Two plays deal with Freud’s last days. The Tapa group staged “Freud and the Visitor”, directed by Eduardo Tolentino de Araujo, on display at the Teatro Aliança Francesa, in São Paulo. Elias Andreato directed “Freud’s Last Session”, which ended its second season in São Paulo with great success, selling out the last presentation before starting a new national tour.
It is true that interest in psychoanalysis has been growing, in Brazil and in the world, since the increase in the level of psychic suffering brought about by covid, but also due to the gradual crisis in which the global model of mental health, based on medication and training techniques, proved to be only a relative success.
- Suicide curves grow;
- The discovery of new and more effective medications slows down;
- Commercial investment in research has shifted to gene and immune therapies;
- Hopes for producing revolutionary, faster and more direct treatments have waned;
- Just as the exclusivity of psychiatric pharmacopoeia patents were defeated.
- The neuroscience findings showed a certain realistic disappointment;
- As well as the levels of efficiency of cognitive-behavioral therapies, increasingly diverse and closer to the enigmatic “placebo effect”.
It is in this general context of greater humility and less optimism regarding the cure of mental disorders, and in the context where culture apparently “went crazy”, that psychoanalysis gained new repercussions among the general public.
It is therefore understandable that the image of Freud for our time is no longer that of the scientist who debated against the prejudices of his time, but that of the sick elderly person who reflects on life and death.
Freud and the Visitor
In “Freud and the Visitor”, Freud (Brian Ross) welcomes a stranger into his home during the time his daughter Anna (Anna Cecília Junqueira) has been taken in for questioning by Hitler’s secret police.
The event really happened and for many biographers it was decisive in making Freud leave Vienna and flee to England, where he died a year later.
The text was adapted from the work of Éric-Emmanuel Schmitt, gaining extreme relevance by placing Freud before what could be called his Other.
That is, the visitor, brilliantly staged by Bruno Barchesi, represents a set of indeterminacies that haunt Freud at the end of his life.
- Is he a patient who escapes from the local asylum?
- Would he be a version of God, or worse, of the Devil, who, like Mephistopheles, comes to ask what Freud really wanted with all this?
- But perhaps the entire dialogue is nothing more than a dream where Freud is faced with his own loss of consciousness and talks to himself, including his most hidden childhood memories, as if he were someone else.
- Was he dreaming, sick, delusional, or just too distressed to turn an imaginary dialogue into a real, if confused, experience?
We are gradually led to displace the question of who the visitor is, to which Freud is it:
- Anna’s father
- The scientist
- the philosopher
- Or even the common person faced with his finitude.
The lesson here is clear and distinct: we need to increase our uncertainty about who we are talking to to the limit that we are not masters of ourselves and our own identities.
Freud’s Last Session
In “Freud’s Last Session” we are in the same era, but now no longer at Berggasse 19 in Vienna, but at Maresfield Garden 20, where the Freud Museum in London still operates today.
Now Freud, in the shoes of Odilon Wagner, meets CS Lewis (Claudio Fontana) —a professor at Oxford, a Christian literary critic, a friend of Tolkien, TS Eliot and Chesterton, who wrote “The Chronicles of Narnia” in addition to fundamental works on the history of love in the West.
In the original text by Mark St. Germain, inspired by the book “God in Question” by Armand Nicholi Jr., it is a confrontation between an atheist scientist, although devoted to otherness (the unconscious, desire, death) and an intellectual adept of faith, still what a rationalist investigator of love, mourning and suffering.
The debate is fair, clean and honest.
There are points for both sides, but it leaves Freud’s disquiet with Lewis aside. That is, why would someone born into a Catholic family in Belfast, Northern Ireland, who becomes a staunch atheist in youth, convert back to the religion in adulthood? It is known that the experience of the First World War and the premature loss of his wife had a fundamental importance in this decision.
The common element, although little discussed in the two plays, is “Moses and the Monotheistic Religion”, a set of three essays that Freud was writing at the time of leaving Vienna and arriving in London, where he discusses the origins of Judaism.
In these essays, considered by many to be Freud’s testament, he speculates on the history and difference between material truth and psychic truth, on the transmission of trauma, on the origins of a community of destiny based on otherness (according to the surprising hypothesis of that Moses was an Egyptian and not a Jew).
Freud’s question to Lewis —”why did you trade the truth for an insidious lie”— reverberates with the text “The Future of an Illusion”, in which Freud argues that religion is not quite a lie or just a mistake, but a kind of illusion that allows us to psychically survive the weight of reality under certain circumstances.
Everything happens as if faced with the visit of an unbearable foreigner, known for the mix between uncertainty, lack of knowledge, helplessness and death, which we saw in “Freud and the Visitor”, the creator of psychoanalysis sought to reaffirm his beliefs by debating with the infidel atheist CS Lewis in “Freud’s Last Session”.
But the real conundrum is:
- Why does our epoch, so distant in time and space, in culture and morality, recover and insist on the importance of a dialogue of this type?
A rough answer can be delineated by the fact that psychoanalysis is located, more and more at the dawn of the 21st century, exactly in the gap between science and philosophy, between cultural criticism and moral ideology, between method of curing symptoms and practice. of language capable of making life more interesting.
For this reason, it is also attacked both by those who divide the world between true and unique science or faith in pseudoscience, and by those who clearly separate ideology and reality, and by those who think that everything that has no metric is lying poetry.
Less than opposing reason and irrationality, progress and barbarism, civilization and darkness, psychoanalysis seems to survive by testifying that, on the stage of life, there is a world that is not yet fully known and dominated.
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