Psychoanalytic Criticism Throughout Cinematic History

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 All throughout cinematic history, films have been able to make people feel different emotions and feelings that sometimes they normally wouldn’t feel. There are six different film theories that critics pay close attention to when analyzing films but one that stands out is the psychoanalytic theory which basically comes from the writings of Freud. 

“Psychoanalytic criticism emphasizes the complex ways that film arouses an audience’s repressed emotions and desires”. It doesn’t help to understand the unconscious mind, but reach them and influence how viewers understand themselves and their feelings. Movie Reflection The psychoanalytic film theory explains how films bring out unconscious desires that may be taboo in society and comes from the writings of Freud and Jacques Lacan. Critics of this theory see how these films activate the unconscious mind as well as deep rooted desires. Freud wrote that the thoughts and feelings that we feel are only a small part of what we actually feel and that our strongest desires and motivations are unconscious. The mind is broken into smaller parts according to Freud. 

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The film Silence of the Lambs, Anthony Hopkins plays the violent serial killer Hannibal Lecter who helps the young FBI Agent Clarice Sterling try to catch a killer. Lecter’s wit and high intelligence holds viewers who view him as a monster in awe and fascinates them in spite of his violent history. The attraction towards Lecter’s intelligence contradicts rational judgements that someone like him is inherently evil and people should stay away from him. However, with the power that Lecter has over Clarice in the scene where Lecter and Sterling meet, the viewers are unsettled especially with the fact that Lecter is calm and completely in control of the situation. 

Another component of the psychoanalytic film theory is condensation and displacement. In these mechanisms, “psychic energy and impulses become condensed into one or more resonant dream images”. The images are usually displaced, or substituted by things that take places of the more basic or forbidden desire. An example of this takes place in the film Rambo: First Blood Part 2. In one scene, Rambo is going to be tortured by his Vietnamese captors, but he must first undress.

 By displaying Sylvester Stallone’s body with his engorged muscles, it exemplifies the condensation and displacement ideas. The symbolic meaning of having Stallone shirtless is the “erotic appeal of male bodies coded in terms of physical action and suffering”. This also appears in other movies for example in Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 1 where they capture Star Lord and need him to remove his clothes to change into new ones.

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