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The Psychology of Mildred Pierce

Mildred Pierce is considered one of the greatest films of all time, bringing the audience through a harrowing journey of one woman’s fight for rights and even her very survival through times of poverty and despair. The title’s namesake, Mrs. Mildred Pierce, battles every day to provide a lavish and rich life for her only surviving daughter, Veda, buying her daughter the things that she could never afford as a child. Through a divorce, the death of her youngest daughter and a disastrous romance, she still fought to buy her daughter the best life she possibly could, and make a name and career for herself. Audience members are able, through this extraordinary film, to feel their own fears, hopes, dreams and apprehensions played out on screen through the riveting characters. The psychological influences in this film is quite interesting and not easily recognizable, however Mildred Pierce still provides a compelling story full of relatable concepts and an inside view to aspects of the human psychological condition that any audience member can see and relate to.

There are so many aspects of the human psyche that can be seen and related to in this film. The main and most prominent aspect in the film is the desire to be needed. Everyone wants to be needed throughout their life, whether it be in small ways in which they serve their fellow men and women or a stronger desire to be needed by others who hold a great importance in their life. Through the film Mildred Pierce, Mildred demonstrates a constant and strong psychological desire to be needed and wanted by her daughter Veda. She is constantly striving to be exceptionally close to her daughter, trying to form a bond which would make Veda impossible to be separated from her mother. Mildred continuously purchases the best and most expensive items for Veda in hope to fill her desires and keep her close. In other words, she is trying to buy Veda’s love. The audience can also observe that Mildred has a desire to be needed by the men in the film. She continually entertains their sexual desires for her by going on dates with them, and giving into their financial demands. Although it appears that Mildred did not necessarily have a sexual relationship with all the men, she psychologically desired, no, craved to have their attention and to be desired by them, giving her a psychological high as if she were on narcotics. She manipulates the men in her life to give her the attention and neediness she so craves, giving them all they desire and more in an effort to keep them close. Any audience member can relate to the want to be needed and the director and producer exceptionally portrayed this need to the audience through a vivid and exaggerated portrayal of Mildred’s deep and passionate desire to be needed by her daughter, becoming so much a part of her life that it became a deeply rooted need and key to her very survival and sense of self.

Mildred Pierce provides insight to the psychological desire to be needed that so many crave. So many aspects of the human psychological condition and experience can be seen in this classic film. The aspect of the deep desire to be needed is brilliantly delivered to the audience through a riveting and enticing storyline, presenting to the audience a tale of desire and passion and the constant battle of Mildred Pierce to live her life in the way that most fulfilled her. The director did a superb job in the film when it came to the film form. The film started off in present time and then moved to the past in a chronological order, occasionally returning to the present until the final scene which finished the film in the present. Also, the narration of the film added a great effect to the movie as it was coming from the main character Mrs. Mildred Pierce and then slowly vanished with the audience barely noticing it was missing. Although through her journey Mildred encountered many obstacles and tribulations, she continued to fight on for her daughter, consistently trying to buy herself a place into Veda’s life. She fought until the end when even all she had done no longer counted, and she lost the person most important in her life, the one she craved to be needed by the most.

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One response to “The Psychology of Mildred Pierce

  1. I find it interesting that you focused on the psychological features of this film because those were the aspects that stood out to me as well, as opposed to the murder story line. While this film certainly has some Film Noir characteristics, with the inclusion of the murder of Monte, I was not riveted to the screen until the film started to delve into Mildred’s past. Her obsession with being needed was really the driving force for the entire film, and it could be argued that had it not been for her desire to be needed, the murder may not have occurred in the first place.

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