09/30/21: _Marnie_ and Encounters with the Real

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Shot 3

Jacques Lacan’s psychoanalytic subject is a subject irreparably divided by the m√©connaissance, or (mis)recognition, of the Mirror Stage, signifying the entry into the Imaginary Order, and by the Symbolic Order of language, a figuration of the Law of the Father and the social realm. While the Mirror Stage constitutes the formation of the “I,” and the development of egoistic fantasies of desire, the Law of signifiers that dictates the Symbolic Order is that which instantiates linguistic identity (proper nouns) and retroactively threatens the subject’s illusory agency, producing the anxiogenic threat of falling back into the pre-Symbolic corps morcel√© (fragmented body) of the Real beyond language. We must begin with these Lacanian concepts in order to understand the particular odd temporalities and identifications at play in the narrative of Hitchcock’s 1962 film Marnie. The central woman-object-title Marnie lives her life compulsively structured around a precarious cycling of identities, in order to steal the white collar man’s money, and project the “sexual aggression which her reality as an image has sealed in her nature” (Bellour, 80). Revolving through Imaginary identities (e.g. the trap of colored hair) and Symbolic placements (e.g. multiple illegal SSN cards, with various names), Marnie’s deceptions seem to designate the ultimate femme reclamation of the phallus through a subversion of the (masculinist) subjective realms which constrain women. That is, until Hitchcock, as enunciator, ruptures Marnie’s fantasy of (feminine) mastery through the introduction of Mark (played by Sean Connery), who kidnaps and blackmails Marnie in order to marry and possess her. As a representation of the Symbolic Law, Mark’s perverse enjoyment of Marnie’s identificatory lack, and his violent urge to penetrate into her (in more ways than one), leads to the film’s disturbing rape scene. Hitchcock’s framing of the scene is telling of its sadism – a zoom into Mark’s incisive gaze (shot 1), and then a wide shot of Marnie’s face in catatonic shock (shot 2). Gone is the ecstasy Marnie’s face conveys at the beginning of the film when she dyes her hair blonde (shot 3), the moment where she recuperates her phantasmatically objectified image. Instead, Mark’s rape of Marnie signifies Marnie’s encounter with the Real, paradoxically through the intrusion of the immobilizing force of the Symbolic Law.

Extending this provocative scene from the binary relationship of Marnie and Mark to the tertiary relationship of Marnie, Mark, and the spectator, Christian Metz’s writing on the cinematic spectator as the Oedipal voyeur primes the scene to be analyzed with relation to the voyeuristic (non)encounter and (non)consent. The voyeur “is very careful to maintain a gulf, an empty space, between the object and the eye” (Metz, 60), and in the context of cinema, apart from other voyeuristic art forms, the voyeuristic gulf is maintained perfectly by the split between filmic development and the scene of spectatorship. The temporal difference of the presence of the actor (object) and spectator (voyeur), in terms of the film’s development and its distribution, allows “a failure to meet of the voyeur and the exhibitionist” (63). Thus, cinematic scopophilia is lacking in consent on the part of the voyeuristic object, and in this sense, the voyeurism is strikingly analogous to the experience of the primal scene. Hitchcock, however, naturalizes the camera throughout Marnie, and, specifically during the rape scene, interrupts the impersonal voyeuristic gulf through the introduction of Mark’s own brutal stripping of Marnie’s consent. The close framing of Mark’s fetishistic gaze, the eye, or the source of the scopic drive, as juxtaposed with Marnie’s unresponsive face, the object, implicates the spectator in Marnie’s psychotic encounter with her own nonconsensual consumption, by both Mark and the spectator. While Mark is characteristically enigmatic in its shift from the paradigms of “obsessive abductor” to “heroistic detective (or analyst?),” Marnie‘s controversial rape scene embroils the spectator in Mark’s objectively appalling behavior.

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