Life is Beautiful (La Vita è Bella) Psychological Review

My View

“Turn your wounds into wisdom” – Oprah Winfrey.


            Life is Beautiful (La Vita è Bella),a film of test of resiliency in a light humorous way but dark at the same time in the settings of WWII in the Nazi concentration camp. The main character Guido Orefice is a fun, humorous and sharp Jewish guy who makes the best of every situation he encountered with. The beginning of the film showed the easy and comical life of Guido from his old life in a small town to live with his uncle in the big city. Alongside, Guido met a beautiful woman named Dora and soon after they fell in love, got married and have a child named Giosuè (Joshua).


All were fun, free and fair till the political change when the fascist wave and anti-Semitism became prominent. Guido and his family were then sent to the Nazis’ concentration camps. Hardship came upon them. This film presents the concept of positive psychology being practiced mainly by Guido. There are four elements that represent positive psychology in film (Niemiec, 2007) – they are a) a balanced portrayal of a character displaying at least 1 of the 24 strengths(categorized by Peterson & Seligman, 2004), (b) depiction of obstacles and/or the struggle the character faces in reaching or maximizing the “strength” (can be metaphor), (c) a character portrayal that illustrates how to overcome obstacles and/or build and maintain the strength, and (d) inspiring or uplifting tone or mood. Further elaboration on each elements based on Guido’s character will be explained.


a) A balanced portrayal of a character displaying at least 1 of the 24 strengths.


            From the list of strengths by Peterson and Seligman, Guido has showed strengths combination of wisdom, creativity, humour and perseverance.

            Turn your wounds into wisdom” (stated above at introduction). Guido portrayed wisdom and creativity in the hardships and struggles (wounds) of him being in the concentration camp along with his son. He perceived the bad situation with a positive and novel perspective to himself and to his son. As he did wants to protect his son from the horrors of the Nazis’ and the dreadfulness of the concentrations camps. For example, then conversation between Guido and his son when they were deported to the concentration camp by train (dialogues below).

Guido: You’ve never ridden on a train, have you? They’re fantastic! Everybody stands up, close together, and there are no seats!

Giosué: There aren’t any seats?

Guido: Seats? On a train? It’s obvious you’ve never ridden one before! No, everybody’s packed in, standing up. Look at this line to get on! Hey, we’ve got tickets, save room for us!”

            Besides that, in the camp, Guido made up a game for his son to protect him from the harsh reality of the cruelty by the Nazis on their fellowmen. Guido showed perseverance and humour with the game of riddles for Giosuè to complete to earn 1000 points to win a military tank. His perseverance of finishing the game he started off even though he was to be executed. He told his son to stay in a sweatbox (image above) until everybody has left. That being the final competition before the tank is his. While he was led to his execution by a Nazi soldier, Guido passes by Giosuè one last time, remaining in character and playing the game despite he is going to die. In the end, he saved his son by sacrificing himself protecting Giosuè using his persistency in finishing the game with his son. The sadness of sacrificing oneself for a loved one is masked with humour (seeing the light side of a sorrow – Guido playing the game with Giosuè).


(b) Depiction of obstacles and/or the conflict the character faces in reaching or maximizing the strengths.

            The anti-Semitism movement had taken over the whole of Italy and all Jews are “offenders” and are prison in the concentration camps. Guido and his family were not sparred from the cruelty of the Nazis’. Before they were sent to concentration camp, one scene depicted the conflict that Guido faced with his son (dialogue below).

Giosué: “No Jews or Dogs Allowed.” Why do all the shops say, “No Jews Allowed”?

Guido: Oh, that. “Not Allowed” signs are the latest trend! The other day, I was in a shop with my Chinese friend and his pet kangaroo, but their sign said, “No Chinese or Kangaroos Allowed,” and I said to my friend, “Well, what can I do? They don’t allow kangaroos.”

Giosué: We let everyone in our shop, don’t we?

Guido: Well, tomorrow, we’ll put one up. We won’t let in anything we don’t like. What don’t you like?

Giosué: Spiders.

Guido: Good I don’t like Visigoths. Tomorrow, we’ll get a sign: “No Spiders or Visigoths Allowed.”

It showed blatant racial discrimination by the Nazis but Guido shielded his son from the cruelty that was stumbling upon them with his wisdom, creativity, humour and perseverance (persistently protecting his son from the cruel reality).


(c) A character portrayal that illustrates how to overcome obstacles and/or build and maintain the strength.

            Throughout the film, Guido maintained his four main strengths positively whenever overcoming the obstacles and/or conflicts encountered. He practiced the elements of positive psychology (using his strengths) by perceiving and taking action positively on the hardships and making a positive meaning out of it. For example, even when Joshua points out a sign in a window that says Jews are not allowed, Guido makes up a story to protect his son from such discrimination (example on (b)). Not only that, Guido started a game with Giosuè in the camp (example on (a)) as well to hide their true situation from his son. Guido used the game to explain features of the concentration camp that would be scary and traumatic for a young child.


(d) ) Inspiring or uplifting tone or mood.

The film is portrayed in an uplifting tone with Guido’s humour and creativity in making the obstacles bearable to pass by with a bit of laughter but with tears of sorrow as the truth behind his efforts is to hide his own fears and calm his young son from the cruelty. It is also an inspiring film as it depicts that one should see the brighter side of life in the cruellest hardship one can ever be in. The art of meaning making out of hardship through positive psychology.

Overall, the effort and love that emanated from Guido are the messages relayed by the movie – not that the game would save your life. The conditions in the camps and the cruelty were real. Victor Frankl’s work on finding meaning out of the worst of all situations comes into play. His book on Man’s Search for Meaning talks finding meaning through suffering which I find suitable for the reason why Guido acted and behaved so. The film is a masterpiece to be able to touch the hearts through smiling at Guido’s silliness but cringe with tears as the big sacrifice made by him for protecting his young child. This film is a good portrayal of comedy with tragedy. Finding meaning in one’s suffering does alter the perception of suffering itself that it is bearable and a whole lot more purposeful. Guido executed the positive psychology elements into his suffering and finding meaning out of it to protect his son. A unique take on the usual sombre and sorrowful harshness of the Nazi concentration camps. With that, I would recommend similar films with the similar theme of war tragedy and sacrifices with some positivity outlook of the hardships. They are as follow:-


The Blue Kite –

Out of the Ashes –



Niemiec, R. M. (2007). What is a positive psychology film? Retrieved from

Parenthood Psychological Review

My View

Family films always have the sense of touching hearts of all walks of life. Parenthood is one of the many with elements of comedy and drama. The film mainly depicts the story of four sub-families with their own specific issues and stresses. However, as a whole big family, they all make a happy and loving family. The four families in the film showed varied parenting styles based on Baumrind’s model that is psychological dynamic.


1. Gil and wife

Image Image Image

            Gil is the lead character in the film. He portrays a compassionate and hard-working parent. However, he falters in some crucial areas in parenting although his parenting style is deemed to be authoritative, the “ideal” parenting style. Authoritative parents monitor their children’s behaviour based on reasoning and encourage their children to make decisions and learn from it. They are also warm and nurturing, treating their children with kindness, respect and affection. For example, during the baseball match, Kevin (his eldest troubled son) was chosen to replace his team mate who got hurt. He was worried and doubtful to take the position at first, but Gil encouraged him that he can do it and that no matter what happens, he did his best.

