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Today, a new "life experience" seems to be in the air, a perception of life that explodes the form of the linear centered narrative and renders life as a multiform flow; up to the domain of the "hard" sciences (quantum physics and its Multiple-Reality interpretation; neo-Darwinism) we seem to be haunted by the chanciness of life and the alternate versions of reality - to quote Stephen Jay Gould's blunt formulation which uses precisely the cinema metaphor: "Wind back the film of life and play it again. The history of evolution will be totally different."_ This perceptions of our reality as one of the possible, often even not the most probable, outcomes of an "open" situation, this notion that other possible outcomes are not simply cancelled out but continue to haunt our "true" reality as a spectre of what might have happened, conferring on our reality the status of extreme fragility and contingency, implicitly clash with the predominant "linear" narrative forms of our literature and cinema - they seem to call for a new artistic medium in which they would not be an eccentric excess, but its "proper" mode of functioning. One can argue that the cyberspace hypertext is such a new medium in which this life experience will find its "natural," more appropriate objective correlative_, and that Kieslowski's seemingly "obscurantist" dealing with the topic of the role of chance and of parallel alternative histories is to be perceived as yet another endeavour to articulate the new life experience in the old cinematic medium that promotes linear narrative. We find in Kieslowski three versions of alternative histories: direct presentation of three possible outcomes in Blind Chance, the presentation of two outcomes through the theme of the double in Veronique, and the presentation of two outcomes through the "flashback in present" in Red. What interests Kieslowski in the motif of alternative histories is the notion of ethical choice, ultimately the choice between "calm life" and "mission."
Is, however, this awareness of multiple universes really as liberating as it appears? The (false) ordinary perception that we live in one "true" reality, far from containing us to a closed universe, relieves us from the unbearable awareness of the multitude of alternate universes which envelop us. That is to say, the fact that there is only one reality leaves the space open for other possibilities, i.e. for a choice: it might have been different... If, however, these different possibilities are all in a way realized, we get a claustrophobic universe in which there is no freedom of choice precisely because ALL choices are already realized. Perhaps, it is the horrifying awareness of this absolute closure that is expressed by the desperate cry that opens Kieslowski's Blind Chance._
How do the three alternative narrative lines of Blind Chance relate to each other? The film opens with the "primal scream" shot: a terrified male face looks into the camera and utters a cry of pure horror - is this not Witek moments before his death, while the plane which was to take him to a medical symposium in the West is crashing minutes after its take off from the Warsaw airport (we learn this in the last shot of the film, at the end of the third narrative)? Is, then, the entire film not the flash-back of a person who, aware that he is close to his death, quickly runs not only through his life (as is usually reported that people do when they know they will die shortly), but through his THREE possible lives? The scream that opens the film - the desperate "Nooo!" of Witek falling down to his certain death - is thus the zero level exempted from the three virtual universes. One is tempted to follow here the hypothesis_ according to which these three alternative versions are intertwined, so that the hero escapes from each one into the next one: the deadlock of the socialist apparatchik's career pushes him into dissidence, and the non-satisfaction with dissidence into private profession... Each version involves the reflexive stance towards the previous one, like the second Veronique who seems to be aware of the experience of the first one._ It is only the third version which is "real": just before dying, Witek runs through the two alternative life-stories in which he would not die ("what would have happened if I were to catch the train; if, while running it, I were to hit a policeman..."), but they both end up in a deadlock which pushes him to the next story.
Tom Tykwer's Run, Lola, Run (Germany, 1998) is a kind of postmodern frenetic remake of Blind Chance. Lola, a Berlin punk girl (Franka Potente), has 20 minutes to collect by any means 100.000 German Marks to save her boyfriend from certain death, and what follows are the three alternate outcomes. (1) her boyfriends gets killed; (2) she gets killed; (3) she succeeds, AND her boyfriend finds the lost money, so they end up happy together with the 100.000 DM profit. Here, also, a whole series of features signals that not only the heroine, but even other people somehow mysteriously remember what happened in the preceding version(s). Although, in its tone (the frenetic, adrenalin-charged pace, life-asserting energy, the happy end), Lola is the very opposite of Blind Chance, the formal matrix is the same: in both cases, one can interpret the film as if only the third story is the "real" one, the other two staging the fantasmatic price the subject has to pay for the "real" outcome.
