In Focus-Magazine

Freud's Last Session
Friday, 01.26.2024, 01:22 AM

Freud's Last Session begins two days after Germany has invaded Poland., British children are being evacuated out of London to the countryside for safekeeping.  

Sigmund Freud (Anthony Hopkins) has evacuated his Vienna homeland with his daughter Anna, so they can both practice in England.  However, he is not anticipating much of a future.  He has a painful, inoperable tumor in his eye and cheek.  Neville Chamberlin has declared that Great Britain will go to war with Germany because Hitler will not withdraw from Poland.  Freud is feeling the encroaching darkness within and without.  He feels his time is short.

It is on this night that Professor C.S. Lewis (Matthew Goode), has come to debate Freud on the existence of God.  No matter what character Hopkins inhabits, challenging him to a war of words and wits is always a losing proposition.  And the man with the cigar is no exception. 

Lewis, a believer in the Holy Spirit, challenges Freud's world view, one in which God is not benevolent and does not even exist.  Says Freud, "Do non-believers bring about their own suffering or is their suffering God's revenge for their disbelief?" Exasperated, he goes even further, "There's so much pain in the world, is this God's plan?"  Freud has suffered horrible losses throughout his life, and embraces science, not theology. 

At some point in time, before Lewis appears at Freud's home, the Gestapo have already come to 'question' Dr. Freud.  His daughter, Anna, volunteers to go with them in his place, secreting in her clothing one of her father's secret poison pills, just in case.  The horror is closing in. 

Based on the play by the screenwriter Marc St. Germain, Freud's Last Session is a dash through Freudian Psych 101, including discussions on psychotic personality disorders.  Freud expounds on homosexuality and lesbianism, finding all of these, and more, are a natural part of human sexuality. Freud 'considers what people tell him less interesting than what they choose not to tell him.'

Freud surreptitiously starts to analyze and question Lewis, whose explanation of why he is there has something to do with the author Tolkein.  Hopkins is so sly about the questioning that Lewis has no idea he's being analyzed.  Asks Freud, "Why should I take the word of Christ that he is God, while I diagnose men (as psychotics) who claim to be Christ?" Freud also has little truck with fake religious piety.  "You always pick and choose those special Bible verses, the ones that support your own virtuous bias." 

There's so much to unpack, on a psychological level.   Anna's relationship with her father is portrayed as definitely skewed; he still views his adult daughter as a child needing his approval, although Anna is actually in a relationship with another adult.   Freud knows her partner is a woman, but Anna is afraid to reveal that to her father.  Freud is definitely unwilling to talk with Lewis about his relationship with his daughter/caretaker.  

While this theological battle is being waged, Anna is running through the village, on the hunt for a bottle of morphine to assuage her father's pain.  She is repeatedly turned away, even though, or possibly because she mentions her Jewish father by name. 

The verbal parallels between the terror of 1940's German Nazism and the rhetoric from one political faction in America, eighty years later, are strewn like landmines.  Says Freud, "We've chosen to live our precious lives in the stifiling smoke of the burning of the books and the embers of our hate.  We are the apocalypse.  Herr Heil."

Above and beyond the political overtones, it's the thrill of watching Hopkins and Goode's verbal fencing that makes Freud's Last Session captivating.

Lisa Blanck is the Associate Editor / Movie Reviewer for In and is a member of the Critics Association of Central Florida.  Her background includes 30+ years of digital editing for NBC and CBS News affiliates.  She also edits national promotional spots for Matter Of Fact, the #1 nationally syndicated news & information program.  For 30+ years she has covered the Florida Film Festival & the World Peace Film Festival, and has additional award-winning experience in advertising, marketing, promotions and live special events with MTV Networks.  

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