Archives for Ambivalence
[This is a continuation of the exploration of mother and daughter relationships - for prior posts, click here and here] Woody Allen’s film Alice (1990) is a kind of heroine’s journey. In it, Alice (Mia Farrow), married to a wealthy attorney, goes to Chinese herbalist Dr. Yang for help with a bad back. More than just curing the symptom, the doctor, through his various elixirs, helps Alice explore hidden parts of her psyche. [For a more detailed analysis of the whole film, click here] The scene that I focus on below exemplifies a daughter’s idealization of her mother. In it, Alice meets her “Muse” (Bernadette Peters) who, in trying to find subject matter for Alice to write about, shows her the objective truth about her mother.
Further exploring various dynamics of the mother and daughter relationship [For the first part in this series click here], we’ll have a look at a scene from Postcards from the Edge (1990). This film is based on the semi-autobiographical novel by Carrie Fisher (daughter of actress Debbie Reynolds). Suzanne Vale (Meryl Streep) plays the addiction-prone actress daughter of movie star Doris Mann (Shirley Maclaine). Doris is portrayed as overbearing, controlling, manipulative, competitive, narcissistic and self-absorbed; Suzanne is very much in her shadow. In a particular scene towards the end of the film [click here to watch], Suzanne is doing a voice-over for a film she’s just made. She has a heart-to-heart conversation with her director, fatherly Lowell (Gene Hackman):
At the opening of Darren Aronofsky's wonderful new film Black Swan, we see Nina, a young ballet dancer, with her mother, who once danced in the corps herself. The decor of Nina's room is juvenile, in pastel shades, with a herd of stuffed animals on her bed; the mother treats her as if she were, in fact, a young child. The atmosphere feels asexual and repressive; beneath the false and saccharine sweetness, one has the sense of emotions unacknowledged, words not spoken. Both mother and daughter seem high-strung and fragile. Nina has clearly disowned an important part of her emotional experience, undoubtedly because her false and brittle mother couldn't tolerate its expression.
Click here to read Part I Click here to read Part II In the Harry Potter books and films, the forces for good magic are victorious while Voldemort is destroyed and the wizards who practice the dark arts are vanquished. The good characters presumably go on to live happily ever after, continuing to practice their good forms of magic. In The Lord of the Rings, however, the conclusion has a bittersweet tone. Despite the fact that Frodo and Sam destroy the one ring on Mount Doom, their victory is not without its costs, for magic fades from Middle Earth. A potent sense of loss permeates the final third of The Return of the King. It is their respective conclusions that distinguish these two epics: the Harry Potter saga remains a fairy tale, perhaps the greatest and most imaginative fairy tale ever written; The Lord of the Rings is something more profound.
Click here to read Part I The splitting of good and bad characters in The Lord of the Rings trilogy is just as pronounced as it is in the Harry Potter films. Hobbits in general are endearing and gentle creatures with some irritating quirks but no real malice in their nature; in particular, Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin are loyal and devoted friends who risk their lives for one another out of love. Sauron, by contrast, represents pure evil and has absolutely no redeeming qualities. He has no ambition other than to dominate Middle Earth by any means within his power. Torture, cruelty and the inspiration of terror are his greatest tools. Those who serve him fear and often loathe him.
For the launch of this new blog here on PsychCentral, I could think of no theme more important to write about than the conflict between love and hatred, no movies more appropriate and timely to illustrate that conflict than the final two Harry Potter films, with a comparison to Peter Jackson's film masterpiece, The Lord of the Rings trilogy. I've read and enjoyed all of the Harry Potter books as well as the first seven films. Since I first encountered the Tolkien books more then 40 years ago, I've read them at least five times; I consider the Jackson films to be nearly perfect adaptations.