Freudian Depictions of Violence and Sexuality in Luis Bunuel’s Los Olvidados

Topics: Sigmund Freud, Penis envy, Oedipus complex Pages: 5 (1993 words) Published: October 20, 2011
Latin America has historically been a place subjected to much violence. From the conquests of the Spanish to the civil wars that took place. Mexico is by no means an exception to this violence. Bunuel too had experienced a great deal of violence in his life, having lived through the Spanish civil war and both World Wars. Los Olvidados is an undeniably violent film. When it was first screened the pessimistic view of Mexico City, the sexual representation of Pedro’s mother and the violence caused a major uproar that only subsided when Bunuel achieved European critical acclaim. In this critical analysis I plan to explore the relationship between violence and sexuality within the film and how Bunuel uses these two correlating ideas in order to portray the world as a cruel, pessimistic and deeply flawed place.

Throughout history, in many cultures, there has been much discourse over the link between sex and death. The idea of ‘le Petit mort” highlights this, the idea that a “little death” is achieved within an orgasm, a death of self in terms of the death of repression within ourselves and an escape from the repression of society. It is essentially a move toward the less ‘civilised’, more animalistic part of our identity. It is Freud’s theory of Eros and Thanatos that is most widely recognised and renowned when we discuss the relationship between sex and violence. Freud’s theory speaks of the contrasting ‘life and death drives’, Eros and Thanatos respectively. Eros, being the life drive relates to the desire to live and the instinctive desire to procreate. Thanatos is the antithesis of this and is the death drive, it is causal of violence and aggression specifically. According to Freud these two desires exist on opposite poles and we are constantly moving between them. Freud specifies four stages of development that every individual experiences; the oral phase, the sadistic-anal phase, the phallic and lastly the genitalia phase, achieved at puberty. What is central in all of these phases is the pursuit of pleasure, whether it is achieved through sexual or violent behaviour.

Essentially according to Freud’s theory destruction provides a certain pleasure and by the same token violence is indulgent. In Los Olvidados Bunuel depicts the ‘gang’ of boys to frequently use violence as a means to gain what they desire, money. Born into a life of poverty they are unable to experience the hedonistic bourgeois existence that other children do. An example fo this is seen in “the merry-go-round scene, in which a nattily attired little girl sails around on her ride, happily indifferent to the ragged urchins her age who are pushing the contraption” (Jones: 2005, 25). As a result the boys gain pleasure in different ways. One might argue that lack of father figures for Pedro and Jaibo are instrumental in their violent tendencies. Freudian psychology would suggest that the Oedipal Complex has a lot to play in this. Pedro is rejected completely by his mother, in the dream sequence he asks her for a kiss, the only time we see direct physical affirmation of her compassion for him. Jaibo comes from a home without any parents. Essentially they are both motherless orphans and their instinctive Oedipal desire is unfulfilled and therefore they have a larger build up of libido, which according to Freud must be released, in this case by violence. In this way violence becomes an empowering mechanism. Jaibo, Pedro and the rest of the gang display this when they mug the blind beggar on the dusty road. Jaibo especially seems to relish the destruction, releasing his inner death drive, when he vindictively smashes the beggar’s drum. Thus one might argue that violence is a form of escapism for the boys. Through it they can find pleasure, reward, recognition and diversion from their proletarian lifestyles.

Pedro is an interesting character because it is within him that we see the Oedipal Complex manifested most greatly. Pedro’s mother constantly spurns...
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