This is just a quick post about Reservoir Dogs. I watched it last night again for what is probably the fiftieth time, and it got me thinking.
I think that the common reading of the moment when Mr. Blonde cuts the police officer’s ear off is that we are free to use our imagination when he camera pans away. Whatever horror you think of during the cutting off is exactly what happens–the visuals aspect of the scene retreats, and the viewer is left with the audible screams of the police officer. The maximum amount of violence takes place in that moment–there is nothing that can be worse than the absence of a narrative in that moment.
In that way, it is along Foucault’s interpretation of Bataille’s concept of transgression. That violent moment provides definition for violence, for visibility of violence, and for the boundary of the visual itself. We can only know what visual violence means by driving it beyond its own limit.
This is all just preliminary thoughts for the essay that I’ll be writing for SSA soon. Violence can always be worse than what we can see, but I don’t really know what to do with that. Violence is used to communicate, and violence is also a language unto itself. But what about violence that isn’t shown to us? What about violence that, lacking the visual, cannot be communicated?
Can it do political work?