In Sigmund Freud’s Words: “Rewatching Movies = A Child at Play?”

“In the play of children we seem to arrive at the conclusion that the child repeats even the unpleasant experiences because through his own activity he gains a far more thorough mastery of the strong impression than was possible by mere passive experience. Every fresh repetition seems to strenghten this mastery for which the child strives; even with pleasurable experiences the child cannot do enough in the way of repetition and will inexorably insist on the identity of the impression.

This characteristic is destined later to disappear.[1] A witticism heard for the second time will almost fail of effect; a theatrical performance will never make the same impression the second time that it did on the first occasion; indeed it is hard to persuade the adult to read again at all soon a book he has enjoyed. Novelty is always the necessary condition of enjoyment.

The child, however, never gets tired of demanding from a grown-up a repetition of a game he has played with him before or has shown him, till at last the grown-up refuses, utterly worn-out; similarly if he has been told a pretty story, he wants always to hear the same story instead of a new one, insist inexorably on exact repetition[2] and corrects each deviation which the narrator lets slip by mistake, which he perhaps even thought to gain new merit by inserting. Here, there is no contradiction of the pleasure-principle: it is evident that the repetition, the rediscovery of identity, is itself, a source of pleasure. ”

[1] My emphasis

[2] We are all familiar with a child who has watched the same movie about 90 times

Sigmund Freud, Beyond the Pleasure Principle

Do you like rewatching movies? Is Freud wrong when it comes to adults and rewatching plays (i.e. rewatching movies)? Finally, do you consider it being similar to child’s play (it is not understood negatively), or you take pleasure in finding new things to contemplate or enjoy due to movie’s merit?

Thanks for your thoughts!

6 thoughts on “In Sigmund Freud’s Words: “Rewatching Movies = A Child at Play?”

  1. I think it really depends on the film. I think most films I’m satisfied having seen once, but every now and again, I’ll come across one I definitely want to revisit somewhere down the line. I’m not completely sure what that quality is; the story certainly helps, but I think it requires storytelling that doesn’t really click until you see it a second time or read into it more. One example is Memento, though I really liked it the first time I saw it, and it just so happened that a second watch was a completely different experience.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I completely agree. I feel the same way. Memento is a great example, I would add P.T. Anderson’s The Master, Cronenberg’s Videodrome and Silence, I wrote about. There are more such films, of course but I believe that, generally, Freud is right. I am always looking for something new and don’t rewatch some films although they deserve to be seen again. But then again, film is a distinct art form… And Thomas Mann advised that his book The Magic Mountain should be read twice, one cannot possibly comprehend The Sound and the Fury with only one reading… A complex, but interesting issue.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Child’s play is pretend, and watching films (or plays or ballets, or reading books…) is a vicarious form of pretend, so, yes, in that sense, at least, I agree. There are only a few films I enjoy seeing over and over again, however, the ones that have obtained a sort of mythic/iconic status in my mind.

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