|The Awakening, dir. Nick Murphy (2011)|
The Awakening (Nick Murphy, 2011) is a Gothic ghost story
that presents a therapeutic union of emotion and intellect. The heroine, Florence Cathcart (Rebecca Hall) represents both scientific rationality and the dangers of emotional repression, and an initial assumption that rationality and intellect are preferable to emotion and unsubstantiated belief. Across the narrative of the film and through the development of Florence’s character, an emergence, the titular ‘Awakening’, of emotion takes place, the film presenting Florence’s encounter with the paranormal as therapeutic and challenging the initial presumption. However, the film does not offer a valorisation of emotional indulgence and a simple leap of faith, but rather a balance between the intellectual and the emotional. The film therefore presents the attentive viewer with a warning against excessive rationality but also against emotional indulgence.
Ambivalence may result in a lack of certainty, but that does not prevent a resolution for the characters/viewer. This resolution however, does not come from a single source – Florence’s scientific investigation may expose the séance as a scam, but there are clear gaps in her expertise and righteousness. The victim of these con artists slaps her in anger, because the séance gave her hope that her deceased child was in the afterlife, and Florence has destroyed that hope.
|Florence, The Awakening, dir. Nick Murphy (2001)|
|Maud, The Awakening, dir. Nick Murphy,(2011)|
As a genre, ‘the Gothic itself is locked “in the encapsulating social systems that engender repeated trauma’” (Massé, 19, quoted by Ellis, 459), but The Awakening unlocks these systems by allowing therapy for its protagonist, confronting her trauma and integrating it into her consciousness. She does not remain in the prison, the film denying an either/or opposition, and allows her to leave, with the suggestion of a continuing romance with Robert. Although Florence and Robert make plans to meet again, the film’s emphasis is not upon this union – love is not Florence’s defining feature. Good mental health (shockingly!) may be enough for this Gothic heroine.
|Florence and Robert, The Awakening, dir. Nick Murphy (2011)|