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to CryWhy Love MattersWhy Lyrics LastWhy People CooperateWhy People Die by SuicideWhy Sex Matters: A Darwinian Look at Human BehaviorWhy Smart People Can Be So StupidWhy the Mind is Not a ComputerWhy Us?Why We LieWhy We LoveWider than the SkyWilliam James at the BoundariesWilling, Wanting, WaitingWittgenstein And PsychologyWomen and Child Sexual AbuseWorking MindsYoga and PsychologyYou Are What You RememberYoung Minds in Social WorldsYour Brain on CubsYour Brain on FoodYour Brain on Food: How Chemicals Control Your Thoughts and Feelings,Your Brain on YogaYour Child in the BalanceZombies and Consciousness
Sometime around 1895 both the modern cinema and
modern psychoanalysis came into being, and they have had a mutual, not to say
incestuous, fascination ever since. They gaze at each other and see themselves
reflected and reinforced. It has been remarked that no art form is quite so
suited, because of its ability to focus intently upon one single protagonist,
the close-up, the point of view, the voice-over, as cinema, and no psycho- or
sociological theory is quite so seductive, although not always correct or
sustainable by any means, as psychoanalysis. In this book Indick attempts to
apply many of the most well known theories, great he would call them, to a
range of films to illustrate their insights and truths. He looks at classical
Freud, Jung, Adler, Rank, Erickson and May, and adds in Joseph Campbell for
good measure, although there may be some debate about whether he could really
be called a psychoanalyst. But no matter, what Indick attempts to is show how
the constructs, archetypes, mechanisms, drives and so on about which the
theorists expound can be seen to play themselves out, literally, on the screen.
There is a sense in which he wants to show that the universal insights of
psychoanalysis are present and correct.
He does this in a very entertaining
manner, and anyone with even a passing interest in either of the topics, let
alone in both, is bound to be intrigued. He casts his cinematic net far and
wide, well far and wide in Hollywood. The treatment of non-Hollywood cinema is
scant and only includes a bare selection of usual suspects, a little bit of
German expressionism, a nod towards the angst of Bergman and Tarkovsky, but
little else. Nor does he venture much outside the feature film. There is, for
example, no reference to more experimental films and nothing about
documentaries at all. However, within the Hollywood genres he does present an
interesting range. It should be noted here that he is not so much interested in
films with a psychological or psychiatric bent or storyline, he is interested
in the myth-making, story-telling nature of film and how the psychoanalytic theories
he applies can illuminate them and enrich our experience.
To that end, he seems as indebted
to the work of Joseph Campbell as any of the clinicians. Campbell's monumental,
and seminal, work on the universal and timeless themes of myths underpins much
of the thesis of the book. Indeed, one of the persistent themes is the hero
figure, the trials and the triumph. There is a direct and clear link between
the stories of Homer (not Simpson although that may be an interesting study
waiting to happen) and Frodo's quest, Luke Skywalker and the Jedi knights,
Dorothy in Oz, and perhaps most thought-provoking of all, Malcolm X.
After a series of chapters in which
he treats each theorist separately, and shows a Rankian take on Harry Potter or
the Freudian murk of American Beauty, he attempts to pull all the
perspectives together in an analysis of Malcolm X. It may be that this
particular section could have been expanded a little (his eclectic approach is
only about eight pages). The undeniable cultural context and political
significance of the film could be developed more than it is. Indeed, if the
thesis of the book is to have any distinct value it may be in the eclectic
approach because few if any theoretical purists still remain. That time may
have passed and Indick has the opportunity of bringing together a number of
extremely important strands of thought and constructs of social and personal
understanding to act upon perhaps the most significant myth-making medium of
There is, if anything, a temptation
to dismiss the work lightly as a bit of an academic party game -- "what
would happen if Freud had written about Dracula instead of dreams?" --
but, it deserves more than that, and the final chapter, looking at a
controversial, but certainly mythic film, may well have presented that
opportunity. Perhaps this is an opportunity that could have been grasped more
However, Indick does have a serious
subject, and a meaningful one. He clearly enjoys his films on many levels. It
would be perhaps a little more helpful if he could have been more critical in
his appraisal and more pertinent in his exemplars. Movies do matter. They do
show many of the facets of myth-making. They do both arise out of and shape the
societies they speak to and with. They are worthy of study and reflection. And,
if on finishing this book a reader feels the same, Indick will have done a fine
© 2005 Mark Welch
Welch, Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Nursing at the University of
Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta and Co-Director of the PAHO/WHO Collaborating Centre
for Nursing & Mental Health.
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