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Love Before and After They Came Back


In Robin Campillo's 2004 film They Came Back (Les revenants), 70 million recently dead inexplicably arise to rejoin the living. They are zombies, but not in the classical sense. They are not decaying, do not crave flesh and brains, and they do not have a transmittable "virus." Instead, the undead have a form of aphasia, but they are otherwise healthy and functional. What is horrifying about their return is the issue of integration. In France, the United States, and many countries around the world, soldiers return with missing limbs, brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other disabilities. Using psychoanalysis and disability studies as frames, the article argues that the film reveals Western anxieties about love post-disability and about social integration after war injuries.