World-hating: apocalypse and trauma in We Need to Talk about Kevin
Desilets, S. J.
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Citation (published version)SJ Desilets. 2017. "World-Hating: Apocalypse and Trauma in We Need to Talk about Kevin." Humanities, v. 6, Issue 4, https://doi.org/10.3390/h6040090
Lynne Ramsay’s 2011 film We Need to Talk about Kevin alternates between two narrative times, one occurring before its protagonist Eva’s son commits a terrible crime, and one after. The film invites us to read the crime as a traumatic event in Eva’s life, an event of such terrible force that it transforms Eva’s identity. This essay uses Jacob Taubes’s understanding of Gnosticism to suggest that this event does not transform who Eva is, but rather how she knows. Like a Gnostic believer, Eva comes to understanding the fundamental ontological evil of community life. Eva’s ‘trauma,’ her alienation from the world she occupies, predates Kevin’s crime, but the aftermath of that crime reveals her alienation to her. The worldview thus presented by the film casts some light on how art house films are marketed. Like many middlebrow products, art house films present marketers with the challenge of concealing the fact that the commodity they are selling is indeed a commodity. This ambivalent distrust of the marketplace is a softened repetition of the Gnostic’s anticosmism, and We Need to Talk About Kevin both performs and thematizes a displacement from the world that is primary, not contingent upon any traumatic event.