Six-week evening course
Tutor: Mary Wild
Scottish physician William Cullen first employed the term ‘neurosis’ in 1769 to summarise «general diseases of the sense or motion» where there appeared to be no observable organic cause. Sigmund Freud redefined and popularised the neurosis diagnosis in the 20th century, developing it as a central construct in psychoanalytic theory and practice.
Freud believed that when a person is unable to consciously process trauma from the past (e.g., childhood abuse), they repress the agonising memories and feelings related to the event. Over time, the individual does not recall the original incident; instead they exhibit a series of nervous symptoms, such as anxiety, sadness, perfectionism, irritability, low self-worth, phobic avoidance and obsessive thoughts.
Freud noted that neurosis is a state of emotional conflict preventing ordinary people from enjoying life, a condition he differentiated from the more severe psychotic structure that indicates a detachment from reality via delusions and hallucinations. In his case study of Ernst Lanzer (the ‘Rat Man’), Freud provided a comprehensive analysis of the neurotic individual as displaying an inability to accept change in their surroundings, with pronounced difficulties in managing life patterns, and a resistance in the pursuit of satisfying experiences.
Whilst neurosis was eliminated from the DSM in 1980 as an official psychiatric category, it remains interesting as a theoretical concept, and the film medium supplies a uniquely effective discourse for communicating the convoluted network of neurotic symptoms. PROJECTIONS: Neurosis On Film is a 6-week course exploring cinematic representations of neurotic conditions (e.g., hysteria, obsessional neurosis, melancholia) and associated features such as linguistic quandaries, existential crises and the compulsion to repeat. We will source out archetypal ‘anally retentive’ film characters, those inhibited figures retreating from life, delaying commitment, fearful of punishment… to illustrate the quintessential neurotic preoccupation: what is the meaning of life?
Advance viewing is optional, select scenes and montages will be shown during weekly sessions (see filmography below).
Week 1 – HYSTERIA: Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961), Opening Night (1977), Belle De Jour (1967)
Week 2 – OBSESSIONAL NEUROSIS: Brokeback Mountain (2005), Blade Runner 2049 (2017), Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994)
Week 3 – MELANCHOLIA: Les Amours Imaginaires (2010), Knight Of Cups (2015), A Single Man (2009)
Week 4 – LINGUISTIC BLOCK: Deconstructing Harry (1997), Synecdoche, New York (2008), Adaptation (2002)
Week 5 – EXISTENTIAL ANGST: Seconds (1966), Into the Wild (2007), The Zero Theorem (2013)
Week 6 – ETERNAL RETURN: Vertigo (1958), Interstellar (2014), The Duke of Burgundy (2014)
PROJECTIONS is psychoanalysis for film interpretation. PROJECTIONS empowers film spectators to express subjective associations they consider to be meaningful. Expertise in psychoanalytic theory is not necessary — the only prerequisite is the desire to enter and inhabit the imaginary world of film, which is itself a psychoanalytic act. MARY WILD, a Freudian cinephile from Montreal, is the creator of PROJECTIONS.