Thursday, May 15, 2014

Tih Minh, Louis Feuillade, 1918, Episodes 1-3

Whatever else it may be about, Louis Feuillade's Tih Minh is about annihilation. About the deleting of something that once was, clearly, there. So far (after three of twelve episodes), annihilation comes in two variants: black and white. When the marquise deletes Tih Minh's memory image, only a black frame remains. The same happens shortly afterwards with a photograph of her sent to the hero, Jacques d'Athys: He wants to show it to one of his servants, but has to realize, that the whole image has faded into blackness. On the other hand, when another servant, played by the glorious Georges Biscot, carefully erases the dedication on the first page of a mysterious book, only white paper remains. A handwritten letter also fades into whiteness. So far the pattern is clear: images darken, until there is no image, text brightens until there is no text.

But the conspiracy at the very core of Tih Minh isn't only about the annhilation of images and texts. It wants to annihilate everything. How to fight such forces? Not, obviously, by falling back on positivism, by providing some tangible, material alternative to annihilation. The survival of society may be a concomitant circumstance of winning the battle, but this doesn't mean that d'Athys and his allies have any faith in the reality principle. Instead, they practice counter conspiracy. The poisonous, clear lotion is thrown out and replaced by another clear lotion: water. Negating the negative.

The women in white clothing, first seen roaming the "haunted garden", then, inside, scattered across the main hall of one of those huge, manorial buildings Tih Minh is set in, are the ultimate victims of annihilation. These women may have been spoiled daughters of wealthy families once; now, after having been abducted and robbed of both of their material possessions and their memory, they are, as one title card puts it, the "living dead", both terrified by the world around them, and themselves a source of terror for everyone who might get into contact with them. Even the forces of evil, the annihilators, have left them. These women have lost everything, even colour, even shades, maybe even individuality, they gather in small groups, as if to collect strength to follow up on the only thing that comes natural to them: curiosity. If there is any possibility left for the renewal of desire, this new desire won't be a desire for anything specific. Not a desire for, not a desire to, just desire.

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