The Freud Museum

Events Archive

14 February 2016

Sigmund's Shorts - Second Sunday Screenings

Sigmund Freud's Dora: A case of mistaken identity

We launch the series with ‘Sigmund Freud's Dora: A case of mistaken identity’, first screened at the Museum in 2010. Introduced by Claire Pajaczkowska and Ivan Ward.

1979, 16mm 40min – Anthony McCall, Claire Pajaczkowska, Andrew Tyndall, Jane Weinstock and Ivan Ward.

In 1899, Sigmund Freud began treatment with an 18-year-old girl who was brought to him for analysis by her father after she had written a suicide note. Freud was eager to use this case to demonstrate the hypotheses laid out in his Interpretation of Dreams but after only three months of treatment the young woman walked out, without being cured. Five years later Freud published an account of this failed treatment, calling it a “Fragment of an Analysis” and giving his patient the name Dora – that of a servant in his household.

Dora has been a focus for the appropriation of psychoanalysis by feminist theory. Questions about the exchange of women, the representation of female sexuality, and the marginal or contradictory position of women in language, have been discovered in her story. But the descriptions Freud gives of Dora are not innocent documentary facts. Freud constructs her as a character in the structure of his “novella”, as a recollection of the words he remembers her having spoken, as an object of his scientific detective-work. Thus the presentation of her sexuality is also a function of these analytic and narrative processes.

The film starts from the position that these processes of representation are not only a factor in psychoanalytic texts. They exist no less in the conventions of film editing than they do in advertising; no less in the iconography of the mother than they do in pornography.

In the years since its first screening the film has achieved something of a reputation. It was shown at Tate Modern in 2008 for the 50th anniversary celebrations for the film theory journal Screen, and in 2009 it inaugurated the new Whitechapel Gallery film programme, screened four times with other works and public discussions. But the film is not just an 'art house' film. It is above all the reading of a text, Freud's 'Dora' case, what it shows us and what we can learn from it.

Sigmund’s Shorts is a monthly series of film screenings and discussion, launching in 2016 in celebration of the Museum’s 30th anniversary. The events are a platform for both established and emerging artists, creatives and performers working in film.

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