Updated: May 13, 2020
(Mr.) Glass - You cannot contain what you are
Third Movie of the Trilogy by M. Night Shyamalan
Unbreakable - Split – Glass
The film Glass is the third in the trilogy of M. Night Shyamalan. The Psychological Analysis of Unbreakable and Split are available on my website, and their respective links can be found after this text.
Glass narrates the story of Elijah Price, played by Samuel L. Jackson. Elijah has a disease called osteogenesis imperfecta type I, a genetic disease that causes his bones to break as if they were glass, a fact that gave rise to his nickname in school.
Elijah was born with several broken bones, a trauma caused during birth labor. We can say that Elijah was a child traumatized by his physical condition, fragile and delicate, whose recurrent traumas caused by the fragility of his bones shaped his personality. Elijah is the beloved son of a dedicated mother, but with an absent father, to whom there is no reference during the story.
Elijah is encouraged by his mother to spend some time outdoors, through a challenge: every time he was willing to cross the street and go to the park in front of the house, a comic would be waiting for him. Thus, Elijah becomes a great connoisseur of comics, becoming the owner of an art gallery specialized in the area.
Elijah knows the world through comics, his refuge and encouragement, where he lives in a parallel world inhabited by villains and heroes, and his philosophy of life is based on the complementarity of opposites, believing that for each deficiency there should be an extraordinary compensatory capacity. In this way, he believes that there should be an opposite to him, that he would break easily, and ends up finding David Dunn, played by Bruce Willis, where his story is narrated in the movie "Unbreakable".
His obsession with finding someone who is his opponent makes him a mass murderer, causing a number of accidents, including air, rail, and others, to find someone who did not break like David Dunn, the only survivor of a train accident.
Elijah was looking for superheroes such as the comic books he read while claiming to be a super villain, the necessary counterpoint to every hero. Every symbol has its complementary opposites, and this is the worldview of Elijah Price.
At the end of "Unbreakable", Elijah is arrested in a judicial asylum, where his story continues in "Glass".
In this third film of the trilogy we see David Dunn living a double life, like the superheroes of the comics, with a façade work, in a security company, having his son as collaborator, in the same way as Batman and his butler Alfred.
David has the ability to intuitively detect a criminal by having views about his crimes and / or victims. In one of his tours in search of criminals, he encounters Hedwig, one of the personalities of Kevin (played by James McAvoy), the character of the movie "Split", second of the trilogy, who has Dissociation of Personality Disorder, in which the personality called "The Beast" holds a group of Cheer leaders imprisoned.
The scene is a trap created by Dr. Ellie Staple to capture Dunn and The Beast, and both are taken to the same judicial asylum where Elijah is.
If superheroes exist, why are there only three of you? Dr. Ellie Staple
This movie brings the presence of a psychiatrist who specializes in patients who believe they have superpowers, who tries in every way to convince them that nothing they do is special indeed, and that everything can be explained by science. She tries to reduce them to banal, trying to prove that all the extraordinary deeds they have accomplished have an explanation in their training and dedication to achieve their great deeds.
We see here the role of psychology and psychiatry in the attempt to take the extraordinary at the level of normality, and the normality sought is adjusted by mediocrity, where characteristics and special gifts such as intelligence (Elijah), strength, intuition and empathy (David), strength, intelligence, creativity, resilience, flexibility of behavior and ability to learn about various subjects, as well as control of their vital and metabolic functions (Kevin) are disqualified as fanciful, inadequate and misfit.
The judiciary asylum brings a stubborn criticism to abuse of power relations between doctors and the nursing staff and patients. We can identify the abuses coming from Dr. Ellie Staple, who attempts to disqualify the experiences of her patients, denying that they actually did extraordinary things, even though they might be part of a neurotic behavior or something of the sort. Nurse Daryl threatens to drop heavy objects on Elijah's fragile body, saying that the new psychiatrist's presence would affect his "good relationship," hinting that his methods of physical and emotional abuse could suffer reprisal. This scene implies that abuses have been committed recurrently in the past.
