Last Updated on Sunday, 27 October 2013 20:37
Written by John Beebe MD
The Anima in Film
John Beebe, M.D.
The anima in film is much like the anima anywhere else: 1 a confusing, deceptive presence with the capacity to engender inner transformation. Perhaps the only advantage a film-goer has (in common with the individual who can remember dreams) is that the archetype is visible as well as effective. For that reason, I have frequently turned to movies to understand better the typical role of the anima, and my hunger, as a clinician, to get a clearer sense of the functioning of this unconscious feminine presence has not gone unsatisfied. What I will offer here is a guide for exploring the anima through film, as well as an indication of some things film has helped me to discover about the anima's function in relation to other archetypes of the psyche, most particularly the persona.
I do not think it is appropriate to call every woman in film an anima figure, although the luminous representation has the important characteristic of turning a human being into an image that can be manipulated to aesthetic effect by a supraordinate creative personality, the film director. The director's role in making a film is already, therefore, not unlike that of the Self in creating dreams. The Self seeks to achieve the goals of the total psyche by affective stimulation of the ego through images that are no longer simple representations but feeling toned complexes of unconscious life made to simulate conscious reality so that consciousness will take heed of them and hear out the important "home truths" they are there to convey. Of these feeling-toned complexes that mediate, in the regulation of psychic balance, between Self and ego, none has such a memorable effect as the anima (which is why so many women are not content with Jung's insistence that their mediating figure appears as a male, the animus). In a movie, the importance of the female image in stimulating emotionally relevant fantasy is obvious. One has only to point out the heavy emphasis the motion-picture medium has always placed upon its leading actresses.
Not every leading female character in a film is an anima figure, but often there are unmistakable signs that an unconscious, rather than conscious, figure is intended. It may be useful at the outset to specify some of these signs:
1. Unusual radiance (e.g., Garbo, Monroe). Often the most amusing and gripping aspect of a movie is to watch ordinary actors or actresses (e.g., Melvyn Douglas and Ina Claire in Ninotchka) contend with a more mind-blowing presence--a star personality who seems to draw life from a source beyond the mundane (e.g., Garbo in the same film). This inner radiance is one sign of the anima--and it is why actresses asked to portray the anima so often are spoken of a stars and are chosen more for their uncanny presence, whether or not they are particularly good at naturalistic characterization.
2. A desire to make emotional connection as the main concern of the character. One of the ways to distinguish an actual woman is her need to be able to say "no," as part of the assertion of her own identity and beings.2 (Part of the comedy of Katharine Hepburn is that she can usually only say no; so that when she finally says "yes," we know it stands as an affirmation of an independent woman's actual being.) By contrast, the anima figure wants to be loved, or occasionally to be hated, in either case living for connection, as is consistent with her general role as representative of the status of the man's unconscious eros and particularly his relationship to himself. (Ingrid Bergman, in Notorious, keeps asking Cary Grant, verbally and nonverbally, whether he loves her. We feel her hunger for connection and anticipate that he will come alive only if he says yes. His affect is frozen by cynicism and can only be redeemed by his acceptance of her need for connection.)
3. Having come from some, quite other, place into the midst of a reality more familiar to us than the character's own place of origin. (Audrey Hepburn, in Roman Holiday, is a princess visiting Rome who decides to escape briefly into the life a commoner might be able to enjoy on a first trip to that city.)
4. The character is the feminine mirror of traits we have already witnessed in the attitude or behavior of another, usually male, character. (Marlene Dietrich as a seductive carbaret singer performing before her audience in The Blue Angel displays the cold authoritarianism of the gymnasium professor of English, Emil Jannings, who manipulates the students' fear of him in the opening scene of the movie. Jannings pacing back and forth in front of his class and resting against his desk as he holds forth are mirrored in Dietrich's controlling stride and aggressive seated posture in front of her audience.)
5. The character has some unusual capacity for life, in vivid contrast to other characters in the film. (The one young woman in the office of stony bureaucrats in Ikiru is able to laugh at almost anything. When she meets her boss, Watanabe, just at the point that he has learned that he has advanced stomach cancer and is uninterested in eating anything, she has an unusual appetite for food and greedily devours all that he buys her.)
