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T~tle of:urem copied: 'Realism and the, Cinema: Notes on Some Brechtian Theses'. Theoretical Essays: Film, Linguistics, Literature.

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Theoretical essays Notes

I. 1'to~atid ll:!ll'll1es, ffsSt1i s uirJtJ L!~S (le S~t1i.l, P aris, 197] I, p- 13.

2, It w(Jl!I~cl he wrung tu Ihink thll~ So;;t~~fl was til ~ ( influence in th L~ p['Ocess _ the historv of inrle-~tnJent film ill the seventies hM yel to be wrtrten. h wO"ulcl~h[1 be ...... rang eo cnndernn Out ·of h~nd ~ H tn()<se films w hLeh W~Te form.~lIy expernncntal a.t!ld poldtically concerned - I'hil MuHCi}' , s 1ft dl!e I'oms' or Laura Mulv~y Mel Peter W oHe-f] , s .Pe.!"Hll~sjj'e1J at~ [ml}' t ..... o examples or mrns that cre9ted ami usetl new spaces inthe cinema. Nevert heless, IDu.ooh that. was produced ehen did C{lwfun'tll to <111 over-theoretic al .fan'nula, w.hich did lirrlere ~Umnlllt~ ,a real polirical snd fo.rm8l eng.1gement wHim the cinema.

3. The title of r~Ch~~Ul'~ first. book w~~ L'A!ltl1~e "~]tQm<iUqm d'n disc(mrs ~ D~m(lJ, Paris, 19 69~, Th~ ,COrreCI t ranslati~m into En.giisn w{U!lld be 'Compil.rer :Lnaly:;.is of dis.comse',!1 t.ile jlmbigl1 it}, ~lf In,eF.r~nc1 '~I:I(nmarique', I, !l~ iellst, tmd a trace of ~he p!.:p,'cr~~' utop.i~:tI du:~m, 1,0; hlch I 5haI~d, btl discover an 'auto:madc' method [~f proceslIil1.l! texts wh.ich wou ld Ievejl] (hell !ui'ld:ll:nem~.~ equi",:aJil:nce~ lJulepe:ndocndy of ~he desire of ~I1ly a:il:lI}'~L

~" I h~veretained the (~Inn .in which the paper was delivltl(ld a1 (he conferenee because of the impertance Oif that eenference in cllldfYl:ng my it],eas.

5. ] have leh Out of accnunr here the wbole qlles [ion of the ~d.lltirm ct TV and him to Ii~Blti.mIe coruses. This is a vexed qUI;~w;I['1 and in thcpr~~~l'It cwUex.t I ...... HI ~.umc~ rnY5cU with (WO brief [luints, First, I am con vim eel t.hat TV and Film ~ilouldl be raugh t w ithin. ~n;glish courses, Second I am m['l\,iil.cOO much of the hMtility I e'l:lcount~n'lJ "'"",15 bceause of my work in tdevi~lm' aed Hl.m alth()ugh it compT.~sed only 8. titiV pmt of m.yu::~ch~M - two very ~.hon cour~~~iIl li:\"e }'~~r5-


Realismand the cinema: notes on some Brech tian theses

Throughout his life Brecht eonducted, together with a continually expenmentmg artistic practice, a, sustained theoretical reflectlon on hi ~ own and others' work. In the earlvthirties drawing up .'J!. project for 11 new critical review Brecht wrote

Amongst otber things the review understandsthe wor-d 'crrtlcism' in h s dou ble se nse - transforming "U.(lleclirnIlythe tOt8.!ity of su biects into a"lfH assts and thus conceiving the epochas ill CIhical perlod in both meanings cfrhe term - And this point uf view necessarily entails ~ nilh~bihtl.ltiQ:I1 of [h~or)' In ltS productive fights.

rxvm, 85-6.1 L

Th e j m r ortance [lif th ~():ry and its prod ucti ve eJfec t5 in th e oiICSthctic domain persists as a central concern throughout Brecht's writings- T"W() areas in which Brecht felt rbe need for theory to be particularl y pressing weret he de hat e em. realism in. which Lukacs! So posi t ions ach ieved dommance in the early tbirties and the relad.vdy new culturalarea of the cincrna, His reflections on these topics were pu blished in 1967 under the H des Obel den R!%!lisrnus and abe.r Film and these sections have since been totally translated into French and sectionscf the-m have recently been published in Enghsh.1 The aim of this article is to elaborate some of the positions adv armed in those two wer h. It is not an aUe'mrt to extract a coherent theory born Brecht's theoretical writings (and still less to oUer a cohere n~ aceount IQf the rela tion of this themy to hi8 arristic practice] but rathera set of digressions which take .;IS their starting point some Brechtian theses.


The elassie Tea li.s~ ~ext

C!iHc.i:sm, tit lease M.'!rxi st crtticism ,must proct:cdrnethmiicaUy and eoneretely in each case r in short sdentlficllUy. Loose talk is (lJ 110 h~lp here, whateve« Us. vocabulary. In. afl circumstances cen the neceSSjl_j'y g-uide-liMs .klr ;1. prSictical.cldinitlof.! of real ism be derived frnm lin:rruy works .'!loT'l!~. lBt: like To~.stoy - but Wi.lhout his we!lknes·ses~ Be like HsJzac - 01"11 Y up-re-dstel ~ ReaJUsm is :an issue not 0011", (or literature:

H is a. majoI poJit.i cal, phHosopnica land pracrical issll~ llnd must be handled and expl!1lined as such - as ,:;1 matter ofgenefiill humeri interest _ ' . j XIX, .:m7,J

One of the d Wkulties of anydH scussion a bout re<li]ism is the lack of any reall 11 effective voca.bulary withwhich to discuss the topic, Most discussions tum on the problems gff the productinn of discourse: which wilLfully adequate the real, This notion o.f ad.equacy isaccepted both by therealists and indeed byrhe anti-realists whose marn argument isthat no discourse can ever be adequate to the mul tifariou s nature of the real. This notion of the re-al is, however I wish to suggest, a notion which is tied W <1 p,articuJ<lI type of literary production - the nineteenth -cenmrv realist novel. The dam in<l!flCe o~ this novel form is such that people still tend to eonfnse the general que suon of realism with the part icnlar Janus of the nineteenth-century realist novel. In order to make the discussion dearer I want therefore tIl attempt 10 define the structure which typifies the ninetr.:emh-century realist novel and to show how that structure C<'IIl also. be used to describe I3J great number offHms. The demur [hmugn literature is necessary because, in many W,JYs, the structure ]S much more obvious there and! al:5~ because of the h]SlOtiC<1] dominance ofthe classic realist novel overmuch film product ion, Wh at WaJ huge extent will be lacking in this article is the spe cific na ture of tbe film Fnrm but t his does nat seem to me to invalidate the s ettlngu Ii of certain essential categories from w hich further discussion rnus t progress. The s trucruze I will attempt to disengage I shall call the classic realist text and I shall apply it to novels and Hlms,

A classie realisttext fflo\l.y be defined as one in which there is a hierarchy amoD,gsl the discourses which compose the [ext and ~hishieFarchy is defined in terms of an empiricelnot ion of truth, Perhaps the eas lest way to' understand this is t hrough a ref! ecticn on the use of inverted commas wlthin 'the classic r~<lHst novel, WhU e those sect ions in the text which are C(lO, rained in inverted


