[I haven’t done even half of what I would like to with looking at this film: it is as brilliant as it is cryptic. I thought I would post the base I am going to work from for a more complete view firstly to get feedback, and secondly that there would be something on the internet that doesn’t leave their critique at “it is about loss” or “it is about heart-ache”, which seems to be as far as the 5 or 6 other reviews I read got. ]
“I’m not sure whether there is insurance against diseases”
The third term is the negative mediating agent, the synthesizing moment of objecthood, but not followed through greed but liberation; from lack of option. The determinacy of real action swallowed in the mediation abyss of disease; replacing the possibility of significant action, or life at all. The film opens with a revelation quote foreshadowing the elimination of possibility, the apocalypse. The four angels in the quote foreshadow the four horsemen, the harbingers of the apocalypse; both the four Nazi soldiers who murder the Michal’s wife and son, and those dramatically shot at the very end of the film. The revolutionary partisan leader Michal joins up with sees it clearly when he says, “We’re sinking into a world where all things have become alike, activity and non-activity; cruelty and indifference.” – the world of total objecthood, but rather than a movement through alienation, the alienation is total, inescapable, indeterminate. Later Marian, Michal’s connection to the lab that breeds the disease, gives another hint saying: “It’s time we talked with god, some appeal, some waves, for if all of this means nothing, or only history, only a medieval darkness…” Marian recognizes the real threat of this barbarism, the ideology taking a physical form in the disease, and thus giving us an angle generally missed in approaches to understand the horrors of fascism: the philosophical angle. “It means nothing… the time that is to come will be a time of despair.”
In Hegelian dialectic determinate negation indicates a historical motion where “evil” and transgression of norms have positive aspects, and help to advance history despite that the method employed might be less than ideal. A concrete example could be a revolutionary struggle, or the tragedy surrounding Antigone in Sophocles. Indeterminate negation is when violence and cruelty have no purpose, and advance nothing; an example of this might be modern apartheid situations. “Pity, kindness, and faith cease to exist when blood has been infected” only cruelty remains. The dialectic movement at the heart of Marxist analysis in its corroded Stalinist form (through the example of the Nazi occupation of Poland in the film), and becomes a term of indeterminacy; a motion that drags reality into a diamatic ditch. The heart of motion becomes dogma, and the very thought meant to advance temporally and economically becomes the stagnant cesspool of cruelty. The part-to-whole logic of the ontological scheme of indeterminate negation is grandly effective in this approach, the disease that effects the individual has sweeping social implications. The metabolic relationship of reproduction in a contradiction as an epidemic, which neither resolves nor continues with redefined barriers: the community in parallax.
When Michal returns home he releases all the objects collected in his home constitute his being. The art narrative kept through fire famines and war, the bourgeoisie. Michal’s father is a biological essentialist… Women are determined to bear children at all costs, Michal has his mother’s features, and we observe it in the art object. He wants him to play with him, to escape everything into the timeless games and artwork. He is also obsessed with blood, bloodlines…
“You want to talk to god on equal terms, it’s impossible. You should only ask him silent questions.”
Mistaken identity saves Michal’s life in the beginning, but confusion relating to identity likewise will destroy him by the end. Identity ellipses in the mistake, but what of when this type of ‘mistake’ becomes permanent? The typhus testing is a facade masking and mirroring the real disease, which creates the double. Michal is replaced; the fever is a symptom of alienation. The lice are the physical parasites that help instate the ontological parasite, the clone. The bodies he sees at the end aren’t symbolic devises on the part of the filmmaker, they are real corpses developed through experimentation with a disease designed for mass extermination. The subjects are tricked into helping develop it. The replacement is an indeterminate negation, a subject-void designed to eradicate a population and replace it with object versions of themselves: versions “with no self-preservation instinct”: the death-drive. It is a government extermination program, the same one we see in his later film Possession: but here in its genesis we are given the close to the political origin of the disease. The notable difference between the two films is that lack of the monstrous middle stage.
The disease in this film has a personal aspect not unlike in Possession, Michal experiences attachment to the double of his wife who he doesn’t have access too.
The likeness of Marta and Helena is uncanny of course (as the two women are played by the same actress), Michal explains to Marta: “When I’m looking at you, I feel I’ve got another chance to experience what I’ve already experienced in a wrong way.” And when the feverish image of Helena approaches while he is in bed with Marta: “You mustn’t come here, I don’t want to see how your both alike. Everything happens in the same places and with the same words…” to which his Helena’s apparition responds “No, words are always new.” The relationship isn’t repeating directly, as the experience with his first wife is still in his memory, qualifying it. “I’ve been finding you again” Michal says, and Helena responds “Yes, in other people who aren’t us. “. The personal quality helps to draw up the problems of systemically confused cultural production, besides that it leads simply to death.
The structure of the film as interlaced with flashbacks, complicated by the current and remembered relationship to the two women. The film intentionally distorts the viewers perception, to confuse and complicate the narrative, and mirror Michal’s confusion between the Marta and Helena. There is a complicated sub-narrative relating to the sin of adultery, and further the relationship between how an adulterous relationship is navigated with an alternate version of oneself— the difference between Michal’s first act of adultery with Helena, and then against a version of himself? Do Marta and Helena actually look the same, or does the alienated subject project viciously grasping at a semblance of his former life where none is to be found, as with Helena’s first husband and the women at the diner? Doubles, projection, mimesis as relationship functions.
The movie concludes with the shadowy figures of the four horseman of the apocalypse, a sign that the end of the world is at hand as the disease grows out of control. The government is trying to keep it in control by killing those who are fully infected, thus why they come and kill Michal’s family, and why they were after Helena’s husband even before they mistake him for Michal. Their ideological position, fascism or Stalin’s diamat, become the third part, the third term, the arrest of the dialectic process that freezes it into static and visceral cruelty.
“Lord, don’t leave us that we may not be lost in your wrath”.