In the following, I argue against cognitivist film scholars, such as David Bordwell and Noël Carroll, for the relevance of Slavoj Žižek in the field of film criticism and theory. I argue that Žižek's work presents a wholly new mode of criticism which focuses on the ideological displacement of class struggle in cinema. Class struggle, according to Žižek, represents the social Real, in the Lacanian sense. By focusing on the Lacanian Real, as opposed to the Imaginary or the Symbolic, Žižek accomplishes what early film theorists were only too eager (but unable) to develop: a psychoanalytic theory of film. However, rather than focus on film spectatorship, I claim that Žižek's work is useful in critiquing the content of films. The focus, here, begins with an examination of early film theory and the critique thereof by cognitivist film scholars. Žižek's exegetic use of films is then examined before considering the concept of the Real in psychoanalysis. After considering the function of the Real in political analysis, I conclude by looking at the displacement of class struggle as the social Real in films.
Class Struggle and Displacement: Slavoj Žižek and Film Theory
MATTHEW FLISFEDER IS A PH.D. CANDIDATE IN THE JOINT GRADUATE PROGRAMME IN COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE AT RYERSON UNIVERSITY AND YORK UNIVERSITY, TORONTO, CANADA. HE IS CURRENTLY WORKING ON HIS DISSERTATION, WHICH EXAMINES THE RELEVANCE OF SLAVOJ ŽIŽEK IN THE FIELD OF FILM CRITICISM AND THEORY.