Jung & Film II: The Return

Jung & Film II: The Return

C Hauke and L Hockley (Eds) London & New York: Routledge, 2011. Pp. xviii + 344. Pbk

It has taken quite some time for a Jungian oriented approach to film to gain momentum, and this collection of 20 essays is testament that it is well into its swing. Traditionally, at least since the 1970’s, psychological analysis and ways of inquiry about film has been the domain of Freudian and Lacanian approaches, with a few but notable Jungian exceptions like Clark Branson and John Izod. This state of affairs may in part be due to Jung’s almost complete silence on the matter of the relevance of film to analytical psychology and the propensity for Jung’s follower’s to ape the master by treading only in his footsteps, the traditional paths of alchemy, myth and fairy tale. In an interesting essay entitled Jung’s popular cinema and the Other (p.109-118) Christopher Hauke gives a probing account of Jung’s confrontation with shadow aspects of his psyche in The Red Book, taking the form of areas of Hell reserved for specific aspects of his identifications; one such area is for those who reject an affinity with cinema itself.

Perhaps in part, also, the rejection of cinema as a means of exploring the psyche by Jungians was due to the historic split between Freud and Jung themselves, between psychoanalysis and analytical psychology, creating a sort of unacknowledged wall between them regarding subjects of study. For from its very beginnings and through its dissemination by artists in the early 20th century, psychoanalysis gained currency with the arts, especially through the surrealist movement in the automatic writing of Andre Breton & Philip Soupault, the films of Louis Brunel and most famously, perhaps, in the paintings of Salvador Dali. Breton was so enamoured with Freud that he even sought an audience with him, but the meeting was singularly disappointing to the intrepid young artist of 25 years, for “Freud considered his visitor a poet rather than a scientist, and saw little relation between his own research and the young Frenchman’s literary interests. Breton, whose knowledge of the theory and practise of psychoanalysis was in reality, superficial, had little to interest to the Austrian.” (Polizzotti, p.,162). Film took to Freudian theories readily; Freud’s notion of the double was given treatment in Otto Rank’s The Double as early as 1925 (Creed, p.78), and a conscious dialogue with Freudian ideas continued through Hitchcock and beyond. It was certainly a missed opportunity in 1964 when the publication of Man and His Symbols (Jung et al, 1964) failed to grasp the relevance of film to the modern psyche and mentions film only momentarily and then only to draw attention to the traditional Jungian sphere of ancient mythology. (It is rather ironic then, that just before the publication of the present volume of essays under discussion the Guardian newspaper ran an article entitled “Hollywood wants Red Riding Hood and Snow White to weave a box office spell”, which foretold of a Hollywood invasion of European folktales.) In contrast Georges Perec saw exactly how film and psyche were entangling as he shows us in his Things: A Story of The Sixties almost exactly contemporary with Jung’s book for the masses. Perec’s insightful study of consumerism in France in the 1960’s cites cinema as the main ‘thing’ in the lives of his protagonists:

Above all they had the cinema. And this was probably the only area where they had learned everything from their own sensibilities. They owed nothing to models. Their age and education made them members of that first generation for which the cinema was not so much an art as simply a given fact; they had always known the cinema not as a fledgling art form but from their earliest acquaintance, as a domain having its own masterworks and its own mythology. Sometimes it seemed as if they had grown up with it, and that they understood it better than anyone before them had ever been able to understand it. They were cinema buffs. Film was their primordial passion; they indulged in it every evening, or nearly.” (Perec, 1965/2011, p.55)

Crucially his characters dream of “the film they would like to make. Or, more secretly, no doubt, the film they would like to live.” (ibid. p56-57)

It is in this ‘secret’ aspect of engagement with films that a great deal of Jung and Film II: The Return manages to describe and elucidate so well. Secrecy not in the sense of unconscious wish fulfilments, but in the apparent surface invisibility of constituent elements which, when deepened, provide rich and fertile ground for imaginative discourse. Jungians will be familiar with this deepening through the classic tools of Jungian analysis, but it is not only through amplification of images that the secret life of the screen is revealed, although this thread runs through all the essays to a greater or lesser degree. For example, the book opens with a comparison of the world of the documentary film-maker and the world of the Jungian analyst and how both work with the power of images to progress towards a transformation of the viewer/analysand and bring about a greater affective engagement with the world through what the author’s term a decisive image. Terrie Waddell argues for an understanding and development of her native Australian film industry based on the oscillating poles of introversion and extraversion both in the context of film subject matter and Australian government funding concerns based on national directives. This is a probing and subtle account that shows how the cultural and political spheres coalesce and diverge to produce Australia’s national cinema. Jungian notions of type are also employed in a masterful essay by John Beeb. Using the Wizard of Oz film as his canvas he portrays aspects of America’s post and pre-war social & political life through Dorothy’s encounter with, and return home from, Oz and argues his case for the film as a plea for Americans to nurture an introverted feeling attitude. Along the way he takes us through a type-specific account of Dorothy and her new found friends and enemies that is as dazzling as it is in-depth.

