Using Traumatic Themes in Films to Counsel Children Paper
Traumatic Themes in Films
Trauma is a multi-facet theme that manifests as one of the most prominent core concepts in movies. Various film genres present events that trigger emotions, fear, and long-lasting memories about character actions, movie experiences, and the overall setting aesthetics. Some of the genres that create traumatic experience for the audience include horror, action movies, and science fiction (Schweizer et al., 2017). In many instances, film producers begin these films by warning about age restrictions and parental control to prevent young audience from accessing the traumatic content. In the medical world, dealing with psychological aspects such as trauma and post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD) require appropriate clinical models.
The representation of violent themes in films has historically attracted criticisms. Various studies in the 1930s incriminated movies as instruments for propagating sex and violence among the adolescents. Media-induced panic became a topic of scrutiny in analytical and academic domains (Pinchevski, 2015). Before delving into contentions about why movie and other media content producers use trauma as one of the core themes, it is essential to consider their inspiration sources.
Movies and other media content serve various purposes, including to enlighten, entertain, educate, and inspire the audience. Therefore, they rely on inspirational events, nature imaginations, and trendy events to streamline messages to the audience. In other instances, they use true life experiences to create timeless and intrinsically coherent films that create reflections and trauma paradigm. In this essay, we will examine The Room, a French thriller film that explores trauma within family settings.
Trauma Paradigm in Films
Paradigm in context of traumatic films refers to the patterns and approaches to integrate the core theme through media content. Movie producers apply various approaches to create anxiety, stress, and cultivate emotions for viewers. Some of the possible approaches include manipulation of soundtracks, ambient light aesthetics, and film settings. The three types of soundtracks that play distinct roles in invoking different perceptions include intellectualization track to evoke a “detached anthropological viewpoint,” a denial track to downplay harmful aspects of rituals and emphasize the possible positivity, and the “trauma track” to provide potential existence of pain, danger, and sadism in the film (Pinchevski, 2015, pp.57).
Although critics argue that trauma theme in films may be harmful for “incompetent” viewers, the underlying assumption is that without trauma paradigm in films, it would be impossible to present the primary argument. Also, the visual medium of films can produce reality to the extent of producing discernible and tangible effects on viewers.
Apart from track manipulation to create different mental inclinations for the viewers, trauma paradigm in films rely on the centrality of imagery to the conceptualization of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) (Pinchevski, 2015, pp.58). In this sense, the audience use landmark images and events as icons for memorization. An ideal aspect that facilitates image retention in the viewers’ memories is the technical iterability of rendering film images as real rather than technologically-manipulated aspects. This consideration provides hope for the application of traumatic paradigm in films and other media content in psychotherapies to desensitize trauma victims.
The Room Film and the subsequent Traumatic Themes
The films “The Room” is a French thriller film by Christian Volckman and features a young family. Olga Kurylenko (Cate) and Kevin Janssens (Matt) move to Westminster, Maryland after they purchased a house. The young Cate struggled with a series of multiple miscarriages before moving to the new home. The situation was traumatic because she holds memories about their struggles while attempting to sire a child. While renovating the house to prepare for a new family life, Matt discovers a mysteriously hidden locked room with disturbing paintings and wire connections.
The room turns outs to be magical by granting all their wishes. Everything surrounding the house is mysterious. For instance, the family realizes flickering light, prompting Matt to call an electrician next day. While attempting to fix the flickering lights, the electrician leads the family in discovering an old machine with a series of fictional connection. The electrician cites that he had never seen something of the sought before.
Before leaving the premises, he notifies Matt about the murder of a couple that lived in the house before by unidentified killer. Haunted by the thought of the previous murder, Matt resolves to research about the case surrounding the house. He proceeds to draw a sketch of the killer after seeing his picture in an old newspaper.
Matt is determined to meet the killer who is in a psychiatric hospital. While on the journey to meet “John Doe” in the hospital, he stops to refuel his car. Surprisingly, he discovers the money obtained from Kate’s wish had turned to dust. John Doe makes mysterious claims about the house by notifying Matt that “the creators must die for the creation to survive.” Based on the hypothesis developed after the cash aged to dust and John Doe ‘s declarations, Matt returns to the house to test whether everything in the premises is unsustainable. The situation turns out to be true when he discovers that everything ranging from portraits to money aged quickly upon exposure to the outdoor environment. Such incidences create divided opinions between Matt and Kate.