Among the psychiatrist's statements are statements that "The Beast" does not exist, and that there would be explanations for its strength and performance, reducing its performance to something learned in videos of climbers, much practice and dedication, as if this were something minor. She tries to implant the doubt in Patricia (one of the female personalities of Kevin), that they, the Horde, would not be special.
Does anyone know a better way to undermine someone's self-confidence and self-esteem than to claim that someone is not special? To implant doubt is still a way of psychological torture.
David's heroic journey is treated as a possible neurological disorder, that is, the hero's journey, characteristic of the individuation process, is seen as pathological. David's extraordinary intuition is seen as the result of a training in interpreting hundreds of suggestions in a fraction of a second as if this were banal. In trying to disqualify David's intuition, she disqualifies the main motive of his heroic behavior, the detection of evil and evildoers.
"All that is extraordinary can be explained, and yet be true." Elijah Price
Elijah is not convinced by Ellie's speech, his weakness is in his bones, not in his mind. He is obstinate in proving the existence of superheroes and his extraordinary powers, as this is the only way to prove his super villain power. His physical condition does not put him in a position to be a superhero, after all, traditional superheroes have special physical abilities, maybe Elijah would have benefited from reading fairy tales and mythology, where the hero's journey often involves wisdom, intelligence, humility, empathy and various forms of wit, but his world was reduced to heroes whose physical strength would be one of its greatest attributes, even if it was complementary. His physical deficiency left him focused on his opposite pole, extraordinary physical power, making him blind to other prominent possibilities, such as his own advanced intelligence, whose aim was to find these heroes, but making him the opposite, the cold and calculator, murderer of hundreds of people. His intelligence, his greatest gift, developed in an extreme, creative, yet destructive and overwhelming way. His defense mechanisms made him apt to predict the next steps of all the other characters, albeit in a calculating and manipulative way.
Elijah studies the case of Kevin, after all, knowledge is also power. He collected as much information as possible about Kevin, and used it to convince The Beast that he is a hero, who fights for the misfits, the "broken" in an analogy to the traumatized in every way, for The Beast spares those who have suffered traumas like himself suffered, as he spared Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy) on a scene of the movie "Split".
He makes an alliance with several of Kevin's personalities: he values Patricia and treats her like a lady, recognizes her knowledge about art, says that the fact that Hedwig is nine years old forever is a na advantage, also a kind of super power, saying: - You can see the world as it really is - in reference to the fact that children have a more realistic view of the world than adults, in addition to valuing his dance, a reason for Hedwig's pride.
By convincing The Beast that he is the protector of the "broken", The Beast becomes his own protector, his ally in the escape plan, while taking revenge on the nurses who kept him imprisoned and tortured. He calls The Beast as “Angel Avenger”, transforming what was considered villain, in hero.
Elijah challenges David to break the steel door, proving that his gallows is truly extraordinary. In addition, he tells David that he should not hide in the shadows, urging him to act as a hero. He calls him “Overseer”, after all, every hero has a hero”s name.
Origin of the trauma = Origin of the talent?
Who are your parents?
“You do not know how is being so different that you do not know where you fit. It is a terrible feeling.” Elijah Price
Elijah has a feeling of inadequacy, of constant mismatch, due to his illness, which makes him lead a lifetime of extreme care and limitations. Living a life full of limitations can be traumatic, to live a life full of constraints and constant pains can be terrible. Elijah tries to compensate for his physical limitation with his sharp intellectual capacity, a true genius capable of learning quickly, to think outside of the box, but dominated by the shadow. His shadowed existence, dominated by the disease, is offset by his mother, who loves him and challenges him to overcome his difficulties, trying to make him carry a normal life as far as possible. His mother recognizes him as extraordinary, but the figure of the father is absent. In fact, his mother's animus is strong and determined, developing the child's intellectual curiosity through the comics, encouraging her child to live a parallel reality, where the battles between superheroes and villains are the background. Elijah could not be a hero, because according to the comics philosophy, he would need to have some special physical attribute, because in traditional comics there are no heroes based on intelligence, as the great geniuses of sciences and technologies continue not receiving the same highlight that sport and arts.
