lacanian review online psychoanalysis

30.10.2105 - Archive

    A documentary by award-winning
    Director Sean McAllister

    A Review by Philip Dravers

    "Between man and love,
    There is woman.
    Between man and woman
    There is a world.
    Between man and the world
    There is a wall".1


    • So goes the poem by Antoine Tudal, "Paris in the Year 2000", quoted by Lacan in the Écrits; but, as for Pyramus and Thisbe in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, sometimes the wall (an ever-ready metaphor for what separates and keeps people apart) is very palpably there, between the couple, right from the start of their relationship.
      Perhaps, this is why Lacan later coined the term 'Amur',2 condensing the word for love, 'amour', and for wall, 'mur', to emphasise the barrier that language forms between couples — including all the determining factors of a person's history and social environment, and all the impasses and impossibilities that its structure contains.
      And so a lover's discourse begins:

      "Thou Wall, O Wall, O sweet and lovely Wall,
      Show me thy chink, to blink through with mine eye."3

      A Syrian Love Story is a documentary filmed over 5 years by Sean McAllister, charting the relationship of a couple, Amer and Raghda, who first met through a chink in just such a wall. However, unlike the wall between Pyramus and Thisbe in A Midsummer Night's Dream, this particular wall lay between cells in one of the infamous prisons of the Syrian regime, where Raghda (Amer's future wife) was being tortured.

      "A freshly beaten, bloodied and swollen face, just visible through a tiny hole in his cell wall. This was how Amer first caught sight of Raghda".4

      In what is referred to, appropriately enough, as the ‘fly-on-the-wall’ tradition of British documentary filmmaking, McAllister’s film picks up the thread of their relationship some years after their initial encounter, when Raghda has been sent to prison a second time for writing a political novel based on the circumstances in which they first met. It then follows the couple and their young family, with extraordinary candour and openness, and a surprising lightness of touch, through the turmoil and tragedy unfolding in Syria, through their political struggle and their exile, first in Lebanon, and then in Paris and elsewhere in France (where they were granted refugee status by the French Government), to the final break-up of their relationship – when elements of the wall that had been there from the start reassert themselves in ways that can no longer be accommodated within the couple.

      "It is the tragic portrait of a disintegrating marriage; the story of two people whose love has been hammered by fate, history and each other."5

      "A microcosm of a global crisis."6

      The film was broadcast on the BBC at the end of September,7 and won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sheffield Doc/Fest earlier this year. It will shortly be competing for another such award at the Copenhagen Documentary film festival, CPX: DOX and it also recently featured in an episode of “Outlook” on the BBC’s World Service.8

      It is not Paris in the year 2000, as imagined by Antoine Tudal in the 1950s, but the reality of a globalised world, a globalised Paris, of the 21st century and, if you get the chance, it is a must-see for the upcoming Journées of the ECF, to be held in Paris on the 14th-15th of November 2015, on the theme: Faire-Couple.

      Yet its interest for the psychoanalytic community does not stop there, in what it means to form a couple in the 21st century amid the turbulence and the fallout of global politics, or even with the fact that it serves as a poignant reminder of the way it mobilised its forces in 2011 to help free the Syrian psychoanalyst Rafah Nached from her detention in Duma. For as Jacques-Alain Miller said in establishing the theme for the next Congress of the World Association of Psychoanalysis, in his presentation "The Unconscious and the Speaking Body":

      "Amur means above all that the wall of language has to be pierced through anew each time in order to grasp more tightly, let's not say the real, but rather what we do in our analytic practice."9

      So it's love then – and transference to a cause – that brings two people together in a situation in which at least one of them will find themselves, as Lacan put it, speaking to walls.10

      1 Jacques Lacan, Écrits, trans. Bruce Fink (London/New York, Routledge, 2006), p. 239.
      2 Lacan uses the pun in different ways in the course of his work. See, for example, Jacques Lacan, Encore,trans. Bruce Fink (London/New York: Norton, 1998), p. 5: “There are traces on l’amur”.
      3 William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act 5, scene 1.
      4 Kate O'Sullivan, “Meet the Syrian revolutionaries who fell in love through a prison wall”, The Telegraph. 25/09/2015.
      5 Peter Bradshaw, “A Syrian Love Story – Review, a searing insight into a marriage under fire”, The Guardian. 17/09/2015.
      6 Mark Kermode, “A Syrian Love Story – a microcosm of a global crisis”, The Guardian. 20/09/2015.
      7 Available on the BBC iplayer at the time of writing.
      8 Available on the BBC iplayer Radio, (20 minutes) here.
      9 Jacques-Alain Miller, “The Unconscious and the Speaking Body”,, Hurly-Burly 12 (2015), p. 120. Also available online at:
      10 Cf. Jacques Lacan, Je Parle Aux Murs, Paris, Seuil, 2011.

