Saturday, 31 May 2008

Déjà vu: 'uncanny recognition' or 'perpetual return'?

Sigmund Freud first attempted an explanation of déjà vu in the Psychopathology of Everyday Life (1901), where he described it as a "perceptual judgement" which relates to the recollection of an unconscious fantasy and represents a wish to improve the current situation. Related notions of ewige Wiederkunft, or perpetual (physical or perceptual) return were already quite prominent in German and European thought by the time Freud was exploring his psychoanalytic understanding of these concepts. Consider the following quotation from Nietzsche's The Gay Science:

What, if some day or night a demon were to steal after you into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: 'This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more' ... Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus? Or have you once experienced a tremendous moment when you would have answered him: 'You are a god and never have I heard anything more divine.

And, also, see the beautiful poem, below, by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, written in 1853/4, which inspired Jorge Luis Borges in the prologue to his friend Adolfo Bioy Casares's 1940 novella La invención de Morel/The Invention of Morel, which, in turn, has inspired numerous films, including Eliseo Subiela's magical 1986 movie Hombre mirando al sudeste/Man Facing Southeast.

Sudden Light

I HAVE been here before,
But when or how I cannot tell:
I know the grass beyond the door,
The sweet keen smell,
The sighing sound, the lights around the shore.

You have been mine before,—
How long ago I may not know:
But just when at that swallow’s soar
Your neck turn’d so,
Some veil did fall,—I knew it all of yore.

[Then, now,--perchance again!...
O round mine eyes your tresses shake!
Shall we not lie as we have lain
Thus for Love's sake,
And sleep, and wake, yet never break the chain?]

Has this been thus before?
And shall not thus time's eddying flight
Still with our lives our love restore
In death's despite,
And day and night yield one delight once more?

If you would like to read more about Hombre mirando al sudeste, click HERE to access a pdf of the following article of mine: Catherine Grant, 'Giving up Ghosts: Eliseo Subiela's Hombre mirando al sudeste and No te mueras sin decirme a dónde vas', Changing Reels: Latin American Cinema against the Odds, eds. Rob Rix and Roberto Rodríguez-Saona [Leeds: Leeds Iberian Papers - Trinity and All Saints/University of Leeds, 1997], pp. 89-120.

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

A simile to my face

Some thoughts have been inspired by a double take (a form of recognition in itself, of course) repeatedly prompted, for me, by sight of what I interpret as the mischievous, malapropistic subtitle of Factotum (A Man Who Preforms [sic??] Many Jobs (Bent Hamer, USA 2005). See what Neil Young says in his Film Lounge review (7th November, 2005):
Although the film is generally referred to in the media simply as Factotum, the title is actually given on-screen as Factotum (A man who preforms many jobs), and therefore appears as such on the British Board of Film Classification's certificate which precedes the film in UK cinemas. The mis-spelling of 'performs' as 'preforms' is presumably accidental/careless, unless Hamer intended to make some kind of jokey point about drunken people spelling things incorrectly. Evidence of the famed Norwegian sense of humour?
Most reviews of the film didn't exactly reproduce the film's subtitle in this way, preferring to substitute (as does the Internet Movie Database) Factotum: A Man Who Performs Many Jobs. I'm not sure that the spelling is accidental or careless, given the subject matter of the film; thus I prefer the 'jokey' thesis. Like others, I'm sure, I enjoy the idea that, even when it is 'recognised' as a misspelling, 'preforms' provokes a rushed (and potentially unnecessary and pompous) brandishing of the [sic] 'editorial reflex'. Indeed, not being prompted to double-take -- to single-take wrongly, as it were -- is here (potentially, at least) an interesting form of error recognition, or misrecognition, as well as a failure to take up a chance for pleasurable 'error recognition' (irony?), an interesting subcategory of pattern recognition to which I shall (must!) return. It's a highly preformative one, too.

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Varieties of 'The Reveal'

The Reveal

The pivot in any plotline is often The Reveal. A character is revealed as another character's mother, a god, or secret suitor or arch nemesis in disguise. More broadly, the audience is given new information which had been withheld to create suspense. The Reveal changes the nature of the plot, often pushing it from suspense towards action. A good reveal will also create a new set of questions and further suspense.

Luke, I Am Your Father

Darth Vader: If you only knew the power of The Dark Side. Obi-Wan never told you what happened to your father.
Luke Skywalker: He told me enough! He told me you killed him!
Darth Vader: No. I am your father.
Luke Skywalker: No...that's not true! That's impossible!
Darth Vader: Search your feelings. You know it to be true.

- Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back



The moment of recognition or discovery (especially in myths, plays, films, etc.)

[From Latin, from Greek anagnorizein (to recognize or discover). Ultimately from Indo-European root gno- (to know) that is the ancestor of such words as know, can, notorious, notice, connoisseur, recognize, diagnosis, ignore, annotate, noble, and narrate.]