Please post your reflections on the Freud,Film,and Psychoanalysis film screening here.
Thanks so much for passing on this Maclean’s article. This is truly fascinating.
I have been following these comments and appreciate the in-depth analysis which is teaching me about the complexity of the film. I was fascinated by the surrealist elements with the Salvidor Dali influence and connections to the trauma of amnesia. Dr Guzder enlightens us with how amnesia is about the brain being overwhelmed and somehow there is inability to access the trauma memory.
I am curious about the context of psychoanalysis in 1945 with the end of World War Two. What are contemporary developments in psychoanalysis that would give viewers new information? Feminism? Cultural theory? Etc. I am trained as a writer and artist.
I am thinking of the recent anniversary of the construction of the Berlin Wall (1962?). My father was an RCAF navigator in a Lancaster bomber but never went into action. He returned to Halifax expecting to go to Japan just before the A-Bombs. A powerful personal reference for me to World War Two.
The Macleans article certainly shakes up how I think about world leaders and history.
My comment is straying off course a bit, but I read an article in the MacLeans (August, 2011) that was interesting. The link is below —
My father was exposed to some horrific act while he was a soldier during the war; unfortunately his mental illness, which surfaced soon after arriving in Canada, was never clearly diagnosed, and probably not taken care as it might have today. Post-traumatic stress seems to be a term that is often used today when mental illness is an issue. Just thinking out loud.
The film was describing the mental illness by using special effects showing what’s happening in the mind of the patient. It permitted the spectator to enter for a moment in the skin of the patient. The movie shows us that the human brain is complex and that we cannot judge a person because of her acts.
After the presentation, people had many questions for example, concerning the psychiatrists ethic, the real probabilities to cure schizophrenia, the use of the medication and the factor of resilience of the patients. The doctor Guzder’s interesting answers showed us that there is a distance between the film and the scientific facts, but that they sometimes coincide too.
In response to the comments above by Dr. Gudzer about the disastrous consequences of breaking boundaries between patient/therapist (which I didn’t see when I wrote my initial comment), I should definitely clarify my thoughts above about Constance Peterson’s decision to run away and fall in love with her patient as being admirable!! Definitely distastrous. I believe, however, for the artistic vision of this Hollywood film, that Constance still displayed a certain determination that psychoanalysis could free her patient/lover, and that it could be used as the tool to uncover the truths that other methods could not to prove innocence and rehabilitate people for whom other methods had possibly failed… I guess I see her actions in this positive light given this film was made in the 1940’s and that it showed patients suffering from mental disorders/trauma–even those displaying violence– in a sympathetic light and with the potential to be rehabilitated. This must have been quite novel for the times…Constance is actually quite ‘constant’ throughout the film with her optimist outlook for her patients and their innocence, including the male patient who visits her and thinks he is guilty of killing his father. I guess this is why I still felt that she acted in an admirable way in believing her patient/lover, however distastrous this would be in reality…
Spellbound was, excuse the pun, spellbinding. It is too bad there wasn’t more time for discussion, otherwise I would have wanted to bring up the theme of ‘surveillance’ that seemed to weave it’s way throughout the film from beginning to end. The opening scene in the Green Manor asylum showed a nurse quietly warning a guard to ‘watch out for a patient’ as he accompanied her to her doctor’s office. In the following scenes, Dr. Peterson’s colleagues always know her whereabouts, even as she takes an unpredictable ‘turn’ and accepts J.B/Dr. Edwarde’s impromptu offer of a country walk. House detectives seem to appear out of nowhere at the Empire State Hotel. Bell boys and other men in various uniforms at the train station glimpse over their shoulders in suspicion at passersby. Even the ticket man at the departures gate at Grand Central Station at the end of the film looks off into the distance in suspicion and recognition as Dr. Peterson and J.B board their train. In other words, Hitchcock seems to suggest that there is nowhere one can go without being watched, recognized, and tracked down. But was Hitchcock reflecting on a society in the midst of war, and was this culture of surveillance a brief episode at a time when Americans faced foreign dangers? Or was Hitchcock attempting to say that society had essentially become paranoid, and that this general paranoia reflected precisely the paranoia that psychoanalysts in the film were trying to cure in their poor patients?
