Damage

Dear Nitty,
So you saw the film, "Damage." I take it you're not quite sure you liked it, and wonder why I wanted you to see it. That it is not an easy film to watch, I concur. A man destroying his life is an unhappy spectacle, but I thought it such a splendid and horrifying example of the power of the unconscious that you should see it.
On the surface, this is the story of an extremely successful man who seems, on all levels, to have it all. Tremendous career, family, properties, riches, reputation, etc. Why then does it happen that he becomes disastrously obsessed with a young woman who just happens to be engaged to his son? We see him gradually override prudence and self-preservation until he has undone himself and everyone in his family. It is not enough to conclude that here is a man with a gigantic middle-age crisis. That can in no way account for the feverish, driven manner in which he conducted himself. At least not to my mind.
Why would this very rational individual succumb to such a force? How does an obsession take hold of a person? Why does an obsession take hold of a person? What is the function of an obsession, and is anyone immune? Do we all contain the potential of being carried away? Do we all need to hope that we steer clear of the crucible circumstances and timing that activate this sort of insidious thing?
The unleashing, as it were, of such psycho-storms surely must be associated with the potent conflicts residing in the pitch-black primal places that each of us hosts. Perhaps an obsession is an attempt to resolve such conflict by attaching it to an external object, thus freeing the energy to move in that direction. If this is the case, then the obsessed is acting out as in a dream or in a hypnotic state unavailable to rational consideration or moderation. Tainted by excess, the afflicted roams his or her territory with an unmitigated restlessness and day-to-day, ordinary things fall by the wayside. They cannot compete with the canker that eventually usurps all scruples. Woe to all concerned, for the damage will be formidable as the "take-over," consolidates itself and pushes on until reality no longer agrees to accommodate the eviction of things from their rightful place.
That's when the shit hits the fan, Nitty. In the film, the climax comes with the death of the son, and from there on in the structural unraveling of our protagonist's life proceeds at a rapid pace. In the end we see him in his new life in some God-forsaken village far from England. His routine is constricted and predictable. He lives in one room and prepares his food almost ritualistically. His main activity is to sit in front of a gigantic poster of the woman for whom he threw away his life. He has not seen her for years. She, presumably, has moved on. And he? Damage done, he drifts through his denouement a solitary and dazed lost soul.
Still with me, Nitty? Pretty depressing stuff, isn't it? But then, we humans are a treasure-house when it comes to interesting scenarios. Try to see "Fearless" now, and you will see a depiction of a life turned upside-down by trauma. Once again we witness the awesome power of the unconscious defense mechanisms that rush in to propel the individual through the immediate terror at hand, and then continue unabated, causing the protagonist to do strange things and act totally out of character. This one has a happy ending, Nitty, so cheer up!
Ciao!
Nimrod

Copyright 1997 The Courage of Our Confusion. All Rights Reserved. Comments? E-mail comments@confusio.comback to table of contents