Monday, October 12, 2009

Film "FACING WINDOWS:" An Additional Perspective

"Facing Windows" certainly speaks to the importance of retaining memory of the Holocaust, as exemplified by the character Davide who, with dementia, sometimes is unaware or does not remember the present, but vividly remembers experiences of 1943. In "La Finestra di Fronte" (literally 'Front Window'), seen on October 11, 2009 as part of "Fears of Difference: A Film Series on the Diversity of Holocaust Experiences" there are two additional points I wish to highlight.

One is that this beautifully rendered film (director, Ozpetek) illuminates the emphasis by psychoanalyst Jessica Benjamin on the importance of recognition, recognition of the other as a separate agent of desire with a separate center of subjectivity, recogniton as a requirement for intersubjectivity. Intersubjectivity requires a respect for this difference in subjectivity, a respect, as Shel Wykell, the clinical speaker at yesterday's film, so aptly put when he said that the Holocaust epitomized the failure of human beings to know, love, and connect with one another, while "Facing Windows" is about the capacity to know, love, and connect. To see another person (as Giovanna was eventually able to see her husband Fillipo, and perhaps saw him, as if for the first time, when she got the new perspective of viewing him in their apartment with their children from her lover's window across the way), to know another and not turn away, is an act of love. [This is one component that makes the psychoanalytic dyad of analyst and patient sufficiently loving, as James Fosshage would say, sufficient enough to reorganize old traumatic organizing patterns].

Davide helped Giovanna reconsider the capacity for intersubjectivity and for love when he envied it, "It must be so beautiful to watch love grow, to help it change, to protect it from the passage of time." Davide, having been deprived of this by the death, in a concentration camp, of his own lover, a death for which he felt guilty, was made the more tragic when we, as Davide did, recognize that the choice to save others in the Jewish ghetto over his lover Simone was motivated, in large part, by Davide's desire for recognition and acceptance from his community as a gay man. The failure of recognition and respect for difference, and Davide's attempts to gain it from others, haunted him for the rest of his life.

Not to belabor the obvious metaphorical use of 'window,' but it is through windows that we sometimes see the world and others. It is through seeing others that we better see ourselves. But looking out at the other, without recognition of the 'true self' (Winnicott), is what the lover Lorenzo offered, and it was insufficient. Looking at the other as 'other' yet refusing to recognize/respect the right for a different subjectivity than ones's own and looking at the other as 'other' and failing to recognize what is common between us, is what homophobes and antisemites do, and is what the Nazis exemplified. Failure to recognize the other as me, or me in the other, or even me as me, is, in part what "Facing Windows" portrayed, but, moreover, it was about the redemptive capacity to see (recognize).

The second point is about personal agency, and the opportunity to feel effective, to have an effect on the world. When Davide exhorted Giovanna to "demand a better world," it is this agency, this daring or courage, which helped Giovanna make choices to pursue a career of her own interest and to protect the love for, and the love from, her family through the passage of time.

What comes to mind is Ghandi's exhortation; "Be the change you want to see in the world (agency)." I also think of Ghandi's "I want the freedom for the full expression of my personality (recognition)."

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