Sandra Meiri & Odeya Kohen-Diazcinema fantasy subjectivization abstract

Mainstream Cinema, Fantasy, Subjectivization: Body-Character Breach Films


Sandra Meiri & Odeya Kohen-Raz


This paper aims to re-introduce psychoanalysis into film studies by re-examining the intersubjective relations of film and spectators through the notion of fantasy. The correspondence between casting and roles (cinema’s unequalled prerequisites) creates identification with characters through the visual and the specular – traits shared by film and fantasy. From the use of one actor playing different characters (e.g., The Great Dictator), or different actors playing one character (That Obscure Object of Desire, Palindromes, I’m Not There) to body-switch films (Freaky Friday), the problematization of body-character has raised important questions regarding the ways public and private forms of fantasies interact in the production of (dis)pleasure on the level of the Imaginary.

We propose a taxonomy of “body-character breach” films that create a rupture between actor/body and character, whereby inducing a crisis in visual pleasure. This crisis is further enhanced by the surfacing of primal (unconscious) fantasies, visualizing thus unconscious scenarios masked by conscious fantasies (the latter very often complicit with dominant ideology). These films demonstrate mainstream cinema’s ability to create multiple spectatorial positions, as well as provide a platform for “traversing the fantasy”, subverting thus the work of ideology, while maintaining the element of identification. Hence, we introduce the term “subjectivization” into the study of film and fantasy. “Subjectivization” refers to a shift from one subjective position to another, overcoming one’s fixation. Such a process inevitably involves a return to Metz’s notion of  “imaginary signifier”, in the sense that what is at stake is not the film’s specific (conscious or unconscious) fantasy that one’s seeks to identify with, provided that it complies with the subject’s own subjecthood, or ideology (although this certainly plays an important role in visual pleasure and identification). Rather, it is film‘s ability, as a unique ontology, to animate, render visible, our subjectivity that may also generate subjectivization.



Sandra Meiri is academic supervisor of cinema studies in the Department of Literature, Art & Linguistics, The Open University of Israel. Her studies concentrate on film and: psychoanalysis, cultural theory, gender, sexuality, subjectivity, trauma, the transmission/transference of trauma, memory and ethics. She is the author of Any Sex You Can Do, I can Do Better: Cross-Gender in Narrative Cinema (Tel Aviv: Migdarim Series, Hakibbutz Hameuchad Publishing House, 2011), and co-editor of Just Images: Ethics and the Cinematic (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2011) and Identities in Transition in Israeli Culture (Raanana: The Open University of Israel, 2013). She has published articles on the ethics of psychoanalysis and horror films; on trauma (and its transmission), memory and ethics in Israeli cinema; and on the representation of sexual violence suffered by women during the Holocaust (and its aftermath) in Israeli cinema.;

Odeya Kohen-Raz is an Assistant Professor in the Cinema and Television Undergraduate Program, Sapir College; teaching coordinator in the Department of Literature, Art & Linguistics, The Open University of Israel, and teaches at Tel Aviv University.  Her work deals with reflexivity and guilt in the cinematic dream; psychoanalysis and film; questions of ethics in Holocaust representations, and the film-making of second and third generations of Holocaust survivors. She has published articles on these subjects.