On her side, Kate is haunted by the past memories of miscarriages. Therefore, she doesn’t perceive the essence of engaging in sexual affairs in attempt to get a child. Matt tries to cheer her up by providing hope about the potential of trying for a child. However, she becomes angry and reminds him about the suffering she had experienced following the two previous miscarriages. She contends against projecting herself to suffering by engaging in sexual acts solely for the purpose of having children. Therefore, she embarks on a complex decision of making a wish about a child. When her husband returns, he shockingly encounters his wife with a child (Shane). Reflecting on John Doe ‘s contentions about the relationships between “the creator and creation” mystery surrounding the house, he argues against the decision to get a baby via a mystical wish.
In one instance, Kate decides to project the baby to the outdoor environment for refreshment and health purposes. However, Matt attempts to discourage her to go outside with the child based on his hypothesis and the subsequent truth about items’ life cycles within the house. He tries to base his arguments on magical powers within the premise although Kate cannot comprehend the authenticity of his claims. When she projects Shane to sunlight and outdoor environment, he ages quickly to a near-death stage. She rushes to the house and saves the baby from imminent death.
Although Kate’s decision to keep Shane against her husband’s wish proves satisfactory in her immediate perceptions, it sets the stage for future struggles, trauma, and suffering. As Shane grows to become a reasonably autonomous boy, he gains control over the house by making wishes to satisfy his adventure. In one instance, he creates a forest within the house, an idea that confuses Matt. Shane’s activities and his subsequent utilization of mystical powers in the house divide his parents’ perceptions. From Matt’s perspective, Shane is meant to destroy the family because of the assertions that parents should die for the boy to survive. However, Kate perceives Shane as an adventurous and a good boy worth keeping. The situation worsen as the film approaches its conclusion.
Shane is now an energetic, grown person who is buoyed by the power to control the house. He installs many changes to the house, including changing decorations and painting. However, his activities prompt Matt to refer to him as a figment. In this sense, a figment refers to a product of imaginations and illusions. As the film approaches the end, Shane clone Matt and pretend to be Kate’s husband. In one instance, he engages in sexual activities with Kate pretending to be Matt. This aspect alongside other wrangles prompts the family to lock him outside the house until his death.
One month later after the family vacate the premise, Kate turns out to be pregnant. While attempting to comprehend how she acquired the pregnancy, the light in the hotel room flicker. The flickering aspect serves as a reminder to the family about their fate after using wishes to obtain things. Although the film’s ending attracts varied interpretations from different critiques, it sets avenues for reflection and is enough to cause stress to the family.
Relevance of the Traumatic Incidences from the Film
The Room is among movies that integrate science and horror genres to present core concepts. Firstly, the presence of an old machine that seems to fulfill every wish represents potential inputs of technology in aiding human endeavors. However, the characteristics surrounding the house are horrific. For instance, the producer uses indoor aesthetics and features to create landmark imaginations and horrific perceptions. Some of the most dominant aspects of film aesthetics include flickering lights, track modification, and artistic patterns.
Whenever each of the family members makes a wish, the light flickering and temporal outage phenomena manifest to create a horrific, mystical, and supernatural perceptions. Another aspect that presents core concepts in the film is the existing relationship between the indoor and outdoor environments. For instance, nothing obtained from the house can survive in the outdoor environment. Matt confirms this hypothesis after realizing that the cash in the car had turned to dust upon exposure to outside attributes.
Although Kate attempts to deconstruct this hypothesis by citing the presence of germs in the outside environment, it turns out to be true after Shane’s death. Apart from the utilization of film aesthetics to communicate the core message, it is possible to obtain the following lessons for the movie:
Warning against shortcut decisions to deal with trauma: many people face traumatic and post-traumatic incidences that require immediate interventions. Although interventions to address stressful situations should be immediate, it is fundamental to be cautious about mechanisms adopted to alleviate stress effects. From The Room film, it is possible to perceive the effect of engaging in premature decisions to deal with trauma by reviewing Kate’s experiences with Shane. After a series of past miscarriages, she is determined not to engage in future endeavors to get a child.
