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Barratt, B.B. (2015). Fathering and the Consolidation of Masculinity: Notes on the Paternal Function in Andrey Zvyagintsev's The Return. Psychoanal. Rev., 102(3):347-364.

(2015). Psychoanalytic Review, 102(3):347-364

Fathering and the Consolidation of Masculinity: Notes on the Paternal Function in Andrey Zvyagintsev's The Return

Barnaby B. Barratt, Ph.D., DHS

The film The Return, directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev, depicts a weeklong “crash course” in masculinity offered by a father who returns after a prolonged absence. It is here analyzed here in terms of paternal functions related to love, work, and play. The story culminates in the father's “accidental” death. The image of his corpse sinking into a watery grave suggests that this “[not so] good enough” father both returns to his former condition as mythic-and-absent, and also assumes the position of the “always already dead” symbolic father. Psychoanalysis has admirably explored many fathering issues (specifically the experiential qualities of presence and absence, both emotionally and physically). This paper presents the argument that more attention should be directed to the (mis)alliance between the actual and the symbolic father (both of whom are always both present and absent in psychic life). It is noted that an actual father can be killed and mourned, whereas the symbolic father is “always already dead,” and can neither be killed nor be mourned except in the crucial sense wherein we are all called to grieve the omnipotent fantasy/phantasy that we might not be “castrated”—to grieve the delusion that we might be able to speak from the locus of the “phallus,” which is the generative position held exclusively by the symbolic father.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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