The Eye (2002), The Ontology of the Gaze, and Ghosts

We use our eyes to look. To gaze out into the world from our faces. The gaze correlates space between our body and the objects in the world. To gaze is always to gaze into the world at something. Objects call upon the vision to be distinguished from other objects. A chair sprouts up among other objects such as a table or a rug as something to seen to be used for sitting. As we set our gaze lowers downward and we gaze from the new reference point. As we mobilized our body through the world the position of our gaze shifts, and we gaze with movement. The image of the thing gazed at enters our face and becomes conceptualized in relation to its symbolic reality. The chair shifts from an ambiguous object and is assigned the properties of a chair. Something to sit on. A tool for sitting. Yet, if we took our chainsaw to the chair and buzzed it to pieces. The chair becomes symbolic and physically disintegrated, yet haunted by its previous meaning. The parts, chunks of wood and fabric, become individualized as we look down upon our destruction. There is a sense in which, being alongside a complete chair hides the meaning of the components of a chair.

In The Eye, received an eye transplant, after spending most of her life blind. In order to develop her visual cognition, she is referred to a shrink to establish connections between the image of an object and it's meaning. When Mun and her shrink first meet, he establishes his point by holding up a stapler and asking Mun what she thinks the object is. Instinctively, she reaches with her hand to touch the object in order to identify it. Blindness forced her brain allocate and identify meaning physically through touching. From Mun's perspective, the stapler is an unknown and inaccessible object. Mun has the same relationship to the stapler that an infant has to a rattle when coming into contact with it for the first time. Mun of course, knows that the object known as the stapler means something, due to the relationship the shrink imposes upon her when calling her to the task of identification.

After Mun's eye surgery, she is awoken and wanders from her hospital bed. She finds herself in a long hallway. Her eyes are still adjusting to sight, and she sees a figure at the other end of the hallway. She calls out for it. The scene flips between the viewer’s perspective and Mun's fuzzy perspective. We know what she is confronting a ghost. But she is alienated to the possibility of an intervention of the transcendent. Suddenly the ghost disappears and leaves her unsure of her visual orientation towards reality. At this point, the idea that her new eyes have given her the capacity to see ghosts, yet, the viewer provided with clear evidence to this point. In the following set of scenes Mun ambivalently interacts with a set of ghosts, until she is confronted with direct visual evidence that she is viewing the dead. Sartre argues
Only the dead can be perpetually objects without ever becoming subjects-for to die is not to lose one's objectivity in the midst of the world; all the dead are there in the world around us. But to die is to lose all possibility of revealing oneself as a subject to an Other. Being and Nothingness Google Books,. 'Being And Nothingness' p 321. 1964. Web. 13 Jun. 2014.
Of course, is this not what ghosts are attempting? The ghost is seeking to confront Mun as a subject for her. Yet, the ghost's lack the materiality to be seen. Without the clarity of being scene, a ghost only taunts Mun with fragments of meaning. There is a scene after Mun has been released from the hospital where the ghost intervenes in her reality by shifting the sight of her room between Mun's known reality and the room the ghost die in. As if to signal some comparison between the two rooms, yet because the ghost is denied embodiment by its condition of death, it is denied access to a clear capacity for sending a message.

The ghost is demanding to be seen. Why is it important for the ghost to be recognized? We learn at the end of the movie that the ghosts back story is suicide induced by her community turning on her, when she confronted the two with her premonition of fire that would kill many members of the community. The community gazed upon her over associated a meaning that negated the systems that gave value to herself, and she hung herself. Caught in a purgatorial cycle where she hung herself every night while her mother abandoned her to her choice. The ghost died ignored and recognized and came back to compel Mun's authentic gaze upon the ghost's tragedy.
When we are in direct connection with the Other by language and when we gradually learn what he thinks of us, this is the thing which will be able at once to fascinate us and fill us with horror. Being and Nothingness Google Books,. 'Being And Nothingness' p 288. 1964. Web. 13 Jun. 2014.


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