In his essay the Uncanny Freud writes of the rarity of a psychoanalyst being asked to contribute material to an understanding of the field of aesthetics. His discussion of the meaning of horror' makes sense however, psychologically, because things that frighten us often have their roots in psychological distress. For Freud the uncanny refers to what is frightening what excites fear in general. Freud describes the uncanny as properties of persons, things, sense-impressions, experiences and situations . that have in common a relationship to things that he describes as old and long familiar. How he asks, is it that things which are familiar to us can be frightening? Sometimes these normal things turn into the opposite of what we think they should be, mean or represent. It is in these cases, Freud notes, which give rise to the sense of uncertainty that characterizes fright.
[...] They use them, just as the potion with the dead fetus is used by adults to try to save themselves from disease or death. All the symbols in the film make us see that everything in the story is symbolically linked to the way that war disrupts normal society. War is uncanny and frightening, just as shadows at night are. We do not know what will happen, yet the context is one that remains very familiar. The film is about how war in Spain is killing and devouring its children, who are traditionally symbols of warmth, normalcy, and innocence. [...]
[...] Latin supplies the term “locus suspectus” referring to a time of night. In the film, the dark of night is often when the children feel frightened. They feel the presence of the ghost, and they hear his sighs and breathing as he roams the orphanage. The orphanage is haunted by the ghost of Santi, one of the orphan boys, who we find out, has been murdered by a bully-thug, Jacinto, who is aligned with the fascists and was once a resident of the orphanage. [...]
[...] Again, what he writes directly relates to ideas in the film, as if the film maker may have consciously drawn from Freud's ideas when designing the movie. When Jacinto, the film's evil proto-fascist character murdered Santi, he threw him down into a pool of brackish umber colored water that is situated directly beneath the orphanage kitchen. Why this water is there is never explained, but in Freudian terms it could be an example of something which is in its essence, familiar, but in the context of the film and the setting, uncanny. [...]
[...] For the duration of the tale we are being told, Freud notes, we to his decision and treat his setting as though it were real for as long as we put ourselves into his hands.” (http://people.emich.edu/acoykenda/uncanny1.htm) This idea of the uncanny is certainly at the heart of Del Toro's project in his film, The Devil's Backbone. In the film is confusion between reality and dreams, figments of imagination and allegory. In the end, the director uses the uncanny to make a powerful haunting film about the Spanish Civil war. We are in familiar ground, our bed and our room, but [...]
[...] The same desire led the Ancient Egyptians to develop the art of making images of the dead in lasting materials. Such ideas, however, have sprung from the soil of unbounded self-love, from the primary narcissism which dominates the mind of the child and of primitive man. But when this stage has been surmounted, the ‘double' reverses its aspect. From having been an assurance of immortality, it becomes the uncanny harbinger of death. (http://people.emich.edu/acoykenda/uncanny2.htm) In this concept of the double, we find many parallels in the film. [...]
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