Identity, is a psychological thriller, which keeps the audience riveted till the very end. This movie has many twists and turns to it, and right when one thinks that they might be getting some grasp of the story, it shifts gears. The movie opens with a noted psychiatrist mulling over a case in which the defendant had murdered six people, and was trying to plead that he had a psychiatric disorder and was suffering from multiple personality disorder. The scene suddenly shifts to a motel, in which one by one, ten people come to seek shelter against a rainstorm, which has made it impossible to cross the state of Nevada. All sort of communication is cut of because of the rain, so the people are effectively stranded there till the morning.
Each of these ten people seems to have some sort of terrible secret, which they are either hiding, or running away from, but their exterior appearances reveal nothing of their inner turmoil’s. There is Larry, the motel owner who seems to be extremely harassed and jumpy, Ed a limo driver who seems to know more than an average limousine driver about murders and homicides. There is a newly wed couple, Ginny and Lou, who seem extremely jittery, and the York family, which consisted of an extremely insecure stepfather, his wife who had to take control of the whole situation before she was injured, and her son who had turned towards silence since his father left the family.
There was also a hooker, Paris who carried a suitcase full of money and a washed up actress Caroline, whom Ed was driving. Around the same time, a police official is transporting a killer across state lines. All these characters come together on a rainy night in this motel, with nothing in common with each other except that each was born on the May 10th. Then the murders start. The circumstances’ surrounding each murder is shrouded in mystery, with a motel key being found on the murdered victims. It is up to the Ed, the limo driver and the police officer to track down these killings. This movie, in my opinion seemed to be very good in terms of putting a human face to psychological disorders and presenting it in a very real light and circumstance. That is why I chose to do it.
Dissociative Identity disorder, present in chapter of Psychological disorders, was a very predominant theme throughout the movie. The killer, had killed six women, murdering them in cold blood and his lawyers were pleading insanity. The psychologist was working on this killers file in the initial scenes of the movie. Like most dissociative identity disorder victims, he had suffered from extreme child hood trauma and had apparently suffered physical and emotional abuse. His mother, apparently a prostitute had left him for extended days alone in the motel, while she went about her work. It could also be seen that she had emotionally and physically abused the child in many ways as well.
We see these glimpses into his past with the aid of newspaper clippings that the psychologist is reading through. All this ties in together towards the end of the movie, when it is revealed to the audience that the scene in the hotel is actually part of the killers make believe reality, and all those characters are part of the killer, alternately controlling his behaviour. The therapist is trying to bring out the real killer, who is present amongst these ten alternate personalities possessed by the killer. It seems as if the killer is realizing this and thus brings about a meeting between all his alternate personalities. Both the killer and his other personality “Ed” hum the same poem, which seems to be some sort of link into his multiple personalities. “I was going up the stairs, I met a man who wasn’t there, wasn’t there again today. I wish, I wish he’d go away.”
He had formed alternate personalities in an effort to cope with all the abuse he suffered throughout his childhood. Like most dissociative identity disorder victims, he seems to be fleeing inwards in response to the intense trauma he suffered as a child. The killer starts killing of his personalities one by one, it seems in an attempt to himself discover who the actual murderer of those six women were. The therapist tries to “talk” to the other part of him, which has made him do bad things. The inner turmoil and struggle of the killer is very evident throughout the scene. When he looks into the side mirror, he sees himself as he really is, fat and bald shackled to the wheel chair. He seems to be shocked at who he sees, because in his mind he is the cop turned chauffeur Ed, who is trying to solve the mystery of the dying people in the motel during the rainstorm. It seems as if this is the first time he has come face to face with one of his alter egos and does not know how to acknowledge or react to them. The therapist urges him to delve deep into his psyche again and go back to the motel, on that rainy night in order to discover who was killing of his alternate personalities one by one, and that person was also the killer of those women.
Some of the theories of emotion also can be seen during many of the scenes of the movie. One of them is the Canon-Bard Theory, in the chapter of Emoitons, Stress and Health. The Cannon Bard theory talks about how emotion is a combination of the physiological arousal and awareness of the situation occurring at about the same time. In the movie “Identity”, along with the theme of psychological disorders, emotions are also a very predominant theme in this movie. Emotions according to the Cannon-Bard theory are seen during some very intense moments of the movie. When the killings starts one by one, the ten people stuck in the motel start to get jittery and extremely nervous.
One such moment is after the sixth killing has occurred and the Ed, the former cop turned limo driver forces Ginny to leave along with the young son of the now dead York’s. As Ed and the police officer turn their attention to the dead and dangling body of Mr. York, who the motel owner had crashed into with his car, they hear a loud explosion from the car. As they run towards the car, it suddenly bursts into flames, spewing glass and twisted steel everywhere. It seems that when Ginny and Timmy sat into the car, it exploded into flames. As Paris starts screaming hysterically, the cop and Ed look at the car open mouthed, with no comprehension of what is going on. When Ed comes closer to the now burning car, he notices something on the ground near the car. It turns out to be another key of the motel, in the same number succession as was found on the other victims.
