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Pre-IB Extended Essay
Topic: Visual Arts

Spring Break Forever: A Psychoanalysis of Harmony Korines “Spring Breakers”
How are the concepts of the Dream World and the Psychic Apparatus, as defined by Sigmund
Freud, represented in the film "Spring Breakers" (Harmony Korine, 2012)?

By Anna Sophie Shams Ili

May 2015
2485 words

Abstract:
As a person both interested in film and psychology, I long wanted to work with something that
could combine the two effectively. After reading a particularly interesting piece on psychoanalysis
and cinema, I was sure that it was something I wanted to work with. This essay therefore partly
works to satisfy my own curiosity, but also to prove them wrong and show how useful psychoanalysis still is the day today. I undertook research on the topic of psychoanalysis and then formulated
my research question: How are the concepts of the Dream World and the Psychic Apparatus, as
defined by Sigmund Freud, represented in the film "Spring Breakers" (Harmony Korine, 2012)?
I consulted various books on both psychoanalysis and film theory, and read various analysis of
the film online. I was also able to draw inspiration from articles that were not directly related to
Spring Breakers or psychoanalysis and draw my own conclusions and thoughts. The first part of the
essay is focused on the psychic apparatus, breaking down how the four main characters represent
the human psyche, per. The second part is written to explain how the spring break supports the idea
Sigmund Freuds definition of a dream world – a place of wish fulfilment. After writing the essay I
could conclude that the film used the relationship between the characters: the transfer of power to
present the girls as the psychic apparatus, while it used pop culture references and visual cues to
present spring break as the dream world. By applying psychoanalytical tools, I was able to find the
message Korine delivered, thereby making the film, and other films one may watch, a more enjoyable and interesting experience.

278 words

2

Table of Contents
Introduction
Psychoanalysis in film theory………………………………………………………….4
Freudian Concepts:
The Psychic Apparatus……………………………………………………………….4
Dream theory…………………………………………………..…...…………...……5
Spring Breakers by Harmony Korine
Plot………………………………………………………………..……….…………...5
Psychic Apparatus:
The super-ego: Faith………………………………………………………………….5-6
The ego: Cotty…………………………………………………………………….…..6-7
The Id: Brit and Candy…………………………………………….………………….7
Dream World:
Spring Break as the dream world……………………………………………………..8
Pop culture references: Scarface and Britney Spears…………………………….......8-9
Visual effects…………………………………………………………………………..9
Costumes…………………………………………………………………………...…9-10
Conclusion…………………………………………………………………………...….10
Bibliography………………………………………………………………………..…. .11

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Spring Break Forever
Introduction
Ever since the early days of cinema psychoanalysis and the art of the moving picture have been
inseparable. 1895 marked both the first publication of Austrian psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud and
the beginning of cinema. December 28 the Lumière brothers held the first private screening of what
would become one of the most popular forms of entertainment.
There have been many speculations what it is that draws humans to cinema. Thus psychoanalysis has offered a way for film theorists to examine the relationship between humans and the screen.
As someone who has always had a fondness for both the arts, with a special liking to film, and psychology, there is not a topic more interesting to me than the bond between the two.  The Russian
psychoanalyst Lou Andreas-Salomé mused about the link of film and mind in her journal: “Only the
technique of the film permits the rapid sequence of pictures which approximates our own imaginative faculty” (Andreas-Salome 101). Here Andreas-Salomé uses “imaginative faculty” to refer to
our mind and thereby acknowledges the way it imitates “its” (referring to the mind) “erratic ways”
(Andreas-Salome).  
Psychoanalysis has since it’s birth by Sigmund Freud in the 1890s been revised, yet the basis
concepts of psychoanalysis have remained the same. These ideas are used mainly to explain human
behaviour and base on the separation of the conscious and unconscious mind. The psychic apparatus is one of these hypothesises and part of Freuds structural model of the mind. Based upon the
ground principle of the conscious and unconscious mind he here separated the mind in three parts:
The Id, the ego, and the super-ego. The Id according to Freud is driven by our basal, animalistic
instincts, while the super-ego is the most moral part, compromising mostly of what society and our
guardians teach us from early age about “right” and wrong”. Both extremes are impractical and
therefore our actions are mostly reflected in the ego: A compromise of the two.

