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Movie Recommendation #1

I’m going to do an occasional recurring feature here where I recommend a movie that I think does a good job illustrating the human nature topics of this blog. This is the first installment.

Tonight  Turner Classic Movies at 1 Am Eastern time is airing a movie called “Darling” starring Julie Christie. Try to watch it or DVR it if you’ve been enjoying the last two years of posts on this blog.

“Darling” is a great depiction of a Cluster B personality disorder, a true emotional vampire. It’s about a beautiful woman who likely suffers from Malignant Narcissism,  Histrionic Personality Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder. She idealizes, uses, and then devalues and discards men as she climbs to the top. She is utterly devoid of empathy and damaged in a very realistic way.

Many of the concepts I’ve discussed on this blog are well illustrated in this movie. If you miss the movie tonight, you can always watch it on Netflix instant here or buy it here on Amazon.

If you do manage to see it, share your thoughts in the comments, good or bad.

The trailer:

7 Responses to “Movie Recommendation #1”


  1. Tiny nitpick, but you might have meant “or” instead of “and” when you were listing cluster B disorders. The three you listed are quite distinct (although there are clear overlaps, for instance both BPD and HPD have a ‘waif’ profile and, in the early stages of a relationship, it’s hard to distinguish BPD Waif from HPD Waif.)

    I’ll make an effort to see the movie, though. Good work as always!


  2. TK, I understand why you would think that, but I have a slightly different view of Cluster B personality disorders than the DSM-IV. My personal view is that BPD, HPD, NPD and sociopathy are not so much underlying diseases or pathologies but rather are four different external behavioral overcompensation coping strategies for the same, single pathology: self-obsession and lack of empathy due to intense repressed self-loathing.

    For example, a Cluster B person may primarily cope with their self-loathing by superficially impressing others and chasing validation. When this happens, they are acting like a narcissist. However when their partner is tired of this and is about to leave them, they panic because of the impending abandonment and switch to Borderline Personality coping styles in order to either prevent the abandonment or to abandon the other person before they have a chance to abandon THEM. In certain contexts when certain stimuli are present, they may prefer to seek extra attention and drama, shifting into histrionic behavioral patterns. And lastly, when they feel there is absolutely no narcissistic supply to extract from a situation or victim, they will drop someone cold turkey and without remorse at the drop of a hat, similar to a sociopath.

    I believe that’s why there is so much overlap between the Cluster B personality disorders and why so many people struggle to know exactly which personality disorder their personal emotional vampire has. It’s because they are all just different external behavioral coping strategies for the same core problem, and different contexts and scenarios bring out different coping strategies. That’s why when you are researching an emotional vampire, often the BPD literature seems to describe them perfectly, yet so does much of the NPD literature and much of the psychopath literature.

    Some people strongly prefer one coping strategy to the others, especially those who are high functioning know how to manipulate their environments better, but overall they can bounce between all the Cluster B disorders.

    Again, my view is the minority view based on most of the mental health literature I’ve read.


  3. Wow what a great movie thanks T!

    I came across your posts about emotional vampires and it really spoke to me, I recently dated a girl I think is an emotional vampire and I seem to have a knack for attracting them, although I never thought of myself as codependent nor do I think at a first glance that my childhood somehow contributed to this. I am also a huge movie buff so I am glad you posted this.

    I will have to check out more of Schlesingers work, he seems to have an incredible knack for realistically portraying profoundly disturbed characters and the rapport (or lack of it) that they have with their close ones, (Ratsos interaction with the Naive Jon Voight in Midnight Cowboy is classic). I would like to view (but so far can’t seem to find any decent torrent) the film “A kind of Loving” which is his directorial debut and a “Kitchen Sink Drama”. Kitchen sink dramas were films about the ordinary lives of British folks often shot in regular homes hence the name. They were made in Britain right after the 1960 Suez canal crisis where Britain completely lost face with the whole world watching, so they are famous for portraying raw intense emotion and a healthy dose of cynisicm. While England and especially its capitals culture and image changed very fast that by 1965 it was the cultural capital of the world, apparently this filmmakers intense style and vision hadn’t changed much and he applied it to this new reality of the vacuous Jet-Set crowd. I am guessing that many of these famous Kitchen Sink dramas contain a whole slew of conniving manipulators and emotional vampires, so it is worth checking them out.

    While not a subtle director, take for example the symbolism of Diana winning at roulette and immediately changing lovers, the trapped fish in the aquarium and Diana “trapped” in her lifestyle and the contrast between the speech about equality and then a jump cut to black servants in ridiculous kitchy victorian wigs. It all seems to work however because everything in the movie is so powerful and raw and the pacing and acting and cinematography and editing is superb. The frequent breaks in continuity where we have to figure out what happened in between encourage us to think about her complex psychological profile of both cold calculation and haphazard emotional spontaneity.

    To digress completely and at the risk of being prolixy (you are often guilty of this too T :)) I was even a little taken aback during the scene where it is bluntly stated how much German photo enthusiasts would love Dianas “Aryan features”. I don’t exactly what Schlesinger was driving at, I am assuming that similarly to Fassbinder (who by the way is an undisputed master and pretty much all of his movies revolve around emotional vampires) he was poking fun at Germany and how even during times of intense social change with a new generation reaching adulthood during the Swinging Sixties, Germany changed little even from US govt. mandated “Denazification” programs which failed miserably, these old school values were just less open and hidden under a thin veneer of materialism during the German Economic Miracle. I could be reading too much into this, he was both British and a Jew that survived the horrors of the London Blitz so this could have been a purely visceral snarky remark. There could be something I don’t know however about the photography/fashion scene in Swinging London, and German involvment in it. I am curious how true the stereotype of Europeans not forgetting is, and what young British peoples thought of Germans were. After all, there was a ton of cultural interaction, the Beatles for example, first gained mass popularity on German soil.

