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Jani Sever, Slovenia, 2020, 86 min ANTIGONE - HOW DARE WE! Zizek reverses the reading of history, destroys a myth to build a new world
Eleonora Degrassi, cinematographe.it 31 January 2021 Slavoj Zizek’s modern adaptation of Antigone brings the ancient tragedy up to date, with politicians and decision-makers in all roles. --CPH:DOX
Antigone is used to explain democracy, the women's movement and moral philosophy - by both opponents and supporters of totalitarian regimes.
Based on motifs from The Triple Life of Antigone by Slavoj Zizek, this film reflects on today’s planet and political “chaos” by placing the politicians, the decision-makers and the influencers of today in roles they play in Zizek’s version of the ancient Greek drama.
Sophocles' tragedy from 441 BC is now more than 2000 years later widely used to explain our society. The play about Antigone, who insists on burying her brother, is read in high schools and colleges across the country.
A woman, Antingone. A dead body, Polyneices, which must be buried. A man, Creon, representative of the state that forbids this burial. Antigone fights for her brother, but also for the whole community. Antigone is the heroin, she is the positive and the good "punctum" of a story in an inhuman world with outrageous laws. Creon is the enemy who puts written laws into practice in a world, in which the contrast between ethical principles and the rules of political power is perpetuated.
Antigone dies because of these rules but the drama does not end there ; she continues, she is overflowing with joy because of Creon losing his son Haemon - who kills himself for Antigone - and Creon's wife, Eurydice, who kills herself in desperation. This is broadly the story of Antigone, Sophocles' tragedy over which thinkers, philosophers, writers have debated and reflected; Antigone - How Dare We! (Antigona - Kako Si Upamo!) - that also participated in Trieste Film Festival in the Art & Sound section - Jani Sever's film brings this figure back to the center of the discussion thanks to Slavoj Zizek's essay that analyzes one of the most interesting and complex characters in Greek literature.
Antigone - How Dare We!: A different Antigone
Antigone the rebel, Antigone the saint, Antigone the innocent victim, Antigone the feminist icon, Antigone the hero of the weakest, Antigone the myth that has survived through the centuries and every time is ready to relive in the shoes of a new hero acclaimed by our society.
Antigone is everything, and most of the time everything positive. For Zizek, however, she is guilty of causing chaos in Thebes in the name of elitist justice - the philosopher points out that Antigone, as the daughter of King Oedipus, is still a member of the ruling 'elite'. She is more dangerous than her enemy, she is the populist, the anti-immigration, everything that represents the Europe's evil aspects.
Antigone - How Dare We! takes us into the work of the Slovenian philosopher who turns everything upside down. Antigone's struggle for having a just and worthy burial to his brother Polyneices is not the battle to the last breath of a woman who puts love in the first place. She is an insolent person who violates the Order, who shows her contempt for it - not her love - who boasts of what she has done. Polyneices himself is not a body to be given back to the earth, to the family, to the gods, but a "villain, a traitor".
However, this is only a pretext, this film is about us, about the "disintegrated" Europe and, in fact, about the very Europe of today that enters the scene with arrogance, with a repertoire of images that break the flow of concepts, reasoning and reflections in the mind of the philosopher.
Antigone - How Dare We!: Zizek reverses the reading of history
Europe should be united, work together, but instead chaos, the dead, the wars of yesterday and today dominate the scene, it is adrift between Brexit, the euro crisis, refugees, and false news.
Zizek draws lines like in school books, creates connections, tightens bonds and we see thoughts and concepts forming in front of our eyes. The philosopher immediately says that stories must be considered as something alive, vital, and urgent that can be shaped, declined according to the epochs and one's own experience.
With Antigone he does this. Antigone is evidently the symbol of those who claim the rights of the weakest, she is a fascinating character, her courage, her strength, her self-denial are undisputed; it is impossible not to be struck by her seductive speeches about the polis, order and laws. She is as Luce Irigaray says, a historical figure, of identity, of identification, she becomes a pre-political opposition to politics.
While listening to Zizek, the viewer wonders if Antigone's vision is really the only one possible. Europe bursts out with its greats on the screen, the dark moments of history, the dramas of today, the desperate migrants trying to reach more welcoming lands, Greta Thunberg who with her moving and poignant words asks adults to reflect, to be responsible. While the words of the philosopher, the images in the repertoire ring together, adding strength to the reflection, is the reconstruction of some important scenes of the rewritten tragedy.
It seems to be almost blasphemous and yet Zizek does it: killing a heroine, accusing her of being elitist and evil, decreeing her end after so many pages, so many films in which she was a glorious woman. Perhaps both Creon and Antigone are right, because one defends the interests of the city, the other those of the family, they are mistaken in the way they are presented. The philosopher says that Antigone is as guilty of arrogance as Creon; and that there is only one possibility: power must be in the hands of the people.
Antigone - How Dare We!: A film that makes you think
Jani Sever's work is a complex film that moves the conscience, makes you ask questions about today rather than about the emotional power of one of the most interesting, profound, motivational characters that students, lovers of tragedy, feminists have loved and still love.
It seems paradoxical and yet despite Antigone being the center of the text, what emerges is Europe with all its discordant notes, her shadows, her deep, still bleeding wounds. As a beacon in this examination Zizek stands as a courageous character, a generous free thinker who is not afraid to destroy a myth to build a new world.