Saturday, June 02, 2012

Celtic Tiger 1


The Generational Impacts of Ireland’s Economic Crisis

Introduction
Tyretracks in the sand, Donabate Beach, 2007 or 2008
The Celtic Tiger era came to an abrupt end in a generally unpredicted hard crash landing with much collateral damage, as opposed to the rather gentler kind expressed in the euphemism of the “soft landing” peddled by most politicians, economists, speculators and banks at the time.  That this term was adapted to economics from its origins in the early days of flight, when it historically was the method of the landing of hot air balloons, may be somewhat ironically appropriate as indeed the predictions of these experts proved to be nothing short of “hot air.”
One need not be an expert in the field to know about the causes and consequences of this economic crisis because every citizen lives with its impacts on a daily basis.  As recently as April 18th last The Irish Independent reported that an elderly couple had lost their €1.25m life savings in a failed investment that a judge said could only be described as a "Celtic Tiger tragedy”[1].  That Ireland’s economy has gone from boom to bust in as short a period of time as twenty years is now worldwide knowledge.

Setting the Scene
We Irish are a small nation with all-too-recent peasant roots, not yet a hundred years old as a nation among nations.  Also, as a nation we have a long memory of a rather bloody and often humiliating past. The one time professor of history at U.C.G., Professor P.L. Henry (1978, 21) argued some years back that the constantly diminishing number of native speakers of the Irish language learned from 1795 onwards that “they and all they represented were inferior, unfashionable and gross; moreover, they were impoverished.”[2] Barely 150 years before the birth of the mythical Celtic Tiger, had the people of this small island experienced the desolation and devastation of the potato famine.  It could also be argued that the Irish in general have a sort of national inferiority complex due to hundreds of years of occupation by an outside power.  Kiberd (1995, p. 6) argues similarly that colonialism took various forms in Ireland over the centuries, forms that were accompanied by a “psychology of self-doubt and dependency among the Irish, linked to the loss of economic and political power but also to the decline of the native language and culture.”
What I am getting at here is that, in a strange sort of way, the attitude of the Irish during the Celtic Tiger era - where “we all partied” as the late Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan said [3] - was literally an unconscious reaction to such long years of poverty and humiliation.  “Paddy Irishman” literally took to his newly found wealth and accompanying more positive identity, with the conviction and passion of a reformed alcoholic.

Defining our Terms
Without a doubt the “generation” to which each of us belongs places our personal narratives in a broader context – that of the present writer being a youth and young adulthood experienced during the decades of the sixties and seventies respectively of the last century.  Having already lived through the recession of the 1980s and having “come out the farther end” situates the writer in a broader meta-narrative that would suggest that even if this recession lasts longer and bites deeper, that an up-turn is most likely even if it will be later appearing than the last one.  
The Jewish Hungarian-born sociologist Karl Mannheim (1893 – 1947) could be regarded as the grandfather of generational research. He suggests that a generation could also be defined in terms of collective response to a traumatic event or catastrophe that unites a particular cohort of individuals into a self-conscious age stratum.  He was probably thinking of the angst faced by German population in the wake of World War I.  Our traumatic event is undoubtedly the collapse of the Celtic Tiger era as heralded by the Bank Guarantee of September 29, 2008. As well as being of the 1960s and 1970s chronological generation, this writer firmly belongs with many others of different age groups who have been forged into a “Mannheimian” generation by virtue of the fact that we are all part of a collective response to our particular shared catastrophe.[4]  Hence, it is to the impacts of Ireland’s economic crisis on this generation that this essay directs its attention.  However, first we must look at a brief history of that fateful era called The Celtic Tiger.



[1] Tim Healy, Irish Independent, Wednesday April 18, 2012.

[2] See “Anglo-Irish And Its Irish Background” in The English Language in Ireland, (Mercier, 1978), edited by D.Ó Muirithe, for an extensive account of the fortunes of the Irish language and how its decline led to a sort of “inferiority complex” on the part of Gaelic speakers.

