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Ramis, H. Almond, R. (2006). Revisiting Groundhog Day (1993): Cinematic Depiction of Mutative Process. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 87(5):1387-1398.

(2006). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 87(5):1387-1398

Film Essay

Revisiting Groundhog Day (1993): Cinematic Depiction of Mutative Process

Director Harold Ramis and Richard Almond

Cinema, with its capacity to speak to several senses at once, can portray a wide variety of inner experiences. One of these experiences is that of the difficult process of character change, although it might seem unlikely in a medium limited to about 120 minutes of viewing. To do this, the writers, director, and editors manage the elements of time and plot development. Groundhog day, an offbeat comedy that features Bill Murray in a role that foreshadows his later, serious parts, shows us a man trapped by his narcissistic defenses. The device of repetition becomes a representation of developmental arrest and closure from object relatedness. Repetition also becomes a means of escape from his characterological dilemma. The opportunity to redo and learn from experience—in particular, to love and learn through experience with a good object—symbolizes the redemptive, reparative possibilities in every life.

Redemption, the suggestion that we are capable of change despite the fixed quality of character, has been a central concern in western thought. Originally a subject of biblical texts, sermons, and tracts, this theme moved into literature with the advent of the modern novel. In earlier work I termed this theme the therapeutic narrative (Almond and Almond, 1996). Indeed, a radical view of psychoanalysis would be that Freud adopted a literary narrative as the central therapeutic mode of his new science (Bakan, 1958; Rieff, 1966). Film, the emergent art form of the 20th century, searches out the major narrative themes in our culture, among them the therapeutic.

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