            Another instance of his authoritative but eccentric style is evidenced by how he saved his son’s birthday party. The assigned cowboy that was supposed to perform in Kevin’s birthday didn’t show up, so he dressed up as one and impressed all of the children with his impressions. That is the sign of showing warm and nurturing, treating their children with kindness, respect and affection. He failed in parts of having too high expectations of Kevin when he found out that Kevin is emotionally instable after being reported by his school’s principal in sending him off to a special school and attends therapy. Gil tired his best to treat and make Kevin to be as normal as he can be. Gil’s wife from the start showed the full-fledged authoritative parent showering her children with warmth, kindness, respect and affection.


2. Frank


            Frank is considered to be a permissive indulgent parent, only to Larry (Gil’s brother) as he is the favourite. Larry has always been on the life of get-rich-quick schemes and showed up recently along with his son, Cool to ask to borrow money from his father. It soon became apparent that Larry needs the money for gamble and to pay off the gamble debts had accumulated. Frank being the permissive indulgent parent showered Larry with overflowing warmth with set few or no limits. Frank makes few demands of Larry too and do not punish him for misbehaviour. Even though, at one point Frank got very furious about Larry’s lies about getting money from him and refused to bail him out completely but eventually Frank gave in and helped Larry with the false pretence of a plan to make money in Chile. Larry leaves Cool behind to Frank for guardianship.


3. Susan and Nathan

Image Image

            Susan, Gil’s sister, is a middle school teacher who married to an intelligent scientist, Nathan. They have an intelligent daughter, Patty. Nathan shows the authoritarian parent towards Patty by having set rigid rules, demand obedience and use strategies such as approval to force a child to conform. Nathan usually would scold Patty if she did not adhere to his rules. For example, Patty did not do well in her studies which made Nathan very disappointed on her and he explained in a rigid and stern manner with Patty standing back against the wall listening to Nathan’s demands to do better and with reinforcement from Susan as well. Another instance, he was appalled by the idea of sending Patty off to Gil’s family for a few days care when Susan and him is to travel away for a holiday of two. But, Nathan was so adamant about it that he suggested that they bring Patty along with them and he was excited about the possibility of Patty learning new languages. Sometimes, Nathan’s approach of ensuring his daughter to learn as many skills as possible may be show him to be lack of warmth and seen to be aloof to Patty and others. Nonetheless, Nathan is acting so for the greater good of Patty but with adverse effect that Patty is weird from the average children who plays around and socialise. For example, during the thumb magic trick by Gil on Kevin’s birthday party, Patty saw the thumb went missing and she was freak out and ran straight to her dad’s leg and cling onto it. An average child would be amazed and be wow-ed by it but because of the upbringing of Patty by Nathan, she is socially awkward.  


4. Helen (single parent)


            Gil’s other sister, Helen who is a single parent, divorced bank manager whose husband wants nothing to do with their children, Garry and Julie. Raising two children on her own has been hard as they are at the age of rebel and self-discovery, adolescent years. Garry who has just entered puberty is quiet and uninvolved and like to be alone in his room. He is usually seen with a mysterious paper bag which Helen though he was into drugs or alcohol but embarrassingly enough, it is just pornography. Helen portrays a permissive-indulgent parenting as she shows warmth and love towards her children but set few or no limits and no consequences for misbehavior. For example, when Julie wanted to stay with Tod (Julie’s boyfriend) and eventually got married with him, Helen was furious and kicked out Julie out of the house but with a quick change of mind telling Julie to please go back home and that she can go back home anytime she needs Helen. That shows the inconsistency of parenting of loving too much to the point of no consequences for misbehavior (Julie wanting to stay with Tod and getting married eventually). As such, Julie display immaturity in her relationship with Tod that to a point she did not want to take any responsibility to stay on with Tod because of Tod’s interest in extreme racing. She wanted to opt out of the marriage but Helen ordered her to face her responsibilities as a wife and to support him no matter what.   


            Overall, the film shows that each parenting styles have its perks and disadvantages. A mixture of parenting styles to be applied would be best for the upbringing of children as every style has its pros and cons. In a way, you take best of one and counter it with the best of another. It has thought me that parenting is a difficult work ever. My appreciation towards my parents has reached to a level of admiration. With that, I would recommend a few similar themed films as the Parenthood.  They are as follow:-


Father of the Bride –

Home for the Holidays –

Meet the Fockers –



Departure (Okuribito) Psychological Review

My View

Departure (Okuribito) is a Japanese film that has the main character Daigo Kobayashi, an orchestra cellist who has been dissolved from the job and stumbled upon a new job as a ‘Nokanshi’ (a professional mortician who ritually dress and prepare bodies before they are placed in coffins) through an advertisement entitled “Departures” which he thought was a travel agency advertisement but he was wrong. Along working, he found the meaning and contentment of the job though he was irked by it at first. His wife and many others despise the job but Daigo took pride of his work and perfected the art of ‘Nokanshi’. The film depicts the journey of Daigo with troubled family past as he uncovers the wonder, joy and meaning of life and living through the deaths of others and his work as a ‘Nokanshi’. The theme of the film is clearly about dealing with death and loss, and the art of ‘Nokanshi’ with the few dynamic characters and psychological concepts that portrayed significantly throughout the film which is discussed further as below:-

1. Daigo Kobayashi


A quiet and troubled (father complex) cellist in Tokyo who had to transition from the life of the city back to living in his hometown in the countryside due to lay-off from the orchestra. Upon accidentally getting the job with NK Agency as a professional mortician, he was wary and worried about the job as he had to deal with dead bodies which he had never experienced before. Also, the job is frowned upon in the society as it is deemed taboo to have contact with dead bodies. For example, during the fight between Daigo and his wife, Mika after finding out that Daigo was working as a professional ‘Nokanshi’, she was furious that he lied to her about the job and feels disgusted with him as he is “unclean” touching and cleaning the deceased. His wife even threatened to leave back to her parent’s home until he quit the job.

Even Daigo’s long time childhood friend whom he met in the public bath, showed a disgust towards Daigo when they coincidently met up on the street one day and warned him to quit his job. The job ‘Nokanshi’ is viewed as an unmentionable job because it is a low caste job and taboo in the society. Nevertheless, he did not draw back from continuing his job as he found a sense of contentment and purpose in the art of ‘Nokanshi’. As a person who appreciates art (music appreciation as an orchestra cellist), symbolically the art of ‘Nokanshi’ gives him the sense of peace and purpose in giving the living the sense of closure of the deceased and bringing joy to the living through it. He found beauty in it and started living in the art of it through day by day feeling fortunate of his life. From then on, he has a sense of confidence (somewhat noble) viewed by the living that is sending off their deceased family members. The film captured the synchrony of a cellist (art of music lover) working in an ironic job of ‘Nokanshi’ which is an art itself. Therefore, it is showed that Daigo furthered the job as he foud to appreciate the meaning of the art of ‘Nokanshi’.

2. Shoei Sasaki (the President of NK Agency)


He is the boss and mentor to Daigo as he sees potential in him to be in the job as a ‘Nokanshi’. He was the one who hired Daigo on the first encounter without having a proper job interview session. He has an intuition that Daigo is suitable for the job. Shoei lived his live in a fine and noble manner. He appreciates the finer things in life, for example, his choice of food when he had puffer roe (right image) while enjoying his tea and advising Daigo about the job and how to live life to the fullest. He portrays as the wise man between the living and the death with an eccentric persona.

