Saturday, 16 December, 2017.

"Honey, see my wallet?",   Doctor William Harford asks his wife Alice at the very beginning of  Kubrick's movie Eyes Wide Shut. He and his wife are preparing to go to a party.

"Isn't it at the bedside table?", Ms Harford answers. She cannot hear him very well, because she is in the toilette. They are exchanging these simple, everyday words, calling each other "Honey". At the very beginning of Kubrick's movie we face a happily married couple. They have been married for eight years; they have a beautiful daughter, Helena. They are beautiful themselves as well. Beautiful and rich. They live in a huge, high-quality designed apartment with many paintings, which attracts our attention. Kubrick brings to the audience an atmosphere of easiness, of comfort, and of satisfaction, of happiness. They are a couple in a manner that they do not even have to think about it. It goes without saying.  The way that they move in the first few shots is smooth, as though they are skating, not walking. It is as if there are no obstacles for them at all. No resistance at all. Everything floats. They float. They cover distances (from one room to another, from the toilet to the room, and both together to the door of their apartment) with a kind of lightness, but at the same time with a kind of speed. Everything around them is their creation, the effect of how they move. We could say that they are the creators of their lives. They are the creators of their marriage, of their love, of their happiness. They own, they possess everything around them, even each other. They are certain and secure.  They desire each other; they have good sex, especially good sex. They love each other. However, the moment when they leave their apartment is the moment when they face the uncanny 'outside' world. Kubrick cuts and mixes scenes from their house with scenes from the city streets. These streets of New York City represent a world from which they protect their love - with  'eyes wide shut'. This syntagm  could also be another name for jealousy: Eyes Wide Shut.

A multiplicity of dangers and uncertainties awaits them in the streets of the city. One is facing the first sign of their paradoxical situation - a world that has not been made of the other, of two of them being the other for each other, but the world of the others. They are entering the Party. However, before we continue to follow parts of their love story, let us recall 'their paradoxical situation'. They love each other but do they know their love as love, and do they thus know themselves? Do they know (their) love in the same way, or to put it differently, are they both the subjects of that knowledge? Is it possible for them to love each other if they know (their) love?  Do they have certainty by knowing the truth of their love as love? Does this (possible) knowledge provide their possession of their love, and thus possession of themselves? Is their love, if it is known as love, their own proper/ty? Is this knowledge about their love the origin of their being certain? And is this certainty projection, or it is perhaps protecting them from jealousy? And if so, how?

Love understood as knowledge (of love)

In the classical understanding of love and of being in love, knowledge is necessarily inscribed. It is better to be the one who loves, and thus the one who knows (his love) than the one who is loved, which does not necessarily include any knowledge of it. As Derrida argues, "The argument seems, in fact, simple: it is possible to be loved (passive voice) without knowing it, but it is impossible to love (active voice) without knowing it."[1] The one who loves is the one who is active, which means the one who knows his love.

How many times has one heard the following statement while suffering from (perhaps) not being loved: "it is much more important that you love, than the fact that you are (perhaps) loved or not loved." Or perhaps, this statement: "Can you imagine how terrifying it would be if you were the one that does not love, although you are loved?" This very knowledge, like any other kind of knowledge, as the knowledge as such, provides a lover with certainty about himself, and accordingly about his love. There is no love without knowledge of it. There is no love without the act of love, without being active, which means that by that very knowledge love is always declared, even before it has been declared to the beloved one. Therefore, one could be loved without being subject to that knowledge. The one who is loved, the beloved one, is - if we trust the categories of subject and object here - the one who is, or it would be better to say, the one who remains the object of love. Knowledge of love comes before love and the beloved one. It is the condition of the possibility of love. The one who loves is the one who is, by the very act of love, by declaring his love, always the one who is telling his story; his story of love; his love story. This does not mean necessarily that every story is a love story, but it necessarily means that every love is a love story.