Intelligence is still not properly recognized as an heroic attribute, even if scientists around the world are helping people to heal their diseases and to have their quality of life improved, no scientist inspired a comic hero, not even Albert Einstein.
The social inclusion of a person with disability is still a problem, even in an era where we do not need physical attributes to develop many works, which can now be performed only in front of a computer, computers capable of adapting to several shortcomings, as vision, hearing and walking. Elijah overcomes what lacks: physical health.
What we miss often masters us. We often pay more attention in the absence than in the presence, whether of people, whether of attributes or personal qualities. We tend to seek and to project from others not only our shadowed aspects, but also our best qualities, such as the most desired and well evaluated qualities.
Elijah uses his extreme intellectual capacity by trying to feel complete through the other, through his physical antithesis, because he believes that if he owns such a fragile body, such a "breakable" body, someone should be "unbreakable" and goes out in search of this being that would make his existence complete, meaningful. Elijah seeks for a meaning in his life and for his disability, but he seeks it out of himself, projecting this first on David Dunn, then also on The Beast, one of Kevin’s personality that has an extraordinary physical force.
The determination of Elijah in finding a purpose for his own life ends up on helping David, even in a pathological way, to find a sense for his own life. Even though Elijah's methods were absurdly destructive, he discovers in David unrealized potential. David is unaware of his own potential, his own "gift" of being indestructible, potential of which he sacrificed for the love of his life. However, the sacrifice of who he really was caused a depression and made him feel like his life was meaningless.
Both, Elijah and David had someone who believed in them. Elijah's mother, Mrs. Price, interpreted by Charlayne Woodard, and David's son, Joseph Dunn, interpreted by Spencer Treat Clark. Joseph was the first to believe that his father, David, could be an extraordinary hero. It is natural that mothers and children believe that their children and parents are special, after all, love is the most powerful tool in creating self-esteem and self-acceptance. The feeling of being special depends on the love and acceptance of those we love and love us, and at this point, both Elijah, and David, receive the unconditional love, respectively from Mrs. Price and Joseph.
However, in the case of Kevin the situation is very different. Kevin suffered the terrible abuses by his mother, leading him to develop the personality dissociation disorder, which his mother also presented. Kevin's father died when he was seeking treatment for his wife, as we can observe in the scene of the train, just before the accident caused by Elijah, Kevin’s father had a flyer of a clinic specialized in personality dissociation disorder in his hands. This scene reveals that both David, and The Beast only became who they are because of Elijah's intervention.
The hero's journey, characteristic of the individuation process, may have its course shaken by the traumas. The hero's journey can also be treated as disorder, especially in the case of transgressor adolescents, where transgression may be an attempt to highlight from the crowd, a “calling” of the process of individuation, and, if it is treated as pathological, dismantled the adolescent of his/her creative process. Often the transgression has both, a pathological and a creative aspect, and we could not be attempted to chose only the pathological interpretation, under the risk of losing the contact with the creative aspects of the psyche.
Every hero has an ethical sense, which characterizes its action, but in the trauma, this ethical sense can be changed by the defenses, adapting to the defensive conditions required by the physical and mental survival of the individual. Some of these defenses, besides pathological, may also have psychopathic aspects, where ethics and life’s philosophy are adapted to defensive needs, creating elaborated philosophical beliefs that guide the action. This action, which could be possibly heroic before, can become the opposite, at the service of evil and destructivity, both of the individual himself, and those behind him.
Traumas are inevitable, we all have been subject to traumatic events, but the reason some of us react with resilience or became traumatized is still a mystery explored by several branches of psychology. The fact is, that even though we can all be exposed to traumatic events, some of us can move forward, and others are more affected and need professional help, often intensive professional help so that they can recover from certain traumas.
Who would we have been if we did not have any type of trauma, no kind of physical and mental suffering? Would we be able to be resilient and adapt to the diversity of life? It is clear that a "good enough" mother, as described by Winnicott is fundamental for the healthy development of personality, however, a mother or life, absolutely perfect and with no challenges, where all our needs would be satisfied completely, probably would transform us in pampered adults, frustrated and with a lower capacity of adaptation.
