Phantom of the Opera

BRIEF SYNOPSIS

A man by the name of Erik plays the role of the phantom, a man with a disfigured face that wears a mask haunts the Paris opera house. He secretly falls in love with a girl names Christine, and begins to coach her in soprano. He ends up forcing the already lead soprano star to flee from the opera, making room for his precious Christine to step in and take her place. Later, the phantom lures Christine into his home underneath the opera house and confesses his love, only to uncover that it is not returned, and she loves a different man. He orders Christine to break it off with her love to be with him, and she agrees. Later, she attempts to run away with her love, Raoul, only to be kidnapped in the end by the phantom. Raoul and a secret service agent must come to her rescue.

ANALYSIS

Phantom

In this movie, we see fear of death, and disfigurement, fear of ghosts, darkness, abandonment. We see the results of childhood trauma, duality of heaven and hell, light and dark, love and hate, redemption and damnation. To keep in mind, during the 1920’s there was a fear or religious upheaval that stemmed in part by new scientific theories and discoveries made by prominent figures, such as Darwin. Thus, Phantom of the Opera plays off fears of hell and damnation (the phantom) as well as the comforts of light and heaven. The two are in direct conflict with one another, indicating the role of religion at the time. Fears of disfigurement and abnormality are seen in the phantom. The movie indicates that ugly indicates different, indicating mental neurosis and mental problems. This lends itself to the stereotyping of the mentally ill, and that they are to be feared. The phantom clearly suffered from mental illness, likely brought on by his life in seclusion and traumatic childhood events (he ran away from home due to his disfigured face).

Childhood Trauma

The theme of childhood trauma is central to Freud, in that he believed all things to stem back to childhood. “When  the  sadistic  male,  with  the  traumatized  child  inside  of  him,  attacks with  cold  narcissistic  rage  and  abandonment  his  disguised  vulnerability appears.  He  becomes  threatened  the  moment  that  he  is  exposed  from behind  the  mask  that  has  shielded  his  narcissism  and  its  inflamed  wound” (Kavaler-Adler, 2009, p. 160). Traumas suffered in childhood were often forgotten or “repressed” by the conscious mind only to later dominate the subconscious, manifesting themselves in neurotic behavior or serious mental illness. We can also see the role of the father/daughter in this film. The Phantom, through his coaching of Christine, is like a father figure towards her but at the same time views her as the object of his affections. This could be evidence of his failure to resolve the Oedipus Complex as a child (resolved by identifying with same sex parent), as he now fixates on Christine who resembles his mother. Finally, we see hints of Freudian “ambivalence”, feeling love and hate towards one person at the same time. The phantom loves Christine but becomes consumed in feelings of rage, jealousy, and abandonment when she attempts to leave him. His mixed feelings of love and resentment indicate this ambivalence toward his love object.

Dark vs. Light. Conscious vs. Unconscious

The below quote explains the Phantoms incestuous desire for Christine, making reference to the Freudian Oedipus complex to explain these desires. Furthermore, is refers to the night as the unconscious, and the light as the conscious. This directly references the theme central to so much of Freud’s theories. His notion of an unconscious mind, the part of our thoughts that lay hidden to us, and a conscious mind (the thoughts we are aware of having) are clearly evident in the Phantom of the Opera. The Phantoms underworld serves as a metaphor for this “unconsciousness” that he is trying to pull Christine in. Christine represents the world of light and “consciousness”.

Phantom and Christine

“This  romance  with  the  muse  is so  often…a  tale  of  seduction  in which the  male  muse transforms  into  a  dark  demon  lover. The  demon  lover can  only lead  the lady to  her death,  which  he can  do as  soon  as she  submits to  marriage  with  him.  This  marriage  always  has  in  its  background  the incestuous  desires  for  the  early  symbiotic  mother  fused  with  the  oedipal father.  In Phantom of the Opera, when  the  muse’s  desperation  to  keep  the young  woman  from  leaving  him  turns  his  arts  from  hidden  manipulation to overt  manic erotic  possession,  the woman  who  has  been entranced  must wake  up to  save  herself  from  being  swallowed  up  by the  dark  night  of the unconscious.  This  unconscious  can  envelop  her  as  her  demon  lover  leads her  into  a  secluded  life  within  the  creative  process,  and  away  from  the outer world  of consciousness  and  light” (Kavaler-Adler, 2009, p. 152).

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