“What should we talk about, how bout psychoanalysis” – Richard Sherman
The fall from the piano bench – the fantasy is broken
Having just seen the classic The Seven Year Itch for the first time I was struck by how intelligent it was, something rarely seen in comedies. From the very beginning it is evident that there is ‘more going on’ then one would expect. The main character, Richard Sherman, sends his wife and son off to Maine for the summer to relax while he slaves away in the sweltering Manhattan heat. Instantly Richard tells himself that he is not going to be like the other men – he is going to refrain from drinking and smoking (doctor’s orders as his wife reminds him) and he is definitely not going to chase any pretty young things…while the family is away.
It is of course painfully apparent that he ‘doth protest too much’ and it is humorous and very telling that for the first 20 minutes or so he is going around NYC carrying the paddle that his son forgot around with him. One immediately thinks of being ‘up the river without a paddle’ and Richard’s carrying of it works as a symbolization of his desperate attempt to maintain control over himself and his rampant paranoid fantasies —> (He’s not metaphorically up the river without a paddle because he has a physical paddle, does this not correspond perfectly to the idiocy of confusing the penis for the phallus, the physical thing for the Real Thing?)
The introduction of The Girl (Marilyn Monroe’s character) disrupts his world and he begins constructing fantasies involving her. She is staying in the apartment above him which used to be physically connected to his apartment (which is why there is a stair case ‘leading nowhere.’ (She eventually pries up the floorboards so she can enter his apartment (and fantasy) undetected/uninvited). Of course the time they spend together never lives up to his fantasies – one very salient moment is when he has fantasized that she would be taken with Rachmaninoff’s second piano concerto but instead gets all excited when he plays chopsticks. Eventually the discord between his fantasies and reality force him to end their ‘romantic’ evening. The action fits perfectly with the conception of the ‘masculine’ construction of the world – Richard thinks he can be an exception to the law (the laws of marriage in particular) and fails whereas the Girl accepts that he is married and acts in a way that some how functions in the crack between fidelity and infidelity.
This is also shown when Richard, who has been reading a manuscript by a psychoanalysis for work, starts to talk to The Girl about how their meeting was no accident and everything has to do with things ‘rooted in the unconscious’ and The Girl pays absolutely no attention and instead tries to figure out, speaking aloud to herself, how she’ll be able to sleep without air conditioning. The two have a non-conversation in this way separated not only by their thoughts but by the camera shots. Here we see a representation of Lacan’s ‘there is no sexual relationship’ in that the very psychic formations of existence, which we clumsily try to describe though gender, are fundamentally incompatible
Filed under: fantasy, film, psychoanalysis | 1 Comment