His thoughts are interrupted by a blood-curling scream by Paris. She is pointing towards the place where the body of Mr York was lying, except that there was no body any longer, and no sign of any sort of accident either. They run towards the other sites of the murders, and to their horror see that no bodies remain any longer, no sign of the murders, no blood anywhere, nothing. The two men are shocked out of their sense, and Paris is screaming hysterically. The emotion as described by the Cannon-Bard theory can be used to describe the reaction of Paris in this scene. Paris is hysterical by what is happening around her in the environment, combined with the constant murders with no sign of a murder weapon or even a suspect. Her feeling of extreme fear and loathing for this person who is silently killing of people without as much as some sort of clue is causing a very severe hysterical emotion within her. She wants to express this emotion, this fear by screaming and cursing the murderer.
On the other hand, within this very scene, the other two characters, Ed the limousine driver and the Police officer adopt a very different approach in terms of the emotion that they show. While Paris shows emotions according to the Cannon-Bard theory, the two men display their emotions in the very same scene according to the Cognitive Theory, which talks about how the expression of emotion is driven by a combination of the cognitive appraisal of the stimulus, a cognitive appraisal of the physiological reaction. Ed and the police officer seem to be as scared as Paris is, but they have different types of emotions in terms of what their fear represents.
While Paris is incoherently hysterical, and shaking with fright, the physiological arousal, which is her heart rate and the emotional experience, which is her fear at these events is occurring simultaneously, the two men seem to be almost methodical and analytical in their assessment of the situation. They try not to let fear and hysterics get the better of them, and try to carefully assess the situation and try to collect whatever evidence that they can. Ed starts trying to collect whatever evidence that is left and proceeds to comb the whole motel area from one corner, with the police officer combing the other side. They are intent on capturing this elusive murderer who is so methodically killing of so many people. Ed’s search bears fruit as he is trying to get through to the authorities but discovers that the police cars radio has been torn from the car. When he rifles through the glove compartment, he comes across two prisoner rap sheets. One of those prisoners is actually the guy who alleges to be the police officer. Ed is stunned speechless, and things take an unexpected turn. Although he is now fearful and has no idea what to do, he thinks of everything with a very rational mind before reaching any sort of conclusion.
An interesting person, who plays a significant role throughout the movie, is the hooker Paris who seems to be running away from her past, complete with a suitcase full of cash. She is a very mysterious person who seems to never reveal much about herself. Through out the movie, in varying stages she is called a prostitute or a hooker, because of the way she dresses, which leads the viewer to believe that in actuality she may be one. But not once does she ever acknowledge that herself, so one is led to wonder what she really is, if not a hooker. She seems to be in her late 20’s, and in Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development, she has issues of intimacy versus isolation. It is during this stage that Erickson had talked about how there is a developing capacity for intimacy, which is the ability in forming emotional and intimate relationships with other people. This can only be done when one has resolved all earlier crises. In contrast to this there is the sense of isolation that a lot of young adults feel, which is failure at intimacy that brings a painful sense of loneliness and incompleteness. It seems that Paris seems to be suffering from this very issue of intimacy versus isolation. Although not unfriendly, initially she does not seem to share any sort of rapport with the other people who are in the same dilemma as she is, and are scared of becoming one of the victims. It seems that she has some of her own personal crisis to deal with and come to terms with.
She seems to overcome her initial wariness and unfriendliness and seems to be much more involved and emotionally involved with the other travelers. She seems to making an effort to make the best of this situation and to allay everyone’s fears. She tries to soothe the hysterical newly wed Ginny, who is in a state of nervous collapse, as well as trying to take care of Timmy who seems to be in shock. She seems to be trying to build some sort of emotional relationship with everyone, no matter how temporary just to ensure that everyone bonds together in these tragic circumstances.
Another aspect of the movie and the various scenes seems to deal with memory, and the other various aspects of it. Memory Construction is one aspect of the chapter of memory, which is bought out in this movie. The killer, who suffered from multiple personality disorder had also been abused, physically and sexually by his mother. It seems that he had repressed those memories of abuse inside of him. In the initial parts of the movie it seems that the killer seems to have no recollection of any sort of abuse that he had suffered. When asked about his mother by the therapist, in order to get him to recollect his memories, he responds, “my mother………she was a slut,” and laughs a high-pitched evil laugh.
