Beloved is a film I touched briefly on here before. Set not long after the emancipation of enslaved Africans in America in the midwest, a Black woman named Sethe grapples with her enslaved past when she is reunited with the child she bore and slain for fear of being recaptured by her slave master after escaping.
Recently watching this for the first time, my visceral and intellectual response was pleasantly mixed and complicated. It was such an uncomfortable movie to experience and at the same time, empathetic and endearing. Some re-affirming academic work as been done on the film by Ellen C. Scott who titled her work, “The Horrors Of Remembrance: The Altered Visual Aesthetic of Horror in Jonathan Demme’s Beloved,” Jonathan Demme being the director, Toni Morrison, the author and source of content and inspiration.
What is profound to note is the film’s intimate relationship to traditional horror/the Southern gothic as well as it presents itself as removed from that tradition but broadening our concepts of horror as well as how it positions the historical horror of slavery within the film. Beloved takes us on one journey of the Black American experience of slavery through the body of a Black female protagonist.
In Scott’s words, “Beloved disrupts horror’s narrative impetus, visual regime, and phenomenological economy to create a different iconography of fear, one that exceeds spookiness and thrill and sheds light on the representation of cinematic horror’s social, historical and cinematic repressed.”