The interest of Lola resides in its tonality: not only in the fast rhythm, the rapid-fire montage, the use of stills (frozen images), the pulsating exuberance and vitality of the heroine, but, above all, in the way these visual features are embedded in the soundtrack - the constant, uninterrupted, techno-music soundscape whose rhythm renders Lola's - and, by extension, ours, the spectators' - heartbeat. One should always bear in mind that, notwithstanding all the dazzling visual brilliance of the film, its images are subordinated to the musical soundscape, to its frenetic compulsive rhythm which goes on forever and cannot be suspended even for a minute - it can only explode in an outburst of exuberant vitality, in the guise of Lola's uninhibited scream which occurs in each of the three versions of the story. Which is why a film like Lola can only appear against the background of the MTV culture. One should accomplish here the same reversal Fredric Jameson proposed apropos Hemingway's style: it is not that Lola's formal properties adequately express the narrative; it is rather that the film's narrative itself was invented in order to be able to practice the style. The first words of the film ("the game lasts 90 minutes, everything else is just theory") provide the proper coordinates of a video game: as in the usual survival video game, Lola is given three lives. "Real life" itself is thus rendered as a fictional video-game experience - and what one should resist here is precisely the temptation to oppose Lola and Kieslowski's Blind Chance along the lines of the opposition between low and high culture (Tykwer's video games techno rock MTV universe versus Kieslowski's existential pondering stance). Although this is in a way true - or, rather, a truism -, the more important point is that Lola is much more adequate to the basic matrix of alternative spins of the narrative: it is Blind Chance which ultimately appears clumsy, artificial, as if the film tries to tell its story in an inadequate form, while Lola's form perfectly fits its narrative content._
Kieslowski himself alludes to the virtualization of reality in his claim that "/t/he theme of Red is in the conditional mood. /.../ what would have happened if the Judge had been born forty years later. /.../ It would be lovely if we could go back to the age of twenty. How many better, wiser things we could have done! But it's impossible. That's why I made this film - that maybe life can be lived better than we do."_ The theme of the "double life" clearly resonates not only in Red, but also in Blue and White: in Blue, Julie desperately endeavours to (re)create an alternative life for her after the traumatic accident, while in White, Karol tries to reinvent a new career and life after his humiliating reduction to a social drop-out. There are traces of the alternate reality approach even in Decalogue 4, which was planned initially as three variations, on the model of Blind Chance (the father's story; the daughter's story; what really happened); Kieslowski wisely adopted a more complex procedure in which the three stories coexist in a kind of palimpsest: "the variants are not successive (as in Blind Chance or The Double Life of Veronique), but present themselves simultaneously through the work's self-referential mediation on acting."_ The "same" narrative shifts between different fantasmatic supports: sometimes, Anka acts as if there are no obstacles to her incestuous fantasy; at other times, father acts as if he and Anka are of the same age; at yet other times, the oppressive social reality makes itself felt.
Red presents us with a unique case of "contemporary flashback": the Judge's alternate past, his missed opportunity, is staged as the present of another person (Auguste) - Auguste's predicament is the exact repetition of the Judge's predicament 30 years ago. Auguste and the Judge are thus not two persons, but two versions of one and the same person - no wonder they never meet, since this meeting would function as the uncanny encounter of a double. The parallels in their respective lives are numerous: the Judge, like Auguste, was betrayed by a blonde woman two years older than him; his book also fell open to a particular page the night before his exam, where he was asked the very question answered on that page. No wonder, then, that the Judge says to Valentine: "Maybe you're the woman I never met" - meeting her decades ago would save him the way Valentine will NOW save Auguste._ One should approach in the same way The Double Life of Veronique: the image of two Veroniques should not deceive us - as the title says, we have the double life of (one) Veronique, i.e. the same person is allowed to redeem (or lose?) herself by being given another chance and repeating the fatal choice. All the mystique of being spiritually connected with another being is thoroughly misplaced.