Realism and the cmema

cemrnas may csu s.e acertain diiHcu lty for the reader - iii. certain c(l(l1fusicm vis-a-vis whst really is. the case - this difficulty is abnllsbed by the unspoken ~GI mere accurarely the ll][IwlimmJ prose rha t surrounds them. In the classlcalrealis t novel the naeralive prose fune t ions as a metalanguage that can state OliH [he truths in {be object language -~hose words held in inverted commas - and Can also explain the relation of this object language to the [eat The metalanguage can thereby explain therelerion of this ohject language to the world and the strange methods by which the object bl:n~U<l.ges attemptto express truths which an, sttOl!ightForwardly conveyed in the me til language. What I have caned an unwritten prose jor i! metalanguage) is exactlythat language, which while placing other languages between inverted commas and regilrding them. as eert ainmaterial expressions which express certain meanings, regards those same meanings-as finding transplltent expression within the metalanguage itself. Transparent in the sensethat the metalanguage is not regarded as material; it is dema terialised to ach ie veperlecr represearation > W let the identity of things shine through the window rtf words. For in so Iar as the meulanguage is treated itself as material - it, tOO, can be remterpre ted; new meanings CO'In he found for it in a further me talO1Jllgll.:age , The problem is the problem thathas trembled western thought since the pre-Soerarics recognised the separation between what was said and the act of s~.y]ng. This sepsraticn must be thought both as timeand space - as the space, which in the distance born p<lige to eye or monthto eat <111ow6 the P[]SS i hihty of tnisunders tanding - as the time taken to traverse the pa,gie or listen roan utterance which ensures the deferred mterpretat ion of wordsw hich are always only defined by w ha t follows, The pl<lbkm is that in the moment tha~ we say" senrenee the meaning ~what is said] seems fixedand evident but what] s said does not cxis t sol el y for rhemomem and is opento further interpretations Even in. this fnrmulanon of the problem I have presupposed an original moment when thereis strict cornemporeneltv between the saying and what is said, but the d] lficulry is mure radlcal fo.r t here is. no such origi nal moment. The s epara non is always already there M we cannot locatethe presence of what is said - distributed as itis through space - northe present or what is said - disnibut,ed as it is thmugh time,

This separation beaeswienessrothereal as artlculated, The


Theoretical essays

thing represemed does not appear in a moment of pure Identity as it [ears Ut.seU out of the worM and presents incH, but rather i~ c~u:ght in an articulation in which each object is Jdincd ina set of differences ami oppositions.

[t is this separation thatthe unwritten tex~ attempts to anne~l! to make whole, through de'nying its Own status 818 writing - as mar ks of material djffereFllcc distributedthrough time and space. Whereil s other dlsconrses within the text are cons idered as material which <lre open. to re-interpretation, the narrative diseourse simply allows reality to appear and denies its own status as articulat ion. This lela rions hip between d lsconrses can be clearly S~C:!l inthe WQ:rk of such a writer as Ceorge E].iot. In the scene in M.tddlemarch w here M[' Bmokegocs to visit the Da,gleys l [aun we read two differem languages, One is the edueared, wellmeaning, but not very intdHgent discourse ofMr Brookeand the other Is the uneducated! violent and very nearl y unlnrelligible diseeurse of the drunken Dagley. But the whole dialogue is surrounded bya metalanguage 1 which being unspoken is also un· written.and which places these discourses in Inverted commas and can rhus discuss these discourses' relarion ro troth - atruth whic h is illuminatlngl y revealed in the metalanguage. The metalangaugc reduces the object laaguages into 11 simple divisson between. formand conren tande K, tra cts the meaningful content Irom the useless form. One can see this [lI[)CeSS at WOI k in the fa now ing pssaage which ends the scene:

He [Mr Brooke] had never been insulted on his own land before, and had been incltnedto regard himse~f as s general favourire ~we are all apt to do so, when wethink of Our own amiability mor;e than what or bel' people :m:: lihlyw wan [ of us" When he bsdquarrefled wi th Ca leb G arth twel ve years before he had thought thllit ~he re Dafit~ wouldhe pleased ,s~the l~'lldl(ltrd's taking everyt:bi.o~ into h]s Own handa.

Some who follow the narranve ot this expenence may wonder at the midu igbt darkness of Mf Dagley ; brut nmhing wa~ easier ill rhose times than fora hereditary ,farmer of his !l1Dde to be ign.omnt,~n sJl.i~e somehow of Ilavinga rector ill ~he twiuparish who was a.gentleman to rhe backbone, a CI!lTjUe nearer at hand who pr,eaJched rome leamedly th;ln thefeC~():I"1 I:! hmdJouJ who had glOne into everything, espedaUy hne art and, social improvemem lind allthelights of M lddlemarch Q10I y three miles off _ [E llot I 967 : <132- 3,


Realism and the cinema

This passage p],'ovict~ s to e ne ces S illY intcrpretat ions for the discourses that we have read earlier in the chapter. Bot h the discourses or Dagley and Mr Brooke are revealed <1.3 springing from two types of ignorance which the meralangnage can expose and.reveal. So we have Mr Brooke • sa ttitude to w hal his tenants thought oi him. contrasted with the reality which is available through the nsrrative prose. No discourse is allowed to speak for Itself but rather it must he placed in a context which willreduce i~ eo 8, simple explicable content, And in the claim tha~ the narrative prese has directaecess to a final realiry we can find the claim of the dassic re<liHst novel topresent us with rbe truths of human nature. The ability to reveal the truth <libo~n M:I' Brooke is the abiliry that gum an tees the generalisations 01 human nature.

Thus rhen a hut d!eh nil ion of the el ass ic realist text - bu ~ does th is deli niti on C<lUY ov er in to films when; it is certainly ] es s evident w hereto loca t ethe dom irian t dis COUf5,C2 It seems to me tha t it does and in the foUow ing T1lIshion, The narrativ e prose achiev,es ]ts position Oil dominance beCOI118t: it is in the posltlon 0'( knowledge andrhis function of knowledge is taken up in the cinema by l he narr a t ion of events. Through rhe know ledge we gOlin homilie nsrrative w~ can split the discourses of the various characters from their situation and compare what is said in these discourses wi rh what has b eenrevesled to us through narration. The camera sbow S 1[.' s what hsppens - itEclls the truth. against which we carl measure the discourses. A good example of this elasslcal realist. structure is to be found in Pakula's HIm Klute. This film is of particular interest because it was widely praised for its realism on its release, Perhaps, even more sign.Hi· cantl y ittended to be praised fm it s realistic present at ion of the leading WUl'J.1.<iIl, Br.;c [play~d by Jane ForHJ!Ol~.

in Klute the relationship of dominance between discourses is peculiarly accentuared by the fact that the Iilm is inte'~s~ef~,ed wid] fragments of Bree talking to her psychiatrist, ThIg subjective discourse can be fi:xacdy measured against the reality provided bythe unfolding of the 5 to:qr, Thus all her tal k of independence 1:5 portrayed as .finally tm illusron as we discover, W no great surprise but to, our immense rel lef ,w ha t she really ~1lnt5 is to settle down in the mid-We:S1 with lohn Klute [the detective p[;;1·Y'(id by Donald Sutherland!)Ol!D.d hsve a f<llm:iJy _ The final sequence of the film is perticularl y telling in this resp ect, While


Theoreti cale s sa ys

Klute and Bree pack their bags to leavethe soundtrack records Bree at her la,st meeting With her psychiatrisr. Her own estiInJtlO!l of the situation. is that i~ most probably won't work but rhe tClitity oJ the Image ensures us thOit this isthe way it will reslly be. Indeed Bree's mUl1!0101lu.e is even more interesting - for in rela t ion ~ 0 th~ real it y of the irn age It rna r ks !I. definite advance on her previous 5 tat ements. She has gamed insight through the ]?~Qrr developm em and like many good heroines of class ic realist ~ exts her d iscourse is more nearly adequate to the truth at the end (lif the HIm than at the beginning .. BUt ]f aprogression towards know le-dge is what marks Bree j. it is pOS5 ession of knowledge w hich mar ks the narrative I the reader of the film and John Klut e himself. For Klute is privileged by the narrati ve as the one character whose discourse is also 11. discourse of know 1~ edge. No~ .only is Klute a dctec ti vC and thus can sol we the problem oil his friend' s d isa pp earance - he is also a manl and a man who because he hils not come into contact withthe ciry has not had his viriljty undermined. And it is as a full-blooded man that he can know not only the trutb of the m V9tery ofthe marders but also the truth 01 the woman .Bre·e.Far from being a film which goes any wayto portrayill.g a woman liberated from male definition l8i common cri t ical response J, KJwee:x:acd vguarantees that the real ess ence of woman can onl V be diseevered and ddlned hY·iI.m>ln,

