Psychoanalysis, Cinema, History: Personal and National Loss in René Clément's Forbidden Games

in Projections
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  • 1 University of Utah esther.rashkin@utah.edu
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What facilitates the psychic process of grieving a traumatic loss, and what happens when that process is blocked? Forbidden Games is, on one level, an intimate film about childhood trauma. When viewed from a psychoanalytic perspective informed by concepts such as introjection and pathological mourning, however, it emerges as a complex allegory that reflects, through its narrative and filmic elements, on the sociocultural and historical dynamics of France's troubled response to the loss of its identity as a democracy during World War II. The film also reflects on the even more shameful history of the rise of French anti-Semitism under the Vichy regime and France's history of silencing or repressing the drama of its willing collaboration with the Nazis' Final Solution. Private trauma thus screens public, political trauma as Clément's film becomes both a medium for sociocultural commentary and a memorial to loss that could not be buried or mourned.