Slavoj Žižek is in bed. He’s wearing cheap pyjamas in a porridgy shade of grey. He looks exactly like the photographs I’ve seen of him: fag-ash beard, ghostly complexion. I loom over him, and he glowers back. His face is just inches from mine, so close I can feel his breath.
“No, you are wrong!” he hisses. “My dreams were not really mine! That’s why I wanted to be reborn!”
None of this is a product of my subconscious. In fact, we’re at a studio near Dublin, working on The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology, a film in which the Marxist provocateur and bestselling philosopher is starring as himself, albeit in a series of loving re-creations of movie scenes. What’s being mocked up now is a key moment from the 1966 classic Seconds, about an unhappy executive who assumes a new identity. Žižek is in the Rock Hudson role. I have been handed a pair of glasses and am appearing as a supporting character. Or rather, the back of my head is.
Žižek scowls at me a second longer, until a woman calls out: “OK, thank you, Slavoj. Let’s do it again – but can you two get closer this time?”
The voice belongs to British documentary-maker Sophie Fiennes, who also directed 2005’s acclaimed The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema, in which Žižek delivers inspired rereadings of classic movies, ultimately suggesting that cinema may in fact be more real than the mundane world outside the darkened theatre. Fiennes hit on the idea of restaging the movies Žižek was discussing and dropping him into them. Now the pair have reunited for a sequel. This time, however, the subject isn’t film but ideology itself, something he thinks now goes largely unquestioned.
“We all accept liberal democratic capitalism, even during this current pan-European disaster,” Žižek says. “We timidly ask, ‘Oh, can we have a few more rights for minorities? A little more healthcare?’ But nobody questions the frame. And that is the real triumph of ideology.”
[Extract. Appeared in The Guardian on October 16th 2011.]