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Psychoanalytic Theory And Reading Of Cultural Products Film Studies Essay

The main concept of this article is to point out how psychoanalytic theory could be used as a method of understanding and studying cultural products. By far the most valid approach because of this is to observe how the movie theater integrates psychoanalytical ideas into specific film ideas. For this reason a Hitchcock film is employed as an example, for it the fact that there are many Freudian aspects in his movies. Specifically, Psycho is looked upon by many film theorists and historians as the first "psychoanalytic thriller" (Kaganski as cited in Boulton, 2010). As implied by the name of the film, it is just a movie whose storyline is based on the Freudian Oedipus sophisticated theory.

First of all, it is noteworthy the way the cinema developed a solid link with psychoanalytic theories over time. What is also interesting is the way in which a movie could be interpreted as a desire or a dreaming process. Furthermore, in the next part of the essay, the relationship which Psycho has with psychoanalytical process is explored, in order to discover its kind and if it's actually the first psychoanalytic movie.

Following a short presentation of the key plot, it's important to examine the nature of the Oedipus complex and exactly how it is put on the movie. Despite the fact that it remains the central psychoanalytic idea in the film, is not the one Freudian research; the movie may be interpreted through "ego, superego and id" psychoanalytic aspect. Finally, it is imperative to "dissect" both protagonist characters and the famous murder views under the psychoanalytic point of view.


Cinema is considered to be among the main institutions of the post modern society, one which provides numerous sociological purposes, by using skill. The sociological point of view of theatre is but one aspect of the coin; the other aspect represents a far more personal, more seductive psychoanalytical procedure. It really is true that Freudian psychoanalysis is not really a process concerned only with internal models and awareness. In modern society, psychoanalysis also constitutes a method of understanding works of great artistic and cultural principles, such as cinematic films (Mertz, 1976).

A movie could be experienced through the psychoanalytical lens in variety of diverse ways, like the Freudian goal interpretation or as an subject of the fantasy-desire (Lacan) or even as our id through voyeurism (ibid). Freud characterizes the aspiration as the manifestation of an wish fulfilled; a movie could, conceivably, be seen as a aspiration, because on the display we witness some of our desires being visualized. 'Spellbound' and 'Marnie' are two of Hitchcock's videos that might be approached through the method of dream interpretation (Sandis, 2009).

The record of the relationship between psychoanalysis and cinema is split into three periods. Through the '30s, psychoanalysis became a familiar point appealing for the movie industry, although it was still somewhat superficial and got little to do with actual human action. Following the Second World War, the sources to psychoanalysis became even more visible, as a result of appearance of internal problems. The War's cinematic demonstration followed this optimistic evolution (Gale Dictionary of Psychoanalysis). Hitchcock's films acquired a great impact in this certain period, mainly due to their deep connection with psychoanalytic ideas. 'Psycho' (1960), 'North by Northwest' (1959) or 'The birds' (1963) are ethnical works with oedipal themes or templates in them. More recently psychoanalysis has been included in certain cinematic aspects as a target cognitive method or even ridiculed method (for example in Woody Allen's movie personas) (Gale Dictionary of Psychoanalysis).


The movie is aimed by Alfred Hitchcock and scripted by Joseph Stefano, who adapted the screenplay from the homonymous novel written by Robert Bloch. Bloch's 1959 novel was based on the true history of the notorious psychotic serial killer, called Edward Gein. His murderous character has inspired a great many other serial killers such as Jame Gumb ("Buffalo Bill") in the Silence of the Lambs (1991) (Dirks).

The movie possessed a great impact in the 60s and since then Hitchcock is recognized as the original originator of suspense. Psycho is so multilayered and complex a movie, it reveals increasingly more of its substance with each looking at. This points out why there is such a controversy about what genre of movie it is. The main theme is secret and Hitchcock promotes it with his unique direction approach. Once the film was aired in theaters, he insisted that no-one would have a seat after the film had started. Thus, the viewers speculated that something dreadful was going on in the first short while (Dirks).

