Ethics in Iran: Jacques Lacan and the Films of Abbas Kiarostami's "Koker Trilogy"

Ryan Nordle, University of Vermont


In 1900, Sigmund Freud published The Interpretation of Dreams, establishing climacteric concepts for psychoanalysis and creating a structure upon which he built the theory and his career. 20 years later, he had entirely revised these concepts that solidified the foundation of psychoanalysis. In Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1920), Freud notably theorizes the ‘death drive’ for the first time, a radical but necessary break from the economics of the pleasure principle. Often, the death drive is taken to be the most important contribution of this essay, but I argue that the lasting message to be gleaned from Freud is what he concludes Beyond the Pleasure Principle with: “We must be ready, too, to abandon a path that we have followed for a time, if it seems to be leading to no good end. Only believers, who demand that science shall be a substitute for the catechism they have given up, will blame an investigator for developing or even transforming his views.” In this thesis, I argue that we can develop a necessary Ethic from this way that Freud approached the formation of his work. Drawing on the further developments from Jacques Lacan, I claim that one can take theory of the gaze as an ethical moment: the point at which one is faced with a disruption that they are tasked to carry out “to see where it will lead,” as Freud puts it. Further, I utilize this formation of the Ethic to read the films of Abbas Kiarostami’s “Koker trilogy” to highlight the points at which we can locate the characters, form, and content of these films as realizations of such ethical moments.