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Freud, who doubted that one could make his “abstractions a self-respecting plastic presentation”, would probably have had reservations about this fake biopic (but real mental thriller) of the father of psychoanalysis which Huston tackled in 1962, first with then without Sartre’s script, which was too long and therefore unsuitable. We’ll never know and it doesn’t matter. Doesn’t the unconscious produce its own images, coded and moving? And marrying the impenetrable meanders turns out to be the most thrilling of investigations, as uncertain as it is terrifying. Hence the brilliant idea of the filmmaker to free this portrait from all didacticism, to which Monty Clift, incredibly inhabited, lends his piercing and tortured gaze, to include it in genre cinema, between film noir and fantastic gaps, suspense and inner adventure, aided by the silky black and white of Douglas Slocombe and the restless dissonances of Jerry Goldsmith.
The myth interests him less than the vertigo of a man attacking a still virgin territory, thought at work and the birth of a revolutionary intuition in the process of being invented. From the first steps with Charcot and his study of hypnosis and hysteria, to his collaboration with Breuer (a kind of father figure), through the cures of famous patients (Cecily Koertner), and the rejection of his detractors, Freud is depicted as an explorer advancing alone in the dark, but also a neurotic going so far as to confront his own demons to support his discoveries on the Oedipus complex, infantile sexuality, dreaming, the way the unconscious proceeds through detours, tricks, clues, displacements and transfers. A great thrilling film, where word and action are one. Like a session at the shrink, in short.