The anal ys is sketched here if) obviously very schematie but what., hopefully, it does show i8 that the structure oJ the classic, realisrt ext can b e ~ound in Illrn as well That. narrat i ve of events - the knowledge which the film provides o.f howthings realiy are - is the me~~bng1"l~ge in which we can talk of the various char ac ters in the fHm. Wha t would still remain to be done in the ela bor ... tioa clthe s rruc turf; (lIthe el ilUlc realist tcx t in cmema is 11 morn; detailedaccount of the actual mechanisms by which the narrati ve is pr i vilcged t and the way in which one or more of the characters within the narrative can be equally privileged) and also a his.tory of the development of to is dominant narrati ve. On the syud:ucm:ic level it would be necessaryto <ltU, an .,l;!'l.lllysis of the relationship between the various types of shot and their eombinat ion into sequences - are there fUf example certain types 01 shot which ale c4Jde,dil!s subiective and thc(~fore subordinate to others which are guaranteed 3,5 In additien how docs


Realism aud the cinema

music work ss the guarantee or otherwise of truth! On the diachronic level it would be necessary to study how this form was preduced - wha t Ieliltionship obtains I:J etween the elassicrealist text and technical advances such as, the d," velcpmem 01 the talkie! What ideological factors were at work in the prnduction and dommance of the classic realist text~

To. return, however', to the narrauve discourse. It is m:CI:;:88.11,r)1 to. attempt to understandthe type of relations thm this dnminant discourse produces, The narra t i ve discourse cannot be m is raken in its identifications because the nsrrative discourse is not present ;1S discourse - as articulation. The unquestioned nature of the I1<l!native discourse entails that the only problem that reality pcses Isto go and look and see what Things then; are. The relationship between the read subject andthe real is p laced as one of pure specular] t:y. The rea] is not artieula t ed - it is. These features imply rwo essential features oj the classic realist text:

I The classic realist text cannot deal with the real as contradictory.

1 In a reciprocal movement the classic realist text ensures the position 011 the suhiectIn 11. relation of dominent specularity.

The c1a:ssilC :!itlaUst t~xt as prog1'¢iSsive af~

If! general, do no·t be cnntem \l,'idlJ provkHng 3ninsig]lt tnro the lirerarure of tbeconnu:,¥ in quesneu, but follow the details ol ]ite:m:ry lile itsell, Cons ider [iterary phenomena as events and as so cl al events" [Principles fo~ (he review Das WOUJ pnx., 3'0714

]t may be objected! that the aCGcm1JJ.t that I hsvc given Oir the classic literary text irS deficient in the folluwing extremely important fashion, ]t ignores what is the usual criterion for realism, that is to $,01IY subiect matter. Thecategory of the classic realist text lumps together in hook and film The Grapes of Wta~h and The Smma of Music, L 'Assmmnoil8:nd TotJu of Tood Han. In order to find <l! criterion with which to make distinction& within the area oft he classic realist text it is nece S.Sllry to re:Hecr on contradicticn.I have stated that the classic realist text CaIIlnO[ died with the resl in its eentradictmn because of the unquestioned SHUUS of [he represents ~ inn 11 t the } eve] o.f [he dom in-~ul t discourse. In order tounderstand how contradictien can be dealt with it: is


Theorettcal essays

necessary to investigate the workings of an operation that is o,ite:n opposed to representation, namely montage.

ill 1:118 e ssa y on 'Word and iIThlige in The Film Sense, Eisenstein defines montage .. Amo:o,gst numerous exampl es ()if ffl.(l'O,uge he quotes. the following from Ambrose Bierce's F~nM8fi.c Pables:

A W eman ]11. widow' s weeds was weI.;Bl'i:llg: upon a. grave.

'Console ymuseU, madam' said 11. Sympstherlc SrrangeL 'Beaven's mercies are infinite. There is anather man somewhere, beside your husband, with whom you can still be happy.'

'There was,' she $obbcd - 'd:um~ was, btl1 this ];s hi;s grave.'

~ Eisenstein ] 968 14 - 15 ~

Eisenstein explains the effect of this fable in terms of an interaction. he tween the visual representatinns in the seorv. The woman is a representation and so is the mourning dress - they are, in Eisenstein's cerms, objlectivl{;ly representable - hut the iuxtaposiemn off these reprcecntaeionsgives rise to a new image thin is no r representa hle - namel y tha t the WOm<lill is .11 widow _ It is the expectation created by the iuxtaposition whichIs undercuth the final Iineuncred by the woman- For the moment we shall enly no t ice the (o]1owing point:

1 that Eisenstein, concerned ve.ry large! V with a stmple defmirion Oif representatien, fail.s to recognise that widow is justas cbiectrve a repreaentaticn II.S, woman or mourning dress and 2th<lt montage invol ves both an interac tion be tween repres en-

U. Lions and a shock"

Eisenstein continues his explanation hy expanding his diannetion between repreeentarion ~ the raw material of the montage] and image ~that which is produced by the montage itself],

Take a. white cu:cub:l" disc of .@;v·cr.a,gc slze and smooth surface, its

cireumfercnce divided Into sixty equal p~rt~. At every fifth di vision is set .11. figure in the nrde:r of succession of 1 to 12. At the centre of the disc 8J·e fixed tWO m.etll!l wets, moving flrceJ:y ontheir .fixed! ends, pointed ~t their free ends, on.e being eq ual to the Iad.ius of the disc, the (It bel [a ther sbort er. LeE the lcmger pointed rod bave its fYee end [es~ing at the figun: 12 and the sborter tn successlon pOinting towards ~he figures 1, 2, 3alld so on upto 12. This will comprise ;Ji series of gecnne ~dcal representation 5 nf sueeesarverela tlons of ~fietwo metal rods~o eneanoeher expressed in the dirnensiJons 3D, 60, 90 dC!,'1'ees, i!m:1 50 011 up to 36l) degrees.

If,. however J this dise is prO:\i'ided witba mec-hanism th~~ impares

Realism and. the cinema

s·teady movement to the metal mds,~ht: geomeu]cal figure im:me,d on the surfaee acquires ~. sped.<lil meaning: it is nc)o' .... · not ~.imply a IepX838!"l:UW:Ol-i, it is an image of time. [1968:20~

The eonfusionrbat led Eisen:stem to count woman and 1'110UIn.-

ing dress as representable but widow as non-repreeentable can be seen at work agaln in tbis pa s sage. Eisenstein thinks. nf the WOt ld as being composed of basic objects available to sight which are tbea linked together in various ways by the perc e i ving su bj I.;:! ct with the aid of his past experiences. Thstthrs is bis positiollJ. is. made abundantlv dear injhe passage which follows the passage [have just quoted. He takes the example of Vro]};sky looking at his watch, after Arms Karenina has told him rhat she is pregnant, and being so shocked that he sees the posicion ()~ the hands but not the time. Thus the posi tion of the hands is the pr im it I ve obieer in. the world and the time is w hat the human subject creates thmugh his Iinking of this object with other items (lif his experience. Mont~ge is thus, for Eisenstein, in this passage ~whichrnust not he confused wi~h Eisenstein's cinematic practice ~ j [he m anipulat ion DC deflnt te representa nons to produce imagesln the mind of the spectamr. But now it C<1:n he seen that this definihon (It montage does not contradiet representation at all. If we understand lhy representation the rendering of identities in the world then Eisenstein's account of montage is not opposed to representation hut is snnply a secondary process which comes a:fter representation .. Eisenstein would have moruage linking onto representation but not in .gl.n.y sense challenging it. The represenration starts from an identity in the world which it re-presents, the montege starts from representations, id,cntitie.s,lIod cornbines them tn form an image.

