Movie Critics: Lust, Crime and Shame in Film Match Point 【影評】 寫實愛情驚悚電影［愛情決勝點］
Movie Critics: Lust, Crime and Shame in Film Match Point
Reviews/movie critics/film critics
￭ lost soul, sin, crime, punishment
The leading character Chris is a rotten character, a lost soul. What is assured, the scriptwriter attempted to unearth the darkest side of humanity and human’s struggle in face of survival and ambition. It reminds me of the seven deadly sins and the leading lady in Daniel Defoe’s Roxana out of the blue.
Seven deadly sins is known as the capital vices or cardinal sins or demon actions, which has been used in early Christian times. The core spirit of it is fallen humanity, ranged from wrath (rage) , greed, sloth(lazziness), pride, lust, envy, and gluttony (excessive eating). Chris is disorented before he commits the murder.
￭danger, self-survival, self-protection, selfishness
You can see layers of emotion and many different sides in Chris and Nola. Chloe and Tom are relatively simple that both of them are taken in good hands and incubated in a green house. You can see people’s rationality fall into pieces when they sense danger and their sense of self-protection come into being.
￭ luck and success
Everyone wants to be sucessful. The question goes to: What’s the defintion of succes? There’s no clear-cut answer. I would say everyone aims to earn respect and hope to be admired. Recognition is the key thing.
￭ money, power and sex
As someone once said, money is a powerful aphrodisiac. I would rather use another famous Chinese saying: Power is the best aphrodisiac. Indeed, money and power usually go hand in hand. Why people chase after money and power? Maybe they could never tell that they are chasing after privilge and sense of superiority.
￭ diary, truth and trick
The victim’s diary is commonly utilized as a evidence of facts or a powerful tool to detect the inner thoughts of the victim. Nevertheless, I guess the victim’s diary or notes of the Last Word could be used as a trick or possible false evidence in real life.
￭ What makes Chris a miserable character?
Chris wants everything and he can’t let go off anything. He wants success and he takes the short cut by using marraige as a transaction. He wants sex and he betrays Tom and his wife Chloe. Chris’s self-absorbed character is self-evident. He knows nothing about sacrifice or self-discipline. He is accusomted to the elite lifestyle after marriage and he gets bored. That’s a irony. I suppose there is a hole in his heart. Suddenly, I recalled the leading lady in Daniel Defoe’s Roxana. Chris’ thoughts are rife with grievance. His relationship with Chloe was but a interest alliance.
￭marriage and transaction
Some take light of true love and agree to make marriage a transaction to upgrade their social ladder. It’s not illegal but absolutely unethical.
There’s a old trick in TV drama. Here goes the hypothesis: If you are a poor men, would you marry a rich dying heiress who is dying to earn your affection?
￭love relationship, betrayal, love affair
If your lover keeps telling you that he is busy and tired, that’s a singal, a hint. Watchful! Chris is absent-minded while he’s with Chloe. He has no interest in having sex with her, let alone having a converstaion with her during the breakfast. That’s a tradegy, I mean the sort of marriage, just better than marriage with violence.
Chris is eloquent and sensitive. He used to be a man of low confidence and he viewed himself a man without enough talents and ambition to be great. If you keep an eye to the details in the movie scenes, he holds his dignity very high. For instance, he insists to pay the bills over again and again. That’s his weakness.
Chloe, she is friendly, apporachable and she has good background. But if it’s come to her personal character, it is hard to find something special in her. She’s just fine. But you know what I mean. I got it. She has no passion, except the fact that she wants babies.
Chris was desperate to find her and then he earned her affection somehow. Aferwards, she became his horrifying trobule, his burden. He can’t bear her to ruin his luxurious life. His fascination became his nightmare. How ironic? Life could be easy and smooth and he wants something else, something more. In Chris’s case, poverty is more dreadful than life without love. He is willing to sacrfice people’s life than his own interest and swollows the gulit, if he has the least consicence.
