Spellbound – Good night and sweet dreams…which we’ll analyze at breakfast

PosterI’m a fan of Hitchcock, but somehow Spellbound had slipped through the net.
I watched it last week and haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since.
spellbound shakespear

Spellbound, in a nutshell is the story of a female psychiatrist Constance (Ingrid Bergman) who tries to cure her patient (Gregory Peck) of amnesia as he is wanted for murder and she believes him to be innocent.
Gregory Peck had arrived at Green Manors mental asylum claiming to be Dr Edwards who is due to take over from Dr Murchison as he is retiring.
It soon becomes apparent that Dr Edwards is not who he claims to be but Constance is drawn to the man and when she discovers he is not who he claimed to be and cannot remember who he is she takes him on as a patient and tries to cure him with a rather progressive treatment.
I’ll leave things there as I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t see it but it’s important to remember psychoanalysis was new to America at the time and by today’s standards and understanding of mental illness some of the psychobabble is wrong.


So, why did it stick in my mind so strongly, well for a start it was , what I see as, swapped gender roles. In many films, not just back in the 40’s portray mental illness as something only women suffered from , it made them weak, confused, in need of help and would have fainting spells whenever put under pressure.Men are perceived to be the protector, the man in charge who can help    the little lady through her time of need. In Spellbound however these roles are reversed. It is Gregory Peck’s character that is suffering and it is Ingrid Bergman who is the professional, who takes care of Peck and it is Peck who faints whenever he tries to recall what happened before he lost his memory.

spellbound caring

In contrast to the strong character that Constance is, she is constantly undermined and from the get go sexist and misogynistic comments are made about Constance as well as to women in general.
“You grant me I know more than you, but on the other hand, you know more than me. Women’s talk. Bah!”

Because Constance does not reciprocate the clumsy advances made towards her by her fellow doctors she is perceived as having a lack of emotion, cold and unapproachable. This is, of course, a common theme in Hitchcock’s work and believe me there are many MANY instances of sexist remarks.
“I’m trying to convince you that your lack of human and emotional experience is bad for you as a doctor…and fatal to you as a woman”


Swapping these gender roles really caught my eye and is totally unexpected from Hitchcock. Despite the shitty comments Constance keeps on truckin’ and eventually is able to solve the murder and cure her patient.

spellbound2“Women make the best psychoanalysts until they fall in love. After that they make the best patients.”

A lot has been written by people better than myself that covers the Freudian subtext in the film. The guilt complex which is explained by Constance:
“People often feel guilty over something they never did. It usually goes back to their childhood. The child often wishes something terrible would happen to someone, and if something does happen to that person, the child believes he has caused it. And he grows up with a guilt complex over a sin that was only a child’s bad dream.”

If you want to explore the Freudian side of the film check out this page h2g2 it’s a good comprehensive guide to the film that covers what a lot of people see as the Oedipal complex in Gregory Peck’s character.

Gregory Peck

I also loved the dream sequence that was created and designed by Salvador Dali which originally was 20mins long but was cut to just under 3mins. You can watch the dream sequence here: Spellbound

spellbound salvador dali

I can only imagine what the 20 min version of the dream sequence would look like, sadly the footage is reported to be lost, but from what we see in the film it would have been sensational.

There were also some great shots including the POV shot when Peck is drinking a glass of milk (which includes a special ingredient) and the shot of the murderer’s gun – fantastic.

milk shotgun shot

There were also some great shots including the POV shot when Peck is drinking a glass of milk (which includes a special ingredient) and the shot of the murderer’s gun – fantastic.

You can order Spellbound via Amazon for just £5.99!


About Moxie McMurder

Mad, bad and dangerous to know.
This entry was posted in Film and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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