6. The character offers a piece of advice, frequently couched in the form of an almost unacceptable rebuke, which has the effect of changing another character's relation to a personal reality. (The young woman in Ikiru scorns Watanabe's depressed confession that he has wasted his life living for his son. Shortly after, still in her presence, Watanabe is suddenly enlightened to his life task, which will be to use the rest of his life living for children, this time by expediting the building of a playground that his own office, along with the other agencies of the city bureaucracy, has been stalling indefinitely with red tape. He finds his destiny and fulfillment in his own nature as a man who is meant to dedicate his life to the happiness of others, exactly within the pattern he established after his wife's death years before, of living for his son's development rather than to further himself. The anima figure rescues his authentic relationship to himself, which requires a tragic acceptance of this pattern as his individuation and his path to self-transcendence. )
7. The character exerts a protective and often therapeutic effect on someone else. (The young widow in Tender Mercies helps Robert Duvall overcome the alcoholism that has threatened his career.)
8. Less positively, the character leads another character to recognize a problem in personality which is insoluble. (In Nicholas Ray's In a Lonely Place, the antisocial screenwriter played by Humphrey Bogart meets an anima figure played--with a face to match the cool mask of his own--by Gloria Grahame, who cannot overcome her mounting doubts about him enough to accept him as a husband. Her failure to overcome her ambivalence is a precise indicator of the extent of the damage that exists in his relationship to himself.)
9. The loss of this character is associated with the loss of purposeful aliveness itself. (The premise of L'Avventura is the disappearance of Anna, who has been accompanied to an island by her lover, a middle-aged architect with whom she has been having an unhappy affair. We never get to know Anna well enough to understand the basis of her unhappiness, because she disappears so early in the film, but we soon discover that the man who is left behind is in a state of archetypal ennui, a moral collapse characterized by an aimlessly cruel sexual pursuit of one of Anna's friends and a spoiling envy of the creativity of a younger man who can still take pleasure in making a drawing of an Italian building.)
Simply recognizing a character in a film as an anima figure does not exhaust the meaningfulness of what an analytic approach to cinema can unlock. The true interest of this approach comes when, through it, the dynamics of a cinematic experience of the anima are revealed and one can see how the figure herself changes in relation to the character whose life she affects. In film, as in no other medium, we can actually see the behavior of the archetype; in life, we know her far more indirectly, as moods, impulses, symptoms, and as a shape-shifting fleeting personage in our dreams--if, indeed, we can remember them. In film, we can see the anima figure over time, in a more or less stable guise, at her strange task of mediating the fate of a protagonist. We are permitted to watch as the anima relates to the other complexes of a psyche.
A way to understand a film psychologically is to take its various characters as signifying complexes, parts of a single personality whose internal object relations are undergoing chanced.3 These object relations are represented by the interactions of the characters, who usually include a figure representing the anima. Because the relation of the anima to other complexes is of particular interest to a therapist, I have often recommended to therapists that they use the movies they view in their leisure time to train themselves in visualizing the internal relationships involved. In addition to enhancing their enjoyment of films, those who have followed my advice have often found that their sensitivity, within analytic work, to dream and associative material is greatly improved. This exercise, following in the Jungian tradition of having analysts-in-training engage in the interpretation of fairy tales, has the advantage that the material studied for archetypal comparison to clinical material is drawn from the same culture as our patients. It also draws a therapist deeper into what is essentially a new ritual context for the immersion into visionary archetypal experience.
Filmmaking, at least in the hands of its acknowledged masters, is a form of active imagination drawing its imagery from the anxieties generated by current concerns, and filmwatching has become a contemporary ritual that is only apparently a leisure.4 Going to movies has achieved, in this country, almost the status of a religious activity. As a teacher, I have found that seminars built around the showing of a movie rich in imaginal material have been more successful in getting students to enter into a dialogue with images than my similar efforts to work with materials drawn from a more remote culture form, and I think this is because the viewing of films is numinous for us. Few myths impact contemporary Americans the way the films of Spielberg, Coppola, and Lynch do. I would like to examine here the work of a somewhat less immediately familiar triad of American directors, out of a potential pool of dozens of similar rank who have worked within our mainstream Hollywood tradition of using commercially established stars, cinematographers, and scripts to create works of art that are as meaningful as they are entertaining. The directors that I have chosen are undisputed auteurs who have particularly concerned themselves with the anima.5 Both in their obsessive devotion to certain female stars and in the seductiveness of their ability to make good scripts built around movie formulas come alive enough to seem real, George Cukor, Alfred Hitchcock, and Peter Bogdanovich belong to the culture of anima, so much, in fact, that it sometimes feels as if the anima chose these directors to make her presence visible to us in our time.