4

The use of the conscious and unconscious is a popular basis for psychoanalytical theories, and
Freud also used it for his dream interpretation. In his dream theory Freud stated that our dreams
were what revealed our unconscious desires: Dreaming as wish fulfilment.
Given the deep history of cinema and psychoanalysis, it would only be logical to assume that
the same ground principles can be applied to modern day film. By using books and articles I set out
to answer the question of how the concepts of the Dream World and the Psychic Apparatus, as defined by Sigmund Freud, represented in the 2012 film "Spring Breakers" (dir. Harmony Korine).
We can answer this question by examining the film thoroughly, looking not only at the plot, but
also the transfer of power, the pop culture references, and visual clues like the clothing of the girls.
In the film we meet our four main protagonists right at the beginning; Childhood friends Brit,
Cotty, Candy, and Faith (Ashley Benson, Rachel Korine, Vanessa Hudgens, Selena Gomez). Having insufficient funds to go on Spring Break, Brit, Cotty, and Candy decide to rob a local Chicken
Shack. Now with money, the girls go St. Petersberg to meet their peers on the nationwide holiday.
Short after they end up being caught by police while taking drugs and are bailed out by the self pronounced rap prodigy “Alien” (James Franco) who promises them the spring break of their life. Induced by the rivalry between Alien and the other rapper/drug lord in the area, Archie (Gucci Mane),
the film ends with Brit and Candys murder of Archie and the death of Alien.

The Psychic Apparatus
The first girls we meet are Candy and Brit. Sitting in a seemingly boring college lecture, they
share sexual jokes related to their excitement about spring break. The film then cuts to a chapel
where we meet our third spring breaker, Faith. Here she is sitting with her Christian youth group in
a circle while clapping and singing Amen. We don’t meet Cotty until further in, going with Brit and
Candy to wake up Faith.

5

Faith is the girl you would expect to find in a film set in the Bible Belt, and not only because of
her symbolic name. In our first shot of her our visual cue to her inner conflict is her not clapping
with her youth group while singing Amen. ““And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted
beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out” (Corinthians
10:13) the pastor preaches as the shot switches to Faith smoking in the parking lot. Faith is the representation of the super-ego, praying and wearing most modest clothing, but a conflicted one.
Smoking is something polluting, thereby not pure, and coupled with the priests speech about temptation in the background, we are shown how Faith is having trouble resisting temptation. Naturally,
the film is not an anti-smoking campaign, and her temptation is the Id; Brit and Candy. During the
spring break, while first feeling free, Faith is the one who initially does not want to follow with Alien, and is also the first girl to go home.
It is after Faith leaves the plot takes a more drastic turn. Now being without the super-ego, there
is room for even fewer morals. Morals are the theme of the speech Alien holds in the shot immediately after Faith leaves: “Some people like doing the right thing… I like doing the wrong thing!”
After Faith, Cotty is next to leave. Due to having few speaking roles and neither engaging in direct
withdrawal (Faith often walking away or standing in the background) or direct engagement (Brit
and Candys many sexual advances and violent urges), Cotty is during the entirety of the film the
girl who is most easily forgotten. Playing the role of the ego, she is the personification of neutrality.
Although she does assist Brit and Candy in the robbery, she is the one waiting in the car. She is also
the second girl to leave Spring Break, after being non-fatally shot by Archie “Big Arch”. It is notable how she expresses the wish to leave to scantily clad Brit and Cotty while she is fully clothed.
She also takes the final decision to leave after being in the shower, both literally and symbolically
“cleaning” herself. Both when Cotty and Faith leave the spring break, their departure can almost be

6

seen as a symbolic death. The bus
that takes them home crosses a
bridge (“the other side”) and both
end up falling asleep in the bus,
leaving them looking exhausted
Fig. 1: Faith sleeping in bus. (Korine)

and devoid of life.