Bisens rein IS acceptance of representation C8m he 8 een In those passages where representation is eontras ted With montage _ For Eisen stein the opposhe to montage is j Affadavit-expositi 011' which he definesas '.ll] m.m teIms~ r,epresB.i1wrions sbot {lOrn' a iEingle set up'. j 1968::3 7J Thus mon tag)!.: is tbe sh.owing of the representstion hom differe:n~ points of view. And it rs hom this pom t tha t we can begin to challenge Eisenstein's cone eptlon of men uge. A point Qlf view sllIgges ts twothings. F irstl y a view - something that is seen - <lind g.ecoocl!ly a location from w hieh the viewmay be had, the sight may be seen. Thus the suggestion is


Theoretieal essays

that there are different locations from which we can see. But in all cases the sight remains the same - the activity of represenration is not the deterrmmng factor in the sight seen hut simp]" the place frem where it is seen. The inevitable result of this is thar there is something the same which we 11.11 sec hut which appears differently because of om posnton, Bm if there is ici,(!ntity. ifthere is something overand above the views which can be rec et ved 8i t d ifferent [loin rs then [his idcn tity must be discernable from some other 'POilU of view', And. this neutral point. of view is exactly the 'represenratlons shot from a single set-up'.

What is at. workm Bisenstein's argument is theidr.:a that there is some Iixed reality which is. available to us troman obieetlve point of vi.ew ~th~ single set-up}. Monuge is simply purring these fixed elementstogether in such <I way that the subject brings forth other elements in his experience - 11m withoutany ehange in the identities, the elements that are being rendered, It Is essennslto realiserhar this account leaves DO th subj ec t and obi ec r unchallenged and that men tage becom es a kind of super-representation which is more effective at demonstn.ting the real qualities of the object through the links it can form within the subject, Thus Eisensrein would analyse the Bierce story asthe representation of a given set o~ dements which aile firse organised in one way then in another, There are r however, no such set of fixed elements in the Bierce story. It i:s norrha t there is 11. set of elements w hichthe reader composes 'in his mi nd ; but rat herr hat these elem ents are gah:!Oacly deterrn ined hy the method of represent at ion _ WhOlit Eisens tein ]gFlores is that the method of representarion [the language: verbal 01' cinematic] determines in rts structural activity [the oppositions which can bearriculared] both the p].lIceswnere the obi~ct 'appears' and the 'point' from w hichthe 0 bj ect is s een ,It ]s this point which is exaccly the place allotted to the r~aJ.~ng subject.

A carefulanalysis of the Bierce story mOlY enable us to discover how montage opera te s <lind w h:y that op erati em is dimeu it to grasp. We Can read three different discourses at work in the Bierce story [O! discourse being defined asa set of significant oppositions), The :!:l;)Ju:ative discourse,the discourse off the Symp.~th~tic Stranger and the diseourse of the Woman. The questlon is whetheras Eisenstein holds, the narrative discourse represents simply ,1 woman and a mcuming dress. But 'woman'


Realism and the cinema

is not some simple identity as Eisenstein would have BE believe, Whe:reas the Sympathetic Stranger identifies woman in terms of religion and state - thus our relerionsbips ale determined ]l'!I heaven and are institution<lilisecl by the state 01'1 earth. - the Woman determines. her own identity as 'woman' in rerms of des ire and transgression -a;el a t ionships an: formed through the transgressing Oil the st ate's insti rut ions and thist rausgression 15 Iinked with a certain sexuality; foc[c]at]on$hips between a man and a woman outside the bond of hclyrnatrirncny are exphcitly sexual. We can now unders rand th8i~ t be montage works through a contest between the idenrnies oHt:red by the different discourses in the Bierce story, the woman's statement iars with what has gone before so that we re-read it - the identifieations that WI; made ltha~ were made for us] are undermined by new ones, What is thrown into doubt is exactly the identity [the nature l of woman and this doubt isachieved t hlOUgh the' shock' of the woman' S saatem ent asthe iden tit y already proffered is subverte d" It Isalsn de ar born this a nalys is tha [ 1 here is no neutral place from which we can seethe vilJ!W and where an the points are located, There is no possible language of 'af{adavitexposition! that would show the scene 'as :i.t really is'. For how we seerhe scene will be determined bythe way in which we identify 'woman' =and thss determinatio11L is a feature 01 the available discourses; the discourses in which 'woman' can figure.

We are still, however, left wish the problem of how we can mistake thi,5 eflIect of momsge, as I hilJve sugge~ted Eisenstein has done, and the answer to this question. can be Iound in the apparent simllariry of the. discourses in the Bierce srorv. For the three diseour sesare so sim U<lil that we c an be persuaded to read-them as one. All that is missing from the hrst and second is provided by the th lrd, The third discourse can. he read as i closing' the text. For with the infonna tinn th U;5 given to us we can read rhe previous discourses in a ~H:naP - that is to say once; and jOl .aii - manner. We can fill in the gaps in the first tWO discourses - seethe real idem ities w hie 11 are mis ta ken. B urt hili is to ignore the bcr that wha t is at quesucn in the storyare d.iUe:ren t discourse s, D Ufe!em discourses can be defined in discourses in which diffet>em oppositionsare possible, M~hough at one level - the level of the legal fda tinnshdp ro the body and the grave - both discourses coincide j she i$~rlS l1Q[ the wife II at another level


Theoretical essays

there are ~. set of oppns irions of an emotional na ture ~ she does or does no t moum :so'~ emanl which the stranger cannrxarticulate outside the oppositions determined by rhc legal rebhonship. Bierce's story, rhreugh the coincidences. betweenthe discourses on one level, sugges ts to Ei s em; te in a set of identtues in the world. But the identmes rest in the discourses. "IhU8 opposed to E isen 5 tein' s concep f of mon rage res t ing on the] uxtap as it ions of identi ties alread y rendered, we could talk Df montage a s the effect gencuted by a conflict oJ discoursein which the oppositions available in the juxtaposed discourses are cont radictory and in conflict.

All [his byway of explaming that the classic realist text [a heavily 'closed' discourse) cannot deal With the real in its centradictions andthat in. the same movement ir Iixes the suhjec~ in a po int of vi.ew from w hicheverything becomes obvious. There is, howe ver J a level of contradic han into w hich the classic H::a]is,t texr can enter, This isthe comradlction between the dominant dis course of the rextand the dominsnr ideologic 811 discourses. of the time. Thus a classic realist text un which ~ strike is represen ted as a ius l struggle in which oppressed workers attempt to gain some of their rightful wealth would be in contradiction with certain contemporary Ideological discoursesand as such might be classified as progress i ve. It is here tha t subiect matt er enters int 0 the argument and where we Can Imdthe jus tifica tion for Marx and Engels's praise of Balzac and Lenin'stexts on the revoludonaryforce of Tolstoy's texts which ushered the Russian peasant on wthe stagt:of history'. W irhm cenremporary films one could think of the films of Cos r1lJ-Ga vr as Of' such tel evisioa documentaries as Cmlly Come Home. What is, bow ever, still imposslble for the classic realist text is to of[\er any perspectives for stru,gglc due to its inabiliry to invesrigmecontradicucn, It is thus no t surprising that these mms~en~~ ei ther to be linked ro ,1 social dem ocrauc conception off prog;re8s - if we to. yea] injustices then. they will go away - or certain ouvrieri$te tendencles whlch tend to see the working class, omsideany dialectical the simple possessors. of truth. It is 811 this pointthar Brecht's demandthar Iiterary and artistie productioas be regarded as social eventsgsins its force. The: contradictions between the dorn inan t d15 course in a classic real ist text and the dominant ideologlcal disccuzses at work in a society are what


Realism. and the cinema.

provide the criteria Ior discriminating withinthe realist text. And~be~e criteria will often resolve themselves mto questions of subject-matter. That this tendsto leave open OIny question about the eternal values ofart is not something that should worry us. As Brecht remarks:

