By Kirsten Moana Thompson
The ability and presence of dread in contemporary American cinema.
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Extra info for Apocalyptic Dread: American Film at the Turn of the Millennium
In chapter 4: “Dolores Claiborne: Memorial Dread” we move away from the broad historical intersection of national and familial trauma in the preceding two chapters to melodrama’s more constrained domestic focus on familial secrets of incest and domestic violence, and we examine how the family home becomes a traumatic site of spatial and memorial dread. Although Dolores Claiborne’s conclusion is one in which a family transcends the trauma that has initially divided it, in chapter 5, “Se7en in the Morgue: Dystopian Dread,” we then turn to a narrative in which a serial killer effects the complete destruction of the family, and in which trauma can neither be repressed nor overcome.
Cathy Caruth suggests that trauma is the expulsion from the psyche of the memory of 24 Apocalyptic Dread an overwhelming event, because it was an event unregistered at the time (it was “too soon”). Consequently, because of its horriﬁc experiential dimensions, trauma poses a conundrum as a historical event that registers symptomatically because the subject never fully incorporated it in a temporal sense (Caruth, “Unclaimed Experience” 3–7). Given this paradoxical atemporality, trauma does not engender mere repression or defense (as with hysterical or neurotic symptoms), but produces a temporal delay or ellipsis that enables the individual to survive.
Scorsese unveils the multiple repressions and disavowals of the past that have a continuing presence in the Bowden family, and that constitute the historical and familial dread that envelop the narrative. Here everyone has a secret to hide: the parents, Sam and Leigh Bowden (Jessica Lange), have a marriage that is evidently in trouble, due to Sam’s repeated adulterous affairs. Sam has also committed legal and professional malfeasance in his original defense of Max Cady, by uncannily “burying” a report of the sexual history of the rape victim; a report that Cady will claim later would have mitigated his sentence.
Apocalyptic Dread: American Film at the Turn of the Millennium by Kirsten Moana Thompson