Should women chase men romantically and sexually with the same intensity that men are allowed to (and in most cases expected to)? Why is it that female sexual obsession is still sickly romanticized and taboo? Is it because it tends to emasculate men? And is it really emasculation of manhood or simply the contravening of a toxic and patriarchal form of masculinity, one that is expected to dominate and control sexuality? Would nurturing, progressive masculines appreciate being desired and sought?
Let me tentatively reflect on these questions in this post, by focusing on two film representations of feminine desire that reaches obsession: Isabelle Adjani playing Adele Hugo in The Story of Adele H (1975) a movie by François Truffaut, and Maria Bonnevie as Dina, in I am Dina (2002) directed by Ole Bornedal.
I spent a lot of time while growing up watching tons of movies, and it is there that I learned a lot about male-female relationships. Only later, once I actually started dating and having sex, did I realise how removed from reality where these Hollywood potrayals of ‘cardboard’ masculinity and femininity. I met men of different cultures and interestingly in many situations I was placed in the role of the confidant chaser. Then as I continued to watch European movies, I encoutered two that resonated so deeply with some of the female romantic and sexual power, I often had mirrored in my own life (although in my life it was less epic and more mundane and it never reached obsession as I get bored easily :D). These fantastic protrayals of female madness and intensity stuck with me a long time, not necessarily due to the fact that I support madness in any shape or form, but that when you are like me a person that has the capacity to feel deeply and is passionate (especially when establishing intimacy) it is refreshing to finally witness the passion of women unleashed on the screen.
One thing I found delightful was how aware these two female characters are of their madness, and how they owned it and questioned it, even as they allowed their strong feelings to overcame them. There is a sense of freedom in acting on intense emotions, althoguh the consequences in both case are nearly disastrous. Dina for example lets us know that “Kindness isn’t exactly what I’m best known for” and her story ends on a memorable cliffhanger. Adele, on the other hand feels that she is descending into a completely distorted version of reality, but compared to the domestic alternatives she was offered (limited for that century for women), she relishes in this intense and made-up love story that keeps her emotionally bound to the emotionally unavailable, social butterfly represented by a young English officer Lieutenant Pinson.
When I was younger and I saw these movies I instantly loved not only how they seemed to take feelings to such an extreme (which I indentified with) but also the freedom that these women enjoyed – these were women who travelled freely, were beautiful but not confined by decorum, managed their own money, and challenged men. Dina especially also sleeps with whoemver she pleases and even rejects her husband’s advances on her wedding day (in a really funny scene played together with Gerard Depardieu). Dina also owns her own property and marries one man, has a child with a stable boy but falls in love with a third man, a Russian revolutionary poet. The melodrama increases the more you watch this film, which is why it is so mesmerising.
Psychologically, one could interpret these two women’s actions and behaviours as unconsciouly searching for the displaced father figure within themselves, as struggling to reconcile with their animus and thereby they are locked into intense desire dynamics with the men in their lives. Dina desires her father’s love and approval, which she had been denied in her childhood due to accidental matricide, while Adele seeks the aproval and love of an emotionally unavailable modern-day version of the player.
For me personally, my attraction to them would be the opposite: reconciling with my anima, by accepting the image of the mother. But what is the anima actually? This term was coined by Carl Gustav Jung, one of the founding fathers of psychotherapy (and Freud’s colleague), who considered it to be something similar to a universal symbol, that resides in our collective unconscious, or what he called ‘an archetype’. Anima is together with the Animus, part of the ways in which we magnetically gender certain aspects of our life – when we say ‘Mother Earth’ and ‘Father Sky’ etc. Here’s in a nutshell what he was referring to:
Ok, so let’s close this psychology lesson and adapt it to practical experience. I’ll refer to my own since this is the one I am aware of the most and one of the few I can share in this space. So in my personal experience, my mother was a cold, stressed and erratic mother, one that exerted power and negativity rather than warm, nurturing mothering. I therefore took in from an early age, an anima that reflected these characteristics. In in my life, I feel drawn to tough & powerful women on some level, because unconsciously I grew up expericing a tough, powerful mother who was emotionally withholding and dangerously envious of me. Not coincidentally, I find myself continuing on this path of working mostly with female bosses, in relationships of authority, with whom I constantly have to negotiate my boundaires, control levels of envy, and clear out toxicity through how I speak with them. By encountering and working through these karmic relationships, I discover my inner strength and develop spiritually as I heal my relationship to the distorted feminine within (and indirectly, I heal my relationship to my mother).
The myth of Snow White applies very well in this case, just that in this situation the step-mother is actually my birth-mother. When I became aware of this sad truth, it hurt a lot to awknowledge it – that the person who is supposed to nurture you and care for you was keeping me in a state of low energy, bound and controlled, and even made sick often so she could feel good about herself. As I grow older, I see these patterns very clearly and I can emotionally detach from them and to accept them. I now observe rather than react and feel pity rather than anger. And why? Well it’s because I’m learning to love myself, in spite of all the hatred, envy and vitriol I keep having thrown my way. I’m learning on my spiritual journey how to alchemize the vitriol inherent in toxi relationships into the golden clarity of wisdom.
Nonetheless, I keep the hope that one day, I’ll encounter my soul tribe and not have to lead this battle alone. Each challenge helps me grow stronger in the awareness that I am worthy and valuable and unique. Healing in my case takes the form of writing and analysis much like for Adele, while for other characters such as Dina, healing her connection to the ‘wounded feminine archetype’ and surpassing the guilt of having killed her mother, took the form of playing the cello.
Being truly feminine does not need to feel like giving into false modesty and learned helplessness, and I enjoy these movies because they remind me of these things (also, they feature very good-looking actors, so it’s a pleasure to watch). I guess my experience is one example of many that show that change is possible, even one that occurs at a deep, psychological level.
In connection to this, the current Star Wars series also spoke volumes on a soul level regarding these experiences, as shown in Rey’s character. I was so happy to see how female power shown here through courage, healing and mirroring others’ destruction to themselves, was exemplified in the Rise of Skywalker. Symbolically Rey Skywalker was also costumed in white throughout the whole movie, which to me represents her role as Lightworker.
Rey is not only spiritually linked to a dark male character (Kilo Ren), but she foregoes her weapon, a lightsaber, for the power of her spirit. By training her mind, her intution and her body as she telepathically connects to her opposite (in what felt like a deep twin flame reference), Rey manages to turn Kilo Ren back into Ben through her perseverance and conviction of ‘killing him with kindness’. She also takes Leia as her Jedi mentor and not Obi Wan Kenobi or Yoda (two previous male representations – although, to be honest, I’m still not sure what gender Yoda is), and she heals the serpent-monster in the desert cave through touch rather than chopping its head off by displaying violence. Rey also cares more about her friends and her life-path goals, rather than her love life and in some way, this is how she is different than Adele or Dina. I enjoyed the ending to the George Lucas-created saga, because of how it shifted female representation in a blockbuster (and about time since it is 2020!).
I enjoy working through my past and childhood wounds with the help of movies and literature, and perhaps this post might inspire you to see associations as well between silver-screen projections and themes that are taking place in your own life. It’s almost like a form of self-therapy, which I think increases self-love (and the more loving we are with ourselves the better our reality becomes and the more our relationships improve).
My only regret is that there aren’t more movies I could include in this post – if you know of others, please recommend some (and also let me know why do you think they are unique representations of femininity on film). I send you a comforting, movie-tinged hug as a thank you for reading my ramblings!
With universal love,