Psycho is known as a 'film noir' since it shares some typically common characteristics with those movies but, at the same time, remains very peculiar. Throughout the perspective that a film noir conjures a world where human desire does not be fulfilled, Psycho could be thought to be one particular films (Palmer, 1986). Lacan's 'object petite a' theory is described an unattainable desire, such as Norman's desire to have Marion (Laplanche, Pontalis, 1986).

There is also another theory making Psycho the first psychoanalytical movie (Kaganski as cited in Boulton). Specifically, it starts off as a whodunit, then it is transformed into a horror film and then into a suspense film with elements of very dark, dark-colored funny. However, if one digs deeper, it undoubtedly becomes clear that the film is undoubtedly mental health with specific Freudian interpretations. Francois Truffaut has said: "If Psycho had been intended as a serious picture, it would have been proven as a professional medical case without enigma or suspense. The materials could have been used as a paperwork of a circumstance record" (Truffaut as cited in Sandis, 2009:69). Furthermore aspect, Hitchcock has stated "Most likely the real Psycho tale wouldn't have been emotional by any means; it would've been terribly scientific" (Hitchcock as cited in Sandis, 2009:70). He was discussing the real incident of mom obsessed Ed Gein, who used to decorate like his deceased mother and possessed murdered about a dozen women (Sandis, 2009).

The psychoanalytical view of the movie is illustrated as a parallel between Lila Crane's exploration of the gothic 'mother's' house and the exploration of Bate's divided head. The Freudian element, which points out the building of Norman's personality, defines the concept of the story. First of all, there's a traumatic event (matricide) leading to a copy of guilt (translated at this juncture in to the Oedipus complex). This, subsequently, causes a incomplete lack of "the self applied" and a profound recognition with the sufferer (ibid). The storyline unfolds out of this Freudian perspective. Thus, it is obvious that 'Psycho' is organized in line with the psychoanalytic process.


Marion Crane is a Phoenix office staff member, whose life comes less than her expectations. She can't get committed with her sweetheart, Sam because he must provide most of his money in alimony. One Friday her workplace confided to her to deposit $40, 000. Thinking that this is a good possibility to take the amount of money and start a fresh life, Marion leaves town, going towards Sam's store in California. A heavy rainstorm causes her to invest the night time at Bates' motel. The motel is monitored by Norman Bates, a young man who may have an extremely domineering mother. During the night Marion decides to come back the money another morning. Unfortunately, while she is taking a shower, an anonymous body enters and stabs her to fatality. After comprehensive research, it is disclosed that Norman has placed his mother alive through his break up personality. Dominated by his mother's personality, Norman kills anyone he feels drawn to. In the final world, we find Norman in prison, haunted by his mother's persona, thinking of how to establish her/his innocence.


Oedipus was the child of Laius and Jocasta, who was simply exiled from his homeland by his father due to a prophecy. The prophecy foretold that Oedipus would murder his own father. After a long time Oedipus decided to discover his roots and went back to Thebes, where he attained his daddy and, unwittingly satisfying the prophecy, wiped out him. Then he was made king of the Thebans and was rewarded with the palm of Jocasta, who was simply his mom. When Oedipus understood that he had fulfilled the prophecy by getting rid of his own father and having children with his mom, he blinded himself (Willner, 1982).

Oedipus Rex is a famous Sophocles' ancient Greek tragedy, which has been interpreted by Freud as nothing more or less than a wish fulfillment- the fulfillment of the wish of your child years (Freud as cited in Willner, 1982). Specifically, Freud thinks that boys are all destined to direct their first sexual impulse toward their mothers and their violent impulses toward their dad. Under the, so called, positive form the organic is came out as Oedipus history: death wish for the opponent who's the person of the same intimacy, the daddy and libido for the individual of the contrary sex, the mother. The Oedipus complex has experience from 3 to 5 5 years of age which is revived during the adolescent period. The liberation out of this complex has to do with the healthy structuring of the personality (Laplanche, Pontalis, 1986). When the boy does not repress his libido toward the Mom and will not identify himself with the daddy, he cannot develop a normal personality.

