Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Delirium and Acknowledging Your Own Cast of Characters: A Jungian Analysis

*there are some mild spoilers here.

Director: Dennis Iliadis.

Writer: Adam Alleca.

Cast: Topher Grace, Genesis Rodriguez, Patricia Clarkson.

Carl Jung was a depth psychologist from Kesswill, Switzerland. Mentored by Sigmund Freud, Jung would develop his own psychological concepts such as the collective unconscious, individuation, shadow work and many others. In Dennis Iliadis and Adam Alleca's Delirium, there are a number of psychological elements that emerge from the very troubled protagonist, Thomas (Topher Grace). Without his medications, all sorts of characters begin to appear on-screen, from his unconscious, like: his Shadow (as Alex), his Anima (as Lynn) and still further characters, late in the film. Delirium is an interesting picture for including so many examples of Jung's research and work.

According to Jung, the integration of the shadow is "apprentice-work" and facing the Anima is "master-work" (Scott). However, the character Thomas begins in the middle (Anima) and works back to the Shadow. Just released from a mental institute, Thomas quickly meets a girl, from a local supermarket. Lynn (Genesis Rodriguez) is curious though troubled; she is also a representation of Thomas' Anima. The Anima, according to Jung, is the opposite gendered representation of ourselves, which lies within the psyche. Lynn is an external representation of Thomas' own inner feminine. She helps him with some of the things he needs (nurturing). As well, she almost knows what is in Thomas' head before he knows it. This occurs because Lynn is a part of Thomas' own psyche.

After introducing Lynn, a more devious character enters the picture. Alex (Callan Mulvey) may or may not be Thomas' brother. The protagonist is so "messed up in the head" that his narration and protagonist's point-of-view cannot be trusted. However, it does become apparent, to this viewer and likely to other researchers of Jung, that Alex is an image of Thomas' Shadow. From Jung, the Shadow is often a split-off part of ourselves, that we would prefer to disown. It houses all of the negative emotions or parts of ourselves that we would prefer not to grapple with, such as: disgust, hostility, aggression, guilt, or anything else that we find shameful. When the Shadow is not integrated, these parts of ourselves are often repressed and pushed down into the psyche, or projected onto others. The ego does its best to keep these parts of ourselves hidden from view, unless shadow work is performed (artistry, journaling). The character Thomas has no time for any of this as his shadow destroys much of his own waking life.

Jung was also know for his dream work. Through our dreams, the unconscious can be explored, through analysis. In dream work, the ocean or a pool can represent the unconscious (Currents). Within Delirium, Thomas is constantly drawn to an indoor pool. Here, monsters emerge to shock him. Or, Alex attempts to drown him - later. Meanwhile, just below the pool, at least one other character remains hidden from Thomas' view (and the viewer's). He must confront this character and a mother complex, before he can become more psychologically integrated and less encumbered by all of his repressed material. Thomas' journey to greater self-awareness begins with this pool of water and what lies within.

Delirium is an interesting psychological thriller. Yet, this viewer could not help but be reminded of all of Jung's work in psychology, while watching this recent release. All of the characters, in the film, are a part of Thomas' psyche and often dressed in black (also associated with the unconscious). He struggles to fight parts of himself (the Shadow), while reaching out to other, softer parts (his Anima). The entire home, in which the film is set, is a representation of Thomas' psyche, at large. And, the finale in the pool with a muted character is an example of Thomas pulling parts of himself out of his unconscious to grapple with, instead of hiding them from himself (repression). Finally, it is always interesting to see a film not just as an entertainment piece, but as an exploration of a writer's self and the many characters that lie within.

Scott Jeffrey's gives a great introduction on some of the Jungian concepts mentioned here: An Introduction to Jungian Concepts at Scott Jeffrey

A brief introduction of water as the unconscious at Jung Currents: Water Definitions at Jung Currents

A trailer, for Delirium, can be seen here - on 28DLA: A Delirium Trailer on 28DLA

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