Issues Addressed in David Ruehm’s Therapy for a Vampire
The work of art under consideration is an Austrian film called Therapy for a Vampire (the original title in German is Der Vampir aud der Couch). The film was directed by David Ruehm and released in 2014. The events portrayed in the film take place in Wien in the 1930s. The plot of the film revolves around the relationships of two couples. One of the couples is an artist and his girlfriend who wrestle their problems opposite another couple, a count and his wife who are both vampires and yet face their own challenges and suffer emotionally. At some point in the film, Count Geza von Közsnöm, the vampire, finds himself in Doctor Sigmund Freund’s office seeking for professional help. Accidentally, Count Közsnöm makes an acquaintance to Lucy, a waitress and a girlfriend of Doctor Freud’s assistant, an artist named Viktor. The Countess, Elsa, in her turn, pays a visit to Viktor to commission a portrait of herself from him. By and large, through archetypal symbols, the makers of the film Therapy for a Vampire make artistically a nearly perfect reflection on people’s conception of gender roles and values that have determined them.
First of all, the film Therapy for a Vampire abounds with archetypal imagery. The atmosphere of the film is ominous and partly humorous at the same time. The archetypal imagery of the film manifests itself through the presence of vampires in it. Vampire is a term that is used in fiction to denote anthropomorphic blood-sucking immortal creatures. In broader context, the word ‘vampire’ is used to referrer to living beings who as if feed on other people’s feelings and emotions. In other words, people who are known as the energetic vampires take pleasure in confronting other people. Geza and Elsa in the film do not age. They try hard to fit into society, although, it is obvious that they both do not belong in the early twentieth century Austria. Vampires are also known to have a compulsive need to collect, sort and count small items once they are dropped. As far as the construct of immorality is concerned, the legends and fiction teach us that vampires can be destroyed (with a wooden stake, for example). The legends list crucifix, garlic, Holy Water, silver and daylight among other things that can frighten the vampires off. In one of his interviews, David Ruehm, the director of the film, admitted that he found all of the facts mentioned above interesting and amusing at the same time (Gangel). Speaking about the intent purpose of the film, one can presume with utter surety that the mission of the film was to portray supernatural beings, vampires, in a more human kind of way. It goes without saying that the vampires in the film are overwhelmed, stressed, exhausted, and obsessed as much as other people are.
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The presence of Sigmund Freud in the film makes the film itself more expressive, its imagery more vivid, and the events more convincing. In actuality, Sigmund Freud is considered one of the godfathers of psychoanalysis and the theory of subconscious. Illouz and Rieff conclusively proved that Freudian psychoanalysis can be viewed as, probably, the clearest illustration of therapy (as quoted in Zussman 814). Developing his statement further, Zussman makes an assertion as follows: “Psychoanalysis operates from the top down, driven by a psychoanalyst who purports to understand his or her narrating patient better than does the patient himself or herself”. It cannot be denied that the constructs of trust and sincerity play unprecedentedly crucial role in psychoanalysis. In addition to that, elaborating on the essence of the narrative therapy, the scientist makes the statement as follows: “The success of the narrative of therapy depends, at least in the therapist’s conception, precisely on the willingness and ability of the patient to give an account that is not only sincere but authentic”. To put it more simply, narrative presupposes person, a patient, to exploit the problems that are bothering them, another person, a therapist, to listen to a patient and take notes, and a third person, an assistant, to be there to make some drawings building on the narratives of a patient. At the same time, modern psychologists and philosophers maintain that the role that therapeutic thinking plays in cultural, sociological, and individual narratives these days is unprecedentedly crucial. In this respect, it has to be pointed out that everyday language abounds with the terminology of therapy, so much so that the terminology of therapy is getting more and more difficult to avoid. As Fueriddi and Johansson out it: “expressions such as ‘increase your self-esteem’, ‘work on yourself’, ‘find your inner self’ or ‘talk it through’ have become taken-for-granted truths for the pursuit of a happy life and happy relationships (as quoted in Eldén 4). Therapeutic ways of thinking are closely connected to family counseling, the so-called ‘coaching’ services, and social work. In a way, therapeutic ways of thinking proved its relevance in popular culture as well. In popular culture, therapeutic ways of thinking manifest themselves through therapeutic narratives, particularly, in constructing and reproducing the images of perfect life and how to achieve success. The construct of autonomous individual is the nucleus of therapeutic thinking. The autonomous individual principle, Gill and Rose claim, suggests that everyone has the potential to become happy once they overcome the blockage of self-realization (as quoted in Eldén 4). Strategies helping to overcome the blockage of self-realization are typically named individualization. At some point, individualization is what happens to Viktor and Lucy in the film. Evidently, the changes that happen to Geza and Elsa are of different kind.
