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Analysis of The Link Between Cinema and Psychoanalysis

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The cinema experience can be a very deep and emotional experience and in this sense there is an obvious similarity between dreams and cinema. Sigmund Freud describes dreams as the royal road to the unconscious. At the end of this royal road lies the Kingdom ruled by the Unconscious or Mind. The royal family includes the events and emotions that were unable to express themselves in the conscious world. These repressed emotions get into constant battle with the consciousness. The battle traps these emotions in a prison guarded by the consciousness.

After the tiresome battle and guarding the consciousness falls asleep. The repressed emotions utilize this moment, disguises as dream and escapes the prison. It travels the whole royal path and seeks its freedom of expression. When they are imprisoned for a long time these emotions become capable enough to destroy the entire realm of Mind. In this view we can assume that the consciousness deliberately falls into rest, allowing the repressed ones to escape into a safe world. “The film is the art of dream portrayal”, wrote the poet Hilda Doolittle in 1930 (Lebeau 3). The aim of movie-making is similar to Freud’s original rationale where dreaming had the biological function of keeping sleep undisturbed. Movies keep us undisturbed by our outer reality so that when we finish watching a movie it is like waking up from a dream. Cinema and psychoanalysis mark their birth between the late middle and end of the nineteenth century. This period is also known as the Fin de Siècl characterized by world weariness which was accompanied by opulence by the emergence of new technologies.

The new mass medium, the silver screen film, became the means to escape anxiety-filled time. The Viennese neurologist Sigmund Freud was a complex, brilliant, dominating man who exerted a powerful impact on many of our assumptions about personality and psychological disorders. He paved a new path towards the analysis of human mind and its disorders. He discovered the three levels of human mind and the corresponding three basic structures of personality. The conscious level includes our current thoughts and perceptions and corresponding to it lays the Id which consists of all the basic impulses like sex desires, aggressive impulses and various bodily needs. The second level is the pre-conscious level which consists of memories that are not part of current thought but that which can be brought to mind if a need arises. Ego is this conscious mind. Finally it is in the unconscious level where all our repressed emotions like fear, violent motives, selfish needs, shameful experiences and certain unacceptable sexual desires take shelter. Superego corresponds to this level and can be called our conscience. These terms are drawn from social settings and cultural codes and it influences the way how the conscious works.

While Id demands immediate and total gratification, it is the task of Ego to hold the Id in control until conditions are suitable for the satisfaction of these impulses. It is the task of Superego to check whether these conditions are morally correct or not. This moral consciousness is internalized in us from our parents or as a result of the norms of the society. His theory of “Psychoanalysis” can be “defined as a form of mental therapy which aims to cure mental disorders by investigating the interaction of the conscious and unconscious elements of the mind” (Nagarajan 217). The psychoanalytic literary criticism was developed as a type of applied psychoanalysis. It emerged from Freud’s general idea that creative writings are the product of unconscious process and that it is possible to understand how the mechanisms of the psychical forces operate in them. With his work in psychoanalysis Freud attempted to explain people’s behaviour and their dreams.

Freud emphasizes that language revealed all the concealed desires, anxieties and fears. According to him desire does not express itself easily because culture does not allow or facilitate it, and we need to pay attention to language and other forms of symbolic expression like gestures, sounds, facial expressions, writings to discover it. The conscious self projects the kind of image that is culturally and socially acceptable. But the unconscious finds ways and means to express itself and this is what literary texts and language allows. Freud’s insight is that the mechanism of the unconscious, of desires and fears also required and acquired a language of their own. His theories of psychoanalysis brought a systematic, scientific, investigation to the analysis of written works while examining the compositions from different angles including gender, age, race and sexuality. Many of Freud’s thoughts and concepts have been rendered by academics into theoretical frameworks which then were applied to both literary and filmic criticism. When we look into films the Freudian ego and superego becomes apparent in dualistic entities as hero and villain or male and female. The surrealist movement of 1920s and 1930s considered film with its special techniques such as dissolve, superimposition, and slow motion corresponding to the nature of dreaming. Films disassembled reality into multiple images as in a surrealistic art and then reassembled those images to achieve a marvellous dream world that captured the unconsciousness of the mass audience.

Psychoanalytic film theory is an approach that focuses on unmasking the ways in which the phenomenon of cinema in general and the elements of film in particular are both shaped by the unconscious of the film maker, its characters and its audience. Freudian theories like the unconscious, the return of the repressed, Oedipal drama, narcissism, castration and hysteria can be applied in psychoanalytic film analysis. This theory is modern form of interpretation of dreams which put fantasy at the heart of understanding of being and reality. Some of the film theorists are Jean Louis Baudry, Christian Metz, and Laura Mulvey. Metz debate is on filmic language and filmic representation whereas Mulvey’s debate is on psychoanalytically informed feminist theory. Maxim Gorky, the Russian writer, describes film as a strange amalgam of art and technology, illusion and reality which are capable of producing effects unlike any mode of representation. Psychoanalysis offers the means to account for the specifically visual aspect of film, which is understood as a system for the elaboration of a “scene”, comparable to the “primal scene” of psychoanalysis. Some critics use psychoanalytic theory to explain how film works upon the mind of the viewer as an image such that the viewer may imagine that his dreams are projected on the screen. Freud’s method of dream analysis is also employed by a few critics in order to interpret the meaning of a film.

The films like Manichithrathazhu directed by Fazil in Mollywood presents the protagonist attaining the personality of a Tamil dancer as she reaches the higher realms of psychosis, Annyan directed by S. Shanker in Tollywood depicts the hero capturing three different personalities into him and Wrestler and Black Swan directed by Aronofsky in Hollywood, can be studied and analyzed for its psychoanalytic effects. Black Swan is an award winning film that claims its hold on psychology of human mind. The movie, starring Natalie Portman as Nina the ballet dancer portrays the two realms of human mind, one which is innocent and the other which is envious. Aronofsky uses the White Swan to depict the innocent mind of a human being and the Black Swan to depict the envious mind. This movie is a beautiful portrayal of dream-work and also the explanation of how the over caring nature of a mother and the stress of ballet dance can make a person schizophrenic. The film is accompanied with the beautiful ballet dance which depicts the metamorphosis of the White Swan to the Black Swan which is mind throbbing.

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Analysis Of The Link Between Cinema And Psychoanalysis. (2020, April 30). GradesFixer. Retrieved September 27, 2021, from
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