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Freeman, P. (2016). Stage and Screen Freuds. Int. J. Appl. Psychoanal. Stud., 13(4):371-373.

(2016). International Journal of Applied Psychoanalytic Studies, 13(4):371-373

Film and Theater Review and Commentary

Stage and Screen Freuds

Phillip Freeman

When they asked David Cronenberg about his representation of Freud in A Dangerous Method1 he said that he did not wish to destroy or extol his subject, just to “resurrect real people as much as art will let you do that” and to let the audience “react to that reality(Feeney, 2011). Of course we have spent time in psychoanalysis, as have our counterparts in every other field in the arts and sciences, pointing out the inevitable subjectivity of such realities.

In film, our subject, a historical personage or not, will be constructed out of a few carefully selected strips of spliced cellophane. In theater, out of a handful of lines. Certainly Cronenberg, or Mark St Germain in an alternate resurrection of Freud in his play Freud’s Last Session,2 do not harbor the illusion that have “captured” their subjects in all of their complexity. Rather they offer a certain idea of Jung or Spielrein, or, in the play, of Freud or Lewis, snapshots at certain moments with certain emphases and dramatic agendas.

There have been many cinematic and dramatic Freuds.3 We all have our favorites. It is interesting to speculate about what traits and mannerisms and realized imaginings make them so. Do we prefer the simulation to the original? McGrath in the New York Times recently observed that, having seen Meryl Streep play Maggie Thatcher, he found himself suspicious of photographs of the actual Prime Minister. They looked “off”, he said.

And what of the dramatization of theoretical concepts and ideas? Since they only can be represented by way of characters we would have to assume that these presentations of ideas are to some extent similarly stamped by the conscious and unconscious intentions of the dramatist.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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