3. Deal with unfinished business or duties


In the film, the mortician’s job is to restore the beauty of the deceased to resemble their living look as much as possible, ritually dress and prepare the bodies before they are placed in coffins. In one of Shoei’s assignment, while looking for a long while at the picture of the body he was to restore, he also asked for the family to bring their mother’s favourite lipstick colour to apply on the deceased. In another assignment, Daigo was in-charged to do the ritual and he asked whether he should dress up the deceased who is a homosexual as male or female. All this death rituals allow it to become meaningful in a personal manner of the family members. Although applying make-ups or dressing up the deceased is not necessary beneficial to the deceased but it serves to address the livings in dealing with unfinished business through fulfilling their personal duties for the deceased last wishes. By doing so, the rituals allow the livings to move on and mediate the transition into another phase of life in the absence of the deceased. Based on the Task of Grief by J. W. Worden, these rituals are done to signify that the survivors’ of the deceased are accepting the reality of the loss and to work through the pain of grief. Furthermore, it is ultimately to re-adjust their lives without the deceased. A sense of fulfilling their duties or unfinished business with the deceased is conveyed through the rituals. For example, the ritual Daigo performed on his father when he was there to see him one last time (image above). For all the time of his living, Daigo was not able to be with his father as his father left him and his mother for some reason. Hence, the performance of the ritual on his father is a symbolic act of fulfilling his duty as a son.

4. A closure with the departed through connection of the art of ‘Nokanshi’ (a form of coping mechanism)


Death is an inevitable phase in life and a taboo in most Asian culture or all cultures (most avoidable topic to talk about), Giblin and Hug stated that “…in a culture in a culture that denies death, a funeral can make death a reality, normalize the grieving process, and introduce the possibilities for hope, imagination, and new life for survivors”. With that, the death rituals done are a form of therapy for the survivors for them to cope with grieve and loss of their loved ones. Rituals that involve symbolism easing the deceased to depart to another realm like how the ‘Nokanshi’ does. It is a form of coping mechanism to maintain a connection with the deceased while moving on with life through the closure of sending off the deceased with a proper ritual. It serves as an important solace for the mourners. By having a death ritual to send off the deceased, it helps to ease the grieving and loss process of the livings. Therefore, it can deal with unfinished business or duties to be fulfilled and a form of connection created between the deceased and the living as it is spiritually and psychologically healing for the grieving and loss process.

Overall, the film portrayed a distinct meaning about the art of death rituals for the easing of grieving and loss process of the livings. It is very symbolic to vary cultures of the way of the rituals are performed. For example, Chinese culture also has a similar ritual of sending the departed through burning ‘paper money’ or other materialistic objects made of paper as they believe that the deceased has crossed over to the other realm and living there. It showed that the survivors are staying connected with the deceased through such rituals. Therefore, this film reminds us all that death in inevitable but it should not be feared or be frowned upon as it is the natural phase of life. Additionally, it acts as a mean of being reborn to a new life. With that, a few similar themed films that I would recommend for a dose of treasure and appreciate the life you have now and never to take things or people for granted. Life is a fragile glass.

Footnote –

Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles –


When a Man Loves a Woman Psychological Review

My View

A school counsellor who has a beautiful family of an airplane pilot husband and two beautiful daughters revealed her alcoholic side to the family. When a Man Loves a Woman depicts the story of Alice Green who has a serious drinking problem that ultimately ruined her family relationship but she was rescued and is forgiven by the family. In the film, a few key characters that showcased dynamic and prominent traits that are worth to be psychologically assessed are as follow:-


a) Alice Green


                The alcoholic mother and school counsellor, who is the main character of the film, repeatedly got herself into trouble with her alcoholism to the extent she got herself hurt and admitted to a hospital. Alice experienced the typical alcoholic’s stages that are cause of alcoholism, effects felt by the alcoholic’s family, recognition and rehabilitation. It is discussed further as below.

                The cause of her alcoholism was not clearly explained in the film but she mentioned that due to her father’s previous alcohol problem that increased her likelihood of her experimentation with alcohol. Besides that, Alice did credit her drinking problem to the work stress as well as her husband’s constant infrequent presence at home (Michael is an airplane pilot), leaving her to be responsible in raising their family alone. All this factors have caused her drinking even more and increased the severity.

                The next stage of alcoholism is the effects felt by the alcoholic’s family, in the film, the family members of Alice comprised of her husband and two daughters are the direct ones to be impacted by her alcoholism. For example, Alice’s eldest daughter, Jess is the one who is negatively affected by Alice’s alcoholism. One afternoon, Alice exhibits the ‘less nurturing and attentive’ side when she returned home after drinking and seeing Jess in the living room, Alice commanded that she finish her homework while ignored her daughter’s request to admire a picture she drew on the computer. Then after, Alice stumbled upstairs to find some aspirin, walked into her closet, retrieved a liquor bottle, and washed down the medicine. All the while, Jess watches her mother’s irresponsible actions, concerned that she is ill. Followed by, Alice abusive act of smacking Jess’s face across when she was asked of her condition. Alice was not sober enough to know how her action had impacted Jess. Then after, Alice went to shower but she could not even stand straight while showering which caused her to faint and fall onto the glass shower door. Jess was worried that she thought Alice was dead by calling her father to report. This physically abusive behavior of Alice is a typical alcoholic parent and is increasingly common during intoxication. Alice’s husband is also emotionally affected by her alcoholism.

            The third stage of alcoholism is recognition whereby the alcoholic recognized the impact of her alcoholism on herself and her family. After the incident of her being hospitalized after fainting and falling in the shower, she came to a realization of the addiction for alcohol has reached to a high level of idiocy and suicidal which she was shameful and disappointed in herself. Also, she was remorseful of the physical abuse towards her daughter Jess.

            With that, she has decided to get herself into a rehab centre to be rehabilitated. With the support from her husband and her daughter, she has successfully admitted into the rehab centre and survived through the grueling phase of going ‘cold turkey’ on alcohol as part of the detoxification program. Fortunately, she was able to stay sober for about 6 months since she checked out of the rehab centre signifying her rehabilitation process was successful. This is the last stage of alcoholism that Alice had endured and survived.


b) Michael Green


                Michael, the husband to Alice has been a very patient and loving man who loves her unconditionally and always is by her side when her alcoholism has skyrocketed to an uncontrollable state. He was very supportive of her when she was sent to the rehab centre by taking responsibility to take care of the family while she was away and at the meantime, he ensured her that he and the daughters are waiting for her return from recovery when she was admitted for the first few days and finally got to phone back home to speak to Michael.

                In the film, Michael is also portrayed as the typical problem fixer. For example, when Alice was having a bad mood and stayed in the dark in the living room of their home, Michael went to her and asked her what is wrong? She pushed him away but he insisted in helping her out to overcome her bad day. However, it ended up into a heated argument between them with Michael flipping the coffee table and feeling frustrated for not being able to solve Alice’s problem. He was merely being a typical problem fixer but Alice did not want him to be the fixer. Ultimately, they got separated but Michael never stopped loving her and missing her dearly the whole time. This showed the extent of love he has for Alice which is unconditional.   


c) Jess Green


                After the incident of being smacked by her mother, Jess had developed a mild form of avoidance towards her mother. For example, when Alice had to leave for the rehab centre, Jess was slightly cold towards – avoiding eye contact with Alice, and when Jess was on a visitation trip to visit Alice in the rehab centre, she was hiding behind Michael for awhile before being convinced by him that Alice is fine, sober and sane.  All this while, Jess has never felt abandoned by her mother. On a day-to-day basis, children of alcoholics are always in fear of abandonment, feel a lack of love and embarrassment. However, Jess only feels deserted after Alice leaves. The most obvious example would be her attempt to act out the role of mother by cooking breakfast for Kasey. Fortunately, Jess was not severely traumatised by the incident of the mother being an alcoholic but rather she understood that her mother is hurt and that Alice is a messed up mother. For such a young age, Jess is pretty much a grown up in the family, pent up her emotions and cope it by herself. For example, when Michael told her that he would be moving away and talked through with her the reason to it, she understood the whole situation and regulated her emotions by crying and rationalizing it with Michael.

