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American Beauty - Movie Review Example

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Summary
American Beauty is a film which stirs up a range of different reactions. When I first saw the film I was gripped by its description of a husband and father disintegrating and re-forming himself, alongside the changes and transformations of others - his wife, daughter, neighbours - around him; I found it exciting as well as disturbing…
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American Beauty
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American Beauty

Download file to see previous pages... In the 1920s Jung wrote a paper on 'The spiritual problem of modern man' addressing what he saw as an inevitable psychological/cultural response to an over-emphasis on the spirit or psyche as opposed to the body during that time. Feeling that the young profession of the cinema was very much a part of this response - a symptom of the imbalance, in a way - he wrote:
The cinema, like the detective story, enables us to experience without danger to ourselves all the excitements, passions, and fantasies which have to be repressed in a humanistic age. It is not difficult to see how these symptoms link up with our psychological situation. The fascination of our psyche brings about a new self-appraisal, a reassessment of our fundamental human nature. We can hardly be surprised if this leads to a rediscovery of the body after its long subjection to the spirit - we are even tempted to say that the flesh is getting its own back. (Jung 1928, para. 195) Jung thought that all psychological life expressed itself in binary oppositions, and that a process of something turning into its opposite was common - and indeed was to be expected when it had gone too far one way, as his quote indicates. Jung also held that psychological health lay in allowing the psyche to bring about its own balance via the transcendent function - the process of 'holding and transcending the opposites' - something Blake attempted with his Songs of Innocence and of Experience.
I want to put forward the following idea: two people can be in such a relationship with each other that they seem to stop themselves from actually being (or continuing to be) a couple, even though they appear, from the outside at least, to be one. Or rather, they act to stop the psychological development that being in an adult couple relationship will have triggered as part of the individuation process. Guggenb hl-Craig (1977) in his book Marriage - Dead or Alive puts forward a rather pessimistic view of the impact of marriage on the capacity of a man or a woman to individuate, which at first sight seems to endorse this view of the couple relationship. However, Guggenb hl-Craig's version seems to me to attend too little to the details of the unconscious interactions between the couple, preferring to focus instead on a broader-brush view of the needs of 'salvation' for one or other of the marriage partners. His work could be compared, unfavourably from my perspective, with that of Lyons and Mattinson (1993) who make use of the concept of the opposites and Jung's idea of marriage as a psychological relationship (Jung 1925) to look in detail at the interactions of a particular couple, Mr & Mrs Turner, who illustrate the individuation process in the couple in detail. At the Tavistock Marital Studies Institute, where Lyons and Mattinson worked, we are accustomed to think of couples as a kind of system. When we see a turning away from change and development by the couple, we think not so much of individuals each with powerful narcissistic defences operating separately but simultaneously, but more of an unconscious 'agreement' between the couple to stifle growth, for whatever reason. We focus on a shared interaction between them at an unconscious level: each one acts upon and relies upon the other to maintain a 'shared couple defence' against a ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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