On the heels of the fantastic 2019 The Two Popes, through which Anthony Hopkins starred as Pope Benedict XVI in an imagined dialog with Jonathan Pryce’s future Pope Francis, Hopkins is as soon as once more concerned in the identical type of cinematic historic fictional assembly as founding father of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud, who’s engaged in a non-public debate with The Chronicles of Narnia creator and theologian C.S. Lewis (performed by Matthew Goode) on the existence of God. As with The Two Popes, there isn’t any proof in any way that any assembly ever came about, however it clearly gives plenty of materials to wrap your head round. That’s precisely what Mark St. Germain did in creating his 2009 play Freud’s Final Session, which was constructed on the 1967 Harvard lectures of Dr. Armond M. Nicholi Jr in his presentation “The Query of God: C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud Debate God, Love, Intercourse, and the That means of Life.”
Now St. Germain has tailored his play to the display in collaboration with director Matthew Brown, who has the duty of opening up a largely talky and mental train to make all of it work as a film relatively than a filmed stage play. Thus we have now flashbacks to sequences of conflict, love, household battle, and so forth., however nonetheless at its coronary heart are the phrases, and in case you are sport for it there’s a lot to chew on right here, particularly because it relates not simply to the interval in 1939 the story takes place — three weeks earlier than Freud’s suicide at age 83 — but additionally eerily to proper now in a world scarily divided the place folks select sides of their dug-in beliefs and refuse to actually talk with these with whom they disagree. Additionally it is a interval the place the winds of conflict are brewing (Hitler has invaded Poland, Britain has declared conflict on Germany), and different miserable indicators that the world is falling aside.
Freud’s Final Session has its world premiere at present at AFI Fest.
In opposition to this background we’re invited to this assembly of those sensible minds as they collect to speak about their core spiritual perception: the scientist Freud, a confirmed non-believer in God, versus the author and theologian Lewis taking a extra hopeful and religious strategy utterly at odds along with his host. Brown weaves in photos of the forests operating by means of Lewis’ thoughts, in addition to Freud’s research into darker visions and dream imagery.
We study every man by means of their lived experiences. There may be Freud’s childhood, life in Vienna, and troublesome relationship with daughter Anna (a wonderful Liv Lisa Fries), who really adopted dad into the household enterprise however quietly has taken up with Dorothy Burlingham (a high quality Jodi Balfour) in a romantic relationship that managed to span 40 years after her father’s demise, even because it was repressed throughout his lifetime resulting from his stringent beliefs on the order of female and male couplings.
As for Lewis, there are protracted flashbacks to his time on the battlefield in World Battle I and friendship with finest pal Paddy Moore. They make a vow that whichever one in every of them makes it out alive they have to return and ensure the one dad or mum of every is taken care of. Paddy dies in the course of the conflict, and Lewis greater than lives as much as that vow, relatively shockingly coming into into a sophisticated sexual partnership with Paddy’s mother, Janie Moore (Star Trek’s Orla Brady). His shut friendship with different literary giants is explored through his membership in The Inklings. There are different excursions, however the movie all the time returns to the centerpiece of its concept of an open dialogue between two very disparate males, one in every of whom is aware of he’s about to die (Freud really suffered from painful jaw most cancers).
What makes this an occasion for critical (and also you higher be on this occasion) filmgoers are the performances, significantly Hopkins who has all the time added a entertaining, usually playful tone to his portrayal of actual figures in our historical past (properly possibly not Nixon). Right here he appears to relish digging into all of the nooks and crannies of Freud (beforehand performed most memorably however fairly otherwise by a late-career Montgomery Clift in John Huston’s flawed 1962 drama Freud). As in his most up-to-date Oscar-winning efficiency in The Father, this portrait of a person with a nonetheless very important thoughts in his remaining days is riveting to look at because it builds to a crescendo.
Hopkins is as soon as once more, you guessed it, awards worthy. What a whole pleasure it continues to be to look at this nice actor on the high of his sport. Goode is equally high quality, even with the much less showy function as he completely balances Hopkins in addition to Moore, his annoyed lover.
Brown (The Man Who Knew Infinity) does his darnedest to make this all visually fascinating and succeeds to a good extent in doing so, a troublesome job in an enterprise targeted on phrases and concepts. These filmgoers who’re as much as submitting to this fascinating fictional assembly will discover a lot to consider.
Producers are Alan Griesman, Hannah Chief, Tristan Orpen Lynch, Rick Nicita, Robert Stillman and Meg Thomson.
Title: Freud’s Final Session
Pageant: AFI Fest
Distributor: Sony Footage Classics
Launch date: December 22, 2023
Director: Matthew Brown
Screenwriters: Matthew Brown, Mark St. Germain (primarily based on his play)
Forged: Anthony Hopkins, Matthew Goode, Liv Lisa Fries, Jodi Balfour, Orla Brady
Operating time: 2 hr 1 min