It is known as that the Oedipus complex is the key psychoanalytic idea of the movie and Norman Bates is its modern atypical version (Boulton, 2010). Based on the film's concluding psychiatric speech:

"Now he had been dangerously disturbed, have been since his father passed on. His mother was a clinging, demanding woman, and for years each of them lived as if there was no-one else on earth. Then she achieved a manand it seemed to Norman that she 'threw him over'. Now that pushed him above the lines and he wiped out them both" (Boulton, 2010).

Norman Bates didn't manage to overcome his unconscious libido toward his mom and acted out his also unconscious drive of getting rid of the Father. That talks about why "the mother half of Norman's brain" has earned (Boulton, 2010: 2). Psychiatrist Dr. Richmond illustrates that Norman has sexual desires for a nice-looking girl as normal men have, but his break up personality does not allow him to develop a normal sexual activity. He explains to Lila (Marion's sister) that "When he (Norman) fulfilled your sister, he was handled by heraroused by her. He sought her. That tripped the 'jealous mom' and 'mother killed the female'! Now following the murder, Norman came back as if from a deep sleep. And such as a dutiful son, covered up all traces of the criminal offenses he was persuaded his mother got devoted!" (ibid: 2)

Norman, driven by envy, killed his mother and her lover. Quite simply, he devoted the offense of matricide, which is considered the most heinous and unpardonable criminal offenses and is especially unbearable for the child who commits it (Dirks). Trying to erase the criminal offenses in his own mind, he developed a split personality. Because of this, he created an illusion that his mother was still alive. To make this illusion a physical fact, he stole her dead body and preserved it, using his taxidermist skills. In his delusional mind he played-acted and imagined that he was his mom and that she was as pathologically jealous of him as he was of her (ibid). In this manner, he was performing as his mother and devoted murders anticipated to her jealousy. It is apparent that he select this horrific way to redeem himself from the matricide.


Freud divided the individuals mind into three conflicting parts: the ego, the superego and the id. The ego rests between your id and the superego and provides us with a feeling of do it yourself. It must build a well-balanced romantic relationship of dependency between the demands of the identification and the imperatives of the superego (Laplanche, Pontalis, 1986). The id is made up of innate biological drives, mental impulses, instincts and dispositions. On the other hand, the ego comprises of those mental phenomena related to whatever environmental concerns constrain the identification (Freud calling these the reality principle). For example, the basic id drive is being hungry and it is constrained by ego beliefs about what food is obtainable where (Sandis, 2009). Finally, the superego plays a job similar compared to that of your judge. Freud considers the moral awareness, self-observation and the introduction of moral prices and ideals as expressions of the superego. The superego is thought as the heir of the Oedipus complex in terms of parental needs and prohibitions (Laplanche, Pontalis, 1986).

Observing Norman Bates' character through this theory, it is obvious that he does not develop a strong enough ego in order to keep in order the powerful urges of both the id and the superego. Eventually, the id and the superego manifest themselves as completely different personalities (Boulton, 2010). His libido for Marion represents his id and her murder (murder of the sexual desire for Marion) signifies an extreme manifestation of his superego.

Norman Bates never detached himself from his mother and recognized himself with the daddy. Therefore he "did not assimilate into what Lacan conditions the 'symbolic order', the interconnected system of indications that every modern culture constructs interpretation and order around" (Zizek as cited in Boulton 2010:2). Norman's symbolic level is psychotic, so the superego acts in different ways. As Zizek (cited in Boulton, 2010:2) emphasized, it is the 'maternal superego' that works and dominates his brain. At times he can become both personalities. But almost all of the days the mother 1 / 2 put his head under control.