      The following link is to the Director's website. The picture shows Amer and his son Bob speaking to Raghda in jail.

      A Syrian Love Story (2015) Filmed over 5 years by Sean McAllister, 'A Syrian Love Story' charts the journey to freedom in the West By Raghda, Amer, and their family. SEANMCALLISTER.COM

  • Open marriage – An Impossible dream?
    By Ana Maria Benito

    Love relationships, are often a mixture of illusion and reality, a nest of fantasies entangled with dissatisfactions.
    What are people’s main concerns about love?


    • Not being loved as we would like to, feeling of loneliness, the need to feel whole again with oneself? Being stuck in old patterns? Ignoring what is happening to me? Losing something and I don't know exactly what this is? A desire for something new and exciting?
      Like dancing the “Tango”, love is an improvised dance where a couple moves from an open to a closed embrace. Love and hate are entangled like bodies when they move. A close relationship between happiness and despair. Getting closer, moving away, sometimes painfully. Other times, being able to look at it with humour and affection.
      Mario: I'm overflowing with emotions, are you with someone else?
      Will you ever return to me?
      Mario believes in the myth of the “other half”, “the soul mate”, where they are united as ONE.
      His wife has asked for an open relationship, he is fearful and suggests... let's go to the psychoanalyst!

      Between Mafalda1, Rhymes and Love.

      Mafalda says: “ Let's meet and I will introduce you to my friends” Miguelito thinks to himself: “I thought I was THE friend. But I am just one of them!”

      In the tangle of love, exclusivity, possession, jealousy, resignation, there is tension and sometimes pain.
      Maria says: I want only a moment of passion. I want to experience other relationships. You want me all to yourself. I want an open relationship. I want to be free to follow my own desires. You make me feel guilty.”

      Remember Mafalda?: “ That tenants, it all started with that voice that said “that is wrong !”
      Mafalda's mother: “Which tenant?”
      Mafalda answered: “The tenant that lives inside of us”

      Maria discovers that love is not a like “Cinderella” story, it's no fairy tale. Not how others portrayed it, not as she had imagined it to be, not like the stories her aunt told her.
      She wants to listen to her own desires, as well as feel the love for her husband. Her love rhymes with dissatisfaction and pain.
      Mafalda says: “ Be careful! Because when we go out seeking adventure we can get lost on the way back. Ah?...”

      Jose: “I want an open marriage. You can have sex with whomever you want, only when you are away.”
      Anna: “You can have other relationships, as long as I remain your number one.”

      As with all love relationships, there is an underlying need for contracts, for rules to gain the certainty of love, to be able to make it through the anxiety, the dissatisfaction and the pain that the momentary remoteness of separation brings.

      Is it an impossible dream?

      The voice of Mafalda: “ Welcome a good breeze of fresh air.
      Pity the smell of Naftalina mothballs”

      On the long journey of love, negotiations and renegotiations will result in new, and not so new, agreements and disagreements. However, this time the desires of one, are not secret any more to the other.
      It results in a need for new inventions, different ways of being together are discovered, and new bonds are made.

      What will love rhyme with tomorrow? How will one view define love tomorrow?

      Susanita says: “ First I will marry, I will be a Lady, I will have children, I will buy a house, a car, jewellery, I will have grandchildren. Do you like my life?

      A pre-planned future? Looking for exits to go through life avoiding dissatisfactions?

      Mafalda says: “ That is not life, it is an obstacle course !”

      1 Joaquin Salvador Lavado Tejon, QUINO, argentinian cartoonist , creator of “Mafalda”. “Mafalda”, Quino, Ed. Lumen.

lacanian review online psychoanalysis

lacanian review online psychoanalysis