[3] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YK7w6fXoYxo Brian Lenihan, 'We All Partied', in an interview with Miriam O’Callaghan on Prime Time 24/11/10.  Accessed 6/05/2012

[4] As the quotation from Mannheim, given in class, puts it: “People are ‘contemporaries’ in the true sense of the word, not because of their location in chronological time, but because they are subjected to similar intellectual, social, political and economic circumstances.  Thus, individuals who experience the same constellation of influences arising from their location in society and history – even though they are various in their early, formative or later years – can be termed a ‘generation’.” From lecture notes by Sweeney, J. (2012), PowerPoint, Slide 1, March 6th.

Human Development and Film 4

Little Boy/Girl Found (Conflicts Resolved)
Some books in my bedroom - since removed.
I wish to discuss two films in this section, viz., Educating Rita (1983) and The History Boys (2006).  Both deal in general with the themes of education, what it means to be really educated, what the meaning of culture really is and what ultimately life itself is about.  I argue here, using my metaphorical title, that each “little boy or girl” is “found” in these films, or in more prosaic terms the conflicts of the central characters are resolved or are very much on the way to being so.  It is interesting to notice that two films in question were originally plays, both of which transfer marvellously well to the screen.
Educating Rita: [1983, starring Julie Walters (Rita) and Michael Caine (Frank)] was in fact originally a play written by Willy Russell, but was later made into a film which reworked the plot very slightly and introduced several characters who were not stage characters at all i.e., Denny and Rita's father. It is at once a comedy and a drama, but like all good films or indeed dramas there is that magic mix of comedy and depth which interweave seamlessly throughout. The play or film tells this story: University lecturer Frank needs to earn some extra money, so he agrees to tutor an Open University student. His student Rita is a brash, earthy hairdresser with a recently discovered passion for higher education, much to the dismay of her husband Denny. In her attempts to appreciate literature, Rita challenges the attitudes of a traditional university, teaching Frank to question his own understanding of his work and himself.
Educating Rita is a small intimate play/film, but it tells a story of big ideas, ideas close to Willy Russell's heart. There is a lot of humour in the writing, but it is also a serious play, about class and choice. "I wanted to make a play which engaged and was relevant to those who considered themselves uneducated, those whose daily language is not the language of the university or the theatre. I wanted to write a play which would attract, and be as valid for, the Ritas in the audience as the Franks."[1] This play/film consequently explores the relationship between student and tutor, what real education is, what culture is, what the meaning of the literary/university enterprise is.  In short, we could say it explores the meaning of life itself.
Early in the film, the university tutor Frank, in a drunken stupor, chides Rita with these biting words: "Found a culture, have you, Rita? Found a better song to sing, have you? No - you have found a different song, that's all. And on your lips it's shrill and hollow and tuneless. Oh, Rita, Rita..." This film is tantamount, in its effect on the audience, to a screened version of the play and works a similar magic.  But, the film version brings an added dimension to the play.
Obviously, the cinema offers greater immediacy and impact through variety of location, various camera shots, close ups and panoramic views, through the interaction of a greater cast of characters and so on. (The original play had only two central characters, and its action was confined to the tutor’s office alone.) Like all good works of literature, this film does not offer any easy answers. Instead, it asks the big questions that need to be asked. In so doing it questions our prejudices, both those of the working and middle classes. The university professor (Frank) and the working class hairdresser (Rita) can communicate even though it may take weeks or months of personal growth on both their parts.