                Overall, the film’s theme revolves around the adverse effects of alcoholism on one’s family and marriage. With recognition and willingness to work on her sobriety, Alice was able to salvage her livelihood when in reality, most alcoholics do not recognize the disease and get the chance to get back their life as it was before, therefore never recover successfully with relapses. With that, there are a few similar themed films on addiction (any form) that should be checked out and they are as follow:-


Requiem for a Dream (drug addiction) –

Leaving Las Vegas (alcoholism) –

Trainspotting (on heroin addiction)



Chariots of Fire Psychological Review

My View

            Set in the era of English aristocrats and rich men, Chariots of Fire is about a team of university students with the dreams of winning the 1924 Olympics and being the best athletes in the country. The film focuses on two main characters – Eric Liddell and Harold Abrahams.  Eric is a devout Scottish Christian who runs for the glory of God whereas Harold, an English Jew who runs to overcome prejudice. Both crossed paths competitively during the day when they had the race. Eric won and, Harold lost and plunged into despair that Sybil (Harold’s girlfriend) cannot get him out of the despair. The characters in the film showed dynamic needs based on the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. They are either intrinsically motivated or extrinsically motivated for their need to win in the Olympics.

            Based on the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, there are five needs which are the physiological needs, security needs, social needs, esteem needs and self-actualising needs. However, he revised it with the expansion of cognitive needs, aesthetic needs and transcendence needs. The first two needs of physiological and security needs are met as the characters are of the upper class of citizens whereby their physiological needs such as food, drink and shelter are met as well as their safety needs for survival.  Eric showed high level of social needs whereas Harold runs for esteem needs. Furthermore, Coach Sam Mussabini showed part of the highest needs on the hierarchy (the expanded hierarchy model) that is transcendence needs. Their needs are further discussed below.


1. Eric Liddell


            In the scene after Eric ran in the friendly 200 yards race easily in Scotland, Eric acknowledged his pleasure in running. However, his sister is not supportive of his interest in running as it will disrupt his missionary works. Fortunately, his father was supportive of his passion in running with the statement, “You can praise the Lord by peeling a spud if you peel it to perfection. Run in His name and let the world stand back in wonder”. As can be seen when Eric runs, he runs for the love of God and wants to be closer to God as he mentioned through running he can feel God’s presence and that liberates him.

            He thinks that God gave him such ability for a purpose – he explained “I believe God made me for a purpose. But he also made me fast, and when I run I feel his pleasure. To win is to honor him”, with that he pursued his running and ultimately won in the Olympics. Maslow’s needs of belongingness and love (social needs) is what portrayed by Eric, the love and belongingness of God. With that, he continued in his running pathway alongside with his missionary work of preaching God to his fans. He was both intrinsically and extrinsically motivated because he was driven by the internal passion for running and by the external drive of being close to God.


2. Harold Abrahams


            Harold is of Jew descent and as of the era of after World War I, Jews are deemed as the low class people. With that, one of Harold’s reason to run, to be the best amongst the best and win the Olympics is to use it as a ‘weapon’ against anti-Semitism. As can be showed in the Caius college scene when Harold was registering of his presence into the college and the porter patronised him by saying a Semitic remark. Harold was defensive about it and counter back telling he is the son of a financier (a role that is respected and of upper class). His main reason to run is driven mostly by the esteem needs whereby he wants respect from others (against the Jewish bigotry by the Englishmen) and, status and prestige. Furthermore, he wanted to be the best amongst the best which he is driven intrinsically to master the art of running with the help of Coach Sam and win in the Olympics as a personal achievement.


3.  Coach Sam Mussabini


            Sam’s character did not have much transition on himself. He is motivated to work toward his transcendence needs by fulfilling his expertise as one of the best sprint coaches in England by helping others to achieve self-actualisation in which is Harold as his student.  The transcendence need was fulfilled with Sam coaching Harold in terms of his personal growth in running and worked towards in fulfilling his potential as the best amongst the best runners. That resulted in Harold winning the gold for 200m sprint in the Olympics.  

            Overall, Chariots of Fire is an aesthetically well realised visual imagery of cinematographer with emotionally rich context with the vibrant music playlist. This authentic drama deals directly with issues such as athletic competition, the nature of winning and losing, and the central place of ethics in sports. That human spirit triumphs against adversity.  It is the power on the longing for perfection, the search for meaning, and the struggle for acceptance – all in the name of the art of athletics that is what motivated the characters to be as they are with their needs. Other similar movies that I will recommend that are sport related with similar themes of competition, commitment, sportsmanship and motivation to win are as follow:-

Rocky –

Rounders –

Breaking away –



Dances with Wolves Psychological Review

A drama film with historical background and aesthetically beautiful that is directed, produced and acted by Kevin Costner about the life of an American lieutenant named John J. Dunbar who encountered with the Native American tribe Sioux and found a life with the tribe. Throughout the film, there are many dynamic psychological concepts portrayed by Dunbar and the Sioux tribesmen. All will be further discussed as follow:-


1. Love of friendship


            Sternberg’s triangular theory of love stated that for any forms of love, it requires intimacy, passion and commitment. The friendship between Dunbar and Wind in His Hair, and Kicking Bird was formed through their friendly contact when the Sioux paid a visit to Dunbar and tried getting to know one another. Then after, Dunbar was easily accepted by them and eventually became one with the tribe. Reward theory of attraction states that one like those whose behaviour is rewarding to one or associates self with rewarding events.  The principles of Dunbar liking Kicking Bird and Wind in His Hair that form their friendship is based on the theory when Dunbar told the tribe about the presence of the herd of buffalos and when the news about the Pawnees about to attack the Sioux tribe, Dunbar lent them firearms for protection.  The rewards (providing the Sioux with buffalo meat and fur, and firearms) Dunbar gave to the tribe showed that he is “attractive’ because he helped them by rewarding them and that made the tribesmen to like him. This clearly shows that the reward from Dunbar to Sioux tribe was significant to create liking and made their friendship grow based on the reward attraction theory.


2. Romantic love


            Not just friendship was formed but Dunbar was able to find love with Stand with a Fist. Based on Sternberg’s love theory, a few components such as intimacy, passion and commitment play huge roles in Dunbar’s romance with Stand with a Fist. Intimacy is the closeness between individuals which is portrayed by Dunbar’s decision to stay in the tribe and not going back to the fort for companionship and belongingness. This resulted in closeness for Dunbar to get to know Stand with a Fist and ignite romantic relationship with her. Additionally, Stand with a Fist is the interpreter between Dunbar and the tribesmen so that also increased their closeness. With closeness, they got to know one another much better and lead them to be passionate to each other. Eventually, they committed to each other through marriage resulting into consummate love.   