She becomes angry when her husband talks about the plan to get a child. In her view, the mystical house is enough to alleviate stress by providing her with a baby. Therefore, she proceeds to make a wish and gets Shane in the process. From Matt’s perspective, everything in the house, including Shane is figment and is meant for temporary pleasure. Kate fails to distinguish between temporary pleasure and the potential probability to get a child. By opting to keep Shane in the house, she subjects the family to a ruinous situation. The film ends after she discovers that she is pregnant under controversial circumstances. Hotel room light flickers to remind her about the imminent fate of her uninformed decisions.
Dangers of having autonomy to access everything: although the aspect of wish fulfilment is fundamental for Matt’s family, they squander the opportunities to request for meaningful things. In some instances, Kate is angered by the realization that they have wasted chances to acquire beneficial things. To compensate for the lost opportunities, she opts to wish for a child without comprehending the potential consequences to the family. The room characteristics project the family to a fantasy life bound by luxury gains and dark energy.
Therefore, it is valid to argue that the producer presents the film as more of a psychological drama than horror. Although the movie lacks content originality, it provokes thoughts instead of fear. Critiques cites that having autonomy to make wishes facilitates the statement “be careful on what you wish.” Such a connotation is essential in providing insights about potential struggles when having access to everything.
Application of the Film in Trauma Therapies for Young/Adolescents
The “The Room” is among films that may play significant roles in clinical interventions of addressing trauma and post-traumatic disorders. According to Pinchevski (2015), viewers link mental images obtained from films to the real incidences. Therefore, healthcare practitioners may use such movies to obtain memories and experiences from patients suffering from trauma and other subsequent issues.
Pinchevski (2015, pp.59) argues that trauma film paradigm is widely recognized in the mental healthcare domain because of its role in facilitating imagery in trauma and stress disorders. The paradigm stands out as an influential step in naturalizing the idea that visual exposure to traumatic incidences have clinically observable consequences.
Young people can easily memorize iconic images from the films and retain them to transform their perceptions regarding core concepts present in movies and other media content. According to Schweizer et al. (2017), film trauma paradigm helps healthcare professionals to structure appropriate models for determining individual reactions to traumatic exposures. By exposing young people to movies with traumatic incidences, it is possible to harmonize pre-trauma, peri-trauma, and post-trauma developments to determine the reactions between intrusive memories and other potential outcomes.
Another fundamental consideration is the desensitization of individual memories of trauma. Often, people open up on their previous encounters upon their exposure to movies and content that touch on related issues. When young people share their experiences, they become desensitized and relieved of such experiences as rape, violence, and other concerns. Such considerations make it possible to integrate films into traumatic and post-traumatic clinical therapies.
Trauma counseling programs require appropriate models to desensitize and relieve patients of memories about causal factors. Films containing trauma themes may play significant roles in shaping cognitive perceptions, especially for young people struggling with traumatic and post-traumatic stress.
The existing literature and medical research highlight the entry point for media content in harnessing proper reactions towards traumatic incidences. Movies help the audience to link iconic images and incidences to reality. Therefore, they help viewers to appreciate various aspects that ease cognitive tension. For example, The Room film may provide avenues for the audience to reflect on how to deal with stress that emanate from family issues such as miscarriages.
- Pinchevski, A. (2015). Screen Trauma: Visual Media and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. Theory, Culture & Society, 33(4), 51-75. https://doi.org/10.1177/0263276415619220
- Volckman, C. (2019). THE ROOM [Film]. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZO0MXSX7zvg; Versus Production.
- Schweizer, T., Schmitz, J., Plempe, L., Sun, D., Becker-Asano, C., Leonhart, R., & Tuschen-Caffier, B. (2017). The impact of pre-existing anxiety on affective and cognitive processing of a Virtual Reality analogue trauma. PLOS ONE, 12(12), e0190360. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0190360