In what follows, I will address films by these directors--A Star is Born, Vertigo, and Mask--that express the extreme of their inspiration by the anima archetype, films that I would call masterpieces of the anima. In each of these films, the neurosis of the auteur, or at least that of his creative personality, is painfully evident.6
Each takes as its starting point a major malfunction of a hero's persona which threatens permanently to impair this male character's ability to work or find love. Each of these films, as is characteristic of movies about the anima, engages this wounded character with an anima figure who is symbolic of a deeper aspect of his suffering and who attempts to move his psyche beyond it. However, in these films, she fails. None of the films lead to an enduring, happy connection with the anima or to genuine transformation. The function of the anima here is significantly more tragic than therapeutic: her presence serves to deepen our sense of the hero's suffering, and to make us, and him, accept it as his fate.
These films were released in America between 1953 and 1985, but they share the distinction of finding special favor with critics and audiences grown sophisticated enough to appreciate their imaginal power at a particularly self-reflective moment in the history of filmwatching, 1983 to 1985, when the sense of a lull in the general level of current American films combined with the widespread availability of American movie classics on videocassette led a mass audience to undertake what until then only cinema buffs had been able to pursue, a basic reexamination of the entire corpus of the American cinema. This kind of reflection on an aesthetic tradition is itself an anima activity, one that the archetype will insist upon at times when its further evolution in life or in art seems blocked by an excessive insistence upon persona values. The period just before and just after Reagan was elected to his second term was such a time, when a one-sided interest on what the hero "can do" was in evidence. It is not unfitting that, at this point in our history, the great American war-horses of anima disappointment, A Star Is Born and Vertigo, films about what the hero could not do, would be rereleased in their restored or rediscovered widescreen formats and that they would generate in theaters the kind of interest that is usually reserved for new films. It is more surprising that Peter Bogdanovich, whose early career had involved him in the role of American film appreciator celebrating our auteurs of the hero archetype, Ford and Hawks and Welles, would be able to break through with Mask, a great new American film putting forward so solidly the anima theme of the hero's failure. Bogdanovich's film is in the tradition of the hard-boiled sentimentality and macabre kitsch of his earlier masters, who could satirize heroic aspirations, but it is less macho in its assertion that an ideal relationship to the anima on the hero's terms in not an American possibility and more gracious in its acceptance of the necessity for the defeat of the hero.
A Star Is Born
George Cukor's A Star Is Born draws explicit life from the assumption that its audience will be steeped in Hollywood culture. It begins with the crackling of carbon arc lights coming alive to illuminate the skies of Hollywood for a premiere; much later in the film, we will hear Judy Garland's electric voice cry out "lights!" as she begins to pantomime a production number she has been rehearsing for the cameras. The story is about the birth of the star portrayed by Garland, but in Cukor's handling the real theme is the culture of film turning a searchlight upon itself. Judy Garland, as a band singer pulled into a new career in the movie business, becomes the image of a bewildered creative consciousness assimilating the many ironies of filmmaking itself. These ironies are presented as pitfalls of the studio system, but it is clear that the resonance is to the introverted problems of the creative process as well. Filmmaking is, above all, what Andrew Sarris has called "a very strenuous form of contemplation" (1968, p. 37), and in many films a leading actress becomes the personification of the director's meditative stance toward the materials of story, acting, photography, and music.
In A Star Is Born, Garland becomes the anima image of Cukor's approach to creativity. The person she is here could not have been the prototype for any actual woman initiating a career: she is far too reactive to the man in her life and to Hollywood itself. Moreover, she is not particularly good at shaping herself even to these expectations. As a come-back vehicle for Judy Garland, the movie was a disaster, despite its excellent critical reputation and its part in securing her niche as cinema legend, but as a depiction of the middle-aged commercial Hollywood artist's anima, the demonic energy, the androgyny, the slightly worn and worried look, and the now puffy, now beautiful head of Garland, and even the grandiosity and tiresome intensity of this fascinating but self-destructive star, work to the director's advantage. Making everything too much is a hallmark of the anima, and Garland indelibly conveys the intensity of the Hollywood auteur in imposing meaning on a commercial film. The frightening aspect of this dark film muscal--and not just its plot, but the murky tones of its technicolor qualify it as a true color noir film--is the way the anima of the filmmaking totally overtakes the persona, so that reasonable proportions give way to overproduction and melodrama. This is the subtext of Vicki Lester (Garland) supplanting Normal Maine, the Barrymore-ish star who discovered her. By the time of Maine's suicide, Vicki Lester is able to present herself accurately to her public as "Mrs. Normal Maine."
