Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
Tyler Beane Kelly

Films about Trauma and Resiliency

Recommended Posts

Hi all, I am participating in a Trauma and Resiliency summit coming up in my local community and have been asked to speak to the power of film with respect to this topic. I am a Lutheran pastor and film lover with some ideas I could use but would love to mine the wisdom of this group as well.

Do any films and especially specific short film clips come to mind when you think about Trauma and Resiliency? 

A couple of initial ideas I had were:

Robin Williams' 'It's not your fault' scene with Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting.

The kids escaping from Robert Mitchum into the boat in The Night of the Hunter.

Thanks in advance for your help.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Two Days, One Night and Rosetta come to mind as films about women enduring difficult circumstances in the midst of emotional pain, particularly related to their pursuit of employment.

I think of recent films about human endurance defying all odds of survival--Gravity, All is Lost, The Impossible, The Martian, 127 Hours.

Upstream Color is a bizarre but beautiful film about people who have been hurt or violated in some way, and their subsequent healing and attempts to understand why this trauma happened to them.

There's a scene in Short Term 12 where a teenager shares a rap song he wrote with a foster care employee, where he's using his art to process his pain. It's a powerful moment in the film (there is some language, I believe, so depending on your audience, it may or may not be effective).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Darren H   

Trauma and resiliency is quite a topic. Trauma is often intertwined with grief and mourning but it's also distinct in that it's scarring and guilt-causing in life-changing ways. I like Joel's suggestion of the Dardenne brothers' films. I'm rewatching them right now and wonder if The Son and Lorna's Silence might be even better texts. The Wire has two dozen storylines that deal with trauma. One of my favorite John Ford scenes is when Henry Fonda returns from a battle in Drums Along the Mohawk. We don't see the traumatic event but it's written on his face. Hou Hsiao-hsien's The Assassin only opened up to me on a second viewing when I saw the lead character as a survivor of trauma.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Darren H   

At the risk of shifting the discussion away from film . . .

As a survivor of trauma (two of my close family members were murdered), the idea of "resiliency" makes me nervous. There's tremendous pressure to be resilient -- certainly to appear resilient -- in the wake of a traumatic experience. But resilience isn't a virtue. It's necessary at times, but performing (for lack of a better word) resiliency is exhausting and can cause a lot of shame and inner turmoil.

I don't know how often Andrew checks into the forum these days, but I'd be curious to hear his thoughts.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
25 minutes ago, Darren H said:

At the risk of shifting the discussion away from film . . .

As a survivor of trauma (two of my close family members were murdered), the idea of "resiliency" makes me nervous. There's tremendous pressure to be resilient -- certainly to appear resilient -- in the wake of a traumatic experience. But resilience isn't a virtue. It's necessary at times, but performing (for lack of a better word) resiliency is exhausting and can cause a lot of shame and inner turmoil.

I can resonate with this sentiment as well. I can't speak for Tyler's purposes of the discussion he's leading, but the themes of "endurance" or "healing" may be more applicable. I'm not sure if that's the direction of the question at hand, but films dealing with the aftermath of a traumatic event and the subsequent grief are numerous--Three Colors: Blue, Lars and the Real Girl, and Troubled Water come to my mind, initially. (As well as the Dardennes' films, which I seem to be obsessed with lately).

I, too, would be curious to hear Andrew's thoughts from his counseling/psychological perspective.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Evan C   

I second the suggestions of Three Colors: Blue and Two Days, One Night

Also: The Pianist.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi all. Thanks for the wonderful feedback so far. I can certainly appreciate your concern, Darren, with the word 'resilience.' How awful to have experienced the murder of your family members. Though traumatic in a very different way, in my own ongoing struggle with depression, the idea of resilience has been held over my head as something to strive for, something I need to be whole, etc., by friends, family, therapists, and at times that has been inspiring and at other times not helpful or even shame-inducing as you say.

If resilience means the 'ability to bounce back to the same shape' as I read in some definitions, when applied to those who have been through trauma, that's just not realistic right? There's no going back to the shape of what was before. There's a whole new shape to things that must encompass the pain and the wounds for us to find healing.

The title of the summit was created by health care professionals who are organizing the interdisciplinary conference. Not sure why those words as opposed to others. I used them above since they're what I have to work with. Doesn't mean we can't push back a bit though! Language matters when we talk about these tender subjects. Thanks for that reminder Darren.

Edited by Tyler Beane Kelly

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Andrew   

Hi Tyler:

For me, Kurosawa's lifework still offers the best cinematic insight into the notion of trauma and healing/grace/recovery/resiliency/whatever-word-works-for-you.  This is a particular passion of mine; as a psychiatrist, I worked for several years almost exclusively with combat veterans with PTSD.  At that time in my career, I discovered Kurosawa's work, and it spoke to me on this subject more than any other art I've found before or since.  Ultimately, I presented a Grand Rounds to a university faculty in my town, integrating notions of trauma/recovery with Kurosawa's biography and art.  (If you're interested, I could try to track down a print copy of my presentation for you.)  A couple of years later, I contributed a chapter to Ken Morefield's second volume of Faith and Spirituality in Masters of World Cinema on this topic.

Kurosawa's films and characters that best exemplify this subject for me are Mifune's cop in Stray Dog, Mifune's peasant/samurai in Seven Samurai, the Mantis/Otoyo contrast in Red Beard, the central character and the leading women of Ran (for instances of how trauma can wreck character and eviscerate one's worldview), and the lead character of Rhapsody in August.  I can go into greater detail if you'd like, but I don't want to ramble on to an empty auditorium.

I know you didn't ask about books, but have you read Judith Herman's Trauma and Recovery?  Still the seminal book on this subject, in my opinion; not a quick read but accessible to an educated layperson.  In a more literary vein, Jonathan Shay's Achilles in Vietnam and (to a lesser degree) Odysseus in America were brilliant explorations of themes of trauma, wrecked character, and recovery by way of Homer's epics.  Bryan Doerries' more recent translations of Greek tragedies in All That You've Seen Here Is God beautifully, powerfully carry Shay's mission into the 21st Century. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Mike_tn   

Good topic for a film listing. Maybe they can be compiled at the top.

Johnny Got His Gun (1971) and Days of Wine and Roses (1962).

Plus I liked already mentioned All Is Lost.

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Tyler   

The Sweet Hereafter is about a small town in the aftermath of a school bus accident.

Peter Weir's Fearless is about surviving a plane crash while most of the passengers died.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

×