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Bailey, J. (1998). The Battle Within: A Filmmaker's Psychic Odyssey. Psychoanal. Inq., 18(2):300-310.

(1998). Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 18(2):300-310

The Battle Within: A Filmmaker's Psychic Odyssey

John Bailey

For filmmakers, as for other artists, the unexpected intersection of work and life can be the source of profound change. Work that arises out of intense personal experience may become the springboard to a whole new level of creative self-expression that powerfully engages an audience; or it may become merely intricately self-referential. The cemeteries of cinema are littered with the bones of deeply personal but incomprehensible films. An ongoing conversation between the self and the audience is at the heart of film form, an art that deals with finely tuned individual experience but must simultaneously satisfy a mass audience.

This idea was very present to me when I agreed to participate as a filmmaker in last summer's congress on the dual centennials of psychoanalysis and film. I admitted to great curiosity, given the major differences between the respective “audiences.” What common concerns could filmmakers and analysis embrace? Within a few months dramatic events of my own life would provide an answer.

I am a Hollywood cinematographer who has made several forays into directing. Early in my career I photographed Ordinary People for director Robert Redford. More than any other film I have done, its story of a young man's struggle for identity and expiation has been a benchmark against which I measure my other work. I expected that it would be this film that I would reference during the weekend's informal seminar discussions. And it was.

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