The Unconscious of the Text in Cat People (1942)

Irena Dubrovna is not just involved in the fashion industry but her awareness of her difference and her feminine excess that fails to conform to societal standards of the feminine also informs the space she lives in wherein we see that she has surrounded herself with portents of her imminent onscreen death.

These portents populate the mise en scene in the form of the image of the pierced panther that we see three times in the film:

  1. When we first see her at the zoo sketching concepts for her new line of clothes, the discarded sketch has nothing to do with fashion at all. Blowing about in the wind is a torn sketch of a panther pierced through with a sword
  2. In her apartment, there’s a statuette of a knight astride a horse displaying a cat pierced through on his sword
  3. In the final moments of the film, Irena is stabbed by her psychiatrist’s concealed cane-sword and when she dies in front of the panther enclosure, her corpse turns into the carcass of a panther

So on display in the background of the film, in its mise en scene, and in the unconscious of the film text is Irena’s death drive.



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