This chapter deals with one of the more controversial contributors to recent debates in film studies: Slavoj Žižek. His reconceptualization of Lacanain psychoanalytic theory around the category of the real has steered psychoanalytic film theory in new and interesting directions. He declares that they are shaped by the ideals people posit in the real, but in so far as that is the case, their experiences of reality are always shaped by ideological fantasy. This, ultimately, is Žižek's most fundamental breakthrough: that ideological fantasy is a good thing, not something that should be eschewed or dispensed with. In other words, ideological fantasies are not illusions. Rather, it is only by way of ideological fantasy that people can come to experience reality itself in the first place. Žižek's conclusion is that ideological fantasy effectively makes the world in which people live: ideological fantasy is at the foundation of what we call ‘reality’.
This chapter analyses Jacques Rancière's approach to cinema as a category of the aesthetic. For him, film is part of the historical bloc in which people live, which defines artworks by means of the category called ‘aesthetics’. People live in an era of what Rancière calls ‘the aesthetic regime’, a regime by means of which art has been defined for the last two hundred years or thereabouts. The cinema, according to him, is very good at telling stories which have a precise beginning, middle and end. Indeed, this is one aspect of art that the cinema almost completely borrows from the representative regime: the ability to tell great stories. The conjunction of the aesthetic and the representative regimes fully defines what film is and which contributes to making it such an important artform. Rancière's contribution is important because it disrupts the quest for ‘purity’ in theories of cinema.