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Psychoanalysis of Movies


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The lecture notes of Film Theory

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Psychoanalysis of Movies

  1. 1. Psychoanalysis comd 312
  2. 2. Sigmund freud • (1856-1939)
  3. 3. the unconscious • In order to function in our lives we actively repress various desires, fears, memories, and fantasies. Hence, beneath our conscious, daily social interaction there exists a dynamic, active realm of forces of desire that is inaccessible to our rational logical selves.
  4. 4. the unconscious • The unconscious is active in our dreams, slips of the tongue, and forms of artistic activity • Talking cure: bringing the repressed materials of the unconscious to the surface.
  5. 5. the unconscious • Film’s unconscious: Insofar as films deal with fantasies, they could be considered analogous to dreams and qualify as manifestations of the unconscious. • unconscious of the filmmaker & the spectator
  6. 6. oedipus complex Boy develops love for his mother = libidinal bond with the mother. -- This is tied to the fixation on the mother’s breast, its role as a source of nourishment, the mother as the font of love, caring, etc. 1.Parallel to this the boy begins to identify with his father, the figure parallel to him in terms of biological sex. 2.As a result of father’s appearance, the child gives up his love-desire for the mother. Repress his feelings for the mother (primal repression) because he fears father will punish him (castration).
  7. 7. oedipus complex
  8. 8. oedipus complex in film • Formation of normative identities: what does it mean to be/come a man? • How the male character channels his sexual desire away from his mother towards a ‘mother substitute’ • Establishment of a nuclear family: male hero / female obstacle
  9. 9. id, superego and ego • Id (unconscious): basic drives. Acts as pleasure principle. • Superego: The Super-ego strives to act in a socially appropriate manner, whereas the id just wants instant self-gratification. The Super-ego controls our sense of right and wrong and guilt. • Ego: Separates what is real. It seeks to please the id’s drive in realistic ways. Balance between primitive drives and reality (defence mechanisms)
  10. 10. superego 1) Super-ego = moral conscience, self-disciplining mechanism; it operates by producing a sense of guilt. 2) The super-ego is formed by a process Freud calls "introjection" = the internalization of parental, especially paternal authority. -- The authority of the father is assimilated by the son into his own psychic constitution. 3) The super-ego is a form of mimesis, imitation of the father; but this imitation also caries with it the prohibition of being exactly like the father. 4) The super-ego is the source of religious feelings: it is a substitute for the lost father, just as for Freud "God" is a substitute for the lost father.
  11. 11. jacques lacan • (1901-1981)
  12. 12. 3 registers of human reality • Symbolic • Reality • Imaginary Real
  13. 13. the imaginary • Mirror phase (mimicry): The child identifies with an image outside himself be it a real mirror image or simply the image of another.
  14. 14. the imaginary • The child’s captivation in the image. An identification with the other party. • Mastery of one’s motor functions and entry into the human world
  15. 15. the imaginary • Construction of Ego: the ego is constructed by an alienating identification, based on an initial lack of completeness in the body and nervous system.
  16. 16. the symbolic • Entry into the symbolic universe (language) • Symbolic pronouncements: “You look just like your father”, “What a bad boy you are!”
  17. 17. the symbolic • The ideal: symbolic identification with a signifying element • Unconscious: removes the subject from the world of the images. Give him a base in the symbolic world.
  18. 18. ideal ego and ego ideal • Ideal Ego: the image you assume • Ego Ideal: the symbolic point which gives you a place and supplies the point from which you are looked at (who is it that you are identifying with this figure)
  19. 19. the symbolic • The unconscious is structured like a language • Symptom: words trapped in the body
  20. 20. the name of the father • Paternity: the symbolic structures which organize the relation of man to woman (by following these we become part of the symbolic network)
  21. 21. the phallus • Oedipus complex: entering the symbolic circuit • Phallus: the object of mother’s desire • Child Mother
  22. 22. the phallus • Child tries to be the phallus for the mother • Castration: the renunciation of the sustained attempt to be the phallus for the mother
  23. 23. the phallus • In the larger universe of symbolic world: the phallus will be the object promised to the child for use in the future.
  24. 24. desire and lack • Demand is ultimately a demand for love, and for this reason unsatisfiable. • Desire: takes up what has been eclipsed at the level of need (distortion) • Wish: something you want consciously
  25. 25. the real • That which isn’t symbolized, which is excluded from the symbolic. • Reality: an amalgam of symbolic and imaginary (specular register + meaning). • The real would represent what is excluded from reality
  26. 26. The graph of desire • Symbolic • Imaginary
  27. 27. Slavoj zizek
  28. 28. fantasy • Imaginary-real axis (instead of imaginary-symbolic) • Fantasy is not in opposition to reality but that which secures and anchors our sense of reality • It is fantasy which makes reality’s brute facility (the Real) meaningful and liveable.
  29. 29. symptom • Sustains, suspends and subverts the apparent meaning or logic of an event • Mechanism of gender imbalance: • Classical Hollywood: gender sustains the film (i.e. woman as objects traded between men, possessed by the look) • film noir: femme fatale announce the agony of classical patriarchy (subversion)
  30. 30. drives • The regime of the brothers: with the ‘death’ of the totemic father social power reconstitutes itself around the ‘regime of the brother’, held together by mutual implication in crime, bonded through acts of violence, and sustained by rituals of humiliation.
  31. 31. drives • Desire-creatures: live under the threat of castration (for them desire is a function of lack, and lack can be ‘filled’ by a fetish-formation) • Drive-creatures: are not subject to desire: they go on regardless, they are unstoppable, unkillable, because they embody the death drive.
  32. 32. ‘enjoying superego’ • The social realm: authoritarian-without- authority: without the traditional legitimacy of the symbolic as manifest (‘submission to the law of castration’)
  33. 33. the ethics of guilt • The superego orders you to enjoy doing what you have to do: • The categorical imperative (Kant): “You can do your duty, because you must do it” • Superego: “You must do your duty, because you can” (seem to offer a free choice)