Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Soulkeeper - Jung And Sabrina Speilrien

During a discussion on A Dangerous Method on the Asheville Jung Center, the movie The Soul Keeper, was mentioned and given a review by David Thompson. I found the movie broken up into six parts, of 14 minutes each, on you tube in English.  The original is in Italian. It depicts Sabrina Spielrein and Jung's relationship without Freud, and I think better represents their relationship than does A Dangerous Method. 
I don't think both of them are historically accurate and wonder why each movie would change some of the scenes which were dramatic in the histories.  I felt neither film addressed Sabina's strength as a psychotherapist following her graduation and her work with the Analytical Society.  Not once did they show her presenting her work (some of it quite revolutionary) in a meeting. So now these films represent her, almost as badly as the male analysts of the day did. The Soul Keeper did have a scene where she breaks into a meeting where Jung is speaking but shows her more as the betrayed lover than as a fellow analyst, researcher and analytical writer.
Although, in other ways, I found this movie to be much more to my liking and mostly what I had hoped to see in a treatment of Jung. It is not so flat or clinical, but is richer in atmosphere, emotions and the acting of Ian Glen as Jung and Emilia Fox as Sabina are far better than that of Keira Knightly and Michael Fassbender. Both of the latter seemed flat and lifeless, and didn't represent two emotional people in the midst of a pivotal and ultimately traumatic relationship. 
In Soul Keeper, there were a number of little touches that I recognized coming from other books on Jung, such as the oblong dark stone, which Jung called his soul, which he gave to Sabina, telling her it was his soul. I don't know if this is historically accurate, but it was a nice touch, obviously by someone more versed in Jung's biography.  In Jung's mind the stone was his soul. He'd kept the stone in his pocket when he was young and then later kept it in a little box with the a small figure of a man he carved in black coat and hat, who he called Philimon and who he later considered his #2 personality.  His "self" as opposed to his ego, the Seigfried of his his heroic ego journey as opposed to the self he came into later in life. 
At least The Soul Keeper tried to document Sabina's symptoms when she entered Burgh√∂lzli,better and even though they shied away from her playing with her feces, they did show her sitting on her heel, although the regular movie goer won't get what she's actually doing and they at least implied she played with her feces with the small little sculptured animals, which may have been dirt or feces. But they shied away from the reality on that too. 
I also like the part where Jung was drawing then carving a head on a stone and then later smashing it.  I wonder if it meant to represent the Seigfried, the ego, he needed to smash up to make way to unleash his true self.   I took it that way and wonder if anyone knows if this is historically accurate?  I thought his stone carving came later when he worked out at Bollingen, can anyone tell me the timeline on this?
While The Soul Keeper, showed Sabina in her work with children once she had returned to her native Russia, they once again neglected an opportunity to show her greater influence on the field of psychology.  They didn't show her offering analysis or training other therapists when she was the first person to introduce in person the joint works of psychoanalysis and psychotherapy of Freud and Jung to Russia, as well as train new analysts. 
And  while I think The Soul Keeper showed more of her strengths and more of the "poetry" between she and Jung, it didn't show why or how "the poetry" occurred, such as how they thought alike, prodded each other explore other avenues of their field and came to same conclusions.
However, A Dangerous Method did attempt this, although too briefly and too subtly I think, for anyone who had not read John Kerr's book or the letters of Jung and Spieilrein. I wanted to applaud at the scene on the bench outside her apartment when Sabina (in her true Athena style, as Len Cruz on the Asheville Jung Center discussion so beautifully put) spoke of her ideas on the death instinct in the sex act, as well as laying groundwork for Jung to consider which would bring him to some of his most fruitful concepts.
I do think, however, that both films did psychotherapy an injustice in the way they depicted the sexual scenes.  Event though I expected that be overblown because it must appeal to the general public, wasn't it enough to show them having a private affair, especially since we don't know for sure if it was ever physically consummated?  A Dangerous Method totally blew my believability in the film, with it's emphasis on the spanking and the scene in The Soul Keeper after the Wagner concert in the lobby of the Opera House is  unbelievable. No way would the affair have been kept secret until the discovery of Sabina's journals if  they'd had sex in the lobby of a Zurich opera house. And there was plenty of drama in their real life missteps and experiences, to have to use these shallow methods to make a point.
I guess I shouldn't expect such historical accuracy in a movie, but the letters, journals and biographies to me seem such a goldmine of material, that  why bother making anything up?  I know they had to cram a lot into less than two hours, but still, I'm waiting for the ultimate movie to reveal the truth of the birth of psychotherapy.
And I have to wonder, which audience were either director appealing to? They way they both dropped only subtle hints that those who read up on Jung, Freud or Spielrein would get then why gussy it up?  And if their audience was just the general public, why bother with the subtle hints? 

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