sophie Fiennes and the radical Slovenian philosopher and cultural critic Slavoj Zizek. Addressing the viewer from a variety of replica film-sets – amongst the mocked-up locations are Taxi Driver Travis Bickle’s bed, a Full Metal Jacket barracks lavatory, and a Titanic lifeboat – the motormouthed Zizek serves up an intellectually provocative psychoanalytical dissection of Hollywood movies.
Beginning with clips from John Carpenter’s They Live, Zizek argues that mainstream films reinforce the dominant ideologies, assumptions and belief systems that, often unconsciously, structure our lives and fantasies as subjects and consumers. He focuses on the tensions between the explicit messages of the films under analysis and what he deems to be their 'hidden truths': thus although we might think that Titanic celebrates a love-affair across social classes between the characters played by DiCaprio and Winslet, for Zizek the film actually reinforces the dubious notion that upper-class individuals can be revitalized by contact with the so-called lower orders. And why, he ponders, is it so much easier for us to imagine the end of the world when we watch post-apocalyptic movies, than to make modest changes to the current global capitalist system?
Nor does Zizek restrict his against-the-grain readings to American blockbusters: he also draws on Fascist and Communist propaganda movies, news footage of the London riots of 2011 and recent anti-capitalist protests, and even Brief Encounter, where the busybody who interrupts Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard in the waiting room illustrates the notion of the ‘Big Other’.
Given its two and quarter hour running time and the density of Zizek’s analysis, The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology certainly makes demands on the viewer’s powers of concentration, yet in championing critical thinking it succeeds in making one see both familiar films and wider society anew.
Limited release from Fri 4 Oct, available on DVD from Mon 14 Oct