It is clear that Shyamalan's trilogy brings extreme situations and the movie has the license of an artistic language, but we must think that the trauma suffered during an individual’s life should not necessarily be considered a fatality without possibility of creative transformation.
In the three movies there is a shadowed manipulation in the life of the three main characters:
Elijah is encouraged by his mother to live in an unreal, imaginary world, where comics are a scape of reality, not an adaptation to it.
David has its force and intuitive ability to do justice with his own hands, his heroic acts are not befitting with the current historical moment, where there is no more space for an Hercules to destroy evil with his own hands. Instead, his intuition could be used as an important tool in the crime combat without the need to expose himself to the dangers.
Kevin was considered a superior being by the first psychiatrist who took care of him, considering that the incredible transformations and skills, characteristics of each of his personalities made him an extraordinary being. However, if the personalities were integrated to his main personality (Kevin), would he lose his skills, so well developed at the moment?
Here it is worth mentioning that Kevin was the only character that has the support of someone who was not part of his original family. He receives the empathy of Casey Cooke, interpreted by Anya Taylor-Joy. Casey's empathy for Kevin takes place by understanding that both suffered the same wounds, the same abuses, it is a reciprocal empathy, as Kevin was the first to demonstrate it towards Casey, when he releases her in the movie "Split". Now it is Casey who comes to help Kevin, being able to relate with The Beast, the most instinctive and aggressive personality of Kevin, Kevin's main protector, as he even declared it himself. Casey did not predict that she was being used by the psychiatrist, who had no true intention of helping any of her patients, but to destroy them, since within her conception, there was no space for extraordinary people.
A psychiatrist at the service of normality - Mere coincidence?
The psychiatrist, Dr. Ellie Staple, played by Sarah Paulson, aims to prove that her three patients are ordinary people, that is, none of them have extraordinary abilities, characteristics to superheroes. Making the normal abnormal has been one of the great philosophical battles of psychology and psychiatry. The definition of normality and mental illness are defined by DSM-V, but the so called nervous, psychic, or psychiatric illnesses change through time and culture, only maintaining some universal aspects, such as the importance of the perception of time and space, hallucinations and ability to deal with reality. Today we talk about functional patients, that is, those who have some pathology, but who can, in general, have a normal life.
None of Dr. Ellie's three patients fit into this, since all three have aggressive and antisocial behaviors, even if in David's case, he has the good intention of saving victims. Elijah is a dangerous mass murderer, and Kevin can not control his most primitive instincts, played by The Beast.
The psychiatrist, instead of treating patients, tries to convince them that they can not do what they do. However, the role of psychological or psychiatric treatment is not that of persuasion, but rather of the awareness of the problems, and of the implications that the actions taken lead us to face. Instead of working the development of a healthy ego, capable of elaborating and transforming defenses, she tries exactly the opposite, overcoming an already unstable ego, in both David and Kevin's case, leading them to doubt, even if for a moment, of his abilities, but absolutely without success in the case of Eliah. Underestimating the intelligence and defenses of clients is an extremely serious flaw in the whole psychotherapeutic process. All defense has a reason to exist, and trying to remove or confront them, either through embarrassment or persuasion techniques, often used by coaching techniques or CBT, can lead to a serious worsening of the picture, as these techniques prove to be more effective when there is no compromise of the egoic structure or the presence of more serious pathologies.
In the movie, Dr. Ellie is at the service of a brotherhood, the confraternity of the “three-leaf clover”. The three-leaf clover is a symbol of the Holy Trinity. She behaves like she was sent by God, in order to maintain the universal order, where any extraordinary being would shake the natural order of the universe. She says this to David, shortly before his death, where he was cowardly murdered by another member of his confraternity:
Dr. Ellie to David: - I almost convinced you that you were a normal man? I would have left you alone, but when the horde appeared here I had to come. There simply can not be gods among us, it's not fair. If one of you appears, your opposite immediately appears.
