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Posts Tagged ‘annihilation’

“It is at the same time that the State apparatus appropriates
the war machine, subordinates it to its “political” aims, and gives it
war as its direct object.  And  it is one and  the same historical
tendency
that causes State to evolve from a triple point of view: going from
figures of encastment to forms of appropriation proper, going from
limited war to so-called total war, and transforming the relation
between aim and object. The factors that make State war total war are
closely connected to capitalism: it has to do with the investment of
constant capital in equipment, industry, and the war economy, and the
investment of variable capital in the population in its physical and
mental aspects (both as warmaker and as victim of war). Total war is
not only a war of annihilation but arises when annihilation takes as its
“center” not only the enemy army, or the enemy State, but the entire
population and its economy. The fact  that this double investment can be
made only under prior conditions of limited war  illustrates the
irresistible  character of the capitalist tendency to develop total
war.

We could say that the appropriation has changed
direction, or rather that States tend to unleash, reconstitute, an
immense war machine of which they are no longer anything more than the
opposable or apposed parts. This worldwide war machine, which in away
“reissues” from the States, displays two successive figures: first, that
of fascism, which makes war an unlimited movement with no other aim
than itself; but fascism is only a rough sketch, and the second,
post-fascist, figure is that of a war machine that takes peace as its
object directly, as the peace of Terror or Survival. The war machine
reforms a smooth space that now claims to control, to surround the
entire earth. Total war itself is surpassed, toward a form of peace
more terrifying still. The war machine has taken charge of the aim,
worldwide order, and the States are now no more than objects or means
adapted to that  machine. This is the point at which Clausewitz’s
formula is effectively reversed; to be entitled to say that politics is
the continuation of war by other means, it is not enough to invert the
order of the words as if they could be spoken in either direction; it is
necessary to follow the real movement at the conclusion of which the
States, having appropriated a war machine, and having adapted it to
their aims, reimpart a war machine that  takes charge  of the aim,
appropriates the States, and assumes increasingly wider political
functions.

Doubtless, the present situation is highly discouraging. We have
watched the war machine grow stronger and stronger, as in a science
fiction story; we have seen it assign as its objective a peace still
more terrifying than fascist death; we have seen it maintain or
instigate the most terrible of local wars as parts of itself; we have
seen it set its  sights on a new type of enemy, no longer another State,
or even another regime, but the  "unspecified enemy"; we have seen it
put its counterguerrilla elements into place, so that it can be caught
by surprise once, but not twice. Yet the very conditions that make the
State or World war machine possible,  in other words, constant capital
(resources and equipment) and human variable capital, continually
recreate unexpected possibilities for counterattack, unforeseen
initiatives determining revolutionary, popular, minority, mutant
machines. The definition of the Unspecified Enemy testifies to this:
“multiform, maneuvering and omnipresent… of the moral, political,
subversive or economic  order, etc.,” the unassignable material Saboteur
or human Deserter assuming the most diverse forms.”

– Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari, “1227: TREATISE ON NOMADOLOGY—THE WAR MACHINE” in A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism & Schizophrenia. Translated by Brian Massumi. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987. pp. 420-422

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“When the team first passes through the Shimmer — the translucent, rainbow-hued bubble that separates our world from Area X — they lose four days. No one can account for what happened from the moment they cross this barrier to when they woke up. They have no idea how they got to their present location, when they set up camp, or what they did in the intervening time. This immediately ratchets up the disorientation and unease that has been building at the edges of the film since the beginning. This decision by Garland can first read as an easy narrative device to bypass fleshing out the particulars of the early part of their trip. But their loss of time read to me as a familiar experience of a depressive episode, where time moves in unnatural ways. Where you wake up sometime in the afternoon, the days an uneasy blur, but very aware of the taste of regret on your tongue.

These thematic and emotional concerns are not merely a matter of narrative decisions and character backgrounds. They are etched into the very fabric of the film — its sounds, its visual grammar, its texture. As they venture deeper into this alien terrain, this becomes more evident. The plants they encounter are strangely drained of color, as is the unnerving shark-alligator hybrid. Concrete walls are covered in vegetation that reads as cancerous growth, tumors awash in psychedelic color. From certain angles, trees scan as humanoid in shape. Depression is like this. It consumes everything in its path, warping it madly. The world is drained of vibrancy or easy understanding. The finest meal can taste like ash. Your body is no longer your own, but a weapon formed against you.

The one sequence in the film I return to most often comes about midway through their journey. The women decide to camp out at a mostly intact house hooded by overwhelming vegetation. Each woman is unraveling in their own particular ways, especially Anya, who can feel acutely how the strange phenomena is reworking her DNA. She studies her hands angrily as her skin seems to glisten like liquid. She decides to knock each surviving team member out and tie them up in chairs, interrogating them with unhinged intensity that even she recognizes, her voice shifting from fury to a laugh that is more alarming than comforting. The scene turns when Cass’s voice can be heard just outside. But how is that possible when she was killed earlier, and Lena even found her body to make certain? Anya is gone for too long for anything but horror to follow this silence. Still strapped to chairs and unable to defend themselves, the women watch as a deformed bear-like creature enters the home, its face mostly skeletal, dripping with blood. It moves between the chairs, sniffing at the air. When it opens its maw to bellow, it isn’t an animal’s voice it speaks with, but Cass’s. From its unhinged, uneven jaws comes her voice during the final moments of her life: terrified, crying for help, aware of certain death. It is the most amazingly constructed, terrifying scene I have watched in the last few years — a triumphant marriage of invention, stellar sound design, careful acting, and directing. It highlights the way sorrow can ripple, infecting everything in its radius, its effects seen long after the initial traumas it breeds. If I had to give my depression a face, perhaps it would look like this.

Each woman comes to represent a different facet of the struggle with depression and self-destruction. In Cass, I see the knowledge that you can never return to the person you once were in the wake of trauma. In Anya, it’s how you lose touch with and control of your own body. In Ventress is the angry, propulsive desire to give yourself fully to engendering your own destruction. And in Josie, it’s the weight of suicidal ideation. I have come, in recent years, to describe suicidal ideation as a bitter pull. It feels like a thread being pulled at the back of my skull, a gnawing that will not cease until it is embraced. I had never seen a forthright consideration of suicide that captures the essence of this feeling and the way it haunts me, even when I’m well, until I watched Tessa Thompson as Josie. After most of the team has been brutally killed, Josie and Lena get a moment of reprieve, looking out at the beautiful wildlife surrounding the home that became both their refuge and hell. Lena is determined to continue. Josie is curiously still, her eyes trained elsewhere. She remarks that she doesn’t look at Area X the way Lena and Ventress have — trying to understand it and trying to destroy it, respectively. She’s embracing it. It’s then that you notice her bare forearms. Leaves and foliage prickling through the scars. She walks away from Lena, who calls her name and follows her. But she’s gone, turned into one of those beguiling humanoid shaped trees. Something beautiful, complex, and strange even in death. Josie’s acceptance of death further invites questions about how we heal from traumas and the possibility of becoming whole, which Lena’s arc perhaps gives answers to.”

– Angelica Jade Bastién, “How Annihilation Nails the Complex Reality of Depression.” Vulture, March 2, 2018.

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