Throughout Moss Hart's script, a grandiose Hollywood possibility is followed by a grim Hollywood reality (for instance: "the wedding to end all weddings" ends up getting held in a county jail, to avoid the press), but Hart's jokes at the expense of the Hollywood persona have for Cukor the larger meaning that the persona is losing control to another archetype. The songs of the score--most particularly "The Man That Got Away"--reemphasize the loss of masculine identity (protested for most of the movie by James Mason as the doomed Norman Maine) in favor of the archetypal emotionality represented by Garland. In the end, the movie's command of voice and dialogue and gesture (as ably defended by Mason's performance) give way to an overwhelming presence, mood, and intensity, as personified by Garland, whose unconscious energy is more interesting than her conscious skill at character portrayal. Yet Mason and Garland are in vivid relationship to each other. To watch Garland lust afterJames Mason's control and precision, and Mason appreciate and envy Garland's magnetism, is to participate in a mystery at the core of cinema experience, the interplay between movie star and actor expressing a reciprocal tension between anima and persona. Cukor's appreciation of the neurotic dynamics of this relationship in the work of cinema artists in what makes this movie great, especially in its mad moments, like the one where Norman Maine walks into the midst of his wife's Academy Award acceptance speech to make a drunken pitch for a job and ends up smacking her in the face with the back of the hand he stretches out to make a point.
A Star Is Born is not the only movie where a director works out of the tension between a command of style that is losing ground and a capacity for creative expression that is still vibrant (Federico Fellini's Ginger and Fred has exactly this theme), but I think it is by far the greatest one, raising this peculiar problem to the status of creative tragedy. In A Star Is Born, Cukor delivers one of the seminal lessons of cinema: even though movies are nothing without stars that can act, stars are finally more important than actors to the emotional effect of a screen experience. This is a truth that the actual Academy Awards loves to obscure, with its frequent honoring of thespians like F. Murray Abraham, Geraldine Page, and Jessica Tandy, and its slighting of way the anima of the film-authentic movie stars, like Chaplin and Garbo and Garland, and of auteur directors, like Hitchcock and Spielberg, who understand how to turn actors into images. (Look at The Prince and the Showgirl and watch happens when Laurence Olivier is pitted against Marilyn Monroe. ) What Monroe and Garbo and Garland understand with their star acting (which, despite their occasional ambitions, was never of the Broadway or London variety) is that film, unlike the stage, is not a medium of actors, but of actors' images. The actors are not up there on the screen, their images are; and this translation of person into image is crucially important psychologically, because it moves film past the personal and into the archetypal realm of psychological experience.
When, in the first decade of this century, Griffith adapted the new "trick photography" effect of the close-up and projected gigantic "severed heads" of actors upon the screen, cinema became a medium for our direct engagement with archetypes. A cinematic close-up is analogous to an aria in opera, a moment when a timeless dimension of human experience can be caught and contemplated (Balázs 1985). But once the archetypes are summoned, they take on their own life. The magical moment in A Star Is Born where Garland (entertaining Mason) looks out at us and says, "Now here comes a big fat close-up!" framing her face with her own panning hands, is extraordinary not just because it reveals the role of the anima in creating the close-up, but because the anima wrests control of her own image away from the director. It is in the nature itself of the anima to use a medium to create images of herself and to concern herself with the style of these images. This relationship between the anima and the image of herself that she creates is corollary to the intense interaction between anima and persona.
Perhaps the most telling example of this dynamic comes as a silent monologue played out on Judy Garland's face, as the band singer is being readied for her first screen test. While the make-up men recite possibilities for dealing with the lack of statement in her visage, Garland, staring into a make-up mirror, tries on the arched look of "the Dietrich eyebrow" and puffs her lips to get the fullness of "the Crawford mouth." Then, for a fleeting moment, she stares in despair at her own trapped and suddenly shapeless face, the personification of an anima without an image, wondering if she will ever find one.
