Madame B

Madame B Entangled in Emotional Capitalism:

The Lure of Love and the Performance of Capitalism


Madame B | 2013 | 96 min | Colour

By Mieke Bal & Michelle Williams Gamaker

Genre: Theoretical Fiction / Drama

Multi-lingual with English subtitles


on the occasion of Karl Marx's 200th birthday

Samstag, 5. Mai um 14.00 Uhr

Georgenstraße 47, Raum 0.07

10117 Berlin

We have called this film a “theoretical fiction”, working out a theoretical problem through a method of “imaginative imaging”. The central topic is what we have called, after sociologist Eva Illouz, “emotional capitalism”. Flaubert, before Marx and decades before Freud, intuitively “invented” a social syndrome that is rampant today, more than ever. Remembering Marx in the framework of cultural history, by putting his central concept in connection with the later Freudian foregrounding of “hysteria” as a malady especially afflicting women whose lives were curtailed by their social situation, is an effective way of shedding the arrogance of chronological evolutionism. The intertwinement of capitalism and romantic love is a tenacious social affliction. It produces a consumerism that only seemsprivate but is all but imposed from the outside, put at the service of the illusion of personal attraction. 

The central part of the film is marked by alternation of different routines in Emma’s life and the repetition of sequences from these routines. This part stages “emotional capitalism” – then and now. This system, where capitalism and romantic love trade places and where commodities are invested with emotion and love is for sale, is what kills Emma and never ceases to kill or otherwise damage people. This is the point of putting Madame Bovary into the twenty-first century. The video work is an homage to Marx through Flaubert’s prophetic political insight in the way emotions and the economy are put to work for the benefit of the latter. interested in the aspect of addiction – to love, sex, drink, food, what have you; and to buying: to what is so horribly callously called “fun shopping”.