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Sex in the mourning: Oedipal love and loss in The Door in the Floor (2004)

Wiley-Blackwell Publishing
Publication Date
  • 1701 Psychology
  • School Of Social Sciences And Psychology
  • 1902 Film
  • Television And Digital Media
  • Psychology


Psychoanalysis can never become the dominant or received perspective from which to view ourselves, precisely because the truths it presents us with are so perturbing. But it does insinuate itself into our cultural reality in various ways, exposing us to ourselves and reminding us how we continue to live and dream in the shadow of Freud. Tod Williams’s screen adaptation (2004) of the novel A widow for one year (John Irving, 1998) is a good illustration of Freud’s enduring importance, and how film can simultaneously entertain and confront us with difficult aspects of our psychic reality. In this regard the Oedipus complex, cornerstone of Freud’s personality theory, is perhaps the most unpalatable. This is hardly surprising given the unconscious desires and fears it captures. As Freud himself noted, ‘None of the findings of psycho-analytic research has provoked such embittered denials, such fierce opposition—or such amusing contortions—on the part of the critics as this indication of the childhood impulses towards incest which persist in the unconscious’. It is thus always interesting to see contemporary cinematic portrayals of oedipal themes. Despite its comic moments, Williams’s film is a dark contemplation of oedipal sexuality and loss, and the unconscious strategies employed to avoid these facts of life in the psychological crucible of family relationships.

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