Artistic tendencies: How long have you felt this way, Darth?
As a film chronicles Freud and Jung's battle of wits, Phil Boucher puts 10 artistic moments on the couch
Sunday 05 February 2012
On 27 February 1907, budding psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung travelled to Vienna to meet Sigmund Freud for the first time. It was to be a momentous occasion: Jung described Freud as "intelligent, shrewd, and altogether remarkable", and for the next seven years the duo developed the intellectual friendship detailed in A Dangerous Method, starring Michael Fassbender, Keira Knightley and Viggo Mortensen.
Sadly, it was not to last. Initially Freud assumed the role of Jung's mentor, but as the young Swiss developed his own theories he began to question Freud's beliefs – most notably his obsession with sexuality as a motivating force.
Jung also disputed Freud's concept of the unconscious mind being little more than a reservoir of repressed thoughts; to Jung, these hidden emotions were something that could be tapped and freed to become a source of immense artistic creativity.
The impact on the arts of this theoretical split has been dramatic: Jung's ideas rapidly inspired artists such as Salvador Dali to plot a course into the previously uncharted dream world of Surrealism, followed by musicians such as The Beatles and Pink Floyd; meanwhile Freud's concepts of repressed mental distress have long been adopted by film-makers and authors searching for a psychologically tormented hero, twisted femme fatale or delusional scoundrel.
Nor does it stop there, as this list of 10 artistic hits influenced by the two great thinkers proves.
'A Dangerous Method' is on general release from Friday
The films of Alfred Hitchcock
Hitchcock created the most famous murder scene in film using little more than a shower curtain and a violin, yet this was just the tip of his psychological genius: in Marnie, Tippie Hedren stars as a dysfunctional kleptomaniac suffering from childhood trauma; Vertigo sees James Stewart suffering from nightmarish flashbacks; while Spellbound features an elaborate dream sequence created by Jungian devotee Salvador Dali, and opens with the words: "Our story deals with psychoanalysis, the method by which modern science treats the emotional problems of the sane."
'Synchronicity', by The Police
It's not just tantric fumblings that float Sting's intellectual boat. Hell no. The Wallsend-born songwriter was heavily influenced by Jung's theory of synchronicity while writing The Police's 1983 album, which bears its name, and is pictured reading Jung's book on the cover artwork. The album also contains a song in two parts called "Synchronicity I" and "Synchronicity II". "Jung believed there was a large pattern to life, that it wasn't just chaos," Sting later explained. "Our song 'Synchronicity II' is about two parallel events that aren't connected logically or causally, but symbolically." Who are we to argue?
Given that he spent his life dealing with a sociopathic mother, morally bankrupt sister and suicidally nervous wife, while simultaneously running a murderous crime empire, it's hardly surprising that Tony Soprano turned to psychotherapy. Yet the show went much further than simple parody: it used extended dream sequences, and Tony's in-therapy stories of ducks landing in swimming pools or stealing his penis as metaphors to reveal his inner torment – even if the sessions with Dr Melfi weren't always successful. Tony once described Freud's Oedipus theory as "that crap about every boy wanting to have sex with his mother".
In 1975 George Lucas was desperately struggling to pull together the strands of his imaginary Star Wars world when he stumbled upon Joseph Campbell's book The Hero With a Thousand Faces, which is inspired by Jung's theory of a universally shared subconscious model of what constitutes a perfect hero. Lucas then used Campbell's ideas as a blueprint for the film, with the likes of Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda and Luke Skywalker representing such mythic elements as mentor, oracle and deified apotheosis. The same blueprint was also used in The Matrix – although with more PVC and fewer light sabres.
The paintings of Jackson Pollock
Some may claim that Jack the Dripper did little more than haphazardly spill paint around his studio in a drunken rage, yet Pollock's abstract expressionism displays a deep-seated understanding of both composition and colour. It also owes a huge debt to Jungian therapy, as in 1938 the American spent four months in hospital undergoing psychiatric treatment for his alcoholism. Here therapists tried to draw out the root causes of his inner torment by asking Pollock to draw pictures and closely examining the results for signs of unconscious symbolism. This thorough Jungian examination remained with Pollock throughout his career – as, sadly, did his alcoholism.
What is Fight Club? On the one hand it's a commentary on alienation in modern consumerist society; on the other it's an excuse for Brad Pitt, to look enviably handsome, tough and cool. Yet it's also an exploration of the Freudian mind, with Edward Norton's insomniac narrator representing a human mind that's allowed the hedonistic impulses of its id to slip free of the restraining influence imparted by its more sensible ego. The narrator projects this wildly roaming Id through the guise of Pitt's rampaging Tyler Durden, who embarks on a mission to fulfill all the narrator's desires. At the climax of the film, the narrator – or ego – manages to regain control of his Brad Pitt-shaped id and destroys every edifice of the insanely egomaniacal world that Tyler has inhabited.
Laurence Olivier's 'Hamlet'
William Shakespeare wrote Hamlet some 250 years before Freud was born, yet when it came to filming his 1948 adaptation of the play, Sir Laurence Olivier relied heavily on the Austrian psychologist's theories to turn the cold and sexless Dane into a virile young man struggling to deal with immense psychological torment – most notably in the strong Oedipal undercurrents present in the scenes between Olivier's Prince and Eileen Herlie's Queen Gertrude. Despite criticism from traditionalists, Olivier's approach paid off: Sir Larry's film was a hit at the box office and won him the Best Picture and Best Actor awards at that year's Oscars.
'Life on Mars'
After months of tortuous clues, the ground-breaking cop show ultimately revealed Gene Hunt's macho Seventies world to be the fantastical construct of Sam Tyler's dying, tumour-riddled brain. In the 1980s sequel, Ashes to Ashes, this concept was then taken a step further, with the retro universe portrayed as a special form of purgatory for dead police officers. Yet by driving a Ford Cortina at high speed into the heart of Tyler's coma-induced fantasies, Life on Mars was effectively basing itself in the concepts of a collective and personal subconscious – ideas created by Freud and Jung.
'Crow', by Ted Hughes
Poets such as Byron, Shelley and Coleridge would have gladly forsaken their last vial of opium to have known about the surrealist dreamworld opened up by Carl Jung. So it was only natural that Ted Hughes drew heavily on Jung's ideas of myth and the collective subconscious to tackle such weighty issues as man's innately foolish nature within his Crow poems, written between 1966 and 1969. By setting free thoughts that frequently remain repressed within the unconscious, Hughes participates in the healthy psychological process Jung calls individuation. Or, at least, that's the theory.
On the surface, this computer game is little more than a feeble excuse to leap across medieval rooftops and elegantly slaughter people. Yet the game also works on a much deeper level and is essentially set within the subconscious memories of a 21st-century barman called Desmond Miles, as he's hooked up to a mind-delving machine known as the Animus. Carl Jung coined the term "animus" to describe one of the two main archetypes of the unconscious mind. The other – the "anima" – is represented by the game's female characters.
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