I remember reading about this film when it first came out. It was portrayed simply as a bad cop taking a lot of drugs but, having seen some of it last night, it is obviously not about that at all. I came in half way through but I got it immediately. The “lieutenant” (is he even actually a cop?) is not simply “bad”. He is anguished, tortured, lost, in terrible pain, in HELL, divided from his God, his humanity and reality. This is not simply a film about some seedy “rare” underworld. It’s a film about a COMMON situation in the West. There are a lot of drugs going somewhere. Witness the drug wars in Mexico, or other signs. I mean I’ve seen it. I was part of the same world that Keitels character inhabits. This was before 2006. Now I am “clean”. I was not shooting up or smoking crack pipes but I found my own little hell to inhabit. I was a serious cannabis addict. I’d spliff up, get stoned and then self-harm … until I had my own moment with God in early 2006. I “turned” to Jesus and found something unexpected. I found I’d been told a load of misinformation about what this “turning to” means.
This is the world that a lot of what we call “The West” is consistently in. Look at this map. Yes, other parts of the world have drug usage problems but United States, Great Britain, Australia and Russian Federation show a consistent level of drug addiction, and of course that is only measured addiction. The map is not the territory.
Gregory Bateson discovered that the societies he studied who are more in contact with nature than us were simply devoid of “disorders” like Schizophrenia. There is something particularly painful about our Western societies that drives people to drugs, or madness, or both.
Yet there is this illusion at work that portrays Western societies as shining beacons of happiness and prosperity … while rivers of drugs flow into those societies. Rivers of anaesthetics to medicate the pain of division and listlessness. That world is hidden away like some dirty secret. Like the film Bad Lieutenant it gets seen as “dark” when really it is a very human struggle for life. Maybe if we see drug users not as a failure, but struggling, then things might get a bit easier ?