That this anxiety lies at the core of the anima archetype is made even clearer by Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo, where an unknown, and perhaps unknowable, woman, working to convince a detective that she really does not know who she is, becomes trapped by the fiction she has created. The movie turns on the slightly malicious question, "Who is Kim Novak?" a question which becomes more frightening, and unanswerable, once the secret of her dual identity within the film is revealed. The initial sequences, for all their beauty in summoning up the enchantment of the anima archetype, belong to a familiar-enough theme in psychology and art--the man as victim of seduction. The fall of James Stewart's character Scottie into "acute melancholia complicated by a guilt complex" is what he deserves from biting into this familiar apple. Indeed, the cumulative kitsch elements of the romance--the staginess of the exposition of the preposterous plot; the tourist's view of San Francisco's prettiness in the long, languishing silent sequence; the poor quality of the "museum painting" of the nineteenth-century woman Kim Novak is supposed to be obsessed by; the monotonous unreality Novak brings to the reading of her lines; and the ponderous earnestness of James Stewart as he becomes her victim--all have a wearying effect, much like the depression of coaddiction. But when the trickster beneath all this gnawing at the bone of hopeless love is exposed to us, and both characters know that it was all a trick, the film develops a wildness in which anything could happen. Stewart's solution--to precipitate the total loss the archetype in the fever pitch of his disillusionments a truly shocking finale, forcing the audience to the conclusion that the premises of romantic love have themselves disappeared. If Vertigo has, as Royal S. Brown (1986) argues, the form of an Orphic tragedy, a story of the romantic artist's need to gaze murderously upon the illusion-based love at the center of his creative impulse, then the irretrievably lost Eurydice within this poet's film is the anima herself as we have known and used her to support the image of ideal romantic love. At the film's end, a bell tolls for the loss of the archetype.
The film's extraordinary poignancy turns upon Kim Novak's uncanny ability to make us care what happens to her, despite the palpable deceptiveness of her many guises. She is presented initially as Madeleine Elster, the elegant wife of a San Francisco shipbuilder, and is supposed to be hysterically possessed by the ghost of her great-grandmother, Carlotta Valdez, a woman who committed suicide after her rich and powerful husband discarded her and took her baby away. Later we learn that Novak is really Judy Barton, a San Francisco shop girl from Salina, Kansas, who had been coached to impersonate Madeleine by Madeleine's husband so that he, too, could dispose of his wife. James Stewart plays a detective, Scottie Ferguson, used by Madeleine's husband to verify the cover story for the wife's murder. He is to follow Novak around San Francisco, and he falls in love with the deception she creates as the pseudo-Madeleine. This Madeleine is a classic 1950s woman, who confines her body within a gray tailored suit, her hair close around her head like a man's, except for the elegant feminine knot behind the head. Her image is the extreme of compliance to the demands patriarchy makes upon the feminine, to be voluptuous and pleasing within a masculine mold. Like a fourth-century B.C. marble bust of Aphrodite, Novak-as-Madeleine is a personification of the goddess as patriarchal anima, asleep to her other feminine possibilities and almost Apollonian in the balance of her contours.
Later, when she appears, in shocking contrast, as Judy, Novak is painted in a hard Dionysian style, like a vulgar theater mask. She is incapable of getting Stewart's Scottie to find any taste for this more florid, and angry, assertion of femininity. Instead, Scottie forces her to recreate the Apollonian image for him by redoing her make-up, her hair, her clothes, and even her nails in the image of the former, illusory Madeleine. We realize to our horror that, for all the cruelty and male chauvinism of his project, this is the only style through which Novak's soft femininity can express itself. We pity her the more because we love her this way, recognizing that we, too, are fatally attracted by the patriarchal anima style. There can be no happy outcome, but the fall from grace of this presentation of the feminine at the end of the picture is nevertheless an occasion for pity and dread. The film leaves us mourning, with Stewart, for this unworkable anima image--and with the repulsed sense that we have seen the archetypal background of all our own failures at love.
