The purpose of this paper is to engage with the problem of repetition in commodity culture, or what could be defined as "the constant reproduction of the same thing" (Adorno and Horkheimer 1979). From the Frankfurt School's critique of the "culture industry" to the postmodern nihilism of Jean Baudrillard, a discourse of cultural pessimism develops according to which the commodification of the new promises that nothing changes, we enter an era of "pseudo-cyclical time" (Debord 1983) to finally pass into a post-historical hyper-real "where things are being replayed ad infinitum" (Baudrillard 2007). Deleuze is hardly blind to the problem that the cultural pessimists formulate, but his stance is radically different towards it: he advances the thesis that difference (in) itself is life's (un)founding principle, and that the constant reproduction of the same thing is a mere surface effect. The notion of repetition is radically reformulated, becoming the profound process through which difference is made, and art is granted a crucial differentiating function. Subsequently, "there is no other aesthetic problem than that of the insertion of art into everyday life. The more our daily life appears standardised, stereotyped and subject to an accelerated reproduction of objects of consumption, the more art must be injected into it" (Deleuze 2004).
With the Wallander franchise reaching its 50th sequel and Beck about to appear in his 40th film, the "Swedish detective wonder" seems to be the realisation of the pessimists’ nightmare: Scandinavian crime fiction is a culture industry, if there ever was one. Acknowledging this (post)modern predicament, the paper will nevertheless take up on Deleuze's suggestion and investigate a curious case within this phenomenon: Måns Månssons highly idiosyncratic Hassel – The Private Investigators (2012). A roguish re-imagination of one of Swedish police fiction's most classical franchises, the film constitutes an artistic intervention into the seemingly unbreakable wave of Scandinavian crime fiction films – a covert work of conceptual art injected right into the channels of commercial distribution. Hassel is a film about replay ad infinitum, a "counter-actualisation" (Nilsson 2012) of the genre's action-driven, resolution-oriented logic. It follows a group of private investigators engaging in the endless re-enactment of historical events in order to solve the 30-year-old Palme murder. The film is packed with postmodern puns concerning the simulacral quality of their investigation and would thus seem to corroborate the pessimism of Baudrillard. The paper will nevertheless show how the aesthetic strategies taken by the filmmaker, including the choice to shoot the film on the obsolescent medium of S-VHS, push the film's mechanical repetitions to an unbearable point at which it breaks into the simultaneous expression of a seemingly insoluble problem and a potential solution to the very problem that it expresses.
8th International Deleuze Studies Conference. Stockholm, June 29-July 1 2015