Year: 2006
UK: ICA Films
Cast: Slavoj Zizek
Director: Sophie Fiennes
Country: UK
UK: 150 mins
UK DVD Release Date: 27 November 2006
UK Release Date: 6 October 2006 (Limited Release - London, ICA)

UK Distributor


"Cinema is the ultimate pervert's art. It doesn't give you what you desire - it tells you how to desire." - Slavoj Zizek

THE PERVERT'S GUIDE TO CINEMA takes the viewer on an exhilarating ride through some of the greatest movies ever made. Serving as presenter and guide is the charismatic Slavoj Zizek, the Slovenian philosopher and psychoanalyst. With his engaging and passionate approach to thinking, Zizek delves into the hidden language of cinema, uncovering what movies can tell us about ourselves.

THE PERVERT'S GUIDE TO CINEMA offers an introduction into some of Zizek's most exciting ideas on fantasy, reality, sexuality, desire, materiality and cinematic form. Whether he is untangling the famously baffling films of David Lynch, or overturning everything you thought you knew about Hitchcock, Zizek illuminates the screen with his passion, intellect, and unfailing sense of humour.

The film cuts its cloth from the very world of the movies it discusses; by shooting at original locations and on replica sets, it creates the uncanny illusion that Zizek is speaking from within the films themselves. Says Zizek: "My big obsession is to make things clear. I can really explain a line of thought if I can somehow illustrate it in a scene from a film. THE PERVERT'S GUIDE TO CINEMA is really about what psychoanalysis can tell us about cinema."

THE PERVERT'S GUIDE TO CINEMA is constructed in three parts. Says Fiennes: 'The form of the Guide is a deliberately open one. There are three parts, but there could be more. Zizek's method of thinking is exciting because it's always building. Things relate forwards and backwards and interconnect into a mind-altering network of ideas. The film's title is something of a McGuffin - just a way to get you into this network.'


Is cinema one big Freudian slip? What can the Marx Brothers tell us about the workings of the unconscious? And why exactly do the birds attack in Hitchcock's masterpiece of horror? PART 1 explores the fictional structures that sustain our experience of reality and the chaotic netherworld of wild drives and desire that undermine that very experience.

Providing a blueprint for understanding cinema through a psychoanalytical lens, PART I explains key Freudian concepts such as the psyche's division between Ego, Superego, Id, death drive and libido. Zizek shows how the visual language of films returns to us our deepest anxieties, arousing our desire but at the same time keeping it at a safe distance.


Playing on cinema's great tradition for romantic narratives, PART 2 unlocks what these narratives tell us about the critical role that fantasy plays in sexual relationships. Why does our libido need the virtual universe of fantasies?

Zizek excavates the nightmarish truth behind Tarkovsky's dreamy sci-fi SOLARIS and its chilling reverberations with VERTIGO, Hitchcock's romantic epic. The consequences are alarming. For the male libidinal economy it appears, 'the only good woman is a dead woman.' Zizek argues that it is the very excess of female libido that poses a fundamental threat to male identity.

Fantasy can be both pacifying and radically destabilizing. From David Lynch's LOST HIGHWAY and Ingmar Bergman's PERSONA to Michael Haneke's THE PIANO TEACHER, fantasy is the battleground of the war between the sexes. PART 2 interrogates the structure of fantasy that makes the sexual act possible. But it also asks whether this very plague of fantasies is finally staged - like cinema itself - as a defence against the abyss of unbearable anxiety.


PART 3 plays with appearances. Appearances are not deceiving, but extremely efficient. When Dorothy and co discover The Wizard of Oz is actually just an old man behind a curtain, they nonetheless expect him to work his magic, and so he does... ''Illusion persists. There is something more real in the illusion than in the reality behind it.'

This is a manifesto for Zizek's 'cinematic materialism'; for him the heart of the cinematic experience exits in form beyond meaning. With iconoclastic gusto, Zizek evokes the Gnostic theory of our world as 'an unfinished reality' where 'God bungled his job of creation'. And just as film itself is structured through cuts, edits and missing scenes, so too is our subjective experience. Perhaps this is why we can believe in cinema and other systems of faith, be they paternal, religious or ideological.