The Visual Trauma of Gender in Film& The Death of M(others): A Psychoanalytic Approach

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    • Presentation speakers
      • Panayiota Chrysochou, The University of Cyprus


    My paper will focus on two films – Peter Sasdy’sHands of the Ripperand Tom McLoughlin’s thriller The Unsaid – in an effort to show how they represent (both thematically and stylistically) a revisitation and reworking of classical Freudian concepts such as trauma, the Oedipus complex, the death drive and primal scenes. Through a meticulous examination of their key features, I would like to show how these films stage a dynamic model of re-configurable patterns of traumatic repetition, with each pattern literally or figuratively superimposed on the other to form a palimpsestual layering of underlying meaning(s). These patterns of repetition, which are envisioned as compulsive and cyclical, even symptomatic, orchestrations of internal/external forces, are examined at length in order to fully draw out their interrelationships and various permutations and inferences. Starting from the basic Freudian premise that there is something “uncanny” about repetition, or more specifically the compulsion-to-repeat, it is possible to show how both films, in their repetitive figurations/reconstructions of the Oedipal triangulated schema, together with all its accompanying incestuous desires, inevitably usher in or foreshadow the most repetitive process of all, which is none other than death – specifically the death of the mother, who either remains conspicuously absent throughout or is deftly done away with by the end of the film. Moreover, this adequation in the Oedipal triangle of death with forbidden incestuous desires occurs not only on an “intrapsychic” level, but also on an interpersonal one, at a level which calls for the Laplanchean formulation of an/other who is either caretaker, seducer or both. As a consequence, this paper also draws on Laplanche’s general theory of seduction in order to cement its arguments, and zeroes in on the primal Oedipal scene – as both reconstructed fantasy and as horrendous actuality – together with its several permutated renderings throughout both films.