Lacan Frames Scorsese’s Paintings in The Age of Innocence


Colorado School of Mines


This article, which brings together film, psychoanalysis, literature, and art, focuses on the role of paintings in Martin Scorsese’s The Age of Innocence (1993). Scorsese conveys the imprisonment of New York aristocrats within the framework of social conventions and their evasions of social restrictions through his employment of paintings. Because the protagonists’ emotions are not revealed often, the director communicates their dramas and actions with the help of the paintings they own or appear next to. The paintings operate as Jacques Lacan’s Other, an entity that watches over the characters to make sure they conform to its self- perpetuating rules. Scorsese’s use of paintings shows that the characters perform for the Other and seek to maintain the status quo. While most characters perform within a Lacanian symbolic order, their different responses to a variety of paintings underscore the flexibility of the symbolic order.

Keywords: Martin Scorsese, Jacques Lacan, Edith Wharton, The Age of Innocence, adaptation, the Other, symbolic order, gaze, paintings, performance, desire