Tuesday, December 13, 2011


When Alfred Hitchcock’s “Spellbound” is brought up, most people think of Salvador Dali and the (in)famous dream sequence. Perhaps some think of it being Bergman’s and Hitch’s first collaboration, or the somewhat ridiculous and misogynistic plot. However, the standout detail in my latest viewing was the over-the-top psychoanalysis as modern religion angle.

The big issue in the film is that of guilt and specifically the fact that it is a lie we tell ourselves to punish us for something we did not do. This is all well and good in the case of a mystery story—if the protagonist is indeed innocent. The only evidence that our heroine has to go on in the case of Peck’s character is the fact that she loves him. Every time new evidence appears to implicate him, she goes back to the argument that he can’t be guilty because the feeling of guilt itself is a sign of innocence!

Hitchcock has been quoted as saying that this is just a “manhunt wrapped up in pseudo-psychoanalysis," and it is one of his minor films. However its attitude towards guilt is a pervasive one today, and that is a problem. What if Gregory Peck had actually killed the man he was accused of murdering? Would not the feelings of guilt he struggled with been based in fact? What about all the other patients at the hospital that were indeed a danger to others? Simply understanding and labeling the feelings that their negative actions produced would not undo those actions or make them go away.

Guilt is something with which we all struggle. Sometimes guilt is a lie that we believe that holds us back and makes us unable to be the people we were meant to be, but everyone also has real guilt because everyone has done wrong. The solution to guilt is not to convince ourselves that it is a negative feeling, but rather to address the wrong that we do. Even though we cannot ever make amends for all the wrong that we do in life, there is someone who has that ability and is willing to help erase the effects of the wrong that we do. Turning to a loving God for help is a better solution than lying to ourselves and turning a blind eye to the sin in the world.

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