Entertainment and Arts

‘Freud’s Last Session’ – Atheist Meets Christian Apologist

By: Russ Matthews

The stage production of Freud’s Last Session by Mark St. Germain, based upon the book The Question of God by Armand Nicholi, is a fascinating consideration of the meeting of famed psychologist Sigmund Freud(Anthony Hopkins) and Christian apologist C. S. Lewis (Matthew Goode).

History would say there is no record of these two brilliant men ever conversing, but there is nothing to say that they never crossed paths. Writer/director Matthew Brown’s film adaptation expands on the potential discussion between these two scholars as if their worldviews collide.

Set days after Germany’s invasion of Poland at the beginning of World War II, Sigmund Freud had been relocated to London and requested to meet with the author of Pilgrim’s Regress. Lewis obliged without knowing the intention of the appointment with the legendary author and psychoanalyst. As the two men meet in Freud’s home and office, they quickly begin to discuss the existence of God and differing positions of atheism and Christianity. Their debate ascends to personal reasons for their belief and how God influenced both men’s lives.

As Freud works through the pain of oral cancer, he still manages to provide classic arguments against religion, and Lewis holds his own with his apologetic prowess. All the while, a side story develops that involves Freud’s daughter Anna (Liv Lisa Fries) and the woman’s pathological dependence upon her father and how this influences her private and professional relationships outside of the home.

Anyone who relishes in the welcomed back and forth of well-thought-out religious debates will welcome the possibilities of these two minds coming together. Mark St. Germain’s stage production has been on stage over the past decade, allowing these well-trod conversations to go from these respected intellectuals. Then, having the talents of Hopkins and Goode as the vehicles for delivering these philosophical and theological words makes this even more appealing. These cinematic titans perfectly embody the intellect and personas needed to provide the dialogue that most would expect from these true-to-life historical figures. The tensions, drama and relational gold are spun when the story remains confined to the walls of Freud’s home and honours the brilliance of the stage production.

What trips up Matthew Brown’s overall delivery is Anna’s subplot of codependency and sexual repression. This element was added to the stage play’s original storyline and became an unnecessary distraction that weakened the effectiveness of the overall screenplay. Yet, including aspects of Anna’s story does not completely derail the overall delivery of this dream-like dialogue between Freud and Lewis.

Freud’s Last Session is worth discovering as it will stretch all minds on both sides of this debate. The hope would be that, like C. S. Lewis, audiences would take the time to study the truths of the Bible in response.

REEL DIALOGUE: Where can we find the answers?

As seen in the film, there have been many books and articles written on the topic of God’s existence. Like Sigmund Freud, many skeptics have attempted to debunk God’s existence and the significance of Jesus’ resurrection. If you want to investigate this topic, here are a few areas to consider and some links for further study.

Where to begin?

  • How reliable is the historical evidence about the resurrection?
  • Can we trust documents that have an apparent religious bias?
  • Who were the witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection? How do they provide credibility or cause concern for the evidence?
  • Regardless of your opinion of God, theism and atheism are all faith-based positions. How great is your faith in that position? Why?

Resources:

If you would like to discuss the existence of God, reach out to us at Third Space. We would love to chat with you about this and more.


Article supplied with thanks to City Bible Forum.

All images: Movie stills

About the author: Russ Matthews is a film critic at City Bible Forum and Reel Dialogue. He has a passion for film and sparking spiritual conversations.

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