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Sigmund Freud's Dora

USA, 1979 (MIFF 1981, Peter Wollen presents British Independent Filmmaking)

Director: Anthony McCall

In 1899 Sigmund Freud began treatment with an 18 year-old girl who was brought to him for analysis by her father after she had written a suicide note. Freud was eager to use this case to demonstrate the hypotheses laid out in his Interpretation of Dreams, but after only three months of treatment the young woman walked out, without being cured. Five years later Freud published an account of this failed treatment, calling it a Fragment of an Analysis and giving his patient the name Dora — that of a servant in his household.

Recently Dora has been a focus for the appropriation of psychoanalysis by feminist theory Questions about the exchange of women, the representation of female sexuality and the marginal or contradictory position of women in language have been discovered in her story. But the descriptions Freud gives of Dora are not innocent documentary facts. Freud constructs her as a character in the structure of his "novelette". as a recollection of the words he remembers her having spoken, as an object for his scientific detective work Thus the presentation of her sexuality is also a function of these analytic and narrative processes.

The psychoanalytic method itself is a process of reading the language and symptoms of the patient: Freud's written case history is a reading of that reading, which we in turn read. The film starts from the position that these processes of representation are not only a factor in psychoanalytic texts.

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