home pic

Farmington Hills: 248 851-3380 |  Ann Arbor: 734 213-3399

Michigan Psychoanalytic Institute & Society

Love Means Never Having to Say We're Close(r)

By Jolyn Welsh Wagner M.D., Reel Deal co-Chair

The Real Deal opened its 2005-2006 season with the opportunity to explore and discuss "Closer," the 2004 film directed by Mike Nichols and starring Jude Law, Julia Roberts, Clive Owen and Natalie Portman. This is a film that audiences love (for its raw performances and intelligent but emotionally charged dialogue), hate (for its unflinching presentation of the destructive manipulations that these beautiful characters inflict upon each other in the name of truth and love), hate to love and love to hate (for glimpses of the nastiness lurking within our own relationships and motivations). These reactions were recreated by thought- provoking presentations and a spirited audience discussion in the conference room of Birmingham’s Baldwin Library on October 16.

The two hour discussion began with moderator and series chairman Dave Lundin’s 30-minute montage which reacquainted the audience with the four main characters and their complicated journey into pain and suffering via the twisted-truth telling, deception and heart-wrenching betrayal so central to the film. The clips underscored the tragic consequences in a world where relationships are defined by the “do-ers” of cruelty and their “done-to” victims. The only possibility of escape occurs when these categories flip (temporarily) and the suffering is reshuffled and dealt again in reverse order. The clips dared the audience to search for some trace of hope for our hapless four (and ourselves?)

The film’s discussants then invited the audience (of about 50 people) to join the search for meaning, motivation and morality underlying the film’s distressing view of failed closeness. Dr. Marc Rosen provided a thoughtful exploration of the role of maternal loss and its effect on Dan (Jude Law), the character he viewed as the film’s central protagonist. Was Dan doomed by the loss of his mother, incapable of the trust necessary to form mature loving relationships? Would he forever be alone to poignantly cut away the crusts from his own sandwich bread, his only means of recreating maternal bliss? Dr. Loretta Polish then highlighted the film’s deliberate “pulling out the rug” from under its audience’s expectations. Where we expect cohesion and meaning to evolve, we find only unnecessary cruelty and pain. Dr. Bruce Russell completed the discussion trilogy with provocative questions about the “moral obligation” to tell the truth, uncovering the effective use of honesty as a sadistic weapon of revenge.

The event concluded with an audience discussion brimming with questions and comments concerning the film’s themes. Insightful thoughts were offered about the pervasiveness of sadomasochism, the meanings of the relentless seductions and infidelities, the role of voyeurism, exhibitionism, characterologic depression, regression and homoerotic fantasy. Was there hope for any of these characters? Did they learn anything? Should we care? Theories were varied and fueled by the intensity of the film itself and the energy created within the discussion.

The second installment in the series features "Kinsey," scheduled for November 13 in Ann Arbor, from 11am-1pm in East Hall. The panel consists of Ira Konigsberg,,Ph.D, Michael Shulman, Ph.D. And Sally Rosenberg, D.O .This is another wonderfully controversial film which promises the opportunity to develop and share thought-provoking ideas with the expert panel and an audience of fellow film lovers. The Reel Deal is jointly sponsored by the Association for Psychoanalytic Thought (APT) and the Academic Council of the Michigan Psychoanalytic Society. For questions please contact Dave Lundin, 248-874-0081. Another REAL Deal!!!!