This chapter begins by interpreting a Hollywood film from the 1980s within the framework of the Freudian model of psychoanalysis (which is based on concepts such as the unconscious and repression, the Oedipus complex and the primal scene, primary process thinking and dream-work). It then considers the relevance to film studies of Lacanian psychoanalysis, which is centred on the relation between the imaginary, the symbolic, and the real in the formation of human subjectivity (and is based on concepts such as the mirror phase, the phallus, castration anxiety, fetishism, and the look). Rather than simply reproduce Freudian and Lacanian theory, we aim to highlight their fundamental concepts, explain them in straightforward language, and test their applicability in the context of a single film.
Other key psychoanalytic concepts relevant to this analysis are those that name inter- and intrasubjective processes, such as 'resistance' and 'transference', which are rarely discussed in film studies. They figure here in a partly metaphoric way to describe the relation between the critic and (the construction of) his object of analysis. For instance, we shall assume that a film offers resistance to analysis and that some sort of transference is likely to happen between theory and analysis. The former may manifest itself by the film already anticipating all the interpretive moves in the shape of explicit clues. The latter may be an all-too-perfect match between the theory and the analysis, with analysis merely mirroring theory and thereby 'colluding' with it. To take account of this process, the second part of the chapter considers more broadly the difference between making implicit meaning explicit and the dynamics that operates when implicit meaning becomes 'symptomatic'. In the final part, in a further turn of the screw, the work of the 'New
Lacanians'(notably Slavoj ¿izek) is introduced, whose mode of film analysis not only 'symptomatizes' other symptomatic readings, but does so from a perspective which outlines the contours of a post-Oedipal, post-patriarchal society. A special kind of 'case history' of the present is being attempted by ¿izek, supported by scanning a wide variety of cultural texts and sociopolitical events among which mainstream movies feature prominently.
We have chosen the popular sci-fi comedy - family adventure Back to the Future (Robert Zemeckis, 1985, screenplay by Zemeckis and Bob Gale) in order to examine the range of Freudian and post-Freudian concepts, as they might be useful in film interpretation and close analysis.
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