Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Slavoj Žižek is a joker. In more serious publications he is called “the eminent Slovenian philosopher,” author of 50 books whose aim apparently “is to combine a Marxist critique of capitalism with a psychoanalytically informed unmasking of the ways in which capitalism works upon the public imagination".

A documentary on a thinker, especially one with political undertones and unexpected theories about the pointlessness of life (“Things exist by mistake”) and the absurdity of convention (“Love is an extremely violent act”), who speaks English with a dragging lisp and never stops talking, might be considered an exercise in intellectual masochism.

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Žižek, however, is one of those rare human beings whose mind explodes before your eyes, like bomblets of ideas on every subject under the sun and their intensity is often shielded by his ability to shake the concept of normality to its very core. He doesn’t look at the world as a well controlled set of moral values. He talks of “the big void” and “the meaning of enjoyment”, which has no meaning, and how carrying water in plastic bottles reminds him of Socialism.

A man of contradictions, or a man of genius? Certainly, he is never dull. He has a poster of Stalin in his apartment to cause controversy and “get rid of people.” He is a big, bearded man in jeans and a blue work shirt who would not understand the meaning of dress sense. His energy makes the power source of a small town look inadequate and his restless, inquisitive mind is forever questioning accepted principals.

As a maverick philosopher, unclubbable and untamed, he presents a problem for those who fear chaos theory and prefer to rest in the relative calm of academe where the history of ideas remains fixed within the leather bindings of dusty tomes. Naturally, the students love him because he is outspoken, outrageous and out there, causing havoc amongst the establishment and remaining true to a socialist ideal, although the word “ideal” would have him ranting for hours about its ultimate futility and worthlessness.

In this short documentary Žižek is seen at home in Ljubljana and New York – hilarious explanation of his son’s toy soldiers and what they represent, while passing a remark about the boy’s response (“He is narcissistically amused”) – as well as at Buenos Aires University and Columbia University, giving what could be loosely described as lectures.

His views on everything are left of left field and as stimulating as a hand grenade in a glass house. Occasionally, after demolishing capitalism in the minds of the faithful, he will turn to more serious things.

“When I first visited the States, I was shocked by the toilets here.”

Reviewed on: 03 May 2007
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A documentary on the wild man of theory.
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Director: Astra Taylor

Starring: Slavoj Žižek

Year: 2005

Runtime: 71 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: US/Canada


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