Jungian Analysis of A Single Man

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Jungian Analysis of A Single Man

Post  Evangeline on Thu Jan 27, 2011 5:20 pm

Jungian Archetypes in A Single Man by Evangeline Fitz

A Single Man directed by Tom Ford is a film based on the novel by Christopher Isherwood; it follows a day in the life of George Falconer, a gay university professor struggling after the death of his lover. The film soon opens with George waking up, a voice over explaining how each day he must play a part and adopt a certain persona. The viewer is presently taken through his day (in 1962, Los Angeles) with flashbacks involving his lover Jim who died eight months ago and it is soon enough revealed that George plans to commit suicide that day. Throughout the film, which is portrayed from the very internal and isolated perspective of George, the viewer is introduced to several influential characters in his life – perhaps most importantly of these is Kenny Potter, a university student who feels an affinity toward George.

Situational Archetype:
The situational archetype of the fall is present throughout the film and is experienced by George. He has lost the bliss that he had with his lover Jim and has descended into a sort of anti-paradise. It is evident from the flashbacks that the time he had with Jim was like a utopia and one could argue that, considering the time period, the fall was a penalty for George’s moral transgression which was being an openly gay man in a world where that is considered wrong. In the film, there is emphasis on the persecution of minorities, with allusion to the gay community, in a lecture George gives to his class; he even says, “minorities are just people, people like us”. After George’s fall, he wishes to regain paradise and feels the only way he can do this is by escaping his personal hell through death, as he plans to kill himself. As well, the entire film takes place on November 30 and while it is set in Los Angeles, the choice to base it on that day could represent the gloominess that November is often associated with because of the loss of summer and beginning of winter.

Symbolic Archetype:
The most commonly occurring symbolic archetype in A Single Man is light vs. darkness. This begins with the opening shot of George struggling in dark water; an almost consuming darkness that is suggestive of the way George is feeling – as is evident when this scene recurs throughout the movie. As the film progresses, the beginning explanation of the mundane routine of George’s life has a very gray colouring. However, this is not that apparent until the film has its first flush of colour, an effect applied throughout the movie where people and scenes in George’s life suddenly bloom into warm reds and yellows. This light vs. darkness shows a great comparison between the despair of his routine and the interruptions of beauty encountered throughout the day. This use of light strongly plays on the ideas of hope and intellectual illumination, for whenever the flush of colour is experienced is when George suddenly realizes the beauty around him. He has these illuminations because he believes it is his last day on earth and he is finally noticing things after months of looking down. One of the most significant scenes in the film is encountered during a Los Angeles sunset, coloured vivid pink because of the smog. This scene represents an important concept in the film and its explorations of beauty, light and hope when one of the characters says, “Sometimes awful things have their own kind of beauty”. As well, throughout the film there are many close ups of eyes, of both major and minor characters. This emphasis on sight is suggestive of light, of the ability to truly see one’s surroundings that are hidden by darkness when their eyes are closed. All the while, George just wants to remain in darkness, weary of getting up in the morning to the light and ready to let it all go with suicide. However, the illuminations that are brought to him by other characters begin to have an affect on him.

Character Archetype:
One of the most significant characters in A Single Man is Kenny, the student who has a connection with George and is also a gay man struggling in a society that rejects that. In such a circumstance, Kenny plays a bit of the outcast, as does George, though it is more the internal feeling of isolation that they experience. It seems as if Kenny may even be a mirror of George, perhaps even representative of George’s true self. Kenny expresses that he often feels terrified and has a desire to escape, just like George. Kenny may also play a bit of the trickster in that he tries to prevent George from completing his ultimate task of suicide by both distracting him and taking George’s gun. One other archetype that Kenny has aspects of is the mentor, for though he may be younger he plays an important role in shaping the way George views the world on November 30. Kenny expresses philosophical ideas with George and at the same time George is a mentor to Kenny in these situations, they feed off of each other’s reciprocated thoughts and ideas.


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Post  Mr. C on Mon Feb 07, 2011 10:28 am

Evangeline - a great review/analysis. Well done. I particularly enjoyed your analysis of Light vs. Darkness and how it applied to the look of the film. This demonstrates that the archetypes are more than just stereotypcial character traits; they are themes to explore in all aspects of a narrative. And if the medium happens to be film, there are all sorts of areas where that theme can be explored: lighting, sound, costumes, set dressing, camera angles, etc. Another thing: given that the story focuses on George trying to recover after the loss of his partner, is the archeytpe of Death/Rebirth ever explored?
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