Fascinated Victim : Abjection, Rebellion and Narcissistic Crisis in Daniel Defoe’s Roxana
Issue: Boundary Transgression and Boundary-Overlapping Between Abjection, Desire and Jouissance
The title character in Roxana is generally assumed to be a lustful inhumane mistress but her abjection and narcissistic crisis are generally disregarded. Roxana’s clandestine infamous sexual experience evokes degradation, shame and unspeakable irresistible sexual satisfaction, which potentially summons energy and catalyzes the momentum of jouissance. I am tempted to bring Roxana’s psychological patterns into light by utilizing Lacan, Sigmund Freud and Kristeva’s insightful psychoanalytic theories and feminist theories. At the core, I anchor on Kristeva and Lacan’s psychoanalytic theory to unmask and scrutinize the manifestation of uncanny boundary-overlapping between sexual desire and abjection and problematic interplay between jouissance and abjection by psychologizing the title lady Roxana.
. Roxana is a protestant whore whose sexual hunger is ironically satisfied through infamous whoring experience, thereby the boundary between jouissance, sexual desire and abjection are mingled. The perverse ambiguity, namely, the consummation of sexual desire and the intoxication-driven jouissance experience and temptation of sexual pleasure shape Roxana into a keep fascinated victim. Roxana is besieged by her jouissance-oriented and abjection-ridden whoring experience. Evidently, Roxana’s inner struggle, identity negotiation and metamorphosis process offer compelling examples of a boundary-overlapping between abjection, desire and jouissance. Accordingly to Kristeva, “a jouissance in which the subject is swallowed up but in which the Other, in return, keeps the subject from foundering by making it repugnant from foundering. One thus understands why so many victims of abject are its fascinated victims”(Kristeva 9).
The uncanny emergence of abjection is “inescapable, “weighty and “sudden” in the shape of “a vortex of summons and repulsions,” which is essentially an abominable “threating otherness” (Kristeva 2, 17 ).Her begging experience is her traumatic experience and she afterwards afflicted with the phobia of poverty. By extricating herself from begging experience, she falls into snare of another traumatic experience of whoring practice. Roxana’s self-loathing and self-hatred, namely, the repressed keeps coming back and haunts her recurrently and uncannily. Hence, anxiety sets the tone of the text.
Sexual need is close to instinct. Sexual intercourse is ironically the main source of jouissance for human beings, which is in accordance with Freud’s theory. The consummation of physical and psychological desire furnishes Roxana resources of nourishment. Though her sexual liaison with the prince, whom she has the least affection to, she claims “tides of Pleasure, “literally sexual pleasure “rising to Satisfaction, and Joy“ and bring her “the most profound Tranquility“ (105).
According to Freud, the source of jouissance can be sort out into two types: sex drive and death drive.But sexual intercourse is a historically biased and stigmatized subject, which conventionally tied up to the issues ranged from shame, transgression to moral corruption. Nevertheless, the overlapping of abjection and jouissance frequently lies in the boundary of sexual related discourse, such as adultery, role play or SM and so on, which are generally insinuated to the biased conception of perversity. Sex drive is essentially corporeal, material and productive. In a sense, whenever the abjection is located in the boundary of sexuality, its interruption could be more drastic, intense and recurrent.
Jouissance is secured through mechanism of transgression, which is tied up to prohibition and violation. In Civilization and Its Discontents(1992), Freud articulates that “ everything that is transferred from jouissance to prohibition gives rise to the increasing strengthening of prohibition”(Lacan 176)). In this framework of stigmatized sexual discourse, Roxana is drawn to the whoring practice and the taste of jouissance and repelled by the stigma of whoring identity. Executing a man-woman identity signals Roxana’s desire to shake off the social stigma imposed upon prostitute. In eighteenth-century society, woman who bears the label of whore are commonly pressed into suicide, which can be verified in the text of Richardson’s Clarissia. Public gaze, literally the observing eyes refers to the mainstream pressures for the accused. Abjection is a “resurrection that has gone through death (of the ego). It is an alchemy that transforms death drives into a start of life, of new significance (Kristeva 15).
