Confession

Roee Rosen
Download PDF

A.

“A dictionary begins when it no longer gives the meaning of words, but their tasks.” Thus Georges Bataille begins his definition of “the formless.”1 In this spirit, the definition of “confession”, which I am proposing for the lexicon of political thought, is the act of confession in the film “The Confessions of Roee Rosen.” Three female foreign workers, who do not speak Hebrew, present the confessions in first person and in Hebrew by reciting a Latin transliteration of the text. A speech act is formed which is neither the speech of a person speaking for him- or herself, nor acting a role (the performer cannot act since the role, the words, are unknown to her). This twilight zone of identities, multiplied and clashing in the same body and voice, connotes the theatrical Dybbuk, cinematic exorcisms and the speaking in tongues in the religious and parapsychological realms. The duality exists in the contents of the confession as well, since the text is structured as a hybrid of a possible monologue of a foreign worker and my own dubious self-exposure. For instance, the scene of cleaning a toilet bowl in a lady’s house in the affluent Sharon area is also a masochistic male fantasy of becoming the lady’s toilet bowl.

B.

In the prologue to the film, Roee Rosen 1 echoes Jean-Jacque Rousseau’s declaration in the beginning of his own Confessions: “I mean to present my fellow-mortals with a man in all the integrity of nature; and this man shall be myself.”2 This results in a clear and direct collapse of the expectations that a confession would yield the subject as real, the text would testify to its nature, namely its essence, and the portrait shall be rendered complete, that is, whole and cohesive (and its humanist and universal horizon ensure also the ability to see the other, subjugated of course). In a sense, the foreign workers in the film are present just as they are in reality, as temporary paid labor power (the employer possesses not only their speech but also the their body: a sign in the teleprompter instructed the workers to mimic the movements I made on the other side of the camera). In this sense, the film quite literally realizes the grotesque definition coined by Roy Wagner in his entry “Female Migrant Workers” in this lexicon, apropos defining them by negation: “sexual object(s) interested in romance and faith.”3 At the same time, the confession as a portrait of the confessor, written while striving for precision in content and emotion, is a perversion and failure by the very conditions of its presentation. The collapse occurs not only because of the general incompatibility between the content and its delivery, but also because of the mutations in the text, caused by pronunciation mistakes (for instance, the phrase “the rotting corpses” when spoken by Roee Rosen 3 becomes “the rotting cheese” and “tears of terror” turns into “tears of a mother”). And yet, I wish to argue that the reality value of the portrait is not negated when Roee Rosen 1, Roee Rosen 2 and Roee Rosen 3 proclaim, each in her own turn, “I am Roee Rosen”, and that the confession does not contradict the tradition of confession, but merely extends to the extreme the relationship that is always hidden within it, between the claim for truth and falsehood, fiction and manipulation.

C.

Confession has various meanings, at times contradictory, and yet every expression, ritual and vision designated as “confession” has two invariable characteristics. First, a confession has an instrumental goal: someone derives power and profit—namely capital—from it, whether spiritual, political, symbolic or monetary. Second, a confession always has a theatrical and exhibitionistic dimension: the validity of the confession depends upon its spectacle (regardless of whether the theater of exposure is conducted on a television program in which a person confesses his serial infidelities, or in the confessional, in which a similar confession may be elicited). But a distinction must be made between confessions made against the will of the confessor, benefiting the person extracting the confession and his sponsors, (as in confession under torture or show trials), and a situation in which the confessor extracts the confession from himself, by himself. In that case, the subjugating authority acting in the confession as well as the understanding of the spectacular quality as a desired and appropriate trait, have both been internalized and embraced by the confessor.

These are the situations that I was concerned with in “Confessions”, and I also believe that we have them in mind when we feel ourselves in a culture immersed in confessions, whether we think of the theological roots of confession, the decisive conception of “true” speech as a necessary qualifier of a complete and unified identity, or whether we think of the manic menu of sensational confessions offered by the mass media (the migration of confession to endless areas brought Michel Foucault to write that “Western man has become a confessing animal.”4) In any case, confession entails internalizing the extorting power (Foucault phrases it as a rhetorical question: “Should it be said that one is always ‘inside’ power, there is no ‘escaping’ it, there is no absolute outside where it is concerned […]?”5

In the spirit of the inflation of the presence of confession as merchandise, “The Confessions of Roee Rosen” is organized in the form of an entertainment show, with musical interludes wherein a women’s ensemble performs songs about dying and masochistic pleasure. Besides that, the confession is presented as a package that includes special extras (trailer, music clip and blooper-reel).

D.

