- Projected Shadows: Psychoanalytic Reflections on the Representation of Loss in European Cinema
The fifteen essays in this collection, most of which are revised versions of papers presented at the Third European Psychoanalytic Film Festival (epff3) held in London in 2005, have as their focus the theme of loss. As the psychoanalyst and volume editor Andrea Sabbadini explains, “From the moment of birth when we lose the comfort of intrauterine life, to our last breath, losses of all kinds, and our efforts to gradually come to terms with them through mourning, constitute important points of reference in our existences” (2). These losses and their consequences—the “shadows” of the book’s title—are explored by an interesting mix of psychoanalysts and film scholars who draw on various aspects of psychoanalytic and film theory to analyze characters, explore cinematic representations of fantasy and dreams, and show how temporality, movement, montage, sound, image, and the gaze intersect with the structures and functioning of intrapsychic processes.
Readers are likely to be familiar with many of the films discussed, among them Almodóvar’s Talk to Her, Ozon’s Under the Sand and The Swimming Pool, Buñuel’s Un Chien Andalou, and Bergman’s Cries and Whispers. Essays on less well known films, including Marazzi’s For One More Hour with You, Garrone’s First Love, and Monnikendam’s Mother Dao, the Turtle-like, offer the pleasure of discovery while highlighting the stylistic diversity and psychoanalytic complexity of European cinema. The variety of films is matched by the eclectic mix of theories used to discuss them, ranging from classic Freudian oedipal theory, Kleinian views on aggression and reparation, and Winnicott’s ideas on play and the false self to Abraham and Torok’s theories of introjection, incorporation, and the crypt, Lacan’s concepts of suture and gaze, and Laplanche’s elaboration of deferred action.
The essays, all of which are thoughtful and intellectually stimulating, also illustrate the differences between the way clinicians and film scholars have historically approached film [End Page 607] analysis and how these differences are narrowing to yield richer and subtler readings. Clinicians, generally speaking, have been inclined to view films as case studies or as sublimated expressions of a filmmaker’s own intrapsychic struggles, tending to draw on theories of psychic development, conflict, defenses, and transference to explore why characters in a film behave as they do, or how a film is related to its author’s unconscious desires or conflicts. They have paid relatively little attention to the ways cinematographic elements may be interpreted psychoanalytically as constitutive or reflective of intrapsychic process, or to how such elements comment on the intersections between cinema and psyche. By contrast, psychoanalytic film scholars have tended to eschew so-called character analysis and psychobiographical links between a film and author. Oriented instead by structuralist and poststructuralist emphases on systems and codes, the decentering of the subject, the “death” of the author, and the ways film elements reify or resist constructions of gender, race, and class, they have more typically focused on how subjectivity is marked by lack, how the spectator assumes power or is subordinated to it by the gaze, or how signification is produced by the play of visual and acoustic signifiers and shifts in diegetic levels. In the last fifteen years, these disparate positions have begun to converge.
As more training institutes have admitted candidates from academia and benefited from the theoretical cross-fertilization this has brought about, and as growing numbers of clinicians have engaged with pop cultural depictions of therapy (often prompted by their patients’ comments on the treatment experiences of film or television characters), analytically oriented practitioners have become more attuned to the cinematographic and sociocultural dimensions of film analysis. At the same time, psychoanalytic film scholars, informed by developments in trauma theory, postcolonial and cultural studies, and postmodern relational theory emphasizing the co-construction of the therapeutic process, have begun to draw on a wider palette of theorists—from Klein, Bion, Winnicott, and Kohut to Ferenczi, Abraham...