Watch The Reality of the Virtual: 74 Minutes of Pure Slavoj Žižek (2004)

Slavoj Žižek must make a tempt­ing doc­u­men­tary sub­ject; you have only to fire up the cam­era and let him do his thing. Or at least the Sloven­ian aca­d­e­m­ic provo­ca­teur and intel­lec­tu­al per­for­mance artist, in films like The Per­vert’s Guide to Cin­e­maThe Per­vert’s Guide to Ide­ol­o­gy, and Žižek!, has giv­en the impres­sion that he can effort­less­ly car­ry a film all by him­self. The direc­tors of those afore­men­tioned movies did a bit more than sit Žižek down before a rolling cam­era, but Ben Wright, mak­er of The Real­i­ty of the Vir­tu­al, seems to have tak­en the man’s raw ora­tor­i­cal val­ue as the very premise of his project. This 74-minute doc­u­men­tary — if even the word “doc­u­men­tary” suits such a rad­i­cal­ly sim­pli­fied form — sim­ply has Žižek sit at a table, in front of some book­shelves, and talk, osten­si­bly about “real effects pro­duced by some­thing which does not yet ful­ly exist,” as he iden­ti­fies them in the realms of psy­cho­analy­sis, pol­i­tics, soci­ol­o­gy, physics, and pop­u­lar cul­ture.

Shot by Ben Wright over the course of a sin­gle day,” writes the New York Times’ Nathan Lee, “here is the apoth­e­o­sis of the talk­ing-head movie, made up entire­ly of sev­en long, sta­t­ic takes of Mr. Žižek,” ani­mat­ed only by his own “habit­u­al reper­to­ry of twitch­es, spasms and uncon­trolled per­spi­ra­tion, an alarm­ing fren­zy of exu­ber­ance that con­tributes to his rep­u­ta­tion as a rock star of phi­los­o­phy.” The theme at hand, which cer­tain­ly has some­thing to do with belief and truth, pos­si­bil­i­ty and impos­si­bil­i­ty, the real­i­ty with­in the unre­al and the unre­al with­in real­i­ty, takes him through the widest pos­si­ble range of asso­ci­at­ed sub­jects. Those who appre­ci­ate Žižek pri­mar­i­ly as a mas­ter of focused digres­sion — and I have to imag­ine his fan base con­tains many such peo­ple — will find no pur­er expres­sion of that par­tic­u­lar skill. Then again, to tru­ly expe­ri­ence Žižek, maybe you have to take an actu­al class taught by him. If The Real­i­ty of the Vir­tu­al inspires you to do so, count your­self as braver than I.

Find many more heady films on our list of Free Doc­u­men­taries, part of our larg­er col­lec­tion, 4,000+ Free Movies Online: Great Clas­sics, Indies, Noir, West­erns, Doc­u­men­taries & More.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Žižek!: 2005 Doc­u­men­tary Reveals the “Aca­d­e­m­ic Rock Star” and “Mon­ster” of a Man

Michel Fou­cault – Beyond Good and Evil: 1993 Doc­u­men­tary Explores the Theorist’s Con­tro­ver­sial Life and Phi­los­o­phy

A Shirt­less Slavoj Žižek Explains the Pur­pose of Phi­los­o­phy from the Com­fort of His Bed

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on cities, lan­guage, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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