“Freud’s Last Session” now a film directed by Matthew Brown, is based on a book and a Harvard course taught by Armand M. Nicholi on differences between writer C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud. It was also a stage play by Mark St. Germain.
There is very little evidence that Lewis and famous psychoanalyst actually met at all. Nevertheless, the small and intimate drama is perfectly suited for a play. The environs are dark and walnut with big, luscious windows and a lusty red-orange couch. If this was not a philosophical sparring affair, the setting would be perfect for an Agatha Christie whodunnit.
Here we have C.S. Lewis (Matthew Goode) hoping to sway the curmudgeon Freud (Anthony Hopkins) to a more spiritual bent. World War II is beginning. Lewis arrives late and the Viennese master is ready to give him a few jabs. The visitor takes it on the chin.
Freud is incredulous regarding Lewis’s Christian beliefs and Lewis is equally mystified by Freud. To the psychiatrist, Christianity is a medley of fairy tales. Lewis feels religion gives a man wonder, purpose, and security.
For most of the debate, Freud gives his mild-mannered visitor an excited chuckle as if to humor a child. It escalates when Lewis attacks the intolerance of science.
It becomes clear that Freud is miserable with mouth cancer, but he maintains his humor.
Anna Freud (Liv Lisa Fries) is very nervous about her ailing father and very attached.
The treatment is a bit low key and of the drawing room. Matthew Goode is the straight man to Anthony Hopkins’ barking psychoanalyst. Hopkins has some of the best lines.
Still, it is touching to see both men at disparate ends come to an understanding.
Freud is as terrified by cancer as Lewis is by war and Freud utilizes Science with equal zealotry just as a Religion.
This premise is compelling and makes a good playful primer on science and religion. It is tempting fun to ponder what would happen if Freud and Lewis had met in real life. It is only that with such conventional treatment, the two characters feel as if they are idling in second gear and not going for the full gusto, the dramatic Id.
Write Ian at firstname.lastname@example.org