Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Student of Prague

I have been thinking consistently about Freud's presentation of the uncanny and my ability (or inability) to articulate an interpretation of the concept. Watching The Student of Prague, the most disturbing moment in the film came for me during the initial scene in Balduin's room, with Scapinelli, when the two of them are discussing a contract to reward Balduin with wealth and potential love. Seeing both men in the mirror while also viewing them in the room had a powerful, disconcerting effect. Also - Balduin's inability to see his own reflection after signing Scapinelli's proposition.

What is it about the doubling effect and the idea of not having a reflection that is so disturbing? What is so important about the ability to see one's own reflection? What is this relationship that is developed with an image in the mirror, and is it that simple (a relationship with an image)? Clearly, other cultures would not share this connection or perception. Is this a common experience or connection among most people within our own culture?

The absence of the reflection as a symbolic loss of the soul is not the most potent thrust of the disturbance, - the more powerful effect is something much more grounded and physical - literal, perhaps, that is truly moving about the loss - something having very little to do with the notion of a soul and much more to do with a communication and understanding of oneself. Personally, I would miss something to do with the eyes - the look of knowing that comes only from a glance I can give to and receive from myself. A look of full understanding that I can see most closely in my life partner, but not completely - not in the way I can receive it from myself. I would miss the ability to check myself, through the eyes alone, to check in with my Self.

This implies a duality - the existence of at least two f(r)actions of being - the one that is seen, and the one that observes, both contained within one body. I have recently been reading a book that discusses the human being as a collection of inner families - a community of "subselves." Is the interaction or comfort received through a glance in the mirror an indication of these "selves"?

The next film on my list is The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, with a reading by Walter Benjamin.

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