Fatal Attraction is a 1987 movie, which focuses on the life ofa married man after having an affair. The lead character, MichaelDouglas as Dan, acts as a lawyer in a happy marriage. He also has adaughter. Dan meets Alex during a business party, they later have anaffair while Dan’s wife, and daughter are away. Although Dansupposed that, the affair would only last just that once, as bothcharacters have clearly discussed their agenda for each other, Alexrefuses to let go of Dan. Alex, characterized as an obsession towardsDan, fills the movie with dramatic stances. The movie is dramatic andto some extent interesting to watch. However, it is filled with manyillogical elements. Using Baudry’s concept of cinematic apparatus,this paper intends to explain why Fatal Attraction still drawsand engages viewers until its end, despite having numerous illogicalelements.
Illogical elements are apparent in the plot and characters. Theinitial two-thirds of the movie are psychologically sound, as well asdramatic. Psychological realism is apparent in the manner thedirector allows Alex to bait Dan. At first, she is depicted as anunderstanding professional however, she later lets out her jealousyand possessive nature. By depicting a realistic and fascinatingmarriage amid Dan and Beth, and demonstrating Alex as a horrifyingplausible character, it is expected that the movie would progresswith its psychological analysis. Contrary, the final third of FatalAttraction draws into melodrama.
Illogical elements are apparent in the scene where as Dan hurries ofto a meeting, the daughter, Ellen asks what he has around his neck.He responds by saying that it is a necktie. This questions whetherthe daughter has never seen a necktie. The viewer may wonder wherethe daughter has been all along that she has never seen her father ina necktie before. Another illustration is the scene where Danrelocates his family to Bedford and Alex progresses to stalk himwhile spying on their family. Alex follows Dan to his new home atnight to spy on them. She spies from bushes in the backyard. It isexpected that because Alex already knows where the family has movedto, she does not have to spy. The viewer may question why she doesnot confront Dan in the presence of his family, which would be moremeaningful instead of spying.
The cinematic apparatus concept by Baudry supposes that cinematictechnology has an ideological impact on viewers. The technologycamouflages how reality is framed. It as well avails the falseimpression of perspective space. The false impression hides the workdedicated to producing film and meaning, thus presenting as real whatis an ideological creation. Baudry suggests that the viewer is placedin an all-knowing subject, as he is all seeing, despite beingunconscious of the procedures thus becoming fixed (Allen 48). Theuninterrupted unfolding of events before viewer’s eyes in thecinema validates individual centrality (Baudry 531). This means thatwhen watching a movie, our sight roams freely and is separated fromthe body. Baudry notes that the character of the apparatusrelentlessly restricts the capability of cinema for the creation ofknowledge. This probably explains why, despite being aware of theillogical elements in the film, we progress to watch the movie. Whenwatching the film, it is the sight that remains in action and isseparated from the body, thus making it impossible to question theillogical scenes we see.
Baudry progresses to explain that the main objective of the apparatusdoes not lie on representation (physical reality). Instead, itcreates a subject or reproduces a psychological conditioning. Hisconcept refers to cinema as an apparatus predetermined to acquire aspecific ideological impact, which blurs the overriding ideology.This means that although we may view a movie and realize that it doesnot make sense, we progress to view because cinema intends to createits own truth. The ideology presented in the movie becomes real bybeing presented contrary to what we expect to hear (Lebeau 43).
In the same way that the mirror pulls together the disjointed bodyinto an imaginary integration of the individual, cinema fabricates afantasmification of the subject (Baudry 540). Cinematic apparatus ismeant to be internalized to maintain fiction within the subject.Baudry is trying to explain that when watching movies, viewers arethe subject of cinematic technology. The technology is employed todeliver a false impression that the movie depicts reality (Kaplan50-51). For instance, when Ellen asks her father what he is wearing,the viewer believes that she does not know a tie, or has never seenone. Thus, progresses to watch the movie interested to hear whatresponse Dan will give to his daughter.
The cinema appears as an intuitive apparatus of replacement (Baudry540). This means that the viewer’s conscious intuition whenwatching a movie is replaced with an unconscious intuition. Althoughwhen watching a movie, some illogical elements are obvious, and maytrigger one to stop viewing, it is impossible to stop watching. Thisis because one does not watch a movie consciously, rather with anunconscious intuition. Hence, it is impossible to question what wesee and instead believe what we see to be true. For instance, insteadof questioning why Alex does not confront Dan in front of his family,especially when she has the opportunity, the viewer progresses to seehow the character reacts.
Allen, Richard. Projecting Illusion: Film Spectatorship and theImpression of Reality. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,1997. Print.
Baudry, Jean-Louis. Ideological Effects of the Basic CinematographicApparatus. Psychoanalytic Semiotics, 531-542.
Kaplan, Anne E. Psychoanalysis and Cinema. New York:Routledge, 2013.
Lebeau, Vicky. Psychoanalysis and Cinema: The Play of Shadows.London: Wallflower, 2001. Print.