Shadow of the Groundhog # 10: Movie Autism


Abe:  It might mean that, in order to “become who you were born to be”, you must stop watching (obsessing about) movies!

Edited passage from Seen & Not Seen: Confessions of a Movie Autist

As an adolescent I looked for ways to deal with my rage, and with an experience of being disconnected from the world which probably had to do with being disconnected from my own deeper feelings. I was forced to assemble some kind of an identity to function in a reasonably healthy, productive way in the social realm I found myself in, a realm I hardly understood (even if I was never as clueless as Travis).  Movies became a primary means for this process, as much as or more than parental influence—even as a tonic for it. Movies helped provide instruction and guidance through the hostile and foreign jungle of “otherness” I had landed in. They offered a fictional counterpart to my experience, and a buffer of fantasy between myself and an incomprehensible, hence intolerable, reality.

They may have saved my life, but they also meant I didn’t have to ever really live.

This isn’t necessarily all bad. In my own case at least (far from unique), parental influence ranged from spotty to traumatic. A little cultural leavening may have provided a much-needed respite (and/or outlet). It may even have saved my life, or at least sanity.


If you would like to help this groundhog to see past his shadow and be ready for the Spring—not to continue repeating the same day over and over—you can help spread the word about the book/myself by liking it on Facebook, following me on Twitter and retweeting my tweets, commenting at this blog, passing this link to your friends via whatever social media you use (and even old flesh and blood-style), and of course, pre-ordering the book (in the UK; in the US).

31 thoughts on “Shadow of the Groundhog # 10: Movie Autism

  1. Catharsis (from the Greek κάθαρσις katharsis meaning “purification” or “cleansing”) is the purification and purgation of emotions through art. … It is a metaphor originally used by Aristotle in the Poetics to describe the effects of tragedy on the spectator.

    Catharsis was also central to Freud’s concept of psychoanalysis, …

    5 Steps to Catharsis: Can Watching a Movie Help You Heal?

  2. Dear pseudonym3000, I am a great admirer of Otto Rank’s work. As to the (posthumously published) Beyond Psychology:

    … the published preface mysteriously differs from Rank’s handwritten draft.

    It was Otto Rank’s conceptual distinction between the artist and the neurotic (or failed artist) that I had in mind, when I wrote a couple of days ago: The neurotic obsesses about “fiction”, the true artist about “reality”!

    Of course, Jasun was right to question the wording (“obsesses”). The true artist does not obsess about “reality”, rather he is unchained from obsession and thereby released into reality. But does the true artist obsess about art? And how is true art different from mere fiction? (*)

    REALITY = immediate present / present willing
    FICTION = invoking the past to escape from the present

    [Rank] is concerned in therapy with the immediate present and the willing which is taking place in it.

    The exploration of the past is not of importance for its own sake, … The object of therapy is to get free from the past ingrained patterns, to learn to bear the responsibility for present willling. The past is already over-emphasized in the neurotic mind, he is too ready to evade presonsability by invoking the past to escape from the present into the past.

    To Rank the neurotic is a person with strong creative urges who through having his will predominantly organized on the negative side, as counter-will rather than positie will – is unable to internalize his urges along creative channels. He is an “artiste manqué.”. His negative bias shows itself as denial instead of affirmation of himself, of his own powers.

    (*) Tarkovsky comes to mind:

    Cinema is a very difficult and serious art. It requires sacrificing of yourself. You should belong to it, it shouldn’t belong to you. Cinema uses your life, not vice versa. Therefore I think that this is the most important … You should sacrifice yourself to the art.

    By the way, I myself was freed from the need to ever watch a Hollywood movie again by having watched Tarkovsky. He is, for me, the greatest film maker of all times.

    Start with Stalker.

    Film critic Derek Adams compared Stalker to Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, also released in 1979, “as a journey to the heart of darkness, [Stalker] is a good deal more persuasive than Coppola’s.”

    Despite the initial mixed reactions, the movie is now hailed as one of the greatest movies ever made. It ranks 29th in the Sight and Sound Greatest Movies list.

  3. The Sacrifice (Swedish: Offret) is a 1986 Swedish film directed by Andrei Tarkovsky. Starring Erland Josephson, it centers on a middle-aged intellectual who attempts to bargain with God to stop an impending nuclear holocaust.

