Friday, October 31, 2008
Despite its political convolution, Godard's 1963 film Les Carabiniers (The Riflemen) is a movement toward the politics of war, and more specifically that of the conquest (which relates obliquely to our present predicament of Globalization). What stands out most is the secondary relationship between the various techniques and themes of the film to that of the work of Nietzsche (specifically ideas surrounding the will to power and the eternal return). The film works through various simulations. Take, for instance, that of the social figures whom are called upon by some higher force, the government or, in this case, the king. The two men, or riflemen, Ulysses and Michelangelo become docile figures in a game of conquest. They are mesmerized into the atrocities of subjugation via social and political illusions. But where does the grandeur of these illusions come from? The two men find more Passion in these illusive possessions (monuments, vehicles, women, animals, etc) than they have for the innocents of whom they selflessly massacre. Dare I say that Godard is suggesting that we are living in a world of sycophants? God is dead. We have replaced god with two complicit illusions: objects wearing opulent masks, i.e. powerful objects of illusion, and supposed higher-values of humanity, in other words subservience to the word of the King, of the government, to law. Godard works further on the theme of simulation from the stand point of the image. In the end, these dupes, these "higher men," are in visible possession of their illusions, they possess the simulacral content of their desired objects, images, or imagined figures (it is all something, something other than the actual object, only virtually connected to the actual object... perhaps an imprint). This is reflexive of the process that leads them to their desires in the first place, they desire their illusions through the illusions of their milieu. For this is what Nietzsche is talking about when he describes nihilism. After the death of God, Nietzsche explains that the "higher man" finds himself in a position to react; this reaction is only an affirmation of the products of nihilism. Negation and reaction prevent the One from becoming the multiple, a multiplicity of heterogeneity. Instead, we follow the one, the King, that is responsible for our milieu. This reactionary position leads to a vicious cycle of circulation and thwarts any action from flowing through life as it is. There is a blockage, transmutation cannot and will not exist if we succumb to the illusion, if we follow the King's hegemonical homogeneity. Our identities are byproducts of this blockage, our being is simple, it reacts and negates. Thus the potential for creation is lost. Instead, we, like the two riflemen, bask and bath in the illusion of the image, an unthinking process then tends toward this repetitive circulation of signs and desires. Such that these atrocious desires, these illusions, lead the two men to rank human relations with an inferiority (and, thus, primacy to these given objects of desire, illusions). The film moves us into thought, indirectly addressing this need to reestablish a connection with Dionysus, with creation and compassion. The will to power, as Deleuze reads it, is about a reciprocity and affirmation between the forces of the multitude, to simultaneously command and obey. The strength of affirmation, of creative potential, is nil in the face of the many reactive forces that internally subtract from such actions in all directions. It stifles our ability to become, and thus repudiates multiplicity ("practical joy of the diverse"). It is thus the One that prevails. Like in Les Carabiniers, we visualize the many in regards to the One -- the being that is made up of one, a Higher value -- that of the King's word. His word, his illusion engulfs these civilians whole, it is a contagion, and if you are not one then you are the enemy; and, furthermore, if you are the enemy then you are dead. This is total negation. Although Godard does not necessarily directly imply action, or revolution for that matter, by essence of what he shows and how he shows it, the invisible call for action (the force toward thought) is there. And, as his work progresses we can see this tendency toward action becomes more and more forthright and explicit.