The Destruction of Identity in Vertigo, The Tenant, & Mulholland Drive

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The Destruction of Identity in Vertigo, The Tenant, & Mulholland Drive

The rudimentary form of narrative storytelling lends itself towards application to

an individual subject’s life story due to the correspondence of a narrative’s finite bounds

and the subject’s mortality. Vertigo (dir. Alfred Hitchcock, 1958), The Tenant (dir.

Roman Polanski, 1976), and Mulholland Drive (dir. David Lynch, 2001) are consistent

with this idea because their narratives follow an individual human subject from an

anecdotally significant beginning to their death. I will argue that the anthropomorphized

narrative compels the subject’s suicide through the misrecognition of personal identity.

This occurrence brings about the themes of narrative significance, subject motivation,

identity, recognition, and mortality.

The specificities of basic narrative method include the Aristotelian triumvirate

form—consisting of beginning, middle, and end—and a fundamental progression in

time. These requisites belie the potentially infinite scope of narrative and set a primitive

restriction to the most fundamental linguistic practice. Once the boundaries of narrative

have been recognized, a formal equation and basic concepts can be established in its

name. The semiotic codification of these concepts is so great, in fact, that many

narrative structures and concepts translate into multiple mediums. James Brooks

elaborates on this in Reading for the Plot.

Narrative in fact seems to hold a special place among literary forms—as

something more than a conventional “genre”—because of its potential for

summary and retransmission: the fact that we can still recognize the

“story” even when its medium has been considerably changed. (Brooks 4)

This recognition...

... middle of paper ...

...dentities constitutes a narrative detour, and necessitates the subjects’ suicides in

the three films.

Sources Cited

Barthes, Roland. S/Z: An Essay. New York: Hill & Wang, 1974.

Blow-Up. Dir. Michelangelo Antonioni. Perf. David Hemmings, Vanessa Redgrave.

1966. DVD. Warner Home Video, 2004.

Brooks, Peter. Freud’s Master Plot. New York: Harvard University Press, 1984. pp 90-


Brooks, Peter. Reading for the Plot. New York: Harvard University Press, 1984. pp 3-36.

Freud, Sigmund. Beyond the Pleasure Principle. New York: W. W. Norton Company,

Inc., 1961. pp 1-78.

Mulholland Drive. Dir. David Lynch. Perf. Naomi Watts, Laura Harring. 2001. DVD.

Universal, 2002.

The Tenant. Dir. Roman Polanski. Perf. Roman Polanski, Isabelle Adjani. 1976. DVD.

Paramount, 2002.

Vertigo. Dir. Alfred Hitchcock. Perf. James Stewart, Kim Novak. 1958. DVD. Universal,

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