    The footage in the final version of the film is the second take, which lasts for six minutes (and ends abruptly because the camera had run through an entire reel). The cast and crew broke down in tears after the take was completed.

    Youtube commentary:

    There are two kinds of people in this world, the ones who begin to understand this film, and the rest. It’s unbelievable to see this scene done in a single shot, over 5 minutes, and when you know that this is the 2nd take, the first take was lost when the camera jammed while the house burnt down, and the production crew managed to rebuild the house from nothing to save the film….

  4. Tarkovsky: An artist never works under ideal conditions. If they axisted, his work wouldn’t exist, for the artist doesn’t live in a vacuum. Some sort of pressure must exist: the artists exists because the world is not perfect. Art would be useless if the world was perfect, as man wouldn’t look for harmony but would simply live in it. Art is born out of an ill-designed world.

    Tarkovsky: Before defining art – or any concept – we must answer a far broader question: what’s the meaning of man’s life on Earth? …

    Art enriches man’s own spiritual capabilities and he can then rise above himself to use what we call “free will”.

  5. I am from Sweden, and I have not even heard of that movie, weird… it has some great swedish actors like allan edwall and sven wollter aswell….need to check it out I guess.

    For me it was games (mainly computer games) that provided respite from this world.

    – Obsession is just a word, that the lazy uses to describe the dedicated

  6. I can’t stand Tarkovsky!


    Andrei Tarkovsky and Stanley Kubrick: the Yen and the Ying of modern cinema

    Andrei Tarkovsky and Stanley Kubrick are, in my opinion, the two greatest directors of the twentieth century.

    Tarkovsky’s Solaris, like Kubrick’s 2001, was made at the end of the sixties, and released in the early seventies.

    At first I foolishly suspected plagiarism on the part of Tarkovsky, being at that time still prejudiced toward Kubrick, but after watching Solaris I understood that I couldn’t have been more wrong. It dawned on me that this might be one of the more mystical occurrences in Art history: Completely per chance, two great minds, creating separately, dealt with the same subject-matter at the same time, expressing in them diametrically opposing views, and at the same time so complementary, that it boggles the mind. As if the two creations were meant to be fused together in the space-time continuum of Art to form a third artistic whole that is greater than the sum of its parts, a completed circle of the Yen and the Ying. To me this coincidence and possible fusion is nothing less of a revelation.

    To us this strange coincidence of the simultaneous making of these two great films presents a wonderful opportunity to unify and merge both of their points of view into one whole.

    We know that Tarkovsky had seen Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and disliked it as cold and sterile. The media played up the cold-war angle of the Soviet director’s determination to make an “anti-2001,” and certainly Tarkovsky used more intensely individual characters and a more passionate human drama at the center than Kubrick. Still, hindsight allows us to observe that the two masterworks are more cousins than opposites. Both set up their narratives in a leisurely, languid manner, spending considerable time tracking around the space sets; both employ a widescreen mise-en-scène approach that draws on superior art direction; and both generate an air of mystery that invites countless explanations.

    Unlike 2001, however, Solaris is saturated with grief, which grips the film even before it leaves Earth.

    Solaris helped initiate a genre that has become an art-house staple: the drama of grief and partial recovery.

    The film that Solaris most resembles thematically is not 2001 but Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958): the inability of the male to protect the female, the multiple disguises or “resurrections” of the loved one, the inevitability of repeating past mistakes.

  7. Where 2001 examined the technological progress of man through a notably distant lens from its characters, Solaris devastatingly explores the inner psychology of its protagonist, …

    TARKOVSKY: … I’m interested in a hero that goes on to the end despite everything. …


    [I]f the external, emotional construction of images in a film are based on the filmmaker’s own memory, on the kinship of one’s personal experience with the fabric of the film, then the film will have the power to affect those who see it.

    [I]n cinema, you should sincerely tell about your own experience.

    That’s why even now when all half-literate people have learned to make movies, cinema remains an art form, which only a small number of directors have actually mastered, and they can be counted with the fingers of one hand.


    For some reason, in all the science-fiction films I’ve seen, the filmmakers force the viewer to examine the details of the material structure of the future. More than that, sometimes, like Kubrick, they call their own films premonitions. It’s unbelievable! Let alone that 2001: A Space Odyssey is phoney on many points even for specialists.

