The theories of Slovenian philosopher and psychoanalyst Slavoj Zizek might not be the first subject you'd think could be easily translated into a documentary, but in her 2006 film "The Pervert's Guide to Cinema," Sophie Fiennes accomplished just that. The film inserts Zizek into footage of classic movies like "The Birds," "Blue Velvet" and "City Lights," creating the illusion that he is speaking from within each film. With this technique, Fiennes strived to create a deeper connection between Zizek's words and cinema.
"Slavoj is kind of like a mind-altering substance,"said Fiennes. "That’s what’s exciting about it. He’s a catalyst. It’s a kind of intervention into how you see and think."
Now, Fiennes, director of "Over Your Cities Grass Will Grow" and sister of actors Ralph and Joseph, is working on a follow-up titled "The Pervert's Guide to Ideology." The documentary will feature even more recreations of films including scenes from "Jaws," "The Sound of Music" and "A Clockwork Orange."
The film examines what movies say about ideology and how it influences present day life.
"Ideology is really a kind of agreement, sometimes consciously complicit, but a lot of times unconsciously we’re complicit in living and breathing in ideological narratives," said Fiennes. "It’s not just Islamic fundamentalists, not just these extremists. We’re all participating in it in our daily lives."
Fiennes chose to feature films that are reflective of Zizek's theories and also strike a chord with audiences.
"The familiarity of the films is an immediate gateway into people’s consciousness because they’ve lived and breathed emotionally in the way the film manipulates us," Fiennes said. "It’s quite intimate really when you take these scenes apart because people have quite strong attachments to them already."
In order to recreate the scenes, Fiennes both traveled to original locations and recreated sets in Ardmore Studios in Ireland. She likened the experience to "an archaeology of film."
"What’s funny is seeing six movie sets in one room," said Fiennes. "Here’s a fragment from 'The Dark Knight' opposite a fragment from the Mother Superior’s office in 'The Sound of Music.' And then obviously that is the toilets from 'Full Metal Jacket.' So it’s a very absorbing world, Slavoj’s world."
Zizek himself has been in the news recently, having appeared at Occupy Wall Street in New York on October 9.
"Funny enough I recognized a lot of the material from the finale from the film," said Fiennes abut Zizek's involvement in the movement. "This film is more about the present moment than the last film in a way. It's hard for [Zizek] not to respond to that because as he would say, 'we're living in apocalyptic times.'"
The film was co-financed by the BFI (British Film Institute) Film Fund, Film4, Channel 4, Irish Film Board, and a new London-based financier/producer called Rooks Nest, although Fiennes admits it was originally difficult to get funding.
"We’ve been trying to make this film for five years, and it was really hard to get the finance together because people always stumbled on the word 'ideology' like it was something that no one knew what it meant," said Fiennes. "But I think the events in the world in the last five years are such that the financiers realized there’d been a change in the world where the word 'ideology' was something that people would want to explore."
Fiennes says she is used to working 24/7 on her projects, but has to take more time now that she has a 14-month-old child. She hopes to be finished with the film around September 2012.
"[The film] is an opportunity to really stretch your thinking," said Fiennes. "It’s like a kind of ‘mind gym.’ I hope that people will come away seeing things in a completely altered way. I hope they come out in an altered state."
"The Pervert's Guide to Ideology"
Director/Writer: Sophie Fiennes (“Over Your Cities Grass Will Grow”)
Producers: James Wilson ("Attack the Block"), Martin Rosenbaum ("The Pervert's Guide to Cinema"), Katie Holly ("One Hundred Mornings"), Sophie Fiennes
Executive Producers: Shani Hinton, Katherine Butler (Film4), Tabitha Jackson (Channel 4), Michael Sackler, Julia Godzinskaya (Rooks Nest Entertainment)
Director of Photography: Remko Schnorr (“Over Your Cities Grass Will Grow”)
Editor: Ethel Shepherd
Cast: Slavoj Zizek ("The Pervert's Guide to Cinema")