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Sunderland Repository records the research produced by the University of Sunderland including practice-based research and theses.

‘A Mother’s Love Cannot Be Denied: Ma Mere’

Smith, Clarissa (2017) ‘A Mother’s Love Cannot Be Denied: Ma Mere’. In: Tainted Love: Screening Sexual Perversities. I B Tauris, London, pp. 159-176. ISBN 9781780761954

Item Type: Book Section


Christophe Honoré’s 2004 film of mother–son incest, an adaptation of Georges Bataille’s 1966 novella Ma mère, is an outlier example of the French cinema James Quandt dubbed ‘the New French Extremity’. Like all taboos, incest arouses fear and unease but its unique revulsion lies in its location within what ought to be most sacrosanct. Incest tears apart the ‘proper’ fabric of our intimate relationships, threatening the very foundations
of that institution of socialisation: the Family. The particularly modern understanding of incest as abuse has resonance for my discussion here. Ma mère does not offer us a mother rendered comprehensible via a monstrous pathology, but neither is it an attempt to justify a deviant relationship. Watching the film and finding it affecting is not necessarily about wanting to share those desires, nor to validate them. It is about being willing to acknowledge their messy human significance and the possible philosophical interest they might have for thinking about current sexual mores. It is a form of filmmaking which demands critical self-awareness in its viewers, offering no easy narrative resolutions and its effect is that it disturbs, disgusts, upsets and unsettles.

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More Information

Depositing User: Clarissa Smith


Item ID: 9305
ISBN: 9781780761954
Official URL:

Users with ORCIDS

ORCID for Clarissa Smith: ORCID iD

Catalogue record

Date Deposited: 11 May 2018 12:50
Last Modified: 18 Dec 2019 16:06