Sigmund Freud was the father of psychoanalysis and introduced the world to the inner meanings of our unconscious mind. For example, Freud claimed that the unconscious mind is like an iceberg. A small part of the iceberg is shown above water, which represents the parts of our mind that we are consciously aware of. The majority of the iceberg remains underwater, which represents the large part of our unconscious mind. This part of your brain that we cannot see is called the id. It is animalistic and savage, and contains thoughts that you yourself would find disturbing despite the fact that it is from your own thoughts. The film Annie Hall has quite a bit of content relating to Sigmund Freud’s concepts and psychotherapy. Throughout this film we see many scenes indicating Woody Allen’s ability to make his film function similar to psychotherapy.
Throughout the film we see a blurring of reality and fantasy through Alvy’s eyes. The film opens similar to psychotherapy with Alvy, the main character, speaking to the audience about where things are in current time. He states that he and Annie had broken up. It then promptly switches over to Alvy’s childhood years to enlighten us on his past as a stepping stone for the audience to understand who he is. We see him as a child in his classroom and he swiftly leans over to kiss one of his classmates on her cheek. When she stands up and begins to complain, the teacher starts to yell at him for kissing her yet again. The camera cuts back to Alvy and we see him as an adult sitting in the same seat among his classmates who remain children. He claims that he was just curious about sex and that it wasn’t his fault because he never had a latency period. After this scene, we see Alvy as a teenager complaining about how his house used to be under a rollercoaster. While he’s complaining the shot zooms out and the audience sees the house rumbling underneath a rollercoaster. Next, we see him and his mother. He claims he is deeply depressed about the universe expanding and feels he has nothing to live for because everybody will die anyway. These three scenes help us understand the kind of person he is and helps set us up for what to expect of him in his relationship with Annie. It is shown that he is an anxious goldmine, constantly worrying, with underlying psychological issues. The entire beginning of the film is very similar to psychotherapy in that it begins with the here and now, then transfers over to recollections and past memories. The director, Woody Allen, uses these scenes to his advantage. They tell us about who Alvy is as a person as well as help us infer through images that Alvy and Annie’s relationship is unstable and confusing. For example, the shaking under the rollercoaster helps depict the instability in their relationship. Like Freud, Alvy is showing how some aspects of childhood can greatly effect someone later in life.
Later in the film Annie begins to tell Alvy about her analysis on a specific dream she had. In her dream she had been smothered by Frank Sinatra, hinting to Alvy that he is smothering her. Alvy does not want to understand the true meaning of her dream and in turn tries to make jokes throughout it as an attempt to deflect the truth and avoid his anxiety. The way he does this is obvious that he is trying to protect himself from getting hurt by her feelings. The defense mechanism that Alvy is using is much like the ones that Freud discusses. Defense mechanisms are used by people in order to help protect their own feelings or self-esteem. Another scene in the film shows he and Annie in their respective psychiatrist’s offices side by side in a split screen with Annie on the left and Alvy on the right. The two go back and forth speaking about the negative aspects of their relationship but neither know that their partner is doing the same thing. The questions they are each asked are quite similar but their answers continuously reinforce their struggles in their contrast in personality. This scene shows a threat toward a breakdown in their relationship.
During this film we see many similarities to psychotherapy such as starting in real time and moving into memories, Alvy’s anxious personality, and the nervous jokes made along the way. In the end, Woody Allen makes us re-think the surface meaning of his film, allowing us to dive deeper into the true meaning. The film helps to paint a picture of how Alvy grew up, and how this might have helped shape who he is today. By giving us insight about how Alvy’s childhood was and who he is, we are able to get a better sense of who he is and how his adolescence may have shaped him. In the beginning we only saw the tip of the iceberg but eventually the entire thing was unearthed. Although Alvy is only able to recognize what is in the conscious part of his mind, we as a viewer are able to see more of what may be included in his unconscious as the story progresses. His film brings attention to his thoughtful construction of his characters anxieties, meaning, and their battle for love, similar to psychotherapy. Based on Woody Allen’s construction of his film Annie Hall, we can conclude that this film functions similar to psychotherapy.
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