Failures of the “moral defence” in the films Shutter Island (Scorsese, 2010), Inception (Nolan, 2010), and Memento (Nolan, 2000): narcissism or schizoid personality disorder?
In this chapter, the author looks at the three films in the title from the perspective of Fairbairn's object relations theory and in particular his concept of the moral defence. He argues that the three films mentioned are centrally concerned with a dynamic of this sort and it is in exploring this dynamic and its difficulties, as they are portrayed in the films, that some understanding of the often complex action of the films may be reached. The author suggests that in the films Shutter Island, Inception and Memento the defence of guilt against internalised bad objects is widely illustrated and that the release of the internalised bad objects, in each case associated with the death of the wife of the film's main protagonist, is resisted. For Fairbairn, then, narcissism is a state of identification with an internalised object. The author introduces another strand of thinking within the British Object Relations Group that is important for the internal dynamic.