This leaves the Id, Brit and Candy. And sure enough, without the ego and super-ego, the Id now has
full power. The outcome should not surprise viewers, as it is clear that the Id in this film is strongest, since two people instead of just one represent it. Brit and Candy are also often seen wearing
same or matching clothing. In fact, they are always shown together throughout the film. The Id represents primal instincts and basic desires. “They’re so cold, they’re like they’ve got demon blood,”
warns one youth group member Faith when talking about Brit and Candy. It is Brit and Candy who
plan and execute the robbery, and make the most sexual advances towards Alien. While having sex
with Alien in the pool towards the end of the film, their bodies are intertwined, making them look
almost like one.
After Cotty leaves, they both call their mothers and tell them how they are now going to be
good. “I feel changed. I just want to be a good girl now,” says Brit in a voice over, “That’s the secret to life. Being a good person.” While we hear their promises of coming home and being better,
we see shots of them putting on ski masks and getting ready to kill Archie and his people. To be
good people, they first had to exhaust all of their primal instincts: Spring break works as a tool of
catharsis, and by living out their fantasies the Id is exhausted.

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The Dream World
It is in the dream world the Id gets to fulfil all of its desires. The ending shots of the film show
Brit and Cotty kissing Alien, both as a goodbye, but also as a thank you. While shots of the dead
Archie and his people are intercepted by clips of anonymous topless girls partying we hear Candy
in the background exclaiming “spring break forever” and “I wish it would never end”. The dream
world, spring break, is the truest form of wish fulfilment. Spring Break is where teens can come and
live out their fantasies, mostly in the form of drinking, drugs and sex. It is even said that the time
around spring break is the “busiest time of year” for Florida drug dealers (Ulleri). Spring break as a
symbol for the dream world is Korines social commentary on what our hidden desires are in current
culture. Injected between scenes of boring campus shots and professors droning on, there are the
party shots of spring breakers with pumped music and neon lights, thereby giving of energy: This is
where you want to be, this is the dream. What better time or place is there to let loose all your inhibitions than on spring break, amongst temporary friends and far away from responsibilities or parental supervision?
“A dream is a (disguised) fulfilment of a (suppressed or repressed) wish.” (Freud). The film
mirrors and references many themes and characters found in modern pop culture that represent these wishes, sexual desire and money in particular. Alien is pictured as having fulfilled “the American
dream” in his own way. It is no wonder he has gotten “Scarface on repeat” (Korine), considering
the way he tries to emulate the violent and excessive style of living of Tony Montana, the main
character of Scarface. Another pop cultural symbol of excessiveness presented in the film is Britney
Spears. In a scene of the film, we see Brit, Cotty and Candy singing the Britney Spears song “Everytime” while Alien plays the piano. Britney Spears is a cultural icon representing American and
modern culture as well as Tony Montana. The pop-star-turned-pop-icons cultural presence is notable in the film, the overly excessive glam Spears represents is exactly what Alien has, and the girls

8

want. In the beginning of the film, when the girls find out they are going to spring break, they sing
“One more time”. As the Britney ballad plays, the shot turns to a slow-motion viewing of Alien
killing Archies people and taking drugs with Brit, Cotty, and Candy. The link between Hollywood
pop culture and the glamorization of drugs and violence could not have been made clearer. While
most of us are well aware of the fabrication of Hollywood dreams, the fact that “not everything is as
it seems”, Korine states that although we now Hollywood isn’t real, it is what we wish for. The
French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan compared the dream to a baby in front of a mirror, seeking
identification and being entrenched in its own reflection. Because the baby doesn’t understand what
is in front of it, but it is drawn to it. “Both pleasure and risk are explored through the captivating
scene in which a baby is transfixed, jubilant before his own image in the mirror” (Lebeau 49). We
identify with this dream of excess.
The view of Franco playing the piano with a view over the ocean and the former Disney stars in
“DTF” (Down To Fuck) sweatpants is surreal: And that’s the point. Korine urges the audience to
pick up on the fact that it is a state of dreaming. We hear Faith describing the spring break as “more
than just spring break”, but “a break from reality”. There is also the notable line during the Chicken
Shack robbery “Just pretend it’s a video game. Like you’re in a fucking movie,” further proving the
point of Hollywood and the pop cultures role in the desensitization of violence.
Visually Korine uses slow motion effects and hazy neon lights whenever the girls are in the
dream world or talking about it, to create a dream-like effect. We also see the dream world represented with help from the costume department. While on campus, in the real word, the girls wear
what is considered common for western girl: jeans, t-shirts and similar. In the dream world this is
switched to bikinis, short shorts, and the “DTF” sweatpants. In terms of wish fulfilment, this is a
symbol for the sexual freedom provided by spring break. In Fig. 3 we see the beginning of the scene
where the Id goes completely wild. In this scene Brit and Candy release their violent urges by kill-

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