As unusual, eccentric, and bizarre vignettes of mundane and seemingly innocuous conventions of our social and private lives success one another, somehow, Napoléon Bonaparte's troops, earthly monks, dangerous snipers, and the peculiar disappearance of a beloved one metamorphose into banal instances of our daily existence. With this in mind, under those surreal circumstances, the abnormal becomes normal, the obvious transforms into something unclear or even invisible, and the extraordinary transfigures into ordinary. But, are things always black and white? How real is the haunting spectre of liberty?Written by
Rhapsody in G minor
Written by Johannes Brahms
Played on the piano by the sister of the police commissioner See more »
The Dissolution of Form and Function
Luis Bunuel's "Le Phantôme de la liberté" is a movie whose episodes are only loosely connected, because the watcher is a part of the society whose liberty and freedom is a phantom. Moreover, it is man who watches this movie that also creates the story not on the screen, of course, but in her or his mind. This is a movie that does never go out of your mind.
The clue scene is in the episode where Margaret Mead's books are mentioned. And in fact, since this movie deals with liberty and with persons of very different cultural, religious and aesthetic backgrounds, it is a sociological movie. It was Mead who gave the direction to the late cybernetician Heinz von Foerster's (1911-2002) work: Second-order cybernetics. It is called "second order" because this theory has an environment in which subject and object have a space of liberty. Only in such an environment-based logic it is possible to reflect to oneself. And this is exactly what happened in Bunel's core-scene: The teacher speaks to his students that laws have exceptions because they are depending on man, and man is depending on evolution. Therefore, there can be no laws at all, because they also stay and fall with evolution. And if they are no laws at all, then they are no causal relations. And if there are no causal relations, then form and function vanish, exactly like in Bunuel's movie. But the most important point is that this conclusion is reflected in the movie itself. The teacher who makes this self-reflection moreover has much in common with Bunuel, so for example, when he criticizes the standard level of human life in Spain as Bunuel did in an interview.
Another interesting point is that the physician's name is Dr. Pasolini. Bunuel's movie was released in 1974, thus just at the time when Pier Paolo Pasolini started to film his last work "Salo", in which (amongst many other marvelous events) there is the famous or infamous scene where people are forced to eat faeces. But faeces play an important role in Bunuel's "Phantom of Liberty" (so the English title of this movie), too: The teacher explains his friends how many kilograms of faeces a human produces daily, and since there are so and so many billions of people on this world, this makes so and so many tons of faeces per year. Then, the teacher has lunch in the restroom (one of the most famous scenes of this movie). And finally, in his regular bar, the teacher explains the girl who resembles to his sister that this sister died because her intestines exploded. This three-times occurrence of faeces, the mentioning of Pasolini and the insight that form and function must abolish only because of human evolution leads the critical watcher to a conclusion about the sociology of human life that is not too far away form that of Pasolini: All mankind is able to produce is faeces.
Although Bunuel made one more movie ("Cet obscur object du désir", in 1977), he considered the "Pantom of Libery" his testament. Pasolini's testament was the "Salo". Bunuel still lived nine more years after his "Phantom", Pasolini was killed shortly after the postproduction of "Salo". Pasolini was radical and consistent, Bunuel still had kept his sense of humor (the "Phantom" ranges under "comedy", at least officially). Perhaps in the end, it was the humor that let Bunuel alive, while its absence killed Pasolini. Or was Bunuel's humor gallows humor? He drank himself to death.
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