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Synecdoche and Political Analysis in the News

zoo6lSynecdoche is my favourite of Kaufman‘s stories put to film, perhaps because he had a full hand in directing it, and more of what he intended came through. There was an added dimension here that I don’t remember in his other films.

At first I thought there was some resemblance to Trier’s, Dogville, and that perhaps the directing debut allowed Kaufman to better express a theory of a lack of a natural self in human identity by being in charge of the film and using more nuanced communication through the film’s visual symbology. Now, I wonder if Kaufman isn’t more like Peter Greenaway and seeking to break from cinema entirely by rejecting the traditional form of the medium and essentially trying to forge a new medium of light and sound by transcending both theatre and cinema.

Perhaps Kaufman’s film had less to do with the lack of true or natural self usually portrayed in theatrical and dreamscape cinema styles and more in line with a break from the overarching symbolic order that people use to navigate through social life: Lacan’s ‘Big Other’. In essence telling us that we don’t need to work within the limited parameters of an existing socio-symbolic network.

It may be worth looking at the film again with these in mind:

Ideal Ego – how I would like to be and how I would like others to see me. (an aspect of Lacan‘s Small Other theory of psychoanalysis).

Ego Ideal – that part of the socio-symbolic order (Big Other) of our lives that I use to judge myself by. “The agency whose gaze I try to impress with my ego image,” as Slavoj Zizek puts it.

Superego – the same agency (Big Other) in its vengeful, sadistic, punishing aspect. Deriding you for failing to meet its expectations; “the cruel and insatiable agency which bombards me with impossible demands and which mocks my failed attempts to meet them.” (again Zizek).

I watched some 15 minutes of a Greenaway film (A Zed and Two Noughts) just now. The staged character of this film and Synecdoche gave me an idea I’ll mention in a bit. I think in Synecdoche there was more emphasis on Ideal Ego, and in Greenaway’s more focus on the Ego Ideal. So, in the first more focus on the Eye within myself, and in Greenaway’s on the immaterial Eye of social agency.

I’m impressed by comtemporary filmakers expressing these concepts and experimenting with new means of communication. Often the Eye is quite literal in cinema: The scene of a car accident over-dramatized, the dead in obviously exaggerated poses while a caricature of a mob of photojournalists document the scene, immediately to be followed by a newspaper headlines of the accident that go beyond representation and take the place of the original incident.

I’ve also seen the same done in fiction literature, using variety of ingenious tools.

Has the same been done in journalism or analysis aimed at a popular audience? How does someone go about this? I’m curious, intrigued, and feel challenged to try. If only I knew where to begin.

Some interesting links follow, and yes, at least somewhat related to the above:

Zizek on narrative: Christ, Hegel, Wagner

Video of Peter Greenaway on Opera, Film, and Death:

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  1. November 14, 2008 at 6:05 pm
  2. February 5, 2009 at 2:21 pm

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