Her whoring career promises her abjection but also problematically fulfills her desire of securing wealth, power and infatuated identity of gentlewoman. Her begging experience leads to her foremost abjection and thus Roxana intends to rise herself from abandoned poor married wife to an upper-class gentlewoman at the expense of her long-lost chastity. Her whoring experience and her lifetime abjection are firmly interlocked. Altogether, whoring identity is her fugitive identity. Roxana is trapped in a dilemma by contriving to throw off former traumatic experience but could never be a free agent in mind.
The whore identity is a socially and culturally criminalized identity, which “beyond the scope of the tolerable”(Kristeva 1). In 18th century society, the general public is initially compelled to view sexuality through the lens of morality. Pure women denotes woman who harbors no sexual desire and woman of honor equals to those who adheres to modesty and chastity. Thus women are confined to practice sexual intercourse by the limited purpose of procreation. At the core, virginity is valued as an emblem of honor and vanity for women to adhere to. Likewise, sexual transgression equals to moral corruption and mortification.
It is a norm that a person’s sexual disposition represents or disturbs an individual’s identity. Whore identity is Roxana’s her abjection. Afflicted with mainstream discrimination and prejudice, a whore tends to degrade themselves and thus Roxana is troubled by disgraceful label of being a lustful immoral whore. Roxana’s lifetime whoring experience guarantees her irreplaceable experience of jouissance and horrifying abjection and appalling humiliation.
Gender identity was dichotomized in 18th century patriarchy society. Virginity was an obligatory requirement for women but men (Spencer 109). Roxana models men in sexuality could be viewed as a rebellion of boundary-transgression in breaching social normality and gender hierarchy. Roxana’s desire of becoming a man-woman is a manifestation of boundary-transgression. Women were compelled to display a singular nature to cater the public eye. Roxana aims to shake off gender boundary of contemporary society.
In sight of economical constraint and sexual constrain, man-woman is a boundary issue and associates with reconstruction of gender identity.  Gill Jagger raises an issue that gender is arbitrary and is a socially constructed performance (Jagger 19). The spirit of man-woman signifies boundary-transgression, defiance of law, and convention. It discloses Roxanna’s desire of liberating herself from social oppression. Since gender identity is socially and culturally naturalized, Roxana’s becoming of man-woman can be deciphered as motivation of subverting “the mechanism of cultural control imposed upon woman. Boundary-transgression denotes revolt and subversion of public authority. Significantly, the characterization of abjection, desire and jouissance catalyze the momentum of emancipation in the role of a manipulator.
Abjection “ignores borders and rules and “drawn attention to the fragility of the law” and amorality is permitted because abjection is essentially “rebellious, liberating” and of “revolts of being”, namely, “an otherness” ceaselessly in quest of desire (Kristeva 1, 4).Likewise, desire endorses socially improper, repressed infatuation which counters against the social obligations and defies “the rewards and punishments” and potentially subverts the “unity and certainty of conscious demand” and aims at obsession of its own pleasures (Groze 65). Abject “fascinates desire, which, nevertheless, do not let itself be seduced…desire turns aside, sickened, it rejects (Kristeva 1). Abjection features for its ambiguity. Abjection is essentially a “revolts of being” which challenge or crush its superego” (Kristeva 1, 4).
Roxana outwardly counters against tradition and the double standard of sexuality between men and women. At bottom, the liberty Roxana keeps referring to is not limited to the acquisition of fortune but also the rights of pursing sexual pleasure and committing licentious sexuality. Roxana’s battle for the freedom is stained with sexual transgression. The role of man-woman exposes Roxana’s attempt to model on men in pursing sexual pleasure outside the bondage of marriage. As noted in Common Women, “men prostitution sometimes substituted for marriage as a sexual outlet” (48). Roxana’s intricate sexual liaisons and her castaway modesty exemplify her resentment of the custom.