There is no light without shadow, there is no individuation process without the elaboration of unconscious aspects. Every symbol brings antagonistic contents that need to be elaborated. This is the great problem of the Catholic Church and its derivations, in attempting to exclude evil, throwing it into the shadow, into the unconscious, causing a unilateral development of the Christian consciousness, which we have struggled until today to integrate all the aspects swept out of consciousness.
The psychiatrist represents our preconceived ideas. The most convincing method that exists in humanity, the most used, is very fashionable nowadays, both in self-help books and in techniques that promise the rapid transformation of unwanted behaviors or feelings and emotions. What appears to be new today is indeed very old, and is being used as techniques of psychological torture and even dogmatic religious conversion.
The Betrayal and the Murders
Betraying someone's trust often resembles the sense of loss through death. How many people refer to betrayal as to the feeling that something died within them?
As the movies trilogy alternate symbolic language with literal meaning, betrayal and deaths, both symbolic and literal, blend.
Elijah uses The Beast by convincing him that he is an Avenging Angel. However Kevin has only become who he is, because of a series of defense mechanisms cause by trauma. Joseph reveals that Kevin's father was murdered in the train accident planned by Elijah and this is the factor that instigated the revelation of the The Beast, as The Beast becomes a substitution to Kevin's real savior, his father. As Elijah triggered Kevin's most destructable personality by killing his only savior, Elijah must suffer.
Kevin suffers another betrayal, this time from the psychiatrist, who by knowing the connection between Kevin and Casey lets her intercede with The Beast. This causes The Beast to “leave the light” and Kevin takes control of the personalities, becoming fragile and susceptible to the bullets, which would not have been effective in killing The Beast. Here we see that the psychiatrist herself seems to believe in the pseudo-immortality of The Beast, since she expected Kevin to “come to the light" for the members of the confraternity to fire at him. What could be a very important therapeutic moment becomes a cruel crime.
The therapeutic moment occurs when the therapist is able to enter into the patient's dark aspects, being in conjunctio with him, in a "participation mystique". This therapeutic encounter is capable of transforming defenses, but it takes time and constancy to structure oneself in a more appropriate way. The psychiatrist's betrayal can be seen in many therapeutic processes where the therapist disrespects the client's process, manipulating or misinterpreting these defenses, in an often-unprepared attitude where the therapist's own shadow, beliefs, or the yet not elaborated traumas interfere in the therapeutic process of the client.
The trauma has its own ethics, adapted to the defenses, often psychopathic defenses. And you need to be aware of them, even when the psychopathic defenses belong to the therapist, as in Dr. Ellie's case.
Keeping balance and order implies being mediocre?
Dr. Ellie has a world view framed by the confraternity to which she belongs. Her world view is not at the service of the well-being of her patients, but rather in order to ensure that her worldview is not shaken by the reality of the facts. She represents, as a character of fiction, what many governmental institutions, religious or social activism, in general, end up performing, that is, fitting, or molding, and here I mean putting something or someone with such a truculence into a mold or shape, so that important pieces are destroyed for the mold to prevail.
She represents the "let's leave everything as it has always been," the fear of the new, of change, of transformation. She represents the victory of the status quo, of common sense, of banal.
The quest for such an infamous "normality" acquires refinements of cruelty worthy of making our villains more sympathetic. The scene of David drowning in a plash by the members of the confraternity, while she confesses to him that she recognizes his extraordinary gifts and presenting an execution without mercy before his own son's eyes, should be due to having gifts compared to the gods. This shows the sadistic aspect of her personality, already seen in the pathetic scene of "group therapy", in which she tries to convince extraordinary beings how common they are.
The collection of the main characters: Mrs. Price, Casey and Joseph
In the movie, as in real life, there are many turns, and here, the main characters are not responsible for the final results of the action. After all, what would Franz Kafka be if his friend, Max Brod, had burned his manuscripts, as Kafka had asked him to do?
What would our extraordinary beings be without the cooperation of "The Collection of the main characters", as Elijah named his mother, Casey and Joseph? The apparently coadjuvant characters have fundamental actions during the plot of the early movies of the trilogy, Unbreakable and Split, and continue to have it in Glass.
Mrs. Price analyzed the final scene, saying that, as in the comics, Elijah planned for the extraordinary skills of them to be revealed to all.