Freud compared the human head to an iceberg. The very small part of the iceberg, which shows up above the water surface possibly, symbolizes human perception. Below the surface is a much darker, much larger part of the iceberg representing the unconscious. There is absolutely no facts if Hitchcock has ever before come across the iceberg metaphor but he'd have found it inspiring. Like Freud Hitchcock present us a certain familiar and common picture that we are prepared to see (like the go with of the iceberg- conscious) but whose correct shape is obviously novel (the other area of the iceberg-unconscious). He also decided for his videos, ladies that appear cold as snow to be able to show their oppressed thoughts and wishes (Sandis, 2009). It really is charming in conditions of theatre suspense, for magic formula or repressed thoughts to go up to the top.

(Sandis, 2009)

Furthermore, Slavoj Zizek (2005) compares the old, gothic house to the segmented personality of Norman Bates. The bottom floor presents the ego and there he behaves as a standard son. The first flour presents the superego, where Norman is governed by the moral constrains of his mom. Finally the basement represents the id, the tank of the illicit drives of the psyche that is why his mother's skeleton is moved there. The copy of his mother's useless body from the first flour to the basement illustrates the profound connection of the id and the superego in Norman's split personality.

The exploration of the home is similar to a psychoanalytic process. Lila entered Norman's bedroom and witnessed his personal items, which were a combo of children's (boy's and girl's items) and adult's things (signifying his disturbed personality) (Dirks).


Marion symbolizes the repressed female of the modern America of the 60s, who attempts to be emancipated. Judging from her erotic intercourses with her lover during lunch times in top secret hotel rooms, you can say that she looks as an unbiased woman. Alternatively, she gets the amount of money and leaves town, meaning she wants some other life, maybe more typical, having an effective marriage.

Norman's figure is the "mirror-negative" of Marion. "She manages in 'the Name of the Dad'; Norman on the other side, has not published to the 'paternal rules' and is entrapped in 'the desire of the mother'" (Zizek as cited in Boulton, 2010). This theory is backed in terms of direction. As they stand alongside one another on the porch, the camera photographs the scene as if they were both sides of the same gold coin, but Norman is also shown in the a glass screen behind him (symbolizes his divide personality) (Dirks).

Norman Bates could be looked at as a good looking, boyishly version of Sam (Marion's sweetheart). As their come across evolves, however, this possibility is eradicated since it becomes obvious that he's unable of adult sexuality, being performed in erotic bondage along with his mom (Palmer, 1986). As he mentions:

-Norman: Would you know what I believe? I feel that we're all inside our private traps. Clamped in them. And nothing folks can ever get out. We damage and claw, but only at the environment, only at one another. And for everything we never budge an inches.

-Marion: Sometimes we deliberately step into those traps.

(Psycho, 1960)

Each of these gives different interpretation to the term 'capture'. Snare for Marion is the robbery of the money or possibly her relationship with Sam. For an instant Norman seems that he talks frankly, being aware of his fragmented psyche. Regrettably, following the discourse only Marion is capable of being at the mercy of moral self-examination, deciding to return the amount of money next day.


The shower murder scene is just about the famous in the annals of cinema. The major film star-Marion- is stabbed to fatality after the first 47 minutes of the movie's start. Even though someone hasn't seen the movie, he has definitely seen this specific scene. It required a fully week to complete, using 70 camcorders, fast cut editing and enhancing of 78 film portions and a naked stand in model (Marli Renfo) (Dirks). Despite the fact that it is one of the most jargonistic and violent scenes there is only implied violence because at no time does the knife penetrate into her body. In only instant one the blade touches her stomach (ibid). However, it's the arena that made females, including Janet Leigh (Marion) not being able to take a shower for a long time (Sullivan, 2006).

Murdering Marion while she was going for a shower with a blade is not really a coincidental choice. On the contrary it has a deeper interpretation in conditions of way and psychoanalysis. Until that moment in time, Marion was the main protagonist of the film and the epicenter of the storyline was her feeling guilty for thieving the amount of money. Taking a bathtub, the water washes away her guilt and rejuvenates her (Dirks). There can be an irony here, at this time she was relieved someone moved into and took her life violently.