3. Teamwork based on social exchange and reciprocity norm theory


            Teamwork between the Sioux and Dunbar fighting against the Pawnees when their tribe was attacked and as well as during the buffalo hunting are portrayed well and be explained by the social exchange theory. It states that helping one another working in teams is motivated by a desire to maximize one’s rewards and minimise one’s costs. The reward of chasing the Pawnees away and minimising death of the Sioux tribe people formed teamwork between the tribe and Dunbar. Also, the reward of getting food and clothe supplies off the buffaloes shows the theory implemented.

            Besides that, reciprocity norm describes that one will help others in return who have helped them. In the film, it is portrayed when the Sioux warriors fought to free Dunbar from being a prisoner of the American soldiers who treated him as a traitor for being one of the American Indians. The Sioux tribesmen reciprocated to save Dunbar as he has helped them during the fight against the Pawnees attack and the time when they hunted for buffaloes.


4. Racial Prejudice


            Prejudice comes in many forms, the “own group” against the “other group” ranging from aspects of gender, religion, race, and many more. It is defined as a preconceived negative judgment of a particular racial group and its members In the film, the Caucasian Americans think they are the supreme race and higher class group than the Native Americans therefore they are at constant war with them and subjugated the race eventually. Another example (image above) is when the Caucasian American soldiers opened fire at Dunbar from afar thinking that he was a Native American because of his Sioux dressing, them being all White supremacists they shot and stopped Dunbar without questioning him of his identity beforehand. This kind of preconceived negative judgment is what makes the injustice and violence happened around the world that focuses on the race factor only and not think about that we are of the same human race.  


5. Racial Prejudice reduced with Contact Hypothesis      


            As mentioned before on the racial prejudice between the White supremacist against the Native American Indians, an example of racial prejudice is seen reduced between Dunbar and the Natives as the film progressed. Before Dunbar met the Natives, he sees them as enemies, as pests of the Western frontiers but as he got into contact with them, he warmed up to them and learned about their culture and lifestyle. The contact hypothesis explains that under optimal conditions of equal status, shared goals, authority sanction, and the absence of competition, interaction between two differing race individuals or groups will reduce the racial prejudice toward one another.  As it can be seen upon Dunbar’s mere contact with the Natives, when he decided to pay them a visit but stumbled upon a wounded Indian woman who he saved and brought back to the tribe. Soon after, the Sioux tribe made interaction with Dunbar and then onward they became friends and family. Therefore, it reduced the racial prejudice that Dunbar had before toward the Native Americans. 

Overall,  the film is noteworthy for its remarkable story and view of the Western frontiers. The historical background of the story is another element that make it more touching and significant as it depicts the lives of the Native Americans (though not entirely accurate). It has sparked the curiosity in me to find out more about the Native Americans back in those days and of their lifestyle and culture. A few similar movie as Dances with Wolves that I would recommend with similar theme are as follow:-

Avatar –

The Postman –

The last of the Mohicans –


Cry Freedom Psychological Review

My View

            Cry Freedom is a drama film that depicts the true story of Steve Biko (sort of) with his main partner in crime, journalist Donald Woods (a white being the “hero” of a film about Black oppression who is the lead character in the film, quite ironic is it not?) against the apartheid, racism, and violence in South Africa in the 1970s. The film started off with the scene of a slum being demolished in South Africa with the notoriety of the Afrikaans (Whites) chasing out the Blacks (the original natives) from their homes, terrorized and beat the weak, women and children, just because of the apartheid system.

With such inhumane scene to kick off the film, it has evoked a heart breaking and angst emotions in me to such injustice from the beginning till the end of the film. Even though the film ended ‘happily’ with Woods and his family successfully fled South Africa to seek refuge in England and publishing the book about Biko, the matter of fact remains that the real happenings of apartheid was ongoing then and that many unfortunate activists and advocates of anti-apartheid were wrongly punished and killed along the process of fighting for the abolishment of the apartheid system.

As the title of the film, freedom is the main theme of the film. Representation of the Blacks’ struggling to be freed from the apartheid system implemented in their own soil land. With such, a few dynamic scenes and characters (using psychological concepts) are portrayed and explained further, and should be learned for the betterment of mankind.

1. Persuasion


The art of persuasion is depicted in the film with the lead characters (Woods and Biko) being intertwined with one another’s lives. Fundamentally, Donald Woods being persuaded by Steve Biko on the anti-apartheid concept, from Woods being a sceptic about Biko’s fight to being his great friend and “partner in crime”. The definition of persuasion is defined as a communication process whereby communicators try to convince other people to change their thoughts, attitudes and behaviours regarding an issue through the transmission of a message in a free-choice atmosphere. For the art of persuasion to be successful, based on persuasion researcher Robert Cialdini, one must work with few principles in combination such as reciprocity, commitment and consistency, social proof, authority, liking and scarcity. Cry Freedom portrayed mainly reciprocity, commitment and consistency, social proof, authority, liking.

In the film, Biko illustrated all of the elements by changing Woods’ perception of injustice of the apartheid system into fighting alongside Biko. Reciprocity is when people return favour of another person’s help. This is clearly seen when Biko died unjustly in the hands of police detainment. Woods vowed to fight back the South Africa government by exposing the truth of the death of Biko and as well advocate Biko’s ambition for Black consciousness to the whole world. He took pictures of Biko’s bodies and used it as part of the book telling about the injustice of the Blacks in South Africa and honouring the sacrificial death of Steve Biko. If it was not at the beginning, Biko risked his banned legislation to bring Woods into the black townships and exposed the truth of the lives of the oppressed Blacks, Woods would not have been able to find the truth and reciprocated. Halfway through the film, it showed Woods getting huge revelations and realizations on the truth of the oppressed Blacks by the apartheid system. As a favour to return to Biko, the least Woods was to reciprocate by exposing the atrocities of the South African government and the police departments, as well as Biko’s fight for Blacks’ freedom and of his death.


With that, Biko was able to secure a form of commitment and consistency out of Woods as Woods began to agree with Biko’s perspective and fought alongside with Biko for the Blacks’ consciousness. Commitment and consistency is believed to be attained through the thoughts of one thinking what they believe or act is right and just whereby they feel honourable to commit even though their initial beliefs contradictions still exist. For instance, Woods was very convinced with Biko’s anti-apartheid ideas that he agreed to hire two native Black Africans to work in his press firm whereby back then no native Black Africans were given any work position in a an office setting except low waged jobs such as planters, janitors and others because of the apartheid system.  Furthermore, Woods also showed it by being consistent in pushing his luck in getting his book published about the Blacks’ injustice and Biko’s death. His passion to fight for the freedom of the Blacks using Biko’s ideologies was what made him to be successful in getting out of the country with his family and published the book.

The next one is social proof that states “peer power” validate how one thinks, feels and acts, especially having a respected other to lead the way. For example, Donald Woods is very much convinced and committed to Steve Biko’s fight of anti-apartheid and to expose the corruption and racist government and authority system in South Africa after attending the illegal gathering of Steve Biko’s speech in the football field and at Biko’s funeral. Steve Biko has influenced Woods with his social status proof and of his power to change the Blacks’ freedom.