Mrs. Price last words to her son were:
- You were spectacular!
Which he really was, because he spent his life creating great tragedies, where two extraordinary beings, besides himself, were revealed. He manipulated the psychiatrist, creating a distraction, making her look to another direction as he programmed his triumphant output of life. But above all, he was also extraordinary in denouncing her as a killer and the kind of psychiatric treatment to which they were submitted.
Joseph reveals the secret to Kevin, that the key of everything is in the parents, and that Kevin's father died because of the train accident caused by Elijah, causing a revolution in the action, in which The Beast assumes its main function of protecting Kevin. He says to Elijah that he can not trust him to keep Kevin safe and attacked him.
In this scene we see the supremacy of the defense over empathy, empathy that Elijah had evoked, putting himself into the same fragile position as Kevin's, evoking the hero who believed existed in him.
However, The Beast does not have the same heroic characteristics as David. His dissociated personality does not match with the structured ego of a hero, necessary for the hero’s journey of the individuation process. Kevin still has a long process before adhering to the hero's journey itself.
When revealing Elijah's secret, Joseph frees Kevin, and consequently The Beast, from the commitment to protect Elijah, the known villain of story, at least one of them to this moment.
Casey has the important role to bring Kevin to the light, she acts through empathy, the same empathy that connected them in the previous film, Split. The empathy for the pain and the suffering that both suffered by the situations of abuse they had lived. Casey had resources to fight against her abuser and rebuild her life, and calls Kevin to take control of “the light”, that is, of consciousness, as he is responsible for the actions of The Beast, and so Kevin could prevent The Beast to act. She can keep Kevin "holding the light" to the final moment.
What seemed to be a therapeutic transformation process, led by the psychiatrist was in fact, a destructive and manipulative strategy, a strategy to fragilize The Beast, making him vulnerable to the three-leaf clover confraternity shots. But even though Kevin leaves life in controlling his consciousness, now he had the option to decide who would be in the light.
At the end, the collection of the main characters, those who believed in the power and extraordinary capacities of Elijah, David and Kevin, cause a turmoil, denouncing the methods of torture and extermination of Dr. Ellie, causing a large public commotion.
At the end, the three heroes die demonstrating that their existence are real and possible. Elijah meticulously programmed the computers and security cameras of the hospital to film the latest scenes of our characters, where everything was recorded and sent to Mrs. Price, Casey and Joseph, who are responsible for showing the extraordinary scenes to the world.
Often, the supporting characters are the great responsible for the greatest actions, no one is alone, all of us depend on the affection, confidence and acceptance of others to have our existence recognized.
The last words of Mrs. Price are: - This is the moment when letting us enter in the universe.
That is, when we are recognized in our fullness, when we have our existence recognized is when we exist in fact. Our talents should be out of the shadows and be exhibited as such, otherwise the gods become diseases.
Some quotes of Mr. Glass:
- Everything that is extraordinary can be explained and still be true.
- All we see and do have a basis in science. But there will be limits. This is the real world, not a cartoon. And yet some of us do not die of bullets. Some of us can still double the steel. That's not a fantasy.
One of Jung’s great lessons is that, even though the patients have fantasies about their existence, these fantasies can have a foundation in reality. We are extraordinary beings accustomed to a common life, where skills are discarded by not being conducive to the social values in which we live, but still these qualities are real and valuable. We can not submit to the stereotyped judgment of the cultural moment in which we live and discredit that we are able to overcome us. Traumas, despite painful, can be elaborated. We can put ourselves in evidence for what we have best, otherwise the shadow seeks the evidence, as if it were light, as happened to Elijah and with so many anti-heroes that are present these days, heroes by crime, war, political and religious disagreement. Shadowed heroes are substituting the creative ones.
CAMPBELL, Joseph: “The Hero of Thousand Faces”
“The Power of the Myth”
FREUD, Sigmund: “Psychopathology of Everyday Life” 1901
JUNG, Carl Gustav: CW VII, “Two Essays of Analytical Psychology”
CW VIII, “The Structure and Dynamic of Psyche”
CW X “ The
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