Victor Bloom MD
The motion picture is ever-present and a powerful force on the contemporary scene and movies never fail to capture the imagination of our patients. Great motion pictures are fantasies set on film and touch universal emotional chords much like the classic plays of antiquity. Therefore, every now and then a movie will trigger off a strong emotional response in a patient which bears further analysis. Often these analyses uncover important repressed conflictual or traumatic material in our patients which may take many sessions or years to work through.
In one patient, a scene in the French film, "Olivier, Olivier" elicited strong feelings of panic and terror in a patient who had been in analysis a year and a half, over a hundred and fifty sessions. She reported the movie scene and the feelings evoked and remembered for the first time a traumatic experience when she was five, on her first day at kindergarten. The scene in the movie was a little boy being buggered, which lasted hardly more than a second or two, explaining the boy's absence. It was inferred that he was killed after that to protect the perpetrator.
My patient remembered clearly for the first time since early childhood that she was the last child on the school bus after the first day of kindergarten. The bus driver took her to a vacant parking lot and penetrated her vaginally. She remembers being scared and in pain, not quite realizing what was happening to her. Not only that, but the young man then drove her to his mother's house, which was close by, and the woman cleaned her up, washed and dried her underwear and soothed her with oral sex. She was warned not to tell her parents or something terrible would happen. When she got home her mother was relieved that she was not lost, accepted the excuse of the bus driver, that he got lost on the first day of school, and put her little girl to bed. From that time on, she was car-pooled instead of using the school bus. Her parents never inquired further what happened to her.
Interestingly, before this anamnesis, the patient became an attorney and worked with poor women who were abused and battered, obtaining restraining orders and injunctions and sometimes imprisonment for their battering husbands. Her first husband was alcoholic, immature and verbally abusive and she divorced him before the analysis. During the analysis and the working through of this traumatic experience she had satisfying affairs and married a kind and gentle man who became a good surrogate father to her young children.
Another patient was powerfully moved by a scene in "Spitfire Grill", where a young woman was caught up in a raging river and drowned. When he saw the casket and funeral scene he was overwhelmingly horrified. Analysis of this emotional reaction led from the recent untimely death of his daughter after a long struggle with cancer, to the emotional abandonment by his mother when he was only four.
Two other patients were so impressed by the power of the motion picture that they became film-makers themselves, as an expression of their released creativity.