To be (Tank, I do.not set such aaexcesssvelv h:ig;h vslueon the concept of enduranc e. How can weh)r:ege~ w hethe r future generaeions w i.n wish co preserve the memory ofthese figmtt::s Uigures by Balzac 0'1' TaJ.tUiDyF I B~izat:: and Tolstov win scarcely be in :J position to oblig~ the~nlJ. t!o flo so, huwevcI ingenious~he met bods wiJ h w hid] they se ~ their plots in motion. 1 [ suspect it will depend. on whether it w in be a socially Fdevant statement if oomecm(l savs. 'That' land. 'that' will refer to a cont emp'iJ:UHy I 'is <]I Pere Goriot character'. Perhaps such character-s wiU nut survive ~ (hey pleci5el y arose in a web 0.1 relanons of a type which wiU nO longer exist.~

lXIX, 308-9'

Moments of s\lbve:rs~~n <Iud sUo1~cgies 011 subve~ion

The practical method s of rherevolmionare not n::'lulmioruny, they a,1l11; dictated! by the class s;~mggle. h is for this I'eaSOIl that gU~:H wruers Hml themselves illat ease in the cless Mrug,gl.c, tlley be h ave as t bongh the SU''I"lgg]e was already Hnbhdl, and they deal with the [lew Sh.ll" anon, conceived aSl:ollectivist! is the aim of the revQl~lHO!l6

The revo~nti()n o~~be great wruers IS permanent. Ixvm, 161

In rhe last issue off Scr~Bll we published Franco Pcrrini'stextcu lThe writer t s mandate' ~ 1974] w nich took the positicntha r art is that area which deals with the irreconcila ble contradictions of life over and beyond theparticular contradictions ·ofthe class struggle and of their successful reso]l.aiol1 inthe revolution. It was 8Uggestedin~he ,editori<!! that, in order to avoid a (all into romsntic and ultra-left p.osibonsj~hese nrcconctlable difk'J:c;nces had to be theorlsed within the seiemific concepts offered to us by psychoan31ysls. F:rc.ud1s tneo,ry isa theory of the construction of. the subject: the ernty of the small infant into language and socl.ety and the methods by which it learns what P()S it ions, as S11 bi eet, it c an take up, Thisentry into the symbolic ~ the w hol e cultural spacewhich is structured, Iike 1.~%'Uag;e~hrough a set of differenees and oppositions) is most easi1y traced inthe analytic situa bon throlls.lh that entry w hich is lina]] y de~ ermining for the infant - the problem of sexual diff:ere:nce. Freud's insight is


Theoretical ess a ys

that the unproblematic taking up of the position of the subject entails the repression of the whole mechanism o.f the subject's construction. The subject is seen as the founding 8UUIce of meanings - unproblematically standing outside an articulation in which It is, in fa.etJ defined. This view of the subject aJS founding source is philosophically encapsulated in Descartes' cagiw: li think! t l'iere:ior·e I am -t he I in simple CV idence to itself provides a moment nf pure presence which can Jnuncl the enterprise of analysing the world, ~~cques, Lacsn, the Prench psychoanalyst, has read Fre UJd asreformulat lng the Cartesian oO'gi to and des troy~ ing the subject as sourceand Ioundatton s- L~lcanrewIiH:s the cogius, in the light ofPreud's discoveries ,~S, I think where I am not and I arn where I do nor think. We can understand thi8 forrnulationasahe indicating of the fundamental misunderstanding jm.e.cofuUlis sanee ~ w hie h is involved in the succe $8£U 1 u 5 c of language ~or any other area cfthe symbolle which ]-5 similarly strnctured] in which tnt; subiect is ccntinuelly ignored as being csught up in a. process of articnlstionto he taken as a fixed place founding the discourse. The unconscious. is that effec r OH;lI1JollJ~lge which escapes the conscious subject inthe distance between the act of sigmiHc<'ltion in which the subject passes fU1H'lJ &~gD.iner M} signifier and what ]8, signified in which the subject finds himself in placeas, for example, the pronoun 'IJ. The importance of phenom ena Hk,e verbal slips i s tha~ th ~y tes t ify to the exisrenc e of the unconscteus through. the dlsrance between what was said and what the conscious subject intended to say. They thus tes.tify '[0 the distance between the subiect of the act Qif slgnificabOD and the conscious subject tthe egcl. Inthis distancethere is opened a gap w hie hUB the area of des ire. What is essen t ial toail of chose psychic preductloas which Freud uses in the <1 1l:J ly tic interpIet" arion is that they bear witness to the lad of central of the conscious su hi ace t Over his discourse s. The mechanisms of the unCOns dons C <Ill indeed be seen as them ech anisrns of ] anguage . Condensarloa is the work ofmetaphor which brings together two slgnifieds under one signifierand displacement is the constanr process .along the slgni feying c ham, The ego is constan dy caught ]D. this fundamental misundersranding (meCOlill:ll:li83Qitlcd about language in which from an UlUIlO:ry present it attempts roread onl y one signiHed as present in the metaphor and. artem pts to bl'ifilg the signifying chain to an end in. a perpetually deferredpresene.


Realism and the cinema

The lela tlonshi]:l between the unconscious and desire, ~ h e subject and language is concisely summarised hy L acan in ~ h e following passage:

There is nor an unconsclous beeausethen there would be all uneoascious desire which was ob, be'!l,\ry, cilh ban. like, even animal. I lke, an unconscious desire Wwd up born the dlep~h s which would he ~)rlmilive and would have to educate itself to the superior level oJ coasctousuess, Complew 1 y ontbe con rrsrythere is desire be C~.llSC there is unceuscjcusaess ~de 1 'incomci.e' - tb3t'sm say language which escapes t be 5ub~ect in its s micmre lind in h~ effects aml! there ls al w .a.ys 11 t the level of .1 ang[lag~ something w hiehi s beyond con ~ seicusnessend itis there tll~t one can Slmate the func't.ioll 01 desire.

[Safou~n 1968: 253 ~

It is dear that d'le classicrc .. Iisttext, as defined above, guarantees the posi rion of the su biect exact 1 y au tside <lny articularion - the whole tex tworks on the concealing ofthe dominant dis _ eourse as artkul<l!tioli1. - instead the dom inanl disccurs e presents itself exactl y ,8IS thepreserrtstion of ob] eetsto the reilding subj ec~ , But within the cl as sic realist textrhe dominen t discourse can be subverted, bmught into question - the position of the subject PfI.;:liy be rendered problema tic, If we return W our original example of George Eliot we can see. this process of su bverslona t work in Dllniei Deronoo, Within the text there is a dis{.;ourse,the writings of Mordecai in. Hebrew, which are unmastcred by the dominant discourse. The text tells us that they are untranslatable and thus that there is anarea outside the text's central. This area is exacdy the area ofthe mother-tongue j Daniel' s mother if.' ~ ewish ~ and tbis mother-tongue snbvertsthe assured positions of both the characters in the text ami the reading subiecr, My business here is uor tn givif.! a full analysis of George TeJiot's Wf;l:rk but rather to indicate the possibility of momsn ts wi thin .a classical realist text w hich SIl bvert it and i ts evident status for SU hi eel and object, We are rda!tivdy fonu!L!<1!tlf.: in all)eady possessing tMs kind of a.1].,lIlysis with in the einema in the Ca.lliers du C:in.ema· s reading of J ohn Ford "s Young M.r Uncoln.r These momelHs are those dements which escape t be control oft he dominant dlS course lEI the Sa [11 e way as a :il curoeic symptom or averbal slip a U es r to the lack of control o.f the conscious subject. They open up another area than that of representation - of subject and obj ect caught in an e temal paralysed fixity - in order to investigate the very movement of


