11 “The Uncanny” of Psychoanalysis

Andrea Wasgatt

The film Volver and Sigmund Freud’s literary essay, “The Uncanny” share a few strong connections as far as how this feeling is demonstrated in the film. Freud explains that the uncanny is a complex term to explain, mostly due to the fact that it is an emotional effect created within a person at certain sights, sounds, or feelings unique to each individual, making the uncanny experience different from person to person. It is a feeling that may create uncertainty within a person that causes them to feel fear or uncomfortable for a reason they cannot understand. This emotional response’s cause has been linked to the German word “unheimlich”, which is summed up at the end of Freud’s essay as the “… uncanny [that] is in reality nothing new or foreign, but something familiar and old- established in the mind that has been estranged only by the process of repression… the factor of repression enables us, therefore, to understand… the uncanny as something which ought to have been kept concealed but which nevertheless comes to light” (Rivkin 429).

This concept is demonstrated throughout Volver and Raimunda’s mannerisms, as her secret past is uncovered further and further. At the beginning of the film, when Raimunda and her daughter first arrive home, Paco stares between Paula’s legs. Although the position that she is sitting in is a comfortable position, and should be appropriate around parents, Raimunda has some sort of instinct kick in that tells her to have her daughter sit in a less provocative position because she has some sort of “uncanny” sensation that something in the situation is very wrong. Later on, when Paco pushes Raimunda to have sex with him, she begins to cry as she listens to Paco masturbate, something that would not usually bother her. However, it can be suggested that her tears are related to her father raping and impregnating her, because of the concept of the ego and id. Since the experience of being raped was too traumatic for her to be able to handle, she repressed these memories throughout her entire life within her id, or unconsciousness. Perhaps it is Paco’s insisting physical activity, or perhaps the sound of his pants calls forth a memory of her father deep from her id without fully bringing it to the surface, which is why she cries over something that she might not be affected by otherwise.


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The Student Theorist: An Open Handbook of Collective College Theory Copyright © 2018 by Andrea Wasgatt is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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