Roxana entitles herself to be “a Lady of Pleasure,” namely, a lady of sexual pleasure (Roxana 169). Roxana does not feel sexually exploited and she names whoring an “agreeable Crime,” thereby she “keep[s]” herself in the “horrid Course” when she is immune to economic constraint (Roxana 243-4). Roxana confesses that she does not “sufffer’d” herself “to be made use of” by offering sexual service (Roxana 119).She “has a mind to gratifie herself” by means of “entertain[ing] a Man, as a Man does a Mistress” (Roxana 188). After decades of whoring with high-placed figures, Roxana is far from financially needy and free from economic anxiety. After retirement of whoring, Roxana lives like a queen in material level but she compares herself to a “fish out of Water, “suggesting her insatiable sexual desires (R 257).
Roxana’s motivation “be a Man-Woman” is to enact her self-proclaimed rights of a “free Agent” (Roxana, 187). In a sense, Roxana tends to subverts the culture myth constructed by men and be men’s counterpart. Roxana is resolved to get rid of her cast of being of economy parasite and aims at request of economic independence. She transforms themselves from the role of the oppressed into the oppressor. Roxana’s desire of becoming a man-woman manifests the representation of Amazonian. Roxana is feminine in appearance but masculine in mind. Roxana demonstrates defiance of social convention, social obligation, and social expectation and counter against male exploitation.Roxana claims “woman was a free agent, as well as Man, and was born free”(187).
Desire located in the “structure of the wish” and desire encompasses “the elements of both need and demand” (Grosz 64-5). Further, desire centers its concern on its own pleasures, which can potentially “undermines conscious activity” in pursuit of “inappropriate, repressed wishes” in which opposed by social values and laws (Grosz 65-7). In the patriarchy society, hegemony was limited to men. Roxana is motivated to “steer “and “hold the Helm” (190). She contrives to reverse the master-and-maid role in the relationships with men, which is supposed a doomed fantasy in the very outset.
Property and power are package deal, which promise the titled autonomy. Gender hierarchy denotes men-and-women power struggles. Patriarchy system was designed for men’s good. Social injustice was assured that women were excluded from the rights of owning property, let alone autonomy, in 18th century England. In this respect, women’s inborn autonomy and self-will are nullified and are doomed to bear economic and sexual constraints. Roxana hungers for power and sexual satisfaction in the role of a protestant whore by fashioning herself as a man-woman. She contrives to earn hegemony and liberty from the hands of men by pursuing self-sufficiency and economic independence by means of infamous whoring.
Significantly, abjection is conflicting zone which is above all ambiguity, because abjection is a “composite” of “condemnation and yearning” where the self and the other are “inseparable” (Kristeva 10, 18). Abjection’s characteristic is a combination of “condemnation, degradation and fascination,” thereby solicits paroxysmal involuntary contradiction and implies a troubling “ sublimating elaboration” (Kristeva 1, 7, 10).When abjection anchors on the border of jouissance, the abjection ironically summons dreadful pleasure and the dilemma rise to peak. Evidently, the territory of abjection is wrapped up by mixed state of sublimation and devastation (Kristeva 2).Abjection is edged with the sublime”(Kristeva 11). In a sense, abjection is what we desire, fascination and fear. Roxana desires excessive sexual satisfaction but it also terrified her by perceiving herself in shame. I suppose, whenever the boundary of abject and jouissance overlapped, it ignites the momentum of utmost sensation.
Sublime inspires awe, in which represents a mixed emotion of reverence and dread. The tumultuous boundary-blurring between abjection and jouissance, namely, the ambiguous infusion between horror, pleasure and pain, complicates the tricky and enigmatic overlapping between abjection, sexual desire, and jouissance.
