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Rignell, J. (2017). The Body of The Film: The Evocation of Winnicott's Original Facilitating Environment in Michael Hanake's Amour (2012). Free Associations, 18(2):89-105.

(2017). Free Associations, 18(2):89-105

Cinema on the Couch

The Body of The Film: The Evocation of Winnicott's Original Facilitating Environment in Michael Hanake's Amour (2012)

John Rignell

At the stage that is being discussed it is necessary not to think of the baby as a person who gets hungry, and whose instinctual desires may be met or frustrated but to think of the baby as…a being who is all the time on the brink of unbearable anxiety, love at this stage can only be shown in body-care (Winnicott 1962, 57-8 original italics).

Introduction

What would happen if we were to replace the word baby with spectator in the quotation above? A spectator who is not looking for food, but who is seeking psychic nourishment. Let us imagine that her anxiety is constellated around the fear that life may have no meaning and there is no point to anything. Her hunger is founded on the life-enhancing search for meaning and personal transformation. Where does it lead us if we see the film as if it were an entity that soothes and responds to the spectator? It is my intention to explore these questions.

The deployment of the notion of the ‘as ifness’ of the screen is not unusual. For example, to conceptualise the screen as if it were a mirror is commonplace. This deployment of the screen-as-mirror in the excavation of the peculiar dynamics that unfold between the spectator and the film has stimulated fruitful conversations, controversies and discussions from a primarily Lacanian perspective (e.g. Baudry 1992, Copjec 2000, Metz 1982, Zisek 1989). What I am proposing here is to show that an equally interesting and complementary conversation emerges if we play with the idea of film as a symbolic equivalent of a parental body that the spectator responds to accordingly, using Winnicott (1896-1971), the British psychoanalyst renowned for his insights into the interpersonal world of the mother and her baby (see Caldwell and Joyce [2011]), to provide the theoretical scaffolding.

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