Walter Benjamin In Naples
The video "Walter Benjamin in Naples" was filmed in Naples, Italy in the winter of 2009 and was reedited in the spring of 2015. The narration is comprised of excerpts from the essays Naples written by Walter Benjamin and Asja Lãcis in 1925 and Hashish in Marseille written by Benjamin in 1928.
An indictment of the barbaric rituals of Catholicism in the South and its moral pitfalls that yield license to the actions of the mafia sets the critical tone of the video essay. Following the title credits, a montage of scenes of victims of Pompeii and photographs of Neapolitan pedestrians along with multiple views of Mount Vesuvius running against the tic-tac of a chronometer imply the latent danger of the volcano's eruption over the city: both photography and lava can freeze time.
While seemingly lost in the Dantesque circles of Hell, Benjamin and Lãcis mount a sharp critique of the urban chaos of Naples and compare it to the safe and orderly lifestyle of Northern Europe. This dichotomy led the authors to construct the city as a kind of paradigmatic alterity: a "porous city" where privacy is constantly permeated by streams of communal life, and "where nothing is concluded because the passion for improvisation demands that space and opportunity be preserved at any price".
Under the influence of hashish Benjamin perceives the South as an object of desire. Excerpts from different texts interweave interpretations of architecture, life, politics and beauty in the Mediterranean shores as exotic primitive sites where people's gestures are "impenetrable to the foreigner", and yet their living habits resemble "the most radiant freedom of thought". Naples is portrayed in continuous metamorphosis, marked by porosity and inter-penetration, a theater in which the authority of northern European rationality vanishes when the narrator is driven by the sensorial spectacle of the streets and its people under the influence of hashish, seduced by the liberating charms of the South.