Abjection is “a kind of narcissistic crisis, namely, narcissistic perturbation“(Kristeva 14). Abjection is the “precondition of the narcissism” (Kristeva 13). A whore is the excluded other, the horrifying identity, which has something to do with inferiority. Abjection “persists” as “exclusion” (Kristeva 17). Hence, abjection is a reduction of self. The fascinated desire can be interpreted as the desire of the other, the excluded.
Significantly, abjection and desire both revolves in the fundamental lack, the excluded. Significantly, all abjection is “in fact in recognition of want” on which “desire is founded” (Kristeva 5). Desire signifies fundamental lack. The identity of gentlewoman is Roxana’s lifetime obsessional infatuation. Hegel posits “desire as a lack and absence, “namely, “a fundamental lack, a hole in being” (64). Roxana contrives to secure her infatuated identity as a revered gentlewoman as a means to fight against the recurrent attack of dreadful abjection, namely, self-loathing.
The gap between her real self and her false infatuated identity is striking. She lives in a life of self-deception and is besieged by two oppositional poles, which caused violent inner turmoil, of which stemmed from an “ambiguity” (Kristeva 1, 10). Roxana’s public self and private self are totally binary. Roxana is a disoriented entity. She repeatedly insinuated herself to be a common whore consciously or not. Roxana claims “the Honor of having the scandalous Use of my prostituted Body, common “to Prince’s “inferiors,” which wryly confessed herself as a common whore (110). As subtly pointed by Kristeva, abject is “a land of oblivion that is constantly remembered “(8). Roxana keeps her true identity clandestine. As noted, desire is principally “insatiable” (67). Being a gentlewoman is socially desirable, which is associated with sense of superiority. Thus, Roxana schemes to embraces the false identity of being a gentlewoman.
The moment of self-recognition denotes the moment of truth-revelation. The “time” of abjection is “double: a time of oblivion and thunder, of veiled infinity and the moment when revelation burst forth”(Kristeva 8-9). Roxana’s self-recognition of being a lustful whore annihilates her and drives her to the edge of insanity. Roxana is propelled into the margin of the abject, and the imaginary border then fragmented and identity interruption occurs. Her real self is on the verge of exposure, which triggers her identity crisis. Her subjectivity falls into the state of uncertainty and mobility. Roxana perceives Susan as perpetual danger, who pressed her into a condition of horrifying self-recognition and abjection exposure.
Fear or anxiety could be dramatically toxic when it goes beyond levels. As noted in Postcolonial Narrative and the Work of Mourning, a” radical experience of abjection” drive and precipitate the subject from the domain of “ the humane” into the domain of “inhumane” (38). When the undercurrent of abjection summons her and wraps her up, her humanity is eaten out and she is obsessed with the hideous thought of child-murder. Susan’s existence serves a prototype of Roxana’s traumatic begging experience. Before Susan’s occurrence, Roxana lives with title of gentlewoman. The title of a woman of honor is her mask, her second-skin, which utilized for self-protection. Her false identity is supposedly her execution of defense mechanism. In the times of identity crisis, her sanity and rationality both attacked by the momentum of abjection and she is obsessed with the aghast thought of murdering.
When the boundary between the self and the other is attacked by the impetus of abjection, the self is subject to identity crisis. In Kristeva’s theory, abjection is placed in the imaginary border, in-between the other and the self. Abjection is an ambiguity-driven unstable mobile territory, which situated in the “ambiguous opposition I/ other” and “ambivalent, a heterogeneous flux marks out the territory,” which forms intense formidable violence to the self (Kristeva 7, 10). Susan is Roxana’s flesh but Roxana severs all the possible ties to cast her lifetime abjection.
