Suely Rolnik

Deleuze, Schizoanalyst

First scene: 1973.1 I begin a friendship with Gilles Deleuze, whose seminars I have been attending over the past two years or so. With his mischievous humor, he insists on saying that he, and not Félix Guattari (with whom I am undergoing analysis at the time) is my schizoanalyst. He proposes that we work together, offering me a gift and a theme: an LP with Alban Berg’s opera Lulu and a suggestion to compare the death cries of Lulu, its lead character, with those of Maria, a character in Wozzeck, another opera by the same composer.
Berg’s Lulu—already impregnated by the image of Louise Brooks, who played the protagonist in G.W. Pabst’s beautiful film—is an exuberant and seductive woman whose attraction to many kinds of worlds sets her off on a life of experimental drift. On one such adventure, her vitality suffers the impact of reactive forces that cause her to leave her country. In the miserable cold of a Christmas night in her town of exile, Lulu hits the streets to make some money. In the anonymity of hustling, she meets none other than Jack the Ripper, who inevitably attempts to kill her. Foreseeing her death in the image of her face reflected on the blade pointed in her direction, she lets out a piercing cry. The timbre of her voice has a strange force that startles the Ripper to the point that, for a few seconds, he hesitates. We too are hit by this strange force, transported by it—the pain of a vigorous life that does not want to be taken resonates in our bodies. On the other hand, Maria, the woman from Berg’s opera Wozzeck, is the gray wife of a soldier. Her death cry is almost inaudible, it blurs with the aural landscape. The timbre of her voice conveys the pale pain of an inane life, as if to die were the same as to live. Lulu’s cry vitalizes us, despite, and paradoxically because of, the intensity of her pain. Maria’s cry drags us into a kind of melancholy that tinges the world with monotonous dullness.
1964 poster for Wozzeck designed by Jan Lenica.