Although it is stated here that every love is a love story, such a statement is not without complication. From what has already been said it is obvious that the only one who's telling the story (of love) is the one who knows; the one who knows his love. In order to tell the story (of love) the one who knows (his love) has to distance himself from himself, which means to produce himself as the other. But this other is he himself; the one who knows his love; thus, he becomes the only addressee of the story. He is telling himself his love story. But if there is no room for the other in his/her otherness but only as the spectre of the 'I' who knows - what kind of love, or what kind of love story can one talk about in such a structure of  'story' telling?

Interruption, first case

Let me turn to the scene in which Bill and Alice, after being at the party, are having a discussion:

Bill: ... you are trying to make me jealous.
Alice: But you are not the jealous type, are you?
Bill: No, I am not.
Alice: You have never been jealous about me, have you?
Bill: No, I haven't.
Alice: And why have you never been jealous about me?
Bill: I don't know, Alice. Maybe because you are my wife. Maybe because you are the mother of my child, and I know you will never be unfaithful to me.
Alice: You are very, very sure about yourself, are you?
Bill: No, I'm sure of you.
Alice: /laughs, but hysterically/

At this point let us recall the dialogue between Bill and Alice that I quoted earlier. He is sure in his love. He knows his love, and that is why he is not jealous. Moreover, he was never jealous regarding Alice. However, she is the one who interrupts him in his certainty. Although being the assured object of his love, she subverts his very knowledge of their love by provoking him; by imposing the question of jealousy - "You have never been jealous about me, have you?" At the same time he is trying to protect himself, or to say it differently, he is trying to protect his love by his very knowledge of it - "... and I know you will never be unfaithful to me." But somehow this is precisely the point that she trying to subvert; she is trying to subvert his knowledge, which provides him with certainty. As Alice says:

"You are very, very sure about yourself, aren't you?"

In this rather provocative, ironic, and subversive sentence she  implies that there is (perhaps) something that he does not know, something ex-terior and something 'outside' of his knowledge and certainty, perhaps something that is even a non-knowable. I believe there is nothing accidental in this story where it is precisely the place of the woman that reveals this uncanny play of an 'inside - outside' and of the ex-teriority of any knowledge. Let us return to the dialogue from this scene and look at it more closely:

Bill: Women don't...they basically just don't think like that.
Alice: Millions of years of evolution. Right? Right? Men have to stick it every place they can, but for women, for women it's just about security and commitment... and whatever the fucking else... ?
Bill: Little over simplified Alice, but yes, something like that.
Alice: If you men only knew!!?

"If you men only knew" is not a simple question, or a simple statement, but rather a kind of warning. What is it that Alice knows, that the woman knows  - and that Bill, or the man in general, does not know? Especially, if one considers the fact that he is precisely the one who is in the place of knowledge. What is that 'special' secret which the woman, the object of love, the one who is on the side of passivity, non-certainty and thus non-knowledge, by provoking jealousy, tries to reveal? Alice, or simply, the woman (if there is anything that could be called simple about being a woman) is in this sense a synonym for the interruption that is breaking the circle of his, Bill's, or the man's knowledge. The interruption that thus constitutes a kind of edge, a kind of border, or, if I can say so, that constitutes the idea of 'the end' (of something), the edge of knowledge, in the sense of revealing the limits and borders of what is knowable. So, she, the woman, is the one who is interrupting his, the man’s, story. His/story. This interruption is also a kind of violence. It looks like now one is facing a double concept of violence: the violence of repeating the absolute (circular structure) of knowledge, and another kind of violence that, on the contrary, interrupts such a structure. Yet, we should ask: is this violence of interruption also a sadistic violence? And, if it is, is there any difference between these two 'faces' of violence, that is to say, these two 'faces' of sadism? I will come back to this point later, especially to the notion of violence that refers to the interruption of (any) structure.