Susan’s occurrence signals the exposure of Roxana’s double psycho, her abjection and her false identity. Theoretically, Susan serves as a formidable threat and disruption a to Roxana’s identity. The anxiety is triggered by fear of the exposure of real self. Once her real shameful identity come to light, her identity crisis comes into being. Abjection is an “otherness “to the self and “a terror to superego, challenge or crush its superego (Kristeva 1 or 4). Identity crisis denotes the chance of identity transformation. A whore is a criminalized identity in terms of social expectation and social normality. Whore identity and beggar identity are the other dwelling in Roxana in the name of alter ego and wounded primitive ego. In Kristeva’s theory in essay “On the Melancholy Imaginary,” she presupposes “the mechanism of identification in the interrelationship between depression, wounded ego, and the interplay between the self and the other in the narcissistic context. Accordingly, “this other in myself is a bad ego” which is destructive to destroy the self (On the Melancholy Imaginary 6). The other is her whore identity which can potentially inflame narcissistic crisis. Roxana encounters neurotic fear or phobia in the presence of Susan, which triggers hysterical symptoms such as dizziness, tightening of breath and repulsion. Roxana’s defensive mechanism triggers hysterical symptoms when she senses her second-skin might be peeled off.
When the boundary-blurring between abjection and jouissance locate in the territory of sexual intercourse, it decidedly contributes to individual’s traumatic experience and narcissistic crisis but also give rise to the maximum momentum of jouissance in sight of the infatuation of boundary-transgression. The consummation of sexual satisfactions couple with boundary-transgression of man-woman catalyze the perfect experience of jouissance and paradoxically shape Roxana into a fascinated victim. Roxana is never a free agent. She is persistently haunted by fear of exposure of her real brutish self. By burying her dreadful abjection, including her whore identity and her traumatic identity of a beggar, she buries a monster or a bomb under her skin.
Groze, Elizabeth. Sexuality and the Symbolic Order in Jacques Lacan. 55-80
Kristeva, J. Powers of Horror: An Essay On Abjection. Columbia University Press, 1982. Page 1-13.
Kushner, Tony. Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes. New York: Theatre Communications Group, 1995.
Freud, Sigmund. Introduction to Psychoanalysis. Boni and Liveright, 1920. Part Three:General Theory of the Neuroses XXV.
1 Roxana is left destitute and hapless after her first marriage and thus her former religious belief shatters and she transforms herself from a religion, virtue conformist to a capitalism adherent. Roxana rejects to conform to men’s prescribed domestic roles. Roxana’s denial of motherhood and castaway modesty exemplify her rebellious determination. Her incorrigible material obsession is tied up to her dreadful fear of the return of poverty. Roxana wants to be a woman of honor so she tries to hide the dishonorable behavior of abandoning her children. Roxana’s lifetime whoring experience has something to do with her survival necessity, which promises her experience of sexual satisfaction.
2 The term “fascinated victim” is coined in Kristeva’s The Power of Horror (Kristeva 9). Sex drive is “ the heterogeneous flow” inherent in the human body” namely, “ a possession previous to my advent, a being-there of the symbolic” (10). Roxana is a victim of abject whose whoring experience promised her irreversible shame and the irresistible tastes of jouissance.
3Sexual drive is the limited available channel to the source of jouissance in accordance to Freud’s theory.
4 The title character of Orelando exemplifies the power of performativity. Oreland is a man who repsent his/her gender by cross-dressing. Orlando is “constitutionally bisexual, androgynous, but the Spirit of the Age pressures him to perform his sex according to certain changeable strictures( Charstens 176).
5 She commits deviant sexuality along the way and much alike her liaisons, such as the jeweler, Princess and the old King”(Roxana 105). Her anti-convention manner is witnessed.
6 Among other things, Roxana states that the merchant was welcomed to visit her lodging at night whenever he pleased without concerning the fee.
7 Altogether, Roxana’s hostility regarding injustice-oriented matrimony compels her to make a divergence from fixed tradition, customs imposed on women.
8 Roxana can be valued as the feminist’s cyborg story, which successfully “reverse and displace the hierarchical dualisms of naturalized identities” (Gender/Sexuality Theories and Visual Culture 175).
9 At any rate, abject “hovers between the self and the other” (77).