The conceptual idea of a philosopher (in this case, Slavoj Žižek) walking audiences through beloved and forgotten films and giving their outlook on the film’s ideological take has potential. The documentary, however, has to have competent direction and a confident mind at the forefront in order for the project to work. The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology has neither.
Sophie Fiennes’ doc is hitting home runs with most movie goers (it currently holds an impressive 90% on Rotten Tomatoe’s Tomatometer) and it’ll more than likely wet the whistle for those who caught Žižek and Fiennes prior collaboration The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema.
If you haven’t caught their predecessor, you can still take in The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology as a stand alone film. To my understanding, the films only share Žižek’s appearance and Fiennes’ jumpy narrative. That said, you may also finding yourself – as I was – using all your will to stay tuned in to this hyperactive headache-inducing collaboration of humdrum proportions.
Slavoj Žižek bumbles his way through theory after theory while Fiennes tries to keep up with all the transporting into different movies. Žižek has been integrated nicely into movies like They Live, Taxi Driver, and A Clockwork Orange, but he speeds through explanations with slight confidence in his rambling.
It’s easy to see that this eccentric personality cares for what he’s talking about, but he always appears to look disheveled and anxious. If he had papers in his hand, you bet he’d be shuffling through them constantly. As a viewer, I need to know that the main speaker I should be believing in can have the ability to educate me. I couldn’t take Slavoj Žižek seriously at all. If that’s part of the joke, Fiennes hasn’t done a good enough of a job to emphasize that.
Watching The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology was really trying. It was kind of like being trapped in an elevator with a distant, slightly inebriated uncle who has found out cinema is a fascination of mine. In order for him to vent but also make a connection with me, he uses this newfound information to a supposed advantage. Instead, the reactions I have are exhaustion and irritation and they get only worse over the two-hour runtime.
The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology is for a specific crowd. Mainly those who are devoted followers of Žižek’s. I’ll take this unpleasant experience as a sign that I’m not part of this audience.