"The Conformist is a difficult film, not because its themes are heavy or its form too radical, but because the statement it proposes is a tad indigestible. Once you get over its slight simplification of ideas and reasons, it is a sweeping masterwork that you are looking at. I probably haven't seen any film that as clearly reveal how we have all confused sexuality with morality, morality with religion, religion with politics and politics with security. The tension is palpable in almost every shot of the film. Consider the central scene of sheer cinematic awesomeness where Quadri and Clerici recollect what actually went wrong. Using staggering interplay of light and shadow, gestures and movements and room space and sound, Bertolucci develops the central motif of the film in pure film language, without ever betraying the diegesis of the film. Bertolucci's script takes up Plato's Allegory of the Cave, which suggests that humans are all prisoners inside a dark cave unable to differentiate between real objects and the shadows that they cast on the walls, and adapts it so as to examine the dark history of the country. It is after this point that every element of the film cries out for attention and the ambivalence of the central character brought to light. Especially remarkable is the final shot of the film where, after Italo is swept away by a Rossellinian crowd, Clerici sits on a low platform near the fire, looking towards a homosexual street dweller through prison-like iron bars, still unsure of his political, sexual and moral footing."
(Just Another Film Buff @ The Seventh Art)
"Behold! human beings living in a underground cave, which has a mouth open towards the light and reaching all along the cave; here they have been from their childhood, and have their legs and necks chained so that they cannot move, and can only see before them, being prevented by the chains from turning round their heads. Above and behind them a fire is blazing at a distance, and between the fire and the prisoners there is a raised way; and you will see, if you look, a low wall built along the way, like the screen which marionette players have in front of them, over which they show the puppets.
And now look again, and see what will naturally follow if the prisoners are released and disabused of their error. At first, when any of them is liberated and compelled suddenly to stand up and turn his neck round and walk and look towards the light, he will suffer sharp pains; the glare will distress him, and he will be unable to see the realities of which in his former state he had seen the shadows; and then conceive some one saying to him, that what he saw before was an illusion, but that now, when he is approaching nearer to being and his eye is turned towards more real existence, he has a clearer vision, -what will be his reply? And you may further imagine that his instructor is pointing to the objects as they pass and requiring him to name them, -will he not be perplexed? Will he not fancy that the shadows which he formerly saw are truer than the objects which are now shown to him?"
Plato's Republic, book vii, 514a-c to 521a-e
[Plato's allegory about consciousness underpins Western philosophy. It also introduces a fundamental concept used by Christian theology to describe spiritual enlightenment.]
"The prison operates through the production of norms to divide the population into prisoners and non-prisoners. Since the goal of the prison is to return prisoners to the status of non-prisoners, there must be a criterion, one carefully and comprehensively elaborated, to recognise the non-prisoner, the prisoner, and the developmental stages in the change from the one to the other. There must also be a detailed regimen to effectuate the change. There must finally be a method or system of keeping track of the change in each prisoner. Foucault borrows from Bentham the term Panopticon (one who sees all) to denote the entire apparatus of defining the norm, disciplining the negative term, observing the change from the negative to the positive and studying the whole process so that it can be perfected. But there is a difference. For Bentham the Panopticon was an artifice that deflected the criminal's mind from the irrationality of transgression to the rationality of the norm. It imposed social authority on the prisoner in a constant, total manner. The prisoner's actions could be monitored by guards at any time but without his ever knowing it. The prisoner would, in Rousseau's phrase, be forced to be free. With no escape or reprieve from the Panoptical eye, the prisoner would accept the authority of the norm with its rational system of pleasures and pains. For Foucault the task is to see the system as an imposition of a structure of domination, not as a rational, humanist intention.As we know, the Panopticon, evaluated on the standards of liberal and Benthamite theory, is a failure. Foucault's aim is to grasp the workings of the Panopticon outside the liberal framework: if it does not reform prisoners, what does it do? What are the effects of the social text of the prison, of Panoptical discourse? His argument is that the prison, in the context of a liberal capitalist society that celebrates the anarchy of the marketplace, the chaos of free monads pursuing infinite wants, the rationality of the unhindered subject - the prison in this world imposes the technology of power, the "micropolitics" of the norm. In capitalist society, regulation takes the form of discourses/practices that produce and reproduce the norm. The school, the asylum, the factory, the barracks to greater or lesser degrees and with considerable variation all imitate the Panopticon (see figures overleaf). In modern society power is imposed not by the personal presence and brute force of a caste of nobles as it was in earlier times but by the systematic scribblings in discourses, by the continual monitoring of daily life, adjusting and readjusting ad in finitum the norm of individuality. Modern society may be read as a discourse in which nominal freedom of action is canceled by the ubiquitous look of the other. It may be interpreted semiologically as a field of signs in which the metadiscourse of the Panopticon is reimposed everywhere, even in places in which it is not installed. We may suggest that the free individual requires a repressed other, a sort of external super-ego, an absent father if only to guarantee his or her freedom."
(Mark Poster pp.90-91)
Poster, Mark. 1990 The Mode of Information: Poststructuralism and Social Context, Cambridge, UK: Polity Press. ISBN: 0745603262
"Junpei Niki is an amateur entomologist. He aspires to discover a new kind of insect, and takes a weekend trip to the dunes to look for insects. He finds a village there, where villagers live in deep sand pits. He decides to stay at a widow's house in a pit just for a night. He learns that in this village in the dunes, residents must shovel the sand almost continuously to prevent the house from being buried in sand. The next day he realises that none of the villagers are coming back to pick him up. He makes several attempts to escape from the pit, and tries to force his excape through taking the woman hostage. No one in the village, however, cares Junpei's action since he is in danger himself unless he and the woman shovel the sand. Still dreaming of escape, Junpei gradually starts to feel comfortable and accepts his fate. While Junpei shovels with the woman, villagers deliver newspapers, a little alcohol and tabacco. The woman sleeps naked under the sand that continuously falls on her white skin, which is a scene Junpei likes to watch. The woman is almost idiotic and plain, but innocently aspires to buy a radio when her nightly work brings enough money. ... At the school where Junpei used to work, people decide to report his missing to the police, but they soon give up and forget him."
Originally posted on the Whitney Museum Portal at:
http://www.personal.psu.edu/kxs334/academic/fiction/abe_suna.html (this link is now dead)
"In futuristic Washington, D.C., a system is established that can accurately predict when criminals are going to commit murder or violent crimes. This system, known as 'Pre-Crime', was set up by the respectable Lamar Burgess (Max von Sydow) and uses the abilities of a set of 3 special individuals known as 'Pre-Cogs'. These individuals, through visions or dreams, can see into the future and give a prediction of when a violent crime will occur, usually accurate to the second.
However, John Anderton (Tom Cruise), the head of 'Pre-Crime', is envisioned to have committed the future murder of a man he has never met before, and before he can be apprehended, he sets out headstrong to solve the mystery of this murder before it inevitably happens. As precious time ticks away, and consistencies with the 'pre-cog' visions become more and more prevalent, Anderton realises that the only way he will be able to solve the mystery, is to get the 'minority report' from the female pre-cog Agatha (Samantha Morton).
The 'minority report' is a vision that only one of the pre-cogs can see. In the system, all 3 pre-cogs see the same vision the vast majority of the time, however, on occasion, the female Agatha, who has been found to be the most talented of the 3, sees something different than the other 2, but this is usually disregarded in order to preserve the credibility of the system."