Shock of the new. Something outside the rational, ordered mind, that chaotic zone in the dark sphere of the psyche that can never be expressed or given form in speech and the vocabulary of its desire can never be coherent. Remarking on the affinities between Harpo Marx and some of the modern Chinese painting and sculpture,that psychological reactions in individuals to the unknown, both fear and happiness are always in an Esau and jacob relation, a Cain and Abel where good guys and demons have a muddy glass relationship to what is perceived as reality. Is it pain behind the laughter or some form of pathology where the defense mechanism of the smile is only a decoy and the difference between the wild laugh and the mute conveys an impression that the sound of the non-verbal may tap into more primary emotions than the padding that language affords us.
( see link at end) …but in the instance of Harpo I believe this provides a real insight into the character. Harpo is constantly functioning on a different level than the characters around him, ignoring threats and panic and instead entertaining himself with weird games and tricks. He carries a huge pair of scissors which he uses every chance he gets to cut off someone’s clothes, tie, cigar, sausage, whatever. He gets enormous joy from knocking things out of peoples’ hands or lighting a man’s hat on fire. Harpo is driven by his desires, which sets his physical comedy apart from, say The Three Stooges. The Stooges were ok, but their gags are all surface and driven by anger towards others, while Harpo’s willfully silent mischief is all about pure self-pleasure. What stood out to me about Duck Soup this time around is that while Groucho spends so much time talking about how he’s up to no good, Harpo is actually doing it, constantly and without fear of consequence. Because of this, Harpo’s role is effectively the more subversive one and the glee one gets from watching Harpo is so much more affecting on a gut level than Groucho’s sharp wordplay.Read More:http://storefronttheatre.wordpress.com/2012/04/12/duck-soup-1933/
Harpo is Baudelaire’s Ragpicker, and Walter Benjamin’s “discarded object” emancipated with revolutionary new possibility after being dusted off from the scrap heap. He is the alter-ego of the Jewish Golem….
The stranger, or hostile figure, of the Nebenmensch or the Thing appears according to Freud in ‘the cry’ during our first experience of reality. For Lacan the Thing is ‘le mot’ a term chosen specifically to convey the idea of ‘that which has no response’ (p55). Describing the dumbness of Harpo Marx that sustains an atmosphere of doubt and radical annihilation, Lacan observes ‘Mot is what remains silent, and dumb things are not the same as things that have no relationship to words’. Its etymology is from the Latin mutus, meaning mute, speechless or dumb. Larousse defines le mot as ‘élément de la langue composé d’un ou plusieurs phonèmes susceptible d’un transcription écrite individualisé, et participant au fonctionnement syntacticosémantique d’un énoncé. Groupe de caractères ou d’éléments binaires considéré comme une entité.’ Thus Lacan situates the kernel of the Real and the Symbolic registers so that language is primary, and not a secondary process as Freud suggests. Read More:http://www.lacanianworks.net/?p=320