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Katz, A.W. (1997). Faces Of Abuse: Portrait Of A Couple A Psychoanalytic Study Of The Film: A Woman Under The Influence. Psychoanal. Rev., 84(5):753-767.

(1997). Psychoanalytic Review, 84(5):753-767

Faces Of Abuse: Portrait Of A Couple A Psychoanalytic Study Of The Film: A Woman Under The Influence

Anita Weinreb Katz, Ph.D.

The ground-breaking film A Woman Under the Influence, written and directed by John Cassevetes, came out in 1974, long before domestic abuse became a prominent issue. It portrays a woman and man struggling with inner and outer demons for psychic survival, for connectedness and separateness, as well as for love, gratification, and recognition. In a 1996 Filmmaker magazine poll of people in the film industry, the 50 most important American independent films were chosen. A Woman Under the Influence was placed in the number 1 slot.

My focus is on the intrapsychic and interpersonal issues, conflicts, and processes that contribute to understanding domestic violence. At the opening of the film, the lens zooms in on a vulnerable couple, Mabel and Nick. Mabel is a homemaker who is very attractive, intense, and animated. She is devoted to her husband and three children. Nick is an attractive, appealing man who works as the head of a city construction crew. He is devoted to his wife and children. The cast includes Mabel's mother and father, Nick's mother, Nick's buddies at work, and a psychiatrist. The detailed synopsis that follows is the data from which my clinical understanding is derived.

Synopsis Of The Film

The film begins with the children being picked up by their maternal grandmother so that Mabel and Nick can spend an evening and the next day alone with each other. Mabel worries that her mother won't call her if one of them “is bleeding.”

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