wizardofoz

 

More theoretical concerns are addressed in several of the book’s essays. Luke Hockley’s essay The Third Image offers a way to conceptualise the meaningful experience of the cinema through a Jungian lens. In his discussion he also draws on the work of Roland Barthes and the semiotic concerns of signifier, signified and referent to reflect upon his own tripartite division of the cinematic experience where the ‘third image’ is conceptualized as a highly subjective imaginal space between the screen and viewer filled with personal and emotional responses that may be at odds with the representational and plot aspects of the film text. He draws on experience and examples from his own clinical practice to show how this third image is intimately involved in the meaning-making function of our lives. Like other essays in this book it is never merely theoretical in its purview.

Several essays in this volume touch on concerns within the Jungian film studies movement itself. Don Frederickson’s essay The corruption of consciousness and the nurturing of psychological life reads like a passionate manifesto to a newly formed artistic movement. In it he argues for a proper consideration of the symbol in Jungian film writing, in line with Jung’s definition of the symbol as containing something essentially unknown and issues a warning to writers not to be ‘seduced by signs masquerading as symbols’(p.101). He also argues for less concentration on popular cinema and for more in-depth work on other forms – art cinema, documentary, personal film and animation.

It is however the prolonged engagement with film texts which constitutes the core of this collection, regardless of the theoretical premises of the authors’ readings, and how this engagement materialises the hidden, secretive layers contained in the films chosen for analysis beyond the apparent surface. Andre Anardo’s reading of Soderbergh’s Solaris focuses on themes of otherness and ‘becoming undone’ through the tragic love story of two of the principle characters and sees in it a “radical contemporary plea for a deeper and more expansive relational engagement with the mystery of the world through the other and many others.” (p.64)

solaris

 

Tim Burton’s films are seen by Helena Bassil-Morozow from the viewpoint of his protagonists carrying the anguished weight of societies’ ills, including the family, and how it is his or her heroic task to re-channel this back into the world transformed, as part of a struggle to achieve individuation. In von Trier’s Breaking The Waves, David Hewson argues a case for the female lead role of the Bess that we see on screen as the result of an unseen life of earlier trauma and that the film attempts to heal her wounds through an individuation that is depicted via her relationship to other characters, “elements of one personality shown in raw relationship to one another.” (p.46) We are treated to a similar investigation of Jonathon Glazer’s film Birth by John Izod and Joanna Dovalis. They show the relationship of the film to the archetype of rebirth and borrow many images and ideas from Jung’s writing on alchemy and the child archetype to illustrate this being embedded in the film text. These alchemical themes are also seized upon in James Palmer’s essay on Coppola’s The Conversation. Here the surveillance man Harry Caul is seen in an act of alchemical purification as he listens to a voice recording he has made, endlessly filtering it so that he can hear what he has recorded through the extraneous noise.

breakingthewaves

 

The very act of Jungian film criticism might well be compared to an alchemical operation itself and certainly the legendary patience and commitment of the alchemist is evident throughout this excellent collection of essays. Film is now officially Jungian territory thanks to a growing number of writers, clinicians and academics who have a passionate belief in the ability of film as a medium to express who we are and where we are in all of our individual, social, political and collective manifestations, despite ourselves. They maybe the folk tales and myths of the present and we would do well to give them as much consideration as we do the canon of interpretative thinking passed down through the much loved work of Marie-Louise von Franz. I highly recommend this volume – put it at the top of your reading pile! You might even sit down with a DVD and a glass of wine too.

 



References

Creed, B. (1998) ‘Film and Psychoanalysis’ in The Oxford Guide to Film Studies. Oxford & New York Oxford University Press
Jung, et al. (1964) Man and His Symbols New York: Anchor Books
Perec, G. (1965/2011) Things: A Story of The Sixties London: Vintage Books
Polizzotti, M. (1995) Revolution of the Mind: The Life of Andre Breton London: Bloomsbury
Copyright Leslie Laine 2015

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