Real education, I argue is all about communication between the teacher and student, all about self-knowledge as well as “knowledgeper se, about formation as well as information. It is somehow more about the process of how teaching and learning happen, rather than the so-called product or end result of the same. It is a process that is at once open to and receptive to the self and to the other. In the classic terms of Martin Buber[2], the celebrated Jewish philosopher, it is a process that engages the I-Thou in any human situation. This film/play poses these big questions and follows Rita and Frank on a learning curve as they engage with each other about these burning issues.
One day Rita finds Trish unconscious in their apartment: her friend has tried to kill herself with an overdose of sleeping pills. After Trish is brought back to life at the hospital, Rita asks her: "Why?" Trish explains that she always seemed to feel alive when classical music was playing, or when poetry was being read. But whenever the music or the poetry stopped, "there was just me. And that is not enough." In the end Trish's education was as much a mere façade for her inner emptiness as it was for that of Frank. (Again, Trish does not appear as an on-stage character in the play).   However, we never doubt that Rita makes it to real self-knowledge and authenticity.  In my metaphor, her little girl is truly found.
The History Boys (2006), like Educating Rita also has its provenance in a play by the same name by the modern English playwright Alan Bennett. The Daily Telegraph had this to say about Bennett’s fine play: “A play that strikes me as one of the finest Bennett has ever written, packed with superb one-liners .... A play of depth as well as dazzle, intensely moving as well as thought-provoking and funny.”[3]  Now, it translates very well to the big screen, too, and the above quoted words from the Telegraph equally apply to the film version.
The action takes place in a boys' grammar school in the north of England in the 1980s. We are presented with a bunch of unruly, intelligent sixth formers who, having completed their A-levels, are preparing for their exams and interviews for Oxbridge. Then onto the scene comes the clever, young and shrewd supply teacher who has exam and interview techniques to teach his charges. His approach is more focussed, sharp and pointed than their current lovable, erudite but rather eccentric history teacher.  Typically, the headmaster is obsessed with results. The comedy/tragedy revolves around their conflicting methods of education/teaching in order to win the principal’s sympathy. The play/film blends both comedy and tragedy, with multiple layers and themes, including growing up, the wider purpose of education in adult life, pederasty, teaching methods, homosexuality, and the English education system.
Sex, sport, knowledge and religion all feature in the heady mix that makes this a stimulating and provoking play/film. Homosexuality, music, motorbikes and a bit of pederasty also garnish the food for thought we are invited to chew over, but never to swallow whole.  If it can be said that Aldous Huxley’s books are books for real thinkers then surely this play/film can keep good company with the novels of Mr Huxley. This film is nothing if not thought-provoking. Like the former film described here The History Boys also asks the big questions. What is real education? Who is the real educator or teacher? Is one university better than another? Are one teacher’s methods better than another’s? Are results the only important thing in education? What is the significance of any one individual’s life? What is the whole academic enterprise really about? Is it about being really clever and achieving? Or is really about authenticity? After all, is not education life-long and life-involving and life-enhancing and a life-awakening process at heart? In this play/film we are presented with yet again a maverick English teacher[4] with a mind-blowingly open and creative approach to knowledge and life – a teacher whom the students love, even though he is a pederast who occasionally feels them up on his motorbike. As the boys are all over 18 so there’s no suggestion that he’s feeling up youngsters who are underage, and the students are rather fond of their teacher. Or is this teacher’s kindly and humane approach naive in the extreme, and simply lacking in all practicality in the face of preparation for the real world?
What we have here are two films in search of the real meaning of education or indeed the real meaning of life, films bold enough to ask big questions of society with all its “accepted” traditions and standards. They seek to unmask the phony and the superficial. They seek to deepen the questions and each of them blends comedy with tragedy.[5]

