|Freud believed that traumatic events, usually from childhood, are repressed by the conscious mind. However, these destructive memories remain in the subconscious, where they are the source of neuroses and psychoses. The purpose of psychoanalysis is to recover these repressed memories so that the patient can deal with them in the conscious mind.
For Freud, most repressed memories relate to sexuality. One type, for example, derives from the primal scene, where the child witnesses his parents having sex, then represses the memory of the scene. In Psycho, Norman Bates is said to have murdered his mother and her lover after finding them in bed together. Similarly, in Marnie the heroine's neurotic behavior is traced back to witnessing her prostitute mother being abused by a sex partner.
Neurotic episodes can be triggered by events or symbols in a person's everyday life, even though the person may not understand the connection.
In Marnie, the color red terrifies Marnie. Eventually her neurosis is traced back to the violent episode in her childhood.
|In Spellbound (below), the trigger is parallel lines on a light background. Through psychoanalysis, the source is recovered from the hero's childhood, when he accidentally caused a death involving an iron fence (thus the parallel lines).
|Freud identified the tendency of a person who has experienced a traumatic event to re-live the negative event over and over, in action, in memory, or in dreams. A key aspect of the theory is the urge to put oneself into situations where the traumatic experience is likely to recur. Some forms of sexual disfunction are interpreted as examples of repetition compusion - for example, an individual spanked as a child may seek out masochistic sexual experiences.
The idea of repetition is particularly strong in Spellbound, Vertigo, and Marnie.
|Vertigo's ending echoes the traumatic event that opens the movie. The second half of the movie is devoted to Scotty Ferguson's compulsive re-creation of his tragic romance with Madeleine through the make-over of Judy.
|The best known of Freud's theories about childhood sexuality is named for the mythological king Oedipus, who killed his father and married his mother. As Freud described the complex, a young boy is sexually attracted to his mother, and as a result desires to kill his father in order to possess the mother. This forbidden desire is then repressed, only to return later in neurotic form.
In popular Freudianism, mothers are often seen as encouraging the Oedipal complex through possessive or flirtatious behavior toward sons. As Norman Bates tells Marion Crane, "a boy's best friend is his mother." (But also: "A son is a poor substitute for a lover.")
In Psycho, the psychiatrist reports that Norman's mother "was a clinging, demanding woman, and for years the two of them lived as if there was no one else in the world. Then she met a man, and it seemed to Norman that she threw him over for this man. Now that pushed him over the line and he killed them both."
"Momism" - the notion that mothers are responsible for their sons' destructive behavior - everything from immature behavior to murder - is found in several Hitchcock films.
|Strangers on a Train: Momism and the Oedipal triangle.
See also the page on mothers in Hitchcock's films.
|Family Plot & family romance: the storyline turns on the identity of a lost heir falsely reported to have died.
|Freud developed the concept of the uncanny (Das Umheimliche) to describe the feeling caused by something that is familiar and strange simultaneously. As a result, the uncanny experience is both attractive and frightening at the same time.
Perhaps the best-known form of the uncanny is deja vu (already seen), the impression that some event or person has been experienced in the past, without being able clearly to identify when or how. (Deja Vu was the working title of Obsession, the film by Brian De Palma and Paul Schrader based in Hitchock's Vertigo.)
Freud believed that the uncanny originates in repressed memory, and thus is related to the Id and its impulses.
Because the familiarity carried by the uncanny implies some previous experience, the concept is closely related to the notion of repetition and the repetition compulsion (see above).
Ghost stories are a primary locus of the uncanny in literature, and this would include Hitchcock's Vertigo.