This cynicism is a sign of the appearance of the senex archetype once the anima disappears.7 We can read Vertigo as the initiation of a vulnerable man into the psychological senescence produced when the anima is irretrievably lost. Jung has given this classic description:
After the middle of life . . . permanent loss of the anima means a diminution of vitality, of flexibility, and of human kindness. The result, as a rule, is premature rigidity, crustiness, stereotypy, fanatical one-sidedness, obstinacy, pedantry, or else resignation, weariness sloppiness, irresponsibility, and finally a childish ramollissement [softening of personality] with a tendency to alcohol. (Jung 1954, par. 147)
Vertigo defines the process by which the anima is sacrificed in a man destined to assume the senex character, making clear the role the anima plays in her own withdrawal from the psychological scene. The anima that seduces a man into permanent disillusionment with the feminine is under the spell of a malignant father complex, so that her energy is infected by the demands of the complex and ceases to serve the total personality. This is the shadow of the process that therapists more usually imagine the anima to be catalyzing for a man in midlife, which is normally the discovery of the value of his aliveness to him. In the dark variant depicted here, the anima is a tragic accomplice to a form of negative initiation, by which the man is denied an inner life in favor a hollow victory over his emotions.
There are two sequences in this movie which are organized around the unexpected, and uncanny, experience of Madeleine/Judy staring indirectly into the camera.8 In both cases, Novak's face is frozen with the unhappiness of her unfree condition, disclosing to us her tragic foreknowledge of the role she will be forced to play in Scottie's psychological demise. The first of these direct gazes occurs in the car just before she and Scottie reach the mission at SanJuan Bautista where she will meet her accomplice, Gavin Elster. This gaze is transposed to the livery stable of the mission, where she sits in a old carriage rather than the car. She keeps staring for a long time, then begins to move to join Elster, who is set to throw his real wife's dead body from the top of the tower and make it look like her own suicide.
The second of these direct gazes at the camera occurs when Judy sits in her hotel room, her face a mask of tragedy, and recalls what actually happened when she did reach the top of the bell tower ahead of Scottie. As before, the actress's gaze prefigures further actions that will lead to the completion of the project--which Elster set in motion and which Hitchcock, as director, will finally use her to complete--to destroy any basis Scottie, or the filmwatcher, may have for believing that a healthy connection to the feminine is possible.
Scottie's vulnerability to such control by a cynical complex is the vertigo of the film's title, visualized as an acrophobia that affects the way he sees the base of the bell tower's stairwell when he looks down.9 Its square geometric shape is a Self-symbol that recedes further away from him as he contemplates its enlarging possibility: we are looking at a man's terror in the face of the depths of his own being. It is this terror that the father complex represented by Elster can successfully manipulate: since the anima promises connection to the Self, the complex moves the anima to convince the man that he must discard her for her own survival and mastery of his fear.
If the anima in A Star Is Born overtakes a failing persona, and is lost in Vertigo to a hollow persona, Mask suggests the healing of a wounded persona by an anima neither too strong not too weak to do her real job of protecting the personality. Like A Star Is Born and Vertigo, Mask is set in California, but twenty-five years later, in the matriarchal, counterculture California that had grown up to one side of the freeway, and the film is only superficially about a tragedy within patriarchy. Part of the fun of the film is to watch the resilience of a personality that could never get by if it played according to the patriarchal rules set for persona and anima behavior that the films from the 1950s delineate. The hero, Rocky Dennis, collects Brooklyn Dodgers cards from 1955, and some of his mother's biker friends tell him that that seems like yesterday, but clearly we have entered another system of values. His mother, Rusty Dennis, is a beautiful queen of the counterculture, permanently estranged from her critical Jewish father, and, as played with perfect ease and authority by Cher, who looks like a dark Aphrodite in this movie, she can oppose her own authority to anything that patriarchy can dish out to stand in her son's way. The film opens on a day when she has to take him to be enrolled in a new junior high school, and it will be a problem, because he was born with craniodiaphyseal dysplasia, a rare condition that causes him to deposit calcium in his skull at an abnormal rate. His face looks like a Halloween mask, or more precisely, the long, bent facial shield of a Mycenean warrior. His mother's defiance of doctors (who told her he would be retarded, blind, and deaf) and of school principals who don't think he can fit in (he gets along well with the other kids and is in the top 5 % of his class) has become legendary, and her verve in defying their authority makes almost anything seem possible. When his head aches (they've been told that because of the pressure on his spinal cord he may have only a few months to live), Cher can get him to talk himself out of it when she puts her hands against his head, the pain goes away. He is, in turn, her conscience and her moral support, forcing her to look at her serious drug habit and urging her on to a stable relationship with one of the nicer bikers.
