Monday, December 17, 2012

90 minutes -- when desire is wholly directed toward violence itself

Drive against Violence: Girard, Lacan, Misogyny
Eva Sørhaug's 90 Minutes (2012) has as its motive three murders or attempts at murders of women by their male partner. A young man lives in a largely unfurnished flat with his young wife and newborn son. He ties her to the bed and abuses her sexually partly because of what he perceives as her ineptitude as mother -- the infant child bother the cocaine abusing father with incessant screaming.
A second story has a divorced man visiting his ex wife and their daughter. They end up fighting, and she asks him -- in front of his neighbour friend -- to leave. The loss of face spurs him into action. The humiliated ex collects a handgun in his car, and returns to shoot and kill his former wife and their common child.
Finally, a third narrative thread depicts an older man in a financial crisis who tries to give away his caged bird to a girl in his tenement building. She accepts the gift. The older man then prepares dinner for his high flying professional partner. He is planning to poison her. While thoroughly enjoying the gourmet meal, her second serving of gravy turns out lethal. She dies with her face down in the steak. The mother of the girl in the flat below rings the doorbell. Her daughter is unable to look after the animal. He accepts grudgingly, and then resumes to clean up his now deceased partner, put her to bed, and lie down next to her to rest.
The movie ends by returning to the opening story. The young mother manages to get away from her abusive husband, stabs him with a knife, and runs off with their infant child. As a story of misogyny and male violence it ends with the possibility that justice will prevail for those who are exposed to the murderous outlets of these crises stricken men. How does these protagonists of violence come to blame their female partners for the pain and anguish they experience? We are reminded of René Girard's words in Violence and the Sacred: When crises in human experience and community reaches its apex, violence itself becomes the object of desire. "In the midst of the sacrificial crisis there is no point in attaching desire to anyone object … for desire is wholly directed toward violence itself" (New York: Continuum, 2009, 154).
Or, to go even further towards Girard's source, Jacques Lacan wrote about "The Mirror Stage," the formative period of human development, that upon becoming social beings, the experience of a social I "decisively tips the whole of human knowledge into mediatisation through the desire of the other, constitutes its objects in an abstract equivalence by the co-operation of others, and turns the I into that apparatus for which every instinctual thrust constitutes a danger, even though it should correspond to a natural maturation" (Écrits: a Selection, London: Tavistock, 1977, 5).
For: has not every movement of the instinct, every articulation of the drive, in this case, become a danger to the unhindered continuation of abusive, misogynist relations? And is not, then, the abnegation of this logic precisely a complement to Lacan's ethic of psychoanalysis and of our duty to follow our desire?
All photos are public domain, and posted on .
Torgeir Fjeld
Oslo, Norway