Theoreti cal es say s

articulation and d ifk['C'r1 ce -che movement of desire. [It is d1E~8e moments wh ic h have been privileged hy Roland Barrhes and the Tel Que1group over the last few years andwhich have been thcorisedthrough lh", evaluative concept of rcxt.] Over and above these U:lo.merHs of subversion, however, rherc are what One might call sttategies of subversion, Instead of a dominant discourse which is transgressed at various crucial moments we can Iind a systematic refu sal of any sue h domi nant discourse _ 0 ne of the best examples of .. cinema whichpracrices certain strategies of subversion are the Iilms of Roberto Ross-dUni_ In Ge.:r:many Year Zsro, JO[ example/we can locate a multitude of ways in which the reading subject fiads himsel f wi thou t ;'I, position from w hich the HIm can he regarded. Pirstlv, and most impoHlIndy, the fact that the narrative is not prrvilegedIn any way with regard to the characters' discourses. The narrative does not produce forus. the knowledge with which we can then judge the truth of those discourses. Rather than rhenarrative prcviding us with knowl edge - it pmvid~su:s wi to VOl nou 8 Set rings . Just a s in Brecht the! fable' serves si.m.ply as a procedure to produce the various gestsJ. 80 in Rossellini the story simply provides a Iramcwork for various scenes which then constiture the picture of Germany in year zCfCL ntroigh~ be remarkedthat this unimportance of narra t ive is even m ore strongly marked in FrauccscQ Guillate di Dio J w here the device of int rodueing the various E a b] ea ux w il hout narrative COnnect ion is more evident. l Indeed rhe narrative 01 Ge.rm~.I1Y Year Zero canbe S Ben as a device to introduce the final! gest of Edmund's suicide -and in this ]t closely resembles the first reel of Brecht's own Kuhle Wampe. Second 1 Y I Rossellini's narra tive iot reduces rnanv dements which are net in <lily S~n~'H;: resolved and which deny the possibHity of regarding the filmas integrated through a dominant discourse. The Allied soldiers, the street kids/ the landlord, the Teacher's hom e - all these prov ide elements w hlch :5 tre t c h oms ide the rulmlti ve of til e mm and deny its dominance.

The rcsu]t of these two errategies is th.H theeharacters themselves cannot be identified in any final Wo1Y. Instead of their discourses, clothes, mannerisms being the punctual expressions of an id entity fixed by the narra tive - each element is caught up in a complex set (l~ differences, The whole problematic o~ inside and. O'I]_ tside which preoc cupie s the classic: realis t text is transformed

Realism and the cinema

into II series of relationships in which word, dress, action and gesture imeracl to provide anever-fiuished series of significant diffct'lences which is the character.

It ma.y be obiecred that. it is deliberately perverse to' tear Ross ell i.fii away £(01:n realism with which he has been firm]y connee ted both through 11 is own s ra temenr s and t hro ugh crt tical reception. The realist dement in Rossellini is not simply loeared in the subject matter, thetradirlonel criterion of I(;gJHsllll for I h aveelread y argued th.1.~ the subject matt er is OJ second 8iry condi~ ion for realism. Wh~t typifies the classic re :i!lis~rex t is the way the slllbject metter is ordered and articulated rather than its origins. To deal with the facts of the world is, in itself,OXH OO'lly arca1is[ but also a. materialist viewpoint. The materialist, nowever, muse regardthese materials a-S ordered within ;:I. certainmode, within which they find their definition. Audit is here that one could begin to isolate that element of realist ldeology which does Hgule in Ressellmi's films as acertain block. ]f the read ing su bi e c t is not offe red any certain mode Of entry into what ],S presen ted! on the screen. he is offereda certain rn ode of entry 10 the screen itsdL For the ben presented bythe earner <I, if they are not ordered! infixed and final fashion amongst themselves, are ordered inthemselves. The camera, in Ros.sellini's films is not articulated as part of the productive process of the Hlm. What it shows is in some sense beyond argument ami it is here that Rossellini J s films show thetraditionel realist weakness of being unable to deal with cont:radiction. In Viva l'lwlialhe glaring (lim lssion ohhdilm ist hea bsence of Ca vour. ]t i~ wrong tnattack thiS omission on purdy pelitical grounds for it is an inevitable result of ,1 certain ]"u;:k of questioning of the camera itself. GiI:ribaldl can be eomrasted with Francisco ]I of Naples became their different c{mceptio[ls of the world are so sp ecificaUy tied to different historical ems that the camera can cope with their contradictions within an historical perspective. HeN: rsthe wa.y the world is now - there istheway the wodd W<lS then. 8m to in rroduce Cavour would involve as im uhaneous conrr adlcnnn _ a class eonsradicticn. At this peintthe camera itself, ,Iii> a neutral agem, would become impossible. For it would have ro off,er two present conrtadictcry art icwlatiens of the wodd and thus reveal its own presence. This c annot happen w lthin a Rossellini film where if we are cennnually aware of OUI presence


Theoretical ,t ssays

in the emema (pgl~t]cu]<tr]y in his historical films) - that presence itself ]5 not questioned in any way" WI; an: not allowed ,lny parricular position to read the mm but we arc allowed the position of a reader - an unproblernanc vicwer >- an eternally human nature working on thematerial provided by the camera.

A POSS] ole way of advanclng em Rossellin i 's practice r there Hrt no obvious Iilms which have marked such anadvance although some 01 Godard's ,early hims m1ght he so. considered] would be to develop the possibility of articulating conrradiction. Mu(;h in the way that James Joyce in Ulysses lind Finnegang Wake Investigated! the contradictorv ways ofaJltic:nJating reality through an inv,est]g,u.ion o.frhe: dHferent forms of language r One could imagine a more radical strategy of subversicn than that practised by Rossellini in whicb the possibilities of the camerawould be brought more clearly mto play. What would mark such a cinema and indee d .~my c inema of subver s ion W01l1.ld be th ar Jearure quoted bV Brecht at the beginning of this section - the fact that i ~ would be ill at ease in the ChlS8 snuggle 1 :11 W.IJ(Y S ccncerned with an area of contradiction beyond (he necessity of (he present . revclurion - the inelilnir.ulIole conrradicaions of the sexea, the eternal struggle between Desireend LIIW, herween artieulatinn andpes it ion,

A ,os;sibl,ecat,eg~ry: therevoludona[')i' ~ext

Socislist emulation forms individuals in n different way and produees ... d iUeren t indiv iclullh, Then t here is the fun her qnes tion whethe<r it is a:!'lyway as individ~.:u!ti:ng a process as thecapitebst comperitive stwggle. I.XrXJ3H)1~

h ispu;cisdV this sharp opposition between work and leisure, which ispeeuliar to the ,.apiHllist mode 'of producrior», tbat separates all iutclleetuel activ i ty into those lie rivirie s wh ~ch serve werkand Iho~e acri viUes w h lch serve leisure, Ami. thuscthat serve leisure organised into a syst em (or ~ be lcp1rociw::tirlfl 0 f t he bl:l(}~lf force _ Di:stmctions must not eoutain anything which is contained in work. Distractions, in the ]nten~st of production, IIr~ committed to non-producmm. NilmIllIl~y, i ~ is not thus dun one cal] creare ,8. S ~y le of !H,e w b ich [mIns 1I1l[llqne' ,mil coherent wbnk. And this cannot be ~)jlt down to the filet that an is dragged inro th e product iv epreccss, but to the fact that 1 t is incompletely invnl ved inthe prodncti y,e process 0.1lJd [ha[ it mnst create an island aff 'non-production' _ The man who buys a. ~kket


Realism and the cinema

transforms himself in front of the screen into an i(liel and all exp~oiter ~AuBbelHef' _ Since boorv ~Beu ~e) is placed within him here h.~ is as it were ~ victim. of Im-ploitation ~Ef.Il beuaulg I. prvm, 169l- 9

lnhis article in Screen 15, 2 ~ 1974L Roland Barthes suggests that revo lurion ;'Iry art] sts sue h as Ei51;DS rein and B recht rn us t r of necessity, remain withinthe world (If represerrtation. Hannes throughout his article uses the structure of fetishism as his model (Oil' the' structure of !eprescnlation, Stephen He1llh's (!(tk},e in the same issue trrvesrigares this comparison at l~ngth. but it might be useful to indicate brreflvthe importance of the concept of ktishism. The tetish is that object which places the subject in a position of security ourside of that teuifyhlg area of difference olpeneci up by the p~n;;.e:pHon of the mother's non·possessicm of the phallus, Altbough most popular accounts of fenshtsm concemrare onthe fe H shised 0 biects I it is exemplary for Barthes as <1 structure which holds both subject and obiect in place - it is the fe tish ;;1 bove alltha t ho1ds the subiec t ill posi t ion, Wh lit is es s en ~ t]<!] roBarthes' s argument is the idea that the subject must .[1J]wO!ys bethe same - caught int he same P (lsi non vis-a-vis the world . Within this view a revolutionary work of art can do no more than provide a correct representation [provided by the Party) o~ ~he world, It rna y he helpful to attain this goal to su bvert the pos HIOH ofthe s,uhject so that his acceptance oif the new representarion is facilitated but .finally the revclutionary artist is commuted ~condemnedJ to the world of representatien.

