Movies on the Mind: Psychology and Film Since Sigmund Freud

“I don't believe it's possible to graphically represent the abstract nature of our thinking in a respectable form,” said Sigmund Freud. Whether Freud was right or wrong is debatable, though his remark hasn't stopped filmmakers the world over from trying to portray on screen the inner workings of the human mind.

Clips from many of those films dealing with dreams, phobias, split personalities, out-of-control egos, and countless other pathologies, psychoses, and neuroses will be shown at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' new interactive multimedia exhibition, “Movies on the Mind: Psychology and Film since Sigmund Freud,” which opens on Friday, June 15, in the Academy's Fourth Floor Gallery in Beverly Hills. Admission is free.

Organized by the Deutsche Kinemathek and sponsored by the Kulturstiftung des Bundes in celebration of Freud's 150th birthday (2006), the exhibition uses posters, photographs, sets, and film clips to illustrate the history of motion pictures as seen from a psychiatrist's chair.

The clips include sequences from Jean Cocteau's Orphée / Orpheus, in which the divide between reality and imagination is frighteningly tenuous; Ingmar Bergman's Persona, which has nurse Bibi Andersson and patient Liv Ullmann becoming – quite literally – one; Alfred Hitchcock's Marnie and Spellbound, the latter featuring dream sequences created by none other than Salvador Dali; and, inevitably, Woody Allen's Annie Hall and the “Oedipus Wrecks” episode from New York Stories.

Fredric March, Miriam Hopkins in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. HydeAlso featured will be horror films in which the monster is found in the inner recesses of the human brain, including Hitchcock's Psycho, Rouben Mamoulian's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (right), and Jonathan Demme's The Silence of the Lambs, in addition to lighter psycho-fare such as Spike Jonze's Being John Malkovich and Michel Gondry's Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

Here's hoping that the exhibition will also include Gondry's The Science of Sleep, about dreams, what else?; Robert Wiene's epoch-making Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari / The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari; Anatole Litvak's The Snake Pit, quite possibly the first Hollywood film to seriously examine the treatment of mental patients; Ralph Nelson's Charly, about a retarded man (Cliff Robertson) who becomes a genius for a little while; Bernardo Bertolucci's Il Conformista / The Conformist and Last Tango in Paris, both dealing with sex, psychosis, and death; Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange and The Shining, offering more sex, psychosis, and death, plus a healthy dose of violence… The list goes on an on.

Ah, and of course, John Huston's Freud, with a conflicted Montgomery Clift in the title role.

The presentation at the Academy, the exhibition's only American stop during its world tour, was made possible through the support of the Goethe Institut-Los Angeles.

“Movies on the Mind” will be on display through Sunday, September 16. The Academy's galleries, located at 8949 Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills, are open Tuesdays through Fridays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and weekends, noon to 6 p.m. The Academy will be closed on Wednesday, July 4 (Independence Day) as well as during the Labor Day holiday weekend – Saturday, September 1 through Monday, September 3. For more information call (310) 247-3600 or visit

“Kino im Kopf” graphic by Jan Drehmel

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1 Comment to Movies on the Mind: Psychology and Film Since Sigmund Freud

  1. Beverly hills psychologist

    What an great exhibit too bad it has pass a long time ago.