Authority is when one has the credibility to get others to obey them. In the film, at first, Mr. Kruger was seen as a credible authority figure that is able to save the oppressed Blacks that Donald Woods went to seek his help for Steve Biko’s community service been vandalized by the head of police Captain De Wet. However, Mr. Kruger was the wrongly perceived credible authority figure to save the Blacks as he abused his power in defence of the Captain’s atrocity.  A wrong move by Donald Woods! A subtle authority portrayal is by Steve Biko that has influenced Donald Woods’ motivation to fight freedom for the Blacks in South Africa. To show how much of impact on Biko’s authority, his speech explains the dynamic:-

Steve Biko: “We are going to change South Africa. What we’ve got to decide is the best way to do that. And as angry as we have the right to be, let us remember that we are in the struggle to kill the idea that one kind of man is superior to another kind of man. And killing that idea is not dependent on the white man. We must stop looking to him to give us something. We have to fill the black community with our own pride. We have to teach our black children black history, tell them about our black heroes, our black culture, so they don’t face the white man believing they are inferior. Then we’ll stand up to him in anyway he chooses. Conflict, if he likes, but with an open hand, too, to say we can all build a South Africa worth living in – a South Africa for equals, black or white, a South Africa as beautiful as this land is, as beautiful as we are.”


Lastly, the last element of persuasion is liking in which Steve Biko has portrayed from the start that he was likeable by his people but hated by the White Afrikaans. With an exception, he was also liked by Donald Woods (White) and his family. People are easily persuaded, convinced and influenced by others if that person is liked by them. Woods instantly liked Biko after he was exposed to the true lives of the Blacks because Biko was fighting for justice and Woods find it preposterous that the South African government was treating its fellowmen in such manner. Woods’ wife, Wendy also followed suit after in liking Biko when he became her good friend and through her support for her husband’s plan to go against the government and to escape the country to expose the racism and violence happenings in South Africa.

If only we can successfully persuade people to do more good than bad like Steve Biko. Then racism or segregations or any other conflicts would not be lessened.

2. Ethnocentrism


During Woods’ visit to Mr. Kruger’s house, he mentioned that they (the Whites) are the true and original natives of the land because they gave better lives to the Blacks who were not living “civilly”. Without them, the Blacks would be living in barbaric and uncivilised way. Besides that, during the look-out on Woods’ confinement in his house vicinity due to him being banned, the bus stop sign (image above) shows a prominent ethnocentrism concept. The entire film revolves with the Whites thinking and acting as the superior race than the Blacks, calling themselves the Afrikaans, the true natives and race that developed South Africa as it has become flourished as it is. This act of superiority is known as ethnocentrism which states that the inherent belief of one’s own ethnic group or culture is supreme than other ethnic group or culture.

As a result, Steve Biko fought his way for Black consciousness and freedom by giving talks and speeches to his fellowmen whenever he can. During one scene in the police station when he was arrested for giving speech in public and violated the banning sentence, Biko’s words ring so true about ethnocentrism being actively operated in South Africa, he said,

I won’t be forced into your society. You can do whatever you want to me, beat me, torture me or kill me but I won’t be what you want me to be, I will be who I am”.


Overall, this film gives us a good perception of life in the 1970s if you are black living in the apartheid system or being the other side of the fence.  However, it does not show the core truth of Steve Biko’s fight and the depth of atrocities that happened during then in South Africa. Nonetheless, it is a good small view to the lives and happenings of apartheid. I would suggest a few similar themed films that may ignite the fire in you to fight for the injustice and protect the innocence. Justice will be served! Huzzah! – Michael Collins – Malcolm X – Catch A Fire

Mississippi Burning Psychological Review

My View

Mississippi Burning is a racial tension drama thriller film based in Mississippi (as the movie title represented), particularly in Jessup County where the one of the main branch of Ku Klux Klan resided. It was back in the 1960s where racial tension was still very prominent in smaller states and the Whites were the supreme race in most parts of America. The segregation between the Blacks and Whites is prominently showed throughout the film in many dynamic and heart wrenching scenes (using social relation concepts) are explained as follow:-

1. Racism


The beginning scene (image above) whereby the water dispenser was showed with the labels ‘white’ on the left with proper function and in metal coat whereas on the right labelled ‘coloured’ with a worn down condition with the water hardly poured out properly and ironically in white colour paint. The apparent public display of racism through segregation on the use of water dispenser between the Blacks and Whites are out-rightly racist! I can’t fathom to the separation of just DRINKING WATER! Racism is defined as an institutional practice that subordinates people of a given race. As such it is showed prominently in the water dispenser scene. In this film, the Blacks are subordinated by the Whites.

Another example, when Agent Alan Ward and Agent Rupert Anderson went into a diner for lunch. Agent Alan Ward was ‘hungry’ that he can’t wait for seats but there were empty seats at the Blacks section (the Blacks dined at the end of the diner in high counters and high stools whereas the Whites dined at the front of the diner on square tables with tablecloth). So, Agent Ward went over to take the seat and sat next to a Black man. He started talking to him and asked him about the three missing civil rights workers in the town as he was investigating the case. But as soon as he sat and talked to the Black guy, all the Whites in the diner stared bluntly and focused with rage on the two of them. Apparently, it was not normal for a White to sit and talk to a Black in the open public. It showed subtle White supremacy in the diner set. The agents ended up not able to speak to any of the Black people due to their fear of Ku Klux Klan retaliation.

2. Racial prejudice


Sheriff Pell and his mob of authority in the sheriff county was chasing after a car with three passengers of the civil rights workers which comprised of two Jews and one Black. Both races that are deemed as the lowest caste and inferior to the Whites, that they are threats to humanity. That scene showed a strong racial prejudice element. It is defined as a preconceived negative judgment of a group and its members. The Whites think that they are the supreme race over the Blacks and Jews. Therefore, the sheriffs’ county in liaison with Ku Klux Klan hunt down those who defy the White supremacy ideologies – the three civil rights workers were killed directly for fighting the rights for the ‘coloured’ people (one of the Jew shot point blank on the head, image above).

3. Ethnocentrism


The scene of the three civil rights (two Jews and one Black) being chased by the sheriffs and then whereby one of them was shot point blank on the head and the other got killed as well by the sheriffs and probably by the Ku Klux Klan as the sheriff county is associated with the Klan. This act is known as ethnocentrism which states that the inherent belief of one’s own ethnic group or culture is supreme than other ethnic group or culture. Not only that, the Klan also burn down the Blacks’ churches as well as a portrayal of ethnocentrism whereby the White being Angle-Saxon Christians and the Blacks aren’t therefore they should be punished (image above). It is hard to imagine such belief in supremacy of one’s group than others can drive people to kill the inferior group mercilessly. After all, we live with the same colour red in our body.

4. Social dominance orientation


The motivation to have one’s group dominate other social groups is a social dominance orientation. It is prominently portrayed in the film with the acts of the Klan (dominant group,  image above left) harassing, beating and hurting the Black community for just being “coloured” (image above right). They perceive the Blacks as sinners or devils in disguise that is out to harm the Anglo-Saxon Whites. Consequently, the act of burning down the Blacks’ community churches as a power act of supremacy and warnings to silence the Blacks from sharing any information with the FBI agents.

Another scene to prove the act of the social dominance is when Sheriff Pell’s wife said “….Have you any idea what it’s like to live with all this? People look at us and only see bigots and racists. Hatred isn’t something you’re born with. It gets taught. At school, they said segregation what’s said in the Bible… Genesis 9, Verse 27. At 7 years of age, you get told it enough times, you believe it. You believe the hatred. You live it… you breathe it. You marry it.” The whole county is taught to hate the Blacks from the time they are able to learn and that hatred toward another group of people who seem to be different from one, especially just from the skin colour, is instilled and harboured in the county’s resident. Never ending cycle of racism!

