Character analysis of Amelia in 'The Babadook'
“You can’t get rid of the Babadook”
Grief can be described as a state of intense sorrow which is usually triggered by the loss of a significant one. It is highly important to grieve in order to relieve oneself from intense pain which then allows you to move on with life. However when one tends to repress this grief, it can have severe consequences on one's mental state. Breakthrough writer/director Jennifer Kent wonderfully explores this aspect through the main character Amelia in the psychological horror film ‘The Babadook’ (2014). Amelia who is played by Essie Davis represents a widow that lives with her seven year old son Samuel. She is perceived as a flawed individual who is very selfless toward her relationship with her friends and family. However is in a state of extreme desolation as a result of her decision to repress the grief over her deceased husband Oskar due to a car accident. This results in severe consequences towards her work life and mind state as she questions her perception of reality
The beauty of selflessness
Amelia’s selfless nature is very prominent when it comes to her relationship with her sister Claire and son Samuel. The motive of this nature is due to the fact that she wants to maintain healthy relationships thus she must avoid any conflict that might disrupt that which is why she puts their needs over hers. An example of this is shown between the maternal relationship between Samuel and Amelia. Due to this maternal bond, her needs are not as important as Samuels. An example is when Samuel wakes up Amelia due to having a bad dream about monsters. Amelia is forced to check under the bed and in the wardrobe for any signs of monsters. She knows that monsters are imaginary but her actions of checking anyway convey her willingness to fulfill Noah’s needs. As checking these specific areas will make Samuel feel at ease. This is further reflected through the encouraging facial expressions of Amelia. As her smile towards Noah when she checks the wardrobe helps project positive emotions towards him which further emphasises her desire to make Noah feel happy. This nature is further pushed in the scene where Noah starts having a tantrum after Amelia reads ‘The babadook’ to him. Despite this, Amelia remains calm in this situation which is reflected through her straight posture and calm vocal tone as she reads another book to Noah during his tantrum. This act further exemplifies her desire to make her son happy as she maintains a positive attitude despite Samuels inconvenience.
Another example of her selfless nature is between the relationship of Amelia and auntie Claire. This is shown in the scene where Claire is talking to Amelia in the park while their children Ruby and Samuel are playing in the park. During their chat Amelia brings up Ruby and Samuel’s joint birthday party on Wednesday when she says “ What do you want me to bring for Wednesday? I can bring their birthday cakes". This statement combined with the fidgeting of her hands and smile on her face implies the eagerness of Amelia towards the audience. However auntie Claire tells Amelia politely that her daughter Ruby doesn't want to celebrate her birthday with Samuel. A close-up shot of Amelia's reaction towards the decision of auntie Claire reveals that she’s in dismay which is reflected through the transition from a smile to a slightly opened mouth and watery eyes. Despite this, Amelia suggest that they don’t have to come. Thus the action of accepting Claire's decision further shows that she is willing to put her sisters needs over hers in order to avoid conflict. This nature really brings out how caring Amelia is towards individuals that are significant to her.
The consequences of bad decisions
In spite of her selfless nature, the constant choice to place other needs over hers has caused Amelia's mental state to deteriorate. As she has refused to address the significant needs in her life as a result. One example is her decision to the repress the grief over the loss of her husband Oskar. This is shown when Amelia says to Claire “I have moved on. I don’t mention him. I don’t talk about him” This implies that she has stopped thinking about her husband and the repetition of ‘I’ further emphasis this. This is further reflected by Amelia's rejection of external factors that reminds her of Oskar. These external factors include her relationship with Samuel and any possessions that belonged to Oskar. Despite the maternal bond between Amelia and Samuel, She denies the love that Samuel conveys towards her.This is shown in the scene where Samuel hugged Amelia after showing her a magic trick. Amelia's facial expressions consist of closed eyes and concave shaped lips which implies to the audience that hugs from Samuel stimulate heart warming emotions. Nevertheless Amelia then pushes Samuel away and says “Don’t do that.” Thus this action further proves her repression of grief as Samuel hugs may have stimulated similar emotions she had with Oskar. Another example is her refusal to celebrate Samuel’s birthday for six consecutive years. This is evidently shown when Claire says to Amelia “ Maybe you wanna celebrate his birthday properly this year anyway, on the day.” This suggest that her decision to not celebrate could result from the fact that Samuel was born on the same day Oskar died thus further emphasising her repression.
This has caused Amelia to feel stressed and tired as a result of her decision which severely affects Amelia's work life. This is evident through a medium shot of Amelia sitting down during her break at the nursing home. This shot enables the audience to view Amelia’s body language as she is rubbing her forehead which visually conveys how mentally tired she feels. The repression has also resulted in the deterioration of her mind state which is best described by the metaphorical imagery of the house and symbolic meaning behind the mythical creature Babadook. As the house represents Amelia’s mind and the Babadook represents the grief that she has repressed. The basement in the house with all of her husband’s possessions represent this grief or darkness she’s been repressing. The entrance to the basement is always kept closed and locked with a key. This symbolically represents her decision to repress the grief by making sure that no one can enter including herself.
However everything starts to get worse when Amelia reads ‘The babadook’ book to Samuel. As the build up of constant repression starts affecting her perception of reality for she starts to hear three consecutive knocks during the night. In reference to the clip below, the book stated that the Babadook will make “a rumbling sound then 3 sharp knocks” thus it could represent that the grief is slowly creeping back into Amelia’s mind whether she likes it or not. It only gets worse once Samuel opens the basement to practice his magic tricks down there. The opening of the basement conveys an opportunity for the grief to come out and flow back into Amelia’s mind which is further reflected when Amelia goes down and hugs the photo of her and Oskar. This shows that the husband’s possessions are acting as a catalyst for letting the grief back in. The lights in the house then start flickering and bugs starting creeping out of the house which visually conveys the continuing effect of repression on her mind state as the house slowly starts to deteriorate.
It is only when she lets the babadook or grief inside when she starts to become deranged. As the grief has caused her to release all of the dark thoughts and emotions associated with grief that she has repressed for so long. An example is when she says to Samuel “You don’t know how many times I wish it was you not him that died.” It is only through the help of Samuel and his undying love for his mother that he is able to bring Amelia back to her senses. As he ties her up in the basement which is where the source of grief lies. This enables Amelia to finish the grieving process and starts releasing out everything she has repressed. This is represented by the black liquid that Amelia excreted through her mouth for it represents the dark emotions associated with grief. Amelia and Samuel are then able to successfully lock the babadook back in the basement.This reveals that the grieving process of Amelia is finally complete and she can now move on and be happy as a result. This is represented by the end scene where Amelia holds Samuel in her lap and hugs him. This shows that she is finally able to accept all external factors that associate to her husband Oskar. Juxtaposed to the beginning scene where Amelia would push Samuel away when he hugs her further validates this. The act of Amelia feeding the worms to the Babadook during the ending scene was also crucial in showing that the grief will never leave her but she is now in a better position to handle and cope with it.
Amelia presents a fine example of what would happen If you choose to neglect one of the many difficult and important situations in life where in her case is the natural process of grieving.
Thank you IFCFilms for granting me permission to place two approved stills from their press site in this article.
© 2015 Jason C.