At some point, individualization is a metaphor that was coined to denote the cultural paradigm of gender roles in heterosexual couples. In the film being discussed, individualization is what occurs to Viktor and Lucy. Viktor is an artist, a young, talented, and impressionable soul. At the same time, he attempts to change his girlfriend’s identity, including her image, so she looks more feminine. In the beginning of the film, Lucy is a somewhat tempestuous, rude, and at the same time, a strong and independent woman. With that point in mind, it is possible to assume that Viktor and Lucy and Geza and Elsa are antipodes. Elsa gets furious every time she cannot see her reflection in the mirror, which is why she decides to commission a portrait from Viktor. Lucy is in the need of approval, which is why she clings on to Geza for he is experienced, apparently, well-to-do, and even more importantly, the Count grows really fond of Lucy. Lucy changes her image. It goes without saying that much pressure was placed on women in the 1930s. On the other hand, that particular period in the history of mankind was marked by the rise of the Feminist movement. The Count, in his turn, gets attracted to Lucy the very moment she sees a portrait of hers in Doctor Freud’s office just because the girl on the portrait reminds him of a person he used to know. Apparently, the Count and the young person to whom he refers to as Nadila were romantically involved.
All characters of the film have this lust for life. The Count, however, is capable of restraining himself and keeps his instincts at bay, whilst the Countess thirsts for blood all the time. Even more importantly, however, it is worth mentioning that Elsa hunts, whilst Geza pays a man to deliver him blood samples. Lucy changes, but so does Viktor the moment when he begins to fight for her.
Therapy for a Vampire may also give insight into how the institution of marriage has changed. Up until twentieth century, the vast majority of societies did not approve of divorce, which is, probably, why Geza and Elsa hold on to each other, even though it is obvious that both might be much happier by themselves. There is no denying the fact that at some point, in twentieth century people have grown a way more cruel than they used to be. At some point, however, people have become more focused on the how they feel and more willing to take responsibility for such important decisions as both marriage and divorce are. In addition to that, people in twentieth century became brave enough to decide whether relationships that they are in are worth fighting for. As cynical as it sounds, cruelty and violence are some of the primeval instincts and twentieth century saw two most devastating, horrifying, and tragic events in the history of mankind, the World War I and the World War II. The aforementioned facts can be viewed as a plausible explanation of why people have reconsidered their attitude towards the social conventions.
Lastly, the genre of the film Therapy for a Vampire is defined as a comedy. The construct of comedy presupposes that as a genre, comedy serves to comfort and entertain people. At the same time, the work of art being discussed is a horror film, which presupposes that the film may contain terrifying events and, probably, suspense.
To conclude, the following points should be restated. First of all, Therapy for a Vampire is an entertaining piece. The scene is set in Wien in the 1930s. The film abounds with archetypal symbols, the most vivid and expressive of which are the vampires. The makers of the film address some serious psychological and ethical implications, such as, for example, gender roles, marriage, and relationship, virtue, and loyalty. The worlds of men and the supernatural creatures are intertwined in the film, which makes the film itself even more interesting to watch.
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