Within the framework] have constructed in this article one could say (hat the revolutionary artist may practice cerrain strategies of subversion but must hi'il.al1 y eonrenr himself with the production of ·01. progressivereahst text. The question I want tel raise here s and it must beem phas ised tbat it can only he. IiI ised i ist he possibility of tu]o~her a.ct]vity whichsather than the simple subveraion Of the subject or the representation of different [and CO.:crect l identities, would eoneisc of the displacement of the s u hiec:t Within ideology - a different cO'lls[it1lltlon of the subiect, It has been accepted, partieularly over the last ten ye.(Ils in F:ra~ce, that the su 'OJ ec t is the crucial concept for .'lI .M il!Ixist theory of ideology - atheorv which would atremptte explain the non-coercive ways in whichtbe capitallstmode ofproductionensures theteproduction of Rabom power and would aha atremprto furnish guidelines for the praerical tasks in. the q ue sh:o~ of changntg


Theoretical ess a ys

ideology - the whole problem of the cultural reveluticn. One of the difficu Hies of using the su bi ec r as such" key term 1 stha t H is''14 ideological notion which is w:Uiy-ni1ly transformed into a. descriptive scientific concept. The suh-iect - that which under-lies experience - ]$ a producrion, verv ]argeJy, of modern E uropean r hil os.ophy from Descartes to its m os r sophis ticat ed arriculaticn m the philosophers of German Idealism,

. The meinproblem facing anyone wishing to articulate a theory OIf mm wah a Marxist theory of ideology] s that by and brge no sue h Marxist r heory exis t s. Marx never re a U y returne d to the subject aIrel 1846~md none of the other great Marxist theoreticians ~with the possible exception of Gm.msdl have found the time to devote themselvesm the problem. In many ways the starting point of any such investigation musr ht:~ Louis Althusser's essay on the topic cnnrled 'Ideology and ideological state appautuses. ~NO!es towards all investig ... tinn]' j 19711. In this essay Altlausser puts forward .000ml defends the thesis that ideology bas no hi$wry. By this he does not mean that specific ideologies do not have a history involving both internal and external .bcw~s but rbat the very form of ideology is alw .. ysthe same. AJthusser argue s th a r the c entra i and 1!lIW;lrying feature of ideology is that it represents the imo:!gin.ary relationship of individuals 10 t heirreal condidons of existence. Ideology is alway:s 'imaginary' hecause these representations place the subject in position in his society. In other words ideology always has ;:I. place for ,1 founding source oursidethe real arriculaciens.

:Before. discussing this thesis directly there are twu preliminary pou~ts that must be made, which while they do nor touch directly on the t hesi S needto he b orne in mind when discussing it. The first, which I have a~re~~dy touched em, ]$ rhatthe subiect is an ideological notion. Mon.::Qvr;r I it iii ,ln ~dcological notion w hich is tied very closely to the rise of the bourgeoisie. It would. be outside the scope of this ankle and beyond the author's competeuce totrace the evolu tion Oil this [lot ion with an y precision. Suffice to say rh3~ Cartesian philosoplry I Newnlnianph.ysics and the grammar. of Port-Royal an invalve very preclsely that notion Of8 unified subiecr of experienceand that the birth of this nOt]Olil in ~ he s eventeenth century suggests vt':J:'y importsnt Hub with the gmwing eceneene and political domina-t]o]} of the Buropean boor geoisie - the W(U ks of Locke provide P erhapstbe IlI@Sl


Realism and. the cinema

o bv iO\.18 example of the need for this category of s u h ject in the jU!:ldfication both of the new science and the new civil OHler ,lD All this simply by W 11y ofa warning ofthe dithcul tl es of dealing wit h the notion of the subject.

S.econdly It Is necessary to realise what an .imponant break Alrhusser's thesis marks with certain methods of Hege1iOlnising Marx. Por i~ eoncerned ro attack thm view which, see lng icieologyas J merel y' ilhl.s,ory I holds om the promise that the victorious conclusion ito the class struggle win resultin the arrival of the new and true ideology which will correspond to the n;;11. This view merel y incamat'es the Hegelisn version that beiE1g and (;O]]SclOUSness wi1J finally coincide withina simple view of the end of class struggle. H is the proletariat that will realise the be au tiful dream of the real be coming rational and the r at tonal becoming real, Whatev(;r reservations one may have about Alshusser'e thesis, it is important that ~hey do nOt involve a slipping back into such a Hegelian model w~th all the lack of centradiction and snuggle that it implies

To return, however, direetly loa Alrhusser's thesis. It seemsan inevitable result of this thesisthat art can he allotted no specific field of ac 60n other~ han i ts effects on the content of ideology. As such art remains firmly within the reslm of ideology, being simply one ofa number of internal factors withinthe evolurlon o( ideologies. This is, of course! quire comparible with classical Marx] st posi tinns 00 an J. hut tr ad] tion Oil Marxist thought ha ~ often felt lueH embarrassed hy this simple lumping of art into ]deotogy - one o.f the most faffiousexamples of such anembarrassmcnt is Marx's own to d~al with the problem of Greek an. Th ere is, however, another way in w h ich this problem can be .i1ppma.ched and it issuggested by Brecht's remark onthe pes i tion of the sp ectarer in the cinema {q uoted at the beginning of this section ~ and by much o( Brecht' s theory and pr act ice. Here one would have to deny both Althusser' s [and Marx' S ~ thesis that id(;;'Olo,gy has na history and at the same nme delimit a special area of activity which is neither that of science nor that of ideoiogy. This Olclivit'l might. he characterised by its .1l!bility<lCHlally to war k onand transform the very (OIm of ideology - to changethe po~i[ ion of the subject within ideology,

What Brecht suggests in h is e ommern 5 em the sp ecta tor in the c incma Is that the v,ery pus i~ ion oUered to. [he spec rater is one


Theore til. c al e s sa ys

th~u guarantees the necessary re-production of l~bour power. It is the cinema's ahi1i~y to place the spectator in the position of a unified subject that ensures the contradiction between his working activity which is productive andthe leisure activity in whtc h he is cons tan t ly p] aced as consumer. Althusser makes the very important POifH in his essay that ide©logyis not a question of l deas circula ting in pee ple i s heads. bu ti s ins cri bed in certain mO!t(;~ia~ practices. The reactionary practice of the cinema is that which involves this petrificancn Of the spectator in a position of pseudo-dominance offered by the meta1.angnag;t:. Tbis metalanguage, resolving <IS it does 1111 contradictions, places the spectator outside rhe realm of contradiction and o~ action - out" side of produc d on.

