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This pseudo-biographical movie depicts 5 years from 1885 on in the life of the Viennan psychologist Freud (1856-1939). At this time, most of his colleagues refuse to cure hysteric patients, because they believe they're just simulating to gain attention. But Freud learns to use hypnosis to find out the reasons for the psychosis. His main patient is a young woman who refuses to drink water and is plagued by always the same nightmare. Written by
Tom Zoerner <Tom.Zoerner@informatik.uni-erlangen.de>
Since ancient times there have been three great changes in man's idea of himself. Three major blows dealt us in our vanity. Before Copernicus, we thought we were the centre of the universe, that all the heavenly bodies revolved around our Earth. But the great astronomer shattered that conceit and we were forced to admit our planet is but one of many which swing around the sun, that there are other systems beyond our solar system in myriad worlds. Before Charles Darwin man believed he was a ...
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Huston does very good work here, using a fine script in presenting the story of Freud not as a standard biography, but concentrating only on his initial work in examining the effect of the subconscious mind on conscious (though perhaps involuntary) actions - an idea believed preposterous at the time. The narrative is presented essentially as a psychological detective story, as Freud tries to discover the root causes of one patient's multiple afflictions and aberrant behavior, none of which has any physical cause. The film uses depictions of memories, dreams, thoughts as visual clues - all progressively revealing more - to lead us (and Freud) steadily closer to the underlying truth in the case, as well as in other areas disturbing him.
The opening and closing narration (by Huston) is effective, though the occasional narration he does as the story progresses bothered me a little; it was as if they felt there was something missing from the film which had to be explained in voiceover, and it also pulled me out of the story momentarily. Probably it would have been more effective if Clift (rather than Huston) had done the narration, from Freud's point of view, in the body of the film.
The film, which maintains a serious, fiercely somber atmosphere throughout (similar to The Elephant Man though perhaps more so here), does not proceed with any real speed - you'll need to stay with it; and the dark, harsh style of photography and music (while effective) might be difficult for some viewers. You need not agree with Freud's concluding theories (many of which are not held in particularly high regard today) in order to recognize the importance and validity of his primary methods and pioneering work in what was then a highly ridiculed field. 8 of 10
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