Spellbound Movie: A Cinematic Representation of Psychoanalysis

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The movie “Spellbound”, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, encompasses several Freudian concepts manifested in the characters; including amnesia, guilt complex, repression, and psychopathology. Psychoanalysis is a major element of the film and is used in the pursuit of “truth”; the “truth” being what happened to the real Dr. Edwards. Also, dream work is a major tool used in the film to uncover the “truth”.

Though “Spellbound” has several characters that embody Freudian concepts, I believe the four main characters are most important. John Ballantyne exemplifies amnesia, guilt complex, and repression; Dr. Constance Peterson represents the process of psychoanalysis; Dr. Burlov is a depiction of Freud; and Dr. Murchison conveys Psychopathology.

The film, “Spellbound”, begins in the setting of green manors, a mental asylum. The head of the facility, Dr. Murchison, is retiring and a famous psychiatrist, Dr. Edwards, is to take his place. Shortly after “Dr. Edwards” arrives another psychiatrist, Dr. Constance Peterson, discovers that the man claiming to be “Dr. Edwards” is an imposter. This imposter is suffering from a guilt complex which causes him to be an amnesiac. Thus begins the pursuit of “truth”, using psychoanalysis, to uncover who the imposter is and what happened to the real Dr. Edwards.

We find out that the imposter is John Ballantyne, a patient of Dr. Edwards, and an amnesiac; which is why he believes he is Dr. Edwards in the beginning of the movie. John Ballantyne’s amnesia is related to the guilt complex from which he is suffering. We know that Ballantyne experienced a traumatic event, this triggered repression of memory, bringing conscious truth to the unconscious to protect the mind from the trauma; this caused his amnesia. Dr. Constance Peterson believes that by using psychoanalysis she can tap into Ballantyne’s mnemic trace, or unconscious memory, and uncover the Primal scene. The primal scene being the trauma that Ballantyne suffered....
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