Two fll m 6 which s ugges ta WSiY of com batm g this dorninance ofrrhe metalanguage, without falling into an agnostic position visa-vis all discourses, [which would be the extreme of a subversive cinema - imenl merely on disrupting any position of the sub[ect] are Kuhle Wan.lpe [the film in which Brecht participated] and Gmllard-Gorin' s Taut Va Hi en, In hot h films the narra ti ve is in no w.a.y priv]leged as. against the characters. Rather the nerrative serves iii imply as t he method by w hich various sitnarionscsn he artieula t ed roger her. The emphasis is on the parr icular scenes and-the knowledge th a t COlJl be gamed from them. IiI t her t hall th e providing of ,1 knowledge which requires no further activity ~ which just is there on the sere en. Indeed the presentation of the mdi vidual r s discourses 15 never stripped a way from the character' JJ aeneas but is. involved! inthem. Whether it is a question. Df the petlt-bourgeols and the workers diseussmgthc waste of c(liocc in the S-Bahn. Or rbe various monologues in Tour Va Biel]- itis FlO~ a. question of the discourses being presented as pure truth content w hlch can be measured ag.lIiinst the truth provided by the film. Rath~r the discourses are caught up in eertainmodes of life which life Iinked to the place of the ",g:ent mrhe pmductive process. The unemployed workers know th.:H waste is an ineeit able part of the cap it"b s t process because they experience it every day in their search for work. EquaUy the workers lTI the meat factory kl!!JCIW that the class struggle is net finished fOT they experience the explo i tat ion of their Is bour in suehccacrete derails as rhe lime that is !I Hawed them to go to t he: toilet - The Hlm does not providethis knowledge ready-made in a dominant


Realismand the cinema


discourse but in the contradictions offered, the reader has to prod uce a meaning Ior rhe film ~ it is. qui te obvious. in mOl s of th is sort that the meanlng produced will depend an the d~5S-posit].o[J[s of thereaderl. n is this emphasis on the reader as producer ~more obvious in Tout Va .BiBil which is in many ways more Brechtian than Kuhle W':iinpe;~ which suggests that these films do not jUst oHerOl di Herem representarion lorthe subject hut a d ifferen~ se t of H~hldcm.s to both theficticnal marerial and 'reality'.

Very briefly this change could be charactertsed <'IS the introduction oftime ~biMory~ intothe very area of representancn SOO (hat it is induded within it. It is no accident that both (Urns end. with this same emphasis on time and its. concomitant change. 'But who will change the world' ~Kuhle Wampe~ - 'We must learn 00 live bisto[i(;al1y' ~Tom~aBien~- this emphasis on time and change embodied both wi thin the film and in the pos ition o.ffere-d to the reader su.ggests that: a revolutionary socialist id.eology might be ditieren rin form as well as com en t, It also throws into doubt Barthes's thesis that revolutionary art is finally in the same space of representation that has persisted fur 2 tOOO years in the West. This monoli chic conception of represental100 ignores the fa.ct thar posr-Emeteinian physics offers a conception. Oil representarion in w hich both SLt h:iect~]]d objec [ Me no longer c3.ugbt in fix ed posh 10m; but caught up in tim e.

It might he thoughttbat tbispossihiHty of change, of trans~onnad(m - inshort, ·of productio.n - built into the subjectobie(;~rdatjoll fwhic-h could! no longer becharaeterised in [his simple fashion) simply rednplicaree the Hegelianerror 011 final reooncH:ia.t1on between the orders ofbdng8ind consdousness. But ~his is not so in so far as this possibility of change built into the relation does not lmplythe inevitable unfolding of it specific series of changes but simply thepos:sibihty of change - an area of P~)ss]h1e tnmsfQrmations contained within [he relarion.

It seems that some such accountmust be offered if one wishes. to allow the possi.bHity of arevol u.t.ionary an. Othea:wise i t seems iuevhiilble d;at art cen simply he progressive .or sabversive and! Brecht's whole practice would be a marriage of rhetwc, in which subversive eJ£ects were mechamcally used simply to aid! the acceptance of the progress i we conten t of his work.



Theoret ical essays

A de:Hni~e ca~ego~y:: re"diO:Q.a:ry.ut

Realism a.nd the cinema satirical poet Brich Kiisme:r ~ 1974~can be applied worn for wow U] 0 L tlcky .Man J

his om metaphysicians oftbe press, Q1[r panisans of 'iI:I't~ who wnuld like more emphasis on I f~we' in IlMffilln processes. ror II ]ong tl me now f~u e, whicl.l W(l~ OTIC!; 11! sublime [Iution, has been nothing more t"h<liTI So m·ed~m::n: received idea: by T«oncmng h:in1S(lU to his cond ition, man arrives at that SlO' longed for 'trafl.Sfigm::Hlon' and • inre rim]sa ti~[I r • h is~qu3ny a purenotien Oif the class struggle: one class 'deeermines' the fare of the other. [XVU., 169 - 70 I 11

One fashionable way 01 receiving and reeup er.;1!rr ing Brecht, which has been at work since the begi]1[ of the Cold Wal, isto see him <1S a satirist ridtculing his contemporary socir.;ty andthe excesses ot capitalismand fascism. This approach negates the productive dement in Brecht's work and turns the techniques for the production of alienation cHects into pure nareissisric signals of an 'iJilteHectuill' work of' art' - A very typical example of this vulgarisation and de-politicisation of Brecht can be seen in Lmdsay Anderson's 0 Lnd'l:}' Man! An explicitly B[ hlmi- the loosely connected scenes are eounter-pomted by the Alan Price songs - the film pretends to offer a tableau of Enghmd in 19'73 much 8S Tout Vii Bim] attempts to nHer a tableau o£ Fra!lc.e]n 1972. [~\H whereas in. the Flrench film the tableaux are used to reflec t the con tradictions within the sn ciety - the different articu lations o( rea lity - i n j he English film the tahlea ux are <Ill us ed to expres S 3. S ~ ereo typed. reality of England which the spectator is invited to enjoyfi'om his superior positionThe scenes may Sr;eIU to be dU01iFllltlt over the reality revealed by the narrative but all the film p["O~esses along irs endless. development it. becomes obvious thllt the narrative simply confirrn s the evident truths which are offered to us on the screen. And these truths tum out to be tha t endless message of the react ionary petit - b ourgeoismt e llectual - til!'! t we can do nothing against the relentless and evil progress of society [run as it is by a bunch of omnipotent capit.alists with the rnor!li.Hty of gilngste:rsj except not e our su periori ty to it. Alo[lger anal ySi-S oJ [he mm migh t well be in order were it not lien the fact that Wahel' liIenj,i!min had al:r{~<ldy written the definitive critique ofthis particularly impoverishedartistic strate:gy _ It is perhaps a testament to the p.aucity of petit-bourgeois imagination in the era of 11'lcmopoly capitaliem tha t. w har Benlarn in wrote forty years ago about 111e


I.. SC p. 93. fur expla],!llJl~on .oi :;!I1no~a~i6n used £orB[e~ht'~ works see note 2- 2- U the qlim.1uiol1lS hom then [ s,implv gi",:c th~ volume ~n:!d page nnmlle:1'

ofrhe G~rflliljn ~ilhio:I:l Il:96n in the text ~nd ~he fremh pa,genum~~r:s whld\i are taken fWill rhe volumes ll!Ubli~htd in 1970 as SLir Ie RJ".Ilsme [SRI and SUf 1~ Chlem" fSq i~ the-foutfiiO[~S. If the p;~e>t;:e\\'a.!l in>eluJ.eJ in the ~Ti;mdahm]S {)il Bf(;~hl in~5~ueB4 (!i1 Ne;w .L~f[ R6Vil!w then I sud ,a thud H:g!J~ .alter the iJI~tlsls NtR-

3. SRI" 98, NUl p. 45. 4.SR[I.n

5. SF. pp. 99-100, NUl:. p, 46.

6. ,s,Cp.2.5.

7 .. Screen 13, 3, AlIltI1I1U1W72-

8. SR p. UH, NUl p. ~.7.

9. SC P'.~. 173-9.

W- T~l~S pT.~ci~C' loc~~i!l.!l oJ the not ion of the subleet in rhe seventeenth century

C~Il, 0:[ ceurse, be OOFlt~S~ed!. MtlmsscI ,hlinlldf, uses ffi!:lLnp~es rI'O!Il the Christian religion. ~!1d. hom lile Perrt.~teu~h whi.d:t a~e>!:~rds ow ~th hi~· view 01 th~ ca~egol)' .~~ rhe suh~~t .as e within :ideol~gy. All I 'i/o' ish to iIldkate in this paliS8;!!cis that ~:t. is not {Jib"'tml.~ ttlal the {~ate&D:ry uf lite su bieN can be u5ed wieh the degree f~~ ,eQIf.IHdol!l1ce that Ahhus~~r assumes.

11. SC p, 179.


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