Stunt philosopher Slavoj Zizek returns with another round of high-wire intellectual discourse.
“Cinema is the ultimate pervert art”. Just one of the typically bombastic past statements made by contemporary philosopher Slavoj Zizek, who returns in a new feature length documentary, Pervert’s Guide To Ideology, from director Sophie Fiennes. Throughout, the once described “Borat” of philosophy, causally quips near scandalous remarks, all in the pursuit of what ideology is and how it affects us all on a daily basis.
Populist figurehead of lefty students, Zizek’s lisped musings on everything from Starbucks to Heidegger will be gladly lapped up by his fan base. Looking like a bungled cross between Hagrid and Droopy, Zizek’s enigmatic screen presence does make for enjoyable, if not always agreeable, viewing. His gift is to make subjects (which would normally make an Oxford don’s brain ache) accessible by drawing on examples of the everyday.
Using cinema as a point of access we see the Slovakian born thinker argue for a communist interpretation of Jaws, explain why Kinder Eggs are the height of excessiveness and how the London Riots were actually a grand act of consumerism. It’s all laid on in a gently comical way as Zizek inserts himself into classic scenes from films such as The Sound of Music (dressed as a priest), or merrily rows along in a cheaply mocked up replica set from James Cameron’s Titanic. These humorous interludes add a surreal tone of self parody, making the lofty musings all the more digestible.
The appeal of this docu-lecture lies in how Zizek presents his arguments. We are not dragged through a series of dusty, drab libraries as he pontificates on what makes Marx great or, more controversially, why Nazism had its good points. Instead we are presented with a fresh, at times warped, but always original approach to some complex philosophy and theory.
That said, at times the humour detracts from what his point exactly is, making it easy to become lost in the overall argument. The examples used also vary in effectiveness, providing some unneeded baggage to the doc which already takes its time in actually making constructive points about how we might change our ideological beliefs. Nonetheless this remains a pleasing, if intellectually demanding, meander through the thoughts of one of today’s most important thinkers.