Conclusion
In my introductory remarks to this essay I argued that good therapy is all about making our unconscious fears and anxieties conscious.  Here is where I believe film can exercise a kind of therapeutic role in our lives as it can often insist on making us face one or other of these unconscious fears and concerns.  I contended, too, that film can exercise an influential role by offering other perspectives, by prodding the mind into action, by posing deeper questions far more effectively than the pages of a book or magazine, because these concerns are enacted on a screen visually before our very eyes. Further, films both entertain and educate and often do both tasks simultaneously.  They bring a more powerful immediacy into play with regard to various issues and concerns – whether these be wanton murder, destruction and chaos so powerfully and graphically illustrated before our eyes in postmodernist films like No Country for Old Men or in the more didactic goals set and questions posed by the more modernist films discussed immediately above – and they bring all these issues to a very wide audience.
I have also structured this essay around the metaphors of Little Boy/Girl Lost (Films of Conflict) and Little Boy/Girl Found (Films which suggest a Resolution of Conflict).  In so doing, I have set up a deliberate and healthy tension of opposites, a healthy polarity which suggests that reality exists somewhere in-between and that cinema in its broad variety presents us graphically with this tension of opposites which on the whole tackles all of life’s big and small questions in a different and in no less effective a way than other genres of the Arts.  In this sense, film can be said surely to help us understand the issues around human development.


[1] This quotation can be found on a site dedicated to the work of Willy Russell, the Liverpudlian playwright, screenwriter, author, lyricist,  and composer and was accessed 30/04/2012: http://www.willyrussell.com/rita1.html

[2] Martin Buber wrote his ground-breaking book I and Thou in 1923, and it can be argued that much of his subsequent work is an elaboration and explication of that great work on the nature of dialogue and human encounter.

[3] See Spencer, Charles (2004), School’s Back with Bennett at his Best, Telegraph, May 19. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/theatre/drama/3617268/Schools-back-with-Bennett-at-his-best.html Accessed 29/04/2012.

[4] The character I’m referring to here is obviously John Keating, played by the inimitable Robin Williams in another famous modern film on education called Dead Poets Society (1989).  Unlike the other two films discussed here, this film was based on a character from a previous film Good Bye Mr Chips, which in turn was based on the eponymous book by James Hilton. 

[5] Patrick Kavanagh has an interesting comment on the relationship of tragedy and comedy in his Author’s Note to his Collected Poems. The Great Hunger is tragedy and Tragedy is underdeveloped Comedy, not fully born. Had I stuck to the tragic thing in The Great Hunger I would have found many powerful friends. But I lost my messianic compulsion. I sat on the bank of the Grand Canal in the summer of 1955 and let the water lap idly on the shores of my mind. My purpose in life was to have no purpose.” (Collected Poems, London Mac Gibbon & Kee 1964, 1968, p. xxiii)

Friday, June 01, 2012

Human Deveopment and Film 3

Little Boy/Girl Lost (Conflicts)

The inimitable Coen Brothers
Here I shall be referring to the film No Country for Old Men as an example of a film which presents very much the case of conflicted humanity.  The little boy or the little girl in us is certainly lost in the bleak terrain the Coen brothers present us with – indeed, we are in danger of perishing in the parching sun of the unfriendly desert.  We are also lost for any answer to the overwhelming evils of conflict, pursuit, fate, mayhem and death.
 No Country for Old Men is a gripping and spine-chilling 2007 American crime thriller film adapted for the screen and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen.  It is based on the Cormac McCarthy novel[1] of the same name. It tells the story of an ordinary man to whom chance delivers a fortune that is not his - millions of dollars in a sturdy black case from a drugs deal that had gone badly wrong, leaving all its participants dead or dying. Llewelyn Moss, acted superbly by Josh Brolin takes the money and thus begins a violent cat-and-mouse drama, as the three men Moss, Ed Tom Bell (the Sheriff, played by Tommy Lee Jones) and Anton Chiguhr (who is spine-chillingly portrayed by the wonderful Spanish actor Javier Bardem) crisscross each other's paths in the desert landscape of 1980 West Texas. The film examines the themes of fate, chance, circumstance and all-pervading death that the Coen brothers have previously explored in Blood Simple (1984) and Fargo (1996).  In this world constructed by the Coen brothers our worst nightmares come true.  The world of the nightmare (the imaginary) has become impossible to distinguish from the real workaday world.[2]
The author of the novel, Cormac McCarthy, an Irish-American novelist and playwright, in a rare interview with The New York Times[3] expressed the following views which are very insightful into his unique style and take on literature.  Moreover, I argue that this interview gives us a deeper understanding of the film which is based solidly on his fine novel.  He reveals therein that he is not a fan of authors who do not "deal with issues of life and death," citing Henry James and Marcel Proust as examples. "I don't understand them," he said. "To me, that's not literature. A lot of writers who are considered good I consider strange."

