The compulsion to repeat in cinema: From Groundhog Day to Memento

Course Dates: 01/07/23
Time: 10:30 - 16:30
Location: Keeley Street
There are a surprising number of films that make use of repetition as a motif or as a structuring device for their narratives. Two particularly celebrated examples are Groundhog Day (Harold Ramis 1993 US) and Memento (Christopher Nolan 2000 UK/US). This course will explore this phenomenon, by referencing psychoanalytic film theory and the idea of the repetition compulsion, but also through the detailed analysis of both of these films.
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Full fee £59.00 Senior fee £47.00 Concession £38.00

Course Code: HF235

Sat, day, 01 Jul - 01 Jul '23

Duration: 1 session

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What is the course about?

This one-day course will introduce you to the psychoanalytic notion of the ‘repetition compulsion’, considering it as means by which we might make sense of certain films that appear to be structured by this very concept, that incorporate repetition at the heart of the narrative structures. We will explore the extent to which these films may have integrated this theoretical idea so as to make visible certain human behaviours. Thus, Harold Ramis’ romantic comedy, Groundhog Day, may be seen as a meditation on love and a deconstruction of the romantic (and cinematic) notion of love at first sight. Christopher Nolan’s rather more cerebral Memento might be seen as a profound examination of the importance of memory for the construction and maintenance of identity, explored through the generic form of the police procedural. The course will explore what we can learn from these repeating films and the extent to which the psychoanalytic repetition compulsion may be a valuable tool for this undertaking.

What will we cover?

• The psychoanalytic concept of the repetition compulsion
• Repetition as a form of narrative structure
• Film spectatorship and the question of why spectatorship is an act of repetition
• Issues of film aesthetics and visual style as they relate to Groundhog Day, Memento and other relevant films
• Detailed film analysis of clips from Groundhog Day, Memento and other relevant films.

What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...

• have acquired a basic understanding of the psychoanalytic concept of the repetition compulsion
• a basic understanding of certain aspects of film narrative
• a familiarity with a number of films whose narratives are structured by repetition
• demonstrate familiarity with Groundhog Day, Memento and other relevant films.

What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?

The course is suitable for all levels and you do not require any particular skills - just an enthusiasm for film and discussing film. The course will provide an introduction to the subject but will also be useful for those wishing to build on existing knowledge in the subject area. Psychoanalytic terms will be taught in an inclusive, accessible and engaging way with the help of bespoke PowerPoint slides and film clips. Group discussion will be encouraged, and there will be no assignments outside of class.

How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?

Screenings of extracts from films, talks by the tutor, reading materials, small and large group discussions. It might also be a good idea to see what you can find out about the subject in advance of the class but this is not essential.

Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?

You will require a pen and paper (or laptop/device) but the tutor will provide all other materials such as handouts. The tutor will show extracts from films and you do not have to obtain them.

When I've finished, what course can I do next?

Look for other film studies courses on the web at, culture and writing/film studies.

Paul Sutton

Dr. Paul Sutton is an independent film scholar who has taught Film Studies in UK higher education for over 25 years. His research covers psychoanalytic and film theory as well as Italian and French cinema and critical theory. He has published articles in journals such as Screen, French Studies and the Journal for Cultural Research. He is currently writing a psychoanalytic book on film spectatorship, Afterwardsness in Film, and has recently published work on television as a form of palliative care, and an assessment of the films of the Italian experimental filmmaker Ugo Nespolo.

Please note: We reserve the right to change our tutors from those advertised. This happens rarely, but if it does, we are unable to refund fees due to this. Our tutors may have different teaching styles; however we guarantee a consistent quality of teaching in all our courses.