In her thesis, titled “Two Modern Incest Heroes,” Selma Fraiberg posits that since Freud invented psychoanalysis, incest is out. The tragedy and mystery that shrouded Oedipal incest and made it such an interesting literary device were replaced by Freudian psychoanalysis. Tragic revelations of lovers becoming brothers are now an exercise in armchair psychology, abandoning mystery and intrigue in favor of psychology and truth. And while there’s nothing wrong with aesthetic cognitivism, it’s unfortunate to see such a classic tragic device become sterilized as a scientific tool.
European filmmakers seemed to have missed this memo. (So did the identical twins from my high school who make non-penetrative porn together.) Strella (2009), directed by Panos Koutras, shows that incest can be more than unresolved childhood conflict and lack of self control in a post-Freudian world. The protagonist Strella seduces her father Yiorgos; she knows that he is her father, while he (and the audience) are left completely in the dark about the true nature of their relationship. This offers the audience the suspense and shock of the Oedipal twist, while also inviting viewers to conduct psychoanalytic case studies of the characters upon finishing the movie. In this way, Koutras avoids the classic pitfall of clouding every cinematic interaction with psychology.
Strella balances classic and modern Greek culture, tragedy and fate, death and rebirth, lending itself perfectly to a mix of pre- and post-Freudian incest. It does not ignore Freud in favor of tired Oedipal archetypes, but rather uses premeditated incest in lieu of fate in the Oedipal storyline.
However, the effectiveness of this technique is somewhat hindered by the melodramatic foreshadowing of the incestual twist. There’s no subtlety whatsoever to the long shots of Strella following her father around before their official meet-cute while she wears a disguise or to the tired references to Yiorgos’ missing son, who is rumored by villagers to have become a woman. These could only go over the heads of the most naive viewers. So abandon your sense of speculation, and let yourself be taken by blind naivete as you watch and enjoy the refreshing incestual relationship in Strella.