Cormac McCarthy
That interview in The New York Times with Richard B Woodward dates back to April 1992, long before he had written the novel No Country for Old Men but it reveals an author accustomed to exploring wild places both in the physical landscape and deep in the soul of his characters. Those wild places or spaces of soul or psyche are as frightening as their physical counterparts. Woodward goes on to quote Robert Coles who called McCarthy a "novelist of religious feeling," comparing him with the Greek dramatists and medieval moralists. And in a prescient observation he noted the novelist's "stubborn refusal to bend his writing to the literary and intellectual demands of our era," calling him a writer "whose fate is to be relatively unknown and often misinterpreted."[4]

"There's no such thing as life without bloodshed," McCarthy says philosophically elsewhere.[5] "I think the notion that the species can be improved in some way, that everyone could live in harmony, is a really dangerous idea. Those who are afflicted with this notion are the first ones to give up their souls, their freedom. Your desire that it be that way will enslave you and make your life vacuous."
Now back to the film and its plot. The scene is West Texas and the time is June 1980 and we are in desolate, wide open country and we see Ed Tom Bell lamenting the increasing violence in a region where he, like his father before him, has risen to the office of sheriff. 
Meanwhile, Llewelyn Moss is out hunting a type of deer called pronghorn.  It is while engaged in this hunting pursuit that he comes across the aftermath of a drug deal gone awry: several dead men and dogs, a wounded Mexican begging for water, and two million dollars in a satchel that he takes to his trailer home. Later that night, restless in his bed, his conscience gets to him and he returns with water for the dying man, but is chased away by two men in a truck and loses his vehicle. When he gets back home he grabs the cash, sends his wife Carla Jean (Kelly Macdonald) to her mother's, and makes his way to a motel in the next county where he hides the satchel in the air vent of his room. There then ensues a film drenched in violence and in blood. We meet sheer wanton violence coupled with the wonderment and confusion of the police in the person of Sheriff Ed Tom Bell.  Indeed, we viewers are also overwhelmed and confused in like manner.
 Hit man, Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) has been hired to recover the money. He has already strangled a sheriff's deputy to escape custody and stolen a car by using a cattle gun to kill the driver. Later, continuing his bloody death trail, Chigurh surprises a group of Mexicans set to ambush Moss and murders them all.  Against this bloody background we, with Sherriff Ed Tom Bell, are further perplexed by more wanton violence and, like him, we are at a singular loss to explain it.
An interesting fact is that the title of the film, and indeed book, namely No Country for Old Men is a quotation from a poem by W.B. Yeats[6] wherein he goes on to state that "An aged man is but a paltry thing, // A tattered coat upon a stick."  We get the over-powering feeling that Sherriff Ed Tom Bell is such a paltry thing that is totally impotent and powerless against the onward driving power of relentless evil. He can do absolutely nothing to prevent it. Evil, or Death, personified in the figure of Anton Chigurh, is seen a few times asking his victims to call before he tosses the coin that will seal their fate. In this he could be said to be a representative of the Grim Reaper and of the inevitability of our personal extinction in death. In the end Death in the person of Chigurh hobbles off to fight another day against the next unsuspecting victim who falls under the shadow of his evil eye.
To this extent, the book and film fall firmly into the tradition of folklore in that Death is always portrayed therein as getting its victim. There simply is no denial of its all-conquering power. All that's left to Bell is to retire and allow a younger man to take up the pursuit. However, the film leaves us with no optimism that the younger generation will be any more successful against the onward ruthless march of evil. Ed Tom Bell is left confronting the nature of his own ageing soul and is finally attempting to discuss and interpret his own dreams or nightmares with an ageing crippled retired fellow cop. That's all he can do now.
The conflict theory of human nature, which is illustrated so well here in this film, was first scientifically formulated in Darwin's theory of evolution in the nineteenth century.  This theory contends that conflict and aggression are locked into the natural order of things, and that by nature humankind is an aggressor and predator. It stresses that our instincts and our animality are of our very essence, and contends further that human nature and society develop through conflict, competition and elimination of the weak and the peaceful. In short, the conflict theory portrays man as evil, brutish and destructive; he is moved by the instinct to survive and sees every other member of his species as an enemy.  Freud followed in this tradition and saw the Id or the unconscious as a cesspit of repression in conflict with the Ego and the Superego.[7] 
In short, what I am arguing here is that this film forces us to deal with our unconscious fear of death and dying and the sheer unpredictability and chance-like nature of life.  It also leaves us pondering the human condition which is somewhat precarious to say the least.  This film sends us out chastened, scared, and not a little disturbed.  As such we may learn not to take life too much for granted. The Directors as auteurs have thus achieved their goal.
However, we have only presented one side of our polarity as yet.   We will turn to the other side of it in our next post to get a balanced view and from there we will move on to present a healthy tension between both.



