The movie Volver focuses on a young woman, Raimunda, played by Penelope Cruz, and her family. The farther into the movie one gets, the more ones heart breaks for her.
Both of Raimunda’s parents have passed away, and she is trying to get by with her small, low-income family.
Whenever Raimunda’s parents come up in conversation, she is quick to defend her father, and speak very highly of him. At the same time, she seems indifferent and cold towards her mother. This exemplifies Freud’s pre-Oedipal theory; except for the fact that Raimunda is a grown woman.
Freud’s Electra Complex mainly reveals itself in the scene where Raimunda’s friend Augustina confronts her at her restaurant. Augustina tells her everything she knows about the day Raimunda’s parents died in the fire. We learn that Raimunda’s father was having an affair with Augustina’s mother at that time, and that Raimunda’s mother had left him.
Raimunda gets very defensive, and backs away from Augustina. Tears well in her eyes. She insists that her mother did not leave her father, and that her father would never have an affair. She rejects the idea of her parents having anything other than a near-perfect marriage.
As written in Rivkin and Ryan’s anthology,
“[T]he female child experiences an early desire for the father which takes the form of a simultaneous desire to be her mother, to take her place as the father’s sexual object, but she too learns to relinquish that desire and to identify with her mother and to seek other objects outside the family,” (392).
Even though both of her parents are out of the picture, Raimunda still has a strong, obligatory psychosexual attachment to her father. She never grew out of her pre-Oedipal stage because she was separated from her mother at a young age, and could not properly identify with her. Raimunda’s sister got to live with their mother, while Raimunda went to live with their aunt. Anyone put into that situation would feel resentment for being isolated from their family. Although they were a poor family and could not by any other way, one sister got to be raised by their mom, and the other was left out, and horrifically abused by the father.
Raimunda, as a result, has very low self-esteem. She kept her sad sense of self and her pre-Oedipal stage with her though life, which landed her married to someone exactly like her father.
Even though Paco is not Paula’s biological father, he did marry Raimunda. He is her step-father, and it is just as haunting that he would try to rape Paula.
Since Raimunda spent part of her life resenting her mother for not noticing the abuse, it’s very strange to me that she did not notice Paco peeping at Paula all those times.
Freud’s Oedipus and Electra complex does not effectively apply to Volver. Freud writes, “Only the father’s intervention, separating mother from child, prevents incest,” (391). This movie complicates Freud’s theory because the presence of the father directly caused an incestuous relationship, and an inbred child, between a father and a daughter.
The main problem at the beginning of the movie is Paco’s presence in the house. He gave off a terrifying vibe, and let’s admit it, we were all happy when he died. Once he’s stored away in the freezer, the girls have a massive weight lifted off their shoulders. Once again, the removal of the father figure from the child prevents incest, rather than the intervention.