2. Fetishism and Game-playing

If our concern is primarily with the depths of a film, then it may be that its surfaces become less important, even forgotten about: cargo takes precedent over vessel. We may admire its engineering or design on the way in or out, but once we have taken our cargo home - once it has entered the flow of our lives - then we will have forgotten all about the vessel that transported it to us. In this sense, the meanings of a film are there for us to take, to absorb into our existence - to affect our lives - not to remain within the film as an aspect of its structure, or its excellence. The purpose of the vessel is to transport great delicacies, delicacies that are ultimately destined for our consumption; not to enhance the reputation of the vessel as an esteemed carrier-of-great-things. Because, left inside, even the finest of things will eventually wither and rot. In this sense, the vessel is akin to an egg; its shell cracked open and laid aside, its contents devoured.

The meaningful film demands that we crack its shell; that we free its meanings from their temporary home and allow them back amongst us, into the world, where they are able to do their work. And yet, there is a danger involved in this act. Once freed, these ideas and meanings no longer appear as benign as they did when confined, and they threaten to work upon us; to change our thoughts, our lives. This is the danger of the meaningful film, and the meaningful cultural object. When we allow it to act upon us, we see that its vessel - the object that was necessary to carry it from there to here, them to us - was only ever a momentary distraction. Our vision goes from the object, back to ourselves.

The meaningful film therefore demands reflection, and, sometimes, change. If we allow it to act upon us - if we dare explore its depths and free its meanings - then we risk allowing it to move us, and to change us. In this sense, fetishism - staying at the surface - becomes a defence against change, a way of staying the same. Talking about surfaces becomes a way of not talking about depths; foreplay without intercourse. When we keep the film as an object, and discuss the qualities of this object, we are able to keep its danger at arms length. We can see it, acknowledge it - perhaps even reach out and touch it - but do so in the knowledge that it is shackled, and thus unable to truly harm us. We sample danger - the thrill of the other, of foreign possibilities - whilst maintaining the status quo of our own existence.

So whilst we may venture into the depths and talk about the meanings of a film, in couching our conversation within an objective framework - within the conventions of the film world - we ultimately work to neutralize the potency of these meanings. Thus, a film may be "dangerous," "challenging" or "counter-cultural," but it is always, in the last, a film: a knowable, safe, commodity. As long as we keep reminding ourselves of this - reifying its objective nature - then we work to confine its potency to a safe-ground. We can play with these dangerous meanings, as long as we wear the right protective gear, and stay within the demarcated safe-area. We mustn't take them with us, out into the world; because here they may just be able to do some real "damage."

Thus to talk about the "power" of a certain film, whilst adopting a surface approach to it - reifying its status as object and limiting the reach of its meanings - is to deny that power access to ourselves, and the wider world. It is to encourage danger whilst keeping it at arms length. To allow the danger of a film its true potential we must be prepared to forget surface qualities and abandon the object; to throw the eggshell away. We must, in other words, be prepared to discard the film in order to fully assimilate its message.

Rather than face this danger, and allow the possibility of change into our world, we may instead choose to play games. Games are a way to pass to time; to move without going anywhere. We may play games in order to prevent change from occurring; and their attraction may lie in the fact that they allow the impression of movement - the notion that change is occurring - whilst assuring us that no real movement or change will take place. In other words, they allow a facsimile of change within a framework that ensures the status quo. If games are played honestly and openly - if we both realise and admit to ourselves that what we are doing is playing - then they can be a perfectly innocuous way to pass time. However, if we are unconscious of the fact that we are playing a game, or are unwilling to admit as much, then they can become dysfunctional, both for the individual and for the collectivity. Primarily this dysfunction springs from the fact that, through playing a game whilst insisting that we are not, we are working to obscure Truth. If Truth becomes obscured enough, then we risk reaching a point when we, both as individuals and as a collectivity, can no longer distinguish between game-playing and non-game-playing; between facsimile and original; Truth and untruth. Therefore, if in playing games we obscure Truth from ourselves and others, then our games can rightly be described as dysfunctional.

Often it may be our weakness - our unwillingness to allow change into our lives - that makes us play games. In this case, we must be prepared to admit that we are playing because we are weak, and to feel no shame in this. Only through such transparency can Truth remain clear and unmuddied; and, if our ethics are to remain alive and intact, we must always be prepared to make this individual sacrifice in the name of Truth.