Hitchcock/Welles Film Series: Spellbound (1945)

Hill Center at the Old Naval Hospital
921 Pennsylvania Ave. SE
Washington, D.C. 20003

“So many psychiatrists, with so much to say: Hitchcock uses them and occasionally abuses them. Since Spellbound is chockablock with psychiatrists, including the rare female one–Constance (played by Ingrid Bergman)–we should mention two other Hollywood psychotherapsts, although Hitchcock himself was never known to have consulted one personally.

“For a good twenty years or so, from the 1940s on, Spellbound was typical of Hollywood’s fascination with psychiatrists or, perhaps more precisely, Sigmund Freud. Sometimes, as in Jacques Tourneur’s Cat People (1942), an analyst deludes himself that he can tame even the wild feline urges of Simone Simone’s purring Transylvanian cat woman, or, to make nice, Nunnally Johnson’s Three Faces of Eve (1957), in which Lee J. Cobb gently analyzes Joanne Woodward’s Eve and tries to harmonize her triply dissociated selves. Hitchcock’s other major shrink at the end of Psycho gets the Master of Suspense’s second most screen time since Spellbound, but for many critics it is way too much time, and whether we are to take his callous, pompous speech about Norman Bates as ironic or genuine is a subject of debate.

“Spellbound is a typically delicious Hitchcock double plot: an amnesiac Gregory Peck arrives at Dr. Edwards’s Asylum thinking that he is a new hire for the medical staff, while what really happened to the former director of the asylum remains a mystery. Ingrid Bergman makes, of course, the most rudimentary mistake of an analyst, falling in love with her patient, as she analyzes his dream sequences, fascinatingly choreographed by none other than the master of the surreal, Salvador Dali.

“Spellbound has both wonderful and preposterous Hitchcockian sequences. Clearly Hitchcock had more fun than he should have in concocting this Freudian fest. One of the sequences dropped, alas, from the script, featured two men, one a psychoanalyst, the other a new patient, sharing a train compartment. One grabs a fly and tears its wings off. The other man says, “Oh, I wouldn’t do that, if I were you.” The audience, Hitchcock gleefully anticipated, “would have to figure out which was the crazy man.”

“Following the screening will be a discussion with Tom Zaniello. Zaniello, Capitol Hill resident and facilitator of the Capitol Hill Village’s Cinephiles film discussion group, was formerly Director of the Honors Program at Northern Kentucky University. He has taught courses in Hitchcock’s films at Northern Kentucky University and the University of Maryland.

“Seating is on a first come, first served basis. Those who have registered for the event must be in their seats 15 minutes prior to the start time to guarantee their spot. At that time, remaining seats will be released to those who are on the wait list. Once the guests on the wait list have been seated, any walk-ins will be shown their seats.”

Cost: Free

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