David Cronenberg’s latest movie gives us his view of the relationship between Sigmund Freud and his pupil, Carl Jung, and even more centrally it tells the story of the affair between Jung and his patient, Sabina Spielrein.  It is set in Vienna in the early years of the 20th century.

The battle between Freud and Jung is fairly well known.  Jung was the heir apparent of the psychoanalytic dynasty founded by Freud.  But he began to go astray because Freud demanded a strictly sexual explanation for all neurosis.  Jung wanted to incorporate more; he rejected the orthodoxy.

For Freud everything boiled down to sex.  All conflicts in the psyche were rooted in early sexual experiences.  Jung challenged this core concept, telling Sabina that there must be “another hinge to the universe.”  In the words of Sabina, Jung did not want his patients to simply understand why they were the way they were but to become whom they might have been.

Jung is an idealist but Freud sees him as a threat to psychoanalysis because of what he considers his mysticism and mumbo-jumbo.   He dismisses Jung’s approach as simply replacing one delusion with another.  You then have to ask yourself why he chose Jung to carry on his work.  The usual explanation is because he needed a non-Jew to cross the bridge to the European society in which he lived, as the world of psychoanalysis was understood at the time to be Jewish.  (more…)