Unlike other viewers at the screening, I found Dr. Peterson’s character less that of a ‘lovestruck’ woman who had fallen prey to irrational romantic emotions and lost all senses than as a–still however implausible– great feminine champion of psychoanalysis with a razor sharp intent to prove a patient’s innocence using psychoanalytic tools. Peterson was in love, and yes, parts of this story line were very Hollywood. But as a psychoanalyst who believed in the effectiveness of her work, she did not simply ‘flee’ with her lover and run away; rather, she followed her instincts as a practitioner: that J.B.’s story was not entirely as it appeared to be because of severe mental distress. So she put him into the hands of her former clinical supervisor in order to undergo therapy. Handing J.B. over to the police would have meant an imminent charge with murder. Using therapy uncovered the hidden and complex truth. While her actions might have seemed initially irrational and guided by romance, she was still attempting to use her professional knowledge–and that of her much older supervisor–to prove what police methods wouldn’t have been able to do using force or questioning. Any other naive, lovestruck woman who had lost all reason to romance would not have been capable of following her instincts and planning this type of action. She was actually a strong character willing to take risks for someone she loved, but she did so with a certain measured precision and in collaboration with her mentor. I actually left the film with a fair bit of admiration for her. And, Hitchcock succeeds in providing a strong critique of how the American justice system can fail the innocently accused.
Thank you Dr. Gudzer for interesting answers and commentary.
spellbound has many levels as an artform and hitchcock seems to have used Hamlet as an inspiration taking the words from shakespeare as inspiration at the opening of the film. Hamlet was not schizophrenic, yet ghosts appeared and spoke to him. in deep grief, it is not uncommon to see the departed yet this is not psychosis , it is the impact of grief trauma, wound of loss.
in this film , the subject does not have schizophrenia. he suffers from amnesia as a traumatic dissociation , a compound of the murder of dr edwards with the accident death of his brother. one of the dialogic comments of mr scott was the filmmaker,s visual imagery of the fence the kills the brother, the lines of snow, the tracks of the fork, the lines of bedcovers, etc. as the brain associates and translates the triggers as memory joined with catastrophic emotions. the mind is ovewhelmed with emotions that it cannot process in trauma.
there are many playful and creative devices in the film, as dr cornett reminds us hitchcock was a visual artist. his films are built from a careful constructed storyboard with shooting that reproduces his imagery, how the character walks down the stairs with open blade in a dissociative state with play of light and shadow. similarly, hitchcock shifts from the humour and paradox is used throughout the film ( the asylm run by an imposter is “cheerful”, the lobby guest picks up the “school teacher” as he is a a “psychologist” in this work as a salesman, etc).
should a doctor have concrete boundaries or should boundaries be part of ethical and safe treatment. constance is reminded by her mentor that healing is a science of applying insight and thinking of the patient as objectively as possible, she reminds herself repeatedly of this boundary violation but “spellbound” describes her implausible behavior not just the plot of the dissociated J.B.
the first patient in the film is a classic “hysteric”, akin to Freud,s first patient of Breuer, who throws herself at the male attendant then scratches him as she hates or resents the abusive men of her past.without boundaries and the rules of ethical therapeutic frames, the wish of the patient to have the attendant as a lover would be a disaster. it is not that the mind is not permitted fantasy or impulse but that the therapist is to use those feelings and translate them in understanding the therapeutic needs of the patient. the safety of the therapeutic space depends on these boundaries.
Good morning everyone!
It is the morning after the presentation of Hitchcock’s “Spellbound”. Unfortunatley I had to leave an hour early last night and missed what I’m sure was a very interesting and informative dialogue with Dr. Guzder on the subject of ‘Freud, Film, and Psychoanalysis’.
My only comment on the topic would be that I was impressed by Hitchcock’s sensitive yet dramatic lens on an intense mental illness like Schizophrenia. At the beginning of the film, J.B. said soemthing like –this place is quite cheerful for such an institution –. This stuck me as humorous, and at the same time I thought about how mentally ill patients are treated in terms of environment –Does their environment make them feel better about themselves, or worse?
Also, I thought how there is something deeper that goes on between patinet and doctor –as the Constance doctor character said –there is more to it than the mind, there is also a hidden dimension, that unspoken feeling about someone. Should a doctor create concrete boundaries between him/herself and the patient –or … ?
I shall look forward to reading commnets hereafter. Thank You, Dr. Cornett and Dr. Guzder
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