    Culture Warrior: Kubrick’s ‘2001’ vs. Tarkovsky’s ‘Solaris’

    Where 2001 can be argued as having a relatively positive view towards progressing space travel and thus forwarding to Apollo agenda (also supported by its popularity during the space race and NASA’s embrace of the film), Solaris is quite pessimistic towards human space travel. …

    The scientists who argue for no limits in space exploration are portrayed as naïve and bloated with misguided, grandiose ideas of potential accomplishment, insensitive to the human risk at hand. And the risk Tarkovsky outlines is existential and spiritual, not physical. With state-driven, agenda-fueled aspirations for conquering space, man is posited here as not bravely conquering uncharted territory, but irreparably severed from his home with nature (and the natural …). As the lengthy highway sequence shows at the film’s beginning, man already alienates himself through technology on Earth, and does so to a greater degree in space, potentially losing what makes us human (as Kelvin embraces the phantom of his wife as the woman herself).

    2001 sets out, at best, an agnostic approach to space travel, …

    Solaris, on the other hand, sees space travel and the embrace of technology as a willful separation from God, …

    It is interesting that 2001—a film posited as pushing the ideology of the unofficially “Christian” nation of America—embraces the purely scientific, while Solaris—as the supposed answer to 2001 from the officially atheist Communist state of the USSR—explores the role of a metaphysical idea of god within the space race.


    If American culture treats Solaris as the USSR’s answer to 2001, there lies value and important implications regarding American culture simply by the popularity of this interpretation, whether or not it is valid (for the record, I’ve found no evidence to say that the Soviet Union interpreted their film as an “answer” to a popular American film—my guess is that this disposition was no more than a simple way for Americans to try to understand a film from a place very far away through generalization).

  8. A controversial statement to open: Andrei Tarkovsky is the European Stanley Kubrick.

    50 Reasons Why Stanley Kubrick Is The Greatest Director Of All Time

    [readers comment’s:]

    As much as I adore Kubrick, I think this article is over-rated and more of a hard-on for the author’s favourite director.

    I have one name for you: Andrei Tarkovsky …


    Overall, Tarkovsky is on a par with what Kubrick achieved, but Ingmar Bergman wins for me. No other director encompassed the human condition quite like Bergman. He’s the one director who really made me think about life, over and over again with so many great films.

    I read an interview with Bergman where he basically said the only two
    filmmakers he has ever liked were Tarkovsky and Kubrick, …–ftopict5302.html

  9. Tarkovsky is no doubt one of my favourite directors of all time. His films are challenging, but then again – really rewarding. The messages in his films are often unclear and hidden under countless riddling layers. If I want to completely understand the full meaning in most of his work, I would most likely need to watch them multiple times.

    I would compare Tarkovsky to Stanley Kubrick over any other director. Kubrick is also a director that requires the viewer to rewatch his works to understand the full message of it (to some degree), but he is not as hard to conquer as Tarkovsky. I also find Tarkovsky to be more of a poetic director all together.

    I love your eyes, my dear
    Their splendid sparkling fire
    When suddenly you raise them so
    To cast a swift embracing glance
    Like lightning flashing in the sky
    But there is a charm that is greater still
    When my love’s eyes are lowered
    When all is fired by passion’s kiss
    And through the downcast lashes
    I see the dull flame of desire

  10. Tarkovsky’s Stalker: A Poet in a Destitute Time

    Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker is more like a poem than any film I know. I watch it every few years, and on each viewing it is more profoundly uneasy, more beautiful, more luminous with sorrow. There may be greater films than Stalker – although surely not many – but I know of none that touches me more personally; it lives beneath my skin and quickens my sense of what it means to be conscious and alive.


    The Stalker – the “louse” who is mocked by the intellectuals for his awkward naivety – finds at the end of his quest only the bitter humility of failure. He cannot persuade those he guides to take the gift that he offers them: they are incapable of the final courage of acceptance.

    “Nobody believes,” he says despairingly at the end of the film.

    The Stalker is not Christ, but an artist; perhaps specifically a poet.

    The German lyric poet Holderlin once asked: “What are poets for in a destitute time?” It is the same anguished question the Stalker asks at the end of the film. “The time is destitute,” says the philosopher Martin Heidegger, “because it lacks the unconcealedness of the nature of pain, death and love.” Heidegger says that the poet is a person who refuses self-will – which turns objects and people into “merchandise”, objects for commercial exchange – and instead ventures his being in the most human of qualities, language. There, paradoxically, he discovers his “destiny” by embracing his mortality: “what is presumed to be eternal merely conceals a suspended transiency, suspended in the void of a durationless now”.

