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Review of Documentary “Inheritance”

February 16, 2013

This film should be shown to psych students as a hideous example of transference/countertransference and projection. Indeed, some of the responses to this post are great examples of same. My post seems to have pushed a lot of buttons, but I learned long ago to get out of the way of the crossfire between a person and him-/herself, so I’m stepping aside and letting my detractors illustrate exactly what I’m saying better than I ever could.

Susanna was looking for someone to take blame, and she found it in Monika, who was looking for someone to blame her. A match made in heaven. Susanna has the whole world empathizing, sympathizing. Was it horrific? Of course. It was worse than unspeakable. But she has a form of comfort in her victimhood that Monika does not have. And Monika is a victim, too, because–and I can’t overstate this–she didn’t do anything. She doesn’t need forgiveness. She was not a perpetrator. And despite everyone’s insistence to the contrary, she is being treated like one, but she opened the door to this by offering herself up as a sacrificial lamb to Susanna, who got to spit, if not on the perpetrator, on someone who looked just like him. In the scene where Susanna tears her a new one for saying what she had been told as a child, I did not see someone who actually believed it. I saw a person offering up the only, albeit feeble, explanation for her denial. I saw someone who was regressing to the person she was when she was told that stuff–a child–and who was simply offering up an explanation as to why she had taken a lifetime to come to terms with the horror her father was. And she was coming to terms with it, as evidenced by her presence at the monument and in Susanna’s company. But her psyche had protected her by giving her that ridiculous explanation. I think that she unfortunately came away with the undeserved blame she was seeking and went away full of ammunition with which to persecute herself for the rest of her days for something she Did Not Do. A whole lot of reviewers of this movie say they understand that Monika was not the perpetrator, but underneath it all, on a deep level, everyone is treating her that way. In the end, Susanna doesn’t need another person’s compassion–she has the compassion of everyone who has ever, and who will ever, hear this story. Monika has no one’s compassion, so that’s who I’m giving mine to.

[This review was originally posted on Amazon and has generated a certain amount of controversy, which I invite you to read here:

[Response to the responder who was “mortified” that I used the name “Susanna” rather than “Helen”]: I did know that her name wasn’t Susanna. Names aren’t all that important to me. They come from people, not from the godhead. Who a person IS comes from the godhead, and you can be certain I know who each woman is. (As a total aside, it might interest you to know that in American Sign Language, people are often referred to by a sign that indicates some physical characteristic, and this can change from context to context and conversation to conversation. I’m not deaf, but it’s a convention I couldn’t agree with more. So remind yourself never to lose your hearing, because you will spend a lot of your time being mortified.)

It is not short-sighted to focus on the way the meeting between the individuals played out. Obviously the individuals and their respective feelings are metaphors for something larger, and I’m sure the filmmaker would agree. If they weren’t, there would have been no point in making the film, since every piece of art is good only to the extent that it touches something more universal than some individual’s day-to-day. In this case, Monika’s feelings were not just her own but were the feelings of the all the children of every perpetrator since the beginning of time, not just the children of the SS; and Su-Helen’s (happy now?) feelings were those of every victim. So it is very much appropriate to focus on the way that meeting played out, and I couldn’t disagree with you more. As sick as it made me to see Helanna’s thinly veiled malice and Monika’s masochism, I understood both, and the value was in educating the viewing public on how NOT to act and providing insight into the complicated relationship between perpetrator, victim, and witness.

[Response to person who thinks I am “repugnant” and “narrow” for continuing to use the name “Susanna” rather than “Helen”]:The godhead is my own personal shorthand for “the nature of the universe.” the buzzing of electrons, the way of Nature, the beauty of the accident of existence. I use the word “godhead” because it provides a common language between me and my friends who are devout and who, unfortunately IMHO, have been taught to anthropomorphize the above. But it has nothing to do with religion; in particular, it has nothing to do with the white bearded man in the sky who “names” things. Re blind men & vision, that’s exactly how I feel about you, so at least we agree on something.

It doesn’t matter to me who takes names seriously or that they do that or why they do that. They are welcome to do so, but it has nothing to do with me or my opinion of the film. To be tolerant of how other people do things doesn’t mean I have to like those things or do them myself, which seems to be your approach. I find it amazing that you consider yourself so sensitive to other cultures, and so against ethnic cleansing, when in fact you aren’t going to be happy until I think the exact same thing you do and appreciate the exact same things you appreciate. That, Guest on my Thread, is the definition of narrowness. In some ways it’s even worse than flat-out bigotry because you think you are open & tolerant. If you were truly tolerant you would understand that there are people in the world who don’t give a scheit about names, but because of your true (“really” true, not “Samuel-Stone-version-of-true”) openness would simply allow that to be. But no, you have to consider me “repugnant” because I don’t place the same value on names that you do. Amazing, but not surprising.

We all get to have different thoughts and ideas and appreciate the things in the universe in our own ways. My personal take on this film is that these people represent elements of human behavior such as blame, repentance, victimization/victimhood, forgiveness, self-persecution, and I’m allowed to think all of that. So it’s barbaric in some cultures to insult a name. What is your point? I’m not going to change my entire take on this film just because you think I should think names are important, or God named Bozo and Gigantor Whatever and Whoever. All 5 of those creatures are just fictional characters to me (well, maybe not Bozo. He actually did exist). And they get to be, because I’m in charge of what I think about the nature of the universe.

And I will say it again: Monika is carrying out her own persecution, but she has nothing to be sorry for. Unfortunately, she believes she does, and the externalization of that belief is Susanna (and all the people who think Monika deserves Susanna’s hostility, whether Monika will ever meet those people or not), just as the externalization of Susanna’s hatred of her persecutor is Monika. You can think whatever you like about my use of names. We all know who I am talking about, and if you want to know, the reason I continue to use “Susanna” is that I think it’s Susanna, not Helen, who is beaming all that malice at Monika. The person she became after she was persecuted and tortured. The person who, and I’m not saying anyone on the planet would act in any other way, became someone so persecuting of an innocent, but then, we all know about children coming to act out as adults the atrocities of their childhoods. So it’s actually pretty accurate. Not to mention, even from inside the schema of holding names to be of some great importance, I think it gives the perpetrator way too much power to keep tiptoeing around the name he gave her. She will be freed of his hold on her when she can say The name you gave me doesn’t matter, because you did not touch my soul. At that point she will probably be freed of her own malice toward Monika as well. This probably won’t affect Monika, though, who will have to find her own way to free herself of her feelings of blame.

But regardless, the letters are just labels, and I don’t have to change the way I conceptualize or express something just because the person I am conceptualizing about thinks names are important. You are welcome to contribute to this discussion, but you are not welcome to come to this thread and use words like “repugnant” and “narrow” and out of the other side of your mouth consider yourself benevolent and evolved. Now mind your manners when you are on my thread, because it’s the same as being on a chair in my living room. In truth, I think my posts are pushing your buttons on some deep level, because your reaction is pretty extreme. You’re focusing your whole attack on my use of names, but I think it’s something else; that *I* am the externalization of something in you that you feel the need to express all this hostility toward…I know unfairness when I see it, and all I am is the person defending Monika. I am indeed aware of the need to prevent the violence from recurring, but I’ve chosen to focus on the violence against Monika as manifested by people who are unable to distinguish between her and her father, and who help to perpetuate her own violence against herself by doing so.

I think there’s something in there that you should look at. I’m not sure what it is, but I’m pretty sure I’m getting caught in the crossfire between You & Mr. Stone.


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