I’ll never forget the first time I watched The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology. When it popped up on my Netflix screen, I thought, “What the hell is this?” That title is nothing if not strange. I ventured into it on one of those ‘Let’s Watch This Random Weird Thing’ whims.
I did not regret my decision. This is no ordinary documentary. It is more like an elaborate video essay. Critical theorist Slavoj Žižek is implanted into various films and, with his thick Slovenian accent and slushy lisp, talks about them philosophically. That might sound boring, but, believe me, it isn’t!
The movie makes critical analysis exciting. Žižek is like a detective in a mystery novel, only he targets popular culture. We are introduced to concepts from Marx, Lacan, Plato, and more, through a wide variety of illustrations from pop culture. He’s like the cool professor whose class everyone wants to take. At the risk of sounding unsophisticated, I’ll go ahead and say, he makes thinking fun!
It isn’t only Žižek that makes this film exciting, but the subjects he analyzes, whether it’s The Sound of Music, A Clockwork Orange, Taxi Driver, or more obscure ones like the Soviet propaganda film The Fall of Berlin and the music of Rammstein. Part of the excitement is waiting to see what he analyzes next.
Pervert’s Guide is also edited extremely well. Despite the fact that we’re essentially listening to a man lecture for two hours, it almost never feels like it drags on. We linger on a subject for just the right amount of time, and then move on. And while most documentaries feature a set up of historical footage + shots of people in chairs talking, in this documentary Žižek becomes part of the scene itself. Director Sophie Fiennes executes this masterfully. The set designs, the costumes, and even the cinematography in the shots of Žižek match the films he discusses.
Pervert’s Guide lives up to its name: it’s weird and thought-provoking, intriguing and exciting. Žižek is lively and will keep your attention, he’ll give you stuff to think about like no one else could, and you may never watch movies the same way again.
Jack Holloway is a writer and musician living in Brooklyn, New York. He is an avid movie-lover, with a particular affinity for classic, indie, and foreign films. Beyond movies and books, you could talk to him about the year’s best music, different kinds of beer, or even baking!