The idea of the time-space continuum (time as the fourth dimension of space) in modern physics means, among other things, that a certain event (the encounter of multiple particles) can be much more elegantly and convincingly explained if we posit that only one particle travels forward and backward in time. Let's take Richard Feynmann's classic space-time diagram of the collision between two photons in a certain point of time: this collision produces an electron-positron pair, each of the two going its separate way. The positron then meets another electron, they annihilate each other and create again two photons which depart in the opposite direction. What Feynmann proposes is that, if we introduce the space-time continuum, i.e. the notion of time as the fourth dimension of space which can also be traversed in two directions, forward and backwards, we can explain the same process in a much simpler way: there is ONLY ONE particle, an electron, which emits two photons; this causes it to reverse its direction in time. Travelling backward in time as a positron, it absorbs two photons, thus becomes an electron again and reverses its direction in time, again moving forward. This logic involves the static space-time picture described by Einstein: events do not unfold with the flow of time, but present themselves complete, and in this total picture, movements backward and forward in time are as usual as movements backward and forward in space. The illusion that there is a "flow" of time results from our narrow awareness which allows us to perceive only a tiny strip of the total space-time continuum._ - And is not something similar going on in the alternative narratives? Beneath ordinary reality, there is another shadowy pre-ontological realm of virtualities in which the same person travels forth and back, "testing" different scenarios: Veronique-electron crashes (dies), then travels back in time and does it again, this time surviving.
In Veronique, we are thus not dealing with the "mystery" of the communication of two Veroniques, but with the ONE AND THE SAME Veronique who travels back and forth in time. For that reason, the key scene of the film is the encounter of the two Veroniques in the large square in which a Solidarity political demonstration is taking place: this encounter is rendered in a vertiginous circular shot reminding of the famous 360 degrees shot from Hitchcock's Vertigo; afterwards, when the French Veronique is introduced, it becomes clear that the perplexity of the Polish Weronika at this moment resulted from her obscure awareness that she was about to have an impossible encounter with her double (later, we see her photo taken at that moment by the French Veronique)._ Consequently, is this camera's circular movement not to be read as signalling the danger of the "end of the world," somehow like the standard scene of the science-fiction films about alternative realities, in which the passage from one to another universe takes the shape of a terrifying primordial vortex threatening to swallow all consistent reality? The camera's circular movement thus signals that we are on the verge of the vortex in which different realities mix, that this vortex is already exerting its influence: if we make one step further - that is to say, if the two Veronique's were actually to confront and recognize each other -, reality would disintegrate, because such an encounter of a person with her own double, with herself in another time-space dimension, is precluded by the very fundamental structure of the universe.
This encounter has a different meaning for each of the two Veroniques: for the Polish Weronika, it marks, in the traditional Romantic mode, the encounter of death (and, effectively, soon after she dies), while to the French Veronique, the awareness that there is her double clearly confronts her with the possibility of choice - she may have chosen a different life (of the singing career), which, again, would have lead to her death... This is the reason why the double causes such anxiety: the double IS directly the object that the subject refuses to be. In Wolfgang Petersen's thriller Shattered (1991), Tom Berenger barely survives a car accident: when, weeks later, he awakens in the hospital, with his face and body patched up by plastic surgery, he has total amnesia concerning his identity - he cannot remember who he is, although all the people around him, including a woman who claims to be his wife (Greta Scacchi), treat him as the head of a rich corporation. After a series of mysterious events, he goes to an abandoned warehouse where he was told that, in a barrel full of oil, the corpse of the person he had killed is hidden. When he pulls the body's head out of the liquid, he stiffens in consternation - the head is HIS OWN. (The solution to the mystery: he is effectively not the husband, but the lover of the woman who claims to be his wife. When he barely survived the accident while driving the husband's car, with his face disfigured beyond recognition, the wife killed her husband, identified HIM as her husband and ordered the surgeons to reconstruct his face on the model of her husband's.) This horror of encountering oneself in the guise of one's double, outside oneself, is the ultimate truth of the subject's self-identity: in it, the subject encounters itself as an object.
