Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Michael Poff comments on Hiroshima, Mon Amour

It was not oedipal conflicts that I believed remained unsuccessfully resolved. My observation was that although there were triangular features to the relationship in Hiroshima Mon Amour (see April 4, 2011) that might typically suggest Oedipal-level repetitions (i.e., references to cheated-upon third party/spouse/dead lover; Lui’s thrill at being special to Ella compared to all her past lovers; the recurring subject of lying; the central theme of sleeping with the forbidden/the enemy), much more obvious, in this case, were the effects of the later trauma in early adulthood (the pervasive dissociative affect, the intensity to the repetition compulsion, an inexpressible humiliation and rage isolated behind the glassy “reasonable” defense). In fact, in the absence of other history, it was only the massive quality of that trauma that made more understandable the pervasive regressive and pre-oedipal emotional atmosphere of the affair (i.e., repetitive fantasies of annihilation by being consumed/devoured; borderline psychotic-like confusion of past/present, loss of self/other boundaries, etc.). Elle’s early refrain, “Without a record, there’s only reconstruction”, highlighted for me the parallel between her ‘remembering’, first in action then in words, with Lui and reconstruction in analysis. I see no inherent problem calling this a co-construction (But I was using Elle’s words.) so long as some conceptual principle for the asymmetrical relationship and the ideal of (relative) neutrality on the part of the analyst is preserved for the protection of the patient. It was Lui’s reference to what he will remember of Elle when he is compelled by habit into future affairs, and Elle’s staying ‘reasonable’ for the remainder of their relationship after he slaps her just as she risked expressing her anger, that signaled the unresolved quality of the problems each was attempting some mastery over with the affair. I agree wholeheartedly with you that there was much caring in the ‘play’ and healing (for Elle, most obviously, given her resolution in the end to return home to Nevere) that came of the encounter between the two lovers. Michael Poff MA, MSW

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