February 24, 2012

Dédalo - DanzkArt

Klass (2007)

Directed by Ilmar Raag

The law of the jungle is fair and kind compared to the law (or lack thereof) of high school. 16 year-olds can act with the utmost cruelty and viciously attack their peers. Contemporary psychologists call this phenomena bullying. And that’s exactly what Joosep is struggling against. He’s constantly bullied by a group of abusive boys that act under the guidance of Anders, the alpha male, the ultimate bully.

When the boys assault Joosep in the locker room and remove his clothes, leaving him completely naked, Kaspar, a boy that was part of Anders’s circle rebels against the abuse and saves Joosep from further mortification. Kaspar then embarks upon an almost impossible task, after all, he is an idealistic adolescent fighting against an abstract threat. He can fend off Anders for a while, but he cannot neutralize bullying as a continued and ever increasing practice in high school.

Anders ridicules Joosep persistently, accusing the defenseless boy of being gay. It doesn’t matter if Joosep is gay or not, the important thing is that Anders behaves like every other uncouth teen in the world: he relies on the homosexual phantasm in order to articulate himself in the symbolic order and, more accurately, in a place of power within the lawless dynamic of high school.  

Homosexuality is seen as a synonym of the abject, id est, the vilest, the very lowest condition of man. That’s why it’s also the most common insult among teens in Western (and perhaps Eastern) society. According to contemporary philosopher Slavoj Žižek, we should ask here a naive, but nonetheless crucial question: why does the Army so strongly rejects gays? For Žižek, there is only one possible consistent answer: not because homosexuality poses a threat to the ‘phallic and patriarchal’ libidinal economy of the military community, but, on the contrary, because the Army itself depends on a disavowed homosexuality as the key component of the soldiers’ male-bonding.

In fact, in any phallocentric society there will be a constant and insatiable need to humiliate the one who is different, the one who doesn’t act as virile or as manly as he should. And if there is no such person then every group of men will create this figure, even if it’s as a purely phantasmatic projection of their own fears and insecurities. This of course pertains to high-school, after all, adolescence is a difficult age in which the subject must reaffirm both sexual identity and gender role, something that is made all too clear in “Klass”.
my pencils / mis lápices

This flimsy concomitance of extreme and violent homophobia with thwarted (id est, publicly unacknowledged, ‘underground’) homosexual libidinal economy, bears witness to the fact that the discourse in high school can function only by censoring its own libidinal foundation. That’s why it’s impossible for the boys to divulge what is really going on in their lives: they cannot talk to their parental figures or teachers simply because the underlying social structure cannot be interpreted through language. What goes on in their lives is far more complex than simple aggression. It’s not a matter of fists, but minds.

When Kaspar decides to help Joosep, his other relationships start to disintegrate. Once a popular boy, Kaspar is now labeled as a pariah, joining Joosep in the murky confines of the land of the “losers” (it’s fascinating to observe that this dichotomy between popular kids and losers exists not only in the US but also in Estonia). Thea, Kaspar’s girlfriend, soon loses her patience. Why is he defending this pathetic, antisocial boy? For Kaspar is a matter of honor, is a matter of standing up and fighting against an unfair situation. If Anders represents power, Kaspar is the heroic resistance. Resistance is immanent to Power; although in the case of sexuality the disciplinary ‘repression’ of a libidinal investment eroticizes this domination attempt. This is why Anders is completely obsessed with the alleged homosexual condition of Joosep. Although very subtly, Ilmar Raag’s film presents a homophobic that could perfectly be a (very furious and frustrated) closeted homosexual. Anders also hates Kaspar because he’s dating a girl, and he’s man enough to defend his beliefs.
parrillada veraniega

Anders displays an obsessive behavior that obtains libidinal satisfaction out of the very compulsive rituals destined to chastise gays. That’s why when he fails to create the phantasy of homosexuality through an elaborate scheme of false e-mails sent to Kaspar and Joosper he chooses a more radical approach. A very typical masculine ritual is the practice of hazing –a ceremonial beating up or a humiliation of sorts. Should this practice be publicly disclosed the very dynamics of the heterosexual normativity would be undermined. Because to consider themselves as straight guys, these boys must depend on the mechanism of self-censorship: a mechanism which is effective only insofar as it remains in secrecy. Hazing seems to be accepted by teachers or parents as long as no one outside school finds out about them. That’s why in sports class no adult seems to worry about Joosep getting punched. In the same way, Joosep’s father gets mad at his son, not because of the hazing but because the hazing has escaped the boundaries of school and has reached their house. The rule is simple: violence can take place as long as it’s not discovered.

Anders’s new trap seems to work at first, when he captures Joosper and Kaspar in the beach. There, he menaces both with a knife; he then proceeds to put Kaspar on his knees and forces him to receive Joosep’s penis into his mouth... while filming everything with a digital camera. The hazing, of course, nowadays can be perpetuated through YouTube, Facebook or any other social network. Anders has planned to destroy the two boys, to make them feel so ashamed that they must either leave the school or commit suicide. But his plan has one error: as it has been stated, once these images are broadcasted online, the required self-censorship gets deactivated; thus vacating the place of power and creating a counter-power.

