Thursday, July 19, 2012

Taboo and Abjection in Imprint

First, I have to say that I could not believe Imprint was only 60 minutes long.  Miike is a freaking magician.

So, I've blogged about abjection before, but I don't think I can get away from doing it again when it comes to this intensely abject film.  Unlike the other blogs, in this one I'd like to focus in on a different element of abjection, shifting from the individual bodily abjection that maintains subjectivity to the social idea of abjection that works to maintain social order. Going off of anthropologist Mary Douglas, Kristeva argues that it is not "lack of cleanliness or health that causes abjection but what disturbs identity, system, order. What does not respect borders, positions, rules. The in-between, the ambiguous, the composite." This of course extends from the personal to the public realm: "the traitor, the liar, the criminal with a good conscience, the shameless rapist, the killer who claims he is a savior" What is more, abjection is the "immoral, sinister, scheming, and shady: a terror that dissembles, a hatred that smiles, a passion that uses the body for barter instead of inflaming it, a debtor who sells you up, a friend who stabs you…" (4).

On one hand I try to find the social space of abjection (what Judith Butler calls the "zone of uninhabitability") to be a positive and powerful space because it disturbs order and I am always for questioning or disturbing order, especially if that order is unjust or unethical. However, the end goal is always to break down order so as to rebuild order, and therefore the abject will always be a necessary evil. Bataille argues that evil is not transgression, but is transgression condemned (127). It is abjected transgression, the transgression that we must thrust aside in order to live in a safe society. This is certainly not a given, and is something that may change and alter as a society works through its prejudices and superstitions, which transgression, the threat of the abject, is necessary in order for it to do.

So when it comes to Imprint, I see it as a film about the abject that is condemned, about sadistic evil, about the purely immoral. While in Audition I feel like we can justify Asami's actions because of her treatment as a child, it's more difficult to do so with the Prostitute in Imprint, particularly because she initially falls into the category of the "criminal with a good conscience...the killer who claims [s]he is a savior" and then secondly falls into the category of traitor, liar, "sinister, scheming, and shady" as well as the ambiguous and composite when we learn of her parasitic twin, who was the result of the taboo of incest. Finally at the end of the film she is merely the figment of the imagination of a lunatic who murdered his beloved, and we see him condemned because of his immoral act.  In any case, Komomo is the individual against whom the evil is perpetrated throughout the film, an individual who is good and kind and moral, despite her role as a socially abject prostitute. Her role as a prostitute is needed to maintain order, but she nevertheless disturbs that order. She is not "immoral" because her society places her there; the society, therefore, is immoral. In the case of the Prostitute as well as the case of those who torture Komomo, their immorality extends beyond the pale, beyond merely socially acceptable transgression. However, they do try to maintain their boundaries by harming Komomo's body in a way that will not disrupt her position as a prostitute.


In the end, Creed argues that the audience of the horror film takes part in the ritual of abjection in order to thrust aside the abject, the immoral, the sinister. In Miike's remarkable 60 minute film we come face to face with all kinds of evil and taboo, with the most wretched immoral behavior imaginable. We see it, it affects us, and as we leave the room to go on with our daily lives we reject it, it becomes the abject that is not us.

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