Towards the end of the movie, it seems that his multiple personality disorders are tied in with the occurrence of the repression of the memories of his abuse. One of his multiple personalities is a small child, Timmy, who seems to disappear towards the end of the movie, supposed to be dead, killed in the car explosion along with Ginny. The interesting thing that had been mentioned about Timmy by his stepfather was the fact that Timmy hardly spoke because his father had abused him, “who liked to take his anger out on him.” This seems to give some indication of the fact that maybe the killer had been abused in a similar fashion by his mother, since there is no mention of his father. These “memories” seem to be embedded deep in the psyche of this killer, and only seem to come out in the shape and guise of the memories of a young child. The therapist who is working with the Killer, tries to bring out this personality of his, in order to bring out the repressed memories of abuse, so that they can be dealt with in the proper medical way, and also because it would provide an insight into which of the personalities is the real killer.
The character in the movie that I found I would like to discuss according to one of the theories is that of the killer himself. He suffers from multiple personality disorder, along with having many suppressed memories, memories that have turned him into what he is not. He has created so many multiple personalities in order to escape from any sort of reality. He lives in a world of his own creation, the world in which he is a handsome mysterious cab driver, a failing actress, a normal family man or a young mute child. All of these personalities seem to be expressing some sort of his own personality aspects.
Since it was indicated earlier on in the movie that he had been abused as a child, I believe that by looking at him through Eriksons Psycho-social focus present in the chapter of development, would be helpful in describing maybe why he has become what he is now. One aspect of his theory was during the developmental stage of early childhood, between the ages of 3-6, and then middle childhood, between the ages of 6-12. Erikson talks about the aspect of initiative versus guilt, in early childhood, and then industry versus latency during the years of early childhood. In initiative versus guilt, initiative is when there is parental support for trying new things, which leads to joy in exercising initiative and taking on new challenges. The feeling of guilt, on the other hand are feelings of guilt and unworthiness, and resentment occurs in the child if they are scolded for exercising initiative. In middle childhood, there is identity vs. role confusion. While identity expresses the integration of one’s roles in life into a coherent pattern, role confusion is the failure to integrate these roles into ones life, which leads to a lack of personal identity and despair.
The killer seemed to have suffered from both feelings of guilt and role confusion. In his early childhood when he was abused and left for days one end in one motel after the other, he must have been feeling all sort of feelings of guilt and unworthiness, because there was no one to look after him, care for him or support him when he did anything. Since he was abused, it is possible that whenever as a child he did anything to get his mothers attention he was either soundly beaten or scolded, this leading to feelings of guilt, at his inability to do anything which might get him some praise. It is also told in the movie that he was shuttled from one foster home to another. This is another aspect which would not only lead to a rise in feelings of guilt but also during the years of middle childhood, there would be this certain degree of role confusion. Foster homes are notoriously poor in terms of children’s development, with the children usually being out down by either the foster parents or siblings. While a child is growing up, he needs a certain degree of stability, a degree to which he can depend on things and try to form his own identity, by integrating the roles in life into a coherent pattern. It seems that since he was shuttled from one foster home to the other, he was unable to form any sort of coherent pattern in his life, nor did he have time to formulate any ideals in terms of role models. It seems that he suffered from issues of role confusion. The abuse as a child and the foster homes led to a lack of any sort of parental roles in his life, or any sort of idea what he wanted to do in life or what he could achieve in life. This would ultimately lead to a lack of personal identity and eventual despair at the inability of any sort of coherency or consistency in his life.
The theories that I have discussed pertaining to the movie “Identity” seem to be tied together in one aspect or the other. There is the aspect of the multiple personality disorder that the killer suffers from. This can be tied in with the suppressed memories that he has within him of the childhood abuse he suffered, and how he suffered when his mother left him alone for days on end while she went about her business. These two aspects are interlinked with each other, the suppressed memories seeming to give rise to another personality better equipped to handle these childhood memories which are very painful.
The aspects of emotions seem to be tied with the personality of Paris that was also discussed. The two different emotions that are displayed by Paris, and then by Ed and the police officer seem to add a sense of surrealism to the whole movie. Here is a woman who is hysterical after the car containing two people just exploded out of nowhere, and the men who are as scared as she is, seem to be assessing the situation with an air of calculated ness so as to find out who is the perpetrator of these crimes. The emotions of all three of these characters, is of fear, but the assessment and playing out of fear in context of the environmental cues are different. The scared and screaming Paris seems to be in sharp contrast with the earlier picture of Paris, in which she seems to be shunning any sort of intimacy with the fellow guests, preferring instead to keep checking on her money. These feelings of antagonism and wariness seem to give way to a certain degree of intimacy, in which she is trying to soothe the hysterical newly wed, as well as looking after the mute child. All these aspects of the movie seem to mold in together with each other, each aspect seeming to be derived from the other, in an effort to explain the story in its complete context. To explain the madness of a man, with ten different personalities, all of whom are dying one by one, to reveal the true murderer.