[1] McCarthy, C. (2006) No Country for Old Men, Vintage, London and New York.

[2] Speaking of postmodernism Richard Kearney (1988, p. 3) remarks that we are “at an impasse where the very rapport between imagination and reality seems not only inverted but subverted altogether.  We cannot be sure which is which.  And this very undecidability lends weight to the deepening suspicion that we may be assisting at the wake of the imagination.”

[3] Woodward, Richard, B. (1992), “Cormac McCarthy’s Venomous Fiction,” New York Times , April 19.

[4] Woodward, Richard, B. (1992), “Cormac McCarthy’s Venomous Fiction,” New York Times , April 19.
[5] Kirn, Walter (2005) 'No Country for Old Men': Texas Noir, New York Times, July, 24.

[6] “Sailing to Byzantium” is a poem by William Butler Yeats, first published in the 1928 collection The Tower. Its first three lines run: “That is no country for old men. //The young
In one another's arms, birds in the trees// - Those dying generations - at their song.”

[7] This is the model of personality with which practically everyone who knows even a little about Freud is acquainted with, at least with his terminology which has entered common parlance, namely Id, Ego and Superego. These, according to Freud, are the major components of the self.  These Ego, Id and Superego are not topographical regions or layers. Rather they are distinct agencies at war or in conflict with one another. Freud said of the Id that it is "a cauldron full of seething excitations." (quoted Mitchell and Black, p. 20).

Human Development and Film 2

Conflicts and Polarities

William Blake: An illustration for Dante's Inferno
In arguing that film may allow us to understand these central issues around human development, I wish to borrow a framework from William Blake in order to get a handle on our subject.  The following thoughts are going to be divided into two complementary sections along Blakean lines, namely, Little Boy/Girl Lost (Conflict) and Little Boy/Girl Found (Resolution of Conflict).  While I am conscious that Blake moved these poems around somewhat between the two sections of his beautifully illustrated work Songs of Innocence and Experience, what I wish to point out here is how film on the one hand can deal with human nature at its most fragmented or fractured (our metaphorical lost-ness) and also at its most positive and most healing (our metaphorical found-ness), I also argue that reality exists somewhere in an opposition between these two poles or extremes – in short, in a sort of healthy tension.
A Note on the Role of the Director