    With regards to analyzing the fine points of cluster B emotional disorders both you and Schlesinger are both ahead of the game. In the new DSM-V which comes out next year there will no longer be criteria for specific cluster B disorders but they will be classified according to what and how many symptoms of each disorder one has. That just goes to show once again that artists and people with a healthy dose of common sense and life smarts triumph over psychologists who want to neatly categorize everything.

    Thats all I can think of for now and I look forward to reading your response. I read through a large part of your blog and I have never come across one where I share almost exactly the same interests even though the topics are so varied. I think you’ve just inspired me to start writing my own :)


  4. I haven’t had time to respond to your comment Matt, but great insights and if you do start you’re own blog let me know. At some point I’ll respond to your observations of the movie more in depth. Thanks for commenting.


  5. Kitchen sink dramas were films about the ordinary lives of British folks often shot in regular homes hence the name. They were made in Britain right after the 1960 Suez canal crisis where Britain completely lost face with the whole world watching, so they are famous for portraying raw intense emotion and a healthy dose of cynisicm.

    Yes, I’m acquainted with kitchen sink dramas, and I think they’re incredibly underrated. Many people focus on the old Italian movies and the French New Wave and give the kitchen sink dramas short shrift. I’ve only seen three: Darling, Billy Liar (also with Julie Christie), and The Entertainer with Laurence Olivier. All three are quite good.

    While England and especially its capitals culture and image changed very fast that by 1965 it was the cultural capital of the world, apparently this filmmakers intense style and vision hadn’t changed much and he applied it to this new reality of the vacuous Jet-Set crowd.

    I think a lot of individual personal psychology also applies to groups and cultures. After WWII and the gradual erosion of empire that Britain went through in the decades since, I think the country suffered from a huge loss of esteem. Just like people have three faulty coping strategies of avoidance, surrender, and overcompensation, I think countries can do the same. For example Nazi Germany was a form of countrywide overcompensation for collective core issues regarding perceived inferiority in my view.

    For those reasons, even though the Swinging 60s era of Britain was one where it became a very hip culture with lots of social influence worldwide, the same low self-image dynamics that led to the post war malaise and the kitchen sink dramas, except now instead of surrendering, the country was now overcompensating and becoming grandiose, much like the dynamics I described in other posts where a codependent becomes a compensatory narcissist. The country on the whole was becoming a type of compensatory narcissist, but the same self-loathing and self-disillusionment that fueled the kitchen sink dramas was still at play underneath it all. That’s why I think the kitchen sink style is a good fit for documenting the later era.

    While not a subtle director

    Oh, understatement! He has strengths as a director, but subtlety isn’t one of them, and you can see it from the opening shot with the third, world starving kids on the billboard being papered over with the glamour shot of the white woman. Also the closeup of the parking meter when she cheats. Most of the subtlety and nuance definitely comes from the writer rather than the director.

    For some reason though I agree with you, the lack of subtlety works in this movie.

    With regards to analyzing the fine points of cluster B emotional disorders both you and Schlesinger are both ahead of the game. In the new DSM-V which comes out next year there will no longer be criteria for specific cluster B disorders but they will be classified according to what and how many symptoms of each disorder one has. That just goes to show once again that artists and people with a healthy dose of common sense and life smarts triumph over psychologists who want to neatly categorize everything.

    I’m reserving judgment on whether or not this is a good thing because I do have a lot of problems with the way the DSM-IV currently categorizes Cluster B’s. It’s useful, but there’s a lot of needless overlap, which causes people to waste too much time wondering “Is this a borderline or a histrionic? A histrionic or a narcissist? A narcissist or a sociopath?” And so on and so on.

    I take the view that the Cluster B disorders aren’t actually 4 or 5 separate conditions but rather all represent the same condition, but with 4 or 5 different ways of behaviorally “acting out” depending on the circumstance. If the DSM-V captures this somewhat, I’ll be impressed with the change.


  6. “I take the view that the Cluster B disorders aren’t actually 4 or 5 separate conditions but rather all represent the same condition, but with 4 or 5 different ways of behaviorally “acting out” depending on the circumstance.”

    Since exiting my relationship with a BPD over half a year ago, I’ve been reading and digesting literature from conventional and non-conventional sources (i.e. blogs/new media) and I agree with you. It makes perfect sense when examining my sample size of 1.

    After finally getting around to watching the movie following many readings of Shari Schreiber and Dr. Tara J Palmatier (sic?) among others following the Reader series, watching this helped me to ‘watch’ my past relationship from a 3rd person perspective. Extremely helpful to see how the general Cluster B traits manifest in a story centered around one person and how I might have been represented by any one of the many guys in the movie essentially as collateral damage on her never-ending path to narcissistic supply feeding.

    Thanks to the series, I’ve also identified another ‘plate’, ala Rollo Tomassi, I’d been ‘spinning’ as a potential BPD and have thankfully kept my distance.

    Thank you for your writings. I’ve been a long time (4+ years) reader and greatly appreciate the evolution of your work. Now for the most recent movie recommendation.


  7. Hey T have you ever seen the movie “Young Adult” from 2011 with Charlize Theron? She is about as cluster B as it gets, and fits in perfectly with what you have been writing about for the past year. I also think that as a new movie this movie would go over well with younger viewers, and you haven’t recommended a movie in quite a while. Fortunately it is not too politically correct :)