  11. During the last two decades film has increasingly become a medium of philosophical reflection from an ontological and epistemological perspective. In this dissertation project, I seek to develop an ontology of film based on Andrej Tarkovsky’s movie “Solaris” in dialogue with Martin Heidegger’s theory of death (mainly from “Being and Time”).

    As filmmaker Hans-Jürgen Syberberg says, “Film is the continuation of life with other means” – there is in fact continuity between the natural world and its beings in film, although a continuity that transcends materiality. From an epistemological point of view, this transcendence raises questions like, “What is the nature of the reality that film transports?” or, “What does its connection tell us about our relation with reality or the Real?”

    Click to access Reeh-The-Solaristic-System.pdf

    Susan Sontag on Hitler : A Film from Germany (Hans-Jürgen Syberberg, 1977)

  12. Through an ecocritical, ‘world-disclosing’ analysis of Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker (1979), I will suggest that cinema ‘stalks’ the real world, and that our appreciation of its potentials should similarly involve a kind of ‘stalking’ of its effects in the material, social, and perceptual dimensions of the world from which cinema emerges and to which it returns.


    The Stalker effect: stalking the cinema, tracking the psyche

    In The Solaris Effect: Art and Artifice in Contemporary American Film, Steven Dillon (2006) argues that Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris (1972) … present(s) a model of ‘the archetypal relationship of audience and screen at the cinema.’


    As the analysis of Stalker suggests, cinema stalks the world, shadowing it, refracting it, but also changing it in the process; it makes of the world a stalked world. This ‘stalking’ is not necessarily to be taken negatively; in fact, as Tarkovsky’s idiosyncratic use of the term indicates, it is also a ‘raising’ of the world into ‘art,’ or, in Heideggerian terms, of the ‘earth’ into ‘world,’ through the world-making capacity of cinema.

  13. A paradox clings to Tarkovsky. In Sculpting in Time he says that one should refrain from deciphering his films by locating symbolisms or by seeing them as an organization of signs. Instead one should, he says, “watch them as one watches the stars, or the sea, as one admires a landscape. There is no mathematical logic here, for it cannot explain what man is or what is the meaning of life.”

  14. T.S. Eliot

    The Waste Land

    Dayadhvam: I have heard the key
    Turn in the door once only
    We think of the key, each in his prison
    Thinking of the key, each confirms a prison
    Only at nightfall, aethereal rumours
    Revive for a moment a broken Coriolanus


    Ingmar Bergman, a serious admirer of Andrei Tarkovsky, describes his discovery of the Russian filmmaker in terms that evoke the mysterious journey of Tarkovsky’s Stalker (1979):

    My discovery of Tarkovsky’s first film was like a miracle.

    Suddenly, I found myself standing at the door of a room the keys of which had, until then, never been given to me. It was a room I had always wanted to enter and where he was moving freely and fully at ease.

    Travelling to a room—in both the real and metaphorical senses—is the plot of Stalker. Though 163 minutes long, the film’s action is easily summarised: a balding man known simply as Stalker guides two characters, Writer and Professor, through a portentous Chernobyl-esque wasteland called the Zone. The innermost region of the Zone contains the Room, where anyone can have their deepest wishes fulfilled.

  15. Having re-watched 2001: A Space Odyssey last night I am moved from deep within to announce that it is a big, fat wank, a deeply unimaginative, even in some sense a stupid movie, and most of all, a CON-JOB.

    As for Tarkovsky, I doubt I will ever give his films the time, energy, and attention required to say with any assurance whether they are indulgent and humorless works of self-importance (a la 2001) or masterpieces that require a special eye and ear to appreciate. Perhaps they are both?

    Certainly my preference is for art that does not bludgeon me to death with its artfuless in order to make itself felt (a la 2001, from the first frame on).

    • I can’t assume how you felt when you watched the film, but I think when you try to analyze a film it takes away from the full experience?

  16. Not in my experience, the opposite can be the case. Compare recent viewing of The Shining, all my fiercest efforts to resist it only backfired. Also, there is a difference between analyzing and paying close attention and noticing when one is being manipulated – or conned.

    To be honest tho, and in retrospect, after the first minute of 2001, the gig was up.

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