"Movies on the Mind" explores relationship between film and psychology

Can a nightmare drive a man to kill his wife? Is waking up the beginning of consciousness, or the beginning of yet another dream? How do dreams relate to our minds, our lives, our experiences? The Hong Kong Film Archive’s (HKFA) programme "Movies on the Mind" will look into the fascinating interplay between cinema and psychology through screenings, seminars and an exhibition.

The screenings, which run from December 20 to February 6, 2009, will feature 10 films that delve into various aspects of psychoanalysis and psychological disorders.

The films to be screened are G. W. Pabst's "Secrets of a Soul"; Alfred Hitchcock's "Vertigo" and "Blackmail"; Ingmar Bergman's "Through a Glass Darkly"; David Lynch's "Mulholland Dr."; "Dead of Night"; Compton Bennett's "The Seventh Veil"; Patrick Tam's "Love Massacre"; Ringo Lam's "Victim" as well as Lo Chi-leung's "Inner Senses" starring Leslie Cheung.

The programme also features a multi-media exhibition from December 20 to March 15, 2009 at the Exhibition Hall of the HKFA. It comprises thematic installations that illustrate the complex "relationships" between the psychoanalyst and the patient, the investigative profiler and the psychopath, as well as various psychic phenomena and their cinematic parallels.

Two seminars will be held to examine the issue: "Peeping into the Subconscious" at 4.30pm on January 3, 2009, and "Acting out Psychopathic Personalities" at 4.30pm on January 17, 2009, both at the Cinema of the HKFA. A noted psychiatrist, film critics and actors will share their experience on film and psychology. The seminars will be conducted in Cantonese. Admissions to the exhibition and seminars are free.

"Movies on the Mind" is presented by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, in collaboration with the Goethe-Institut Hongkong. Concept of the exhibition originated from the Deutsche Kinemathek - Museum for Film and Television in Berlin, from where much of the displays and installations are borrowed.

In 1895 just when the Lumi?re brothers were making history with their staging of film's first public screening, Sigmund Freud was laying the cornerstone for psychoanalysis. The new medium of film then enjoyed a phenomenal rise in popularity at about the same time when dream interpretation became vogue. It was more than historical coincidence that film and psychoanalysis had gone through parallel developments. Their pathways intersected, inspiring each other in areas such as the investigation of human nature, personality and the mind, as well as ways of interpreting and exploring dreams.

The opening film, the German "Secrets of a Soul" (1926) was considered the first film about the "interpretation of dreams". It was originally a "teaching film" (lehrfilm), but director G. W. Pabst's precise mise-en-sc?ne and sure-handed development of the plot turned it into a marvellous exercise in suspense. Pabst made creative use of film's graphic capacities to present an expressive visualisation of the thought process and the approach was so effective that the film won the support of Sigmund Freud's assistants Karl Abraham and Hanns Sachs. The film has English subtitles with live music accompaniment by Yank Wong.

Alfred Hitchcock's masterpiece "Vertigo" (1958) was selected this year by the American Film Institute as one of the best mystery films in history. Hitchcock animates this suspenseful story with evocative cinematography and a superb music score, creating an edgy, tension-filled story that changed forever the definition of "psychedelic thriller".

Hitchcock was also responsible for the great thriller "Blackmail" (1929), noted not only as the first feature-length British talkie, but also for its innovative employ of sound to create psychological effects. One scene, set in an artist studio, is adorned with symbols suggestive of the main character's emotional state - a clown in a painting, a piano and a tutu which also serve to key to the audience's imagination.

"Through a Glass Darkly" (1961) is directed by the Swedish master Ingmar Bergman. The film is marked by concise but unspectacular images, focusing instead on the inner voices. It is about language and interpretation, such as Harriet Andersson's cries and whispers, gentleness and hysteria. Threatened by visions and sounds of people and animals, the protagonist Karin is convinced that "God" is behind the wallpapers, trying to wrench her from the world. Is it really God's calling? Or simply mental delusions?

Dreams are often by turns logical and absurd, familiar but strange. David Lynch’s "Mulholland Dr." (2001) is a labyrinth of a dream, where the conscious and the subconscious clash and merge. An actress helps an amnesiac woman recover her memory, but discovers that she herself is involved in the woman's past. The film won the Best Director at the Cannes Film Festival in 2001.

Directed by four British directors, "Dead of Night" (1945) is an intriguing film. A man goes to a big house for a party and finds that all of the guests have appeared in his dream before. Although each of the four directors presents the story in a different way, each version is brilliantly told, keeping the audience on tenterhooks.

It is said that a woman's heart has seven veils to hide different characters and she won't lift the last veil even to herself. Compton Bennett's "The Seventh Veil" (1945) uncovers the secret of subconsciousness and chronicles how a doctor removes his young pianist's seventh veil. James Mason is delicious in a key role, exuding a dark attraction at once tender-loving and manipulating.

Hong Kong's own Patrick Tam was interested in exploring the psychotic mind and made various attempts at psychoanalytic drama when he was a TV producer. In "Love Massacre" (1981), he shot in primal tones of red, white and blue to magnify the sense of horror in the story, complemented by an extensive use of empty shots and frontal close-ups. The film has long been considered as an experimental classic in Hong Kong cinema in terms of plot, art direction and photography. The recently-restored version of the film will be shown.

"Inner Senses" (2002) features the late star Leslie Cheung in one of last performances. It is the story of a doctor who cures his patient's childhood psychological trauma but finds himself suffering from the same symptoms. Also from Hong Kong is genre great Ringo Lam’s "Victim" (1999), in which elements of horror films and hallucinatory images are added to the familiar crime-story scenario. The action, plot development and pacing are as dazzling as Lam's best, but the suspense created through psychological portrayal is even more fascinating.

"Mulholland Dr." has been classified as Category III. Only ticket holders who are aged 18 and above will be admitted. All films are either in English or with English subtitles.

Tickets priced at $40 are available at all URBTIX outlets. Half-price tickets are available for senior citizens aged 60 and above, people with disabilities, full-time students and Comprehensive Social Security Assistance recipients. Reservations can be made by phone on 2734 9009, credit card telephone booking on 2111 5999 or on the internet at www.urbtix.hk.

Detailed programme information is available in the "ProFolio 44" distributed at all performing venues of the LCSD or call 2734 2900, 2739 2139 or visit www.lcsd.gov.hk/fp or www.filmarchive.gov.hk.

Picture shows the film still of Patrick Tam's
Picture shows the film still of Patrick Tam's

Source: GovHK (www.gov.hk)