FILM_REVIEWS_Inaugural session of the BCFB'S cycle of Literature and psychoanalysis: Sade And Liberté, with Albert Serra
It is a very special pleasure to have Albert Serra for this inaugural session of the Literature and Psychoanalysis cycle on eroticism, organised by the BCFB in collaboration with the Jaume Fuster Library.
If psychoanalysis is particularly concerned with anything, it is sexuality. The appearance of psychoanalysis was a revolution, insofar as the invention of the unconscious was based on the discovery that the repression of certain sexual desires created symptoms. Freud then set about creating a method to decrypt them, with the idea that this would make them disappear. In this way, he put psychoanalysis into the world: a practice of the treatment of suffering involving sexuality.
Why then invite Albert to talk to us about a film to open a cycle on eroticism in literature? Well, we believe that his cinema, but especially his last film, Liberté, raises fundamental questions about sexuality, the drive and eroticism.
Both Freud and Lacan had the position of allowing themselves to be taught by the artists, they said that it is they who lead the way. So, if Serra's work shows on stage questions that touch on the nature of sexuality, it is because, in a way, what is shown in his films constitutes a writing. A writing as Lacan conceived writing. A kind of mark on a real.
I will talk a little about my reading of the film.
Liberté takes place entirely in the course of one night. One can sense, one hears whispers, that people are going to come to a forest to have sex in the manner of 18th century French debauchery, where they will give free rein to their impulses, their fantasies, their sexual desires. As the night progresses, we witness a series of sexual encounters between the characters, with different combinations, homo and heterosexual, single or multiple partners, as well as masturbation and sadomasochistic practices, demands to be beaten, damaged, bathed, etc.
Liberté is a film of few words, a few sentences, sighs and a lot of silence. The language does not tell us anything, but rather, it is at the service of trapping certain states of the soul or tears of the being.
The partial nature of the drives appears in all its amplitude. The camera rarely frames an action. His images show the moment of hesitation, the chiaroscuro, the back and forth between inside and outside, between the subject and his objects. The naked bodies do not refer to any ideal form, they could be our own. His characters, like the spectator, enter the night of the forest gradually, becoming immersed in an atmosphere where the search for the attainment of pleasure commands them, and paradoxically, each one of them slowly fades away, almost to the point of disappearing in the dawn. Pleasure, therefore, is not the constant condition in life. Freud already pointed out that it was episodic, and sought to cancel out displeasure. And it is on this fine, complex line, between what drives the search for pleasure and its turn towards pain, that the scenario of Liberté is located.
Liberté shows how sexuality has nothing to do with a subject finding his object of desire, "his better half". It shows how, when it comes to sexuality, there is no reciprocity. Freud said that "the drive has no object", for when the subject thinks he has reached it, it turns out not to be that object, or the subject himself is erased.
If Liberté is the antithesis of a pornographic film, it is precisely because it shows sexuality and not power. It consoles with loneliness, isolation, with the impulse and the search for desire, with the impossibility of reaching the other, with the impotence of fantasy, even with a certain desperation. And all this combination introduced in the mystery of the night, in that which blurs borders, manages to threaten our narcissistic unity. So, as Albert presents it to us, Liberté is a poem in the night.
I think Lacan understood poetry in a broad sense. "Poetry" would indicate a kind of action that is done on the very materiality of language, language before it is organised into meanings. And in the result of these operations, in these "writings", new creations were introduced into culture. What we call "paradigm" shifts are always alterations of discourse, changes in the ways in which the construction of meaning is organised.
In this logic, psychoanalysis could be considered Freud's poem on the discourse of science, insofar as it managed to write a new writing of human suffering. The emergence of psychoanalysis pushed the limits of medicine and psychology, in a way, it went beyond them and invented something else.
The game (jouer) of the artist (and here I remember the homophony in French between game and jouissance) is fundamental to poetry. Because any game introduces its own rules, it is a way of dealing with the artist's impulse. The resulting creation will be a work of art that looks at us, questions us, speaks to us. Good works of art don't want to say anything, but rather, they offer new forms of the real.
On some occasions I have listened to Albert Serra speak about his method, and from it a number of questions emerge that are exciting for psychoanalysis. That is why we invite him today to open this cycle, because we think that in some way, his cinema and his method are writing something very original today.
I would say - and this is my reading - that his cinema is a new "writing", which forces the very definition of what cinema is; just as Joyce did with literature.
- Puritan sadism
In conclusion, I would now like to evoke an exquisite piece of writing by the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan from 1963, entitled "Kant with Sade". In this text Lacan contrasts two authors who are apparently at the antipodes of each other: the German philosopher Immanuel Kant, and the French philosopher and writer, the Marquis de Sade. One stood as the greatest exponent of virtue, the other of vice.
Lacan states there that Sade gives Kant's truth. And what does this truth that is revealed consist of? He then points to ethics, saying that Sade shows that it is possible to "be good in evil", that it is not a matter of course to be "good in the good", that the search for the good is not something that is verified in human desires and drives.
The Kantian imperative aims to make a constant demand for the Good. It is an effort to make ethics scientific, and therefore objective, "That which must be done", which would be the same for everyone, regardless of the subject. This categorical mandate ends up becoming an internal legislator in the service of a universal maxim. The paradox can then be seen: how the exercise that aims to free oneself from the passions, which are different for each person, becomes an internal voice that enslaves the subject to have to comply with an impossible maxim, almost to the point of exhaustion. Sade, for his part, claims a right to jouissance that knows no limits, not even the consent of the other.
Lacan, in this text, shows that Kant agrees with the Marquis. For it does not matter so much whether it is a matter of vice or virtue, as that both claim to dispense with the subject and the sexual object, the other, against the background of a promise of freedom. Freedom and death are deeply intertwined in both. The absolutism that pushes them, which is a defence against the sexual, ends up showing that the subject is the other. In the destruction of the other, the subject also disappears. Lacan sees the trap, and that is why he takes Sade to the terrain of the phantasm, of fantasy. This Sadian phantasm of enjoying the other without any limit is a dream, a dream of liberation.
Finally, what is really masochistic is not so much the subject as the jouissance itself. Lacan reserves sadism for capitalism. Capitalism, by denying the impossible, crosses every limit. And it is not difficult to foresee that under the empire of "everything is possible", the most exacerbated moralistic puritanism prepares its return. And we already know where these imperatives imposed "for your own good" lead: to the segregation and destruction of the subject.
That is why, today, to make cycles like this one is to offer our resistance.