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Real to ReelA New Approach to Understanding Realism in Film and TV Fiction$
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Martin Sohn-Rethel

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780993071768

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: February 2021

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9780993071768.001.0001

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The Code of Psychology and Character Motivation

The Code of Psychology and Character Motivation

Chapter:
(p.141) 7: The Code of Psychology and Character Motivation
Source:
Real to Reel
Author(s):

Martin Sohn-Rethel

Publisher:
Liverpool University Press
DOI:10.3828/liverpool/9780993071768.003.0008

This chapter explores films for which individual psychology — seen in terms of how the past influences characters' mental states and thus how they behave in the present — is a clear and predominant force. Character motivation is often taken for granted in many films, especially genre ones; only when it is made problematic in ways that 'rock the genre boat', does the code of psychology become a key and overriding factor in how spectators understand realism and truth. The chapter focuses on the work firstly of Mike Leigh: in Life is Sweet (1990), Naked, Secrets & Lies (1996), Happy-Go-Lucky (2007), and Another Year (2010) then on Steve McQueen's Shame and finally on Lynne Ramsay: in her short Gasman (1998) and her features Ratcatcher (1999) and Morvern Callar (2002) as well as a brief reference to her latest film We Need to Talk about Kevin (2011). Leigh and Ramsay are very different, but nevertheless both make films that seem to work through complex, often inscrutable, psychological characterisations. However, in the case of Ramsay, the chapter argues for a 'subset' of the psychological code: one of existential realism.

Keywords:   psychological realism, character motivation, Mike Leigh, Steve McQueen, Lynne Ramsay, psychological characterisations, existential realism

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