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Sigmund Freud (1856-1939):

Freud is one of the seminal thinkers of the modern age. His psychological theories had a huge impact on all the arts, especially film.

His most important work was done in Vienna around the turn of the 20th century. After the First World War, Germany and Austria were in political and social chaos which finally resulted in the rise of Hitler. Freud, a Jew, left for England in 1933. He died in 1939 of mouth cancer, contracted from smoking cigars.

According to Freud, m an is a psychological creature (Marx: man is an economic creature). Human behavior can only be understood through the relationship between conscious and unconscious.

The mind consists of three parts (connected by dreams):

  • Conscious
  • Preconscious
  • Unconscious

In the conscious mind, man’s inner world interacts with reality (the reality principle) by directing the senses. We are aware of the conscious. We also bring parts of our inner mind to the conscious through our imagination and memory.

We have no direct access to the unconscious mind. The unconscious contains all the material we cannot think or express. It is full of powerful drives and instincts. It is the locked basement — full of violent demons and forbidden urges.

The pre-conscious, is the area of the mind that is available to the conscious. It contains our memories, wishes, dreams. It is the place that mediates between the conscious and the unconscious. Some memories and experiences, particularly those which are deeply disturbing, are repressed – banished from the pre-conscious to the unconscious.

Dreams are narratives that move the unconscious to the pre-conscious. We then remember them in our conscious.

Dreams are wish fulfillments: They are activated in the unconscious. There are three main types:

  • Wishes
  • Anxieties
  • Punishments

Their content is of two types:

Latent: The true but difficult material that floats up from the subconscious CENSORED! Transformed to “acceptable” form.Manifest: The dream as we remember and describe it in language: The dream narrative.

The dream narrative manifests itself in symbols, signs, signifiers. Nothing is what it seems.
Dreamwork: The transformation from latent to manifest. The dream does this in four ways:

  • Condensation: the blending of two images into one image with characteristics that belong to each: A horse made of stone might stand for our father
  • Symbolization: the transfer of an image into another: a penis becomes a knife, or a cigar, or another instrument of penetration.
  • Projection: We project onto another the things we fear/desire. We may want to kill but that urge is “acted out” by another in our dream. Someone chasing us might represent unconscious guilt, or a desire we cannot fulfill.
  • Denial: We do and behave the opposite of what we really want. We really want to kill someone, but in our dream, we rescue them from someone else who is killing them.

In psychoanalysis, the manifest content of dreams is exposed, and the patient (along with the analyst) travels the “road to the unconscious”


(From Wikepedia)


The id, is the source of our drives and Freud considered it to be the reservoir of libido. ‘The libido’ or simply ‘libido’, is the form of energy, predominantly sexual, which underlies all mental processes. Our drives (Freud had very theoretically specific “-drives” such as the death-drive, but drives can often be equated to ‘instincts’) surge forth from the id and apply libidinal energy to objects, which may result in aggressive or erotic attachments/actions upon chosen objects. The drives of the id are considered to be inborn, operating within the primary psychical processes (those of the unconscious) and are absolutely determined according to the pleasure principle. It is said that the id behaves as though it were unconscious, the reason thought to be is that our ego and our super-ego’s ideals and pressures are often in conflict with the id’s, causing repression, as the gratification of the id’s drives would often be devastating in terms of social- and self-image. The word “id” is taken from the nominative single neuter Latin demonstrative pronoun (is, ea, id) meaning “it” or “that thing.”


In Freud’s theory, the ego mediates among the id, the super-ego and the external world. Its task is to find a balance between primitive drives, morals, and reality while satisfying the id and superego. Its main concern is with the individual’s safety and allows some of the id’s desires to be expressed, but only when consequences of these actions are marginal. Ego defense mechanisms are often used by the ego when id behaviour conflicts with reality and either society’s morals, norms, and taboos or the individual’s expectations as a result of the internalization of these morals, norms, and taboos.
Although in his early writings Freud equated the ego with the sense of self, he later began to portray it more as a set of psychic functions such as reality-testing, defence, synthesis of information, intellectual functioning, and memory. The word ego is taken directly from Latin where it is the nominative of the first person singular personal pronoun and is translated as “I myself” to express emphasis. Ego is the English translation for Freud’s German term “Das Ich.”


Freud’s theory says that the super-ego is a symbolic internalization of the father figure and cultural regulations. The super-ego tends to stand in opposition to the desires of the id because of their conflicting objectives, and is aggressive towards the ego. The super-ego acts as the conscience, maintaining our sense of morality and the prohibition of taboos. Its formation takes place during the dissolution of the Oedipus complex and is formed by an identification with and internalization of the father figure after the little boy cannot successfully hold the mother as a love-object out of fear of castration. “The super-ego retains the character of the father. The more rapidly it succumbed to repression (under the influence of authority, religious teaching, schooling and reading), the stricter will be the domination of the super-ego over the ego later on — in the form of conscience or perhaps of an unconscious sense of guilt”

Civilization and culture are necessary for human survival, but they inhibit man’s energy and instincts. There is an unavoidable tension between the individual’s drive for freedom and society’s need for conformity. This results in both creativity and crime. When the restraints of civilization become too severe, the id forces itself to the surface, and chaos can result.


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