Thursday, March 8, 2007

At the Movies: “Unconscious” and Anti-Platonic Leakage

Yesterday, my friends Richard and Joseph and I saw the 2004 Spanish movie, “Unconscious.” The “New York Times” review on February 9th called it, accurately, a Freudian farce, and so it is, because the characters are not conscious that they have an unconscious. Set in 1913 in Barcelona, where Freud’s ideas about not only the unconscious, but also about hysteria, penis envy, and the incest taboo, were just coming into vogue, we follow the misadventures of Salvador, a young psychiatrist. Salvador declares that “Emotion is a hormonal disorder,” and he prides himself on not being disordered, and therefore he doesn’t know when he is having feelings. He is in an apparently unconsummated marriage to Olivia, who proclaims that she is too “tight” (too sealed up) to receive Salvador’s member, which is celebrated around Barcelona as being the biggest in town.
Although it’s bad form to reveal endings, the ending of “Unconscious” is so delicious and so revelatory of our Platonic mindset that I can’t resist. Olivia has come out as a lesbian and gone off to Paris with her lover, and, in the last scene, Salvador is finally in bed with the woman he has loved throughout the movie, Alma, the widow of León, Salvador’s brother-in-law and best friend. Alma is atop Salvador, moving vigorously. Suddenly, Salvador’s body stiffens and writhes uncontrollably. He pants and screams and his body goes limp. After a moment, recovering a bit, Salvador, puzzled, asks Alma, “What was that?” Sweetly, Alma responds, “Art.”
Salvador had suffered, in Don Cupitt’s wonderful term, leakage. His defenses were down and he leaked, nay, he exploded. His ideal, Platonic strength of identity was lost because he lost his bodily identity. In that moment, he no longer had control over what passed through his bodily orifices. In “Radicals and the Future of the Church” in the section, “Sex, power and the production of reason,” Cupitt writes that in some societies, it has been denied that adult, initiated male warriors shit. Athletics and war may require temporary continence. Western monks pray nightly to be delivered from polluting nocturnal emissions (Peter Brown in “The Body and Society” documents this in great detail). In general, a man is pure, strong and holy insofar ass he is sealed up. Bits must not fall off or leak away.
We live in ‘a man’s world,’ where it seems that reality itself favors and privileges that which is relatively more unified, substantial, self-identical, active, integral, closed, independent, self-consistent, and systemically coherent, i.e., more like God (Or, at least, the ideal God of Platonic theology, i.e. classic Western theology.)
In contrast, consider woman. She appears less strong, less independent and self-consistent, and with a weaker identity. Her body is cloven by a wound that drips blood monthly. Her ritual purity and integrity, that is, her identity, is further ruptured by the invasions of men and her own extrusions of babies. She is seen as being relatively more impure, fickle, and... leaky.
So poor Salvador in his leakiness was, like women, vulnerable. By letting go, he lost control of his body and, for the moment, ceased to be the ideal, Platonic man, showing order, systematization, coherence, and ‘closure.’ For a moment, he was one with his partner and he was not conscious of the male hierarchy, of which he was a prime representative.Thus, such are the joys of sex, leakage, and the “Unconscious.”

1 comment:

Nathaniel McNamara said...

Interesting analysis. If you want to see the movie, you can find where it is playing