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The Passenger or the search for identity (FW31)

Alchemy and film
Jung and the alchemy of filmmaking: a new approach to film analysis? By Marco Zee-Jotti
As we know, cinema and psychoanalysis were born together, in 1895, and, despite Freud’s lack of interest in the new art, cinema theoreticians and practitioners have always been inspired by the unconscious. Psychoanalysis has often been applied, one way or the other, to film criticism and with interesting results, especially by feminist writers. Analytic psychology, Jungian analysis of the psyche, has, instead, always been marginalized. It is not my intention to delve into the difference between psychoanalysis and analytic psychology, suffice it to say that the latter deals with original concepts rather alien to psychoanalysis. The main difference is the idea Freud and Jung had of the unconscious. Freud considered the unconscious to be mostly, though not exclusively, the repository of repressed instincts, or drives; Jung saw the unconscious divided into a personal one (equivalent to the Freudian one) and a collective one. The idea of a collective ‘mind’ is central to Jung’s psychology. This collective mind implies that there are a number of shared, unconscious structures, which he called ‘archetypes’. These make themselves known in the form of images in dreams and in the creative arts including filmmaking. The patterns of archetypes remain constant, but the images they adopt change according to external, personal and cultural forces, so that, with regard to cinema for example, a 1960s horror movie is only superficially different from a 1990s one. It is because of the archetypal make-up of our species that we can enjoy films in the same way we enjoy fairy tales: the figure of the king, princess, trickster, witch and so on, they all have a universal appeal.
In our case the archetypes and the collective unconscious allow for a specific reading of films that does cast light where psychoanalysis doesn’t. In this article I will try to demonstrate that applying Jung’s psychology to film analysis and criticism opens up a new perspective on film studies and can be usefully employed in understanding both our psyche and filmmaking.