Back to Kieslowski: his universe of alternate realities is thus thoroughly ambiguous. On the one hand, its lesson seems to be that we live in the world of alternate realities in which, as in a cyberspace game, when one choice leads to the catastrophic ending, we can return to the starting point and make another, better, choice - what was the first time a suicidal mistake, can be the second time done in a correct way, so that the opportunity is not missed. In The Double Life of Veronique, Veronique learns from Weronika, avoids the suicidal choice of singing and survives; in Red, Auguste avoids the mistake of the Judge; even White ends with the prospect of Karol and his French bride getting a second chance and remarrying. The very title of Annette Insdorf's recent book on Kieslowski, Double Lives, Second Chances, points in this direction: the other life is here to give us a second chance, i.e. "repetition becomes accumulation, with a prior mistake as a base for successful action."_ However, while it sustains the prospect of repeating the passed choices and thus retrieving the missed opportunities, the opposite reading of this topic of repeated choices also imposes itself, according to which the "wise" repetition entails the ethical betrayal, the choice of life versus the Cause (the French Veronique compromises her desire)._
There is a well-known case of the German officer who helped Jews at the risk of his own life (finally, he was caught and shot by Gestapo): as a person, he was a conservative upper class anti-Semite, despising Jews and avoiding any contact with them, fully supporting the initial legal-economical measures of the Nazis aimed at curbing the "excessive" Jewish influence. All of a sudden, however, when he fully took note what went on (the total annihilation of the Jews), he started to help Jews by all means possible, out of the simple unshakable conviction that something like this cannot be tolerated. It would be totally wrong and misleading to interpret this sudden shift along the lines of the "ambiguity" of the Gentile's attitude towards Jews, oscillating between hatred and attraction: in the officer's sobering decision to help the Jews, a totally different order intervenes, the order which has nothing whatsoever to do with emotions and their fluctuations - the ethical dimension proper in the strict Kantian sense.
This dimension is to be opposed to morality. From my high school days, I remember the strange gesture of a good friend of mine which shocked me considerably at that time. The teacher gave us to write an essay on "what satisfaction does it provide to accomplish a good deed of helping one's neighbor" - the idea being that each of us should describe the profound satisfaction that comes from the awareness that we did something good. The friend of mine put the paper and pen down on the table and, in contrast to others who quickly scribed their notes, just sat motionless. When the teacher asked him what is wrong, he answered that he is unable to write anything, because he simply never felt either the need for (or the satisfaction at) such acts - he never did something good. The teacher was so shocked that she gave the friend of mine a special opportunity: he could write his paper at home after school - sure he will remember some good deed... Next day, my friend came to school with the same blank paper, stating that he thought a lot about it the previous afternoon - there was simply no good deed of his that he could recall. The desperate teacher then blurted out: "But could you not simply invent some story along these lines?", to which my friend answered that he has no imagination that would run in this direction - it is beyond his scope to imagine things like this. When the teacher made clear to him that his stubborn attitude could cost him dearly - the lowest grade he will get will seriously damage his standing -, my friend insisted that he cannot help it, he is completely powerless, since it is beyond his scope to think along these lines, his mind is simply blank. This refusal to compromise one's attitude is ethics at its purest, ethics as opposed to morality, to moral compassion. That is to say, needless to add that the friend of mine was in his deeds an extremely helpful and "good" person; what was absolutely unpalatable for him was to find Narcissistic satisfaction in observing oneself doing good deeds - in his mind, such a reflexive turn equalled the profoundest ethical betrayal.
And, in this precise sense, Kieslowski's topic is ethics, NOT morality: what actually takes place in each of the installments of his Decalogue is the shift from morality to ethics. The starting point is always a moral commandment, and it is through its very violation that the hero(ine) discovers the proper ethical dimension. Decalogue 10 is exemplary of this choice between ethics and morality which runs through Kieslowski's entire opus: the two brothers opt for their dead father's vocation (post stamp collecting) at the expense of their moral obligations (the elder brother not only abandons his family, but even sells his kidney, paying with the proverbial pound of flesh for his symbolic vocation). This choice, staged at its purest in The Double Life of Veronique - the choice between vocation (leading to death) and quiet satisfied life (when/if one compromises one's vocation) -, has a long tradition (recall E.T.A. Hoffmann's tale of Antonia who also chooses singing and pays for her choice with death). The staging of this choice in the narrative of Kieslowski's films is clearly allegorical: it contains a reference to Kieslowski himself. Was not his choice that of the Polish Weronika - aware of his heart condition, he has chosen art/vocation (not singing, but filming), and then effectively died of a sudden heart attack? Kieslowski's fate is prefigured already in his Camera Buff (1979), the portrait of a man who forsakes the happy family life for the attitude of observing and enregistering reality through the distance of the screen frame. In the final scene of the film, when his wife is leaving him for good, the hero turns the camera on himself and his wife, registering on the film her departure: even in this traumatic intimate moment, he does not get fully involved, but persists in his observing attitude - the ultimate proof that he truly elevated filming into his ethical Cause... Camera Buff finds its counterpoint in The Calm (1976), describing the destiny of Antek who has just been released from prison. All he wants are the simple things in life: work, somewhere clean to sleep, something to eat, a wife, television and peace. Caught in criminal manipulations at his new workplace, he ends up being beaten by his colleagues, and, at the film's end, just mutters "Calm... calm." The hero of The Calm is not alone: even Valentine, the heroine of Red, claims that all she wants is to leave in peace, without any excessive professional ambitions.
The Kieslowskian universe of alternate realities can also be interpreted in a third, much darker, way. There is a material feature of Kieslowski's films which long ago attracted the attention of some perspicuous critics; suffice it to recall the use of filters in A Short Film About Killing: "The city and its surroundings are shown in a specific way. The lighting cameraman on this film, Slawek Idziak, used filters which he'd made specially. Green filters so that the colour in the film is specifically greenish. Green is supposed to be the colour of spring, the colour of hope, but if you put a green filter on the camera, the world becomes much crueller, duller and emptier."_ Furthermore, in A Short Film About Killing, the filters are used "as a kind of mask, darkening parts of the image which Kieslowski and Idziak did not wish to show."_ This procedure of having "large chunks smogged out"_ - not as part of the formulaic depiction of a dream or a vision, but in shots rendering the gray everyday reality - directly evokes the Gnostic notion of the universe which was created imperfect and is as such not yet fully constituted. The closest one can get to it in reality is, perhaps, the countryside in extreme places like Iceland or the Land of Fire at the utmost south of Latin America: patches of grass and wild hedges are intersected by the barren raw earth or gravel with cracks out of which sulphuric steam and fire gush out, as if the pre-ontological primordial Chaos is still able to penetrate the cracks of the imperfectly constituted/formed reality.
Kieslowski's universe is a Gnostic universe, a not-yet-fully constituted universe created by a perverse and confused, idiotic God who screwed up the work of Creation, producing an imperfect world, and then trying to save whatever can be saved by repeated new attempts - we are all "Children of a Lesser God."_ In the mainstream Hollywood itself, this uncanny in-between dimension is clearly discernible in what is arguably the most effective scene in Alien 4: Resurrection: the cloned Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) enters the laboratory room in which the previous seven aborted attempts to clone her are on display - here she encounters the ontologically failed, defective versions of herself, up to the almost successful version with her own face, but with some of her limbs distorted so that they resemble the limbs of the Alien Thing - this creature asks Ripley to kill her, and, in an outburst of violent rage, Ripley effectively destroys the entire horror-exhibition._ - This idea of multiple imperfect universes can be discerned at two levels in Kieslowski's opus: (1) the botched character of reality as depicted in his films, and the ensuing repeated attempts to (re)create a new, better, reality; (2) with regard to Kieslowski himself as author, we also have the repeated attempts to tell the same story in a slightly different way (not only the difference between TV and movie version of Decalogue 5 and 6, but also his idea to make 20 different versions of Veronique and play them in different theatres in Paris - a different version for each theatre). In this eternally repeated rewriting, the "quilting point" is forever missing: there never is a final version, the work is never done and actually put in circulation, delivered from the author to the big Other of the Public. (Is the recent fashion of the later release of the allegedly more authentic "director's cut" also not part of the same economy?) What does this absence of the "final version" MEAN - this everlasting deferral of the moment when, like God after his six days work, the author can say "It's done!" and take a rest?
The "virtualization" of our life-experience, the explosion/dehiscence of the single "true" reality into the multitude of parallel lives, is strictly correlative to the assertion of the proto-cosmic abyss of chaotic, ontologically not yet fully constituted reality - this primordial, pre-symbolic, inchoate "stuff" is the very neutral medium in which the multitude of parallel universes can coexist. In contrast to the standard notion of one fully determined and ontologically constituted reality, with regard to which all other realities are its secondary shadows, copies, reflections, "reality" itself is thus multiplied into the spectral plurality of virtual realities, beneath which lurks the pre-ontological proto-reality, the Real of the unformed ghastly matter.
_. Stephen Jay Gould, "Time Scales and the Year 2000," in Eco, Gould, Carriere, Delumeau, Conversations About the End of Time, Harmondsworth: Penguin Books 2000, p. 41.
_. See Janet Murray, Hamlet on the Holodeck, Cambridge (Ma): MIT Press 1997, p. 37-8.
