The Freud Museum

Events Archive

31 May 2014
11am - 6.00pm


Objects, Relatedness, Process

This symposium sets out to explore the ways in which film and film-work play an important part in creating new spaces for engagement with emotional experience. Cinema has long been held up as a form of ‘dream-screen’ environment, allowing for the playing out of fantasy in relation to desire and forms of identity. However, film also sometimes serves as an object of the mind, an object to be used or taken in, in order better to navigate the complex terrain of feeling that cinema can evoke for us. In this way, films allow us to question patterns of relatedness in the world and to reflect on the importance of thinking about process as a way of understanding the realities of emotional life.

As with other projects in the Media and the Inner World network, this event is informed by object relations psychoanalysis and invites psychoanalysts and psychotherapists into dialogue with academics and media creatives.

(To download programme timetable, please click here)
(To download map and restaurant list, please click here)

(abstracts / speaker biographies)

SESSION 1: Perspectives from Film/Video Practice

Catherine Grant
Losing/finding/creating the (child) star: on online mourning and videographic objects
Michael Chanan
Video: Psychoanalysis under Dictatorship (Michael Chanan, 2013, 15mins)

SESSION 2 – Perspectives from Academic Criticism

Candida Yates
Masculinity and the objects of jealousy and flirtation in narrative cinema
Caroline Bainbridge
Lars von Trier’s Cinematic Extremism as Therapeutic Encounter

SESSION 3: Perspectives from the Clinic

Andrew Asibong
The Curse of the Cat People and the possibility of spectral therapeutic alliance
Smita Rajput Kemble
My Name is Khan: Alpha function after 9/11

Introduced by Lesley Caldwell

Laura Mulvey


This event is jointly organised by the Freud Museum and MiW and generously supported by the Centre for Research in Film and Audiovisual Cultures (CRFAC) at the University of Roehampton and the Psychosocial Studies Research Group at the University of East London.

The event will be followed by a book series launch and wine reception at the Freud Museum to which all delegates are welcome. This is to mark the launch of the ‘Psychoanalysis and Popular Culture’ book series, published by Karnac Books and edited by Caroline Bainbridge and Candida Yates.


Losing/finding/creating the (child) star: on online mourning and videographic objects
In much of the last decade, Catherine Grant has been exploring the production and circulation of user-generated media forms, like blogs and online video, through personal and professional practice in the contexts of film research and scholarship, and digital cinephile culture. One of the kinds of content that she, along with many others, has been drawn to producing are short tribute videos to film stars who have (just) died. In this talk, Grant will show and discuss some of these videos (including ones on Elizabeth Taylor and Shirley Temple) and reflect on them in the context of object relations theories.

Psychoanalysis under Dictatorship (Video)
Drawn from Interrupted Memory, a documentary about memory and politics in Argentina and Chile, this short video raises questions about theoretical and clinical challenges facing psychoanalysis in the face of dictatorship, repression and trauma. Contributions come from an Argentine psychoanalyst forced into exile in 1976 and other survivors of the repression, and a young Chilean psychologist investigating the problems of psychoanalysis under the military. For details, see

Masculinity and the objects of jealousy and flirtation in narrative cinema
Candida Yates
The notion that Western masculinities are in crisis and undergoing some kind of cultural shift is a familiar one in film and psychosocial studies. The binary oppositions that once sustained the certainties of gender and sexual difference have been tested, and the old cinematic narratives of masculinity and what it means to be a man are no longer convincing. This has a number of implications for representations of masculinity in Western popular culture and cinema, where the prevalence of images of male suffering and emotional crisis are arguably part of a broader cultural 'undoing' of masculinity. In cinema, these shifts have implications for psycho-cultural processes of spectatorship and reception, as they challenge the mastery of the male gaze and undercut the certainties of masculinity in new ways. Using examples from Shame (Steve McQueen, 2011) and Behind the Candelabra (Steven Soderbergh, 2013), this paper develops the argument by discussing representations of masculinity and new intimacies in contemporary narrative cinema. In particular, it examines the shifting relationships between cinematic images of masculine jealousy and possession, where a jealous desire for certainty often dominate, and those which can be characterised as ‘flirtatious’ in style and content. The paper reflects on what these changing relationships to this might mean for new cultural formations of masculinity today.

