Slovenian scholar and pundit Slavoj Å½iÅ¾ek is front and centre in this lesson on film history and ideology both overt and hidden. Director Sophie Fiennes situates Å½iÅ¾ek within the movies on which he speaks, literally placing him in look-alike film sets from whence he delivers non-stop analysis – he's on the bed in Taxi Driver, all at sea in Jaws, or dressed for the occasion in The Sound of Music. That's just a handful of the movies he mines for their ideological implications.
SYDNEY FILM FESTIVAL: In the unlikely event that your attention wanders during The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology, you might find it hard to reconnect. Without the contextual progression of Slavoj Zizek’s monologues, Sophie Fiennes’ film may seem little more than a stream of consciousness rant. The point being: should you see it in cinemas, don’t be late.
a giddy and grand dissection
Zizek, a Slovenian philosopher and pop culture academic, became a cult figure after the 2006 release of his three-part collaboration with Fiennes, The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema. Their sequel of sorts is more of the same, though less didactic and more playful in tone.
The bearded iconoclast starts with the idea that cinema is both a mirror and arbiter of social ideology. There is no snobbery in his choice of titles: blockbusters (Jaws, Titanic, The Dark Knight), classics (The Sound of Music, West Side Story, The Searchers), historical epics (Triumph of the Will, The Eternal Jew, The Fall of Berlin) and bracingly original works (If"¦, Full Metal Jacket, Cabaret, M*A*S*H) are afforded his incisive, if occasionally convoluted, insight.
Zizek’s own commitment to enjoying cinema is shown when he appears in several recreated settings from the discussed films. Dressed in the ragged army jacket of Travis Bickle, he examines Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver while lying on the makeshift cot synonymous with the anti-hero’s apartment; for the film’s engaging opening sequence, he riffs on John Carpenter’s cult favourite They Live ('Hollywood’s forgotten left-wing masterpiece") in an alleyway next to a dumpster, the very setting for the film’s iconic fight between 'Rowdy’ Roddy Piper and Keith David.
The film also integrates the influence of advertising and popular music on a culture that prides itself on existing without any specific ideology. An extended sequence on the misappropriation of Beethoven’s 'Ode to Joy’ from bodies as diverse as the International Olympic Committee to Hitler’s Nazi regime points to the subjective use (and misuse) of art to further an agenda. One of the more challenging (and, admittedly, hugely enjoyable) aspects of Ideology is Zizek’s seemingly casual name-checking of great thinkers such as Karl Marx and Jacques Lacan, often while in full flight on the subject of Coca-Cola, for instance.
At 150 minutes, the relentlessness nature of this gabfest may prove too daunting for some. But Fiennes and Zizek ultimately present a giddy and grand dissection of society and just how little we understand it.