That Obscure Object of Desire

No one accused Buñuel of subtlety.

Viewed in three sittings, a screening as fractured as the identity of the titular object. She only serves as a distraction for the viewer in her dual performance. She is the trap successfully sprung by herself onto the obsessive, unsuspecting “subject,” a gracious title that can only be bestowed upon the male character out of logical necessity. She is the “object” in an obvious sense, but her agency gets the best of the subject, the man who, by objectifying another, ultimately objectifies himself by giving into lust so categorically and unreservedly. Buñuel apparently stated at one point that the only profitable film analysis is psychoanalysis, an unsurprising assertion from the co-director of Un Chien Andalou and L’Âge d’Or. That Obscure Object of Desire is similarly surrealist, although couched in a narrative that cooperates fully with both psychoanalytic theory and gender theory (viz. Mulvey). Boring as it is to delve back into that whole circular discussion, we shall not. As for the film, one must appreciate its political background slowly overtaking the foreground: nationalistic and religious extremism to the point of terrorism making an eventual power play on the unsuspecting Subject/Object, too obsessed with “her” to notice his own imminent demise, and the same indeed with her.

Power play


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