Freud and Spellbound

Though Hitchcock suspends disbelief in the Freudian theories, he does use Freudian psychoanalysis as a plot device and MacGuffin in Spellbound. “Psychoanalysis becomes a figure that Hitchcock employs to express his disapproval of certain kinds of attitudes and assumptions associated with its application, so as to bring out the real issues with which he is concerned.” (157)

The Oedipal complex comes into play to describe relations between characters. Constance quickly fills the role of the nurturing mother for Ballentine, and it soon goes from a motherly role to one of romance.  Dr. Brulov can be seen as a father figure and during Ballentine’s session with him even tells him to refer to him as his father figure for the analysis.  During the analysis, both Constance and Brulov can be seen watching over JB like parental figures.  Other roles come into play: guilt for the dead father, Doctor Edwardes, and fear of the bad father, Doctor Murchison, who has the power to punish.

Through the film, John Ballantine’s motivations are are driven by guilt, going into Freud’s theory of repressed memory.  Freud’s belief was that traumatic events, often events from childhood, are repressed by the unconscious mind and the trauma can be triggered by other events or imagery — in this case, the parallel line Ballantine views is a trigger for the memory of his brother’s death. JB’s trauma has caused amnesia, and we’re lead to believe that he is guilty of the murder of Edwards.  Psychoanalysis later reveals the memory is actually from childhood and Ballantine is innocent of killing Edwardes.


Hyde, Thomas. “The Moral Universe of Hitchcock’s Spellbound.” In A Hitchcock Reader, Second Edition, 156–63. Blackwell Publishing, 2009.

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