At this point, let us follow a little further Bill's and Alice's love story. They have entered the Party, organized by Hartford's friend and host Victor Ziegler. The party is glamorous and the whole of New York’s jet set is there, drinking, dancing, and having a good time. Alice drinks several glasses of champagne, and dances with a  pressing suitor. Half drunk and in a completely coquettish manner, she chats, dances, and looks around for her husband. At the same time, Bill is having a rather provocative conversation with two girls:

Bill: Where exactly are we going... girls?
Girl/s: Where the Rainbow ends.
Bill: Where the Rainbow ends?
Girl/s: Don't you want to go where the Rainbow ends?
Bill: That depends where that is....
Girl/s: Let's find out….

The expression – "Where the Rainbow ends" brings us back to the question of 'the end'. What is 'the end'? It could be something that is by very definition a border, a limit, the concept in which the limit and the border are inscribed; on the other hand, and precisely because of that, it is the concept which in itself does not contain any kind of limit or border anymore. Where there are limits and  borders to be crossed, one is in the position of creating a task, a problem - one is in the position of creating the situation of having a limit or a border, which should or should not be crossed. And one is the master of such a situation. The decision to take or not to take a step across the limit is a decision that can be made only by the one who knows where the limit is, precisely because the limit as such is his own product. He knows where the limit is, but even more, he knows that there is a limit.

Girl/s: Don't you want to go where the Rainbow ends?
Bill: That depends where that is....

As was already mentioned, this kind of situation, where there is a problem to be solved which in this case is the problem of being jealous, a problem which produces a limit that is or is not to be crossed, is an exemplary situation of the projection and protection of subject/ivity.
But what about the other kind of 'the end', about  'the end' that implies no limits and borders to be crossed? This is the end that puts us in the aporetic situation in which it is not possible anymore to constitute any kind of problem. When the only thing that  (perhaps) is left to say is - "let's find out." And it is again the feminine interlocutor speaking. In the same manner as Alice, it is the girls who introduce the aporia, the non-knowable and non-thinkable, the madness or the 'mad logic'. As was already said, the effort to try to think what is unthinkable is, perhaps, what one can call mad/ness.

Bill and Alice again:

Alice:  Hmm, tell me something; those girls at the party last night... /laugh/, did you... by any chance, happen to fuck them?
Bill: What, what are you talking about?
Alice: I'm talking about two girls that you were so politely hitting on.
Bill: I wasn't hitting on anybody.
Alice: Who were they?
Bill: Just a couple of models.
Alice: Where did you disappear with them for so long?
Bill: Hmm, anyway, who was the guy that you were dancing with?
Alice: Friend of Ziegler's.
Bill: What did he want?
Alice: What did he want?  Sex, upstairs, and there.
Bill: Is that all?
Alice: Yes that was all.
Bill: He just wanted to fuck my wife!?
Alice: That's right.

At this point one can see that Alice's way continues to provoke Bill's jealousy, by asking the kind of questions which are the questions of a jealous person. She is provoking his jealousy by being jealous. Or, to put it differently, what is exposed here is the double figure of jealousy in the sense of jealousy that is jealous of itself. Then, whose jealousy is one speaking about here? His or hers? The 'double figure' of jealousy is showing its nature. Alice, whose speech is very slow, initiates a rather embarrassing and complicated conversation with her husband.

Alice started with the 'game' by being in and outside the game at the same time. But being in and outside of the 'game', to put it in Kamuf's words, can be movement through jealousy,  "the double movement of and against jealousy"[2] that is the consequence of the movement of provoking that double bind, and/or the movement which offers resistance. What is "at stake" here then? Alice introduces jealousy as a "double figure", as the aporetic situation, in the sense of being at the same time 'inside' and 'outside' jealousy, thus, inside and outside of their love story. Bill is trying to remain rational. He is trying everything. He is evoking their love, marriage and faithfulness in order to save them from the inevitable catastrophe of amorous madness, from the catastrophe of never being certain, of acknowledging the truth that "one never really possesses what one has."[3] But if jealousy defines a relation to that which one "possesses" in the mode of an always possible and therefore already effected dispossession, then that same structure defines the relation of the self to itself as the always possible and therefore already effected dispossession of the self. The self is dispossessed of itself according to its own structure, which is the structure of possession. Possession is by its own nature dispossessed of what is possessed. The self is, in other words, always already endangered; it is the self that always escapes itself, incapable of catching itself as its own property. Doctor Bill Harford is trying to protect and save their love from the catastrophe of being dispossessed, or to put it differently, he is trying to protect their love from jealousy.  He tries to be rational and calm, but somehow the whole situation becomes more and more complex. However, Alice (violently) insists on jealousy. She does it even harder; she somehow invents jealousy precisely as a means, or rather something that appears as a means, for defending oneself from the catastrophe of the lack of all lacks - the lack of identity. She is inventing jealousy as a problem. Therefore, we could say that jealousy can be understood as the effort of keeping one's identity in identity with itself. In this sense, she, the woman  (we have to take into account all that was previously said about her regarding the concept of interruption) also appears as an unavoidable part of this "struggle" for keeping one's identity in identity with itself, or, she is also inside that game as a part of the protection of  subject/ivity.

