Edited By Hyunseon Lee and Naomi D. Segal
The Fatal Attraction of Madame Butterfly
Fatal Attraction was a massively popular film.1 In it, the brief banal adultery of a ‘nice guy’ (Dan, played by Michael Douglas) married to a pretty, domestic wife (Beth, played by Anne Archer) leads to the extreme uncanny of the hell-hath-no-fury vengeance of female jealousy. Alex (Glenn Close), the spurned mistress, represents the ingress of the excessive feminine into the domestic space. In the closing climax it is finally the wife who kills the madwoman, after the latter has risen from the bath in which the husband had apparently drowned her. This film led to a spate of others in which two phenomena stand out: a final ‘justified’ murder that proceeds via an uncanny resurrection, and a figure conventionally positioned at the subordinate margin of the domestic space who breaks out and breaks in. The two elements hang together: like the cancerous swarms or monsters of most horror movies, this irruption of the ‘mistress [servant/policeman/plumber/nanny/flatmate] from hell’ blasts oedipal domesticity wide open, and is defeated only by a violent act on the part of the safe structure, which then closes again, doubly endorsed by its bloody happy ending. The movie – with a possible ironic reference to Repulsion – ends on a happy clinch alongside a close-up of a photograph of husband, wife and daughter in a smiling embrace (see Figure 1). ← 223 | 224 →
Figure 1. Film still from Fatal Attraction (dir. Adrian Lyne, Paramount 1987), 01.50.48 [DVD, 2000].
Seventeen years ago...
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