In other words, Anders can no longer be the leader, something made clear by the comments of the boys in his group, who feel disgusted at his actions. The homosexual slandering had been fundamental for them insofar as it had only worked in the dimension of the phantasm. Once homosexuality is embodied by the two victims, everything falls to pieces.

The Power edifice is never indestructible: to reproduce itself and contain its Other, it has to rely on an inherent excess which grounds it. To put it in the Hegelian terms of speculative identity, Power is always-already its own transgression, if it is to function, it has to rely on a kind of obscene supplement. Once Anders has degraded his two victims, he loses all power, and thus empowers Kaspar and Joosper who now feel compelled to exact revenge on the bully.

“Klass” is one of the most honest, heartbreaking, cruel and powerful films I’ve ever seen regarding teenagers, games of power and violence. Once violence escalates we know that tragedy ensues. Reminiscent of productions such as Gus Van Sant’s “Elephant” or Murali K. Thalluri's “2:37”, Ilmar Raag gets to the core of adolescence and creates an extraordinary story that dissects the nature of power and violence.  


El día de ayer fui al DanzkArt en Dédalo, este evento presenta novedosas y lúdicas propuestas artísticas enfocadas en las simpáticas botellas de vokda Danzka. Los artistas invitados en esta ocasión fueron Neil Gayoso (LAMA), Entes & Pésimo, Silvana Llosa, Camila Rodrigo y José Antonio Mesones (Góster). Por supuesto, tratándose de un evento de Danzka, la barra repartió incansable tragos con vodka hechos al momento hasta las once de la noche.
ensaladas deliciosas

Mientras me tomaba mi segundo vaso de vodka con jugo de naranja, me encontré con mi gran amigo Augusto Rey, y nos quedamos conversando un rato mientras disfrutábamos de un trago bien heladito. También tuve el gusto de conversar con Julio Mateus, a quien conocí exactamente hace un año, cuando Augusto Rey postuló como candidato al congreso. Por esas casualidades curiosas, resulta que Julio no solamente es un buen cinéfilo sino que también conocía a mi amigo Alberto Schroth, poeta y fotógrafo.

Durante la noche también saludé a María Elena Fernández y a Eduardo Lores. Casi al final del evento, Sebastián Lores me comentó que esa misma noche también había algún tipo de actividad en Domingo, el espacio artístico que reemplazó lo que alguna vez fue el Cinematógrafo de Barranco. Salí de Dédalo y caminé un par de cuadras hasta llegar a la calle Pérez Roca, esperando encontrarme con Gabriel Lamas, uno de los gestores de este nuevo espacio.

Entré a Domingo con mi vaso llenísimo de vodka Danzka y decorado con un par de gajos de naranja, y me encuentro con Luis Cueto, que estudió conmigo en la PUCP, y que ahora escribe artículos para la revista Galería. Junto con él, un simpático y animado grupo de chicos se preparaba para continuar la juerga en otro lado. Dimos un par de pasos hasta la avenida San Martín para tomar un taxi, y en el trajín de un paso acelerado tras otro, mi vaso terminó por estrellarse contra el piso, adiós vodka. Lo cierto es que me sirvió para darme cuenta de que, por más que hubiese sido divertido subirme al taxi con Luis, y varios otros chicos que no conocía, quizá ya estaba abusando de mi capacidad física para metabolizar todo el alcohol que había ingerido... para la próxima será.

Lo que no dejaré para la próxima es la oportunidad de contarles mi pequeña hazaña del fin de semana en Asia. Como era cumpleaños de Ximena Castro de Quantrill, mi amigo Rodrigo hizo parrilla para treinta personas, un esfuerzo sobrehumano de horas que dio como resultado la carne más exquisita que uno podría desear. Yo, por supuesto, también colaboré preparando maracuyá sour para las treinta personas (y, por supuesto, también pisco sour). No hay nada más reconfortante que recibir felicitaciones, y escuchar tantos elogios a la vez, en inglés y en español, me hizo sentir como un barman profesional. Todo un éxito. Tanto así que cuando quise registrar el hecho, las copas de maracuyá sour ya habían volado, fíjense que apenas quedó una sola en el borde de la mesa. Una vez más, dejé encantados a los amigos peruanos e ingleses que estuvieron allí.


  1. Y el comentario de Klass en español?
    Bueno, menos mal que está el traductor de Google siempre a mano.
    A mí también me pareció una película extraordinaria. El ambiente asfixiante que crea el director es una genialidad, sin duda.
    Enhorabuena por tu nueva versión del boceto.
    Me encantan los dibujos así, expresivos.
    Un brindis con maracuyá sour, sí, con la copa que quedó en el borde de la mesa.

    1. ¡Hola Dany! Te debo una traducción. Estamos de acuerdo, Klass es una película tremenda, realmente fascinante.

      Muchas gracias por tus palabras, dentro de poco vas a ver otro boceto que estoy seguro que te va a gustar.

      Y salud.

  2. ¡Vaya! Tú sí que conoces a varias personas eh, qué bueno que tengas una vida social tan activa y divertida :)

    1. Y aún así lo cambiaría todo por una buena relación de pareja.

      Así somos, eternamente insatisfechos con lo que tenemos, ¿no?