Freudians and Jungians have one thing in common: a love of movies.

By Michael Hardy August 1, 2013 Published in the August 2013 issue of Houstonia Magazine

In 1913, Carl Jung resigned as chairman of the International Psychoanalytic Association, the organization he co-founded with his mentor Sigmund Freud, over theoretical differences. Ever since that infamous schism, psychoanalysts have been divided into Jungians and Freudians, each with their own journals, conferences, and methods. For the past five years, however, the annual Psychoanalysis and Film series, a partnership between the Houston Psychoanalytic Society and the Jung Center, has brought the two warring camps together. Each Thursday through August, the Jung Center will host evening screenings of recent movies—A Separation (2011), Moonrise Kingdom (2012), Waltz with Bashir (2008), and Life of Pi (2012)—each accompanied by a short presentation from a Houston-based psychoanalyst. 

Psychoanalysis and Film
Aug 1 at 7
A Separation
Aug 8 at 7
Moonrise Kingdom
Aug 15 at 7
Waltz with Bashir
Aug 22 at 7
Life of Pi
Free. Jung Center of Houston, 
5200 Montrose Blvd. 

Before 2008, the event was hosted by the Museum of Fine Arts, but disagreements between the museum and the HPS forced the Freudians to join forces with their erstwhile rivals. “I thought maybe this would be a good collaboration, because the Freudians and the Jungians have not always gotten along,” says HPS president Donna Copeland. As in past years, the presenters are evenly divided between Freudians and Jungians.  

To get a sense of how psychoanalysts talk about film, check out the brochure for this year’s series, where we learn, for example, that Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom takes place in “a world that juxtaposes the intoxication of young love with the silent but unrelenting decline of untended, unexamined adult relationships.” But Sean Fitzpatrick, the Jung Center’s director of educational services, says presenters try to avoid technical jargon. “Somebody who comes to the event doesn’t have to have any background in psychoanalytic theory,” he says. “The presenters try to make the ideas clear to a general audience. And using movies to illustrate some of the psychoanalytic concepts really helps people understand them.” 

In past years, each film has attracted about a hundred people—some practicing psychoanalysts, others film buffs, others simply there for the air-conditioning and free popcorn. “I think that’s one of the reasons why we get such good discussions, because it’s a mix of different people,” Copeland says. “It’s not jargon. It’s just what a somewhat intellectual group of folks would discuss when they talk about a film.” 

Fitzpatrick says that of the Jung Center’s 200 yearly events, the series features some of the most intellectually stimulating discussions. “The people who come are really engaged with the films, either from a professional perspective or a personal perspective,” Fitzpatrick says. “People identify with characters on film, even if they’re larger than life. So when the film ends, people are still working through the issues of the film as if they were their own.” 

For her part, Copeland isn’t always happy with how movies portray her profession. “They practically always have the therapist sleeping with the patient,” she says. As an example, she cites the 2011 David Cronenberg film A Dangerous Method, a fictionalization of the relationship between Freud and Jung. In the film, Jung shacks up with a beautiful neurotic played by Keira Knightley. Of course, that affair has some historical basis. “That was before psychoanalysts understood the importance of boundaries,” Copeland says. “Jung and Freud were still trying to figure that out. Although I think Freud did have it more clear in his mind than Jung did.” 

Some rivalries will never die.

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