Overall, the film portrayed a heart wrenching period in human history that it is hard to imagine it to happen at this era (though there are still prominent racism but it is subtle and with human rights law being practiced actively). With that said, I wish to eradicate the racism issue (through psychological concepts sharing awareness) that is still lingering on till now even though many revolutions have been made such as Martin Luther King Jr.’s fight, Nelson Mandela’s apartheid fight and first Black USA President Barack Obama elected and reigned, just to name a few. These great figures had defy the strong majority but came out being the winners and able to change the world slowly with their share of sacrifices. I salute these men for their great contribution in changing perceptions on race.

A few films with similar themes as Mississippi Burning that I will reckon that have impacted my thoughts on racism and any forms of prejudice and discrimination. My favourite would be The Help as it fights not only for the Black race and slavery trade but for women’s rights too (am pro-feminism). Do check out these films (trailers) to have a better insight of prejudices and discriminations.

The Help –

Black like Me (1964), a White man went undercover to be a Black man –

Do the Right Thing –


“Eat, Drink, Man, Woman” Psychology Review

My View

A closed knit family with repressed emotions is depicted by Ang Lee on the film ‘Eat, Drink, Man, Woman’ through the smell and taste of the grandeur traditional Chinese cuisine. The movie was filled with many repressed emotional scenes that made my heart beat in many instances and the surprises showed were very surprising indeed. The dysfunctional family system portrayed in the film is dominantly portrayed. The dynamic scenes are further elaborated with some of it with psychology ideas pinning on it are as follow:-   

1.  Mr. Chu’s big announcement of being with Mrs. Liang’s daughter (Jin Rong)

            It was a dinner gathering of Mr. Chu’s whole family along with Mrs. Liang and Jin Rong. Everyone (especially Mr. Chu’s daughters and Mrs. Liang) expected a big announcement from Mr. Chu on announcing that he will be getting together with Mrs. Liang. Throughout the dinner, Mrs. Liang was acting and speaking very gently and shy, acting like the woman/ ‘mother’ of the family. The whole dinner table was filled with tension as after Mr. Chu suddenly announced his engagement with Mrs. Liang’s daughter instead to her. Mrs. Liang went into a state of delirium and rage against Mr. Chu. The whole family was in utter shock of the announcement. It was a dynamic scene as I was least expecting that the traditional Mr. Chu would pursue on such non-conventional relationship  

2. Food symbolism of love and hatred


The traditional Chinese food itself is a symbol for the Chu family’s news, whether bitter or sweet it is all rather subjective. For example, the grandeur scale of the dinner (intricate details of the food making on image) during Mr. Chu’s big announcement can be portrayed as sweet news for Mr. Chu as he is celebrating his being together with Jin Rong as a celebration whereas for the rest of the family and Mrs. Liang, they would perceive it as bitter new to the point of Mrs. Liang had a minor ‘fainting spell’ and going amok about it.    

            Another plot is that Mr. Chu’s failing taste buds which equals to his loss of zest for life. He is considered a great man in Taipei’s culinary circles, but not at home. It is showed that his relationships with his children are deteriorating but he directs all of his still available passions and grand statements into his cooking to show his love for them and so that he may operate on the cool and resilient side that best works in dealing with his daughters. For example, the weekly Sunday dinner tradition is his show of love for his daughters because he is not an expressive father who shows how he neither feels nor tells how he feels for them. Hence, food is his only approach to show his love for them. On the other hand, his daughters find the Sunday dinner tradition as a nuisance that disrupt their lives especially Jia Chien who thinks it is a waste of time and food.

3. Mr. Chu as the “Chef” – Gender role inequality in modern Taiwan


            The role of a chef is traditionally a powerful male role. As such Mr. Chu exerts a sense of higher authority in the kitchen, besides being the elder in the family and the father. His authoritative role is not well recognised by his daughters who further complicate matters as he is a single parent, being both the mother and father roles and perform many conventional feminine cuties such as waking his daughters up in the morning, cook and feed his daughters and doing their laundries. Chef Chu does not allow his second daughter (Jia Chien) into the kitchen or to become a chef herself.

            She was dissuaded from following her passion in becoming a chef and instead encouraged to attend university which then she became a successful corporate airline career. Jia Chein thought that her father was being traditional and rigid thinking that women cannot be good chefs. This showed the perceived gender roles inequalities. Since the sex revolution in 1950s, men and women have attained equal status and roles. Supposedly in the modern Taiwan, gender equality is to be advocated and applied but it is portrayed otherwise in the film. However, a close family friend (Uncle Wen) revealed that what Chef Chu wants for Jia Chien is an easier and better life away from the kitchen and not because of the traditional male role to be a chef. Interestingly, at the end of the movie, Jia Chien’s return to the home kitchen and cooking for her father brought back Chef Chu’s lost sense of taste (on image). This act can be seen as promoting feminist views, as her cooking can be interpreted as a demonstration of female culinary power.

4. Mr. Chu and his three daughters’ relationship

            Mr. Chu is unable to communicate expressively with his own daughters even though he loves them all dearly (can be seen from the elaborate Sunday dinners he put efforts into).

On one incident, he left the dinner table upon received a call from his friend to return to his former workplace in a restaurant to help out. He left his three daughters alone without even finishing the dinner nor did telling them what happen (shows to neglect his daughters, choosing work over family).

            His act may show that he does not love his daughters as he put his work as the main priority in life than his family. This may have led to the attachment issues such as insecure (may be seen in the first daughter Jia Jen or avoidant attachment in the Jia Chien). Avoidant attachment shows resistance against their loved ones can be portrayed by Jia Chien of being resistant toward his father by commenting that his meal tasted unsatisfactorily, for instance. As for insecure attachment of Jia Jen which is further elaborate on the next point (#5).

5. First daughter’s (Jia Jen) personality


            Jia Jen (on the image on the right) portrayed as the “mother” by being detached from her closest sister Jia Chien ever since their mother passed away. Although she is just the eldest sister and daughter, she took up the role of being the ‘filial’ eldest daughter to bear the family’s responsibility of caring for their father while on the expense of neglecting or fabricating a story of her ‘failed romance relationship’ during her college time (which Jia Chien found out from the supposed “heartbreaker” Li-Kai) which caused her to turn away from the world by being abstinent and remained single for 9 years.

            Jia Jen remained single and made up the story may be caused by her insecure attachment with her father. As it is seen that Jia Chien is the favourite daughter amongst the three of the daughters and Jia Jen may have harboured jealousy over the matter so she over-compensated it. Insecure attachment states that one exhibits anxiousness and ambivalence in relationship. For example, she does it by blaming that she is single for that long after the alleged ‘failed relationship with her college sweetheart’ is because she has to stay at home to care for their father as she is the eldest daughter and it is her responsibility (hopes to be the favourite child). Also, when she met the new gym teacher, she was sceptical about the love letters she received daily that it may be from him (she was cynical towards him but yet admired him from afar) but unfortunately it was a prank by her students.

            Upon finding out, she got furious and announced on the public podium in school about the writer of the love letters to reveal to her. She got very emotional and angry (insecure traits) upon knowing that it was not the gym teacher who sent her the love letters (showing her insecurity in developing relationship). When the gym teacher consoled her, she was bold to kiss him and eventually the story proceeded with them getting married. The impulsivity of her sexual prowess and wanting to Christian-fied him shows that she has an insecure attachment (anxious and worry) that her husband will leave her, so the controlling part of her is showed towards the end of the movie when she got her husband Baptist to be a Christian. A symbol of controlling her relationship because she is less trusting of others and jealousy of others.   

