Love frustrates the simple opposition between economy and noneconomy. Love is precisely – when it is, when it is the act of a singular being, of a body, of a heart, of a thinking – that which brings an end to the dichotomy between the love in which I lose myself without reserve and the love in which I recuperate myself, to the opposition between gift and property.
Why are there so many love ballads in dystopian films?
Richard Yeates has a fascinating post up looking at the use of music by The Ink Spots in dystopian films and series such as Blade Runner, Fallout and Bioshock:
William Gibbons, writing about the use of Django Rheinhardt’s “La Mer” in Bioshock, writes of a similar use for the optimism of music from the past: “the piece … creates a mood, conveying a sense of optimism with its spry violin and jazz-inflected guitar chords[.] … This optimism, however, soon reveals itself to be painfully ironic, as the utopian promises made by the song have long since dissipated.”
A similar dynamic is at play with the use of the Ink Spots. Scott Bukatman’s ‘retrofuturism,’ or a fascination with past imaginings of the future, likely has some importance here, and the pairing of their music with the “Corvega” automobile commercial in the Fallout intro and the antiquated record player in The Walking Dead resonate with this. The hopeful love songs of the past sit uncomfortably within the world of nuclear or zombie apocalypse, showing how far society has fallen and how the most important values of the past have lost all meaning. In Blade Runner, the killing of Zora leaves Deckard feeling emotionally hollowed out, and the love and longing expressed in Vangelis’s song creates a contrast that highlights this. It may just be that the hopeful tones of these kinds of songs, with the Ink Spots as a prime example, figure as ironic contrast to the reality the viewer/reader/player is presented with.
I love the suggestion that this trope is connected with retrofuturism. It could be that there is something more to be explored here in terms of affect and temporality à la Heather Love’s Feeling Backwards. Maybe dystopia as a genre registers a type of affect that can best be compared to the foreclosed dreams contained in the popular songs of an earlier time. It’s interesting to think about how dystopias manifest a certain kind of failure to work through, and how we can understand this formally and generically: as Kitsch, as evasion, as (failed) memorialization…?
PERSONA PEEP SHOW is an exorcism playing Bibi Andersson playing Liv Ullman playing Blondie playing Videodrome playing hegemony playing enticing voices playing refusal playing lack playing dumping ground playing throat singing playing artificial deliverance.
A woman with double faces and chattering jaw stages herself in her own afflicted nature. She plunges deep into her ransacked body. She meets her self, vomits up assertions about freedom, chews and spits in order to be resurrected in a beyond-language-sphere of neon and growl.
Martin Brick was a little child who lay in his bed and dreamed.
It was a summer evening and at dusk, quiet and green, and Martin walked with beside his mother’s hand through a large and peculiar garden, where the shadows were dark in the depths of the walkways. On both sides of the path grew unusual blue and red flowers. They fluttered with the wind back and forth on their narrow stalks. He walked holding his mamma’s hand, looking astonished at the flowers and thinking about nothing. You may only pick the blue flowers, the red ones are poisonous, said his mother. Then he let go of her hand and stopped to pick a flower for her. He wanted to pick a great blue flower that sat nodding heavily on its stalk. Such a peculiar flower! He looked at it and inhaled its scent. Then he looked at it again with wide, astonished eyes: it wasn’t blue at all, it was red! It was altogether red! And so hideously, poisonously red! He threw the cruel flower on the ground and stomped on it as on a dangerous animal. But when he turned around his mother was gone. Mamma, he cried, where are you? Where are you, why are you hiding from me? Martin ran a bit down the walkway but saw no one, and came near to tears. The walkway was quiet and empty, and it grew darker and darker. Finally he heard a voice quite close: Here I am, Martin, don’t you see me? But Marin saw nothing. I’m right here, why don’t you come to me? Now Martin understood: behind the elder shrub, it was there the voice came from. That he hadn’t understood it immediately… And he ran there looking to look; he was sure his mother was hiding there. But behind the elder shrub was Frans from Long Row making a nasty grimace with his fat, ulcerous lips, sticking out his tongue as far as he could! And such a tongue he had: it got longer and longer; in fact, it never ended, and it was covered with yellow-green bruises.
Frans was a little ruffian who lived in “Long Row” diagonally across the street. Last Sunday he had spat on Martin’s new jacket and called him a snob.
Martin wanted to run away but stood as if nailed to the earth. He felt how his legs grew numb beneath him. The garden and flowers and trees were gone, and he stood back home with Frans alone in a dark corner of the yard, by the ashbin, and he tried to scream, but it felt as though his throat was all laced up…
From Hjalmar Söderberg, The Youth of Martin Brick / Martin Bricks ungdom (1901)
The dream is the eternal saboteur and in the sunrise he must die
But the beautiful body you should take care of Add it to the others on the ship with the red sail and bid farewell to them where they lie in their green-shimmering ice-sarcophagi in their white shrouds side by side The ship you will send to Tristan who awaits you on Cornwall’s coast
For the dreams have sucked the blood out of his hands they would no longer know you And your own face would deny the nearness of his lips Your souls would be far apart and strangers to each other two blue birds captives in the same flight towards the same sunset’s blood-red betrayal: a meeting without limits a death that does not exist.
Rut Hillarp, “Advice to Isolde” / “Råd till Isolde” in The Well of the Sun / Solens brunn (1946)
This illustration represents Tim Finnegan’s fall from a ladder while drunk, an episode based on the old vaudeville song about the Irish hod-carrier who plunges to his death from a building. In the wake that follows he is restored to life by a great splash of whiskey. Finnegan is to be supplanted by Earwicker, the dreamer of the book. The fall is symbolic of the falls of Lucifer, Adam, Napoleon and Parnell, and indeed the Fall of man. It is also the fall of Humpty Dumpty and Isaac Newton’s apple. An apple represents the fruit that the snake tempted Eve to eat. A ladder itself is symbolic of both falling and rising. Within a black square in the top left corner of the illustration we can ‘hear’ a thunderclap. This is the first of the ten 100-character words in the book representing thunder. The bottom left-hand image is a drawing of ‘Howth Castle and Environs’ referred to in the first line of the book.
There is the scientific and ideological language for what is happening to the weather, but there are hardly any intimate words. Is that surprising? People in mourning tend to use euphemism; likewise the guilty and ashamed. The most melancholy of all the euphemisms: “The new normal.” “It’s the new normal,” I think, as a beloved pear tree, half-drowned, loses its grip on the earth and falls over. The train line to Cornwall washes away—the new normal. We can’t even say the word “abnormal” to each other out loud: it reminds us of what came before. Better to forget what once was normal, the way season followed season, with a temperate charm only the poets appreciated.
She later said that she had drawn the first Moomin after arguing with one of her brothers about the philosopher Immanuel Kant. She sketched “the ugliest creature imaginable” on the toilet wall and wrote under it “Kant”.