Sexual Acts, Horror and Witchcraft in Cinema. The Copulation with the Devil: a Psychoanalytical Perspective


  • Ioan Pop-Curșeu Université Babeș-Bolyai, Cluj-Napoca, Roumanie


sex, sexual act, horror, witchcraft, psychoanalysis, Freud, cinema


This paper tries to approach, taking as a starting point a Romanian painting from the 18th century, a scene with a strong phantasmatic load: the sexual act of a woman, who is considered a witch, with the devil. Several films are analyzed: Häxan by Benjamin Christensen (1922), Rosemary’s Baby by Roman Polanski (1968), L’Anticristo by Alberto de Martino (1974), Angel above, Devil below by Dominic Bolla (1975). These films share some common features, important for the analytical process: the copulation with the devil, the presence of traumatized characters who are submitted to a psychological cure, the recycling of psychoanalytical vocabulary, especially “hysteria”, the problems with parental instances. In order to interpret these films, there is a coming back to Freud’s ideas on the Devil, as expressed in the letters to Wilhelm Fliess or in the study A Seventeenth-Century Demonological Neurosis (1923). The devil as an image of unconscious impulsions or as a substitute of the father are the main Freudian intuitions used here for an optimal interpretation of the chosen films.

Author Biography

Ioan Pop-Curșeu, Université Babeș-Bolyai, Cluj-Napoca, Roumanie

Ioan Pop-Curşeu (b. 4.02.1978, Ocna-Mureş) is, since 2020, Professor at the Faculty of Theatre and Film, Babeş-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, where he taught for 13 years. He has defended his first PhD dissertation at the University of Geneva in 2007 (De l’homme hyperbolique au texte impossible: théâtralité, theatre(s), ébauches de pièces chez Baudelaire), and the second at the Babeş-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca in 2011 (Magic and Witchcraft in Romanian Culture). In 2015, he defended his habilitation dissertation at Babeş-Bolyai University and in 2016 he became a member of Academia Europaea, section: Film, Media and Visual Studies. His research interests are concerned with film aesthetics, art criticism and image theory, nineteenth-century literature and culture, as well as anthropological aspects of magic and witchcraft. He wrote around 150 articles on various themes, writers and films. His most important books on the topic of witchcraft are: Magie şi vrăjitorie în cultura română. Istorie, literatură, mentalităţi(2013), Iconografia vrăjitoriei în arta religioasă românească. Eseu de antropologie vizuală(2020, in collaboration with Ștefana Pop-Curșeu). Link to an academic profile:



How to Cite

Pop-Curșeu, I. (2021). Sexual Acts, Horror and Witchcraft in Cinema. The Copulation with the Devil: a Psychoanalytical Perspective. Studia Universitatis Babeș-Bolyai - Dramatica, 66(1), 109–133. Retrieved from