6. Modernization and globalization to depict change

            Based on the physicality of the scenes portrayed – Chef Chu’s elaborate traditional family meals, the luxurious cuisine of The Grand Hotel, and the fast food restaurant where his youngest daughter (Jia Ning) works all coexist, representing the state of change in the modern and globalized Taiwan.

            Furthermore, the film portrays a variety of new, “non-traditional” relationships and family structures. For instance, Jia Ning gets pregnant while still a student who subsequently marries her boyfriend, leaving her father’s home sooner than expected. Chef Chu also presented a new familial structure when he got married to a younger woman (Jin Rong) and moved out of the family home, charting a new future and second family life.

Throughout the movie, the Chu family evolved with the themes of relationship value conflicts and family change. Overall, it is a film that challenged the conventional Chinese way of how a family structure work and relationships formed. It is a rather slow pacing film but packed with strong non-verbal speech spoken. With that I would reckon a couple of similar themed films as ‘Eat, Drink, Man, Woman’ with the focus of food symbolism on life, familial relationships and patriarchal figure are as follow:-

Tortilla soup (remake Ang Lee’s ‘Eat, Drink, Man, Woman’ in Mexican settings) –

Chocolat –


Strictly Ballroom Psychology Review

My View

Strictly Ballroom is an Australian movie about the competitive world of ballroom dancing, with the glitz and glamour. The film mainly focuses on the perspective of Scott Hasting (lead cast) along with Fran (his ‘hidden’ dance partner) through the conventional ballroom dance scene. The movie by Baz Luhrrman has a strong depiction on the concept of social influences. The key themes of it are conformity, compliance, and obedient. They are explained further as follow:-

1. Conformity
By definition, conformity is when one is pressured for real or imagined, one will change in behaviour or belief. The whole film revolves around the idea of conformity to bring about the sense of belonging in the ballroom dancing field. As sense of belonging is what makes or breaks a person by acceptance or rejection. To illustrate, Barry Fife (President of the Australian Dance Federation) crowned Scott’s rival the winner of that season’s competition because new steps introduced by Scott was unacceptable, only conventional moves are favoured, which reinforces the group’s norm.

Consequently, Scott was blamed and frowned upon by many parties such as his mother, his dance partner Liz Holt, and his coach. As he did not conform to the rigid and dull moves, he is somehow ‘out casted’ by his circle of people. However, eventually he did conformed (even for awhile) to the rules of the competition after he found out about his father’s early attempts to introduce new moves into the competition but was rejected by the dance community. In order to not shame his parents, he decided to pair up with Liz at the end and danced along with the rules and norms of the competition. He was pressured by the dance community to conform to the behaviour. However if Scott won the competition instead, would he be treated differently and would his new moves be accepted as part of the rules of the competition?

2. Compliance
When one outwardly agrees or goes along with the group but privately disagree to the group is showing the act of compliance. It is effectively applied by someone who has authority or well respected or through rational suggestibility. For example, after hearing rumours of Scott practicing new dance moves with Fran despite opposition from the majority, Barry Fife met with Scott in private to tell him the ‘truth’ about his father’s past of attempted to show new moves in the dance world. Barry has the sense of authority as he is the President of the dance federation and an experienced senior to Scott, he suggested Scott to conform to the conventional moves of the dance competition and disregard his own new moves for him to ultimately win the competition and not shame his parents. Barry rationalised the matter that Scott’s father is a living example of not conforming to the federation, hence successfully coerced Scott to comply to the Federation’s rules and norms by dancing with Liz instead with Fran doing the “pasodoble”.

3. Obedience
Scott showed the act of obedience when he complied to Barry’s suggestion (more of an explicit command) to keep his new moves to himself and just dance following the normal moves subjected by the Federation for the competition. Barry cunningly made Scott to think that he is obligated to fulfil his parent’s dreams on winning the grand prix dance competition. With that, Scott was in a dilemma whether to be true to himself or to comply with Barry’s suggestion. Obedience is an act of compliance to an explicit command to either reap a reward or avoid a punishment. In the scene, Scott has chosen to comply with Barry’s command in order to make his parents proud of him (reward).

Besides the themes arising in the story line, there are dynamic characters that have portrayed a few key psychological concepts. They are as follow:-

1. Liz Holt (the original dance partner of Scott Hasting; in picture below) – Aggression


Throughout the film, she portrayed the lady who rages and screams A LOT! For example, she does it most especially at Scott for his unconventional dance moves and reckless ignoring the rules of the dance competition – forcing Liz to join him in his dance routine which was improvised and spontaneous (against the ballroom competition rules). With that, Scott jeopardised their chance of winning that resulted in Liz to be furious at him, all the time. Liz showed hostile aggression towards Scott as it is stemmed from anger induced by Scott.

Aggression, verbal or physical, is a response to frustration. On the frustration-aggression theory, when one is hindered from reaching one’s goal, one will displace the frustration as a reaction. Liz’s aggression is resulted from the frustration of not being able to win the competition (goal) because of Scott’s character of moves improvisation and not following the rules of the competition. Quote Liz, “…I’ve been working towards winning the Pan Pacific since I was 6 years old”.

She mostly displaced verbal aggression toward Scott’s mother or Scott by yelling and screaming. For example, while she went into the studio and Scott took her and guided her to dance and she was happily following his rhythm and beat until Scott decided to improvise by adding in his flavour of different moves into it. Of course, Liz was angry at his behaviour and screamed at him, as all she wanted was that Scott to just dance properly and follow the conventional ways of ballroom dancing (follow the rules – no move improvisations are allowed).

2. Scott Hasting – Individualism, self-expression


He has been showing his stance against the rules and norms of the ballroom dancing competition since the first scene of him dancing with Liz. His defiance against it is because he strongly holds onto the belief of self-expression in dance. He is determined not to be bullied by the competition’s organisers and adopt his style of dance instead of the rigid and conventional moves. For example, scenes showed during his dance with Liz at the beginning of the film and the last scene with Fran (dancing the “Pasodoble”). His insistence of including his own individual dance style results in conflicts with his mother and the organisers of the competition. His self-expression of individualism shows that he is prioritising his own goal over group goals (organisers of the competition and his mother) and defining it to be a personal attribute (‘uniquely him’) than associated to group identification. Through the sustained efforts of himself and help from Fran, he was able to cultivate his own unique style of dance and triumph over the corruption of the system of the dance Federation.

3. Scott and Fran – Sense of belonging


Both of them challenged the Federation’s way of dancing by showing new dance moves into the competition. They have challenged the norm of ballroom dancing as a whole. They are prejudiced by the dance community especially Scott’s mother and the organisers of the competition. However, they have found the sense of belonging after going through the tribulations with lots of practices and ridiculed by many, before their only dance in the public, dancing the “pasodoble” (image above). They were eventually accepted by the dance community and everyone who are in the dance field on improvisation in ballroom dancing competition. Scott and Fran’s reason to challenge the Federation at the start is to search for the sense of belongingness through dance with the spirit of loving to dance and not to dance just for competition sake.

Overall, the film illustrated many key psychological concepts that show how society can influence one. Through social influence – conformity, compliance and obedient that play important roles in how a society functions and interacts. However, individualism with determination and without fear can triumph against such social influences. With the quote from the film,

“A life lived in fear is a life half lived” – Fran

Do check out these few movies with similar themes as Strictly Ballroom:- – Easy A – Accepted – Admission