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Not a Horror Film. Use Your Empathy

Posted by Max Scharnberg - Thursday, June 20th, 2013

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I feel embarrassed when movies such as "Repulsion" by Polanski and "November" by Karwowski are presented as "horror movies". I perceive them as psychiatric studies, and you need not know anything about psychiatry in order to use your empathy. The first medicines for schizophrenics became available in the 1940s, and later research has produced striking improvement. But before 1940 numerous patients shared the world of Carol and Sara in these movies.

- - If you see them as horror movies, you are merely an external observer. Such movies deserve a better audience. If you instead perceive Sara as a real human being, you will see a quite different film. Then it is not a matter of your own feelings as an external observer. Instead the crucial aspect is Sara's feelings. She has many hallucinations of fire, and these should have functioned as alarm signals.

- - I am strongly by the triadic pattern of the final catastrophe, and the highly contrasting degree of good will of the two helpers. A medical friend (maybe a student?) tells her to go to a senior doctor, and explicitly tell the latter that this friend had sent her. She meets the senior doctor less than one week before she will burn herself alive. But the doctor just says that it is not necessary to make an examination. It is natural to feel somewhat low at this annual season.

- - By contrast, the priest shows a very good will of helping Sara. What he has to offer is exorcism: to liberate her from the devils who have occupied her. It is not his fault that she is starch naked in one scene, but it cannot be a pleasure to a celibate to carry a beautiful naked female body with his hands. After a few days it seems that the priest had succeeded; the devils had left her, and she is calm.

- - Clearly good will was not enough. But it is also possible that the priest's good will contributed to the next event. Sara, just calmed down, entered a car. She chained herself thoroughly to wheel and threw the key to the lock far away. Then she held gasoline all over and lightened it.

- - The story is important and should give rise to many reflections. It is also very well told.


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