In law, film is treated as a work of art, and the auteur (in this case, the Director) as the creator of the film, is recognized as the original copyright holder. In fact, under European Union law, the film director is considered the author or one of the authors of a film, largely as a result of the influence of auteur theory. Andrew Sarris[1], the film critic who introduced the term and indeed theory of the “auteur” maintained that only after viewing all the films of a particular director can a critic make an evaluation.  In other words, the directors of films are looked upon as auteurs or writers in their own right who bring something distinctively new to the viewing public in the film genre that is not in any of the other genres of the creative arts.  Yet, as the Swedish director, writer and producer Ingmar Bergman (2005, p. 231) puts it: “film is not the same as literature. As often as not the character and substance of the two forms are in conflict.” [2]


[1] Sarris introduced the auteur policy into North American film in a 1962 essay in Film Culture, No. 27, Winter, 1962-63.  See Buckland, W. (2008), p. 82.

[2] In the same article Bergman continues, “What it really depends on is hard to define, but it probably has to do with the self-responsive process.  The written word is read and assimilated by a conscious act and in connection with the intellect, and little by little it plays on the imagination and feelings... When we see a film in the cinema we are conscious that an illusion has been prepared for us and we relax and accept it with our will and intellect... The sequence of pictures plays directly on our feelings without touching the mind.” (Ibid., p. 231)

Human Development and Film 1

Introduction: Setting the Scene
The Modern Croke Park Stadium, Dublin, October, 2010
Today we live in an era that could most aptly be described in the words of W.B. Yeats as one where “things fall apart, the centre cannot hold.” [1]  More and more of us are attending some form of psychotherapy in one or other of its myriad manifestations.  People readily speak of the stress under which they live their workaday lives.  Legions of psychosomatic complaints abound for which people seek the help of one or other complementary health practice, be it meditation along Buddhist lines, TM, Reiki, the Alexander Technique or the Feldenkrais Method.  In short, we are a fragmented and fractured people seeking a centre (of self) that will hold, that won’t crumble away given the next crisis that we meet in our lives.
In order to evaluate how film may help us to understand the central issues around human development we must first be very clear in our minds what exactly we mean by our terms.  We must, in short, ask ourselves what exactly these central issues are.

The Central Issues of Human Development
According to Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, the greatest repression of humanity was sexual desire and the many concomitant issues associated therewith.  I am in agreement with the contemporary existentialist psychiatrist/psychotherapist Professor Irvin Yalom[2] that the modern repression is death and all its associated trappings, not sex and its allures.  Modern humankind would prefer that death and dying be airbrushed out of its consciousness.  Good therapy, Freudians argue, is all about making our unconscious fears, anxieties and issues conscious.  Here is where I believe film can exercise a kind of therapeutic role in our lives as it can often insist on making us face one or other of these unconscious fears and concerns.
Another central issue in human development is the search for personal identity, not alone through the many incarnations of psychotherapy but also through our very work and also through the Arts.  People read books and magazines, go to concerts and to the cinema and indeed travel far and wide in search of a sense of self, in an attempt to put together their own personal jigsaw of life’s meaning. Here, too, I believe film can exercise an influential role by offering other perspectives, by prodding the mind into action, by posing deeper questions far more effectively than the pages of a book or magazine, because they are enacted on a screen visually before our very eyes.
Finally, films both entertain and educate.  Now, I hasten to add that these two characteristics need not necessarily be mutually exclusive.  While some films may primarily educate and others primarily entertain, when we seriously reflect upon them we find that many participate in both of these much needed characteristics.


[1] “Turning and turning in the widening gyre // The falcon cannot hear the falconer; // Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; // Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world...” The Second Coming, W.B. Yeats.

[2] See Yalom, I (2009), Staring at the Sun: Overcoming the Terror of Death, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco (passim).  He writes therein that “Freud believed that much psychopathology results from a person’s repression of sexuality.  I believe his view is far too narrow.  In my clinical work, I have come to understand that one may repress not just sexuality but one’s whole creaturely self and especially its finite nature or mortality. (Ibid., p.7)