George Halasz, M.D. — Lars and the Real Girl

Taking this film as a moving single case study, we see how a lonely and damaged young man creates a relationship with a plastic life size doll. Lar’s family, his brother and sister-in-law , his acquaintances and the community initially cast a bewildered eye on the relationship of Lars and “Bianca”. They have only one way to look at this: he must be psychotic. But they, like us the viewer gradually appreciate the depth and meaning of his attachment . We join them as the story unfolds. The odd, eccentric outsider becomes more understandable and enveloped by others. In fact, there evolves an identification with his needs.

Witnessing this film through the lens of a developmental and attachment perspective, I resonated with the baby , who having no early attachment figure gives the relationship with Bianca a special poignancy. Lars accomplishes the tasks of regulating intimacy, albeit a transitional intimacy. Bianca, the therapist and the community serve to provide a “facilitating environment” for Lars’ relational maturation.

A somewhat similar version of such a “relationship” is illustrated by the photographer Suzanne Heintz. In her project (www.playinghouseproject.com) she substitutes a family of mannequins for a real family. . In her negative reaction to pressure to marry and have children she creates a nostalgic, Ozzie and Harriette replica of a family. The not so subtle theme is a feminist statement about expected roles for a woman. In her project, she is real, the others are fake. She states in part of her project entitled Life Once Removed that “It didn’t seem to matter how well I have done in my career , or that I had a great social life. If I didn’t have a husband and child I was failing. So I filled in the gaps. My life was now officially perfect, as proved by my pictures, which, as everyone knows, are the part that really matters.”

Both the film , Lars and the Real Girl, and the Playing House Project reflect creative solutions to longing for intimacy and solutions to loneliness.


George Halasz, M.D. is a consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist and adjunct senior lecturer, School of Psychology and Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, Monash University in Australia. He has written extensively on the experience of “second generation” of Holocaust survivors. He has written and co-edited three books and a number of chapters and journal articles on a range of developmental and psychiatric disorders. He contributed a chapter entitled “Psychological Witnessing of my Mother’s Holocaust Testimony” in The Power of Witnessing: Reflections, Reverberations and Traces of the Holocaust (Trauma, Psychoanalysis and the Living Mind ) (Routledge, 2012)

 

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