Volver was an interesting film depicting one family’s struggle to return to some form of “normalcy” in the midst of death, sexual violence, running a successful catering business, and a whole lot of kisses on the cheek. Through a Spanish cultural lens, the film’s narrative is tunneled through centuries worth of perspective upon themes such as death, marriage, motherhood, and sexual abuse. One thing that truly stuck out to me was the amount of kissing upon one’s cheek that was portrayed in this film. A common greeting among two people in countries outside the United States, bestowing one kiss on each of the cheeks whilst meeting with someone is not out of the ordinary, especially in Spanish countries, where physical affection is quite normal. I felt that Volver brought the daily custom and showed it within a new light, using Freud’s uncanny. Through the constant usage of the greeting, this really highlights the repetition compulsion theory, simply suggesting that our unconscious mind does not like identifying repeating patterns because of the level of anxiety that is produced through this identification process.
For me personally, the sound of the kisses were quite unsettling, almost like that cliche “smacking” sound which often appears in the climax of any Hallmark channel film. The kisses often set the tone and tension of any scene. For example the kisses exchanged between Sole and Aunt Paula are brief and hesitant, showing the strain within the two characters relationship.
Freud writes that “[i]t must be explained that we are able to postulate the principle of a repetition-compulsion in the unconscious mind, based upon instinctual activity and probably inherent in the very nature of the instincts…” (427). From my observations, I was able to understand that the act of the kissing was quite normal and appropriate for the culture in which the film was depicting but in contrast to the themes that the movie was tackling, my gut feeling simply was disturbed by every little “peck” on a person’s cheek. To further the relation between tone and the act of the greeting, we can look to the moment Grandma hangs out with Paula while hiding out from Raimunda. It does not take long for Paula to find the elderly woman hanging out in her Aunt’s apartment and she finds natural comfort once discovering that this woman is her Grandma. From this moment on, the kisses shared between the two characters is tender, sweet, and caring, which is nice and all, but Paula has just learned of her Grandmother’s whole “not being dead” scheme and somehow her nonchalant reaction seems far-fetched at best.