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Zizek, S. (1999). The Thing From Inner Space: Titanic and Deep Impact. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 80(5):1021-1024.

(1999). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 80(5):1021-1024

The Thing From Inner Space: Titanic and Deep Impact

Review by:
Slavoj Zizek

Let us recall the opening scene of Star Wars: at first, all we see is the void—the infinite dark sky, the ominously silent abyss of the universe, with dispersed twinkling stars that are not so much material objects as abstract points, markers of spatial co-ordinates, virtual objects; then, all of a sudden, in Dolby stereo, we hear a thundering sound coming from behind our backs, from our innermost background, later rejoined by the visual object, the source of this sound—the gigantic spaceship, a kind of space version of the Titanic—which triumphantly enters the frame of screen-reality. The object-Thing is thus clearly rendered as a part of ourselves that we eject into reality. This intrusion of the massive Thing seems to bring relief, cancelling the horror vacui of staring at the infinite void of the universe; however, what if its actual effect is the exact opposite? What if the true horror is that of Something—the intrusion of some excessive massive Real—where we expect Nothing? This experience of ‘Something (the stain of the Real) instead of Nothing’ may be at the root of the metaphysical question ‘Why is there something instead of nothing?’

How does this traumatic Thing relate to the libidinal economy of the subjects affected by it? Let us begin with James Cameron's Titanic: not only is the Titanic a Thing par excellence, a mysterious object dwelling in the deep of the ocean, so that when human beings approach it and take photographs of it, this disturbance of the peace of the wreck is experienced as the transgressive entry into a forbidden domain; perhaps the key to the film's success is the way in which it implicitly relates the Thing to the deadlocks of sexual relationship.

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