Il n'y a pas de rapport religieux

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Articles by Slavoj Žižek

Since, as Lacan claims in his Seminar XX: Encore, Woman is one of the names of God, would it not be logical to conclude that, in the same way that there is no sexual rapport, there is also no religious rapport? Perhaps, the uncanny fact of Christ's Crucifixion stands for the silent admission of this fact. In order fully to appreciate the uniqueness of the figure of Christ, let us start with Gilles Deleuze's exemplary analysis of Chaplin's late films:

Between the small Jewish barber and the dictator in The Great Dictator, the difference is as negligeable as that between their respective moustaches. Yet it results in two situations as infinitely remote, as far opposed as those of victim and executioner. Likewise, in Monsieur Verdoux, the difference between the two aspects or demeanors of the same man, the lady-assassin and the loving husband of a paralyzed wife, is so thin that all his wife's intuition is required for the premonition that somehow he "changed." /…/ the burning question of Limelight is: what is that "nothing," that sign of age, that small difference of triteness, on account of which the funny clown's number changes into a tedious spectacle?[1]

The paradigmatic case of this imperceptible "almost nothing" are the old paranoiac science-fiction films from the early 50s about aliens occupying a small American town: they look and act like normal Americans, we can distinguish them only via the reference to some minor detail. It is Ernst Lubitsch's To Be Or Not To Be which brings this logic to its dialectical climax. In one of the funniest scenes of the film, the pretentious Polish actor who, as the part of a secret mission, has to impersonate the cruel high Gestapo officer Erhardt, does this impersonation in an exaggerated way, reacting to the remarks of his interlocutor about his cruel treatment of the Poles with loud vulgar laughter and a satisfied contestation, "So they call me Concentration Camp Erhardt, ha-ha!" We, the spectators, take this for a ridiculous caricature — however, when, later in the film the real Erhardt appears, he reacts to his interlocutors in exactly the same way. Although the "real" Erhardt in a way imitates his imitation, "plays himself."


  1. Deleuze, Gilles, L'image-mouvement, Paris: Éditions de Minuit, 1983, p. 234-236.