This is the naive condition of the mother complex in the junior high school period when it is most hopeful, humorous, and aspiring, when a son and mother living without a father can truly be two against the world. The boy, who is, in fact, hopelessly unadapted to the patriarchal world, gets by as a charming and poignant exception to the usual patriarchal expectations, and, for a time, it is possible for him to make a successful adaptation, as Rocky does. In a brilliant sequence that takes the movie down to the level of the myth involved, Rocky wins his class over with his retelling of the Trojan War. This choice is not accidental Iike Achilles, who calls weeping to his mother for help when his girl is taken from him, Rocky is a mother's hero. He will not be able to outgrow fixation at the awkward developmental stage he epitomizes for everybody else.
Girls are a particular problem for Rocky; they admire him, but he cannot attract them. His mother brings a prostitute home for him, but that is no solution, because Rocky needs to find out if he is lovable on his own. As this sequence makes clear, the anima is an archetype that the mother complex cannot deliver to a man; she must be found outside the mother's sphere of authority and as a consequence of his own initiative.
Pushing himself away from his mother with the excuse that she won't do anything about her excessive use of drugs, Rocky accepts a summer job as a counselor's aid at a camp for the blind, where he meets a beautiful blind girl his own age. Her name is Diana Adams, and with his interest in mythology and the milky radiance Laura Dern brings to the part, Rocky is quick to associate her to the White Goddess whose name she bears.10 When she asks him what he looks like, he tells her that he looks like the Greek god Adonis and then the truth about the condition deforming his face. She runs her hand over his features and tells him he "looks pretty good" to her. They fall in love, but she is a daughter of careful, protective, upper middle class parents from a southern California suburb, and when they come to pick her up, her father takes a pained look at Rocky and whisks her away in the family station wagon. Rocky tries to telephone Diana but her mother intercepts his messages. It is evident that he will never be able to make a permanent connection with any patriarchal anima figure.
Bogdanovich appears to tell this true story naively, as if it were a docudrama enlivened only by the extraordinary naturalness of his direction, which gives the film the look of life. Yet everywhere, seamlessly introduced into the smooth cinematic narration, is his sense of the archetypal background of this strange but charming matriarchal constellation. In one scene, Rocky, teaching the blind girl how to associate to visual adjectives, gives her some cotton balls to feel and tells her, "This is billowy." The movie reverses this process, giving us images that bring us as close as a visual medium can to the texture of a mother complex, a secret sacred marriage between mother and son that finally excludes all other loves. Like Laura Dern, we are given a first-hand grasp of the soft intractability of Rocky's mother complex.
In this set-up, the anima's contribution is an acceptance of the insolubility of the problem. Rocky goes to find Diana once more and learns that she is being sent away to school. His headaches are getting worse, and he will have to go back home to die. Caught between the feelings of her own parents and the powerful sway of Rocky's irresistible fate, Diana can only console Rocky with her acceptance of him and of his limited access to her. Beautiful as she is, she must return him to the still more beautiful goddess who is his mother and to the archetypal pattern of the son- lover who dies young. This brief connection with the anima is enough, however, to enable him to accept his fate. Rocky is able to move on within his myth and to objectify it for us, so that when he dies and his mother becomes the grieving goddess, we experience the completion of his pattern and the sense that there has been an individuation.
The film itself does not step outside the frame of reference of the mother complex; it is not afraid to be sentimental or defiant. Yet Bogdanovich somehow achieves objectivity by letting us see the entirety of Rocky's situation, in both its personal and its mythological aspects. I suspect that this rounding out is an effect of the anima. Within the mother complex that cannot be overcome, the anima can sometimes find opportunities lacking in a patriarchal pattern of development for establishing the wholeness of the arrested personality.
Both A Star Is Born and Vertigo are patriarchal in their premises and narcissistic in their pathology. They can be understood by the nature of their affective tone, as well as through the archetypes they present. A Star Is Born is hypomanic; Vertigo is depressed. Mask, although similarly concerned with persona wounding and anima vulnerability, is neither. Its even feeling-tone reveals a surprising resilience in the regulation of self-esteem, which seems a gift of the character's freedom from patriarchal expectations. In Mask, neither the persona nor the anima has yen, much to lose. Without a fantasy of patriarchal success, there is no expectation of ideal apotheosis for either pole of the adapting self and, therefore, no liability to titanic disappointment. Instead of tragedy, there is pathos in anima disappointment and a humorous humility in the face of the persona's shortcomings. Within this matriarchal pattern, the anima can play only a limited role in extending the range or the health of a personality, but she can satisfy other needs of the psyche, for self-acceptance, integrity, and love.