Lars von Trier’s Cinematic Extremism as Therapeutic Encounter
Caroline Bainbridge
This talk takes up the ways in which filmmaker, Lars von Trier, has publically discussed his personal experience of depression and anxiety during the course of his career, suggesting that these experiences of mental ill health have influenced his cinematic work. In publicity generated by some of his most recent films, Antichrist (Denmark, 2009) and Melancholia (Denmark, 2011), much has been made of von Trier’s claim that his engagement with film-making on these projects functioned as a form of therapy for him, providing spaces of reflection in which to work through emotional states with a view to staging a personal recovery. In each of these films, themes of mental illness, emotion and interpersonal relationships also dominate the narrative. Bainbridge explores this phase of von Trier’s work and draws on the psychoanalytic ideas of Klein, Wilfred Bion and Winnicott to discuss the ways in which cinema provides spaces for such emotional work, not only for the filmmaker himself but also for the audience in the auditorium. By considering the claims made by von Trier alongside the thematic content of his work and the broader cultural reception of the films themselves, this chapter considers the role of cinema as an object of the internal mind and explores the extent to which we might argue that film works as therapy.

The Curse of the Cat People and the possibility of spectral therapeutic alliance
Andrew Asibong
One of the strangest film sequels ever made, Val Lewton's largely forgotten The Curse of the Cat People (1944) embeds a sophisticated set of psychodynamic procedures within its uncannily moving narrative. The story of a precociously intelligent and vaguely traumatized girl, Amy, whose friendship with the ghost of her father's stigmatized first wife, Irena, enables her to feel 'seen' for the first time -- but at the cost of even greater alienation from her hyper-normative parents -- the film is a radical cinematic examination of a dynamic captured by Ferenczi in his 'dream of the wise baby'. Amy's heightened perception of transpersonal phenomena and her unquenchable thirst for intense relationality emerge as symptoms of her unconscious awareness of the 'crypt' (cf. Abraham and Torok) she has introjected via her blank and disavowing parents. Lewton's film creates striking emotional spaces of connection, revelation and catharsis in which not only are Amy's various (un)dead internal objects released, but in which the spectator can experience his/her own remarkable working-through of unmourned loss and unprocessed affect. In this paper, I shall draw on Ferenczi's clinical diary in combination with an analysis of my own aesthetic and emotional responses to film and psychotherapy to show how The Curse of the Cat People functions as a ghostly playmate, mimetic of the figure of Irena herself, reaching out to the spectator's most deeply repressed need to be seen and believed, creating images and feelings of lasting alliance, relatedness and a sense of containment.

My Name is Khan: Alpha function after 9/11
Smita Rajput Kemble
My Name is Khan... and I am not a terrorist is an Indian mainstream film which tells the story of a young Muslim suffering from Asperger’s Syndrome in the aftermath of 9/11 2001 in the US. When the social prejudice against Muslims affects his life in an incident with the neighbours, his Hindu wife tells him in a fit of sarcasm to go and tell the American President that ‘though he is Muslim, he is not a terrorist’. Since he cannot understand sarcasm and because he takes things literally, he embarks on a journey to do just that-tell the American President that though his name is ‘Khan’, he is not a terrorist. The film’s superstar Shah Rukh Khan, himself a Muslim married to a Hindu, explains in an interview : “It is not about a disabled man’s fight against disability. It’s a disabled man’s fight against the disability that exists in the world-terrorism, hatred and fighting” (The Telegraph, Calcutta, Feb 13, 2010). The film brings out the autistic behaviour that society resorts to in order to escape, split off and evacuate threatening, unknown and unbearable bad feelings into the other. The film is not without its faults – the script is naive in parts, melodramatic according to western standards, and geographically and politically incorrect at times, as flagged up by American reviewers. However, its box office success proves that the film reached millions of mainstream cinegoers and helped us metabolise some of the toxic beta elements projected into yet another discriminated section of society.


Andrew Asibong is Senior Lecturer in the Department of European Cultures and Languages at Birkbeck, University of London, where is also co-director of the research centre Birkbeck Research in Aesthetics of Kinship and Community (BRAKC). His research is concerned with uncanny or fantastical aesthetics and the reconfiguration of subjectivity, kinship and community. He writes about these issues in relation to psychoanalytic psychotherapy, the moving image and contemporary French literature (especially the novelist and playwright Marie NDiaye, about whom his book Marie NDiaye: Blankness and Recognition was published in 2013 by Liverpool University Press). His most recent books and articles focus on blankness, dissociation and living death and the ways in which these emotional experiences are filtered through the matrices of class, 'race' and stigma and mediated or transfigured through film and fiction.

