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Friday, 24 July 2015

Animals out there

They mean, they do mean - animals. They are not symbols though.

I've been watching films about animals - pigs (Pasolini's Porcile), birds (Hitchcock's The Birds) and rats (Daniel Mann's (and Glen Morgan's) Willard). In all three cases, animals mean a lot as outsiders of the human order, as something that goes beyond both obedience and disobedience, They interfere (in the three cases they kill) but they display an element of something coming from outside, not quite intelligible in the matrix of human alliances and violences. They are foreign, intruders to the narrative. Zizek invites us to imagine what would be an horror film like without the horror element - without rats, pigs and birds the plots will be nonexistent for things will carry on in a business as usual way. That is, Willard would carry on in his worker's misery routine, powerless and restraint, Melanie will just get to make family with Mitch and Giuliano would be likely to follow his fate to be the heir of a post-Nazi German boss. The animals, though, come in and produce a Bartleby-like element: they disturb the expected flow.

Often they are seen in these films as messengers of the unconscious. As such, they mean instincts, constrained desires or fears or attractors to an out-of-the-human life. They are all that, but only because they entertain agency. The mother in Hitchcock's film is scared of Melanie, but the birds are there in the bay for her to call upon - for her to engage in her fear. The same goes for Giuliano's pigs, available in the houses of the peasants, and for Willard's mice living around the old house. Mice are an icon of decadence - as pigs represent dirt and lack of refinement - but decadence, dirt or lack of refinement have ecologies too. In general, the unconscious craft unconscious ecological alliances. It has its own realm with its own sovereignty and its own bestiality.

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