Bill and Alice continue their discussion:

Bill: He just wanted to fuck my wife?
Alice: That's right.
Bill: I guess, that's understandable.
Alice: Understandable?
Bill: Because you are a very, very beautiful woman.
Alice: Wait! So, because I am a beautiful woman any man who ever wants to talk to me, it's because he wants to fuck me? Is that what you are saying?
Bill: Well, I don't think it's quite that black and white, but I think we both know what men are like.
Alice: So, on that basis I should conclude that you wanted to fuck those models?
Bill: There are exceptions.
Alice: And what makes you an exception?
Bill: What makes me an exception is that I happen to be in love with you… and because we are married, and because I will never lie to you or hurt you.
Alice: Do you realise that what you are saying is the only reason why you didn’t fuck those two models is out of consideration for me, not because you really wouldn't want to.
Bill: It’s just.., Relax. This pad is making you aggressive.
Alice: No, it's not a pad. It's you. Why can't you ever give me a straight fucking answer?
Bill: I was under the impression that's what I was doing. I don't even know what we are arguing about here.
Alice: I'm not arguing. I'm just trying to find out where are you coming from.
Bill: Where I'm coming from?

"I'm just trying to find out where are you coming from", is Alice's answer to Bill's question of why she is trying to make him jealous. Thus, once again she appears also as the one who knows precisely 'the rules' of the 'game': that the question of one's origin, of one's point of departure is the question of knowing someone, the question of knowledge and the question of what is knowable. One should know where one is coming from in order to know where one is going. In this particular case, what Alice actually claims is that if she finds out where he is coming from, she will find out where they should be going. Or, she will be capable of finding the way, the path how to return to their home, how to go to the oikos. She will be capable (at the end) of bringing them back to their (happy) beginning.

The love story that I was trying to present here from Kubrick's movie shows a way of understanding love as something that is based on the odyssean structure of returning 'home', of returning home in the sense of returning to the point of the departure. At the very end of this story, Bill and Alice have the following conversation:

Bill: Alice, what do you think we should do?
Alice: What do I think we should do? What do I think? I don't know. I mean maybe, maybe I think we should be grateful. Grateful that we manage to survive through all our adventures. Whether they were real or only a dream.
Bill: Are you sure of that?
Alice: Am I sure? Only, only as sure as I am that the reality of one night in a long meter of a whole lifetime can never be a whole truth....
Bill: And no dream is just a dream.
Alice: The important thing is, we are awake now, and hopefully for a long time to come.
Bill: Forever.
Alice: Forever?!
Bill: Forever.
Alice: Let's not use that word. It frightens me. But, I do love you. And you know there is something very important that we need to do as soon as possible.
Bill: What's that?
Alice: Fuck.


[1] Jacques Derrida, Politics of Friendship, trans. by George Collins, (London, New York, Verso, 1997),  p. 9.
[2] Peggy Kamuf A Derrida Reader: Between the Blinds, Introduction, ed. by Peggy Kamuf (Columbia University Press New York,1991) p. xxi.
[3] Daniel Lagache,  La jalousie amoureuse, 3 rd ed. Paris: PUF, 1985.

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