It remains for us to ask what it does for a cinema auteur to reflect his anima problem so directly on the screen. It is clear that these films concern themselves with fatal constellations and reject the hope of heroic healing. One likes, nevertheless, to imagine that these directors healed themselves, or at least resolved tensions in their creative personalities, with these films. I have observed, following Jung, that it is therapeutic simply to visualize the anima with such clarity. Jung often expressed the opinion that the way for a man to analyze his anima is to get to know her better. In this process, as these films make clear, a man will come to experience not only her style and her nature, but her autonomy as a factor that stands behind his ego in shaping his destiny. This independence, which promises an endless creative capacity for self renewal, is sharply restricted by the nature of the other personality complexes with which the anima must contend. The film medium allows the director to articulate the limits of his animals freedom in shaping his creative life. We who are interested in psychological creativity may understand from the urgency with which these cinema masters have attended to the fate of the anima that the anima's vicissitudes refer to an imagination struggling to keep its capacity for psychological connection to itself alive and that this desirable outcome is by no means a guaranteed inevitability.
1. The most succinct general description of the ways the anima manifests herself can be found in Hillman (1975, pp. 42 44). A critical examination of the concept of the anima in analytical psychology is given in Hillman (1985).
2. I am indebted to the Jungian analyst Beverley Zabriskie for first making this distinction for me.
3. This is the basic principle, as well, of Jungian dream interpretation (see Jung 1906).
4. See my recorded seminar, "Film as Active Imagination," C. G. Jung Institute of San Francisco October 10-11, 1981.
5. See Sarris (1968) for a discussion of rank and auteur in regard to Hollywood directors.
6. It is best to resist the temptation to draw conclusions about the personal psychology of a director from his films, but "personal filmmaking" does open up the psychology of the creative personality to everyone's inspection.
7. Hitchcock supplies an exact personification of the senex archetype in the figure of the coroner who presides over the jury called to determine the cause of Madeleine's death after the first bell-tower episode. The coroner's tone in delivering the verdict of suicide insinuates that Scottie is at fault, which becomes the attitude Scottie assumes toward himself in his subsequent depression.
8. A particularly lucid account of the first of these moments can be found in Rothman (1988), who invokes Stanley Cavell's "melodrama of the unknown woman."
9. Lesley Brill, in his careful analysis of the camera's movement in Vertigo (1988, pp. 202-206), points out that a geometric spiral is implied in this figure.
10. Robert Graves's use of this term for Diana/Artemis is well known (1960, pp. 85-86). Peter Bogdanovich revealed to Barbara Grizzuti Harrison that he was reading Robert Graves's The White Goddess in 1981, just after his lover, Dorothy Stratten, was killed (Harrison 1990).
Balazs, B. 1985. The close up. In Film Theory and Criticism, 3rd ea., G. Mast and M. Cohen, eds. New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 255-264.
Brill, L. 1988. The Hitchcock Romance: Love and irony in Hitchcock's Films. Princeton, NJ.: Princeton University Press.
Brown, R. S. 1986. Vertigo as Orphic tragedy. Film/Literature Quarterly 14(1):32 43.
Graves, R. 1960. The Greek Myths. New York: Viking Penguin.
Harrison, B. G. 1990. Peter Bogdanovich comes back from the dead. Esquire 114(2): 146-156.
Hillman, J. 1975. Re- Visioning Psychology. New York: Harper and Row.
_____. 1985. Anima: An Anatomy of a Personified Notion. Dallas: Spring Publications.
Jung, C. G. 1906. Association, dream, and hysterical symptom. In CW 2:353-407. Princeton, N. J.: Princeton University Press, 1973.
_____. 1954. Concerning the archetypes, with special reference to the anima concept. CW 91:54-72. Princeton, NJ.: Princeton University Press, 1959.
Rothman, W. 1988. Vertigo: the unknown woman in Hitchcock. In The "I" of the Camera. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 142-173.
Sarris, A. 1968. The American Cinema. New York: Dutton.
John Beebe is a Jungian analyst in private practice in San Francisco. A graduate of Harvard College, the University of Chicago Medical School, and the C. G. Jung Institute of San Francisco he is the editor of Aspects of the Masculine, The San Francisco Jung Institute Library Journal, and co-editor of The Journal of Analytical Psychology.
Copyright 1992 by Chiron Publications.