‘Freud’s Last Session’: Anthony Hopkins analyzes faith and doubt

Spread the love

(2 stars)

The main character we meet at the start of “Freud's Last Session” – a talkative, speculative drama that imagines a meeting between avowed atheist Sigmund Freud, who invented psychoanalysis, and Christian apologist writer CS Lewis, author from “The Chronicles of Narnia”. – is out of breath. He is 83 years old, forgetful and constantly suffering from the oral cancer he was diagnosed with 16 years earlier.

It's a pain that Sigmund (Anthony Hopkins) treats with morphine, the drug he would use to end his life just three weeks after the action of this film, which opens with the doctor waking up , in London, from a Nazi dream. occupied Austria, he fled a year and a half earlier. England has just entered World War II. Air raid sirens will soon punctuate the decor.

So it's a little strange when Matthew Goode's Lewis, nicknamed Jack, shows up in this unrelaxing setting, by invitation, for a light conversation over whiskey about faith, doubt, good and evil – and with added sexuality for laughs. Hopkins' Sigmund, always dashing, apparently finds some sort of balm in such intellectual debate, to which he admits he was driven after reading Lewis's “The Pilgrim's Regression.” The 1933 allegorical novel includes a character called Sigismond Illumination, a “vain and ignorant old man” said to have been based on Freud.

“Session” viewers may have a harder time finding solace (or entertainment) in this lightly marinated pot of discord, directed by Matt Brown, based on the 2011 play by Mark St. Germain (it- even inspired by Armand Nicholi's 2002 play). book “The Question of God”).

Certainly, Hopkins delivers a lively performance, with Goode suffering from the limitations of Brown and St. Germain's script, in which Jack is little more than a mouse played by Sigmund's feline arguments and intellect. The film's roots as a two-hander on stage are difficult for Brown to transplant to the screen, despite numerous flashbacks to Sigmund's childhood, where his Catholic nanny clashes with the boy's Jewish father, and to the service of Jack during World War I, during which he promises a doomed comrade to care for the dying soldier's mother, should a terrible fate befall him.

Another subplot – more distracting than entertaining – involves Anna Freud (Liv Lisa Fries), Sigmund's psychoanalyst daughter, who rushes around London trying to refill her father's morphine prescription even as she summons the courage to confess his love for Dorothy Burlingham (Jodi Balfour), a fellow psychoanalyst, to his father. That's a lot in a small film that struggles to contain all of that in a single day.

There are exhilarating pleasures. After Jack arrives and is warned not to sit on what Sigmund calls the “transformation couch,” a place of honor for so many of his patients, the famous shrink opens Jack's head and looks in. 'interior. (Sigmund makes one or two veiled references to bachelor Jack's somewhat ambiguous sexuality and whether he lives with a woman – or a man. There's nothing wrong with that, Sigmund adds, effect.)

Perhaps it's more accurate to say that the two men settle each other on the couch, ultimately attempting to peer inside each other's skulls, prodding and probing without really provoking any real insight, in a film that looks as dull and gray as it sounds. “I consider what people tell me less fascinating than what they choose not to tell me,” Sigmund says, as one might expect.

Ultimately, the dueling protagonists of “Freud's Last Session” reach something of an impasse. “One of us is a fool,” Sigmund says of the questions at the heart of the film: Does God exist? And if so, why would such a creator permit evil? Is the second a proof or a negation of the first?

“If you are right, you will not be able to tell me,” Sigmund continues, presumably referring to the finality of death. “And if I’m right, no one will ever know.”

That's at least a sure thing, in a film whose intriguing ideas are rendered stale and unsatisfying by their dull, dutiful delivery. “Freud's Last Session” ends with Sigmund restocked on painkillers and Jack on the train back to Oxford, his head still free (or perhaps fuller than ever) of doubts. Who knows if the man – or the viewer – has been changed?

The final shot is pretty and clever, in a film that lacks more. The camera lingers on the dark tracks ahead, of which only a few meters are visible, illuminated by the engine headlight. He rushes into the night, heedless of what is not and cannot be known.

PG-13. In cinemas in the region. Contains mature thematic material, bloody and violent images, sexuality and smoking. 108 minutes.

Source link

Leave a Comment