Moreover, the knife in Freudian terms is a phallic mark. In this unusual and abnormal way, Norman satisfied both his wishes: the jealousy of his mother and his own desire, penetrating into the feminine body, using his knife. Marion's inactive body is sitting on the frigid floor, blended with ejaculatory spurts of blood vessels dripping down her legs from various gashes, which symbolizes a violent and lethal rape (ibid).

Zizek with his documentary "The Pervert's Guide to Cinema" (2005) underlines that after Marion's murder the spectator recognizes with Norman Bates persona. Out of the blue the spectator is stressed of clearing up Marion's blood vessels from the bathroom and to getting rid of her car in the swamp, "associated with our satisfaction with 'a job well done'. Suspense is made when, whilst Norman Bates is losing Marion's car (formulated with her body) in a local swamp, the car momentarily halts sinking, an anxiousness develops in the viewer" (Zizek as cited in Boulton, 2010). The suspense here deals with the spectator's unconscious identification with Bates.

This identification is due to Hitchcock's use of gaze, the Hippolytus's gaze. This gaze is not really a seen gaze, but a gaze visualized by the Self applied in neuro-scientific the Other's idiosyncrasy. Everything is not noticed just through the other's eye but through the other's personal feelings. "The gaze is not the Other's glance as such, but the way this look 'concerns me', the way the subject recognizes him/herself affected because of it concerning his/her desire" (Zizek, 1992:214).

The second murder landscape, the murder of detective Arbogast is more predictable. The fascination of the first murder diverts our attention from the next murder. Everything that occurs prior to the murder act appears to announce it. When Arbogast enters the 'mother's' house and stands at the staircase, the audience immediately feel that something terrible is going to happen. However, the suspense here must do again with this unusual 'immoral' id of the audience with Norman. The spectator wants Arbogast to be killed (Zizek as cited in Boulton, 2010).

There is a apparent aesthetic differentiation between your two murders, which is related to the symbolic break up of the movie's narrative (ibid). Marion's murder still being in the "Name-of-the father" symbolic realm, it takes put in place a motel room, which illustrates the aesthetic of an private modern America. On the other hand, Arbogast's death takes place in 'mother's' house which presents American custom, in "the desire of the mom" symbolic space (ibid).


It is noticeable that psychoanalytic theory is tightly related to to the cinema. Specifically, in Hitchcock's movies the Freudian theoretical models are considered as a primary routine of his videos' composition. Hitchcock himself has admitted when he was interviewed by Francois Truffaut:

"-F. T. : I observed Spellbound again recently and I must admit that I didn't care very much for the circumstance.

-A. H. : Well, it's yet another manhunt story twisted up in pseudo-psychoanalysis"

(Sandis, 2009:65)

He might not have taken the subconscious too critically and in his personal life he avoided doctors of your brain, as he previously admitted, however, it is well known that the famous director was not unfamiliar with psychoanalytic Freudian ideas (Sandis, 2009).

Nowadays the utilization of psychoanalytic theoretical models in cinema is typical. It is not just a professional knowledge that concerns a specific audience anymore; additionally it is used as a way of creating artistic, cultural products. On the other hand, not only theatre uses psychoanalytical treatment as an instrument of creativity, but also cinema could be utilized through psychoanalytical process as a method of manipulation and control (Tania, 1968). There's a strong conversation between theatre and psychoanalysis. Customers of the Frankfurt School believe that movie theater can be used through psychoanalysis in order to generate various types of easy, fake pleasure as a way to keep the audience unacquainted with the true major interpersonal existing problems (ibid). This debate has some fact to a limited extent but there are also many good examples which underline that cinema, using the psychoanalytical process, emphasizes serious sociological problems. However, whatever the goal of using the psychoanalysis, the point is that psychoanalytical theories have a solid reference to the creation of literary or cinematic products.

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