On the Void: The Fascinating Object of Evil in Human Remains

in The Changing Face of Evil in Film and Television
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What remains critical for any analysis of evil is to recognise the difference between the occurrence of a given human action and the process of its symbolisation. Only by attending to the motivating cause of the latter may we understand how the former may acquire the face of evil. This chapter examines the structure of symbolisation manifest in Human Remains (1998), a black and white documentary film about Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Franco, and Mussolini. Drawing from Lacanian psychoanalytic theories of the Real, the editing technique of cutting to black is interpreted as the means by which this documentary holds open the place of lack constitutive of the visual field. Symbolised by the form of the blank screen, the void-place of symbolic inscription is exposed in Human Remains as the object-cause of the proliferation of images of evil, the source of support for their power to fascinate as masks of social harmony.