At first sight, it seems that a crime or a wound are at the crux of the confession. Actually, the confession usually has another motive and the crime or the wound are the means to obtain it, and therefore they constitute a form of power. When Augustine relates his reckless youth he arouses identification and also encourages us to go beyond such recklessness, while Rousseau declares that his confessions are a plan “whose accomplishment will have no imitator,”6 meaning that from the bold exposure of weakness, an unprecedented strength springs forth. In contemporary society this principle has been multiplied to the extent that it has lost its reflective, critical and qualitative dimensions. The exposure of the wound itself is always already a definitive means of accumulating power and glory. From this it should be understood that in my film, the act of confession itself is perhaps the central crime revealed and manifested. But it should be remembered that this does not negate the identity or wound but rather it is a sort of reversal. Instead of crude, out-of-place quips and gestures that may invade the subjective self-presentation against the subject’s will, the painful truth is revealed from within the obscene performance, seemingly against its will.7


The Confessions of Roee Rosen The Transliteration Scroll

The following is a transliteration into Latin letters of a text in Hebrew. The text was read from a teleprompter by three illegal foreign workers residing in Israel (Roee Rosen 1, 2 and 3), who do not speak or understand Hebrew.

Square brackets with a number indicated to the workers a silence of a given number of seconds, while an asterisk directed them to look at the “real” Roee Rosen, at the other side of the camera, and mimic his bodily gesture and/or facial expression. The principle of puppet-mastery thus extended to the body as well as to the voice.

Prologue (Roee Rosen 1)

sha-LOM. a-NI ro-EE ro-SEN.

ya-MAI sfoo-RIM.

mo-TI ka-ROV.

ha-SE-vel ga-DOL.

Ha-ke-e-VIM ka-SHIM.

Et Ha-MA-vet Lo im-NA da-VAR.

le-ma-a-SE, ka-ROV le-va-DAI she-ka-ET, kshe-a-TEM mit-bo-ne-NIM BI, goo-fa-TI KVAR nir-KE-vet ba-KE-ver [*]

E-loo mi-KEM she-sham-OO a-LAI, yod-EEM she-a-SI-ti kar-YE-ra shle-MA me-shka-RIM, sha-a-roo-ri-YOT, tmoo-NOT me-goo-NOT, ze-hoo-YOT bdoo-YOT. [3]

He-e-MAD-ti pa-NIM she-a-NI ei-NE-ni a-NI.

LO OD.

YESH la-a-SOT mi-YAD ET ha-da-VAR ha-ka-SHE ve-ha-a-mi-TI. A-TEM om-DIM lish-MO-a

ET

[3 – shout]: Ha-vi-doo-IM

[5 quietly]: shel ro-EE ro-SEN. [2]

Et-ROM la-ma-SO-ret ha-ne-he-DE-ret shel Augustine, Rousseau, Ha-moo-sa-FIM ha-ya-FIM.

Et-BA gam lee et ha-te-hee-LA she-me-ka-BE-let mee she-mar-A ba-ra-BIM Pe-ga o-TEN-ti.

Et-va-DE al shka-RIM, psha-EEM, har-a-LAT be-e-ROT, nee-VOON, sti-YOT [4]

A-sa-PER rak e-MET. [2]

___________________________________

For the full transliteration, see: http://mafteakh.tau.ac.il/en/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/Confession-Transliteration.pdf

For a translation into English of the text, see: http://mafteakh.tau.ac.il/en/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/Confession-eng-translation.pdf

Endnotes

  1. Georges Bataille, “Formless,” in Visions of Excess, Selected Writings, 1927-1939, translated by Allan Stoekl (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1985), p. 31. []
  2. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Confessions (Middlesex: The Echo Library, 2007), p. 7.

    The wording which I used in the script was an alteration of the available Hebrew translation, as I wished to avoid Hebrew letters that are difficult to pronounce. []

  3. Roy Wagner, “Female Migrant Workers,” Mafte’akh – Lexical Review of Political Thought vol. 1 (summer 2010), p. 86, http://mafteakh.tau.ac.il/2010-01/04/ []
  4. Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality, Volume 1: An Introduction, translated by Robert Hurley (New York: Pantheon Books, 1978), p. 59. []
  5. Ibid, p. 95. []
  6. Rousseau, The Confessions, p. 7. []
  7. In this spirit Jőrg Heiser proposed to refer to the film as “operating a reverse Tourette Syndrome.” Jőrg Heiser, “What is Appropriate? The Role of Art in Responding to the Holocaust,” Frieze, issue 130 (2010), pp. 92-97. []

תגיות: