Antonioni's The Passenger as Lacanian Text
Jack Turner
In: Other Voices, v.1, n.3 (January 1999)

[M]ost pop management and self-help books and videotapes offer a cornucopia of suggestions on how the individual can become a better manager or a better person, enjoy more intimate or more professional relationships . . . . You "unlock your hidden potential" by doing things you have never done before. Just get an emotional bypass or personality transplant and everything will be fine. The fundamental message is cruelly specific: You'd be a much better person if only you were someone else.

– Michael Shrage, Shared Minds

Art presents the most comprehensible examples of the almost irresistible human tendency to seek consolation in fantasy and also of the effort to resist this and the vision of reality which comes with success. Success in fact is rare. Almost all art is a form of fantasy-consolation and few artists achieve the vision of the real.

– Iris Murdoch, The Sovereignty of Good

In Michelangelo Antonioni's 1975 film The Passenger, the main character, David Locke,[1] portrayed by Jack Nicholson, impulsively "trades in" his own life for that of another man who resembles him and who dies in an adjacent hotel room in Africa. Locke is attempting to escape the painful prison of his own life and enter the realms of possibility and enticing mystery represented by the life of another; in other words, he is trying to create reality from a common fantasy. He is trying to rewrite the narrative of his life, and he is hoping to "become" someone else, just as many moviegoers do vicariously while in the theater. Unfortunately he lies to himself and ignores the fact that any s uch trade, outside the seemingly magical environment of the cinema, is going to include the sometimes startling sensations associated not only with risk and change but with a different perspective, based on the history of the life one is stepping into; his escapism is also analogous to suicide, a rejection of one's own history and possibilities. Locke's story shows that lying to oneself by trying to live in what Jacques Lacan referred to as the Imaginary (a fantasy world) is even more perilous and self-d estructive than lying to others.

According to Antonioni, "The greatest danger for those working in cinema is the extraordinary possibilities it offers for lying" (in Samuels 31). In The Passenger, Rachel Locke asks her husband, David, a reporter (the film was originally titled "The Reporter"), why he did not point out that the president of an African nation was obviously lying during an interview. He replies, "Because those are the rules." It is precisely because Antonioni himself breaks the rules of cinematic tradition and "grammar," and because of the artful way he does so that The Passenger unmistakably achieves a "vision of the real," not only in novelist/philosopher Iris Murdoch's terms but in Lacan's. In the process, the film does something even more important. Normally "the cinema . . . confines the spectator in an illusory identity, by a play of self-images" (Elsaesser 43); the film frame acts as a mirror wherein the viewer sees himself through some type of identification, usually with a character. By continually frustrating identification, Antonioni saves the audience from immersing themselves in the same type of "Imaginary plenitude" that ultimately proves fatal for Locke, and through the use of eccentric camera angles and unusual editing, Antonioni also demonstrates the possibility of new, healthier ways of seeing and living.

The film works as a powerful psychological allegory that fits the framework of Lacan's primary matrix (Imaginary, Symbolic, Real) and even seems to be based on such a pattern, with Locke representing the Imaginary; his wife, Rachel, and his producer, Martin Knight, the Symbolic; and the Girl standing for the Real.[2] There are also three mirrors featured prominently in the film, each one a Lacanian text within the text. Such a deep structure should not be surprising: the three co-writers of the film (Antonioni, Mark Peploe, on whose story the script is based, and film critic Peter Wollen) would have been at least somewhat familiar with Lacan's theories at the time of the film's writing and producti on.[3] Écrits, Lacan's seminal collection of essays and lectures, had been published in 1966 (Paris: Editions de Seuil) and was being read and cited soon after by the influential Cahiers du Cinema critics; the first major English translation of Lacan's writings - The Language of the Self - had appeared in 1968. But whatever the degree of intentionality, a Lacanian lens focuses well on The Passenger, which is essentially the story of an adult "mirror phase" gone wrong.[4]

Locke has come to dislike the self he sees in the mirror and the messages his senses are sending him. Much like a certain patient that Lacan discusses, he "has come to the end of his tether. . . . Let me say that being as he is of mature years, as the comical phrase goes . . . he would be quite ready to mislead us with his menopause in order to excuse his own impotence . . ." (Écrits 266). Locke is impotent in completing his assignment in the desert, impotent in communicating with the Africans, impotent in his use of the (phallic) shovel to free his stuck Land Rover, and quite possibly impotent with his wife ("We haven't been close the past couple of years," Rachel tells Martin). The Symbolic Law of the Father seems to have frustrated Locke and compromised his integrity: "We translate every situation, every experience into the same old codes," he tells David Robertson, the English gunrunner who bears a close resemblance to him and whose death propels Locke into trying to "become" him. Locke's tone of voice indicates that he is exasperated. He is ready to rebel from the Symbolic Order, to attempt a return to the Imaginary, the starting point of human identity. Indeed, we hear those disconsolate words about the "old codes" in a flashback while Locke is engaged in "trading in" his life for that of Robertson. (Locke is switching photos in their passports and listening to their earlier conversation on a tape recorder.) "I used to be someone else," Locke will later tell the Girl (Maria Schneider), "but I traded him in." However, this fantasy of a new self is not based in the Real; Locke's new i.d. is not a new id. His death wish, manifested by his desire to regress to the Imaginary, if not the womb, will not go away.[5] Fantasia becomes euthanasia.

Locke's first line as Robertson is "I'd like to inquire about flights." As Christian Metz writes, the medium of film is "something in whose definition there is a great deal of 'flight'" (63). Locke, a fitting symbol for the Imaginary and escapist elements of film, is constantly in flight and literally appears to be flying in the overhead shot of his "lively flapping gesture . . . above the blue-green waters" of Barcelona Bay, when he "dramatic-ally visualizes his ecstasy" (Rifkin 123), "liberated, he supposes, from the prison of his old self" (Arrowsmith, "Watching" 37). But he is running away, not running toward anything. He can approximate the imagery of freedom, but not the reality, for the Real is linked to the already-written texts of the Symbolic - the "old codes," the context.

"What are you running away from?" asks the Girl. They are driving between two rows of large trees, all painted with big white bands. Locke tells her to face the rear of the car and look: he is escaping the past and he is running from sameness. The trees are encoded with signifiers; thus Locke sees the Real as defaced by the Symbolic. As Ned Rifkin writes regarding Locke, "how one sees the world is ultimately how one lives in it" (148) - or why one chooses to escape it. Both Robertson and the Girl point out the beauty of nature, but Locke is unable to appreciate it. Even though he replies, "Yes, it's beautiful" to the Girl, his tone is distracted and disdainful. Locke "had a different perspective, a kind of detachment," says Martin Knight in a televised eulogy for the "deceased" reporter. "And then he had this great talent for observation." However, there are indications that Locke may not be as good at observing as Knight thinks he is, and in any event, mere observation is not appreciation or participation. One cannot be a reporter and nothing else.

In many ways Locke has been locked out for a long time. Rachel tells him, "You involve yourself in real situations, but you've got no real dialogue." As Seymour Chatman notes, "Part of the rationale of escape is surely that the exotic place will force [Locke] to take real action. . . . [But] it proves all too powerful a stimulus, one that overwhelms [him]" (181). Furthermore, says Chatman, "It is precisely the mystery of the existence of the other that attracts him" (186). Locke not only wants to change his self-image to a more active, integrated one, he wants to become a different self, to participate in another story. In mid "mirror phase" he simply crawls into a different mirror and never completely comes back. Thus the phase acquires a fatal trauma because it produces only stasis. "There is an ineluctable sense," Rifkin says, "that, because he commits existential suicide . . . Locke will die" (133).

Locke is a logical extreme, in a sense the perfect moviegoer, the total escapist. "You can't go on just escaping like this," the Girl tells him, but in some ways he could: "Locke could have taken the money and run . . . ," Chatman notes, "but then he would have betrayed his original intention, the projected fantasy - the voyeuristic excitement . . . of immersing himself in the intimate details of another man's life" (187, emphasis mine).

In effect Locke has "sutured" himself into a dreamlike, thus filmic, story.[6] His careful razoring out of the passport photos, exchanging them, and then gluing them back in resembles a surgical procedure, as well as the process of editing a film. If he has been merely a kind of actor trying to follow the script of the Symbolic Law and not break the rules, after his "suturing" he becomes even worse: an actor on a strange stage where he does not know his lines or even the plot. Perversely Locke obtains exactly what he wanted - Imaginary plenitude and almost total newness. He is an amorphous being plunged into chaotic foreign locales. However, he is not up to the task of being reborn, of rediscovering the Real with a new sense of the Symbolic. Like Thomas in Blow-Up, Locke has bought "a one-way ticket to fantasyland," but unlike Thomas, Locke does so knowingly, in "a deliberate and informed act" (Rifkin 131). That he has no intention of coming back through the mirror can be seen throughout the film in his evasiveness and, in the end, in his calm acceptance of death.

But the audience watching The Passenger is not allowed to escape reality, especially not through identification with Locke. Antonioni plays tricks with us, occasionally forcing our gaze to be Locke's gaze. For example, Locke glances up to a fan over the dead man's bed, and the camera follows his eyes; he remembers talking to Robertson, and we see and hear the encounter as if we were in Locke's mind. Then Antonioni snatches away that route into the film, shuts us out, makes Locke an Other. When he is in the cable car in Barcelona, we are suddenly outside, unable to hear the conversation. Doors keep shutting in our faces - a desk clerk, representing the audience - puts his ear up to one of the doors to listen. Locke's first flashback to Rachel (the fire-watching sequence) quickly changes to her point of view.

Startlingly the film becomes two films, which are radically different. There is Locke's story, slickly produced, with sophisticated lighting, careful camera angles, and high-quality sound; the discussion we hear between Locke and Robertson is so smoothly integrated into the soundtrack that we are shocked to learn Locke is listening to it on tape. It does not sound like a recording from a small tape recorder. But in Rachel's segments, sometimes introduced by documentary footage, there are harsh edges, the marks of cinema verite: bad lighting, docu-style static camera set-ups, and extraneous, echoing noises. Indeed, the sound is so rough and inconsistent that some dialogue is nearly impossible to understand. Rachel and Martin live in, and represent, the Symbolic Order, the Real as signified; Locke lives in the dream state of the Imaginary. Antonioni is insidious in his play between the two, subtly causing us to see and feel our preference for the fantasy world of Locke, which is more vital (ironically), more colorful, more "movie-like," therefore more pleasurable, easier to lose ourselves in. We are thus indicted.

But despite the "filmic pleasure" of the Locke segments, there are also elements of "filmic unpleasure" (cf. Metz), and identification with him is not fully possible. Nor is identification with Nicholson as actor and "star" (Metz 67). As Pauline Kael has noted, Antonioni's direction "wiped him out" (87), which, of course, for the purpose of the overall thematic goal, was completely intentional. "The strategy of the [wandering] camera shots is constantly to undermine any sense that Locke's point of view is central and constantly adhered to . . . ," writes Chatman; "the camera keeps us detached from him. The question then becomes less one of sympathy or empathy than of meditation - a rare mood in a commercial film . . ." (196, 199).

A subject for meditation might be this: why does Antonioni distance us even more harshly from Rachel and Martin? Not only are their sequences less polished, the two characters are juxtaposed with harsh images. Rachel is first presented as cold and detached, drink in hand, "casually resting her arm on a chair . . . certainly not . . . a morose widow" (Rifkin 135). In Locke's flashback, she snaps at him for laughing at the fire and, like a scolding mother, asks, "Are you crazy?" (Locke answers, "Yes.") Within days after Locke's "death," we see her with a new lover who sneeringly suggests, "Maybe you can re-invent him." When she discovers Locke's passport with Robertson's picture, she suddenly knows what has happened and seems to "re-invent" her love for him, becoming determined to find him. Whether her main motivation is in fact love and not power is open to interpretation, but Rachel is clearly linked to the Symbolic Law that Locke is trying to avoid, as symbolized by the police for example. The first shot of her in Spain shows her emerging from behind a prisoner in handcuffs being led by police out of a van. She then follows him and his escorts into the station. Later Antonioni's cam era first shows the sign over another police station, then pans down to show Rachel coming out the door.

Martin, too, is linked to the Symbolic, as well as to Rachel and Locke, in a series of framings centering on Martin's moviola. Almost always, the viewing device is located between Rachel and Martin while showing Locke's documentary footage, thus becoming a symbol for Locke himself, his images caught between his parent figures - Rachel, the scolding mother, and Martin, the "producer" who has guided Locke's use of the Symbolic. The first interview we see on the moviola shows another father figure, the authoritative African president, speaking slowly and deliberately. He finishes by saying, "This matter is in the hands of the Law. It is up to the Law to make its comment." Shortly thereafter, the guerrilla representatives are captured by the president's men and (probably) killed; they are the political rebels from the Law just as Locke is the psychological rebel.

When next we see the moviola, it is showing the brutal execution by firing squad of a tightly bound black prisoner; this is grisly footage, especially when one learns it is from a real execution. [7] The scene is placed near the middle of the film, as if Antonioni were making a statement about the centrality of death to life itself, reminiscent of Ernest Hemingway's beliefs. To participate fully in life, one must accept death, but Locke opts out, at first just metaphorically; then he escapes the anxiety of life and "lack," as Lacan would say, by actually dying.

In other words, he disappears, just as he does from the screen of the moviola in another Rachel/Martin sequence, the one that features Locke's aborted interview with the witch doctor. When the subject turns the camera on Locke, he freezes and smiles nervously, an animal caught in nothingness with nothing to redeem him. In this sense he may resemble Antonioni's distanced audience. Both the director and the witch doctor know enough about truth to break the rules of narrative conventions. Just as Locke crawls out of the moviola frame, as seen between Rachel and Martin, Martin says, "He disappeared." This line is directly referring to "Robertson," whom Martin has been trying to locate - on his quest as Rachel's "knight" (his last name is not a random choice). But the exact juxtaposition of Martin's line with the on-screen image of Locke's "disappearance" not only foreshadows Locke's death but acts as a directorial comment on the reasons for Locke's escapism. This temporary escape is framed symbolically as an avoidance of the gaze of the parents, just as it is an actual avoidance of the gaze of the witch doctor, yet another threatening father figure.

When Martin first arrives in Barcelona during his search, we see a street scene with Locke walking along; then the camera pans up right, and a quick cut reveals a bird in a cage. The next pan is down left from the cage to Martin, making clear the connection between hunted and hunter. Later, in the first mirror featured in the film, Locke is reflected as he looks around into a large mirror to keep a surreptitious eye on Martin, who is across the street. Thus the evocation of the mirror phase is there, though somewhat changed: Locke sees himself, his surroundings, and the Father (an emissary from his Mother), all separate images, all in a sense frightening, all resulting in tension. When Locke sees a large red truck move into the reflected space between him and Martin, he runs away. Never again does he really pretend to be Robertson. He admits his duplicity and charade to the Girl to secure her assistance. ("Have you decided not to disappear?" she asks him upon their second meeting in Barcelona. "No," he replies. "I thought perhaps you could help me.") And it is as Locke that he is sought by Rachel.

Like her, the second mirror Antonioni focuses on is also linked to the Law. Locke looks in his rearview mirror to see the police in pursuit of his vehicle, then they disappear from view. The camera stays on the mirror as it reflects nothing but the Spanish countryside, the raw Real. Into this image of untouched beauty, the police again intrude. As Locke pulls over - only to speed away again - the mirror becomes secondary in the shot and Locke alone is visible in it, his frenzied face in isolation, in the midst of the Real but shut off from it in a small frame, like a cage.

The third and final mirror featured by Antonioni is attached to a closet door at the Hotel de la Gloria and only reflects the Girl. Locke is positioned to the left of it, never to make love to the Girl again, never again to enter the Real. That the Girl is emblematic of the Real is shown in several ways. She is blatantly sensual, and as Rifkin points out during his detailed discussion of the film's color symbolism, the Girl is always dressed in natural colors: greens, blues, flowery prints (136-8). "Her world is Nature," says William Arrowsmith ("Watching" 50). After she and Locke make love the first time, Locke himself "wears a deep green shirt [but] while he wears the color which is linked to life, he is unable to renew himself in his new identity" (Rifkin 137). He can merge himself with the Real only temporarily.

We can also see the Girl as the Real because she accepts Locke's signifiers with little resistance, just as the natural world accepts the imprints (the texts) of humankind. When Locke draws her into his escape scheme, for example, she willingly takes on the role of accomplice. As noted earlier, the Girl, like Robertson, points out the beauty of nature. Robertson had referred to it as "so still . . . kind of waiting." And the Girl herself seems to wait on Locke, to follow his lead, even to the point of reflecting some of his expressions: when she asks him at one point what he is thinking and he says "Nothing," they both smile identically.

But she becomes definitely an Other - and one linked to the Symbolic - when she insists that Locke keep his appointments like Robertson, who "believed in something." If the Girl's sudden emphasis on responsibility seems out of character, her talking of Robertson as though she had known him personally may seem even more startling. In the logic of the story, of course, Locke could have told her much about him off screen, but there is another possible, even likely, explanation for her action and for the conviction in her voice (an animated urgency not heard from her earlier): the Girl is the estranged wife of David Robertson.

The most obvious evidence of this surprising, indeed wrenching, connection appears in the scene at the Hotel de la Gloria's front desk. As Locke is registering, the clerk interrupts, reading the name Locke has written: "Mr. Robertson . . . Mrs. Robertson has arrived a few hours ago." "Mrs. Robertson?!" asks the incredulous Locke. "Yes," the clerk continues. "We don't need your passport. One is enough." Passports are important in The Passenger, but this one is surely the most shocking. The Girl has a passport that identifies her as Mrs. Robertson. At least this is the strong impression here, and no critic I know of has followed this apparent revelation to its logical, though admittedly bizarre, conclusion.

When one does so, viewing the film again, certain seemingly unrelated clues fall into place. If one fails to link the Girl with Robertson, she remains merely another one of Antonioni's tantalizing, unsolved mysteries. Stanley Kauffman, for example, was so puzzled by the character as to be nearly irate: "Why does [Locke] pass [her] in a London park before he later accidentally meets her in Barcelona? And why does Antonioni italicize it by moving the camera in on her after [he] passes? [It makes] the narrative muzzy" (33). However, when viewed through the proper lens, the narrative becomes fairly clear.

Here are some other bits of evidence pointing to the Girl's link to Robertson:

  • The Girl would naturally be in London, her home city and that of her husband; that they are separated is indicated by Robertson's absence from London for three years (as he tells Locke) and the absence of a wedding ring on the Girl's ring finger.
  • Robertson's denial of any family, though he does admit to "a few commitments," sounds like Freudian denial - peppered with "no's"; although not asked, he says he is going to London for "no real reason."
  • The Girl could be waiting for him when she sees Locke at Bloomsbury Center; she looks at the place where Locke had stood, then leans back with a thoughtful expression, as though he had reminded her of someone; when Locke later mentions "coincidence" at a cafe, she stares silently, somewhat nervously, into space.
  • Any reconciliation attempt between the Robertsons might have been set to continue in Barcelona. (Naturally, because of his dangerous business, the husband and wife would travel there separately; he has a business meeting in between times.) Robertson's appointment book says he was to "pick up Lucy" on Friday in Barcelona; the "Lucy" entry is unique - hastily scrawled with no set meeting place, as though the arrangements had been made by phone between two people who knew each other; later, the Girl barely mentions the name "Lucy" during her questioning of Locke about the girls' names in the appointment book; furthermore, why would Robertson need to "pick up" a guerrilla representative? He has normally met them in pairs. Thus we can conclude that the Girl's name is Lucy.
  • Finally, when the Girl sees Locke's selfish desire to avoid the sense of duty she associates with Robertson, she would feel strongly compelled to speak out.

At least these puzzle pieces seem to fit into the same picture and would partially complete a portrait of a woman living in loneliness, pain, and confusion who can still enjoy being alive. Like the Real, the Girl (labeled with what becomes an ironic signifier) is far deeper and more complicated than at first meets the eye.

While representing nature and the Real, the Girl also seems to understand the Symbolic and its capacity to add meaning to life, even though it can be threatening. Both initial encounters with Locke (in London and Barcelona) begin with her reading, a pastime she relishes: when Locke mentions her reading in London, she says, "Then it must have been me." She is as curious about life as Locke is sick of it. As Chatman writes, "Locke has seen enough of the world" (188). The Girl reads to learn, whereas Locke wants to escape the Symbolic by living a narrative.

The Passenger itself, though a narrative and an absorbing one to "read", is ultimately a rejection of the accepted syntax of presentation in traditional narrative films, which cater to the illusions and identifications of the audience. [8] The spectator cannot even identify with the camera - and thus with himself as "all-perceiving" (Metz 48-9). We have no idea where it is going next, and the editing is occasionally just as eccentric. Antonioni's camera is free to explore without the chains of conventional filmic, narrative "law," and thus he twists the Symbolic to fit his own personal vision (just as Lacan does with his dense, allusive, labyrinthine prose). The critic Martin Walsh notes that the camera angles are sometimes "deliberately 'inadequate,'" a technique aimed at breaking the rules of accepted cinematic codes (8-9). One of the effects of such unconventional presentation, according to Ted Perry, is to "dynamize" off-screen areas (4). Another effect is to make even the camera an Other.

Unlike Locke, we are not allowed to lose ourselves in the Imaginary, to partake in "narcissistic self-complacency" (Lacan, Language 171). Rather than an "ego ideal," an imagined omipotent self (cf. Metz 82; Lacan, Language 170-1), the camera represents an other possible self, an ideal, projected uniquely by Antonioni, that is generous and courageous enough to accept almost anything, and curious, anxious to discover more and become more involved in the Real, not turning away or hiding in the Imaginary, or even accepting the Symbolic as previously experienced. Like the Girl's remark about "Gaudi buildings," most films are "good for hiding in." The Passenger shines a searchlight into those hiding places and thus engenders a kind of mirror phase in its audience, showing us where we have been, where we are, and where we could be.[9] Locke's fate is an object lesson: the sutured spectator is essentially "dead."

André Bazin once wrote that "realism in art can only be achieved in one way - through artifice" (26). The artifice in The Passenger may appear superficial: the camera shots and editing cuts do not behave the way we expect them to. But what such directorial self-consciousness leads to is a deep consciousness of self on the part of the audience, an isolation that can lead to participation in the full sensual flow of life. The film is not simply an entertainment or an experience, but a representation of the crux of existence, an exploration of "the nature of identity as an existential problem" (Chatman 187). Antonioni believes "that one's ability 'to see rightly' is essential to an understanding of how to live in the world . . ." (Rifkin 118); "it is clearly optics and perception which Antonioni has in mind throughout" (Arrowsmith, "Watching" 59). With this particular film, his masterpiece according to Rifkin (121), Antonioni graphically demonstrates the truth in a remark by poet Wallace Stevens: "Accuracy of observation is the equivalent of accuracy of thinking" (158). And accuracy of thinking leads to perceptive, creative participation in the ever-changing world of the senses, a world that can be considerably diminished, even destroyed, by immersion in the Imaginary.[10]


1 "David Locke" could well be an amalgam of the names of British philosophers David Hume (1711-1776) and John Locke (1632-1704). Such a combination would suit his predicament: a man lost in "the old impersonal atom-world of Hume," as Iris Murdoch calls it (25), yet trying to return his mind to a "tabula rasa" state to begin anew. One should recall, by the way, that the original Latin phrase does not mean "blank slate" but "erased tablet." (The connection between the names is not original with me but was suggested by Professor Ina Rae Hark; see note 10.)

2 The Imaginary includes "the basically narcissistic relation of the subject to his ego [and] a so-called dual relationship based on - and captured by - the image of a counterpart . . . (i.e., another who is me). . . . [T]he Imaginary implies a type of apprehension in which factors such as resemblance . . . play a decisive role. . . . Lacan's use of the term . . . is not entirely unrelated to the usual meaning, for he holds that all Imaginary behaviour and relationships are irremediably deceptive . . ." (LaPlanche and Pontalis 210). The Symbolic, for Lacan, designates "a structure whose discrete elements operate as signifiers (linguistic model) or, more generally, the order to which such structures belong (the Symbolic Order). Secondly he uses it to refer to the Law on which this order is based; thus when Lacan speaks of the symbolic father . . . he has an agency in mind . . . an agency which promulgates the Law-" (LaPlanche and Pontalis 440). The Real is essentially "reality - the given field of . . . existence [including nature] over which the Imaginary and the Symbolic range in their rival attempts to control" (Wright 110). I have capitalized lacan's major terms throughout, as is traditional (see The Language of the Self).

3 Wollen in fact cites Lacan quite often. For example, see his discussion of the "post-1968 . . . Dziga-Vertov group" in "Ontology and 'Materialism' in Film," in his Readings and Writings. In this same book,Wollen works extensively with Lacan's ideas in "The Hermeneutic Code."

4 Analogous to a mid-life crisis, an adult mirror phase involves a redefinition of the self, whereas the phase in infancy is the original definition's beginning, with its inception in the euphoric Imaginary and its end coming with the child's entrance into the Symbolic Order (see Wright, chapter 7). Otto Kernberg and Heinz Kohut have successfully used "mirroring" in therapy. For a discussion that brings them together with Lacan, see Holland, 335-63.

5 "Nicholson wonderfully communicates . . . Freudian morbido, or death instinct, in a way of speaking and moving that is slightly too deliberate, even forced. . . . [Locke] is world-weary. . . . For him, death is liberation" (Chatman 188). For a detailed treatment of morbido, see Brown, especially chapter 9, in which he connects oedipal (vagina/ womb) desire to the death instinct.

6 For more on the term "suture" as it applies to film (coined in this sense by Steven Heath), see Silverman, chapter 5. Christian Metz discusses the dreamlike aspects of films in The Imaginary Signifier, passim.

7 Rifkin says that "the events . . . did actually transpire as represented," according to Antonioni in a personal interview, but "Antonioni would not reveal where or when," saying he had sworn secrecy to get the film (189).

8 According to Daniel Dayan, while watching "classical cinema . . . , [unable] to see the workings of the code, the spectator is at its mercy. His Imaginary is sealed into the film" (qtd. in Gabbard and Gabbard 182). Thus the typical film produces a mimicry of Imaginary plenitude.

9 As Arrowsmith says, "We move . . . from where we were, stripping ourselves of the baggage that encumbers our journey, to where we are, into this new abstraction with its eerie light, its dangerous Lucretian uncertainty and secret violence, born of the new uncertainties which our old certainties suppressed. This is, I believe, the master pattern, the kinetic life of Antonioni's design" (Translator's Preface xxvii).

10 I am grateful for the advice of professors Ina Rae Hark and David Cowart of the University of South Carolina during the revision stage of this essay.

Works Cited:

Arrowsmith, William. Translator's Preface. That Bowling Alley on the Tiber: Tales of a Director, by Michelangelo Antonioni. New York: Oxford University Press, 1986.

Arrowsmith. "Watching a Film Watch Us: Antonioni's The Passenger." Pequod 19-21 (1985): 33-65.

Bazin, André. What Is Cinema? Vol. 2. Trans. Hugh Gray. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1971.

Brown, Norman O. Life Against Death. 2nd ed. Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press, 1985.

Chatman, Seymour. Antonioni; or, The Surface of the World. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985.

Elsaesser, Thomas. "Primary Identification and the Historical Subject: Fassbinder and Germany." Ciné-Tracts 11 (Fall 1980): 43-52.

Gabbard, Krin, and Glen O. Gabbard. Psychiatry and the Cinema. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987.

Holland, Norman. The I. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1985.

Kael, Pauline. When the Lights Go Down. New York: Holt, Rinehart - Winston, 1980.

Kauffman, Stanley. Rev. of The Passenger. New Republic 172.6 (April 16, 1975): 22, 33-4.

Lacan, Jacques. Écrits. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Tavistock, 1977.

Lacan. The Language of the Self. Trans. Anthony Wilden. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1968.

LaPlanche, J., and J.-B. Pontalis. The Language of Psychoanalysis. Trans. Donald Nicholson-Smith. London: Hogarth, 1973.

Metz, Christian. The Imaginary Signifier. Trans. Celia Britton et al. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1982.

Murdoch, Iris. The Sovereignty of Good. New York: Schocken, 1971.

Perry, Ted. "Men and Landscapes: Antonioni's The Passenger." Film Comment 11 (1975): 2-6.

Rifkin, Ned. Antonioni's Visual Language. Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press, 1982.

Samuels, Charles Thomas. Encountering Directors. New York: Capricorn/G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1972.

Schrage, Michael. Shared Minds. New York: Random House, 1990.

Silverman, Kaja. The Subject of Semiotics. New York: Oxford University Press, 1983.

Stevens, Wallace. Opus Posthumous. Ed. Samuel French Morse. New York: Knopf, 1977.

Walsh, Martin. "The Passenger: Antonioni's Narrative Design." Jump Cut 8 (August- September 1975): 8-13.

Wollen, Peter. Readings and Writings. London: Verso Editions - NLB, 1982.

Wright, Elizabeth. Psychoanalytic Criticism. London - New York: Methuen, 1984.