M is for mother: Skyfall’s Kleinian phantasies of maternal destruction | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 5, Issue 2
  • ISSN: 2040-6134
  • E-ISSN: 2040-6142



In the Bond film Skyfall (2012), director Sam Mendes offers an interpretation of gothic horror that explores 007’s maternal ambivalence. Exploiting the genre’s tropes of the persecutory double, psychotic son, and monstrous feminine/mother, the film provides a ‘working through’ of the oedipal terror that is so redolent of the gothic. Taking as a reference point the work of Freudian theorist Melanie Klein, Skyfall can be seen as presenting ‘M’ (Judi Dench) as the Kleinian ‘bad mother’, one half of the ‘split’ that the infant conceptualizes to explain the inadequacy of the mother in meeting his needs, phantasizing his revenge in terms of oral aggression. Bond (Daniel Craig) and villain Silva (Javier Bardem) are each victims of exploitation by the British secret services – and by extension the figural mother M. For Silva this means being given up to the Chinese government for torture and likely death. It is this previous act of maternal mistreatment that serves to ‘explain’ his (sexual) perversity, i.e. renunciation of the phallic, which includes his perverse attachment to M (other). Silva serves as 007’s shadowy counterpart – as well as cautionary tale – in granting the phantastical wish-fulfilment of both sons: revenge upon the mother.


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