_. Here is the brief storyline: Witek runs after a train. Three variations follow on how such a seemingly banal incident could influence the rest of his life. One: he catches the train, meets an honest Communist and himself becomes a Party activist. Two: while running for the train he bumps into a railway guard, is arrested, brought to trial and sent to unpaid labor in a park where he meets someone from the opposition. He, in turn, becomes a militant dissident. Three: he simply misses the train, returns to his interrupted studies, marries a fellow student and leads a peaceful life as a doctor unwilling to get mixed up in politics. He is sent abroad to a symposium; in the mid-air, the plane he is on explodes.
_. Of Alain Masson, in Krzysztof Kieslowski. Textes reunis et presentes par Vincent Amiel, p. 57.
_. One of the indications of this reflexive stance is that, at the airport at the film's end, we see a female airline attendant from the first version carrying documents for the Communist Party delegation which is also travelling abroad, as well as Stefan, a figure from the second version - the flight at the end of the film is thus the same flight Witek was supposed (but failed) to take in the previous two versions.
_. It is nonetheless interesting to know that, in the Fall of 2000, Tom Tykwer was making in Italy Heaven, a film based on the scenario co-written by Kieslowski and Piesiewicz, the first part of the planned trilogy Heaven, Hell, Purgatory - so there is some affinity between the two directors.
_. Insdorf (see Annette Insdorf, Double Lives, Second Chances. The Cinema of Krzysztof Kieslowski, New York: Miramax Books 1999, p.175) claims that in this conversation Kieslowski directly referred to Kierkegaard's Repetition.
_. Paul Coates, "The curse of the law: The Decalogue," in Lucid Dreams: The Films of Krzysztof Kieslowski, ed. by Paul Coates, Trowbridge: Flick Books 1999, p. 103.
_. Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in America goes even further in staging a unique double frame for the flash-back; that is to say, at the film's end, it remains thoroughly ambiguous from which point in time is the narrative rendered: is the main part of the film a flash-back from the standpoint of the old Noodles returning to New York in 1968, 35 years after the main events, or is the "real" anchor of the narrative the opium den, with Noodles desperately sucking the pipe (the very last shot of the film), so that all that takes place "later" is just Noodles's opium-induced vision, his escape into an alternative future through which he endeavours to wash himself of the guilt of betraying his best friend Max (by fantasizing that Max himself effectively betrayed him, masterminding his own faked death, substituting another burned body for himself)?
_. See Gary Zukav, The Dancing Wu Li Masters. An Overview of the New Physics, London: Fontana 1979, p. 237-238.
_. Vincent Amiel, Kieslowski, Paris: Rivages 1995, p. 42-4.
_. See Annette Insdorf, op.cit., p. 165.
_. This Cause need not be in itself "dignified": in an inversion of Veronique's situation, Anna Moffo, the beautiful soprano famous in the 60s, cut short her career when forced to choose between opera singing and intense promiscuity inclusive of fellatio (her doctors informed her that swallowing the semen will destroy her voice). According to tenacious rumors, Moffo chose fellatio and accepted the ruin of her voice - se non e vero, e ben trovato. Due to its excessive "irrational" character, this anti-Cause, anti-Veronique choice ALSO is an ethical choice.
_. Kieslowski on Kieslowski, edited by Danusia Stok, London: Faber and Faber 1993, p. 161.
_. Charles Eidsvik, "Decalogues 5 and 6 and the two Short Films," in Lucid Dreams, p. 85.
_. See Vincent Amiel, Kieslowski, p. 64/70.
_. Alien 4: Resurrection emphasizes the dark fantasmatic support of the "postmodern" subjectivity. The line is blurred between the human individual and three other forms of life: its clones, the artificially produced androids, as well as the undead Alien Thing. So we have four humanoid - "thinking", intentional-stance - entities: "true" humans, their clones, artificially produced androids, the undead Alien Thing. In a series of ironic twists and reversals, clones and androids are depicted as more human than humans themselves: they are the only ones who display a minimum of freedom, i.e. who have an effective free choice. On the other hand, Alien 4 clearly links these excesses to the mysterious Corporation which attempts to breed the alien monsters in order to exploit them for its profitable purposes. In a further analysis, one should emphasize the film's ambiguous sexual background: is Ripley a woman confronted to a phallic monster, or a man (a masculinized/desexualized being) confronting a primordial horrible (M)Other?