Elia Kazan’s America America: A Message for America

Abstract

Elia Kazan’s 1963 film, America America is a tribute to the immigrant experience of his own forebears, and has relevance to the refugee crisis of today. In stark black and white cinematography, the film provides insight into the refugee-immigrant experience, personified in Stavros, a young man longing for freedom, obsessed with an idealized America. His hope and innocence cannot safeguard him. His memories of his happy childhood and loving family create idealizing transferences to a world of others who manipulate and betray him as he undertakes his quest. Eventually he too learns to manipulate and betray, unconsciously identifying with the aggressor. History will offer ethical challenges, the black and white cinematography mirroring the black and white perception of good and bad, the shades of grey evoking a maturation of understanding.

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Correspondence to Merle Molofsky.

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Address correspondence to Merle Molofsky, MFA, NCPsyA, LP, 26 West Ninth Street, Suite 2B; New York, NY 10011

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Molofsky, M. Elia Kazan’s America America: A Message for America. Am J Psychoanal 78, 126–136 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1057/s11231-018-9140-y

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Keywords

  • refugee-immigrant experience
  • innocence and betrayal
  • idealized America
  • black and white cinematography and black and white world view
  • memory of origins and moral challenge in the present