Caroline Bainbridge is Reader in Visual Culture at the University of Roehampton and a Director of the Media and the Inner World research network, which is funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council. She is Editor of the journal, Free Associations: Psychoanalysis and Culture, Media, Groups, Politics and author of The Cinema of Lars von Trier: Authenticity and artifice (Wallflower Press, 2007) and A Feminine Cinematics: Luce Irigaray, women and film (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008). She also co-edited Culture and the Unconscious (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), Television and Psychoanalysis: Psycho-cultural perspectives (Karnac, 2013) and, most recently, Media and the Inner World: Psycho-cultural approaches to emotion, media and popular culture (Palgrave Macmillan, forthcoming 2014). Caroline has written widely on psychoanalysis, gender, film, television and popular culture. With Candida Yates, she is a series editor of the “Psychoanalysis and Popular Culture” book list published by Karnac Books.

Lesley Caldwell is a psychoanalyst in private pratice and Honorary Reader in the Psychoanalysis Unit at UCL, where she established the Interdisciplinary Programme to explore interfaculty links between Psychoanalysis and other disciplines and schools. A long-time member and former Chair of the Winnicott Trust, she is Joint General Editor of the Trust's DWW Collected Writings project (2015) and has edited ans co-edited a number of books in the Winnicott Studies monograph series (Karnac & Squiggle Foundation, 2000-2008): Art, Creativity, Living (2000), The Elusive Child (2003), Sex and Sexuality: Winnicottian Perspectives (2005) and Winnicott and the Psychoanalytic Tradition (2007). She has a long standing interest in psychoanalysis and the arts.

Michael Chanan is a seasoned documentarist, writer and Professor of Film & Video at the University of Roehampton. He has written extensively on film and video in Latin America, and filmed in most of the countries in the continent at intervals since the early 1980s. In 2011 he was the New Statesman's first video blogger, but most of his films over the last dozen years have been academically funded. See and his blog, Putney Debater (
Catherine Grant is Senior Lecturer in Film Studies at the University of Sussex. Author and editor of numerous film studies videos, as well as of written studies of intertextuality, film authorship, adaptation theories and world cinema, she runs the Film Studies For Free, Filmanalytical and Audiovisualcy websites and, in 2012, guest edited the inaugural issue of online cinema journal Frames on digital forms of film studies. She is the founding editor of the REFRAME digital publishing platform. Her article ‘Déjà-Viewing? Videographic Experiments in Intertextual Film Studies’, appeared in Mediascape, 2013, and she recently published ‘The shudder of a cinephiliac idea? Videographic film studies practice as material thinking’ in the inaugural issue of ANIKI, 2014.

Smita Rajput Kamble studied English Literature and worked as a journalist and copywriter in India. During her travels in the Far East, she taught English in an Indonesian international school and worked as a sitcom writer in Singapore Television. Her interest in the psyche and unconscious processes led to a psychodynamic counselling training after she immigrated to the UK. The course led to a psychoanalytic training in London. She lives and works in the UK and is interested in understanding Indian culture (including the Anglo Indian and British Asian), cinema and art as well as the Indian socio political landscape through a psychoanalytical lens.

Laura Mulvey is one of the most eminent figures in contemporary film theory, and Professor of Film and Media Studies at Birkbeck College, University of London. She is best known for her influential 1975 essay Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema, which helped establish feminist-psychoanalytic film criticism as a significant paradigm of study, and since then has worked as a writer, film maker, teacher and researcher.

Dr. Candida Yates is a Reader in Psychosocial Studies at the University of East London and is the Co-Director of the AHRC Research Network: Media and the Inner World ( She has published widely on the psycho-cultural relationships between cinema, emotion and popular culture and also teaches in that field. She is the Co-Editor of the journal Free Associations: Psychoanalysis and Culture, Media, Groups, Politics; a Consulting Editor of Psychoanalysis, Culture and Society; and Joint-Editor of the Karnac Book Series: Psychoanalysis and Popular Culture. Her publications include: Masculine Jealousy and Contemporary Cinema, (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2007), Culture and The Unconscious (co-edited, Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), Emotion: Psychosocial Perspectives, (co-edited, Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), and Psychoanalysis and Television (co-edited, Karnac Books, 2013) and Media and The Inner World; Psycho-cultural Approaches to Emotion, Media and Popular Culture (co-edited, Palgrave Macmillan, 2014, forthcoming). She is currently completing a monograph Emotion, Identity and Political Culture (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014).

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