When Goode Met Hopkins in 'Freud's Last Session'
A meeting of the minds, at the beginning of another world war.
To reference a line from the great Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, as said by the movie’s Sigmund Freud, “What is a geek?” For all of that brilliant man’s intelligence, he couldn’t wrap his head around being made the butt of a joke in modern times. I know very little about the historical Freud’s sense of humor, but in Freud’s Last Session, the man himself can poke fun at others, sometimes aggressively, with great jest, and in all seriousness - often in the same sentence.
Freud’s Last Session takes place a few weeks before Sigmund Freud’s death by assisted suicide, just as war in Europe begins to break out (again). In a fantastically realized and truly grounded piece of fiction, the film is made up of a house call at Freud’s home in England by scholar and author C.S. Lewis, who is confused as to why he’s been invited. This confusion is never really resolved, as the two discuss subjects personal, professional, and profound, stopping only to listen for news on the radio or for Freud to rest from pain due to treatment for his oral cancer.
If Lewis ever met Freud, and if this meeting spanned a single day in a single location…it would likely look a lot less interesting and contemplative as this film depicts.
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Still, why let reality dictate such stories?
Why not imagine these two men hashing out their subjects and opposing beliefs on life and existence? And if it must be done, let them do it amid escalating continental drama and threat. Good manners go away when in pain, under stress, and grasping at straws - what a time for a conversation! I think what I’m trying to say is that I’m delighted for films like this. Like Elvis & Nixon too. Like playing loose and imaginative with details but staying fair and true to time and place. If I want accuracy, I’ll go to the library. At the movies, I’m looking for a different kind of study, and Freud’s Last Session is perfectly that.
Anthony Hopkins and Matthew Goode play Sigmund Freud and C.S. Lewis, respectively. Both actors are tuned in with the story and with each other so much and so well, that anytime the film cuts away from their conversation, I was a little upset. Not terribly so, but upset nonetheless. Hopkins is great as always, but maybe plays Freud as if using tricks and treats from past performances, still conjured together expertly. All credit where it’s due.
Matthew Goode is the standout for me, as his version of Lewis takes the brunt of Freud’s very being while smiling politely and smirking with the equivalent of an eye roll from time to time. Maybe he’s not so much playing an intellectual equal in Freud’s mind, but rather a placement for the other side of a church confessional - something Freud makes clear is preposterous, but is probably doing anyway. Goode is up to the task as Lewis, a man who is being both psycho-analyzed and primed for giving psycho-analysis by the master. Incredible premise, incredible writing, incredible acting. Notes: Not many.
Was this ever a stageplay? If so, it’s been converted wisely.
We never find out why Freud asks Lewis to come by and talk, and we aren’t that much closer to a clear answer at the end. Well, not one that’s fed to us. Both men, whether one is on a train for home or the other is confronting something hard to swallow head-on, conclude their time on screen by riding off into the darkness, with little light in sight. War is on the way, life is coming to an end, and trauma is all around. Bleak? Real. Fantastical? Sure.
What is a geek? Sometimes, a geek is just a geek. 4/5
Freud’s Last Session is currently playing in theaters.