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VOYEURISM AND KILLING
Peeping Tom (DVD)
Member Name: MrQuomps
Peeping Tom (DVD)
Date: 26/11/08, updated on 21/09/09 (271 review reads)
In the film Peeping Tom (1960) the main character, Mark Lewis, spent his childhood being filmed constantly by his father. Mark was an exhibition. His father was studying him sadistically in order to assist him with his scientific research. Mark had a camera scrutinizing his every move.
Mark's indulgence in scopophilia (pleasure in looking) is evident even at an early age, we see Mark's father filming him while he is looking at a happy couple hugging and kissing each other.
In his adult life Mark was a professional cinematographer who also did some freelance work photographing women for men's magazines.
In his childhood he would associate the camera with feeling uncomfortable, unhappy or scared (the scene where Mark's father films the fear on Mark's face when a lizard is placed on his bed gives us a good impression of how he might feel), whereas as an adult Mark cannot bear to be apart from his camera. He is visibly uncomfortable when a policeman has his camera and Helen (a neighbour whom he befriends) comments of his camera 'I don't think I've ever seen you without it'. He loves something which he once hated.
Mark's childhood involved him being the centre of attention all the time and it seems that he ends his life at the end of the film in a state of 'secondary narcissim' where he again sees himself as all important and the focus of attention. He films his own suicide as a way of completing the work that his father started.
Between his father filming him and him filming his death, Mark catalogued his actions without actually appearing in front of the camera. Where as a child he was an exhibition, as an adult he is a voyeur, yet in death he reverts back to being an exhibition.
Mark spends his adult life filming women's faces as he is killing them, though this is not all, as he moves in for the kill he attaches a mirror to the camera so that the victims are forced to watch their own fear-filled faces as they are being murdered. This seems like an attempt to recapture a stage from his childhood where it was him that was being filmed in a state of terror.
By attaching the mirror to the camera he is forcing the victims to be not only exhibitions but also voyeurs. They are being filmed but at the same time they are watching themselves. This is almost a parallel to Mark's own life where he is both an exhibition and a voyeur.
We the audience when watching Peeping Tom are also voyeurs, not just in the way we are watching the film but also in the way we see scenes through Mark's camera.
So we have the situation where Mark's active gaze through his camera at passive women becomes our gaze as we are forced to identify with him and we see exactly what he sees. The film highlights the voyeuristic tendencies in everybody; we are by definition voyeurs by watching the film.
The way in which Mark behaves towards his camera seems to suggest it is a metaphorical phallus and when he is separated from it he feels castrated. He only kills women, suggesting that he sees them as a threat of castration and so he must eliminate the threat.
Mark makes women the objects of his perversion and his control comes from his camera, they are at his mercy and he gains satisfaction from that..
An interesting motif in the film is that anybody that appears in front of the camera visibly suffers or obviously has suffered, that is they either die, faint have bruises or scars etc.
There are a few dry jokes in the film which acknowledge Mark's voyeurism, at one point he is asked which paper he is working for and after stalling he replies 'The Observer'. Another example is when a colleague of Mark's dead father comments 'You have your father's eyes'.
Summary: Classic stuff. Everyone should see this film.